HC Deb 10 December 1902 vol 116 cc725-67

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed [this day] to the Bill, on consideration, as amended.

Which Amendment was— In page 35, line 5, at end, to insert the words '2. If a person appointed to be a member of the Water Board is a member of the Council, or one of the Councils by whom he is appointed, he shall, if he ceases for two months to be a member of that Council, at the end of that period cease to be a member of the Water Board."—(Mr. John Burns.)

Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said he wished to move the omission of the word "if" in line 1, but he ought to explain that he intended if that were carried to propose consequential Amendments with a view to making the Amendment of his hon. friend the Member for Battersea read as follows— A person appointed to be a member of the Water Board shall be a member of a constituent authority, and, if he ceases for two months to be a member of that authority, shall at the end of that period cease to be a member of the Water Board.'

He moved this Amendment because he thought there had been some misunderstanding in the House as to the meaning of his hon. friend. The object the hon. Gentleman had in view was that nobody should be a member of the Water Board unless he was also a member of the constituent authority—that, in fact, there should not be co-opted members. The Government accepted that in substance.


No. I did not accept it in that sense.


said that certainly was the idea which animated the hon. Member for Battersea, and he himself thought, having regard to the fact that *40,000,000 of the ratepayers' money was concerned, the least they could ask was that every member of the Water Board should be a member of a constituent authority, and so amenable to the ratepayers. They were bound to insist that people who got on the Water Board, and had to negotiate the purchase of these great undertakings, should be at all times directly in touch with, and amenable to, the ratepayers. If outside persons were allowed to be appointed, there would be no control over them, and they might do any amount of mischief before they could be got rid of.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment of the Bill— In line 1, to leave out the word 'if.'"—(Dr. Macnamara.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'if' stand part of the proposed Amendment to the Bill."


said there was no doubt that there had been a misunderstanding, but he did not think anybody was to blame. Had he thought that his hon. friend the Member for Battersea had not appreciated the full force of his own Amendment, he would have drawn attention to it. There had been no concealment on the part of the Government.


I did not suggest that.


said the facts were that, as the Bill was originally presented to the House, the members appointed to the Water Board must have been selected from among the elected members of the various constituent authorities. The Joint Committee upstairs, on the representation mainly of the Middlesex County Council, altered that on the ground that the local authority ought to be untrammelled in its selection of a member, and ought to be allowed to select an outside person to represent it if it saw fit. It was all very well in theory to hold that the members of the Board should be in close touch with the electors, but the responsibility of selection rested with the governing body; and they ought surely to be allowed, if they desired to do so, to select the best man they could to represent them, whether an elected member of their own body or not. Hon. Members opposite had dwelt on the complicated nature of this water question probably more than on anything else, and had suggested it would be impossible for the Metropolitan Boroughs to find men possessing the necessary experience for dealing with it. The House had been asked, indeed, to believe that the London County Council was the only body in London which possessed the ability. Hon. Gentlemen opposite accused him of being hostile to the London County Council, without justice; but he thought he might without injustice say of them that they took an exaggerated view of the virtues of the London County Council. They seemed to believe there was nothing in the wide world which required management and administration which the London County Council was not fit to undertake. If there was any justification for that criticism, surely, in the name of common-sense, they should give the constituent authorities the power of going outside their own body in order to get experts. He believed in the principle of popular election, but he realised also that it was possible to ride a hobby too hard, and to say that no man should be allowed to take part in the administration of local affairs unless he was first chosen by the electors would be to shut out many of their most competent men. They would, in fact, run the risk of losing something in the way of successful administration. He held that this was no real departure from the principle of local government; that it would be an advantage to the local authorities to have this option; and that it would be the best way of securing a good body.


said the right hon. Gentleman had very fairly admitted that there had been a misunderstanding, and he fully acquitted him and his colleague of having in any way contributed to the confusion, or to obscuring the point they had under discussion. It was a pure misunderstanding. It was only right he should say that on November 26th last he had on the Paper an Amendment providing that a member appointed by the constituent authority should cease to be a member of the Water Board if he ceased to be a member of the authority appointing him. When he put that Amendment down he presumed, as he believed every hon. Member on that side of the House did, that only directly elected members were to constitute the water authority. His Amendment of November 26th made that absolutely clear, but his primitive simplicity had led him into the present inadvertence. It was quite as well that it had occurred, because they now found for the first time that the Government intended to allow co-opted members to have seats on the new Water Board


I do not think the hon. Member is quite right in using the word "co-opted." It is generally used when a member is co-opted by the body itself. That is not proposed in this case. We are following precisely the precedent set in the Municipal Corporations Act, which enables a city to elect its mayor from either within or without its own body. It is not proposed to give the Water Board power to co-opt members.


said he fully understood that, and he used the word in that sense. But he repeated that they now learnt, for the first time, that it was the intention of the Government that extraneous persons should be appointed by the constituent authority to seats on the Water Board. When he moved his Amendment without comment, he was under the impression that co-opted members were not intended to be placed on the Board, and he certainly only intended that it should apply to directly elected members of the Board. But he now found that its effect would be to penalise the directly elected member as against the co-opted member. For instance, the Battersea Borough Council would probably appoint one of its own directly elected members to the new Water Board. If that gentleman sought re-election to the Council in March next, and the ratepayers rejected him, he would he compelled, by virtue of his rejection at the election for the constituent authority, to resign his seat on the Water Board within two months. But suppose that Chelsea appointed as its representative an extraneous person, he would not have to go before the constituency, and for two or two and a half years, or until such time as the local authority could replace him by a member of their own body, he would be able to do practically as he liked. Surely it was not the intention of the Government that an extraneous or co-opted person should have privileges which were denied to directly elected members.


That is not the proposal of the Government. We say that members of the Water Board should remain members for the time of their election to that Board. It was simply and solely to meet the hon. Member's objection that I accepted his Amendment, providing that when a man ceased to be a member of the constituent authority he should also cease to be a member of the Water Board.


said it would be intolerable if a Borough Council had not the power to terminate at once the official life of a representative who acted contrary to its wishes.


said that point was not before the House at all. It was clear, whether the representative on the seat was a member of the Battersea Borough Council or an extraneous person chosen by that body, the Council would have no power over him during the three years he was a member of the Board.


said they might not have direct power, but it was possible to bring him in contact with the views of the district, and to subject him to allowable pressure—to, in fact, keep him straight in the narrow path that led to righteousness on the water question—if he were a directly elected member. However, under the circumstances, he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.


No, no.


said the House was always a tolerant and generous body. There had been a misunderstanding, and he hoped he would be allowed to withdraw his Amendment, because it would discriminate between an elected member and a member chosen from outside the constituent authority. It had not been his belief that his Amendment would so penalise the member sent up from the constituent authority out of their own number.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


next proposed an Amendment which, he said would express the original intention of his hon. friend the member for Battersea.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 35, line 5, at end, to insert the words,—" 2. A person appointed to be a member of the Water Board shall be a member of a constituent authority, and shall, if he ceases for two months to be a member of that authority, at the end of that period cease to be a member of the Water Board.'"—(Dr. Macnamara.)

