§ (6.30.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Bristol, S.
I beg to ask leave to introduce 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.I am conscious that I have undertaken a task of considerable difficulty, one which has been essayed by others before me obviously without success, or it would not fall to the present Government to propose legislation on the subject. But I am hopeful that we will be able to deal successfully with the question, not merely because I am confident of the justice of the proposals I am about to make, but also because I believe that, generally speaking, among all those concerned with the question, whether in the interests of London consumers and ratepayers or those interested in water companies, or indeed of any who take an interest in it from any point of view, there is a general consensus of opinion that the time has come when the question ought to be finally settled. There is a general and widespread desire that some reasonable scheme should be produced which will remove this question of the administration of the London water supply from the region of political controversy,
I will not trouble the House with an historical retrospect, but I feel bound briefly to state why legislation on the subject is proposed. When the provision of a water supply in a district is 1382 the duty of the sanitary authority of that district, as a rule the work is done by the municipal authority; but when the London County Council was established in 1888 they were not empowered as the water authority for the metropolis. They were created a County Council very similar to other administrative bodies in the counties of England and Wales, and in their case, as in others, it was not thought necessary to entrust them with the administration of the powers of water supply. But following on an investigation by a Committee of this House, the necessary powers were conferred upon the London County Council to enable them to apply for legislation which would make them the water authority. Without wishing to raise any controversy between the London County Council and the Government, or any other local authority, I will at once say that, in the proposals I have to make on behalf of the Government, there 's no feeling of hostility to the London County Council. At the same time I feel bound to say that, if the Council felt aggrieved because they had not by this time become the water authority, they must blame themselves rather than the Government or Parliament. If they had made a better use of the opportunities which they hold, I believe they might have before now been the water authority. They decided—rightly or wrongly I will not say—to deal with this question in a way which certainly did not secure the confidence of the community or of the House and they were unable to pass the, legislation they applied for. Their last application to Parliament failed last year; and on that occasion I, speaking on behalf of the Government, said it would be impossible to continue session after session rejecting these proposals, and that it would be necessary to make proposals fairly as between the interests concerned; and now I propose to redeem the pledge then given.
We have had the advantage of a very exhaustive and able inquiry into this question by a Royal Commission, and, whatever may be the opinion upon the conclusions they arrived at, it will be allowed that the Commissioners were extremely able men, who gave most 1383 laborious and anxious attention to their inquiry, and that their Report is well worthy of the close consideration of any one who wants to know what the history of the facts of the case are, and that it is also a very useful guide for any one proposing to legislate upon it. The area comprised within what is called "Water London" is very large. The area of the county of London is 117 square miles, with a population of 4,536,000, and a rateable value of £39,769,000. The outside area is 449 square miles, the population 1,362,000, and the rateable value £7,303,000. The total area is 566 square miles, the population 5,398,000, and the rateable value £47,720,000. These figures show that the area which will be affected by the legislation is a very large one; the population is very great, and the rateable value enormous. And in the Report of the Commission presided over by Lord Balfour it was clearly pointed out that, as the population of "Water London" grew, it will be in the outside areas that the great increase will take place. As a matter of fact, already there is a tendency on the part of the population of London to spread outwards, and it is in the outer part of this great district that the future increase in the population will probably take place. Therefore it cannot be wondered at that when the proposals of the London County Council were to put the control of the water supply entirely into the hands of the Council, aided only by some co-opted members acting on the committee, they failed to secure the support of London in this House, and that they also failed to command the sympathy and secure the support of the representatives of the outside areas, who felt that altogether insufficient importance was being attached to their position, to their numbers, and to their requirements. Therefore, upon the authority of the Royal Commission, upon the authority of the Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth was a distinguished member—indeed, upon all recommendations that had been made in reference to this subject—it is, I think, quite clear that any body which is to administer the water supply of "Water London" must be representative of the whole area con- 1384 cerned. It has been suggested that that body would be found in the London County Council; but I submit that while the London County Council represents; inner London, it did not represent, and could not be held to represent, that large outer London which is so vitally concerned in the proper and wise settlement of this question. It is, therefore clear that we must find a new body who will represent the whole area; and suggestions have been made in some quarters that unless the body which was to do this work is elected for the purpose the proposal will not be satisfactory.
I think hon. Gentlemen and people outside this House who take an interest in Local Government, and particularly in Local Government in London, will do well to study the statistics dealing with elections in London for various local proposes. Hon. Gentlemen very often express a desire that more interest should be taken in Local Government, and they express profound regret that so few are ready to take part either as electors or elected in the Local Government of their own area. These are "pious opinions" but they have a bad effect, and they do not bring about the results which those who indulge in them desire. It is interesting to find that, while in the Parliamentary elections in London in 1900 the percentage of electors who voted was 65, in the municipal boroughs it was 45, in the London County Council it fell to 40, while, in regard to the London School Board, in some districts it was 17, 22, and 14. That does not look at if it is probable that if we were to create a new area altogether, with a separate constituency and with a separate election, our proposal would be any more warmly welcomed by London, or that they would get any greater interest taken in the new elections than is taken in those which have to be held already. I believe it is only by limiting the number of elections, and by securing that the duties shall be concentrated in the hands of two or three bodies, and that their work should therefore be of a responsible character, that they will give that real life to Local Government in London and elsewhere which we all desire to see it possess, and without which it could not be as attractive to 1385 the general community as we should like to see it. I have said that the Government undertook this task because they felt last year, and feel now, that it is impossible to allow a controversy of this kind to continue, and as the local bodies of London have failed to find a settlement, it has become the duty of the Government to deal with the question.
I will endeavour, Sir, to explain, as briefly but as clearly as I can, what is the system which His Majesty's Government propose to substitute for the existing control of the London water supply. Clearly, some new authority must be found; and there are certain principles upon which the Government feel the creation of this new authority must rest. In the first place, it must represent the whole area covered by "Water London." It must rest, originally, upon the principle of popular election; and, clearly, as inner London has the larger population and rateable value, there must be a considerable majority representing inner London on the new body, though, at the same time, there must be a fair representation given to the outside areas whose interests are also very great. The Government plan has been to take the sanitary authorities of "Water London" and make it their duty to select representatives, who will form the Water Board in future for London. The sanitary authorities which we selected are the metropolitan boroughs and the City, the urban sanitary districts of the outside areas, the London County Council, and the county councils of the adjoining metropolitan counties. Those are the areas which the existing eight companies were authorised by their powers to supply. There are 28 metropolitan boroughs. Basing the representation as nearly as we can upon population and rateable value, there are six of the metropolitan boroughs—Islington, Kensington, Lambeth, St. Pancras, Stepney, and Westminster—each of which will have two members on the new body. The London County Council will have ten; the Common Council of the city two, the councils of all the other metropolitan boroughs one each, the council of the borough of West Ham two, the councils of East Ham, Leyton, and Walthamstow one each, the county councils of Kent, 1386 Middlesex, Surrey, Hertfordshire, and the Conservancies of the Thames and the Lee, one each. The outside urban districts will be grouped, and each group will be represented by one member of the Water Board. There will be a total membership of 67, with, in addition, the chairman and deputy-chairman, who can be elected from outside the body and paid. These figures give to London, as represented by the metropolitan boroughs, the City, and the County Council, a majority of two-thirds of the representation on the new body. The qualification for a member of the board is that he must be a member of the council of the borough which appoints him and, in the case of a group of urban districts, a member of one of the district councils composing the group. The board will be elected for three years, the whole of the members retiring at the end of that period. But the first board appointed, under the Bill will be elected for four years so as to give an extra year for the work which will have to be done in, getting possession of the undertakings, in making a start, and in commencing the work of administration and supply. It will be the duty of the metropolitan, councils and other local bodies to appoint members of their bodies as their representatives upon the Water Board, but there would be no election in the ordinary sense. It would be the duty of the metropolitan councils and other local bodies to appoint members of their bodies as their representatives upon the Water Board, but there will be no election in the ordinary sense. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman will be elected to the Water Board itself, and can be elected from outside their own body. Power is taken to the Local Government Board to vary the constitution of the Water Board as time goes on, if, owing to alterations either in population or any of the circumstances of the area concerned, it is necessary that the numbers should be altered; and this cannot be done by the Local Government Board through provisional order. That, I think, will be seen is a wise and necessary provision, as obviously the great part of the area may alter materially in coming years, and it will seem to be very desirable that there 1387 should be power for the Local Government Board to make such alterations as are necessary from time to time.
Then it is made the duty of this Water Board to purchase the London water companies, within an appointed time, by agreement, or failing agreement by arbitration; and to them on the appointed day will be transferred all the powers, duties, obligations, liabilities, and works of the existing companies that does not apply to where there is a large amount of real estate held by a company apart from their water supply. Where there are other estates apart from the water supply, the board will only be charged with the duty to take over that portion of the property of the company, which was their source of water supply and means of distribution. The Water Board will not only be charged with the duty of taking over all existing obligations and liabilities of the Company, but will, of course, be given power to promote legislation and power to appoint Committees to whom they can delegate any of the necessary work that has to be done in different parts of the Metropolis. The appointed day fixed in the Bill is January 1, 1903, but power is taken by the Local Government Board to extend that appointed day for a period not exceeding one year where it is found necessary and desirable in the interests of both parties that this should be done. The Bill provides that, if the settlement as between the companies and the Water Board is still continuing when the appointed day arrives, dividends shall be paid to the shareholders of the existing water companies until the purchase shall have been concluded. It makes provision for the costs of the water companies in the prosecution of their case, as before the arbitrators, for instance, to be advanced to them by the Water Board; and it preserves and gives to the water companies right of access to their works, offices, books, and anything else they may require in the event of the negotiations between themselves and the Water Board, not being entirely completed when the appointed day has arrived.
