HC Deb 23 February 1904 vol 130 cc799-807

Order for Second Reading read.

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

* MR. DISRAELI (Cheshire, Altrincham)

said he rose on behalf of the Buckingham County Council to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. It was a matter of great concern to them that an attempt should be again made to seize part of the water area of Buckingham for the supply of water to other places. Not only were the Buckingham County Council opposed to the Bill, but almost every local authority interested in the matter. The Buckingham County Council, the Eton District Council, the Gerards Cross Parish Council, the Hertfordshire County Council, the Rickmansworth District Council, the Thames Conservancy, and the Grand Junction Canal Company had all petitioned the House against this Bill, which they contended would have a very injurious effect if it were allowed to become law. This Bill was practically the same as that promoted in 1901 by the same company, which measure having been discussed on its merits was thrown out without a division. This Bill was objected to by the local authorities, especially by the Bucks County Council, on the ground that no water company should be allowed to take water out of the county unless it was prepared to give water back again, and this undertaking had not been given to the county council. They had little water to spare in Buckinghamshire, and much damage would be done to the wells of some of the poorest if unlimited pumping was allowed. The scheme here was to pump all the water out of Buckingham into Middlesex and Herts, and as the Amersham Water Company were prepared to supply Gerards Cross, which was the only district that wanted water, and were also prepared to give back to Buckingham whatever water they took from it, the Buckingham County Council was prepared to support that company and not this. He begged to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.

MR. ROTHSCHILD (Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury)

, in seconding the rejection of the Bill, supported the protest that had been made by the local county council. The underground wells and lakes near the Chiltern Hills would suffer great injury if allowed to be depleted of their stores of water in the manner proposed. It had been noticed that when pumping operations had been resorted to, the level of these lakes and wells fell very rapidly. In his opinion the Rickmans worth Company had no right to come into an area and to deplete that area of its water supply, and dispose of all the water in other places, without giving a satisfactory undertaking to the county council concerned.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Disraeli.)

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


said that this matter was an extremely simple one. When the original Bill of 1901 was upstairs before the Committee, it was found that Gerards Cross, the district in dispute, had been omitted by accident. As a result, the Rickmans worth Company had promised the Board of Trade to remedy that mistake as soon as possible, and this Bill had been brought in in consequence. He hoped the usual course would be adopted of reading the Bill the second time and sending it to a Committee, which was the proper tribunal to decide the points at issue between the two competing water companies.


said the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, spoke from instructions, and had therefore only contributed second-hand opinions to the debate. He (Mr. Walton) lived in Buckinghamshire, and could fully endorse what had been said by the hon. Member for Mid-Buckinghamshire as to the Chiltern Hills districts, the well supply of which was very seriously affected by the rainfall, and any tampering with or draining of the underground reservoirs would have a serious effect on the district. He contended that local opinion as to local needs ought to have a deciding influence in a matter of this kind, and this Bill was opposed by all the local authorities concerned.

SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)

supported the Second Reading. He thought the House ought not to reject a Private Bill on its Second Reading unless there were very strong objections to it; and he failed to see such objections in the case of this Bill. In his opinion it should go to a Committee upstairs, where evidence could be taken on both sides, and where arguments could be adduced which could not be heard in this House. Before he voted for the rejection of this Bill, he should like to be assured that no damage would be done to the people who wanted the water which was to be supplied under this Bill.

MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

said he thought the hon. Member for Epping was under a misconception with regard to this question. He pointed out that though the Bill of the Rickmansworth Water Company introduced two or three years ago was rejected without a division, the company now came to Parliament with their old weak case, but with a more extended scheme. There was one other point he would like to draw attention to. He thought the time had come when the House ought to appoint a Commission or Committee to inquire into the whole question of water supply. It was monstrous that all the suburban counties should be depleted of their water for the purposes of London and other large places, without some complete scheme showing how much should be taken away and how much should be left in the locality.


said it had been suggested that there was some ulterior motive in bringing forward this Bill. Well, it was brought forward to remedy an error in a previous Bill and asked for no further powers than the company at present possessed. The Rickmans worth Water Company was opposing the Amersham Company, and the Buckingham County Council was acting the part of the dog-in-the-manger. It was clearly a Bill which ought to be sent upstairs where all the points in dispute could be thoroughly threshed out.


said it was very undesirable that these matters, which were purely local, should be discussed in the House; they ought to be referred, almost without question, to a Committee upstairs unless they involved some question of a new principle. The House was asked to found its judgment on purely ex parte statements which could not be subjected to the test of cross-examination. What were the merits of the Bill? There seemed to be a quarrel between two water companies as to who should possess a certain district known as Gerard's Cross. The Bill involved no new principle, and that being so he held that that ought to go in the ordinary course before a Committee upstairs.

SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)

submitted that it was the right of the House to express its opinion on all Bills, and he was therefore surprised at the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees. In this case an invasion was proposed of the rights of the County of Buckinghamshire over its own area, and it was the privilege of the House to discuss such a question, and to say whether a private company should, in opposition to the wishes of the county council, take water from a given area without any obligation to supply that area with water.

MR. CRIPPS (Lancashire, Stretford)

said that all the local authorities were opposed to the proposal, and he hoped, therefore, especially in view of the distressed condition of agriculture in Buckinghamshire, they would not be put to the expense which proceedings before a Committee involved.

