HC Deb 13 March 1900 vol 80 cc719-20

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

I do not rise to make any motion on this Bill, but I should like to put two questions to the President of the Local Government Board on points affecting this and the Lambeth Water Bill. The Royal Commission which has recently sat reported in favour of the purchase of water undertakings by some public authority. There is a clear and unanimous decision on that point. It has also reported in connection with the East London District that a public authority could deal with the future supply for that district better and more cheaply than the East London Water Company itself. I am quite prepared to leave these questions for the decision of the Committee, for I think it reasonable they should have these matters placed before them. But I observe that in the Act passed by the Government inter-connecting the water supply of the companies, a clause has been introduced which bars the companies from bringing forward that Act as a "valuable asset" in case of purchase. I should like to hear the opinion of the President of the Local Government Board with reference to this clause in connection with the present Bill. The other question more particularly affects the Lambeth Bill. In proposing purchase the Royal Commission has taken into account the existence of the sinking fund as part of their financial estimate. The importance of this question may be gauged by the fact that ultimately this sinking fund will amount to £150,000 a year. It is therefore necessary to safeguard the existence of this fund, but nothing is done in that direction in this Bill. I think, however, we may safely leave that to the Committee. I should like to know whether the Government intended to support intact the principle of the sinking fund in this Bill as well as in the case of the Lambeth Water Bill.


The hon. Mem- ber has addressed to me one or two questions in connection with the Bill before the House, but my reply to them cannot be altogether confined to that measure, and if, therefore, I appear somewhat out of order in any of the observations I may make, I hope the House will grant me its indulgence. The Bill we are now discussing is one for increasing the storage of water to meet the wants of the water consumers of London, and upon that ground alone, if upon no other, I should feel it my duty, as representing the Local Government Board, to support the Second Reading of the Bill. With regard to the first of the other matters raised by the hon. Member—the inter-connection between the water companies of London—I may say that the Government Act applies both to this Bill and to the Bill promoted by Lambeth, which we are to consider later on. Then the hon. Member referred to the question of the sinking fund. That does not apply to the East London Bill, because there is a clause in that Bill at the present moment providing for a sinking fund. But it does apply to the Bill of the Lambeth Company. That is my answer to the two questions of the hon. Member. I can only add that personally I think there is a great deal to be said for both of the propositions dealt with in the hon. Member's questions, and I am also of opinion that they are matters which ought to be referred to and dealt with by a Select Committee. I do not think I need say anything more. Indeed, the hon. Member must be aware that if the Committee does not deal with these matters in the way he desires there will be another opportunity upon which he can take the opinion of the House in regard to them.