The purchase being by agreement, or failing agreement by arbitration, it becomes necessary to consider whether, in the case of arbitration, that arbitration should be in the ordinary form, or 1388 whether this is not a case where the suggestions of the Royal Commission should be followed, and a special tribunal set up for the purpose. The Royal Commission contemplated that this would be so large an affair, and one that could hardly be guided by precedent, that some special tribunal would in all probability be established by Parliament, and that is the view which the Government adopts. We propose to establish a special Court of arbitration composed of three gentlemen; and I am happy to say that, whatever may be thought of some of our proposals, I am sure the House will agree as to the complete qualification of the three gentlemen whose services we have definitely secured. They are the Right Hon. Sir Edward Fry, late a Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Hugh Owen, late Permanent Secretary to the Local Government Board; and Sir John Wolfe-Barry, K.C.B., a very distinguished and well known engineer. I think the House will agree that we have been extremely fortunate in securing the services of these three gentlemen for work of such a very important character. The arbitration clause is an open clause giving full powers to the arbitrators; but we have adopted the recommendation of the Royal Commission, who expressly stated that in this case the usual practice of arbitrators of allowing 10 per cent. for compulsory purchase ought not to be permitted, and that, while the companies should be bought out upon a fair and just basis, a special allowance of 10 per cent. ought not to be made. Therefore, in the arbitration clause, appointing the Court of Arbitration this 10 per cent. is expressly prohibited. Further, there are words inserted in the clause that in arriving at the price of the undertaking the price is not to be enhanced or depreciated by the consequences of the introduction of a Bill in that House. It was felt that, whatever might be the effect on the property of the introduction of the Bill, it would be unfair to the companies themselves to depreciate their price if the effect was a bad one, and, on the other hand, that it would be unfair to the new authority—that was to say the people of London—if by the introduction of the Bill the price was driven up to enhance the price 1389 they would have to pay. Further, the expenses of the companies incurred by arbitration are provided for in this clause, subject, however, to the discretion of the arbitrators as to the reasonable and proper character of the expenditure. The decision of the Court of Arbitration will be final, in regard to all matters of fact while an appeal will lie to the Court of Appeal in regard to questions of law. I say the Court of Appeal because, Sir Edward Fry having himself been quite lately a distinguished Member of the Court of Appeal, it was felt to be fair and right that should there be any necessity for appeal from a tribunal of this kind the appeal should lie, in the first place, direct to the Court of Appeal, and should not go to the Court below. This will facilitate matters besides somewhat reducing the expense. The arbitrators are given full powers to hold such inquiries as they may think necessary themselves, or by a sub-commission, to arrive at what they believe to be the true value of the undertakings, and to fix the price, and they are given full power also with regard to any expense incurred in connection with the transfer. To the Water Board will be transferred the powers and the liabilities of the existing Companies, but I ought to say, that in one respect there will be a change. In regard to borrowing, the existing powers of the companies are repeated, and the Water Board will be given borrowing powers in the ordinary way, such as are conferred on local authorities. The Water Board will represent, control and administer the whole area which is now governed by eight different companies. The Water Board issue stock at 3 per cent. per annum, which will be their water stock. If the income of the year was not sufficient for the expenditure of the year they are given the power to rate. If the water income of the year is not sufficient for the expenditure of the years in the case of inner London they will issue their precept to the metropolitan boroughs, and in the case of outside districts to the overseers in the ordinary way for there venue which they may require, and which will have to be provided by the rates. I ought perhaps to say that in regard to outside areas there may be some little difficulty in respect of the incidence of rating, because they are 1390 not all of them supplied over the whole of their area by the water companies to be purchased, and the suggestion is that they should pay not upon their whole rateable value, but upon the rateable value of that portion of the area which was supplied by the water company, and that, while that should be the basis upon which they would be charged, the sum will be levied over the whole area.
I now come to what is, perhaps, in one sense, the most important part of the Water Board's duties—the way in which they will pay the companies whose properties they will take over. From the recommendations of the Royal Commission it does not appear to be quite clear what they had in their minds. They suggested that in the event of the water company's being paid by somebody appointed in this way they might be paid in water stock or in cash, and that if they were paid in cash it would be necessary to make an allowance in respect of any loss which the shareholder might incur in their investments owing to the period of time which would elapse between their investment and the time when the next investment would begin to bear fruit. The Government feel in this matter that there is no precedent to which they can refer with any confidence as to what ought to be done. In all other cases the difficulties have been so much less serious than they are in this case that no precedent drawn from municipal history in the rest of the country seems to help. We have therefore had to consider what would be the general effect of the issue of a very large amount of water stock in order that the companies may be paid out in cash. We have had to consider whether it would not be desirable to adopt the suggestion made in more than one quarter to authorise and enable the Water Board to pay the companies in water stock at a rate of interest of 3 per cent.; and, believing as we do, that we have given a tribunal in the form of an Arbitration Court, which is competent and must be satisfactory, and believing, also, that the water companies are offering good and sound properties, we do not think there is any hardship or injustice done in making it the duty of the Water Board to purchase 1391 the companies at a fair price, which would be decided by the Court of Arbitration, and to pay for them in the water stock of London. That certainly can not be a worse security than any thing the shareholders hold now, for it will have behind it the property of the eight companies, and, in addition, of course, the rates of Water London. That is a proposal which we feel can be made with justice to the companies, and in the interests of London as a whole. If a loss is in any way incurred by the new board it is upon London and the ratepayers of London that the burden will fall, and while it is certain that nothing less than justice should be done to the water companies at the same time regard must be paid to the ratepayers of London who pay, and any loss that may be made, or for any mistakes that may be made. Therefore, it seems reasonable that the water companies shall be paid in water stock. In regard to the sinking fund, the Royal Commission recommended that at all events a longer period than usual should be given before the Water Board began to create a sinking fund. We have adopted that suggestion, and for all the money borrowed either for purchase or for redemption of stock we give the ordinary period of 60 years, but postpone the commencement of the fund for 20 years. In other words, we give a period of 80 years. Where the sinking fund is required for any other purposes it will come undor the ordinary time of 60 years.
I do not think I need say anything except in regard to the rural districts. There is a large part of London which is purely rural. The Government scheme has left that part of Water London very much as it is now, the only difference being that these districts can require to be supplied in bulk, and they will then have to distribute themselves, ceasing to be that part of London supplied by the Water Board. If they do not so supply themselves they will go on as they are now, and no change will he made. Then, a special provision will be made in regard to places like Croydon. There is also a provision in the Bill which I hope will meet the case of such places as Finchley and others, which have a water supply of their own, a supply which, not being quite sufficient for the purpose, is augmented by supplies 1392 given by existing companies. Provisions are also inserted with regard to the servants of the existing companies, with regard to the dissolution of the companies after the purchases are complete, with regard to the regulations which are to be issued by the Local Government Board in reference to the issue of stock, and, further, with regard to the distribution of the moneys which these companies will receive for their property as between their shareholders. In regard to this, a schedule is put in the Bill which will be filled in after the companies have made their own proposals, and the money will be distributed by the companies to the shareholders on a plan arranged by themselves.
I can assure the House that, whether they like the Bill or not, it is an honest attempt to deal with a very difficult question. Hon. Gentlemen who have only approached it from the critic's point of view can not realise in the smallest degree how great and numerous are the difficulties connected with the London Water Companies. The Government has been animated by no feeling of hostility to the London County Council or any other local body; we have striven honestly to find a practical solution of this long-vexed question. I hope and believe the Bill will receive fair consideration from the House, and I am confident that if passed into law it will be found to be a satisfactory solution of this great problem.
§ (7.25.) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman did not use language of exaggeration when he spoke of the great complexity as well as the great importance of this question; but he has laid his proposals before the House with the most admirable clearness—perhaps I may say, with his invariable clearness. In one respect it seems to me that those who have hitherto taken an interest in this large question will recognise the important concessions made by the Government as compared with the proposals or sketches with which we have been favoured on previous occasions. For instance, with regard to the valuation of the property of the Water Companies, although without examination of the actual terms it would be difficult and dangerous to commit one's self to any positive opinion, but we recognise that 1393 the general scope and idea of the proposals of the Government are a very distinct advance on what has sometimes been conjectured. The right hon. Gentleman has been fortunate—as he said himself—to secure the services of three so eminent persons as those whom he named, and, if the terms of reference are suitable and safe, I think he has suggested a satisfactory method of dealing with the very important side of the subject. Of the whole question, that was one of the most thorny points.
The other, I venture to say, was the question of the constitution of the Board, and here, I am afraid, I must part company with the right hon. Gentleman. The proposed constitution of the Board appears to me to be a most extraordinary one. Supposing we were engaged in forming a water authority for some great municipal town: Where should we go for it? Where is the mystery or difficulty about it? We should go to the municipality to which the water was to be supplied. For many years London was destitute of any proper Municipal Government. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends conferred upon it a Municipal Government, and, although, at first the body was exposed to strong animadversions and met with a good deal of opposition, it has lived down the calumnies to which it was subjected. The right hon. Gentleman himself now, if he goes to a public dinner at which the body is in any degree represented, will make the most effusive speeches in praise of the extraordinary ability and success with which the London County Council conduct their business. Yet when it comes to a question of actual work, giving them a responsibility, then His Majesty's Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to forget all the nice things they say in after-dinners speeches, and show themselves to be distrustful—almost contemptuous of the very body they themselves created.