Question proposed "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."


said he hoped the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would reconsider his position in this matter. This did not raise a principle to which he was in any sense committed, and it was obviously not the original intention of the Government. It was put in on the suggestion of one of the outside Councils, and the arguments put forward did not justify such a considerable change. The Amendment would put the representation on a sound basis. It certainly would be illogical if a co-opted member were able to sit on the Board for three years, and a representative member were only allowed to sit while he was a member of the constituent authority. He had never desired to cast any reflection of any kind on the members of the Borough Councils, although they had said that the members of the London County Council who had taken, for many years, the greatest interest in the water question, were more likely to be valuable members of the Water Board. He would turn the tables on the right hon. Gentleman who said that the Borough Councils were eminently capable of dealing with this question. If that were true, he was casting a reflection upon them when he went outside the Borough Councils to obtain members for Water Board. He was quite content that the Borough Councils should elect one of themselves; he believed that there would always be found one righteous man amongst them. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not add to the blots on the Bill this system of indirect election.


said he did not attach much importance to this point. Municipal bodies were usually very jealous of co-opting anybody; but if there was co-option at all, it was best illustrated by the election of aldermen who did not wish to go to the trouble of a contested election. By co-option they might, for instance, obtain the services of an old water director, who would not take much interest, otherwise, in municipal matters. It would be better not to restrict the choice of Borough Councils, but be suggested that, as there was no great matter of principle involved, the Government should leave it an open question for Members to decide.


said he had already frankly acknowledged that in the Bill, as originally presented to the House, membership of the Water Board was confined to members of the constituent authorities; but the Government had adopted the conclusion arrived at by the Joint Select Committee, which had taken a good deal of evidence on the point. In fact they divided upon it, and their recommendation was carried by six to four. He desired to be perfectly frank on this matter. He did not regard the point as important, but he thought hon. Members were riding the idea of popular government too hard when they insisted upon carrying it out in the way proposed by the Amendment. As an illustration, he took such a case as that of Lord Llandaff, who had frequently been referred to. His Lordship would probably be a valuable member of the Water Board, but he was not likely to seek election on the Borough Council.


He might he made an alderman.


said he did not agree with that idea of popular government, using the position of alderman for other than municipal purposes, or making

Allen, CharlesP.(Glouc.,Stroud Brigg, John Buxton, Sydney Charles
Bain, Colonel James Robert Broadhurst, Henry Caldwell, James
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Burns, John Carson, Rt.Hon. Sir Edw. H
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Burt, Thomas Causton, Richard Knight

it an easy passage to something else. He altogether denied that by the proposals in the Bill they were casting any reflection on the Borough Councils. On the contrary, they were trusting in their judgment in the fullest possible manner. However, for his part he had no personal feeling in the matter; this was no principle of the Bill, and he was perfectly willing to adopt the suggestion of his hon. friend behind him, and to accept the decision the House arrived at.


said he should like to appeal to hon. Members to remember that if they were to have representatives from the Borough Councils on the Water Board these should be in daily touch with the electors.


said that he understood that the right hon. Gentleman had said on the Committee stage that the constituent bodies should elect one of their own members to represent them. All that the hon. Member for Battersea desired was that if a member ceased to be a member of the constituent body he should retire from the Water Board.


said what he had stated was that it was open to the constituent body to select whom they pleased, either one of their own members or anyone else.


said that there was really very little difference between the London Members and the President of the Local Government Board, who had released his followers from Party obligations on this point. They must convert this into a luck-penny, and proceed with it in the spirit of Christian charity. He appealed to hon. Members on the other side of the House to accept the Amendment.

(9.48.) Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 52; Noes, 56. (Division List No. 629.)

Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Jones, David Brynmor(Swansea Samuel, Herbert L.(Cleveland)
Cremer, William Randal Kearley, Hudson E. Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Denny, Colonel Lough, Thomas Spencer, RtHon C. R.(Northants
Dilke, Rt.Hon. Sir Charles Macdona, John Cumming Tully, Jasper
Fenwick, Charles M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Fuller, J. M. F. Morgan,DavidJ(Walth'mstow Weir, James Galloway
Goddard, Daniel Ford Nolan, Col. John P.(Galway,N.) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Godson,Sir AugustusFrederick Norton, Capt. Cecil William Wilson,HenryJ. (York, W.R.)
Goulding, Edward Alfred Philipps, John Wynford Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Pirie, Duncan, V. Wilson, J.W.(Worcestersh., N.
Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury) Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Hay, Hon. Claude George Rea, Russell
Hayne, Rt.Hon. Charles Seale- Rigg, Richard TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Dr. Macnamara and Mr. Harry Samuel.
Heath,ArthurHoward(Hanley Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Hudson, George Bickersteth Roe, Sir Thomas
Acland-Hood, Capt. SirAlex. F. Forster, Henry William Plummer, Walter R.
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Galloway, William Johnson Pretyman, Ernest George
Anson, Sir Willian Reynell Gibbs, Hn. A.G.H.(CityofLond. Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Anstruther, H T. Gibbs, Hon. Vicary(St. Albans) Purvis, Robert
Ark wright, John Stanhope Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Jessel,Captain Herbert Merton Round, Rt.Hon. James
Bignold, Arthur Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.
Brotherton, Edward Allen Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Sharpe, William Edward T.
Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Smith, Abel H. (Hertford,East)
Chapman, Edward Lonsdale, John Brownlee Smith, Hon. W. F. D.(Strand
Charrington, Spencer Lucas,ReginaldJ.(Portsmouth Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Maconochie, A. W. Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Maple, Sir John Blundell Valentia, Viscount
Cranborne, Viscount Milvain, Thomas Walrond, RtHn. Sir William H.
Crossley, Sir Saville Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Wodehouse, Rt.Hn. E.R.(Bath)
Dalrymple, Sir Charles More, Robt, Jasper(Shropshire) Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Dickson, Charles Scott Murray, RtHn A. Graham(Bute
Douglas, Rt.Hon. A. Akers- Murray Charles J. (Coventry)
Durning-Lawrence,Sir Edwin Nicol, Donald Ninian TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Bull and Mr. Cohen.
Fisher, William Hayes Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)

said he wished to move the ommission of sub-Section (c), which was that a shareholder in any of the Water Companies concerned should not be disqualified from serving on the Board. He would not elaborate the point, because the right hon. Gentleman had accepted the principle involved in the Amendment which he had put down with reference todirectors. The disqualification which was to be imposed on directors should apply with still greater force to shareholders. When hon. Members were sent to decide a private Bill upstairs, they had to make a declaration that they were not interested in the matter one way or the other; and he thought that every member on the first board should be asked to make a similar statement. The transaction which the first Board would have to carry out would be the greatest that had ever been undertaken in this country. The Water Companies had many shareholders, and, surely, the disqualification which was to be applied to directors should be extended to shareholders. His Amendment would only apply to the first Board, and would not entail a disqualification for more than a year or two.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 35, line 22, to leave out sub-Section (c)."—(Mr. Lough.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."


said that the omission of the sub-Section would not carry out what the hon. Gentleman desired. He had already stated that he thought it was altogether undesirablethat directors should be qualified to serve on the Board; but he could not see why the same principle should be laid down as regarded shareholders. That would narrow the area of selection in a manner which would be altogether undesirable. The House might rest perfectly satisfied that any shareholder in a London water company would, if elected to the Board, be actuated by the most honourable motives in the discharge of his duties.

MR. LOUGH said he would withdraw the Amendment, and move it at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 35, line 24, at end, to insert, the words, "A director of a metropolitan Water Company shall, until the compensation payable to the company is determined, be disqualified for being appointed or being a member of the Water Board.'"—(Mr. Long.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."


moved to inset, after "director," the words "or shareholder." He was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for introducing the Amendment with reference to directors, but directors had no greater interest in companies than shareholders, and very often much less.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment to the Bill. After the word 'director,' to insert the words 'or shareholder.'"—(Mr. Lough.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment.


said he should strongly support the Amendment proposed by his hon. friend. Circumstances had come to his knowledge during a long connection with the London water question which showed that it was necessary. Directors were perfectly well - known persons, but shareholders were very little known as such. He had known cases where men had obtained election on metropolitan Borough Councils who were very large shareholders in the Water Companies, the fact not being known at the time by those who returned them. Looking at the enormous sums of money involved, he felt that the Amendment of his hon. friend was necessary.

SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE () Camberwell, Dulwich

said he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not persist with his Amendment. The next thing that would probably be proposed was that no large water ratepayer could be elected to the Board. He was not a water shareholder or director, but he was a large water ratepayer, and he thought if the principle of the Amendment were accepted, that large water ratepayers should not be eligible. An enormous number of men had shares in the Water Companies, and, in future, it would be found that a large number of working men would be holders of the new stock.


said he had previously moved that no person who had any pecuniary interest in any of the Water Companies should be eligible for election. The Minister in charge of the Bill said that he could not see his way to accept that proposal, as he considered it would narrow the area of choice if they precluded all persons who had any pecuniary interest, large or small, in the existing Water Companies from sitting on the Water Board. He wished to know why the right hon. Gentleman now proposed to exclude directors. He was very anxious that the new Board should start on its career, like Caesar's wife, above suspicion. Everyone knew that one of the mischievous causes of the terrible results in connection with the Metropolitan Board of Works was that members were pecuniarily interested in questions which came before them. He wanted to prevent that, and to keep this Board clear and above suspicion. Therefore, he hoped that, even at the eleventh hour, the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment. Surely there would be plenty of men available who had no pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in the Water Companies.


said that if the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman were carried it would be impossible for a shareholder, who might have only an infinitesimal share in one of the companies, to serve on the Board, and his place would be filled by someone else, with perhaps less knowledge of the subject. If the Amendment was that a shareholder could be elected, but should not be eligible to act until after the purchase had taken place, he would quite agree.


said he wished to draw attention to the fact that the Amendment would only operate for one year.

(10.8.) Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 33, Noes 87. (Division List No. 630.)

Allen, CharlesP. (Glouc., Stroud Gladstone, Rt.Hn. Herbert John Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Goddard, Daniel Ford Spencer, Rt Hn. C.R.(Northants
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Hay, Hon. Claude George Tully, Jasper
Brigg, John Kearley, Hudson E. Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Broadhurst, Henry Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Weir, James Galloway
Burns, John M'Kenna,Reginald Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Burt, Thomas Philipps, John Wynford Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Caldwell, James Pirie, Duncan V.
Causton, Richard Knight Rigg, Richard
Cremer, William Randal Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Lough and CaptainNorton
Dilke, Rt.Hon. Sir Charles Roe, Sir Thomas
Fenwick, Charles Sammel. Herbert L. (Cleveland
Fuller, J. M. F. Shipman, Dr. John G.
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Galloway, William Johnson Pretyman, Ernest George
Ansor, Sir William Reynell Gibbs, Hn. A.G.H.(City of Lond. Pryce, Jones, Lt. Col. Edward
Arkwright, John Stanhope Gibbs, Hon. Vieary(St.Albans) Purvis, Robert
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Atkinson, Rt.Hon. John Gosehen. Hon. George Joachim Richards, Henry Charles
Bain, Colonel James Robert Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Balfour, Rt.Hon. A.J.(Manch'r Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury) Round. Rt.Hon. James
Balfour, RtHn. Gerald W (Leeds Groves, James Grimble Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Bignold, Arthur Hamilton, RtHn LordG(Midd'x Scott, Sir S. (Marylehone, W.)
Blundell, Colonel Henry Harris, Frederiek Leverton Sharpe, William Edward T.
Bull, William James Heath, Arthur Howard(Hanley Smith,Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Carson, Rt.Hon. Sir Edw. H. Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Smith, James Parker (Laparks
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh. Jessel,Captain Herbert Merton Smith, Hon, W. F. D. (Strand)
Chamberlain Rt. Hn J.A. (Wore. Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)
Chapman, Edward Lawson, John Grant Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Charrington, Spencer Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Tomlinson, Sir William Edw.M.
Clive, Captain Percy A. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Valentia, Viscount
Cochrane, Hon. Th s. H. A. E. Long, Rt.Hn. Walter(Bristol,S. Walrond, Rt.Hn. Sir William H.
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Lueas, Reginald J.(Portsmouth Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Macdona. John Cumming Wilson A. Stanley (York, E.R.)
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Maconochie, A. W. Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Cranborne, Viscount Maple, Sir John Blundell Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh,N.)
Crossley, Sir Savile Milvain, Thomas Wodehouse, Rt.Hn. E.R.(Bath)
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Montagn, G. (Huntingdon) Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Denny, Colonel Morgan, DavidJ(Walth'mstow Wyndham, Rt.Hon. George
Dickinson, Robert Edmond Mount, William Arthur
Dickson, Charles Scott Murray, RtHnA. Graham(Bute
Douglas, Rt.Hon. A. Akers. Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander AclandHood and Mr. Austruther.
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Nicol, Donald Ninian
Fisher William Hayes Percy Earl
Forster, Henry William Plummer, Walter R.

Words[of Mr. WALTER LONG'S Amendment] inserted.


formally moved the following Amendments:—

"Schedule 3, page 35, line25, leave out 'of the members,' and insert ' the member.'

"Schedule 3, page 35, line 26, leave out 'one.'

"Schedule 3, page 35, line 29, at end, add as a new paragraph,—'4. The members of the Water Board appointed by the Conservators of the River Thames and the Lee Conservancy Board shall not vote or act in respect of any question arising before the Water Board as regards the transfer of any undertaking to the Water Board under this Act.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 4, leave out 'and.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 4, after 'Penge,' insert 'Bexley, Dartford, Erith, and Footscray.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 4, leave out 'twelve,' and insert 'twenty.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 6, leave out from 'Bromley' to end of line 13, and insert 'three by each of the councils of the urban districts of Erith and Penge, two by each of the councils of the urban districts of Bexley and Dartford, and one by each of the councils of the urban districts of Chislehurst and Footscray.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 39, leave out 'and.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 39, after 'Surbiton,' insert 'Barnes, the Maldens and Coombe, and Wimbledon.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 39, leave out 'sixteen,' and inset ' thirty-three.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 40, leave out 'six,' and insert 'seven.'

"Schedule 3, page 36, line 40, leave out 'two,' and insert 'ten.'

" Schedule 3, page 36, line 41, leave out from the second 'of' to the end of line 3, page 37, and insert ' Wimbledon, four by each of the councils of the urban districts of Barnes and Surbiton, three by the council of the urban districts of Esher and the Dittons, two by each of the councils of the urban districts of East and West Molesey and the Maldens and Coombe, and one by the council of the urban district of Ham.'

" Schedule 3, page 37, line 6, after the second ' the,' insert ' constitution.' "

Amendments agreed to.


said that of the many matters which had been left over from the Committee stage there was none of greater importance than the question of the limitation of the term of office of the chairman to one year. Letit be assumed that the Water Board had elected the very best possible man for the position—a man who had not only ability and tact, but had experience and knowledge of water questions in addition to a special knowledge of the London water supply. Such a man would become, not the chairman of the Board but its absolute dictator. There were, perhaps, anumber of men who might be able to fulfil the conditions he had laid down, but they could be numbered on the finger of one hand. Let the House assume a chairman of another type—a man who did not combine all the qualifications he had mentioned, but who was, nevertheless, a man of considerable ability and tact. He might be a suitable man, but would not be cognisant of the difficulties of the water supply within the London area. Then the Board would have at its head a man who was unable to completely control it, with the result that the Board would be broken up into cliques, and that factions would arise, knowing that there was no power to get rid of the chairman for four and a half years. He had a more substantial objection to the proposal in the Bill. All precedent was in favour of his Amendment. The Common Council of the great City of London elected its principal officer annually. The London School Board, the London County Council, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, the Borough Councils, the Thames Conservancy, and, in fact, everybody in connection with London, elected its chairman annually. Outside the Metropolis the same state of things existed. The mayors of the various municipalities, and the chairmen of the County Councils, and Urban and Rural District Councils, were all elected annually. Again, in the Acts of Parliament bringing Water Boards from various parts of the country into existence, it was specially laid down that the appointment of chairman should be for one year. That provision was inserted in the Derwent Waterworks Bill and the Deal and Dover Water Bill, which were recently passed by this House. He had a still stronger and more apposite case, namely the late Metropolitan Board of Works, They appointed a special committee to inquire into the matter, and, as a result of their inquiry, they passed a resolution limiting the chairman's term of office to one year, although, of course, lie could be re-appointed. All he asked was that the Water Board should have the power of appointing a chairman for one year. He should like to direct the attention of the House to the enormous power which would be placed in the hands of the chairman. He would be the acknowledged and representative embodiment of the Board. He would be the officer who would have to be consulted on all points of importance, and therefore he would combine, as it were, the dignity and importance of a mayor of a borough with the knowledge and permanency of a town clerk. He would practically have unlimited power, and, at the same time, unlimited temptation. Under him would be some 500 officials, whose combined salaries would amount to something like£138,000 per annum. He would be the man to whom those officers would look for promotion, and, on the formation of the Board, to be engaged as permanent officers. He would have the run of the office, would be able to devote his whole time to the work, and would be able to exercise the greatest influence on his colleagues. Then, as to patronage;if the chairman was to be appointed for four and a half years, he would largely influence the selection of counsel and of experts. Again, the assessment of the purchase money was a matter of considerable importance, and the chairman, if he were a man of sensitive conscience, might desire to avoid litigation to such an extent as to endanger the interests of the public. He himself had a high regard for vested interests, and he ventured to say that as a Party they were quite prepared to do justice to vested interests.


