HL Deb 23 May 1879 vol 246 cc1113-28

, in calling attention to the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1877 on the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and to move for Papers, said, he owed an apology to their Lordships for bringing before them a subject on which he was profoundly ignorant three months ago. The accident of a fire in his own house had drawn his attention to the system prevalent in the Metropolis for the protection of life and property against fire. But, in any criticisms which he might make on the system, he wished to be understood as making no complaint whatever of the authorities or individuals who took a part in extinguishing that fire. On the contrary, he could only express his gratitude for the zeal, energy, and courtesy which were shown. He should like to add one word of thankfulness for the sympathy which was shown him and his family, not only by friends, but even by mere acquaintances. He could not pretend that that sympathy was quite universal, because the director of an Insurance Company overheard one person say to another in Pall Mall—"After all, Lord Granville's fire is not a bad thing; it creates work." This idea, that the creation of a necessity for labour was tantamount to a creation of wealth, would have indicated that the speakers were rather anti-Free Traders than Liberals. But he had reason to believe that they belonged to his Party, for when they got opposite the Carlton they agreed that for every reason it would be an excellent thing if that place were burnt down to the ground. The risk of fire was so interesting to all their Lordships that they would forgive him for calling their attention to the Report of the Committee of 1876–7. It was the more important as the recommendations were similar to those of all other Committees and Royal Commissions which had sat on this matter, or on subjects connected with it—among others, a Commission presided over by his noble Friend the Lord President of the Council (the Luke of Richmond and Gordon). The recommendations were almost identical with those of the Society of Arts, which were of great value, as the work was chiefly carried on by experts and specialists, who had leave from the Government to examine official witnesses. The Report of the Committee gave an interesting account, which he would not repeat, of the system for dealing with tires which existed previous to 1865. It was almost incredible that, up to that date, the only legal provision for protecting life and property from fire was an obligation upon the Metropolitan parishes to keep fire engines, but with no corresponding obligation upon anyone to work them. There was a body of firemen, who had no public character, but were maintained by some of the Insurance Companies, for the extinction of fires only in the central parts of the town, and there was a charitable society which owned a certain number of fire-escapes. In 1865, an improvement was effected by the creation of the Fire Brigade as a municipal institution under the superintendence of the Metropolitan Board of Works. But the Committee reported that although the expenditure of the Board had been, on the whole, judicious, they were always hampered by want of means, and that the Brigade, though the men were efficient and well officered, was quite inadequate in numbers. In London, with a population of 3,500,000, the Brigade consisted of 406 men; in Paris, with a population under 2,000,000, the firemen numbered 1,548; in New York and Brooklyn, with a combined population of about 1,350,000, there were 2,300 firemen. The system there was expensive, but perfect. Mr. Lyon Playfair, who had lately been in the United States, had written to him the following description:— The American system for fires is very elaborate. 1. Many private houses have direct communication with the nearest police office by telegraph wire. You have on this four signals—(a) alarm of fire, (b) send a cab, (c) send a commissioner, (d) send the police—a robbery or crime. 2. Every small district has a fire alarm attached to a convenient house, on the outside. The alarm is locked, but the house to which it is attached keeps the key, and each policeman on the beat has a key. Your house is on fire and you rush to this box, open it, pull a wire, which tells the central office that there is a fire close to this district box. 3. The Central Office now does the following. It telegraphs to the district fire-engine office and to the neighbouring Alliance offices that there is a fire, say in district 500. I have been in these offices when an alarm arrives, and have seen the operation. An alarm bell rings and the telegraph at the same moment loosens the horses in their stalls. The horses, being trained to obey the alarm, instantly turn round and rush to their places in the fire engine. By the time the men have put on their accoutrements the horses are in place and only require to be hocked to the engine. 4. Of course the efficiency of all fire arrangements depends upon there being a system of constant supply in the mains and in the houses. This is precisely the great want in London, and until it is given to us London will be far behind other great towns in protection from fire. In London there was no unity of management. Of those who took part officially in dealing with a fire there were the police, who were almost always the first on the spot. In our great provincial towns they at once applied a hose to a hydrant of which they had the key, and thus constantly themselves put out the fire in the room in which it originated. In London they had no power to extinguish the fire. Their business was only to arouse the inmates of the place on fire, to summon help, and to keep order. The fire Brigade—a body entirely separate, under the orders of the Metropolitan Board—when they arrived were frequently helpless until the turncock came. He was the private servant of one of eight Water Companies, who were governed by their own special Acts, with independent areas, separate systems of pipes, and peculiar regulations. They were under no obligation to supply