The right hon. Gentleman said the County Council had been meddling with this matter, had had various schemes on hand for dealing with the water supply, but had always failed to gain the support of the London people in this House. Yes, but they have had the support of the London people out of this House. 1394 It is because they were elected on purpose to deal with this matter, and the electors, who are certainly the best judges, show their confidence in them by continually increasing the majority, which was given to the more active party in that body. And because, forsooth, those in this House, who represent London, and were elected for other purposes altogether, are opposed to the London County Council, the right hon. Gentleman thinks that is a sufficient reason for passing by this great and active useful body, and trying to scramble together some kind of heterogeneous board.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken, for I did not give that as the reason for the action of the Government. I stated it as a fact that whether the London County Council had been wise or unwise, they had failed to deal with this question, and as it had not been dealt with by any other body, we were compelled to act.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
But whose support did the County Council obtain? They obtained the support of the population of London, and a better testimony could not be given to the efficiency of a public body. But because London was unfortunate enough to be represented by hon. Gentlemen sent to this House for some other purpose altogether, the County Council are to be passed over in this way. It is not reasonable, and it is not common sense. I believe the right hon. Gentleman has tried to dazzle us with figures and other matters involved in this huge area, such as the valuation, the population, and so forth. It may be different in this case, in degree and extent, from the case which occurs in every other municipal borough in the kingdom, but it is only in degree and extent, and even other municipalities have often to go beyond their own limits for a water supply, and there is no difficulty in the matter. But here, forsooth, we are to have all these elaborate arrangements to constitute an authority something like the old Metropolitan Board of Works, consisting of men appointed by bodies elected for another purpose, and having no knowledge of the matter with 1395 which they have to deal. What have the new municipal boroughs in the Metropolis to do with water, what do they know about water, as compared with the County Council, which is in a position to deal with the wants of London on a large scale? It is not arguable, and the only object which there could have been was to flout the County Council, and I cannot see what else can have been their intention. The right hon. Gentleman has made some of those somewhat reactionary observations to which the House is not unaccustomed from that Bench regarding representative institutions. He has said that the bodies in London and that part of England which depends upon popular election, attract very little interest in the community. Sometimes one gains a little by presenting a negative. But if the right hon. Gentleman does not like this system, what would he suggest? Would he suggest nomination?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I am in favour of direct election with the fullest powers, and not this sort of secondary election by the appointment of one or two members of a number of public bodies to work together for by such a system the responsibility is frittered away in a scrambled authority which is certain, unless our experience is to go for nothing, to end in mismanagement and extravagant expenditure. We have already to hand a body which is showing more and more every day how efficiently it can do its work. But instead of making use of it, the Government take only ten of its representatives and gather together from the by ways and hedges—[Ministerial cries of "Oh"]—I do not mean any slur, but the Government gather together persons originally elected for disjointed purposes, and I do not think this is a course likely to result in an efficient and economical administrative body. That is the principal objection I conceive to the hon. Gentleman's proposal, and though this is not time to develop it, I think 1396 the right hon. Gentleman will find that it will be developed when the Bill reaches later stages. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to modify his scheme materially in this respect or to give some better reason for this feature of it than he has done hitherto.
§ (7.36.) Mr. BOULNOIS (Marylebone, E.)
If those of us who represent the enormous interests dealt with in the proposed Bill do not now criticise the details, it must not be taken that we acquiesce in the Bill. It is impossible at this stage to go into the details which have been so lucidly and ably propounded to the House by my right hon. friend. The proposals, especially in reference to the exceptional treatment which it is proposed to mete out to the shareholders of the water companies, both with regard to arbitration and mode of payment will, of course, require very serious consideration. I can only say at this stage that we, who represent the water interests in this House—[Opposition cries of "Hear, hear"]—I am not at all ashamed to say I that, because I stand up here as the representative of an interest which is extremely large, and which will require protection, not only in this House but outside, when we come to deal with the way in which they shall receive their proper dues. I hope at this stage and at all times, when this matter is under consideration, it will not be thought that I am in any way personally interested in the matter, and I am only looking after those who cannot look after themselves. As far as we are concerned, we shall give the most careful investigation into the Bill in all its details, into which we shall be prepared to go at the proper time.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
This is not the time or opportunity to make any lengthened observations upon a Bill such as that which has just been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, and I shall confine what I have to say to that portion of the Bill which takes away from the chief sanitary authority of London, as the London County Council undoubtedly is, a duty and function which ought to be conferred upon it, and which is similarly conferred upon every 1397 sanitary authority throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had recognised the neeessity of the water supply of the community being in the hands of the local authorities. The County Council of the Metropolis is recognised by the Borough Councils of the Metropolis as being the chief sanitary authority, therefore it cannot be the local sanitary authority in the Borough Council interpretation of the term, simply because the extraordinary size of London prevents the central body attending to the detailed duties of each of the districts now looked after by the Borough Councils. When the Sanitary authority is to have charge of the water supply, it does seem to me that the water supply ought to be in the hands of the metropolitan body, and not detached and handed over to irresponsible bodies known as the Borough Councils. The right hon. Gentleman said that the London County Council was not created for this particular purpose. That is not the fault of the London County Council, but it was the fault of the stepmother who brought it into existence, and has rather been ashamed of its baby ever since. It is not our fault that the parentage of this baby has been claimed by both sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said he had no hostility to the London County Council. To that I have only to say—Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love,But why did you kick me downstairs?That is the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted to-night. If I wanted an excuse for the attitude the London County Ceuncil has taken, we have it in the speech of the President of the Local Government Board, because he admits that this is a difficult question, a question of great complexity, and one which will have to be permanently settled, not in the interests of the water companie's shareholders, nor of the water company directors. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that the ratepayers will have to provide this enormous amount of money out of which the present shareholders will not get I hope a too extravagant compensation When we see that the right hon. Gentleman has himself been compelled to abandon both the spirit and 1398 the strict letter of the Lands Clauses Act, as he does, that in itself is a justification for all the sums of money spent by the Council upon all the Bills which the London County Council have been compelled to introduce for the benefit of the ratepayers of London. I am surprised at the action of the right hon. Gentleman who, I think, ought to know better, and he really does know better, because he has a competent Department to advise him, and he ought not to urge the largeness of the water area of London as a reason for exceptional treatment. Large as London is, and large as the amount of money is which is to be spent buying the companies out, it is not relatively larger than Glasgow, Bradford, Birmingham, Liverpool and other large areas where the council is the sanitary authority, and where they have relegated to them the control and administration of the large water supplies which they have in their hands. If the London area is exceptionally large so the price to be paid will be exceptionally large, and the largeness of its area is all the greater reason why it should be placed under the control of an efficient experienced and centralised body such as the London County Council, is with a Water Committee of not more than 15 or 20 at the very outside. Such a body would manage the affairs of Water London better than this mob of 67 or 69 men, gathered from all corners of the earth, who know as much about London as I do about the Zimbabwee Temples north of Rhodesia.
What is the reason that the right hon. Gentleman gave for this exceptional treatment of London? It is not in accordance with the County Council's attitude to the local bodies. I heard one member opposite, who certainly ought to have known better, state that he was under the impression that the Council ought not to look after the water supply because the Council did not go everywhere. But what does the Council do? The County Council is not only the sanitary authority exercising the duties pertaining to that department, but it goes to West Ham and does its drainage, and does it to the advantage of that place. It goes to Hornsey, Tottenham, Acton, Willesden, Penge, and several other places where the necessities of the drainage of London 1399 have insisted on the carrying out of this important sanitary function, and it does this to the satisfaction of everybody on agreed terms, The Council does it better than the outside area could do it for themselves. My answer to those who object to the Council having control of the water is that if the Council is energetic and capable enough to keep down disease by doing this particular drainage work, if we are good enough to empty the slops, I see no reason why we should not drink pure water. I object to the County Council becoming the drudge of all those outside authorities with unremunerative work, while the remunerative work of the water supply is given to another body, though it could be equally given to the Council in precisely the same way as Glasgow and Birmingham, who distribute the remunerative water, and who lower the rate of the outside community in proportion to the advantage which they themselves reap. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should have ignored the Council to the extent he has. What is this new authority? Inner London, out of the 67 or 69 members, is to have 10 members.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
I know what is to happen to them. I am going to prove that that is not representation worthy of the name. I know what the Borough Council representation will be. It is not at all improbable that the water shareholders will see that the members of the Borough Council do not go to the water council but that the Aldermen are nominated or selected, thus making up 34, a very material factor in determining the price and the influence that must be brought to bear on this question between now and the appointment of the arbitrator The London County Council is to have 10 of the 69 members, though the area administered by the Council contains about 70 per cent of the population and has to provide 82 per cent of the cash. [Cries of "Oh."] Yes, the right hon. Gentleman may differ from me about a matter of opinion; he has a perfect right to do so, but if he wants confirmation of facts Sir 1400 Hugh Owen will uphold the statement I have made. The County Council has 70 per cent of the population, and is to provide from 80 to 82 per cent of the cash. I say it is imposing an insult and a burden which a big city like London has no right to sustain, and it is because I have taken an active part in promoting the County Council Bills, and because I believe the County Council by its experience is the best qualified body for this particular work that I resent on behalf of those ratepayers who sent me to Parliament and to the County Council this slight that has been put on the Council by its exclusion.
