§ Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said, he desired to propose some Amendments to the Bill. It was a Bill promoted by one of the Metropolitan Water Companies, asking Parliament to give it additional powers in respect of the extension of their boundaries and certain other matters, and especially to give them additional powers of entry for the purpose of cutting off the water supply. It appeared to him that, in the present state of the water question, and under existing circumstances, they ought to be very careful how they bestowed additional powers on Water Companies, without having any guarantees that these powers should be used in a reasonable way, and also to see that the public were reasonably protected. For this purpose he proposed to add two clauses to the Bill; but he would take one at a time. The first which he would move was to the effect that the Company should send quarterly or half-yearly to every person liable to the payment of water rates a note containing the figures of which the sum total was made up, including the annual value taken by the Company. Not till this note was delivered should payment by the consumer become due. One of the chief grounds of misunderstanding between the consumers and the Company would thus be removed.
Moved, after Clause 11, to insert the following Clause:—
From and after the passing of this Act the Company shall send in, either quarterly or half-yearly to every person liable or about to become liable to the payment of water-rate a claim or demand note containing or accompanied by the particulars by which the sum total claimed is made out, including the annual value on which the percentage charge is levied as well as any additional items or particulars of charge, and upon, but not until, the delivery of such claim or demand note the payment by the consumer shall become due and the rights of the Company shall become enforceable." — (The Earl of Camperdown.)
said, that the suggestion of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Camperdown) had been subitted to the Committee to which this Bill was referred, and of which he (Lord Romilly) was the Chairman; but, after fully considering it, they had come to the conclusion that it ought not to be inserted, on the grounds that this was the first time such a clause had been proposed to be inserted in a Water Bill, and that there ought to be a Bill containing the clause applying generally to all Water Companies.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
said, that, as being also a Member of the Committee referred to, he objected to the insertion of a clause of this nature on the third reading of a Bill, which was supposed to be rather a formal proceeding.
§ LORD BRAMWELL
said, he would point out that the Company to whom the Bill referred had not the slightest objection to give particulars of their demands—in point of fact, they had been carrying out the practice for the last six months; but they objected to the difficulty they would experience if this clause was inserted, and they said it would throw upon the Company the burden of proving the delivery of the notice, which might not be a very easy matter in cases where the customers desired to evade payment. To his mind, it would give encouragement to fraudulent proceedings; and, besides, it would not affect all Water Companies alike; and, therefore, their Lordships ought not to impose this obligation on this Company alone, the matter being at this time a subject of much controversy. Besides that consideration, he might explain, with regard to the extension of the supply, that the Company had had a district assigned to it and statutory powers, but had gone beyond that district at the request of those who wished to be supplied by it 1582 with water. That might be ultra vires on their part; but, as far as the public were concerned, there was nothing illegal in it. He trusted that their Lordships would not impose this liability upon the Company.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
said, that the Local Government Board were quite prepared to give their support to the clause.
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES)
said, that, in his opinion, it would not be right to insert such a clause in the Bill, especially upon the third reading; but that the question should be dealt with in a general measure.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that while he quite agreed with the object aimed at by the insertion of the clause, he doubted the expediency of dealing with a particular Company in an exceptional manner. He would recommend that the subject should be dealt with by a separate Bill.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said, that it had been asked why he had introduced legislation affecting one single Water Company only. The reason was, that this Company was now coming to Parliament for additional powers; and, if any others had been doing the same, he would have made the same proposition with regard to them. They had been told that this should be done by general legislation. He had proposed to do so, but had been told that it was a private matter; and that, unless Notice was given in October or November, and all the expense undertaken of a Private Bill, he could not make a proposal at all with regard to the Metropolitan water supply. The machinery of the House seemed made for the protection of the Water Companies. All that he proposed was, that consumers should know what they were paying for; and he was quite willing that the clause should be modified, so that the service of the notice would not have to be proved. They were told that the Company had been doing this for the last six months; if that were the case, he could not see what objection there could be to their being bound to do it by Statute.
§ On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 44; Not-Contents 48: Majority 4.
§ Amendment disagreed to.1583
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said, that he would not trouble their Lordships by moving any other Amendment in the Bill.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
, in reference to an observation which had fallen from, the noble Earl (the Earl of Camperdown) as to the difficulty which stood in his way when he proposed to deal with that subject by the general law, said, he wished to say that he more than doubted whether, according to the true and rational construction of the Standing Orders, there was any such difficulty. If, indeed, the Standing Orders had any such effect as the noble Earl supposed, they ought to be amended and revised; and he hoped that the noble Earl would give his attention to that matter.
§ Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.