The hon. Member is getting away from the Question before the House, which is, whether the term of office of the chairman should be for one year.


said he was sorry he had digressed; and if he thought the right hon. Gentleman was convinced, he would desist. But a chairman might lose sight of the fact that the shareholders in the Water Companies would be getting superior credit, and, further, that they would be saved all future liability.


I think the hon. Gentleman is again digressing.


said he was only endeavouring to show the enormous power that would be in the hands of chairman if he were appointed for and a half years.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 37, line 9, to leave out the words ' vice-chairmen or.' and insert the words ' and vice-chairmen shall be one year, and of.'"—(Captain Norton.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill,"


said if he wanted any argument to convince him that the course proposed in the Bill was right, he would have found it in the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Everything he had said with reference to the chairman went to show the necessity of giving him continuity of office. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said with perfect truth that the chairman might become an extremely important and powerful person. First of all, the duties of the chairman would be to advise and guide the Board on all matters leading up to the purchase, the taking of possession, and the commencement of its duties. Surely it was of the utmost importance that any man going to speak in the name of a Board like this should feel that he had some continuity of power that would enable him not only to begin a transaction but to end it. If he were to be chairman for only one year, he would have a very inferior position to that now proposed in the Bill. The point had been very carefully considered. It was perfectly true that a chairman, if he did his work properly, might look to be re-elected, but he hoped the House would remember two very important facts, which were not matters of opinion. Although he was an Englishman, he believed that the system of local government in Scotland was in many respects superior to the system in England. The provost was elected for three years, and he had heard it pointed out that the position of provost in Scotland was infinitely superior to the position of Mayor in England, because the provost was entitled to speak for his corporation, not for one year, but tor three years. If it were answered that there was the opportunity of re-electing the chairman at the end of his year of office, he would point out that the legitimate aspirations of various members to fill the chair had to be considered. The London County Council, for instance, bad deliberately decided to have an annual chairman, not because they had not confidence in their chairman, but because they thought it ought to be open to each member of the Council who was fit for it to have his turn at the chair. That was a point of view which had a great deal of attraction for many people, and he thought that in the interests of the water consumers it was desirable to enact that the chairman of the Water Board should hold office for a recognised and defined period. He did not think three years too long to enable him to carry out all the negotiations for purchase, and to commence the duties of supply. The matter had been carefully considered, and he believed that the plan in the Bill was the best.

Question put, and agreed to.


said that as the Bill now stood, the first Water Board would be elected for nearly five years, but the Councils who would have to elect the Board did not know that that duty would be put upon them when they themselves were elected. He therefore thought that a term of office of two years would be quite long enough for the first Board. That would be reasonable, especially as the purchase would be carried through in a year or eighteen months. If the right hon. Gentleman would insert "six" as a compromise he would agree.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 37, line 10, to leave out the word ' seven and insert the word ' five.' "—(Mr. Lough.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'seven' stand part of the Bill."


said he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press the Amendment. The new Board would be practically only two years in power after the appointed day. The question had been carefully considered, and he thought the arrangement proposed in the Bill was the most convenient.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 37, line 21, to leave out the words 'the chairman or vice-chairman, or '; in line 22, to leave out from the word 'Board' to the word 'member' in line 24; and to add at the end of line 26 the words ' and shall also, if he is the chairman or vice-chairman, vacate his office as chairman or vice-chairman.'"—(Captain Jessel.)

Amendments agreed to.

Motion made, and question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Walter Long.)


There are two or three points which I should like to put before the House in connection with this matter, in which I take the deepest interest. I look at it from a point of view which is shared by a great number of Londoners outside this House. I fear that this measure will involve London in an enormous expenditure for the purchase of an insufficient supply of dirty water from a dying river. The first time a cholera scare affects London, I believe it is certain that the new authority will be forced to embark upon an entirely new scheme for the supply of water—a scheme which will involve enormous expenditure, to be carried out by a cumbrous body entirely unfit to undertake engineering operations, which ought to be entrusted to the London County Council. I do not wish to expand these views, but as they have not been put forward, I think they ought to be mentioned before we part with this Bill. The Thames is a dying river. It is drying up, but it is subject to enormous floods, and they bring down a larger amount of water than ever they did before, and the largest amount came down some eight years ago. The drainage system of the valley of the Thames has been so perfected that the Thames now rises almost with the rapidity of a mountain stream, and brings down an immense quantity of water. On the other hand, the minimum amount of water in the Thames is constantly declining. and by far the smallest amount of water ever known passed over Teddington Weir only three years ago. Therefore it will be seen that the Thames is drying up in dry weather and increasing as a flood stream during flood weather.

The Water Companies have been involved, they say, in enormous expenditure for the purpose of storing the water of this flooding, and yet they give a very poor supply. They have told us that an enormous expenditure on reservoirs has enabled them to impound large quantities of water in order to give sufficient time for settlement. The work of the Thames Conservancy has done much to purify the river, but it has allowed a sewage farm system, which as regards dry weather may work well, but during flood causes the whole of the sewage to be swept back into the bed of the stream. This water is a most unsatisfactory supply, and the figures which have been laid before the House will not stand the test of examination. The companies have told us that they succeed in preventing this spoiling of the water in the time of flood, and they state that they have adopted a system of storing the water in order to purify it. Any hon. Member of this House can easily judge for himself whether this is true by taking a bath three or four feet deep, for anyone can see within three days of the flood evidences of discoloration resulting from flood water reflected in the water given to the consumer. Therefore it is impossible to believe that the bulk of the water supplied has been purified and stored in the way we have been told it is stored. The companies tell us that they are now taking part of the water from the undergroun sand, but the water which they take from the sand is also Thames water. The Thames is a river more than half o which flows underground and out of sight. If you test the amount of water in the Thames at different points, as you come nearer to London it will be found that there is less water in the river. It is a fact that there is more water in the river at Henley than there is 30 or 40 miles lower down. There is in many places an underground Thames; therefore this water, which is said to be taken from the sand, is essentially Thames water, and is liable to the same disturbance from flood. Therefore the more you look into the question of the supply of water from the Thames, the more thoroughly unsatisfactory it will be found to be. Consequently I fear that by this Bill the ratepayers of London are being involved in an enormous expense by transferring the administration of the water supply to a body which will certainly within a very few years be called upon to undertake a vast expenditure in order to bring good water from a distance. The Water Board is an unfit body to be entrusted with a duty which ought to have been thrown upon the London County Council.