* MR. HUDSON (Hertfordshire, Hitchin)

said the inhabitants of Hertfordshire feared that if the Bill were passed the result would be that they would be deprived of a much larger quantity of water than the company took already and which might be used in the county of Buckinghamshire. They had suffered from droughts more, perhaps, than any other county in England. Their springs were drying up and already many of them had had to deepen their wells. Hence the opposition of their county council.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

appealed to the House to come to a decision on this Bill, inasmuch as the sitting had been especially set apart for the discussion of a question of vital importance to Ireland—viz., transit facilities—more important, indeed, than the fiscal problems raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. One of the blessings of the present system of Parliamentary Government was that Irish Members were forced, against their will, to come there and decide on the merits of a purely local English question, and he could only say that as they found the local bodies were unanimously on one side in this dispute, it would be their duty to support them.


hoped the Bill would be sent upstairs on the ground that the House was not in a position to decide upon the facts in dispute.

MR. HAROLD RECKITT (Lincolnshire, Brigg)

said he thought the districts around London had been most unfairly treated by the demands made upon their water areas for the supply of London, and he felt the House ought to exercise its right, therefore, of expressing its opinion on the general principle of Water Bills. He hoped the day was not far distant when county councils would be made the water authorities in their own areas, and he felt that this was the proper time to make a protest against individual water companies or authorities seeking to take water for their own use, outside their own areas, without any compensation whatsoever.

SIR JOSEPH LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but

Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 24; Noes, 150. (Division List No. 12.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Davenport, William Bromley Rollit, Sir Albert Kayo
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Dickson, Charles Scott Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Bain, Colonel James Robert Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C Stone, Sir Benjamin
Balcarres, Lord Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H
Bond, Edward Forster, Henry William
Caldwell, James Goulding, Edward Alfred TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Frederick Banbury and Colonel Lockwood.
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)
Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Lawson, Jn. G. (Yorks., N. R.)
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile Lowther, Rt. Hn. J. W (Cum. Pen
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Remnant, James Farquharson
Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Griffith, Ellis J. Morrell, George Herbert
Allen, Charles P. Groves, James Grimble Nannetti, Joseph P.
Ambrose, Robert Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F. Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Arrol, Sir William Hamilton, Marq of L'nd'nderry O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Haslett, Sir James Horner O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Hay, Hon. Claude George O' Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)
Bell, Richard Hayden, John Patrick O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.
Bignold, Arthur Heath, A. Howard (Hanley) O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)
Blake, Edward Heath, James (Staffords., N. W.) O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Boland, John Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H. O'Dowd, John
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W.) O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)
Brigg, John Holland, Sir William Henry O'Malley, William
Broadhurst, Henry Horner, Frederick William O'Mara, James
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Hoult, Joseph O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Burns, John Hudson, George Bickersteth Partington, Oswald
Buxton, Sydney Charles Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk. Pirie, Duncan V.
Cameron, Robert Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Carlile, William Walter Johnson, John (Gateshead) Power, Patrick Joseph
Crean, Eugene Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea) Ratcliff, R. F.
Cremer, William Randal Jones, William (Carnarvonshire Reckitt, Harold James
Cripps, Charles Alfred Jordan, Jeremiah Reddy, M.
Dalkeith, Earl of Joyce, Michael Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan) Kilbride, Denis Redmond, William (Clare)
Delany, William Knowles, Sir Lees Richards, Henry Charles
Denny, Colonel Laurie, Lieut.-General Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway) Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W. Roche, John
Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.) Layland-Barratt, Francis Roe, Sir Thomas
Donelan, Captain A. Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington) Royds, Clement Molyneux
Doogan, P. C. Leigh, Sir Joseph Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Dorington, Rt. Hn. Sir John E. Levy, Maurice Samuel, Sir Harry S. (Limehouse)
Duncan, J. Hastings Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale) Shackleton, David James
Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan) Lundon, W. Sheehan, Daniel, Daniel
Flannery, Sir Fortescue MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Sheehy, David
Flavin, Michael Joseph Maconochie, A. W. Slack, John Bamford
Flower, Sir Ernest MacVeagh, Jeremiah Smith, H. C. (North'mb, Tyneside)
Flynn, James Christopher M'Calmont, Colonel James Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) M'Hugh, Patrick A. Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Gardner, Ernest M'Kean, John Spear, John Ward
Gilhooly, James M'Kenna, Reginald Stewart, Sir Mark J. M' Taggart
Goddard, Daniel Ford M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire) Stock, James Henry
Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn) Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N. Strachey, Sir Edward
Gordon, Maj. E. (T'r Hamlets) Mooney, John J. Sullivan, Donal
Grant, Corrie Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow) Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe) Trevelyan, Chales Philips Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Thomas, D. Alfred (Merthyr) Walton, Jn. Lawson (Leeds, S.) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Thorburn, Sir Walter Warde, Colonel C. E. Wylie, Alexander
Thornton, Percy M. Warner, Thomas Courtenay T. Yoxall, James Henry
Tomkinson, James Wason, Jn. Cathcart (Orkney)
Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw., M. White, George (Norfolk) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Rothschild.
Toulmin, George Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Words added.

Second Reading put off for six months.