§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. NIELD
The form which this Bill has taken makes it somewhat difficult to deal with the merits of it at the present stage, and, with your approbation, Sir, I propose to withdraw my Motion against the Second Reading and to proceed with the consideration of the Motion which stands upon the Order Paper varied in the particulars of which I have already given the Clerks notice. I propose, after the Second Reading of the Bill, to move:—
"That the Bill be re-committed, that it be advisable the same be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, and that a message be sent to the Lords to communicate this Resolution and to desire their concurrence."
I believe that is in order, and, if I may have the assurance of the Chairman of Ways and Means that we may discuss this Motion in order that the merits of the Bill may be debated in. priority to his Motion I will not move my Motion against the Second Reading. If the Chairman of Ways and Means is content to allow us to discuss the merits of the Bill without making the formal Motion for rejection, I think it would be better we should do so. I understand his Motion proposes to reserve the Report Stage to this House, and I would be perfectly willing, after a statement of the case, to reserve any question or revision until the Report stage has been fixed and discussed.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Mr. Emmott)
The Motion I have put down is the usual Motion, and I do not quite understand what the hon. Member is asking me to do.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
I am afraid that is a matter for Mr. Speaker rather than for me. It seems to be a matter of order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member appeals to me, I think, after the Second Reading of this Bill has been passed, the natural thing to do would be to call upon the Chairman of Ways and Means to move his Motion. If he does not move his Motion, or if, after having moved it, he hears some reasons why he should not persist in it, then I should be quite prepared to call on the hon. Member for Middlesex.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
My Motion is an official Motion, but within the bounds of order any hon. Member ought to be absolutely at liberty to oppose that Motion, and to put before the House any alternative course he desires. I shall not take it as any reflection upon my official Motion if it is opposed and is the subject of discussion. I put it down as usual and as a matter of form.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Are we quite clear that on the official Motion we shall be able to discuss the policy of the Bill in respect of the objection that Middlesex has to it. With great deference several of us must state the objections of the county of Middlesex to this Bill, and we must do it either on the Second Reading or on the right hon. Gentleman's Motion.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
I will put it to you, Sir, as a point of Order. Will it be in order for hon. Members who desire some portion of this Bill to be dealt with either on Report or by re-committal to state their objections on my Motion?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think it would be in order. If hon. Members can adduce reasons why it is undesirable the Committee stage should be omitted, and why it is 111 desirable the Bill should be re-committed for a particular purpose, then any such arguments will be clearly in order on the Motion of the Chairman of Ways and Means. The Motion of the Chairman of Ways and Means is to omit the Committee stage. If hon. Members proceed to show it is necessary there should be a further Committee stage in order to deal with some particular questions, then such arguments will be in order on that Motion.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS and MEANS
I beg to move, "That the Standing Orders relative to the Committal stage of Private Bills be suspended, and that the Bill be ordered to lie upon the Table."
§ Mr. NIELD
In rising to offer opposition to this Motion, formal so far as the Motion is concerned, but substantial so far as the objections to the Bill are concerned, I will endeavour as far as possible to confine my remarks and to put before the House in as cogent and as brief a way as I can the very serious objections which the county of Middlesex has to this Bill proceeding without some protection being afforded to those it affects. I would first of all call to the recollection of the House the curious circumstances which have arisen by reason of this Bill having originated in another place, having passed its Second Reading, having been referred to a Select Committee, having been somewhat drastically treated by that Joint Committee, having been read a Third Time in another place, and having now come to us for a Second Reading, which we have just given it. Originally this Bill sought powers to create eight reservoirs of huge dimensions, which were located in the western portion of the county of Middlesex and in the eastern portion of the county of Buckingham. Before the Bill came on for the consideration of the Joint Committee the Water Board abandoned one of the reservoirs, No. 8. I cannot help thinking the Committee proceeded with some haste, for I believe only one day's notice was given of intention to proceed at a time when none of the learned gentlemen who were to be instructed had received their papers. The result was that when the Committee met very considerable difficulties were discovered in putting 112 the case properly before it. It was not long after the Committee commenced the consideration of the merits of the Bill it became necessary to strike out several of the reservoirs. Nos. 1 and 2, which were partly in the county of Bucks and partly in the county of Middlesex, and No. 3 were promptly struck out, as well as No. 4, which was situated in the county of Middlesex.
I ought to point out to the House the condition of the country in which these reservoirs are proposed to be situated. Those hon. Members who have the opportunity of indulging in the pastime of motoring and who go down to the West of England by way of the Bath road will remember the condition of the country as they approach Staines. There is a considerable tract of land which is eminently suitable for the construction of reservoirs. There is one reservoir, No. 5 in the Bill, the site of which is not objected to by Middlesex. It is proposed to be placed in close contiguity to an existing reservoir. But there is, on the other side, between that portion of the high road and the River Thames, a very delightful and charming part of the county of Middlesex still in a rural condition, comprising the villages of Laleham and Littleton, in which it is proposed to place reservoirs Nos. 6 and 7. Middlesex has had much to suffer from London in the past. It is a very serious thing for districts around a great city like London, because they have to provide for the artisan population of a large city where the wealth is generated; they have thrown upon them obligations of a very onerous character; and they are called upon to bear enormous burdens in regard to the housing of the working classes and the education of the children of the workers. In fact, in some cases, the burden is so great that it has been found that it would be cheaper for the county to buy the land and dedicate it as open spaces to the public than to permit the land to be covered with small houses, because of the incidental liabilities that attach thereto. That is one of the reasons why it is asked that this Bill be recommitted for the purpose of having this matter gone into.
There is very serious objection to putting down reservoirs Nos. 6 and 7 in this district, because it is expected to prove a very valuable rate-paying area, and, if the land be used for reservoirs, it will bear somewhat less than one-half of the rateable value that it would were it built upon and inhabited in the ordinary way. These 113 were the proposals that came before the Joint Committee and were drastically-dealt with. Reservoirs 1, 2, and 3 were struck out; No. 8 was withdrawn, and only 5, 6, and 7 were really left for consideration. The Committee heard what the promoters had to advance, but they never heard the objections of the county of Middlesex, because admissions were made by the engineer of the Water Board which met, to a certain extent, the views of the opponents. I will ask the House to bear with me for a moment or two while I call attention to those admissions. They had reference to the very serious injury that the construction of these reservoirs would have on a district which is wholly dependent on wells for its supply of water. My hon. Friend the Member for the Uxbridge division will confirm me when I say that these two villages of Laleham and Littleton are wholly dependent on water obtained from wells for their water supply, and it was because of that that questions were put in cross-examination, with a view to showing the effect of the works. Mr. Bryan, the engineer of the Water Board, was cross-examined, as follows:—I think you told my friend Mr. Hutchinson this morning that during the time your trenches are open through the gravel to the London clay you will have pumping machinery here? —Yes,Is that liable to pump the water out of the surrounding gravel for a radius of some distance?—It is.Are you aware that a large number of the houses in the village of Wraysbury are dependent to a great extent for their water supply on wells?—I gained that from some of the petitions.May I ask what you propose to do in view of that? —It is rather difficult to say what would be the best means, but I should think the putting down of a small temporary pumping station, taking the water from the existing sources and laying some temporary pipes of supply.Of course nothing of that sort is in your Bill at the present moment?—No.Nor included in the estimate?—Yes, I have got a contingency in the estimates which will cover that.Will that be covered by the 10 per cent. contingencies?—Yes.
