HC Deb 21 March 1899 vol 68 cc1526-8

Motion made and Question proposed— That this Bill be read a second time.


Does the right honourable Gentleman intend also to send this Bill to a Committee?




The same clause was put into this Bill with regard to water being taken from the Thames.


With reference to this Bill—because the right honourable Gentleman will remember when he introduced his Bill, to which we made objection, because it was founded upon the distinct recommendation of the Royal Commission in regard to this matter—they say there has been no communication between the companies, in order to save any possibility of famine, such as that which occurred last year. But the Royal Commissioners did hedge it about, with certain conditions. They hedged it about with conditions that under temporary circumstances such as those, no further water should be taken from the Thames. They hedged it about with the condition that the capital expended on that Measure should not go to increase the value of the companies when they were purchased, and in regard to the question of the sinking fund, they also introduced that by the Bill. This Bill does not deal with any of those three points satisfactorily, but the honourable Gentleman who represents the Thames Conservancy says, as I understand, that there will be a certain check upon their taking water from the Thames.


A clause will be inserted the same as in the last Bill, that they are not to take water unless the overflow at Teddington Weir exceeds 200 million gallons.


Quite so; but still they are liable to take more water from the Thames, and that seems to me to be a matter which is going beyond what is our view of the intention and will of the Royal Commission. There is no clause in this Bill dealing with the question of the sinking fund, as to which the Royal Commission made a special Report—namely, that any capital expended on this matter should not go to increase the value of the companies when purchased. Therefore I should really like the right honourable Gentleman to explain to us what is the advantage of this Bill at all. He has the Government Bill to carry out this very object. It is surrounded with certain safeguards which will not prejudice the question of water supply, and on that ground we are willing to support the Bill. We have passed an automatic Bill to enable that very company, which is likely to have large questions of emergency arise, to deal with them, because when discussing the right honourable Gentleman's Bill the other day I ventured to ask him across the House whether he intended that Bill to be of a temporary character, and one which would not prejudice the question of communication in the future, when a fresh supply was taken either from the Thames or elsewhere. The right honourable Gentleman, replying himself across the House, practically agreed to that proposition. This Bill, as it stands, is a much more far-reaching one than that of the Government, and I hope the right honourable Gentleman will see himself that in the shape and way in which it is drawn it will very considerably prejudice, or may prejudice, the question of future supply, because it provides for a large system which may cost £300,000 or £400,000, and when the new system is taken in hand, may be unnecessary, or which may be brought about in a much better or more economical way. Therefore I do hope the right honourable Gentleman will take up a different attitude with regard to this Bill than in regard to the last one, and see that it is not a Bill which ought to be passed, taking into account the fact that no emergency can arise, because of the Government Bill, and that we are dealing with a company, for whom special provisions may specially be made.


The honourable Gentleman asked me what attitude I should take towards this Bill. The answer is that this Bill goes further and contains provisions which the Government Bill does not. Possibly some of these provisions are valuable. I am informed that arrangements have been come to between the Conservancy interests and the company, but that was impossible in the Government Bill, because it was impossible to give the notices required by statute. All the other matters which the honourable Gentleman referred to are matters that can be adjusted in Committee. As to the question he puts, why all these Bills are not to go to the same Committee, the reason is that this matter is one of urgency, works require to be done within a period when we may possibly expect them to be effective. Under these circumstances, though I admit that the matter has not been very simple, I have done the best thing I possibly could. My object has been to get the Bills through as rapidly as possible for the purpose of arranging for these works, and if all the Bills were to go to the same Committee it naturally would lead to very considerable delay.

Bill read a second time, and committed.