I have taken for many years the greatest interest in the whole of this question, but I had not thought it right to intervene on the Report stage of this measure. I should, however, like to say a few words on the general question. I may say that the arguments which have up to now been put forward have not altered in the least my view in regard to the formation of this Water Board. If the view put forward by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean is correct, then the new Water Board will have to take the matter up; but surely that is not an argument against this proposal. The reason I had always advocated the transfer of the Water Companies to the public board, is not that the water directors have been a failure, but because they had strained very largely the powers granted them by Parliament. Take, for instance, the district which I represent. During the recent water famine a very scanty supply of water was given by the companies to the East End of London, and yet the directors felt it to be their duty to charge the consumers for water which they did not supply to them. Therefore I think it is wise to give the management of the water supply to the people themselves. If all the water directors had acted in the same spirit as that which was adopted by the hon. and gallant Member for the Epping Division, we should never have had any difficulty of this sort. We have been fighting in order to give representation to the municipal boroughs upon the governing body for the water supply of London. In other towns throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain the civic authorities have, long been the water authorities. Hon. Members opposite have quoted the evidence of witnesses from Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow, and they have tried to prove that London should be treated with regard to numbers on the managing body in exactly the same manner as provincial towns. But when they come to deal with the question of the Board itself, then for some reason or other hon. Members opposite want the county authority to be made the water authority without any representation being given to the boroughs. That was absolutely inconsistent. Up to the year 1892, the Corporation of the City of London was the only body that possessed the right to promote Bills in Parliament for gas and water. Now we have twenty-eight other boroughs in the Metropolis, and surely they are entitled to a share in the representation on this new Water Board.

With regard to the Royal Commission, my hon, friends opposite have always quoted its Report as one of the reasons why they disapproved of the composition of the Board set up by this Bill. I would point out that there was no such thing as Borough Councils in existence at the time of the sittings of the Royal Commission and therefore it was perfectly impossible that it could have recommended that any representation should be given to the Borough Councils. As for the decision of the Committee upon this question, it is perfectly well known why that Committee altered its decision. The first decision of the Committee was taken without the evidence being heard on one side. Consequently the noble Lord who was the Chairman of that Committee was after wards bound to re-open the evidence, and having heard evidence on the other side, the Joint Committee reversed its decision. Therefore, neither the reports of the Royal Commission, nor the result arrived at primarily by the Joint Committee, should have any influence upon this great question. The evidence given by a Mr. Burgess, of the Liverpool Corporation, has been quoted. One fact, however, upon this point is not known, and that is that although Mr. Burgess gave evidence in opposition to this Bill, when I brought a motion forward in Manchester the other day I received a letter from that gentleman asking permission to be allowed to second my motion, which was to the effect that this Bill should be passed into law this Session. It therefore seems rather strange that this same gentleman should second my motion declaring that this Bill was so good that it ought to be carried into law this Session. I should like to know if the House agrees with some words used by the hon. Member for Battersea on the London County Council, for he is reported to have said— It was a great thing that only eight members of the London County Council sitting in the House of Commons should have been able to convert private ownership into ownership by a public authority. I think I may claim for those London Members who sit around me that more is due to their gentle persuasion than to anything else. I think that on this side of the House we have a right to claim that we have been active in getting what is now provided by this Bill. On behalf of East London I desire to thank my right hon. friend most sincerely for what he has done. I thank him also for the great interest he has shown in the whole question, for the enormous time he has given to it, and the pains he has taken in mastering every sort of detail. Although I have called in question the remarks of the hon. Member for Battersea, I still believe that the hon. Gentlemen opposite will do everything they can to make the action which my right hon. friend has taken productive of great and lasting good.


I do not profess, at this stage of the Bill, to be able to throw any fresh light upon this question, nor to use any fresh arguments. I desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite for the kindness they have extended to me and to my hon. friends behind me, who have had a somewhat difficult task to perform. I cannot, however, let this Bill pass its Third Reading without a protest on my own behalf, and I think I may speak also on behalf of all those sitting on this side of the House. I wish to repeat the protest I have entered before in regard to this Bill being taken at all at this period of the Session. During the initial stages of this measure I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not take into his consultation those various bodies interested in order that he might have arrived at some better proposals, both in regard to the size and constitution of the Water Board, which might have given more general satisfaction than the proposal contained in this Bill. On this side of the House we have already admitted the very considerable improvements made in the Bill during its passage through the Committee stage, and many of the blemishes have been removed from the measure as it originally stood. These improvements, however, do not affect the question of the real principle of the Bill, and I shall most certainly divide against the Third Reading.

We object to this Bill on the grounds of the unwieldy size of the governing body, which we believe will make it less effective as a real Water Board, which may have to carry out the purchase of the Water Companies. We object to the Bill still more on the ground of the extraordinary constitution of the Water Board itself, the extraordinary system of indirect election which has been adopted, and the passing over of the natural body, and which is the central representative body, and which in any other of England would have been accepted as the primary factor in creating such a Board as this. All the precedents in this matter, and most of the opinions expressed, have really been adverse to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, both in regard to the size and the constitution of the Water Board. The hon. Member for Limehouse said it was ridiculous to go back to the Royal Commission and quote that Commission as stating that they would have been adverse to this particular proposal, because, when they reported the Borough Councils were not in existence. I wish to point out, however, that three hon. Members of this House were members of that Commission, and they included the hon. Member for Tewkesbury the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Yorkshire, and Lord Llandaff. I wish to say that in the discussion on Lord Llandaff's Amendment the hon. Member for Tewkesbury said that if the Royal Commission had had the opportunity they would not have included the Borough Councils, and I know the same view was held by the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Yorkshire. Therefore I think I am entitled to say that the Royal Commission would not have brought in this question of the Borough Councils. Not only do I feel that this measure is founded upon lines adverse to ordinary municipal principles, but I feel very strongly that in a Board constituted as is proposed by this Bill the interests of the general community will be subordinated to purely local interests. If you put on any Board a majority of representatives of local interests, they are bound to attend to their local interests. My hon. friend the Member for West Islington moved an Amendment that his own constituency ought not to be called upon to pay any increased water rates.


I included half London in my Amendment.


I think this question ought to be considered from the point of view of the interests of the general community. I fear that the general idea we have had in our minds in favour of purchase and unification and centralisation will suffer in consequence of this Bill. The only argument which the right hon. gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has advanced against the proposal of the Joint Committee is that this is the only means of harmonising conflicting interests. Where are these conflicting interests? At one time the Borough Councils acknowledged the London County Council as the water authority for London, and until the right hon. Gentleman threw down a sort of apple of discord there was really no difference of interest between those bodies. The only interests which have conflicted have been those of the outer and inner areas, and I contend that these conflicting interests might have been perfectly met by placing this Board, not on the basis of the sanitary authority, but upon the basis of the County Councils.

Then there is a question as to the size of this body. Its constitution is fantastic, but its greatest evil, from the point of view of the consumers and the ratepayers, is its huge size. What we want, in creating a new body of this sort, is a Board which will be workable, economical, and one which will be able to carry out its business with dispatch. Does any human being think that this large and heterogeneous body will be the best to carry out the object in view? I do not understand where the right hon. Gentleman has obtained his opinion in regard to this matter. The only authority he has given us is that expert of experts, Mr. Perrin, but the curious thing about this is that the right hon. Gentleman never produced this expert before the Joint Committee in order to give evidence on this point, although Mr. Perrin did give evidence upon other matters. The evidence given before Lord Cross's Commission declared in favour of a body much smaller than the one which is now proposed, and I am afraid that when we come to the question of purchase we shall find that this body will not be an efficient one, either to conduct the purchase of the Water Companies or to start the administration. They have got to start the matter. The members of this body will for some time hardly know one another by sight. They will have no fixed policy and no officers, and they will have to find new officers or wait until they got possession of the officers of the companies. I am afraid that the question, as put before the arbitrators, will not lead to a satisfactory result. I am quite sure that everyone feels that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has selected three men, as arbitrators, of great eminence. Nevertheless, in my opinion, while the case of one side will be put with the utmost possible skill, on the other side it can only be put in a clumsy way and without any real information in regard to the matter. I only now wish to enter my protest against the constitution and the size of the Water Board.