sufficient water for the extinction of fires. They were only bound to give gratuitously what happened to be there. There was no connection between their water services, no means of sustaining pressure or of concentrating the whole power of the water service of the Metropolis upon one spot. The Salvage Corps was another separate body under the orders of the Insurance Companies. It might be said this arrangement sounded anomalous, but it worked well. It was most creditable to the energy and zeal of those concerned that it worked at all. It would be well worth the while of any of their Lordships to visit the central office of the Fire Brigade. It was im- possible to imagine a finer race of men, or a more intelligent system of discipline, and application of means to ends. But the system itself was bad, and did not work well when compared with those places where unity prevailed. In the evidence taken by the Committees of 1846 and 1847, by the Committee of Inquiry of the Society of Arts, and by the Committee of the Corporation of London that visited Manchester, it was shown that there were in proportion three times more loss of life and property in London than in those towns where unity prevailed. In one, the rule was for the house to be burnt; in the other, only the room. Their Lordships would remember what a serious percentage that was, when it was considered how many more lives were lost, and how much more property was destroyed by fire than by any human violence or robbery. This saving of life and property in the provincial towns was partly owing to concentration of management, partly to the constant supply of water, and the fact that hydrants were placed in all the mains, and in the houses themselves. The conclusions of the Select Committee were 12. But as six of them were either matters of detail or related to theatres, and had already been to some degree obeyed, he would only trouble their Lordships with the following six:— That the statutory arrangements for the extinction of fires in the metropolis, whereby the Fire Brigade is administered by the Metropolitan Board of Works, two separate police forces exist side by side, and the water supply is sectionally furnished by eight independent companies, are not such as to furnish adequate protection to life and property, and contrast unfavourably with provincial systems, where the Fire Brigade, water supply, and police are under a single authority; and that consolidation of management, so far as is practicable, is urgently required. That the Fire Brigade should be transferred from the Metropolitan Board to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, so however as to constitute a distinct branch to be placed under the immediate command of a separate assistant commissioner, and to be authorized to act within the city of London, as well as in the metropolis. That the police stations and the fixed points should be used as Fire Brigade stations, or as places were small engines or other appliances should be deposited, and that all police constables, both of the metropolis and city, should be auxiliary to the Fire Brigade, but that, as now, each force should be empowered to act only within its own jurisdiction except on a special requisition. That hydrants should, without delay, be affixed to mains and service pipes wherever there is a constant supply, and should follow the extension of such supply. That the water systems now belonging to the various companies should be consolidated in the hands of a public authority, which, in dealing with the questions of constant supply, pressure, and pipage, should be bound to have regard not only to the convenience of consumers, but also to the requirements for the extinction of fire. That effect should be given by the Legislature to these recommendations. With regard to the amalgamation of the Fire Brigade with the police, the Committee came to the same opinion after hearing conflicting evidence as previous Committees had done. The à priori reasons were conclusive. By the unity of authority over the police force and the water supply, you saved time. Time was the one important tiling in extinguishing a fire. It was Mr. Braidwood's maxim that it was upon the first five minutes that the matter depended. In the theatrical evidence, it was stated that the best fire-engine in a theatre was the carpenter's cap—a saying which aptly illustrated how infinitesimal the effort required at first was compared with the power necessary when a fire has got ahead. The fireman could only come when he was summoned. The policeman was, comparatively speaking, everywhere. One of the matters the most difficult to deal with were the intentional fires. The immediate presence of the policeman on the spot where the fire began would allow of proofs of design being obvious, which would be otherwise obliterated by the progress of the flames. Mr. Chadwick, who had given such invaluable attention to this subject, had written powerfully in support of the theory that it was wise to increase, as much as possible, those attributes of the policeman which were altogether popular, and made him a persona grata to the people. He knew of no country where the police, from the services which they had rendered, were looked upon with so much favour as in this country. The strength they derived from the moral co-operation of the population could not be over-estimated. It was wise to encourage this feeling in every way. As to an amalgamated system of water supply which would enable a non-intermittent flow of water to the whole area of the Metropolis, its advantages for the protection of life and property against fire, and in favour of public health, were self-evident; and when it had been proved to the satisfaction of the Committee of 1876–7—and, indeed, of all the other Committees and Commissions—that this could be done with diminished expenditure, with less waste of water, and with a cutting-off of the most unwholesome sources of supply, it seemed incredible that there should be delay in carrying out such urgent work. He could not deny that the economy of money and of