HC Deb 03 May 1900 vol 82 cc568-72

Order for consideration, as amended, read.


I rise to move the rejection of Clause 26, and the reason for my doing so is this. The subject matter of this clause was not discussed at all, and when it came before the Committee the counsel for the East London Water Company and the New River Company were not present, and no evidence was taken on the question. The clause was inserted not by the desire, but rather against the wish of the promoters of the Bill; it was inserted to meet the wishes of the Local Government Board, with the object of assimilating the practice of the Thames Conservancy and of the Lea Conservancy. We could have shown had it been necessary that there was no possibility of reconciling the policy of the two Boards, for water is taken from the Thames under very different conditions from those which obtain in regard to the Lea. Under these circumstances I do not think the Bill should be sent to the House of Lords with this clause in it—a clause which we hold to be absolutely unnecessary.

Amendment proposed— To leave out Clause 26."—(Col. Lockwood.)

Question proposed, "That Clause 26 stand part of the Bill."

MR;. HUDSON (Hertfordshire, Hitchin)

I strongly oppose the rejection of this clause. It was sent to the Committee by the Local Government Board in order to enable it to be ascertained what amount of water the company take daily from the Lea. They are empowered by Act of Parliament to take so many millions of gallons, but although we have applied from time to time to see their water gauges they have always refused permission. The Local Government Board therefore sent to the Council a clause conferring the power we sought. Everybody seemed to be satisfied with the manner in which the Committee decided, and I am surprised that the water company should now seek to cut the clause out. The room was tilled with counsel when the matter was considered.


Our counsel were not present.


At any rate it is not usual to adopt the course suggested by | the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I hope it will not be done in this case.'

MR. OLDROYD (Dewsbury)

I think I can in a few minutes put the House in possession of all the information that is necessary to enable it to arrive at a satisfactory decision on this question. It is quite true that this matter was not discussed on the preamble, but when the consideration of clauses was reached due notice had been given. It may have been the case that the counsel for the water company were not present in their full strength, but it was well-known that the Local Government. Board had made a report, and everybody was apprised of the fact. The Committee itself had no very strong views on the subject, but they felt it incumbent on them to try and meet the requirements of the Local Government Board based on its vast experience. We found, too, that the Report of the Royal Commission recommended that these gauges should be inspected. There is this difference certainly between the cases of the Thames and the Lea. In the former case a limited quantity of water is allowed to be taken; in the latter the company may extract as much as they like, so long as they leave the, reserve of 5,400,000 gallons which is required for the purposes of navigation. Still, we agreed with the Local Government Board that it was expedient that statistics should be obtained as to the quantity of water taken daily, as they might be of public interest and of value for future use. The promoters of the Bill were not very keen upon undertaking the duty imposed by the clause, but still they felt they should do so if any advantage could thereby accrue to the public, and, in view of the increased, annual payment to be made to them, as well as of the anxiety of the Local Government Board to have records taken for public service, they were not unwilling to accept the responsibility. The Committee therefore unanimously decided to insert the clause. I hope the House will confirm the action of the Committee.


I hope my hon and gallant friend will not press his motion. The House will be aware that the Local Government Board had imposed on it the duty of reporting in regard to all private Bills, and they have only done in this case what they were bound to do. The clause is taken word for word from the recommendation of the Llandaff Commission.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

I also appeal to the hon. and gallant Member to withdraw his motion, for one simple reason. It is true that the company have power to take practically the whole of the water of the Lea (beyond the reserve for navigation of five and one-third million gallons) for their own purposes, and that they can do what they like in spite of the riparian councils. But it is advisable we should know the amount of water that comes over the weirs, and this information is necessary to enable the adjustment of complaints made both by the London County Council and the West Ham Corporation as to unsanitary conditions at the mouth of the Lea and the cause thereof. I sincerely regret that the riparian councils who wanted more control over the company, in view of the depletion of the upper reaches of the river, have not been more successful than they have proved. But for some reasons they did not see their way to co-operate with the London County Council and the West Ham Corporation as they might well have done. The present attitude of the Members for Herts and Bedford shows they are beginning to see the wisdom of such co-operation in order to prevent the companies depleting the river of water to the extent they have done in the past.

MR. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

I entirely agree with what has fallen from the hon. Member for Battersea, and I would venture to urge the retention of the clause. This is one of the cases in which a Committee of this House has interfered at the instance of the Local Government Board, in the public interest, on matters on which the parties either promoting or opposing a Bill did not feel sufficiently concerned to induce them to insert provisions in the public interest. We ought, therefore, to confirm the action taken on behalf of the public by the Committee in a matter in which the public interest is not necessarily coincident with that of either the promoters or opponents. I hope the House will not throw out this clause.


I am only too glad to meet the wishes of the London County Council whenever I can, and still more so those of the Local Government Board. I only desire to correct one mistake. The gauges are published regularly for the information of the Local Government Board, but of course they are taken by the company's own officials. I beg to ask leave to withdraw my motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill to be read the third time.