There is one satisfaction about this proposal. This body will not work. It is irresponsible, and I believe it will prove to be incompetent. It will rely on the chairman and the deputy chairman for much advice and guidance, and they, poor fellows, would probably break down in eighteen months or two years. This will be a more difficult problem for them to manage than they probably think when they are nominated from the Borough Councils. When they come to the London ratepayers in the last resort for the large sums of money for compensation for the extraordinary expenditure of money which will be necessary to get a new water shed instead of the Thames, then this body will prove its incapacity to do the work, and Parliament at a later stage will come as it should have done at first to the London County Council, whose credit is good. Look how our £3,000,000 loan was snapped up this morning. [An HON, MEMBER: "You gave it away."] Gave it away! We get our money cheaper than the Government does for its war, and it is because we spend it on better objects. The experience of the County Council is better than that of those floating particles of persons who are nominated at the direction of the water shareholders. I am convinced that the proposed body is too large, that it is unwieldly and unpractical, that it will be extravagant, and that within two years it will break down. The right hon, Gentleman will be compelled as a last resource perhaps to come to the County Council after all this money has been wasted or, at all events, badly spent, and we shall be asked to undertake a duty and responsibility which even then we would not 1401 hesitate to undertake—a duty which we should not be asked to undertake when we are denied the opportunity in the beginning of the settlement of this question. I cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman or his Department. The Secretary for India, the Under Secretary for the Colonies, and above all the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, of whose work I have always been an appreciative admirer, when they come in contact with the Council's work have nothing but praise for it. Whenever they come to our banquets—which I am sorry to say I do not attend, for I object to sacrifice my digestion on the altar of friendship—they have nothing but praise for the administrative capacity and probity of the London County Council. If these be true statements which they give forth, as they really are, why should they deny to us the elementary duty of a sanitary authority, namely the right to manage our own water supply? It is because not once nor twice, nor for the twentieth time in the history of the Governments of this country, Governments have been the pliant instruments of the water directors and shsreholders. They have too often neglected their collective responsibility to the ratepayers who will have to pay the twenty, thirty, or thirty-five millions of compensation. But if the Government have made up their minds to take their marching orders from the water directors and shareholders. I prefer to take mine from the ratepayers. It is because the County Council has proved itself constant to the London rate-payers and has been trusted up to the hilt by them that I object very strongly to that portion of the Bill which prevents the Council from being the water authority, and for purely political, and in some cases commercial reasons, denies to what is perhaps the best municipality in the world, the elementary duty of owning, purchasing, compensating and controling the water supply which it has been too long prevented from securing under its management. I have this word of advice for the right hon. Gentleman. When his Board breaks down, and when like a lame dog he wants to be helped over the stile, we shall forget and forgive him for all his mistakes, and we shall be delighted to take over the responsibility and 1402 undertake the management of London's water supply in the interest of the rate payers.
§ (7.55.) MR. HUDSON (Hertfordshire, Hitchin)
As one of the representatives of the outside areas I should like to say a few words on this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has not told us to what extent the areas outside of the London district are to be taken in, and that is a material point. I understand that part of the county of Essex and Kent are to the taken in.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
—No there are eight companies that have statutory powers for what is known as the water supply of London. I could not tell my hon. friend without a map in my hand, but they take in portions of each of these counties.
§ MR. HUDSON
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. At the same time I understood that if the water is supplied in any part of the area, so included in the water district, then the rate would be levied by the County Council not on that district but on the whole county. If that were so it would be a very hard case for those who might be twenty miles away from the district.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I am sorry if I did not make the matter clear. What I intended to convey was exactly the reverse. What I said was that in certain of those urban districts outside London a portion only of the districts is supplied by the water companies at present, and that portion presumably will be supplied by the Water Board in the future. Then came the question how the contribution was to be made in those districts to the general fund, assuming that a general rate was levied. If levied over the whole area on the gross rateable value they would probably pay more than they received, but the principle we adopted was the general one of taking the here ditaments supplied with water to see 1403 what is the proportionate area of the whole area, and then we levy the charge proportionately on the urban districts, and not over the county.
§ MR. HUDSON
There is just one other point to which I wish to refer. The new Water Board will be able to sink any number of wells in the district, For four or five years discussions have taken place in the House, and we have opposed the London County Council Bills because they were anxious to sink fresh wells. They generally gave way towards the end when we opposed them upstairs. If this new board is able to do that, I am speaking honestly and truly when I say that we shall not have a single drop of water left in Kent. At the present moment there are rivers as dry as the floor of this House, and we cannot afford you one single drop of water. We think it extremely hard that people should take away our water into another area, when we want it ourselves.
§ *(7.58.) MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said the interesting altercation which had taken place on the other side of the House, showed the difficulties into which the Government were stumbling in this matter. He wanted to give one or two objections to the proposed authority, the constitution of which had not been stated, though it ought not to be kept back from the House for a single moment. The right hon. Gentleman told them that it was the areas which the water companies were authorised to supply that were to become the new water area. In reply to a question the right hon. Gentleman said that outside of London the water area was 449 square miles. There could not be any more deceptive figure offered to the House than that. He believed if they took the actual area of supply, and not the authorised area, they would not find outside the county of London, that it amounted to more than 70 or 80 square miles. By way of illustration he mentioned that the New River Company had the right to supply the whole of the county of Hertford, but as a matter of fact it had only about twelve supplies in that county. Every single water authority ever constituted in any city 1404 in the Kingdom, had had to grapple with these difficulties. The proportion of the outer to the inner water areas in Birmingham, Manchester and Bradford, was greater than in the London area, but on no pretext had the outer areas been able to obtain the right to be represented on the local water authority. The right hon. Gentleman had been unjust to the London County Council, when he said that the London County Council had not succeeded in securing the confidence of the community in regard to this water question. There never was a representative body based on a democratic franchise, that had secured such commanding support as the London County Council, although they had never concealed their views in regard to water or any other matter which they took up. The Metropolitan Borough Councils performed no duties analogous to those relating to the water question. Their duties were confined to matters relating to their own locality, while all the central duties such as main sewers, tramways, open spaces, &c., were entrusted to the London County Council. The London County Council was a trained body, ready for such work. Where as the local boroughs had no experience of it. He maintained that the experience they had had of the futility and costliness of the multiplicity of administrative bodies encroaching on one another's duties should have preserved the Government from repeating the mistake; and the result of the Government proposal would be that there would be a practical restoration of the Metropolitan Board of Works. He admitted that there were one or two good points in the Bill; but if the right hon. Gentleman had carefully studied the attempts of the London County Council to deal with this matter, and had had regard to the history of the whole question, he would have assumed quite a different tone than he had done. The right hon. Gentleman had adopted the London County Council's plan as to the price to be paid to the Water Companies for their undertakings, although that was the single ground on which the London County Council had been defeated in their measure in the past. The London County Council had been told that they wanted to rob the Water Companies when they asked that the question of 1405 price should be referred to arbitration, but now the Government had adopted the scheme, and it was wrong for them to deprive the London County Council of the fruits of victory. He wanted to know whether the Bill was to be referred to a Hybrid Committee, and what would be the course adopted with regard to the subsequent stages of the Bill. (8.10.)
§ *(8.40.) MR. HARRY SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
As one who, ever since he became a Member of this House, has taken the deepest interest in the solution of the water question, and as the representative of a portion of the area which suffered more severely than any others from the want of sufficient water and various other things—some of which I am glad to say have been remedied, but others remain—I desire to take the earliest opportunity of thanking my right hon. friend for redeeming the pledge he gave last year that the present session should not be allowed to pass without an endeavour, at all events, on the part of His Majesty's Government to settle once for all this vexed question. What has been the object of my right hon. friend in the efforts he has made? Firstly, I think he has tried to draw the mean between the two sides, viz., those who purchase the Water Companies and the Water Companies who are to be purchased. He has endeavoured to deal absolutely impartially with them, and I think, though it is difficult to form an opinion on a Bill which has merely been expounded by the Minister in charge, we may say, without undue criticism, that he has dealt fairly as between the two opposing parties. The right hon. Gentleman is anxious to deal perfectly fairly with the Water Companies, to give them nothing to which they are not entitled, and to withhold nothing that is justly their due. On the other hand, he desires, and I think he has successfully carried out that desire, to form the best possible Board to manage the water supply of London, for both the inside and the outside areas of Water London. I have been somewhat astonished to find that almost the sole criticism from the benches opposite has been directed to one point, and that is as to who shall be the water authority. But, after all, we knew there would be considerable discontent expressed, for the County Council have not got what they have so much desired—the control of the London water supply. 1406 It is curious to note that the hon. Member for Battersea, and those who think with him, entirely ignore, because they wish to ignore, the finding of the Royal Commission specially appointed to deal with this question. That Commission strongly urges that these eight water companies should be purchased, but that the London County Council should not be the water authority. It is strange that a Royal Commission should be appointed for a special object, and then, that one side of the House—I will not say for what particular purpose, but the House will perfectly understand why—should choose to ignore one of its chief findings. We knew the line that would be taken by hon. Members opposite, but that does not alter the fact. You have to deal with the findings of the Royal Commission, and you cannot get away from them. His Majesty's Government had naturally followed the finding of the Commission, and in keeping with that finding they have decided that the London Council Council should not be the purchasing authority. What authority do the Government propose to set up? They propose to have representatives from the London Borough Councils, the Corporation of the City of London, the London County Council, and the outside areas. It has been said that the London County Council is the chief sanitary authority. If it is, though I do not allow the contention, it has been recognised as such by my right hon. friend, because it has five times as many representatives on the Board as any other authority. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has stated that this Board is to be composed of the tag-rag and bob-tail. Who are to constitute the Board? Whence are the representatives to come? The "tag-rag and bob-tail" are to come from the City Corporation, the 28 Metropolitan Corporations, and the outside areas. I sincerely trust the 28 Municipal Corporations of London will recollect the term in which they have been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition.
But let us consider for a moment who the members of these 28 Corporations are and how they are elected. First of all, they are infinitely more directly representatives of the people than are the members of any other body, either municipal or political. The members of the Corporation of London have absolute- 1407 ly to be ratepayers in the districts in which they are candidates before they can be elected—nobody can say, for one moment, that the present London County Council has been elected to be the water authority. It has never been elected by the people of London for that purpose ["Oh".] There has not been an election of any kind on the question of who should be the water authority in London, nor has the question been brought before the electors.