water, and the possibility of a constant supply of water, had been questioned. He might, if he chose, give their Lordships all the proofs and calculations from the volumes before him that this economy and this constant supply could be obtained; but he asked their Lordships to take it, not from an individual like himself, but from the Reports of the various inquiring bodies, that such was the case. The last conclusion of the Committee of 1876–7 was that effect should be given by the Legislature to the recommendations of the Committee, a conclusion proposed by Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson, not in his individual capacity, but as Representative of the Home Office. It was unanimously adopted by the Committee. When, therefore, he gave Notice of his Motion of that day, he had every reason to hope for a favourable reply from Her Majesty's Government; but since that time an important deputation from (ho London Vestries had waited upon the Secretary of State (Mr. Cross) to represent the great and increasing grievance to the ratepayers of the Metropolis under the present system, and to urge the consolidation of the eight Companies, with a view to an economy of money and an adequate supply of good water. Mr. Cross was reported to have announced that, with regard to dealing with such legal powers as the Companies possessed, Parliament never interfered, excepting to carry out any arrangement that might have been made, and, apparently, left the responsibility on the Vestries of making such an arrangement. That gave him (Earl Granville) some anxiety as to the answer of the noble Earl (Earl Beauchamp) who represented the Department. It was impossible that the noble Earl should, on behalf of the Home Office, impugn on their merits the value of the recommendations of the Committee, which, in the circumstances he (Earl Granville) had stated, must be considered as the opinion of the Office on the abstract merits of the question. But if the noble Earl urged delay, he (Earl Granville) could only say there was every possible objection to it. If, as was the opinion of the Committee, the London system entailed three times greater sacrifice of life and property than those systems where unity prevailed, the necessity for immediate action was overwhelming. Besides, every year's delay added enormously to the pecuniary difficulty of an arrangement with the vested interests of the Companies. Every year would add something like £1,750,000 to the sum which had to be paid. It was out of the question that the Vestries, who had nothing to do with the police, who had no special knowledge on the matter, or skilled officers to advise them, and who were generally engaged in business affairs, should have the task of settling the terms and mode of purchasing the means of supplying water to the Metropolis. The noble Duke the Lord President of the Council (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) and his Commission reported that— Such technical details could only be carried out by competent professional skill, and that this must be carefully determined under the guidance of the experience gained in the process of the change. The Metropolitan Board failed to treat with the Water Companies, who declined to negotiate with them, and had twice been discouraged by the Government from doing so. The privileges and powers of the Companies had been confirmed under the sanction of the Government. They were exercised under the supervision of Government Departments and Government officers, of a Government Auditor, and a Government Surveyor, formerly under the Board of Trade, now under the Local Government Board. It was the practice of the Government to give its assistance in this matter. To take one instance, there was the Commission for the consolidation of roads of upwards of 100 parishes, under a Royal Commission or Road Trust, which worked remarkably well. He doubted whether there would be any insuperable difficulties in coming to a speedy arrangement with the Water Companies. Compulsory powers to deal with vested interest on behalf of life, property, and the public health of the Metropolis were clearly as justifiable as those for improving the railway communications of the country. In both cases there must be no confiscation. There must, on the contrary, be liberal compensation. The difficulty of coming to an agreement ought to be much diminished—first, by the fact that the shareholders did not now profit at all in proportion to the increasing rates to which the consumers of water wore subject; and, second, that Parliament had in numerous instances settled the principles on which such compensation should be given—namely, 25 years' purchase of the highest net dividend, with an allowance for compulsory purchase; and also, on arbitration, an allowance for prospective advantages. If his noble Relative, in his answer, threw more or less cold water upon him, such as was supplied now by some of the London Companies; if he declined, on the part of the Home Office, to take any initiative on such a pressing and urgent question—he must appeal to Cassar—to the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government (the Earl of Beaconsfield); but he was afraid that Caesar had just left the House. Not many years ago, the noble Earl publicly begged the civil engineers to direct their attention to the improvement of the public health, and he suggested as a subject most' worthy of their consideration the supply of water to London. He was told the noble Earl also encouraged Colonel Beresford to propose a Bill for the purpose even before the Select Committee had sat, and he knew that it was a proud boast of the noble Earl at the commencement of his Administration that the public health would be the principal care of his Government. He did not think there could be a better way of redeeming such a pledge than by carrying out the recommendations of the Committee, which dealt with a matter of great urgency as regarded, life, property, and public health. In conclusion, the noble Earl moved for the production of Papers relating to the subject.