§ Mr. INGLEBY
This cross-examination had reference to a different reservoir, and had no bearing on the point raised by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. NIELD
I am sorry my hon. Friend should have interrupted, because, when the discussion took place in another place, and when the Duke of Northumberland moved on specific grounds he read this very evidence, and it was accepted by Lord Kintore, the Chairman of the Joint Committee, as having a bearing on Reservoirs 1 and 2 and also on Reservoirs 5, 6, and 7. If my hon. Friend will look closely into 114 the materials before the Committee he will find that is exactly the case. Mr. Bryan, on further examination, said as follows:—Is that a usual thing for the 10 per cent. contingencies to cover?—That will not he a large matter; it will be a very small matter, indeed, as compared with the cost of reservoirs Nos. 1 and 2.Are you prepared, as an engineer, to come under an obligation to supply water if these wells fail?—If it could be proved that these wells failed by reason of our works, I think it would be fair that we should supply them with water.But forgive me, you have just admitted to me that the water will be sucked out of the gravel for a very considerable area; many of these works are within 200 yards of your works?—Then I have just stated that if that be proved, it would be fair that we should supply them in some form or another with an adequate water supply.Then I may lake it you will be prepared to insert some obligation in the Bill to that effect?—That would have to go through the Solicitors and Counsel for the Bill, but I have stated my opinion that it would be fair to do it.There is another point of course—you see my difficulty, How is a cottager going to prove that damage has been done by your pumping? That is an expensive matter?—I am quite sure my Board would take a perfectly broad view of this matter.Will you put a general obligation in the Bill?—I am quite sure if the wells were depleted we should supply an adequate quantity either to the cottager or to other property owners.That was the testimony given before the Joint Committee which caused Middlesex to refrain from giving evidence because it would only be affirmative of the admissions by the engineer (Mr. Bryan). The result was that no statutory pledge was given and there is no undertaking by the Water Board incorporated in the Bill. The Bill comes to this House without any security at all in the interests of those who will be affected by it. Let me tell the House the conditions under which it is proposed to construct the reservoir. No. 5 will be five miles in circumference. It will be necessary in the case of Nos. 6 and 7 to go to a depth of 110 feet before the clay is reached. It is proposed to establish pumping machinery for the purpose of pumping the underground water, and it is admitted that that water-will to a very large extent be lost. That will be the water which has been taken from the wells of the cottagers and the small holders, because the whole of this district, with very few exceptions, consists of small property which will be denuded of water, and, moreover, a great many of the persons who live in the district are dependent upon agriculture or upon market gardening—occupation which require an ample supply of water if they are to be conducted at all. The point was taken by the Chairman of Committees in another place that there had been no 115 petition from these cottagers. This House would not require me to point out how difficult it is for poor cottagers to present petitions to Parliament, and they rely upon their county council to put their case before the Houses in order that justice may be done them and that they may not be deprived of a very important adjunct in the making effective and profitable of the employment which they carry on. It is objected that the case of Middlesex was not dealt with before the Joint Committee, but the answer to that is that not only were Mr. Bryan's admissions, accepted as they were by Middlesex, amply sufficient for the purpose, but the counsel for the promoters actually dealt with the matter, and the Committee came to the conclusion that they could not interfere. The Committee did not come to that conclusion because they dealt with the merits of the Bill. Lord Kintore admitted that the merits of the Middlesex case were never considered, because they expected that one or other House of Parliament would deal with the whole matter of underground water. In the speech which he made in the House of Lords on 18th July Lord Kin-tore refers to this aspect of the case in these words:—During the hearing a Clause similar in effect, if not identical in words, was pressed for by the Middlesex County Council. It was argued that where the water level in any well in the county council's area was even temporarily lowered by the trenching, the Water Board should be held compelled to add water up to the deficiency. We were not of ourselves prepared in a private Bill to take this new departure involving such a large question of principle, so in the confident expectation that the matter would be raised in one or other House of Parliament, we decided as a Committee to take no action.Which is an admission that this was never considered on its merits in anticipation of the whole question of underground water being considered. The whole of the merits of the objection of Middlesex were clouded and obscured by the reference to this Commission to be appointed at some time or other—Lord Salisbury referred to it as probably the Greek kalends—for the purpose of discussing whether there should be rights in underground water. The question had arisen in this way. Hertfordshire had introduced a Bill for the purpose of protecting underground water and had proposed the most stringent regulations. They proposed to alter the whole general law of the Kingdom. The Bill was sent to a Select Committee presided over by Lord MacDonnell, which reported in very general terms and recommended a Com- 116 mission, and I think most hon. Members know what that means. A Commission, even if it is appointed, generally extends its labours over several years. That was what was operating on the minds of Noble Lords when at the instance of Lord Kin-tore they dealt with this question a few days ago. It was said there, that although certain illustrations were cited of protection which had been given, yet there was no one instance in which protection had been given in the case of works causing temporary disturbance. All that Middlesex asks is that there should be protection to those persons resident within two miles of the works during the time of execution of those works. They do not ask for permanent compensation, because I agree that this is not a case of pumping underground water. This is a case of temporary interference with underground water by the construction of huge reservoirs after which it may be that the underground water may return to its original state and may not be permanently depleted. There is this extraordinary thing about it, that the Joint Committee did give protection to Lord Fitz-Hardinge, and yet they deny it to the small holders of Middlesex to whom it is vital for the continuance of their water supply. Apart from the fact that that was conceded to Lord Fitz-Hardinge there are a number of other precedents which go to establish the case of the Middlesex County Council for the protection which it seeks at the hands of this House, and that the Middlesex County Council has a right to represent persons on whose behalf they are raising this objection is shown by the Cambridge Bill, which contained a distinct provision that the undertakers in that case should give compensation upon the written request of the county council. I think the right of the county council to represent these cottagers and small holders is absolute, and there can be no question raised that they have not presented a petition separately. I should like to refer to the South Staffordshire Act, which was granted in 1909. Very often these Clauses are introduced for the protection of private owners or particular estates, and that was one of the objections urged in another place against the Clause which was submitted by Middlesex in this ease. Here is a Clause passed by both Houses, which now has the effect of an Act of Parliament, which is far more verbose than the one which Middlesex is now proposing, but 117 which, at the same time, contains every bit of protection which Middlesex is now seeking. Clause 18 said:—
(1) If any diminution has taken or shall take place in the supply of water from any well, borehole, pond, pool, spring, stream, or watering place which existed, or has existed, as an effective source of supply at or since the date when pumping by the company first commenced at any pumping station by this Act authorised or confirmed during either the construction of such pumping station or the use thereof for the purposes of supply or in the supply of water to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal at or since the date aforesaid, either during such construction or for the purposes of supply (such source of supply or canal being situate within a radius of two-and-a-half miles from that station in this section called "the protected area"), the company shall, upon the written request of the owner of any such source of supply or canal as aforesaid (in this section referred to as "the owner," which term shall include any lessee or occupier, and any body of persons having the control and management of a water supply, and any local authority), and upon proof that such diminution arose since such commencement of pumping, afford to the owner a supply of water equal to the amount of such diminution, at such cost or rate (if any) as that the total cost to the owner of obtaining his full supply shall be the same (as nearly as may be) after as before the construction of the company's well.