§ MR. CORRIE GRANT (Warwickshire, Rugby)
Surely the hon. Member is aware that at the last two County Council Elections the water question was brought very prominently to the front in London.
§ * MR. HARRY SAMUEL
I am perfect cognisant of the fact that the London water question was in a certain manner and for certain purposes brought before the electors, but the question has never been whether the London County Council should be the water authority. Then, how many electors voted at those elections? Only 40 per cent. of the whole electorate. Surely you cannot take that as a test of the feeling of London.
§ * MR. HARRY SAMUEL
Forty-five per cent.—a larger proportion than in the County Council Elections. So there, again, the contention of the hon. Member entirely fails. As to indirect election, there is such a body as the Metropolitan Asylums Hoard, which, I believe, does its work uncommonly well. That body is elected in much the same way as the Water Board will be. Then there is the Technical Education Board. That also does its work extremely well.
§ * MR. HARRY SAMUEL
The Water Board will have the power of co-opting its Chairman and 1408 Vice-Chairman. ["Oh, oh."] Well, wherever it co-opts, it is co-option. Then the hon. Member for Battersea spoke of the possibility of the purchase of the members of the Board. I am surprised he should for a moment suggest that members of the Corporations of London could be purchased by anybody for any purpose. I should have thought the hon. Member would understand the people among whom he lives too well to suggest such a thing.
§ * MR. HARRY SAMUEL
The hon. Member may have the worst possible opinion of the Water Company Directors, but I must confess I am astonished that he should extend that opinion to the people among whom he lives and whom he represents. These Corporations have not been long in existence, but my opinion is that one is far more entitled to look to these 28 Corporations and their great model the Corporation of the City of London, as representing London, than the London County Council. It has been said that the Corporations of other cities, where the Water Companies have been bought out for the benefit of the people, have always had the control of the water supply. I agree, and my right hon. friend is carrying out the theory. He is taking representatives of the Corporation of London and giving to them the management of the water supply. This is exactly the line that one would expect a logical man to take. The general features of the Bill we shall have an opportunity of discussing on the second reading, and I have no wish to make a Second Reading speech; as far as I can see the Bill is a sound, just, and honest attempt to deal with this vexed question. I recognise the enormous amount of good work that has been done by the Water Companies in days gone by. When no Corporation would step in to supply the people of London, the Water Companies, gave them all they could desire. If at times there has been a defective supply, I am not at all sure it has been entirely the fault of the Water Companies. I recollect such occurrences in the House as the stoppage of Bills, and therfore I think that hon. Members opposite are as much to blame as the Companies for the defective supply. In bringing forward 1409 this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman is doing a service to London, and I believe it will be found that the local men representing the people on the Board will show that they can look after the interests of their own localities, and that they will be representatives to whom the localities will be grateful for the work they do.
§ *(8.58.) MR CORRIE GRANT
I am glad to hear the hon. Member's acceptance of the findings of Royal Commisions. He told us that once a Royal Commission has presented a Report, it ought to be accepted as final. Another Bill is to be introduced presently, and I hope we shall then find the hon. Member adhering to the opinion he has expressed. Then, too, there was once a Bill dealing with the education of children. A Royal Commission reported on the age of children, but the hon. Member and his party, instead of accepting the recommendation of the Royal Commission, lowered the age from sixteen to fourteen years. These of us who take an interest in the votes of London Members will carefully notice how the hon. Member carries out the declaration he has so vigorously made. But I would make one suggestion, and that is that this full-handed acceptance of the Bill as a sound and just measure should be deferred, at any rate, until hon. Members have seen the Bill. Bills frequently have a very different complexion when you come to consider the clauses as they stand, and you see how the whole scheme works, than they appear to have when introduced by the Minister in charge. There is one thing very clear. The representation, as far as the outer area is concerned, is worth nothing at all. The district where I live is within the area of an urban district council, and these urban district councils are to be grouped together to appoint one member on the Water Board. Under these circumstances what representation should we have?
§ * MR. CORRIE GRANT
That is perfectly true. There are, however, some proposals of the London County Council which will deal much more fairly 1410 with the outer areas because one of their Bills gave the outer areas an opportunity of purchasing at an arbitration price water in bulk to supply their own district, and then taking the profit upon it. There are many of the areas outside London who would prefer to have their water in bulk in this way.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The hon. Member must abide by the latest proposals of the London County Council, in which they have given up that idea altogether, because they have found such a scheme to be absolutely impracticable, and they accepted the general opinion that any proposal of the kind was impossible.
§ * MR. CORRIE GRANT
I am quite ready to accept this correction, and perhaps the right hon. gentleman will now allow me to correct him. The London County Council has never been able to present its whole scheme to the House of Commons because it has had to put in modified proposals in order to secure support from some hon. Members of this House. The Bill upon this subject, which once got into Committee, would have become the law of the land but for the cordite division. These very clauses were under discussion at the time, and in two days more that Bill would have been through the House, and it was not the fault of the London members but the fault of the cordite division which threw out that measure. I was suggesting that between the two schemes that of supplying water in bulk to the outer authorities would probably be more popular with the district council where I live than the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, under which my district will have one-third or one-fourth a member representing them on a board of 69. I rose merely to put one two questions to the right hon. Gentleman in order to make it a little more clear what the proposals of the measure are. The right hon. Gentleman's explanation will be read widely the people of London to-morrow and I want to ask him what is the nature of the agreement which the new Water Board is entitled to conclude with the water companies. I wish to know also whether the agreement with the companies is afterwards to be ratified by 1411 the Board of Arbitration, or when the agreement has been once made is it to binding. Is there to be any supervision beyond the Water Board itself? Can the Water Board purchase the undertaking of one of the water companies if it comes to an agreement as to price?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The Water Board is given power to purchase any, or all of, the undertakings of the water companies by agreement, and failing agreement the question can be settled by arbitration.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The question is put to me in rather an extraordinary way. The hon. Member asks me if the Water Board would be entitled to give 10 per cent. on compulsory purchase, but the Water Board is only given power to purchase by agreement and not by compulsory purchase. Therefore, the price would be an agreed price between the Water Board and the company. The 10 per cent. on compulsory purchase only comes in when the proceedings go before the arbitrators. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite is better acquainted with legal matters than I am, but 10 per cent. is not provided for, or contained in, the Lands Clauses Act. It is an expression which has grown out of administration of those Acts, and it is adopted by arbitrators to cover difficulties that they have otherwise been unable to deal with. The Water Board can make any agreement they think fit to make with the Water Company, and they can give what price they like. If I they come to an agreement then they settle the matter themselves, and if they do not agree, then they go to arbitration.
§ * MR. CORRIE GRANT
Perhaps mine was rather a technical point, but it is a fact that even where prices are settled between the householder and a local authority taking property, and where the price is settled by agreement they then add 10 per cent for compulsory sale.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Of course I cannot dispute the hon. and learned Gentleman's deductions, and he may draw whatever conclusions he thinks fit. The Governmment propose in the Bill to prohibit the addition of the ordinary 10 per cent. in respect of compulsory purchase, but they give to the new authority power to arrange by agreement whatever price they choose. The hon. and learned Gentleman's description of the way they would do this does not agree with what I have always understood to be the manner in which voluntary arrangements are arrived at. The hon. Member's proposition does seem to be an extraordinary one, although I do not dispute the fact.
§ * MR. CORRIE GRANT
I want to get the fact clear from the right hon. Gentleman, and now I have it clear. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, the new authority will be entitled to purchase either one or the whole of the eight water companies by agreement, and they have a perfectly free hand in settling the price. Will the Water Board have any power to alter the charges made for supplying water? The right hon. Gentleman knows that they are levied by assessment, and I want to know if the Water Board will have any power to alter or vary those charges. Also how will this Board deal with any profits upon these undertakings?
§ (9.10.) SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
This is, of course, an early stage at which to express any definite opinion about this Bill. At the same time I think all of us will say that this measure, apart from details, and with many reservations commends itself to our favourabe consideration. What influences me most is that, at any rate, the Bill gives to London what to my knowledge the provinces have long enjoyed with advantage, and that is a public authority for dealing with the water supply, which will cease to be in private hands. In the debate on the King's Speech I ventured to make a general proposition, and a purely impersonal one, which I will repeat, namely, that it is desirable 1413 to remove the temptation to prefer dividends, with the chances of disease and death, in dealing with the prime necessities of life to the people. I speak impersonally, and I would not impute for a moment any intention on the part of those who direct our Water Companies in London of knowingly doing anything opposed to the principle I have laid down. I therefore take this opportunity of saying that since I made the remark I have been rather deluged by libellous post cards informing me that my statement was a lie and a reflection even upon my colleagues in this House. I desire to say that my remark had no such application. It was merely a general remark not applicable alone to the particular thing with which we were dealing. These postcards have been directed to me by shareholders in the Water Companies, and I can promise them that they will not prejudice me from doing justice in dealing with them, although I think I was not dealt with fairly in these libellous and open postcards.
