§ As amended, considered.
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
I beg to move to leave out Sub section 8 of Clause 54, and insert—(8) And any balance remaining in any year shall he divided between the area of the borough and the area outside the borough within the water limits in the proportion of the water rents collected from each of those two areas during each year. The proportion belonging to the outside area shall be applied in reduction of the water rents of the outside 1171 area, and the proportion belonging to the area of the borough shall be applied at the discretion of the Corporation either in reduction of the water rents within the area of the borough or carried to the general district fund.I have to explain to the House the reason why I move to insert this sub-section. The position is as follows. The Godalming Corporation propose to acquire the waterworks which supply not merely the Borough of Godalming but also certain districts outside, and it is anticipated that there will be a considerable deficit in the first few years, which it is proposed to meet by a rate of 7½d. in the £ in the Borough of Godalming. The Committee which considered the Bill made various conditions regarding the price of water, and also the manlier in which any profit accruing from the undertaking was to be divided. As regards the price of water, the Committee very considerably reduced the price the Corporation could charge as compared with that the Water Company which they were purchasing was entitled to charge, and a much lower maximum was fixed. The Committee also provided for the payment of interest on the money borrowed for the undertaking, and for the reorganisation of the capital, as well as for the recoupment of any rate that might be raised, and for a small reserve fund if necessary. Having done all that, the Committee put in a clause by which all the profits subsequent to the payment practically of the actual expenses, and the repayment of the rate in aid, should go equally to all water consumers in the form of a reduction of the price of water. The Corporation of Godalming objected to that clause, because, although they were providing the whole of the necessary funds, and were taking the risk of losing the money to he raised as a rate in aid, which in the first year would amount to £1,200, and which would probably continue for several years, the outside districts, which did not risk any money on the undertaking at all, would equally share in the advantages. The Corporation felt that that would be a very hard position to be placed in, and it was a position which the Local Government Board found to be entirely without precedent. Therefore there was a strong demand that the clause should be expunged from the Bill. Two days ago the House consented to allow the consideration of the Bill to be adjourned until to-day, and in the in- 1172 terval a compromise has been effected on the following terms: that the profits, should any accrue from the undertaking, be divided into two parts, of which one goes to the Borough of Godalming and the other to the outside consumers of water in the proportion of the water rents collected from each of those two areas during any one year. The outside consumers will receive their share in a reduction in the price of water, and the Corporation will be able to apply their share to the reduction of the general rate or of the price of water. That is to say, part of the benefit is to be confined exclusively to those inside the borough, and may be shared by those who do not take the water, although they may have subscribed to the rate in aid. It is a very fair compromise. I understand it is acceptable to the Committee which considered the Bill. It has been accepted by the Borough of Godalming, and it has been laid before those outside the borough who had previously been in opposition to the Bill, and we have not had any notice that they object. I think the compromise will be found useful in future cases as a precedent. It has been accepted by the Local Government Board, and commends itself, as far as I am aware, to the authorities of the House.
In Clause 54, page 28, to leave out subsection (8), and insert: (8) And any balance remaining in any year shall be divided between the area of the borough and the area outside the borough within the water limits in the proportion of the water rents collected from each of those two areas during each year. The proportion belonging to the outside area shall be applied in reduction of the water rents of the outside area, and the proportion belonging to the area of the borough shall be applied at the discretion of the Corporation either in reduction of the water rents within the area of the borough or carried to the general district fund.'"—(Mr. Brodrick.)
That Sub-section (8) stand part of the clause.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
As Chairman of the Committee which had the audacity to introduce the precedent, perhaps I may be allowed to say that the Committee have not the slightest objection to this Amendment. But I should like to explain that the Committee does not think it fair that any profit that might result from the undertaking should 1173 be used for the reduction of the price of gas or the building of a town hall solely for the benefit of the ratepayers of the town of Godalming. We therefore put in a clause that those outside the borough should not be charged a higher rate than those within the borough, and with the additional clause now introduced they will be amply protected. We also thought it our duty to protect the municipality of Godalming from itself, because I have known cities in the North where the profit from gas and water was invested in a large municipal hotel, which cost a great deal of money which the gas and water consumers should have, but which was expended on an undertaking which had practically no result. We did not wish in any way to be hard on the Corporation. My right hon. friend has put forward a very strong case, but he omitted one fact, and that is that the Corporation had one or two heavy responsibilities when they bought the company up. The decision was given in a spirit of conciliation and concession, and some of the onerous responsibilities which would have been laid on the shoulders of the Corporation have been relaxed or entirely removed. With a hope that the Corporation will make a profit which will go to the reduction of the rates, I will support the amendment.
*MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
I am glad the parties have come together and have agreed on this matter. It only remains for me to give the arrangement my. blessing. If the matter had to be discussed, I think on the whole I should have supported the view of the Committee. That have considered this matter very carefully, not once or twice, but three times; and though it may be said that they inserted a new principle in the Bill, I consider that where a Committee has given so much attention to the matter, and has thoroughly grasped all the facts and arguments, the House ought to support its decision. I think that the agreement which has been arrived at is a very fair one, and I heartily support it.
§ Question put, and negatived. Question—
§ "That those words be here inserted,"
§ put, and agreed to.
§ Bill to be read a third time.