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for Correspondence between the Society of Arts and the Secretary of State for the Home Department respecting the Water Supply of the Metropolis."—(The Earl Granville.)


said, there was no doubt, as the noble Earl (Earl Granville) had said, that the Prime Minister had always taken a great interest in questions relating to the public health, and he was duly impressed with the importance of the question now before their Lordships. It was impossible, however, to promise immediate redress of the grievances which the noble Earl had set forth in his speech. It was true the Committee to which the noble Earl had called attention was presided over by Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson; but when propositions which appeared most desirable in the abstract came to be put into operation, other considerations had to be taken into account. The management of the administration of fires was a question full of difficulty. Since the Eire Brigade was constituted and placed under the control of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the statistics showed the progress it had made. In 1866 there were 1,338 fires, and in 1875 there were 1,529; but in 1866, out of the 1,338 fires, 326 were of a serious character, and 1,012 were slight. That was the state of matters before the Metropolitan Board of Works took charge. In 1875, out of 1,529, 163 were fires of a serious character, and 1,366 were slight. It would, therefore, be seen that in the 10 years the proportion of serious fires had fallen from 25 per cent to 11 per cent, showing that a more efficient system had been brought into operation, by which fires were sooner detected and their mischief more thoroughly mitigated; and there was no reason to suppose that the progress made in those years had come to a conclusion. When it was asked that the Fire Brigade should be placed under the police, it must be remembered that there were two police forces in the Metropolis—that under the City of London, and that under the Secretary of State. The City of London had always been jealous of interference with its police, and the time had not been arrived at for subordinating their police to the Secretary of State. Unless, therefore, it could be shown that the present arrangement was incompatible with the public welfare, the City of London police should nut be lightly interfered with. It had also been recommended that a second body should be created, and subordinated to the Commissioner of Police. It must be evident that if it was possible for the police to afford greater facilities than they did at the present time, they must have a separate organization and separate training for those who were really to cope with difficulties arising at fires. But he did not see what advantage was to be gained from this recommendation. The amalgamation of the Water Companies was a very large question. It had been certainly estimated that the sum of £20,000,000 would be required to buy up the rights of the Companies. That made the money question a very serious one. He might remind the noble Earl that besides the great question of capital, the Committee had recommended that there should be a constant supply throughout the day, and that, it had been estimated, would cost not less than £250,000. No doubt it was possible to frame a measure which would satisfy the Companies; but whether a measure which would satisfy the Companies would satisfy the Metropolis was a different question. The progress of Business in the House of Commons during the last two or three years had not been such as to make it very desirable to introduce measures without a reasonable prospect of carrying them, and he was sure that such a measure as this would undergo a severe and searching examination. But that was not a matter which should deter the Government from dealing with the question. No doubt, when the time arrived for dealing with the subject, the Report of the Committee, to which reference had been made, would form the basis of legislation; but the question was one of such a grave and important character, that it would be rash for the Government to take it up unless they saw their way to carry it to a successful and a speedy conclusion. No one could be more sensible than himself (Earl Beauchamp) of the terrible consequences that would follow a conflagration in the densely-populated districts of the Metropolis where so much wealth was stored, and he freely admitted that the noble Earl, with whose loss he fully sympathized, had done good service in bringing the subject before the House.