In the provinces the administration by the municipalities of their water supplies has been in every sense of the term a vast benefit to the people, and the surprise of those who come from the provinces to London is that London could have been content to allow things to remain as they have been for so many years. It is that reason which leads me to welcome this Bill. In the provinces the water consumers are well cared for, the prices are very moderate and the ratepayers have nevertheless enjoyed a substantial benefit in the reduction of rates from undertaking their own water supplies. Some of our very greatest municipalities like Glasgow, Liverpool, and Hull, and other places have been very successful in this respect. I think every one will agree from the experience of a great town like Hull that the expenditure upon its water supply has been its redemption from cholera and other forms of diseases. The fears in this case seem to be whether in London the undertaking would be conducted on principles of prudence and economy, but parsimony in matters touching the health and strength, and so the wealth, of the people is certainly not economy. I 1414 hope the Board entrusted with those duties will have full powers to do what it thinks is best in the interests of the people. If it should be necessary to go to Wales for a water supply we ought to do so. This question I understand will be left to the new authority because they are not compelled to buy and they may go to other sources. Upon Royal Commissions I must say that I have frequently heard, with some surprise, testimony paid to the high quality of water supplied to London, with which my observation of the Upper Thames is not always consistent. These conditions have always led me to vote for the Water Bills of the London County Council. The Government took no action and made no counter proposals, and apparently the subject was being submerged under Royal Commissions. I remember the long water famines that have been endured, and the highly oppressive water regulations, especially on the poor who had not a full opportunity of asserting their rights, and I wish to see the water supply of London in the hands of a public authority. But now the Government propose a measure which will establish such a public authority; and I fear that if this proposal is not accepted there may be another long postponement of the question. Whether the representation on the authority is in due proportion may be argued; and I fear that its chief defect will be its unwieldy character, owing to the largeness, perhaps the necessary largeness, of the number of representatives.
But at first there will be a great deal of organising work to do on the part of the new authority, and therefore there will be need for a time at least for greater numerical strength. I shall be told that the representative body is not representative. For my own part I should have preferred a municipal authority directly elected; still, the Board proposed is distinctly municipal in its general character. It will have on it representatives of the County Council and the London boroughs, and of the latter it is a great mistake to speak in the same breath as of the old vestries. I know of nothing more striking than the local municipal feeling which they have developed in London, and to sug- 1415 gest, as I have heard it suggested, that we are going to have a new Metropolitan Board of Works is not giving justice to the new corporations. Some of the very best men in the various localities have been attracted, and I think the boroughs have a future before them which will bring municipal London into line with the feeling which prevails in the provinces. Local feeling now makes itself heard, and centres round the new municipal bodies. Mill speaks of two forms of representation—direct and indirect. Although I prefer direct, I think this will be a form of indirect representation which will serve its purpose for the transfer of the authority, and it will secure what I want, namely, the public and responsible administration of the water supply of London. There are precedents in the country for the form of authority which the Bill proposes to set up; and in these cases of joint water boards, the work has been very well done. Take such a place as Blackpool, where a large borough like Blackpool, a town like Lytham, and large slices of the county are all amalgamated in one Water Board for the district. While reserving my freedom to criticise details I shall be careful before I become a party to rejecting a proposal which has the force of a Government behind and to secure its passing it, which is well considered, and which will place in the hands of those who represent the people the supply in purity and plenty of one of the prime necessities of life.
§ *(9.28.) DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
I shall wait with interest to hear the opinions on this Bill of the elected representatives of the London County Council; but it is a happy circumstance; as the last speaker said, that we have got thus far, that we are all agreed here and throughout London that the undertakings of the water companies must be transferred to a public authority. That controversy no longer remains. But there are involved in this Bill two acute propositions about which a considerable amount of controversy is bound to arise. There is first of all the question who shall be the purchaser, and, secondly, what price shall be paid for the undertakings. It was suggested by the hon. Member for 1416 Limehouse that the people of London have never had these issues submitted to them. I challenge that statement at once. The people of London had these two propositions submitted conspicuously to them at the last County Council election. I have here the two party manifestos which were put before the electors. Those known as the Moderates, who correspond to the Conservatives and Unionists, said that their policy was the purchase and management of the water supply by a single public authority, upon which London and the other districts surrounding shall have a fair share of representation. The policy of the Progressives was the purchase and control by the London County Council only. These were the two issues and what was the result? There were 118 members elected, and of these 86 were in favour of the Progressive policy, 29 in favour of the Moderate policy, and 3 were elected as Independents. If he put the the 3 Independents with the whole Moderates he got a majority on the London County Council of 54 out of 118. He wished to look for a moment at the Government scheme which had been so lucidly placed before the House by the President of the Local Government Board. He suggested first of all that the right hon. Gentleman had rather fallen into the attitude of making a fetish of the phrase "Water London." They had often heard of "Telephone London," and they were yet no doubt to hear of "Electric London." They were hearing more and more of "Water London." What did that phrase mean? Ever since 1810 private companies had come to Parliament and had obtained powers to supply water to certain areas; and they put all these together in 1902 and got "Water London!" He should like to hear less of "Water London," "Telephone London" and "Electric London," and more of "Municipal London." The scheme for the control of the Water Supply gave them a composite body of 69 persons, some of them to be directly elected for this specific purpose by the London County Council, and some indirectly elected, while others were not to be representative at all of the ratepayers who were to find the money. Did the right hon. Gentleman imagine that the representatives of the Lea Conser- 1417 vancy and the Thames Conservancy were representative in any respect of the London ratepayers? There were representative of the water sellers and therefore ought not to be on the Board at all. The principle was bad of having water sellers on a Board which was going to purchase their undertaking. In regard to the Borough Councils he did not wish to say half a syllable against the personnel of these Councils; but he did not understand the principle of going to the 28 Borough Councils and asking them to send representatives to a general Board for furnishing water to the water area. Was he to understand that they were going to indent on the Local Boroughs rateable values for the amount of money which, in each case, these Boroughs would have to pay? If they did that it would be monstrously unjust towards many parts of London, but it would be the only legitimate ground on which to ask for Borough Council representation. Who was responsible for the whole county rate? The London County Council, and he objected to the inclusion of representatives of the Borough Councils on the Water Board, not on the ground of personal unfitness, or that they would be any more likely to be got at than County Councillors, but on the principle that they would have to deal with matters involving a ratable value with which they had no concern. No doubt the London County Council would consult the Borough Councils in all these matters of water regulation. It had been said that that Bill did not provide for the representation of the outside areas; but the clause 24 provided thatThe Council shall appoint for the management of the water supply a Committee which may comprise, as members, representatives of other bodies.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Does the hon. Gentleman ask the House to believe that a clause which says that the Committee of Management "may" comprise representatives of other bodies, is a sufficient provision for the representation of the outside areas?
§ * DR. MACNAMARA
said he was not a Constitutionalist, but he always understood that "may" in those cases meant "shall" He did not press that point. 1418 But he might urge that in Committee the right hon. Gentleman and his friends could have substistuted "shall" for "may." If the clause he had quoted had been put into the Bill for any purpose at all, it was in order to give persons in the outside area representation. There were other provisions in the Bill which showed that the London County Council was not the selfish and inconsiderate body set forth by the Government. For instance, there was a clause that the outside area should be served on terms not more onerous than before, and another clause that the outside area might have their water supplied in bulk. In fact, he found in the Bill a spirit of sweet reasonableness. It had been stated that night that this House had never agreed to the London County Council Bill, but that was not the fact, because the Second Reading had been passed by a substantial majority, and therefore they must take it that the House had approved of the principle of the Bill. In all the great provincial Boroughs which served large areas, nobody ever suggested that these outside areas should be represented on the municipal Board of Management. In Bradford the population of the inside area was 230,000, and of the outside area 235,000, but nobody said there that the outside area should be represented on the Board. Manchester served a population of 537,000 in the inside area and a population of 357,000 in the outside area; but nobody had suggested that Manchester should not have the full control of the water supply. The case of Bolton was even more striking. The population of the inside area was 120,000, and of the outside area 130,000, and the people of the outside area were served with water at a greater cost than those in the inside area, yet it had never been suggested that the outside area should be represented on the Board. There was one other point on which he wished to touch, viz., the question of the price to be paid. When he heard the right hon. Gentleman describe the terms of purchase by agreement or arbitration, it was with pleasure he learned that the Government would not insist on the ratepayers of London paying ten per cent. solatium for compulsory purchase under the Lands Clauses Act which would make a differ- 1419 ence of from £5,000,000 to £7,000,000 to the London ratepayers. He thought, however, that the Government scheme of control was unwieldy, grotesque, and unworkable, and that it was likely to break down from the point of view of management.
§ (9.44). Mr. W. F. D. SMITH (Strand, Westminster)
I cannot agree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, supported by hon. Members on the other side of the House, that the London Unionist Members returned were bound to vote for any measure which the London County Council send to this House. The great majority of them have consistently voted against the Purchase Bill introduced by the London County Council, and if the electors of London had seriously objected to the course the Unionist Members have pursued they had every opportunity of challenging them, yet the proportion of London Unionist Members in the House has increased since 1891. There is also this point which has not, I think, been sufficiently brought out, that the majority now sitting on the London County Council have been returned by a small proportion of the electors. My right hon. friend when introducing this Bill referred to the percentage of electors voting in the various elections; as a matter of fact the majority of the London County Council was returned by only22 per cent. I quite agree with the statement made that for some time past we have been under the disadvantage in not having a scheme in any concrete form to deal with this water question. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest reasons we have to thank my right hon. friend that he has to-night presented to the House a scheme in a concrete form and thus justifying the action which some of us took in opposing the London County Council's Bill last year. The Bill before the House exhibits the principle, if not all the details, of the Water Commissioners' Report—a Report which did a very great deal to convert a considerable number of Members on this side of the House to the policy of purchase. Of course it must be admitted that the great majority of the London representatives are at present in favour of the policy of purchase, and therefore it is obviously desirable, the area dealt with being so large and so complicated 1420 in its form, and the increase of population during the next 40 or 50 years so important a matter, that the whole question can, necessarily, be more efficiently dealt with by a central body than by the various water companies, who at present manage the matter. Not that I agree with those who say that the water companies have grossly neglected their duties in supplying these areas; I say that having regard to the difficulties which will have to be met in the future, a central authority is absolutely necessary. But we have always been opposed to the London County Council being selected as the authority, and in that opinion we have been amply supported by the Royal Commission. The right hon. Gentlemen also spoke of the urban companies outside these areas which had a supply of water. I do not think it is possible to find an area so complicated as this, because in those areas that have been mentioned as having their own supply, the service has not been efficient enough to supply water at a profit; in fact the charges are higher than they were when the water company supplied the same districts. They have had to raise a rate to meet the cost. I believe at the present moment the London County Council is still pledged to the arrangements which have been come to with several metropolitan suburbs with regard to the supply to those suburbs, and to my mind nothing is more conclusive than the conclusion they came to when the arrangements were made, namely that the water supply had been most inefficient.