That is a case in point. The Bill also provides for compensation during the construction of works, so that we have an absolute precedent for what is proposed in this Clause. I should have thought that, whatever might be the view in another place with regard to the necessity for precedent, this House, at any rate, need not be over nice about not having a precedent to follow if there is a case of justice to be met. I would submit, also, the precedent provided in the Barry Railway Act of 1908, which was first of all for the protection of the general owner, but which also provided for compensation in respect of temporary works in connection with the construction of a tunnel. In reply to the contention that there is no precedent in the case of temporary works, I point to what was done in the case of the Cambridge estate and in the case of the Barry 118 Railway. The Barry Railway Act provides that if, owing to the construction of the tunnel, or the cuttings connected therewith, the present water supply was in any way diminished in quantity, the company should pay compensation to the owner of the estate for such deficiency. There are many other precedents in Acts of Parliament, but I have only cited those directly in point which contain precedents for the very claim which Middlesex County Council is asking to be enforced in this case. There can be no question of London ever being in want of water by reason of anything in this Bill. It was admitted in evidence that the supply when certain works which are now in progress, and which will shortly be completed, are finished, will be no less than 7,000 million gallons, while all that is wanted to supply London down to the year 1916 will be 6,436 million gallons. I trust that this House will not allow an injustice to those persons who are dependent solely on the water they obtain from their wells for the humble callings they carry on. Is this House willing that they should lose the privilege of getting water from their wells when the only question is compensation so far as reservoir No. 5 is concerned— compensation from the Water Board when this supply is suspended during the construction of the reservoir? When the Committee had dismissed four or five of the Water Board's resolutions the Board made up their minds not to go on with the Bill, and it was only after persuasion and after an adjournment that they reconsidered the decision.
I submit that if this House is prepared to insert the Clause for the protection of these smallholders in respect to the construction of No. 5 reservoir there is nothing to prevent their proceeding. The hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. J. Ward) is here in the interest of labour, and I would point out to him that there is an ingenuous Clause inserted in the Bill by the Water Board as to the desirability of providing labour. I say that that question does not enter into the matter at all. It will be years before the construction of reservoirs Nos. 6 and 7 is required. We do not oppose the construction of No. 5, provided that the Water Board will give reasonable compensation to those who have a right to water in the area affected. The labourers engaged in the construction of this reservoir would be seriously incommoded if the area were deprived of water, and I would appeal to the hon. Member for 119 Stoke-upon-Trent to see that it is adequately supplied with compensating water during the construction of the new works. I should like to call attention to the Debate which took place in another place. Beyond question the sympathies of the House were with the objectors. I think nobody who reads the official account of the proceedings in that House will fail to observe that the sympathies even of those who were bound to speak against the Clause were really with the objections urged by the Middlesex County Council. The Secretary of State for War spoke of the state of the law with regard to underground water. He referred to the necessary hardships which must from time to time be inflicted upon persons by reason of interference with wells in connection with the undertakings of large water companies. Lord St. Aldwyn moved the adjournment of the Debate, being impressed by the arguments in favour of the Clause. The Secretary of State for War said he would rather take the Bill as an urgent Bill with the clause inserted than have the adjournment and the inquiry which the Noble Lord asked. I think that should show this House the way in which the argument was pressed in another place. As a result, Viscount St. Aldwyn withdrew his Motion, and the question went to a Division without what I regard as the natural sequence, that is the incorporation of an undertaking that that Clause should go in as the consideration of the withdrawal of that Amendment.
In the course of that Debate Lord Alverstone related his experiences at the Bar with regard to underground water, and said that in many private Bills a special Clause had been inserted in order to protect those who were affected, and he also said, "I am satisfied that the claim of the Noble Duke cannot be resisted on the ground that there is anything in principle against it." I ask hon. Members before they come to a decision on this question to read carefully the Debate on 18th July, in another place. If they do, I am sure they will come to the conclusion that the only real objection which was urged there was the one of precedents. I think I have shown the House there is no want of precedent. I do hope that the objection now made may receive very serious consideration. We make it in the interest of the democracy of the county of Middlesex. On that ground, I appeal to this House not to let this Bill go forward with- 120 out some protective Clause which would preserve to the persons whom I have referred to the rights they possess to draw water in these places. The Metropolitan Water Board have plenty of opportunity. They have plenty of storage accommodation for years to come. They have an ample supply until the year 1921, and I trust that this House will not allow the powers asked for to be exercised without some means of protecting the small owner, and will determine that reservoirs Nos. 6 and 7 shall not be placed where they are proposed, but shall be, by means of a small Bill next year, removed to another place in the same district a few miles away, where the works can be carried out with far more efficiency and much greater economy.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MILLS
I rise to second the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield). The Metropolitan Water Board seek to make three reservoirs, one of 360 acres and the other two together of about 800 acres. To do so they will have to dig a deep trench down to the London clay, around these reservoirs, to what they call, I understand, the puddle clay. During the construction of the trench there will have to be considerable pumping to get the necessary water, with the result that there would be great risk of drying up the wells and the boreholes of the people in the neighbourhood. We desire that this House should compel the Water Board to insert a provision in the Bill that compensation shall be given to the owners of such wells. I do not think it necessary to try to prove that that damage will be done to the owners of water. That already has been proved by the evidence of Mr. Bryan, the engineer. I notice that objection was taken to his evidence on the ground that it applied only to reservoirs numbers one and two, which I admit is perfectly correct. But if it is admitted by the engineer that damage will be inflicted by the construction of numbers one and two, that equally holds good in the case of all the other reservoirs. The fact that damage will be done was freely admitted by the speeches of the Noble Lords in another place, who opposed the clause which the Middlesex County Council desire to insert. In addition the Water Board themselves admitted this principle by the fact that they compensated Lord Fitz-Hardinge for what was going to be done to him. Therefore, I take it as admitted that there will be depletion of the wells in the neighbourhood.