In conclusion, I desire to recognise that we have had a certain number of days discussion, and I am anxious to the full to thank the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for the courteous and the kind way in which he has listened to us and met our objections, for he has readily improved his Bill where he has been able to do so. I can only re-echo what fell from the hon. Member for Battersea, that although we differ from the principle upon which this Board is based, and although we are afraid that it cannot be as successful a body as we had hoped, at the same time we hope that those who constitute the new Water Board, whether they are Members of the London County Council or Members of the Borough Councils, will do their best to make the work of the Board as successful as they possibly can, in spite of the somewhat poor material placed in their hands by the Government under this Bill.


The question of the water supply of London has been the subject of numerous debates, and has been inquired into by Royal Commissioners and Committees, and it is a topic which has given rise to a great deal of controversy. Judging by the present appearance of the House, it would seem that all the interest in this question is now almost exhausted. The Water Companies have been subjected to a great deal of criticism, and I acknowledge freely that hon. Members opposite were perfectly right in subjecting the Water Companies to such criticism. A part of those criticisms I think were very unfair, but another part of them has been productive of good. Anyhow, all that will pass away in obedience to what I believe is the sentimental cry on the part of the public, which will now be invested with powers through a Water Board. I am bound to say that, speaking personally, I shall be glad to escape from the responsibilities which have rested upon me for some time past—not that I fear those responsibilities, because I have endeavoured to provide for the future wants of the population, but I recognise the fact that the Government were perhaps within their right in yielding to what has become a very popular cry. As a good Conservative Member I am glad that the Government, which I have always been able to support, has found itself able to set this question at rest, at any rate for a time. I think we must all acknowledge the care and trouble which the President of the Local Government Board has given to this question, and the way in which he has endeavoured to hold the scale fairly between those interested and the public. Speaking as one who knows the view of the Water Companies, I think I may say that we are wholly satisfied with the terms accorded to us, and I think the right hon. Gentleman has done his best to treat fairly the various interests affected by this Bill. I agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite that this Board will not produce the most economical and workable body possible, and I cannot believe that the number of this body will produce either a workable or an economical Board. I confess, however, that the moment the right hon. Gentleman based his Bill upon the question of representation, he was bound to have a large body, and he certainly had on his side an expert in Mr. Perrin, and I do not know a greater authority. I may also say that the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman is supported by the engineer of my own company, although I am bound to say that I cannot agree with either of them; not do I believe that the transfer of the Water Companies from the various Boards to the Water Board will be productive of good to the ratepayers, for I believe the charges on the ratepayers in the future will be even greater than they are at the present time. I do not believe that on this question of the water supply the question of representation should have entered at all. I was in favour of an entirely nominated Board, and I would have had nominees of the Local Government Board, for I believe such a Board would have found the best men, would have been more economical and more favourable in its results to the taxpayer. The question is now settled for the time being, but how long the Metropolis will be able to favour the present system of representation and the working system now produced by the Government, time alone will show. I do not believe that it can be or will be a success, either in regard to the ratepayers of London or those who send their representative to the Water Board.


I wish to refer to the extraordinary circumstances under which these particular matters have been discussed in this House. Never during my experience has a matter been handled in such a way by the House of Commons. Although this Bill was introduced early this year, it was ultimately relegated to two or three days at the close of the Session, and then we were closured.


I did not use the Closure.


I do not accuse the right hon. Gentleman of using the Closure, because it is quite as much due to my own friends on this side. Somehow, there has been extremely bad management upon this question. If any impartial witness had been here on Monday last to see the mass of evidence and the numerous documents we had to go through in discussing forty-eight Clauses, all under pressure, in order to try and fall in with the wishes of the House, he would have seen that it was entirely beyond the wit of man to deal with them in this way. Today there has been the same pressure. Why should we now be asked to take the Third Reading without having the Bill reprinted? Great alterations have been made in some of the Clauses, and the schedules have been altered. Win should London be treated in this way? Two or three speakers have suggested that the Liberal Members have rather forsaken the London Liberal Members in this debate, and that we seven have been left alone. I think that is a most unjust reproach to fling at hon. Members on this side, because it is well known that there are scarcely any hon. Members qualified to go into the details of this Bill except London Members. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who is here now, has assisted us, and many other Liberal Members, deeply interested in London, have shown themselves ready and willing to do as much as they were asked to do. No one can take an active part in a discussion like this except those who represent the locality. I do not desire to make any charge against my hon. friend, but it has been suggested that seven hon. Members were not enough to do the work connected with the opposition to this Bill. I repudiate that assertion altogether. For if my hon. friend, the Member for North Camberwell, had not been so weary after the discussions upon the Education Bill, I am sure we should have been able to give a good account of ourselves.


We have done so.


I do not think we have contested this matter as much as we ought to have done. With regard to the measure itself, I would ask—Has it been improved in Committee and on Report? I am willing to give credit for all that has been done. In small points we have secured improvements. The representation of the London County Council has been raised from ten to fourteen, and the size of the Water Board has been reduced by four members. I desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman for making the reference to the arbitrators compulsory. I must say, however, that I do not sympathise so much with my hon. friends who have been so profuse in their gratitude for these concessions. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has done the best for his own reputation, and for his Party, and I think we should have done better if we had fought this measure in the old Party way, and endeavoured to throw upon the right hon. Gentleman the entire responsibility for the passing of this measure in its present shape. As regards small things some changes have been made, but we must not forget that some of them have been made in response to criticisms on the other side of the House. I cannot help repeating that I think it would have been better to have fought, the Bill as hard as we could, and, if we had got nothing by those tactics, to have thrown the responsibility for passing the Bill, in the bad shape in which it is drawn, upon the Government. When we leave these small points out of consideration, is the Bill better than it was originally? I do not think it is. On the contrary, when we come to the close issues and to the real point for which this Board is being constructed, we discover at the last moment, with regard to a most vital matter, that the Board we are setting up is ill-equipped, and will have great difficulty with regard to the most important part of this water question. This Water Board has to administer the water supply not only to the rich, but more especially to the poor, who from 80 percent. of the inhabitants of this great city. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that the Clause which we hurriedly carried in regard to settling the charges and equalising them is a very difficult point, and that we had hardly settled it in any final or conclusive way. And we cannot do this now because we have removed the control from the central municipal authority, which controls the water question in other places. We have removed the control and transferred it to a distant and somewhat fantastic authority.

I am for giving over the control of this business to the London County Council. I have read the evidence of nearly all the Reports of Commissions and Committees upon this subject, and I have heard all the debates, and my convictions as to the absolute utility of taking the step which is now proposed are as unshaken to-day as they were at the beginning of these debates. My conviction remains firm that the London County Council ought to have had this difficult business of acquiring the Water Companies' interests entrusted to them; and the President of the Local Government Board has said nothing more unworthy of him, as a Member of the House and a Minister of the Crown, than what he said when he gave as his reason for depriving the County Council of the power of dealing effectively with this business, that it wished to impose rather stringent terms of arbitration. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken cruelly of the London County Council, who are not to blame because they desired to make a good bargain for the people they represented. The London County Council has built up a good record, and industriously they have worked out the water problem for the last ten years. That Council first went into the difficulties of obtaining a supply from Wales, and all the facts the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean has mentioned the London County Council has collected, and the Council are met with an insult from the House—they are put aside as unprofitable servants.