Before I sit down, I would just like to say a word about representation. It is true that the Board which my right hon. friend proposes would appear, as has been stated, to be one of a rather unwieldly size; but at the same time we must remember how great the area is, and how difficult it is and will be, when we come to deal with the details, to satisfy these areas; but I cannot conceive that the representatives of the areas other than the London County Council are also representatives of the area for the purposes of this Bill. The London County Council does not seem to me to be any more competent to manage the water than the representatives of other boroughs. The details of this Bill will no doubt be discussed, and I 1421 can only hope that after the honesty and energy my right hon. friend has brought to bear upon it, he will have no difficulty in passing it into law.
§ *(9.54.) Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said he would have welcomed with acclamation a Bill dealing with this difficult and complicated question if it had been based on broad and popular lines. And it was because the Bill before the House was not upon such a basis that it would meet with his strongest opposition. There were however, points on which we recognised the great advance had been made. One was the question of purchase which had been opposed in this House for many years, and he was glad to see that the report of the Royal Commission had converted those who opposed it. The other was the very important question of price and the basis upon which the price should be fixed; the reference in fact to the Court of Arbitration. He was quite sure the House would have the fullest confidence in the gentlemen who had been named to form that Court, and that they, upon their instructions, would do justice in the matter. What the instructions to the Arbitration Court should be was, however, a very important matter. For his part, he and those who sat with him had always contended that the Land Clauses Acts should not apply in their entirety in this matter, and that not only should there be no ten per cent. for compulsory purchase, but that in fixing the price, not only the present profits should be taken into account, but also the liabilities of the future. He had understood that the reference would be a full and open reference, and that it would cover all the circumstances of the case, past, present, and future liabilities. But when the hon. Member for West Islington said that this had been the proposal of the London County Council for years past the right hon. Gentleman said he had not accepted the views of the London County Council in regard to the matter.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he could not admit the interpretation which had been put upon them by the hon. Gentleman. What he understood the hon. Member for West Islington to say was that the Government had introduced the Arbi- 1422 tration Clause of the London County Council, and that was worse.
§ * MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said that it was not the actual words, but the spirit and principle he contended for. He would like to know whether the arbitrators would have full power to go into all the circumstances of the case, not only with regard to the present profits of the companies but the unremunerative expenditure they might be compelled to undertake. If that was so everyone would be completely satisfied with regard to that.
The point, however, to which he and his friends objected, and to which he desired to enter an emphatic protest, was the mode in which the question of the purchasing Authority was going to be dealt with. He had always thought and said in the House that in any solution of the question involving the creation of a water body, the outside areas were entitled to have some other representation, but the right hon. Gentleman had stated that while he gave the outside areas representation he had given London a large majority. But even assuming that the48 members were representatives of London, as such that was too small a proportion; it only represented 55 per cent. of the representation against a ratable value of something like 84 per cent., and a population of 80 per cent. He did not desire to throw any reflection on the ability, public spirit, and administrative capacity of the Borough Councils, but he contended that they had never asked for this representation, which the Government were thrusting upon them without any consultation, but the proposals made by the Bill were entirely contrary to the principle upon which a question of this kind ought to be dealt with. The right hon. Gentleman had not advanced a single argument in favor of these powers being put into the hands of these Borough Councils rather than in the hands of the natural authority, the London County Council. The whole object of Purchase was to place the water supply in the hands of a central authority and to take it out of the hands of the public companies, not because they had not managed their business well; but in 1423 order to secure that there should be one body distributing water over the whole of the Metropolis, and that there should be an uniform assessment and uniform rates. This was surely a tremendous argument in favour of putting the preponderating influence in the hands of the central rating representative authority rather than in the hands of the different local authorities, the result of which would inevitably be that all the local authorities would be working against each other in favor of their district. He did not see the object of amalgamation if it only led to increased local jealousies and friction. He quite agreed that the proposed authority was of a somewhat unwieldy size. It was to have 69 members. The water directors of the present companies were a less number, and if these companies were so well managed by a less number of directors, it was a great mistake to make a public body of this sort of such an unwieldy size. It would not, in his opinion, contain the administrative power that it would if confined to the London County Council, and, being non-representative, it would probably prove to be a very extravagant body, and the margin of profits to the ratepayers would be very small. The action of the Governrnment in delaying this matter for six years, and meanwhile allowing the water companies to spend millions, without proper control or system, had much prejudiced the question of profit; and now, if they were to have a body of this sort, they would not see much reduction in the water rate. Unless the right hon. Gentleman could give some reason why he had put this slight on the London County Council, and given the Local Authorities the dominant voice, he should always think pressure had been brought to bear on the right hon. Gentleman by hon. Members behind him. While recognising that the right hon. Gentleman had made an honest attempt to deal with a difficult question, and while recognising that some material advance had been made in his opinions, he should be compelled to oppose the Bill, unless the body to which it was to be handed over, was made of a more central and representative character.
§ (10.10) Mr. DAVID MORGAN (Essex, Walthamstow)
I must ask the indulgence 1424 of the House while addressing it for the first time. I represent 200,000 people, who provide a large amount of this water and who also consume it, and who have therefore some justification for letting their voice be heard. We have heard this evening a great many Members on the opposite side of the House who have told us that the only authority to be intrusted with the water regulations of London is the London County Council. We in Essex certainly accept the representation which is given us by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board as a fair representation, and we object to the Bill of the London County Council, because it gave us no guarantee that we should be represented, all we ask is fair treatment. We have had great difficulty with the existing company and we hope and feel that we may, with the new Bill, get not only a fair representation, but that our interests will be fully safeguarded. Therefore on behalf of those I represent I welcome this Bill as an evident attempt on the part of the Government to right a grievous wrong, and to put on a fair basis the water supply of London.
§ (10.14) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-night who introduced this Bill, and I listened to the few observations addressed to the House by the Leader of the Opposition as soon as the Minister sat down. It occurred to me at the time that the Leader of the Opposition had "spotted" the weak point in the Bill; and it is to that point I wish to address myself. The Minister had the chance of handing the control of the water suppply to the London County Council, a body which, like Cæsar's wife, is above suspicion. Attempts have been made by gentlemen connected with the so-called Moderate party, whom I prefer to call the old Tory party, to convict of jobbery and corruption, but they have been absolutely unable to point to a single blot on the escutcheon of the London County Council. But the right hon. Gentleman has preferred to build up a new body on the model of the old Metropolitan Board of Works. In the speech of the hon. Member for South Islington I failed to gather any difference 1425 between the constitution of the proposed new Board and that of the old Metropolitan Board of Works.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
One was elected by the vestries, and the other is to be elected by the Corporation, which are very different bodies.
§ MR. CREMER
In many respects I think the old vestries were preferable to the new Corporation. There were no mayors or aldermen, and there was no scrambling for offices. The old vestry of Shore ditch was an infinitely better body than is the new Corporation. It devoted itself to studying the interests of the ratepayers, while ever since the present body came into existence, its members have been quarrelling and scrambling for offices, trying to get elected as aldermen or mayor. Having had some little experience of the old Metropolitan Board of Works, it is because the Government propose to set up a new authority based on that model that I should oppose this Bill. The Metropolitan Board of Works was elected not by the popular vote, but by the vestries, in exactly the form and fashion now proposed for the water authority. What happened? The doings of that body became such a public scandal that, on the proposition not of a Radical Member, but of the good Conservative Lord Randolph Churchill, a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the matter. That Commission was presided over by a distinguished Law Lord, Lord Herschell, and, after taking a considerable amount of evidence, presented an interim Report. Members desirous of knowing what took place in connection with a body elected in the fashion now proposed should read the evidence presented to and the verdict arrived at by that Commission. It is very singular that that Commission, like the Jameson Raid Inquiry, presented an interim report and promised, at no distant date, to resume its investigations, but also, as in the case of the Jameson Raid, the inquiry was never resumed, and the matter allowed to drop. We are apt to point to foreign countries and to exclaim in pious horror, "Thank God we are not as other men," but my impression, after reading about and watching the career of the Metropolitan Board of Works, from the time it was constituted until it expired in infamy, is that Tammany, of which we hear so much, never did anything worse than did that body.
§ * SIR GEORGE FARDELL (Paddington, S.)
Would the hon. Member have the kindness to quote the Report of the Royal Commission, because my recollection is that there was a general acquittal of the members, although undoubtedly some persons were guilty of malfeasance.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that this discussion of the past history of the Metropolitan Board of Works has nothing to do with the subject before the House.
§ MR. CREMER
I made reference to it merely because it occurred to me from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that he was proposing to create a new metropolitan authority on precisely the same lines as the body which was guilty of so much jobbery, corruption and—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
If it were in order, of course the hon. Member could finish his sentence and be answered afterwards by a Member on the other side; but I have already said that the question of the past history of the Metropolitan Board of Works is not material to the merits of the Bill before the House.