121 The compensation will be very cheap to the Water Board. The engineer of the Water Board said he considered that such compensation was wholly fair and just. It is quite a common-sense proposition. The objection to it seems to be very extraordinary. No doubt to those who understand law it is perfectly obvious, but I have spent a long time looking through Bills which form precedents and I cannot see where the objection comes in. From 1894 to 1910 there were fifteen Bills passed in which water undertakers and railway companies have agreed to give compensation for depletion. But I understand that the objection taken by the Joint Committee was that there was not an exact precedent for the action which the Middlesex County Council desired the Water Board to take. I believe that though there was abundant precedents for our Clause, yet because all the precedents did not happen to find themselves in one Bill at the same time, therefore it was considered in law not to be a precedent. That is as far as I could gather the objection which the Joint Committee urged. It was freely admitted in these Bills that if the damage was going to be continued the compensation ought to be continued, and would, therefore, be expensive. We admit that the damage will be only temporary. Mr. Bryan, the engineer, has admitted that the compensation will be cheap. I should have thought that the greater precedent covers the small thing which we desire the Metropolitan Water Board to do. The next objection which the Joint Committee and those who opposed this Bill in another place took was this: In the year 1910 the question of the depletion of water supplies was gone into very carefully by a Joint Committee, which was considering the Water Supplies Protection Bill. This Bill sought to amend the law with regard to underground water by providing that wherever private supplies are injured by the construction of a public water supply, the owners are entitled to compensation. The Committee who considered this Bill decided that they could not allow legislation to pass of such a general character until they had further information on the subject. They do not say that compensation was unfair; in fact, they said that serious damage done to private property, such as breweries, railways, and so on, through lack of water from the sub-soil, was worthy of notice. I do not see anything in their report to suggest that they condemned the principle of giving compensation, or 122 that they denied that positive damage would be done. On that Report the Joint Committee, I understand, principally based their decision that they could not possibly insert a Clause compelling the Metropolitan Water Board to give compensation for damages that were going to be inflicted under this Bill. I think I have shown that they drew their conclusions from entirely wrong premises, and that there is no possible ground, except some very abstruse points of law, which I submit ought not to be allowed to weigh, for allowing the people who live near these reservoirs to have damage inflicted upon them without any compensation. There is one other objection which was raised in another place. It was said that no one had appealed to the Committee for compensation with regard to these reservoirs, and therefore probably there was not anything to appeal against. It is not necessary to remind the House that it is a very expensive matter to appeal, and most of these people who are affected are in a very small way of living, and naturally they prefer the adoption of other methods of obtaining compensation rather than go to the great expense of a petition against the Water Board. What is the present position of the people who live around these reservoirs? They are told on all hands that they have got an excellent case, but that they must wait until inquiry has been made as to whether it is strictly legal that general compensation should be given. I submit that while this inquiry is going on the damage is being done, and though that damage is only going to be temporary, yet very serious injury would be inflicted on market gardeners and small holders. I would remind the House that it is absolutely necessary that this Clause should be put in, because we understand that the law does not recognise any property in sub-soil water. Therefore, unless there is a special Clause protecting these people, they have no appeal to the law in order to get compensation for damage done.
One other point, and that is the question of causing the Metropolitan Water Board to omit reservoirs 6 and 7. I would point out that we do not for one moment desire that London should be deprived of water which she needs; but we do say that Middlesex has been the dumping ground for these reservoirs, which are not pretty things or very useful things, or very sanitary things for a considerable time, and we venture to ask the House, in considering the necessary supply of water for this 123 great Metropolis, that they shall put these reservoirs in places which the residents of Middlesex tell them will do the least possible amount of harm to the county. It is the people of London who are going to benefit from the reservoirs; the people of Middlesex are going to get none of the benefits and all the hardships which result from them. In my Constituency of West Middesex there are some very nice places, and there is one particularly charming spot; yet it is that very spot which the Metropolitan Water Board has selected for these enormous reservoirs. I suggest that the Bill might be re-committed so that these reservoirs might be put in other places, of which there are a number, and which would be less harmful to my Constituents and to the people who live around there while they would, moreover, be just as useful to the people of London and just as cheap to the Metropolitan Water Board. In possibly one of the prettiest reaches of the Thames these monstrous reservoirs have been erected, and the beauty of the river scenery is not by any means enhanced.
As my hon. Friend pointed out, if the Metropolitan Water Board has to delay the construction of any of these reservoirs there will be no injury or danger to the people of London, nor any danger of lack of water, because it is estimated that in the year 1921 they will require nine thousand eight hundred million gallons of water to store, whereas by that time, allowing five years for the construction of the Staines reservoir, which is in a position to which no one objects, they "will have in 1917, eight thousand eight hundred million gallons, and there will be plenty of time between now and 1917 to prepare plans for reservoirs in some more convenient spot. Besides the damage which is done to the amenities of the locality and its probable value, there is also the question of very important high roads, several of which will be blocked by these reservoirs. The only way by Hounslow and Feltham down to Chertsey and that part, would be entirely blocked by these reservoirs. I ought also to mention that the reservoir at Staines would block a road which at present is very useful to the workmen going to the factories, and they will have to go a very long way round at great inconvenience to themselves to get to their daily labour. I respectfully ask the House to allow the insertion of this Clause, safeguarding the interests of these people, and I also ask 124 it to allow the Bill to be recommitted in regard to the omission of reservoirs 6 and 7. I do not think that is a very extravagant demand, while the objection of the Water Board is based on an entirely abstruse and legal quibble. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to support the common sense view, and also support the people who live round about those reservoirs. As a whole, they are mostly poor people, depending for their living on their market gardens, to which a supply of water is of extreme importance. I ask the House-to support them in getting their right from the Metropolitan Water Board.
§ Mr. J. WARD
The opposition to this proposal to-night has been the most plausible that one could posibly hear; it is clear that behind the opposition to the situation of the reservoirs spoken of by both the hon. Gentlemen, there is the loss of rateable value to the County Council of Middlesex, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield). I daresay after all the latter point is the real purpose of the whole thing, and that those questions which have been raised are, as it were, a little dressing for the more important part of the opposition. That is the common-sense and practical knowledge of anyone who has been engaged in excavating work along the Thames valley for the last quarter of a century. You may find a solitary spot where you may have to go down eighty or ninety feet, but that is an extraordinary thing. The depth of the trenches is on the average about thirty feet.