I only wish this House may never regret the step it is taking to-day. Some of my hon. friends have expressed the very hopeful feeling that this Bill may work our right. There is not a man in this House, with regard to a matter of this kind, who will not entertain those benevolent wishes. We all hope that the worst thing we do may turn out will. As patriotic persons we must do so. We have to follow our own judgment, and if we feel that a thing is wrong we should say so to the end. There is a certain arbiter coming which will reveal who was right and who was wrong in this matter. I notice that an authority, whom I am sure everybody in this House will accept, pronounced an opinion upon this Bill last Friday in the constituency of the hon. Member for Poplar. Upon that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife said that the President of the Local Government Board had introduced into the House of Commons a most fantastic scheme, which proposed to bring into existence a leviathan body, with unsatisfactory credentials and imperfect efficiency, which was condemned in advance by the majority of the ratepayers of London; and he went on to say that a more conclusive case for investing the London County Council with the management of the London water undertaking it would be impossible to make out. Those were the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife. Of course I agree with everything he said, and the only thing I am sorry for is that he did not come here during the debates and help those eight hon. Members who are struggling to put forward those ideas which the right hon. Gentleman defined so well outside the House. I feel that we have made the greatest mistake we could make in regard to this Bill, for we had not given the work to the body which was ready to take it up, and we have constructed with great difficulty this fantastic, leviathan body which the right hon. gentleman the Member for East Fife has denounced. In its reflections the other The Times implied that the Opposition to the Bill is not in earnest, but at least that cannot be said of myself. Throughout I have stuck to the principle that the London County Council should have control. I hope the House will not have to regret the step taken by this Bill, but I fully expect that before many years pass the ratepayers of London will be suffering severely from the administration of the water supply by an inefficient, ex-travagant, incapable body.

(11.35.)MR. WHITMORE

said the hon. Member for West Islington had referred to the action of the London Members in connection with this Bill. He was most anxious that the impression should not go abroad that they had not looked after the interests of their constituents. As a matter of fact there had been a very good attendance of London Members on both sides of the House. The hon. Member had quite reasonably boasted that the Liberal Members for London had made a gallant fight in support of their principles in connection with this Bill. There had been a large and constant attendance of Unionist Members. Every Amendment introduced had been fully discussed, and he did not think that it had been in any way prejudicial to the Bill that it had been debated at this period of the Session. He must refer for a moment to the surprising speech of the right hon. Bart. the Member for Forest of Dean, who said that no one had really as yet appreciated the true gravity of this question. The right hon. Baronet said they were about to create a new Board which, at an extravagant price, was going to purchase dirty water, which was being taken from a dying river. He protested that it was almost frivolous at this time of day to describe this as the action that was being taken. The whole question was exhaustively inquired into by Lord Balfour's Commission, and the evidence taken contradicted the observation of the right hon. Gentleman.


said he had read the evidence given before that Commission.


said that every one who had read the Report of the Commission was justified in believing that in the River Thames the consumers had a sufficient supply of adequately good water for thirty years to come. This view was confirmed by the findings of the Llandaff Commission. Though he did not believe that the ratepayers were going to make a good fiscal bargain for years to come out of this undertaking, he maintained that the purchase of the companies and the transfer of the water to a public authority had become a political and administrative necessity; and it was on that ground that he had supported the Bill.

In regard to the constitution of the public authority, he held that the body created by the Bill was necessary for these reasons. To his surprise, some hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to have thought that there ought to have been a small nominated body. He had even heard the hon. Member for Battersea say that the present water directors would be a more competent body than the new Water Board. That was a strange opinion coming from one who had for years described the water directors as the enemies of the human race. He himself would infinitely have preferred that the new Water Board should have consisted of nine nominated members, but they all knew that the suggestion, if it had been made by the Government, would have been scouted by everyone on the other side of the House. There was the intermediate course suggested by the hon. Baronet the Member for North West Wilts, that members of the Board should be elected by each of the County Councils. That was more or less the principle underlying Lord James's proposal, but it was much objected to on the ground that on every such Board they must have a predominant representation of the London County Council. The moment that was proposed the outside authorities would have said that they would have no more to do with it. Therefore they were thrown back on the proposals of the present Bill. They were not ideal, but as a practical man he acknowledged that they were the only kind which had the least chance of being accepted by the House. As one weary of this long controversy, he was glad to see it taken out of the region of municipal politics, and he rejoiced that the Government had shown the courage and the sagacity to bring these proposals forward. For himself he could only say that stern facts had brought him to acquiesce in the necessity for this Bill, and he hoped all parties would join in trying to make it a success.


said he must frankly join the hon. Member for Chelsea in wishing that this question had been dealt with in a different form some years ago. He welcomed the Third Reading of the Bill, because it would for the present terminate the contest which had been going on for several years. The hon. Member for West Islington had spoken almost with anger and irritation because the Members representing the Progressive party did not fight much better than they had done.


I did not say that.


said that was the tenour of the hon. gentleman's remarks. He could only say that his colleagues on this side of the House had expressed their opposition to the Bill, perhaps not so often, but quite as sincerely, quite as well informed, and with precisely the same object in view. Some of them had not opposed the Bill in the spirit of the obstinate juryman. He believed that many of the difficulties conjured up by the hon. Member for West Islington would not be realised, for London would prove itself equal to the occasion. To his mind the most sweeping condemnation of the Bill had been pronounced by the hon, and gallant Member for the Epping Division, a staunch supporter of the Government, when he expressed the view that the measure would not be economical but costly to the ratepayers. He read on the front page the significant words that this was a Bill for— Establishing a Water Board to manage the supply of water within London and certain adjoining districts, for transferring to the Water Board the undertakings of the Metropolitan Water Companies, and for other purposes connected therewith. This was a Bill to manage the water supply, which in the main was drawn from the river Thames, which, if it was not quite so bad and so dirty as the hob. Baronet had said, was still dirty enough. Old Father Thames, which had been the water supply of this city for 800 or 900 years, was becoming, from the point of view of the Water Companies, not so profitable as it had been in the past. They were told that the ugly reservoirs at Staines were only a temporary expedient for the unremediable difficulties due to the shortage of water in the Thames itself. He wanted to tell the President of the Local Government Board that his Department made a great mistake when it did not help the Country Council in 1896 to prosecute their Welsh water scheme. The Thames was failing as a watershed, and if at any time through its failure an epidemic of cholera occureed, and the Thames failed them in the absence of a pure watershed, the County Council would be free from blame, and the responsibility for the calamity would lie upon the Government, which had prevented the County Council from obtaining water for London from cloudland amid the Welsh mountains. He appealed to the Government not to allow Kent and Middlesex to detach themselves from their due share in the financial burdens connected with the water supply for the whole of London and surrounding districts. These counties contained wealthy districts, and they ought to contribute their quota of the cost of this undertaking, and by so doing help the poorer districts which were included in the water area. The Government ought in equity and fair play to prevent Kent and the other rich districts from exempting themselves from the liabilities which would be imposed on them by this Bill. He noticed there was a tendency on the part of Kent and Middlesex, and perhaps Essex, to leave the new water supply in the hands of London alone. Londoners would not bless the Government for bringing forward this Bill if these counties were allowed to detach themselves, leaving the poorer districts of the Metropolis to bear the cost of this undertaking. They should not be allowed, for at least twenty-five years, to detach themselves from the financial burdens of this scheme. Personally he was delighted that the Water Bill was now out of the region of municipal politics for the next three or four years. The County Council of London had given some assistance in the passing of this measure, and he hoped that hon. Members opposite who had been inclined to regard the County Council as a bete noire would in future show some reciprocity by helping them with respect to other matters to which they would now have more time to devote their attention.


I am glad it is not necessary for me to trouble the House with many remarks at this stage of the Bill. I can assure the hon. Member for Battersea that I am at least as glad as he is to see the end of this controversy. I can only hope that the good wishes he and others have been good enough to express as to the future may be fully carried out, for I believe the future of this measure is not so melancholy as some hon. Gentlemen seem to anticipate.