§ MR. CREMER
I was only going to say that I had said sufficient to justify my statements without further continuing the subject. I frankly admit that in my opinion there are some excellent points in the Bill as shadowed forth by the right hon. Gentleman. I should be glad, however, if he could see his way to reconstruct the authority by which the water supply of London is to be managed in the future. The management should be handed over either to the London County Council or a body directly elected by the popular suffrage. Why does the right hon. Gentleman propose to increase the authorities, of which there are already too many in London? Considering that we have an excellent body with all the 1427 necessary machinery at hand, a body that has worked excellently during the ten or fifteen years of its existence, we are justified in asking why the right hon. Gentleman has lost confidence in the authority set up at the instigation of one of his own colleagues, to whom we are all grateful for the excellent machinery he placed at our disposal. If the right hon. Gentleman could make the change I have indicated I think we might all give him our cordial support in passing the Bill without difficulty.
§ (10.26.) MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
The right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have spoken against this Bill have all asserted that we on this side—who, at any rate, are anxious to see the measure before it is condemned—do not represent the constituents who sent us to this House, because, forsooth, at the London County Council election, members were returned pledged to support that body as the water authority. I am perhaps in an exceptional position in that respect. At the last Parliamentary election I had the honour of being opposed by the present Chairman, and, at the previous election, by a former Chairman of the London County Council, and those distinguished friends of mine based their attacks on what they described as my "iniquitous votes" at the London County Council. I was attacked before my constituents because I had consistently opposed the proposal that the London County Council should be the water authority for London. Notwithstanding those powerful attacks, my constituents returned me each time by a larger majority. Therefore, I think I may fairly claim that my constituents, at any rate, do not regard my consistent opposition to that proposal as being any reason for depriving me of the authority which I then exercised. Let me say further that, having been a member of the London County Council from its creation until the last election, I should be the last to join in any outcry against the excellent work which, with great public spirit, that distinguished body has done. I have never joined in any such attacks; on the contrary, I have always defended the Council against such attacks, but I have done that consistently with my firm belief that it was not the proper, and should not become the water authority for London.
1428 I think we all ought to recognise that my right hon. friend has approached a very difficult and complicated question with a large amount of industry, and has made a sincere and honest attempt to do justice to the various interests concerned. If we sincerely and honestly desire to solve a question which is necessarily complicated and surrounded with controversy, and to put an end to a matter which has too long engaged the attention of the House of Commons, retarding the solution of other urgent questions, we must approach it among ourselves, at any rate, with a conciliatory disposition one towards another, and we must sometimes give up a little of the ideas to which we are more or less attached. The hon. Member for Poplar in his speech paid a tribute to the President of the Local Government Board, but he and his friends, before they had seen this Bill in print, announced that they intended to give the measure their strenuous opposition. Such a declaration was calculated to stimulate the cohesion and energy of hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House to do all in their power to assist the right hon. Gentleman in his endeavour to find a solution of this question. Lasting honour will be conferred upon the Minister who has the satisfaction—the approximate satisfaction—of solving this problem. I have no doubt whatever that no man exists who will do it to the perfect satisfaction of all the interests involved. The very speech of my hon. friends the Member for Poplar and the hon. Member for Battersea, confirms my statement when they indulge in this censure and condemnation of a Bill which they have not seen.
§ MR. COHEN
When hen. Members opposite say that they are going to oppose certain parts of a Bill which they have not seen, that ought to be an additional stimulus to us to assist the right hon. Gentleman to solve this difficult question. I was pleased to hear the speech of my hon. friend the Member for the Strand Division, because I know that some time ago he was not in favour of the purchase of the water companies' undertakings I always have been in favour of 1429 the purchase of these undertakings. I have always advocated that the administration of the water supply of London should be taken out of the hands of these eight companies, and I shall be glad if my expectations are realised by this measure. I hope that the result of this transfer of the water supply to a public authority will be that we shall get as pure a supply as that which the eight water companies, to their honour, have hitherto given to London. It has always seemed to me somewhat anomalous that the water of London should be supplied by private companies at different prices in different districts. Let me here say that I have not any interest whatever in any water company, for I am neither a director or a shareholder; but I desire that these water companies should have justice done to them. Let me say that I do not think that my right hon. friend does the companies justice when he asks them to take water stock at par.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
That is not so. What I said in regard to that part of the Bill was that the water companies should be paid in water stock which bears interest at 3 per cent. When my hon. friend puts the water stock at par he is passing out of my jurisdiction to that of the arbitrator.
§ MR. COHEN
I think that correction which the right hon. Gentleman has made will be very much welcomed by a very large body of persons who are entitled to receive 20s. for a sovereign. I agree with the criticism that the Water Board suggested will be found to be too large, but surely that is no reason to oppose this Bill, for this proposal may be modified, and the Water Board may be reduced to its proper size. If it remains as at present proposed, then the London County Council is entitled to a much larger representation. My right hon. friend suggests that this Water Board, after the first four years, should be re-elected every three years. I do not want to trouble the House with these details at this stage, but I want to impress upon the House that, having regard to the opposition which has been threatened to this Bill, we ought to do everything in our power to help the right hon. Gentleman in his industrious, 1430 sincere, and honest effort to solve one of the most urgent, and at the same time one of the most difficult questions which has confronted London for the last ten or fifteen years.
§ *(10.35.) MR. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)
As hon. Members are no doubt anxious to get to the Bill to be introduced by the Home Secretary, I will not detain the House at any length, but there are one or two questions which perhaps I had better answer. My hon. friend the Member for the Rugby Division spoke of the profits made by the Water Board. I may say that the profits will go towards the general working of the undertaking. I think, on the whole, my right hon. friend has reason to congratulate himself upon the reception which has been given to this Bill, to which he has devoted so much attention. Three points and three alone have been made against the measure. The first point is that the number on the Board is too large. That is really only a matter of comparison, and when I remind the House that the Board which is doing the best work in London to-day—I mean the Metropolitan Asylums Board—has no less than 70 members, I think hon. Members will see some justification for the number we have suggested. The Corporation of Liverpool has 112 members, and the London County Council—the model of all that is good and proper—has, I believe, 137 members. The functions of this Water Board will, of course, be very large. The work is now carried on by eight Boards of Directors, and I should think that they contain altogether a good deal more than 69 men. No doubt a good deal of the work will have to be done by committees in various parts of the water area, and therefore it is very desirable that there should be a considerable number of persons forming this Board.
The two main points of attack, however, have been that the representation of the Board is indirect, and that the London County Council has been slighted. As regards indirect representation, I think I heard an hon. Member reading just now a clause from the London County Council Water Bill. In that clause it was suggested that if the London County 1431 Council got control of the matter they would refer the question to a committee. Now what is that but indirect representation? I cannot understand myself this morbid appetite for popular election in a matter of this kind which is displayed on the opposite side of the House. We have endless elections now. [An. HON MEMBER: "That is just what you are doing."] I understand that hon. Members opposite desire that the representation should not indirect by selection, but that it should be a direct election of representatives. That I gather from the arguments which have been used in this debate by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It appears to me that indirect representation is not deserving of the slighting things which have said about it. The electors choose the best men they can get for all purposes. Those gentlemen meet together and choose the best men they can get for water purposes.
The next point made is that the London County Council has been slighted I do not think that the Government ever expected to satisfy the extreme advocates of the London County Council. We have had to decide not whether we shall please the London County Council by our proposals but how to do what is best for the whole of the London water area. In the area with which we have to deal there are 95 local authorities, including 56 urban districts and four boroughs outside London, six county councils, the Metropolitan borough councils, and last but not least there is the Corporation of the City of London. It is said that we ought to pass over 93 of these bodies, and place all the powers into the hands of the two remaining authorities, with of course a very large majority to the London County Council. Now I ask the House would that have been right and proper? Had we any right to think of passing over these new metropolitan boroughs who, after all, are the sanitary authorities? These boroughs hold the position which is held by all those great Corporations in the north which have been quoted as having provided so successfully their own water supply. I am told that Bradford supplies an outside district, and that the local authority in the district are not represented on the water body. But in this case the outside district never asked to be represented on the water authority. Have these outside author- 1432 ities faith and confidence in the London County Council? The Council brought in a Bill in 1895 to make itself the authority and the whole of the local authorities having jurisdiction in the areas proposed to be included petitioned against the bill. I think there were petitions from 5 County Councils, 4 Corporations, and 17 District Councils affected by the bill under discussion, and every one petitioned against the London County Council. The outside districts would sooner do anything than fall under the London County Council. It is stated that the County Council has recently arrived at terms of arrangement with the outside districts. The Royal Commission reported at the end of 1899 on the subject of severance as follows:—The conclusion we arrived at on this subject is that, although severance of the works and sources of the supply of the several companies and the division thereof between the six counties within the limits of supply are not actually impracticable, they would be very difficult and highly undesirable.The only terms of peace between the outside authorities and the London County Council were terms which the Royal Commission declared to be extravagant and wholly undesirable. Then it comes to this, that we are either to neglect the interest of everybody except the London County Council, or else hand it over to them and allow the outside authorities to make terms with them such as are described by the Royal Commission in the words I have read. The hon. Member for Battersea suggests that the Goverment have been got at by the directors and shareholders of the water companies. It would have made no difference to them if we had given the control to the London County Council. Once a purchase has been effected the shareholders will have nothing to do with the board. I do not think it is at all necessary to say anything further on this Bill. There are points which hon. Members can only consider when they have the actual words in their hands. The Bill cannot be rushed through even if we desired to do so. It is a hybrid Bill, and it must go to a Committee where counsel can appear and argue the points, and it must also pass through Committee of this House. 1433 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, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Long, Mr. Secretary Ritchie, Mr. Grant Lawson, and Mr. Attorney General.