§ Mr. J. WARD
You may take it for granted that is so. I have a statement from one of the engineers in. which he says that it would be between thirty and forty feet at the outside. The statement has been made that they were going down 100 feet and depleting all the wells in the neighbourhood, and we were told of all the damage that would be done to private property and interests in the locality.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I am referring to all of them. These reservoirs are sub-soil reservoirs; they are not well reservoirs. The consequence is that you are bound to take them along a low-lying flat country where the water collects. You are merely taking sub-soil water, and have nothing to do with the streams or anything of the kind. 125 Taking the Thames valley from top to bottom you will find, say in the case of Waterloo Station, which I assisted in building, and the gasworks opposite which I assisted in building, that in excavating you can take it for granted that in the Thames valley the average depth is twenty, or fifteen, or ten feet, and that although you occasionally get to perhaps eighty feet it is rare. The statement of the hon. Member that you are going to have a whole line of trenches miles in extent, and that you are going to pump a whole lot of water and do a lot of other things is extraordinary, since, as a matter of fact, the hon. Member ought to know if he has ever had anything to do with works of this description that it is the object of the contractor, and must be, owing to the danger of the work of excavation, to make the trenches as short as he possibly can. He must do that, or otherwise he gets the whole weight of the sides on to the timbers. You may take it for granted that all this talk about draining the whole of the country is not so, and I know all about it. Many a job I have been on where we wanted to drain the country round, and we only wished it had happened as the hon. Member suggested. I do assure the House, from my practical knowledge of some twenty-five years working in deep excavations in the Thames Valley, that I do not believe that there is the slightest danger such as is suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I listened to the hon. Member, and I am only speaking from what I know by practical experience and from a knowledge of the localities, it will be almost impossible to suppose that even a hundred yards would affect very seriously sub-soil water by the pumping of a small area. The hon. Gentleman referred to South Staffordshire. Luckily I know the works well. They mean a deep boring laid down.
§ Mr. J. WARD
That is so. It is a deep boring for underground springs, and when the boring goes down you strike out in all directions in order to take as much of the underground springs as you possibly can. As a matter of fact, owing to the construction of the works, you want protection for the people, and permanently. The case of the Barry Railway has been cited. The hon. Gentleman must not forget that I absolutely assisted in excavating the 126 tunnel he has been talking about here tonight, and I know the whole circumstances as well as can be. A tunnel may cut off a source of supply in the low land because it is a permanent obstruction. I believe that Lord Kintore's statement that so far as underground springs and underground water are concerned, no such provision has ever been put by any Committee in any Act of Parliament before is absolutely correct. There can be no necessity for such a thing. All that this means is trying to put as many obstacles in the way of the Water Board performing their duty as you possibly can, and to create as many interests and subsidiary issues as possible to defeat them and their purpose. That is my opinion, especially after the quotations which the hon. and learned Gentleman has given us as to similar provisions in previous Acts before. I happen to know of these matters personally, since, being the officer of the Navvies Union, I go about all over the country and see all these works done. The engineers tell me their difficulties and their different methods of working, and sometimes I have been able to give them tips as I have seen things done in other localities. I knew everyone of the cases to which the hon. Member referred, and I do assure him that they had nothing to do with the question we are debating here to-night. I merely wanted to point out that those who will give a few moments' consideration to this subject have nothing to be frightened about in supporting this proposal, because I do not believe that any of the suggested works proposed to be carried out by the Bill as it is now before the House will have any of the dire effects spoken of by the hon. Member for Ealing and the hon. Member for Uxbridge. I believe they are conjured up by those opposed to the scheme. Some people say, have a reservoir at Ealing, and then the people there say they do not want it, and then you keep on badgering the Water Board, saying this place will not do, and that place will not do, and nobody wants it. That is the situation. I wonder after all there has been struck out that the Water Board did not throw over the Bill and let Parliament some time later on, when there is a famine, decide the thing for itself. This is stupid obstruction against a great public authority carrying out a great statutory authority. One of the reservoirs was planked down on the Windsor Road, opposite Eton, and, no doubt, there was a case there where certain historic features were suggested.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I know that was not the reason. I listened carefully to the evidence given before the Committee, because I am always interested in these cases, and I heard all the evidence given against it. What was the reason the Committee had for striking the reservoir out I do not know, but I certainly listened to the evidence, and that was not the reason. But to come back to my point, you can badger a body like this about, conjuring difficulties up until the expense of supplying water to London will be about 10 per cent. higher than it is, and it is dear enough now. I think the proposals are reasonable, that there is none of the danger which hon. Gentlemen opposite have urged to private interests, and my own experience of works of a similar character during the last twenty-five years strengthens me in that.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. John Burns)
The Bill now before the House was before a Joint Committee of both Houses from March until June. That was a long and costly proceeding. Against this particular Bill some sixty-four petitions were heard. I want to say to those who are promoting this Debate, we do not want to have a Second Reading discussion now on the Motion of the Chairman of Ways and Means to dispense with the Committee stage, and——
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
It was agreed we should have a Second Reading Debate now. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was not in the House.
§ Mr. BURNS
If hon. Members would only have patience they would find we are agreed. It was agreed of course that this Debate should take place in a Second Reading form, but it is unfortunate that hon. Members did not remember at the time that they would probably want to raise it again on the Report stage. We ought to have some reasonable guarantee that we are not going to have another Debate. That was the observation I was making. We do not want to have another 128 Second Reading Debate when the Report stage is discussed two or three days hence. The House and those interested have decided to take this Bill in a Second-Reading form, and it has been treated in that way by hon. Members on both sides. Therefore I venture to follow them very reluctantly from the Second-Reading point of view. What really are the facts of this case? The hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield) ought to have given the House a little more of the facts as to the way in which the Bill has been treated. As I have said, it has been before a Joint Committee of both Houses, discussed fully from March to June, a large number of witnesses have been heard, the petitioners' points have been discussed at considerable length, and what has happened? Originally it proposed to create eight reservoirs on the banks of the River Thames. The Water Board were well advised when they withdrew reservoir No. 8. Then, later on, Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 were knocked out by the Committee, and the result is that out of the eight original reservoirs three only remain.
I mention that point to dispose of the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Ealing. He took the æsthetic point of view, and said that hon. Members riding along the Bath Road would witness now certain things which from the aesthetic point were objectionable. It is not a Bill for getting rid of existing reservoirs. They are there, and must remain there. The reservoirs as struck out comply with the aesthetic views of the hon. Member. Looking at the map, it will be seen that those nearest to the river, which justified the criticism of the hon. Member, have all been struck out or withdrawn by the committee of the Water Board. So much for the aesthetic argument. It is safe to say of the three remaining in the Bill that they are unobjectionable in site. I am glad to say the Water Board and nearly every other local authority have made up their minds not to make reservoirs as ugly as they have been made, not to bring them so close to rivers, which are a source of profit by virtue of their attractiveness and amenity. We have their guarantee that they will be improved in appearance, and that they will have greater regard to existing amenities than they would have had if such reservoirs had been projected twenty or thirty years ago. The works in connection with them will be so conducted as to do the minimum amount of harm to the interests of those concerned. What are the objections to this Bill? They are 129 quite general, and rather referring to the reservoirs that the Joint Committee have disposed of. No specific injury has been cited and no particular danger pointed out, and the persons whom it was alleged were to be damaged if these reservoirs were to be constructed did not appear before the Joint Committee. That Committee, after listening to all this evidence, declined to consider a hypothetical injury on purely conjectural grounds without having some definite proof of harm being done.