said, that the noble Earl on his side of the House (Earl Granville) could not be congratulated on the effect of his speech, as it had failed to obtain from the Government any dis- tinct pledge. No one expected that the Government would undertake immediate legislation; but anything more hopeless than the views expressed by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Beauchamp) it was impossible to conceive; and he (Lord Aberdare) very much regretted the noble Earl had not held out some hope of a speedy termination to the state of affairs which had been complained of. The noble Earl could not pretend to say for a moment that by delay they would gain further information. Royal Commissions and Committees of both Houses had more than once insisted that, in order to insure the rapid extinction of fires and a constant supply of pure water to the Metropolis, the Water Companies should be amalgamated. The Royal Commission of 1869 laid it down in the clearest way that the control of the water supply of London should be intrusted to a responsible public body. The expediency of uniting the Water Companies under one controlling head was amply demonstrated in the Report of that Commission, various reasons being given for the adoption of the course which was advocated. That course, the Commission stated, could alone effectually insure to the Metropolis a constant supply of water for domestic purposes as well as for the extinction of fires. Again, by its adoption the poor would be provided with proper water. An attempt, he might remind their Lordships, had been made by the late Government to secure this advantage for the poorer classes, and considerable pressure had been brought to bear upon the Companies by the Bill of 1871, which had, he was glad to say, resulted in some improvement. The advantage of a constant water supply was, however, by no means universally enjoyed by the poor. Some of the Companies had exerted themselves; but there remained one which had done nothing at all, and two which had done very little. The Commission to which he had referred also enumerated among the advantages of the system which they proposed for adoption that it would result in uniformity of management, and in improvement in the quality of the water supplied. It would, he thought, be allowed that the places in which a fire would be most likely to spread were just those where it would be most difficult to procure an adequate supply of water under the existing system. They had it on high authority that they could not make satisfactory arrangements for the extinction of fire if they had not a constant water supply at their command. He regretted, however, to say that the Government had taken no step towards giving effect to there commendations contained in the Report. The Metropolis and its suburbs contained a population exceeding that of Scotland, and yet they were behind one of the chief cities of Scotland as regarded the means of extinguishing fire.


said, that it was unfair in noble Lords to complain of the Government for not promising legislation on this subject at a fixed time, when those who complained were continually striving to expel them from office. The Government did not promise, but had often carried measures which their opponents had failed to make practical. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) had alluded to the importance of an early extinction of fires. He (Lord Denman) wished that in every house there were a small portable gas or steam apparatus, which at an early stage of a fire might subdue it. He believed that the Government would effectually deal with the important question before their Lordships; but they could not be expected to do so in the present state of Public Business during the present Session.


said, that the question now under consideration had been before the public for the last 30 years. It was quite time that it was settled. The present water supply of the Metropolis was perfectly shameful. There were some districts of London in which the houses were of such a construction, that if a fire broke out it would be like the Great Fire of London in the extent of its devastation. He spoke feelingly on this subject, having, more than 30 years ago, been Chairman of the Board of Health which proposed a scheme for the remedying of the evil. That it was an efficient remedy was proved by the fact that the Water Companies rose as one man against it. One of the results was that the Board was dissolved with a large amount of contempt, and ceased to exist. The evil, however, went on. Government after Government had had the question before them, but nothing had been done. During the course of his investigations in the East of London, at the period to which he referred, he found men drinking the most detestable beer, and he asked them why they did so? and they replied to the effect that the beer was bad, but the water was worse. Bodies created by Act of Parliament should be taught that there was a body superior to them; and he could not too earnestly press upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity of dealing, and that promptly, with a matter which seriously affected the morals, the health, and the happiness of many thousands of their fellow-subjects.


said, that he, also, had tasted some of the water supplied at the East End of London, and had found it to be very bad. He wished to enforce upon Her Majesty's Government the urgent importance of taking the question into their consideration. In the year 1852 the property of the Water Companies was valued at something like £8,000,000 sterling; now, however, the valuation was £26,000,000. Some of those Companies were extending their works, to supply an increased population, and did so very willingly. "Coming events cast their shadows before," and the Water Companies know that, at no distant day, that which was being done by great city after great city, and even by small town after small town—namely, the supply by the local authority to them of water and gas—would be done in this great Metropolis. Delay would only make the terms more onerous. The economies, however, of consolidation and the suppression of secretaries, solicitors, and other functionaries of the Companies would be sufficient to pay the interest on the cost of securing an efficient and constant supply of water at high pressure. In Manchester, when an alarm of fire was given, the mains being charged with water at high pressure, the police had nothing to do but to attach hose to a stand-pipe and turn a stream of water on the fire. He ventured to hope that the Government would seriously entertain this question, being assured that there was a large margin for economy and efficiency. We might have water less cold in winter and less warm in summer through being carried further underground, out of the reach of the frost and of the sun; and, with these agreeable and convenient changes, we might have greater security to life and property than at present.


