HL Deb 20 July 1875 vol 225 cc1731-4

asked whether it is intended, on each successive re-valuation of the Metropolis for parochial purposes, to confer upon the Metropolitan Water Companies additional rating powers without reference to the water supply; and, if not, also how it is proposed to prevent such powers accruing to the water companies under the re-valuation which will come into force in April, 1876? The noble Earl said, this was a question of great importance in relation to the supply of water to the metropolis. Under the provisions of the Act of 1869—commonly called Mr. Goschen's Act—there was every five years a re-valuation of the property of the metropolis for local and Imperial purposes. The first valuation under the Act came into force in April, 1871, and the next, which was now undergoing revision and arrangement, would come into operation on the 5th April, 1876. Now, in so far as the parochial and Imperial taxation were concerned, if all owners and occupiers in the metropolis were placed on the same basis respectively, it could make no difference to anyone in particular; but as regarded the question of the Water Companies, it was entirely different, as their rates were not contemplated by the Act of 1869. The Water Companies based their system of rating upon the "annual value" of the houses—and these words they sought to construe—whether legally or not he did not know—as the "gross annual value;" whereas the rating of the vestries was the annual value after deductions, or "the annual rateable value." The practical consequence was that the householders of the metropolis were rated for their water supply on a different basis from that on which they were rated for local and Imperial purposes, and the Water Companies obtained a much larger sum as rates, than, on the other supposition, they were entitled to. In consequence of the great increase in the gross annual value under the re-valuation of 1871, the basis of the water rates was very largely increased, though the companies supplied the same article and the same quantity, and if nothing should be done before next year the water rates would be again increased, and by those means the profits of the companies would be largely augmented. He therefore desired to know whether the Government intended to take any steps to prevent the Water Companies from increasing their charges, merely on the ground of an increased valuation of property.


The rating powers which the Metropolitan Water Companies possess are conferred by their private or local Acts, and generally speaking they are limited to a rate not exceeding 10 per cent on the annual value of the property supplied by them with water. The question as to what constitutes annual value is one for determination by the Justices. The Acts do not define whether it is "gross rental" or "rateable value." In a very recent case before the Common Pleas the New River Company claimed to base their rate upon the annual value as determined by the valuation lists; but the Court declined to express any opinion upon that point, and decided against the Company on another ground. It is not intended by the Government to confer any additional powers of rating on the Metropolitan Water Companies; and even supposing that the water rates could be held to be regulated by the valuation lists, it is impossible to say, before those lists are finally approved and come into force, whether the value of the house property in the metropolis will be generally raised or not so as to affect the water rates.


submitted that the power to make the additional rating, as he had pointed out, would accrue to Water Companies unless something should be done by Parliament, and it would be too late to wait until next year.


said, that so far as the re-valuation of property raised all persons alike for parochial and Imperial purposes, none were placed in a worse position than others; but the Water Companies increased their rates and charges according to the increased valuation, although they supplied neither more nor better water. All persons knew that property in London was increasing in value, and no sooner did the reassessment show that to be the case than up went the water rates. Some limit ought to be put upon the Companies.


said, that this was a matter of very great importance to occupiers, and that, unless something should be done, great injustice would be inflicted by the Water Companies upon those whom they supplied with water. He contended that the supply of water should be taken out of the hands of the Companies and transferred to some public authorities.


pointed out that rents and rates increased as other things increased, and that in all probability the outlay of the Companies being greater, the additional income they received was not an unmixed advantage to them. At the same time, it might, no doubt, be necessary for Parliament to interfere if it appeared that the rates were raised in a manner which had not been contemplated. As to taking the supply out of the hands of the Companies, such a policy at the present day would be Utopian; but it was to be regretted that our forefathers had not shown more wisdom in the matter.


observed that the object of the Metropolis Valuation Act had been to make the valuations fairer and not to increase there rates.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, Eleven o'clock.