§ Mr. J. BURNS
My answer to that is that the Joint Committee have heard all the evidence and on this Clause they unanimously voted against it, and the evidence to which reference has been made, and with which great play has been made, was that of a gentleman who not only spoke against but voted against this being accepted. The hon. Member and those who support him are under the impression that these reservoirs are to be filled with subterranean water. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] Certainly they create the impression that that is their view and that these reservoirs are to be filled with subterranean water extracted from the immediate vicinity. But the fact is that these are storage reservoirs of water, not got from the immediate district, not from wells or pumps to fill the reservoirs; the only pumping will be in short sections of the drainage done by instalments, thus precluding the possibility of the shortage which hon. Members expect. They have not given the least reason for their apprehensions. The fact is, the greater amount of water found in the trench the shorter the trench will be and the smaller the instalment undertaken. Because economy will lead the contractor to introduce the greatest amount of protection and to have as small holes as possible. The fact is the water of these reservoirs is taken from the Thames by an intake which does not touch subterranean water at all, and will not deplete the local wells. The water is drawn from the river itself and carried by a large conduit into the reservoirs. Some play was made of the evidence of Mr. Bryan, who said that in the course of construction certain water 130 might be tapped. But he said that in connection with reservoirs Nos. 1, 2,3, and 4, all of which have been struck out of the Bill.
Then a picture was drawn of the invidious way in which the small holder and the market gardener were brushed on one side and deference had been shown to the claims of a Noble Lord who had had a Clause given him in this particular Bill. The hon. Member ought to have known that there is a great deal of difference between the claim set up on behalf of the small holders who did not appear and to whom injury has not been proved, and the saving that was voluntarily put in the Water Board's own Bill relating to Lord Fitz-Hardinge. The facts are that five water mains, each forty-eight inches in diameter, are taken right through Lord Fitz-Hardinge's property, right through his water supply, and practically destroy any chance he may have of water, both for his farms and for his adjacent property. This great trench, containing five four-feet pipes side by side, would inflict upon this property damage both actual and prospective, for which it was the duty of the Water Board to make provision. It is only in that sense that differentiation has been made between the small holders and Lord Fitz-Hardinge. The Middlesex County Council alone are complaining of this Bill, but they called only one expert witness, who could give no evidence of special damage, who spoke in general terms, and was unable to quote any precedent for this Clause. If the hon. Member for Ealing would only quote the Lord Chief Justice, accurately he would find that Lord Alverstone, with the care which is typical of that distinguished lawyer, said that he did not in the least doubt that precedents might be found, but that not a single one had been produced.
§ Mr. BURNS
The hon. Member reads out—I do not blame him—only what suits his particular line of defence and argument. He will find on further reference to the Lord Chief Justice that no actual precedent was produced. Even if the hon. Member's interpretation is correct he will find that Lord Kintore spoke in strong terms as to the precedents which had been mentioned not applying to this particular case. After a long and very learned Debate in the House of Lords, on a Motion moved by the Duke of Northumberland, who has local knowledge and experience of 131 what he thought was a grievance to a local body, by 58 votes to 27, a Clause similar to this was rejected.
The last point made was: Is it wise that we should deal with this matter, with what may be a public grievance, in a private Bill? On that, Lord Kintore gave specific reasons why it should not be done. He had adequate reasons for so doing, because Lord MacDonnell, who was chairman of the Commission appointed only a year ago to consider the question of underground water supplies, supported him, and the House of Lords by a decisive majority agreed with both. But they suggested on this and on a previous occasion that an inquiry, not a Commission, should be instituted into this particular subject. On that may I say that the matter was brought to the attention of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords a year ago. As Minister responsible for the settlement on proper lines of some aspects of the question, I took up the suggestion recommended by the Joint Committee, presided over by Lord MacDonnell. We have created a very small sub-department of the Local Government Board, and appointed a competent geologist to make a general inquiry, as short as possible, into the whole of this matter, with a view to the question of underground water supplies in general being dealt with on more satisfactory lines than has hitherto been the case.
But that question is not raised by this Clause this evening. What we as a House of Commons have to consider is this: The House of Commons is asked, at this time of the year by the Middlesex County Council, without damage shown or injury proved by evidence to recommit this great Bill and to subject the Water Board and the public to unnecessary expense, when precisely the same decision would be arrived at—because we are told by the local Members there is a possibility of some people being damnified if these works are carried out. The practical knowledge of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) confirms the view of the engineers of the Water Board, that wells 110 or 150 feet deep will not be affected by this trench or by the construction of these reservoirs. It is not fair that on mere allegations, without evidence to justify the statements made, a public authority like this, who have the greatest possible difficulty in carrying on their vast undertaking, should be still further handicapped without injury proved or cause shown. Quite firmly, I appeal to 132 the House of Commons that created the Water Board and to Members who realise the great difficulty under which that great authority labour, not to handicap them as they would be further handicapped if this Clause were carried and the Bill probably lost. On the ground of economy, on the ground that no injustice to anyone has been demonstrated if these works are carried out, as they will be by the Water Board, along the line of least resistance and with great regard for all local interests, I appeal to the House of Commons not to accept this Clause, but to allow this Bill to go through its Report and Third Reading stages, to give London, through its Water Board, an opportunity of carrying out too long deferred works of storage which are obsolutely necessary for a cheap, permanent, and continuous water supply.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
If the view of the President of the Local Government Board is correct, it will be idle in the future to appeal to this House against the decision of a Committee. He has appealed to us to-night not to send this back to Committee, because the Commit tee will be sure to vote exactly as on a previous occasion. I do not exactly know how he knows that, or what authority he has for suggesting that the Committee would not reconsider this matter, as they would be bound to do if the Bill were sent back to them by this House. The right hon. Gentleman has no right to say that the decision of the Committee must be the same. If I remember rightly, it was only ten days ago that the right hon. Gentleman voted for a Motion to recommit a Bill relating to St. Paul's Bridge. I believe he voted to send that back to Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "HOW did that Committee report?"] That is not the point at all. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman got up in the House and said, "It is no use sending the St. Paul's Bill back to the Committee because the Committee are bound to report the same as they did before." He voted for it. I submit all of us are entitled to consider this question on its merits, and to give the Committee at least credit for believing that they will do what is right if this Bill is sent back to them, and the matter reconsidered—if I may humbly say so—apart from the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman.