said, that one would think, from a remark of the noble Earl who I had just addressed their Lordships (Earl Fortescue), that it was the easiest thing in the world to supply the Metropolis with water; but the noble Earl had not suggested how it was to be done. The Commission over which he had presided was appointed to inquire into the feasibility of two schemes proposed by Mr. Bateman and Mr. Hassard, one for bringing water from Wales, and the; other from Cumberland. The Commission sat for a considerable time, took a great deal of evidence, and spared no pains in coming to the conclusions which they embodied in their Report. Having had an opportunity of reflecting on those conclusions, he saw no reason for differing from them. The matter was one of great difficulty, and required careful consideration before any practical conclusion could be arrived at. It had been said that, for the sake of the morals, health, and cleanliness of the people, the Government should at once bring in a measure to carry out the object desired; but the question was, how were they to meet the difficulties with which the question was beset? That was the point on which information was wanted. It had been suggested that the Water Companies should be purchased; but the question that had to be settled was, how were those Companies to be purchased? With a view to these undertakings being bought up, it would be necessary to create a body having the confidence of the ratepayers, because the rates would have to be charged for the cost of such a purchase. The difficulty of the question would, doubtless, be admitted by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Aberdare), who, though he was Home Secretary after the Report of the Commission was made, shrank from taking any large step for the creation of a body to provide water for the whole of the Metropolis.


explained that he introduced a Bill, but it was found to be impossible to carry it in the Session.


said, it was true that the noble Lord did bring in a Bill which proposed to place the matter in the hands of the Metropolitan Board; but he found the mode in which he proposed to deal with the question was not practicable, and the subject so difficult, that he did not attempt to deal with it in any future Session on a scale large enough to meet the requirements of the case. With regard to the police, consisting of City police and Metropolitan police, were these bodies to be united for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the water supply? Again, how could they form the City of London and other parts of the Metropolis into one body, in order to buy up all the Water Companies? These were some of the difficult questions which had to be considered. One of the reasons which induced him to dissent from the proposals of the gentlemen whose schemes were laid before the Commission to which he had referred, was that he did not think it advisable to supply London from one source only. This matter had engaged the constant attention of the Home Secretary (Mr. Assheton Cross), who, regarding it as one of immense importance, would be the first to do something, if he saw his way, to introduce a satisfactory measure, giving an efficient supply of water. The steps which his right hon. Friend had taken in dealing with the Artizans' Dwellings, and other questions of that kind, at all events showed that he was keenly alive to the wants of the poorer classes. It was because his right hon. Friend saw the enormous difficulties which surrounded the question that he did not feel able to bring in a satisfactory measure; but, at the same time, it was a question which was now under his consideration.


said, the inhabitants of the Metropolis would derive but small consolation from what had been said on behalf of the Government, and more water had been poured down the back of the noble Earl (Earl Granville) than he could get at his house when he wanted it. He (the Earl of Camperdown) admitted that the question was not an easy one to deal with; but Governments had solved greater difficulties than the purchase of the undertakings of a few Water Companies. It was quite as difficult to acquire the Telegraph Companies; but that was successfully achieved. Everyone would admit that this was not a Party question, and that the common object was to get as good, efficient, and cheap water supply as possible for the Metropolis. Of course, it would be necessary to have a central authority which would command the confidence of the ratepayers, and surely the Home Secretary was quite competent to create such an authority. Whatever Board of Management might be elected, it would certainly not possess the confidence of the ratepayers in a less degree than did the present Water Companies. The property of the Companies could, of course, only be acquired by means of a compulsory Act. Any voluntary arrangement that might be proposed by the district Boards of the Metropolis would have no effect but to enhance the value of the Companies' shares. There were many reasons why the water supply of the Metropolis should be in the hands of a single body; but it would probably suffice to mention two. These were, first, that the present supply of water was inadequate, and that it would be necessary to supplement it at no distant time—a duty which they would surely never intrust to the present Companies; and, second, that the Companies seemed to have the power of doubling or trebling their rates without conferring any corresponding benefit upon the ratepayers. Four or five years ago, when the present Metropolitan Valuation Act was coming into force, he foresaw that the Companies might raise their charges in consequence of it; but the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) said it was not the intention of the Government to confer upon them any additional rating powers. Nevertheless, legally or illegally, the Companies did raise their charges on that occasion all over the Metropolis, without the slightest benefit resulting to the consumers; and he had received hundreds of letters asking him to do his best to prevent the recurrence of such an anomaly, which Parliament could never have intended to allow. As the present Motion could lead to nothing, he reserved to himself the right of proposing a Resolution on this subject on some future day.

Motion agreed to.