I would like to say one word as to the rather remarkable incursion into the debate of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean. He has told the House that the London water supply from the Thames is so bad that within a few years it will be necessary to bring good water from a distance. In the name of common-sense, what has that to do with the Bill? He told us that this was a duty which ought to have been thrown on the County Council. Does the right hon. Baronet suggest that this House should have given the County Council power first of all to buy out the companies which up to the present time have supplied London with water, and have done it, on the whole, in an admirable way, and then to secure a new supply from a distrance? I doubt very much whether the right hon. Gentleman is right in his contention. My hon. friend the Member for Chelsea pointed out that the evidence of the Commissioners was against that. The Reports of Lord Balfour's Commission and Lord Llandaff's Commission were against the right hon. Gentleman on this particular point. Inboth Reports it is stated as the result of their inquiries that there was no evidence to justify the general condemnation of the quality of London water, and as regards quantity there was sufficient in the Thames, the Lea, and the Wells, for the supply of London and its surroundings for a considerable time to come. I do not think the predictions of the right hon. Baronet are justified by the evidence we have before us and by the Reports of the Commissioners that heard the evidence. Time alone will show whether he is right or they are right, but even if he is right, I respectfully submit it is no argument against the Third Reading of the Bill which we now ask the House to pass.

The hon. Member for Poplar has advanced several reasons why he thinks the Bill should not be read a third time now, and amongst others he has complained that we have taken it at the wrong time of the Session. I have heard many odd statements made on the other side of the House, but I have never listened to one more remarkable than that. I happened to be a Member of the House when a certain Local Government Bill was introduced, and in order to pass it, the House was kept sitting up to Christmas Day. That was dwelt upon constantly as a virtuous act by hon. Members opposite in their speeches in the country. Why was it a virtue on the part of the Liberal Government to keep the House sitting up to Christmas Day, and even up to the following March, and why is it a vice on the part of this Government to read this Bill a third time at this time of the year? This Bill was not introduced in December. It was introduced immediately after the King's Speech and read a second time. It was then referred to the Joint Committee upstairs. The hon. Gentleman failed altogether to realise that if you are going to deal with a subject of this kind, controversial, technical, and full of detail, and if you are going to send it to a Committee upstairs, it is impossible in the ordinary course of things that it will come back to be dealt with by this House for a considerable time.

Why is it that we are dealing with the Bill now? It is because hon. Gentlemen opposite have taken greater interest, and made even longer speeches, on education than on the London water question. I do not think there is any justification for the complaint that the Bill had been taken at the wrong time of the year. I sympathise with hon. Gentlemen opposite in their desertion by their friends, but I do not think that we have had inferior debates in consequence. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have shown themselves fully capable of bearing the full burden of debate from beginning to end. I do not think there is a single point in the Bill which has not been carefully examined. There is no point of even minor importance which has not been fully debated; no question of principle on which many speeches have not been made three or four times over. What more do you want? What more could you have had if 400 Members had been present?

I take the challenges and criticisms of an hon, friend on my own side as more the result of regret at the prospective death of his own company and other companies than of a true appreciation of the future of the Bill. I am glad that on both sides of the House there have been expressions of gratitude for the work done in the past in the interests of the community by the directors of these companies. Nobody who has studied the question will doubt that the time had come when it was necessary to deal with the London water question definitely. When I came to the Local Government Board I found it was necessary either to allow the proposals of the London County Council to pass or to produce proposals of our own. The suggestion that I have not taken counsel of those mainly concerned in the question is absolutely unfounded. At the request of the late Sir Arthur Arnold I met the Progressive members of the London County Council and heard what they had to say. I informed them of the views of the Government, and offered to consider any suggestions as to compromise, and to meet them if I could. I consulted also with representatives of the metropolitan boroughs and outside areas. What more could I do? It is easy to criticise and condemn these proposals, but I take my stand on the solid fact that no other proposals have been successful. This Bill differs from that of Lord Cross and the proposals put forward by Commissions, but it is because of that difference that the Bill has now reached the Third Reading stage. Nobody can say whether in the result it will be entirely successful, but if the local authorities who will appoint the Board approach their work in a public spirit and with true patriotism, as I do not doubt they will, I believe a Board will be created which will find in the Bill full means to settle this difficult question. I thank hon. Members for the fairness and good humour with which the discussions have been carried on. Though attendance has sometimes been scanty, the debates have been practical and businesslike, and I hope that is a good augury for the future of the Bill, and that the people of London, will find it a real and lasting solution of a question that has long troubled the country.

(12.13) Question put.

Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Flower, Ernest Mount, William Arthur
Anson, Sir William Reynell Forster, Henry William Murray, Rt.Hn Agraham(Bute
Arkwright, John Stanhope Galloway, William Johnson Murray, Charles J. Coventry)
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H (CityofLond. Nicol, Donald Ninian
Bailey, James (Walworth) Gibbs, Hin. Vicary (St. Albans) Perey, Earl
Bain, Colonel James Robert Godson,Sir Augustus Frederick Plummer, Walter R.
Balfour, Rt.Hon. A. J. (Manc'r Gordon, MajEvans-(T'rH'mlets Pretyman, Ernest George
Balfour, RtHnGeraldW.(Leeds Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Groves, James Grimble Purvis, Robert
Bignold, Arthur Guthrie, Walter Murray Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Blundell, Colonel Henry Hamilton, Rt.Hn Lord G.(Mid'x Round, Rt.Hon. James
Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex) Harris, Frederick Leverton Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Brodrick, Rt.Hon. St. John Hay, Hon. Claude George Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.
Brotherton, Edwared Allen Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley Seely, Maj. J.E.B.(IsleofWight
Bull, William James Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Sharpe, William Edward T.
Carson, Rt.Hn. Sir Edw. H. Hudson, George Bickersteth Smith, Abel, H.(Hertford, East)
Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton Smith,JamesParker(Lanarks.)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn J. A. (Worc. Johnstone, Heywood Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Champman, Edward Keswick, William Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)
Charrington, Spencer Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Clive, Captain Percy A. Lawrence, Sir Joseph (monm'th Thornton, Percy M.
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Lawson, John Grant Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward
Compton, Lord Alwyne Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Valentia, Viscount
Compton, T. L. (Down, North) Long, Col. Charles W.(Evesham Walrond, RtHn. Sir William H.
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Long, Rt.Hn. Walter(Bristol, S. Webb, Colonel William George
Cranborne, Viscount Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Crossley, Sir Savile Lucas, Reginald J.(Portsmouth Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)
Denny, Colonel Macdona, John Cumming Wilson, J. W.(Worcestersh, N.)
Dickson, Charles Scott Maconochie, A. W. Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath)
Douglas, Rt.Hon. A. Akers- Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W.F. Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Milvain, Thomas Wyndham, Rt.Hon. George
Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)
Fergusson, Rt.Hn. Sir J.(Mane'r Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Mr. Fellowes.
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne More, Robt. Jasper(Scropshire)
Fisher, William Hayes Morgan, David J. (Walth'mstow
Allen, Charles P.(Glone.,Stroud Kearley, Hudson E. Shipman, Dr. John G.
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Lough, Thomas Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Spencer, RtHn. C. R. (Northants
Brigg, John Norman, Henry Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Burns, John Norton, Capt. Cecil William Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Buxton, Sydney Charles Philipps, John Wynford Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R)
Caldewell, James Pirie, Duncan V.
Cremer, William Randal Rea, Russell
Dilke, Rt.Hon. Sir Charles Rigg, Richard TELERS FOR THE NOES— Mr. Herbert Gladstone and Mr. Causton.
Haldane, Rt, Hon. Richard B. Roe, Sir Thomas
Hayne, Rt.Hon. Charles Seale- Shackleton, David James

Bill read the third time and passed.