After all, his speech has gone very little beyond the old, old arguments which are always used by the official of the day in charge of any Bill in regard to the decision 133 of the Private Bill Committee. That is: "Do not send it back to the Private Bill Committee; that Committee has thoroughly considered it, and they must be right." This House, by its forms, gives those people who feel themselves aggrieved at the decision of the Private Bill Committee the right of appeal to this House. This is the only opportunity the county council of Middlesex, a democratic body, a body which represents the people, a body which is entitled to put its views before the Committee and before this House, has of asking this House to revise the decision of the Committee on this question. The right hon. Gentleman complains that none of these poor people came and gave evidence, and presented petitions against this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well they could not do that. We all know—everybody who has had any experience of private Bill work either inside or outside of this House knows that the only possible opportunity these poor people could have of dealing with that great body, the Metropolitan Water Board, is by the opinion of their representatives of their county council; to get their county council to intervene on their behalf. The county council of Middlesex went into this question fully, and they have intervened. They have asked this House to reconsider this question on behalf of these people, who think that the county council — with great deference to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke —is really in a better position to know the needs of the people of the Thames Valley even than himself, although, I admit, his technical knowledge in the matter of excavations in the Thames Valley is, perhaps, greater than that of the members of the county council. We are asked to let these three reservoirs go through because five have been withdrawn or knocked out. Does not the House see that these five were withdrawn or knocked out because they never ought to have been put in at all? The right hon. Gentleman has no right to claim that as generosity or wisdom on the part of the Metropolitan Water Board. It was an act—I do not want to use harsh language—but well nigh stupidity on the part of the Water Board to put them in, assuming that the Committee was right, and the right hon. Gentleman has asked us to assume that. I appeal to the Committee now from the right hon. Gentleman.
We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that we are under a misapprehension, 134 or trying to put the House under a misapprehension, with regard to the construction of these reservoirs. I listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ealing, and also to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Uxbridge Division. If I may say so—and it is within the recollection of the House—neither of them suggested that these reservoirs were going to be filled with subterranean waters. Nor has it ever been suggested in any of the literature on the subject. Everybody who has read the Bill, and the authorised matter which has been issued, knows perfectly well that the claim is that during the construction, by the act of construction, the underground water would be temporarily drawn away during a period of one, two, or three years.
§ Mr. BURNS
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but if I may, I will read what will justify what I said:—
"The Bill seeks to authorise the construction of reservoirs in West Midde-sex, the admitted effect of which may be to intercept the underground water supply of that area, and so deprive the numerous small holders, etc., of their water."
[An HON. MEMBER: "Where did that come from?"] That is issued on behalf of the Bill of the Water Board. I am quoting from the statement issued on which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing——
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The Bill seeks to authorise the construction of reservoirs, with, as the right hon. Gentleman says, the admitted effect, it may be, of intercepting the water supply, and so depriving the numerous small holders, allotment gardeners and market gardeners of that district of the water now derived from the wells, springs and ponds. The right hon. Gentleman went on to suggest to the House that my hon. Friend put before the House that these reservoirs were going to be filled with subterranean waters. Then he went on to say that it was nothing of the kind. Nowhere in this Bill or in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend is there any suggestion that these reservoirs were going to be filled in that way. The whole gravamen of the case against the Metropolitan Water Board is simply this: that in the course of their construction of these reser- 135 voirs they go down to a depth of ninety or 100 feet, and they will temporarily drain the underground water for a considerable distance. That is admitted. There is no necessity to bring evidence on the part of these cottagers or small holders or allotment gardeners—it is admitted by the promoters of the Bill themselves that this would be the case. Mr. Bryan, the Board's engineer, one of the witnesses, in the evidence on the Wraysbury Reservoir, said that on this point the evidence was general. Mr. Bryan was asked:—I think you told my friend Mr. Hutchinson this morning that during the time your trenches are open through the gravel to the London clay you will have pumping machinery here?—Yes.Is that liable to pump the water out of the surrounding gravel for a radius of some distance?— It is.May I ask what you propose to do in view of that? — It is rather difficult to say what would be the best means, but I should think the putting down of a small temporary pumping station, taking the water from the existing sources, and laying some temporary pipes of supply.Are you prepared, as an engineer, to come under an obligation to supply water if these wells fail?—If it could be proved that these wells failed by reason of our works I think it would be fair that we should supply them with water.Does the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke or the right hon. Gentleman deny that if it can be proved? If it could be proved that these wells failed by reason of the works, I think it would be fair they should be supplied with water. That is all the Middlesex County Council asks. It does not say: "We want to force the Metropolitan Water Board to lay down new supplies for this district whether it is damaged or not." It only says: "If they are damaged and if damage could be shown to have arisen from the action of these works, compensation or a temporary supply should be provided for." I cannot understand why this House should deny such a right whether the persons demanding it are poor or rich. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says there is no precedent for it. I should have thought he would be the last person in the House of Commons to ask for precedent to deal with any hardship put upon any portion of the community. I do not care whether there is precedent for this or not. If there is not, let us make one. If these people are going to be damaged by the action of the Metropolitan Water Board, I say it is the duty of the House of Commons to make a precedent, if necessary, and to see that they are safeguarded against any damage being done them. This is the whole case. We do not say they will be damaged. 136 We say, we believe they will be damaged. The engineer of the Water Board admits they may be damaged. All we ask is, if their engineer is right that damage may take place, the House of Commons should see that adequate but not undue compensation should be provided for those people. And remember that these people are dependent upon their water supply for their livelihood. Practically the whole of them are small holders, allotment gardeners and so forth. I am not pleading for my own Constituency only. There are people in other parts of Middlesex affected, and I ask the House, and it would not take long, to re-commit the Bill to make an expression of their view that this Clause should be inserted. It would not cause the Water Board much hardship, but it would be of incalculable value to the people of this district.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I approach this Bill from the point of view of a consumer living in Middlesex and also as a member of the Middlesex County Council, who deplores the absence of this Clause from the Bill. We have heard a good deal tonight about precedent, but I think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was unfortunate in referring to Lord Alverstone, because when dealing with the question of precedent, Lord Alverstone distinctly says this:—If the noble Duke dealt with the case of the water abstracted by reason of the existence of the reservoir I could not support him. I agree with the noble and learned Viscount opposite that there are many who think that our law has not been sufficiently careful of rights regarding underground water. My noble and learned friend Sir Edward Fry takes a strong view upon that, but I wish to deal only with this particular Amendment. These landowners do not say that when the reservoirs are constructed the result will be that their wells will be drained and that therefore they should receive compensation. As I have said we could not in the present state of the law support that, but it is thought that in the course of the construction of the reservoirs the wells should be temporarily interfered with. They desire temporary protection, and if private Acts are looked through I am confident it will be found that there are many precedents for compensation being allowed where wells are temporarily interfered with during the construction of works.10.0 P.M.
That is to say we can claim Lord Alverstone as saying that there are precedents for such a clause as this. I would like to point out that in this very Bill protection is given to a Noble Lord in the county as compensation for water which he loses. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, if I may say so, was a little more astute than the defenders of this Bill in the House of Lords were. He says there was 137 a difference, and that the noble Lord may suffer such a loss of water because they are going through his land. But Lord Kintore, dealing with that point, is more likely to know the reason why the Clause protecting Lord Fitz-Hardinge stands in this Bill. He did not say the case of Lord Fitz-Hardinge was different from the case of the small holders and occupiers which the Middlesex County Council are asking us to protect. He says:—I pass that by because, as my noble Friend admits, the clause was an agreed one and was attached to the Bill as a manuscript clause when first presented to the Committee.It is said that this was an agreed manuscript Clause attached to the Bill, but Parliament is responsible for all Clauses that go into a Bill, and I, for one, cannot support a Bill which contains a Clause giving a Noble Lord protection on the ground that the Noble Lord is sufficiently powerful to influence the promoters of the Bill to give him the protection that ho wanted, but which does not protect small holders and owners of land in the same vicinity simply because they are not able individually to come to Parliament, but come there through their proper guardians, the Middlesex County Council, which sought to obtain protection for them. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to attempt to draw this distinction between the case of Lord Fitz-Hardinge and those other people, but the engineer admits the possibility of the loss of water to them during the construction of the reservoir. It is not material to say that he was talking about some other reservoir. It is admitted that if you dig a deep trench round a reservoir and pump it in order to make that reservoir you may interfere with other water supplies. Whether that trench was forty feet or 100 feet it is obvious that there is risk of water being withdrawn from the immediate neighbourhood while these pumping operations are going on. If the hon. Member for Stoke and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board are right and that there is really not going to be any loss of water then there can be no objection to this Clause, because it is only if these occupiers can prove loss and damage as the result of these words that there is any reason for compensation at all. I claim the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke, who has practical knowledge, as really being in support of the insertion of the Clause. There is another point. This has been before a Joint Committee. The Joint 138 Committee have carefully considered it, and the right hon. Gentleman says that for months the Joint Committee carefully considered this Bill. What did Lord Kin-tore, the Chairman, say? He did not say they had considered this question and rejected it on its merits. No, he said:—We were not ourselves prepared in a private Bill to take this new departure, involving so large a question of principle, and so in the confident expectation that the matter would be raised in one or other of the Houses of Parliament we decided as a committee to take no action.That Committee threw the responsibility upon this or the other House, and all we ask is that the House shall not overrule the Committee, but accept the invitation of the Committee to give them a direction upon a matter which they preferred as a private Committee not to deal with. Why is that Clause protecting Lord Fitz-Hardinge allowed to stop in the Bill? I maintain that this House cannot support this Bill until that Clause is withdrawn, or, at any rate, until a similar Clause is introduced giving similar protection to the small owners. London and the parts of the county of Middlesex which obtains water from this authority do not expect to get it at the cost of depriving others of water even during a short period of time, whether it is four years or fifty years, while these temporary works are being carried out. If the landowners in the immediate neighbourhood suffer a loss of water the Board should make that good. The engineer said perfectly plainly and honourably that with regard to other reservoirs in this scheme he was prepared to do that, but, of course, they had to fall back upon the lawyers, and it, is now a matter for this House to say whether it will take the engineer's view or not.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
May I appeal to the House to come to a decision upon the Motion now before us. There has been a considerable amount of discussion upon the merits of the Compensation Clause, but I wish to point out that that matter will arise upon a subsequent occasion. Already certain hon. Members have given notice of such a Clause. The Motion moved by the Chairman of Ways and Means is simply to give an additional opportunity on the Report stage, which is the proper occasion for moving such a Clause as the hon. Member has just referred to. This matter is bound to come up on the Report stage and it is for that very reason that the Chairman of Ways and Means has not drawn up this 139 Resolution in the customary form. I may inform hon. Members who do not follow these questions so closely, that the usual practice is where the Bill has been referred to the Joint Committee of the two Houses, that both the stages in the second House are dispensed with. In this case the Chairman of Ways and Means has departed from the usual practice in order to give the Members for Middlesex an opportunity of raising this question on the floor of the House. I think they would be well advised, having now stated their case, not to pursue the matter further but allow this stage to conclude, reserving their right upon the next stage. They have already given notice of their intention on the Blue Paper that they intend to move the insertion of this Compensation Clause. I therefore appeal to the House to proceed with this Motion and allow this matter to come up on the next occasion.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I agree with the Deputy-Chairman that an opportunity will be afforded later on of dealing with this matter, but I do not agree that we ought not to discuss the question now, because it is really a very important one. It is a question which takes away from this House certain powers and gives them to a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons. I am astonished at the hon. Member for Stoke desiring to give powers to the House of Lords of all places in the world, and taking away from this House a stage which we have always had. The President of the Local Government Board is against the recommittal of this Bill because he says it has already been considered by a Committee of Lords and Commons. I know that on two occasions recently the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to override the decision of a committee of his own House, not upon a vital question as to whether people should be deprived of the first necessity of life, that is water, but upon a small question whether a bridge was aesthetic or not. Now the right hon. Gentleman says we must recommit this Bill, because the committee has given a decision upon it. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Stoke takes such a great interest in a decision given by people who are only the sons of their fathers, while the decision of the elected representatives of the people is to be sent back to them. In this extraordinary House of Commons, with everything apparently topsy-turvey, I have never heard such arguments as those to which we have been listening. What is 140 it that is required? The Chairman of Ways and means has made a Motion that one stage shall be dispensed with——
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The effect of the Motion before the House is that this question shall be decided on the floor of the House, and not upstairs.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
How can we, on the floor of the House, hear the expert evidence of the engineers who would be able to say whether what has been said by my hon. Friend below the Gangway can be justified or not? How can we decide such matters here? These are questions which ought to be decided in a Committee, and I think this stage should not be abolished. We cannot decide these questions on the floor of the House at a time when the Government are keeping us here with the Insurance Bill, and various other measures. All small points of this sort are matters for experts, and they should be decided by engineers. We cannot decide whether Jones or Brown is going to suffer from a loss of water supply. It is in a Committee that these questions should be dealt with, and strong supporter as I am of the House of Lords in its original state, and strong supporter as I am of the House of Lords having the power to veto bad legislation by this House, I think it only shows the privileges of this House with regard to its own business right to be safeguarded. They are going to be thrown away by the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters merely for the safety of—well, I really do not know what. Apparently, he is going to appoint a Committee under the Local Government Board to spend our money and to decide whether or not this sort of thing is possible. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but my recollection is quite clear upon that point. He said he was going to appoint a committee of chemists, or something of that sort.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Having appointed an officer at a very good salary, the right hon. Gentleman is going to abide by his decision, and we, the representatives of the people, are not going to have a word. Having said that, there is no need to say anything further. It is bureaucracy run mad.
§ Question, "That the Standing Orders relative to the Committal stage of Private Bills be suspended, and that the Bill be ordered to lie upon the Table," put, and agreed to.