§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading, read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a" —(The Earl of Derby.)
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
, in rising to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a third time that day six months, said: My Lords, In pursuance of the Notice I have given, I now move that this Bill be read a third time this day six months; and I may say I have put that Notice on the Paper at the request of several noble Friends of mine who take a deep interest in this question. I should not for one moment have thought of putting such a Notice on the Paper if the Bill had been a Water Bill of the ordinary character; but, so far from that, the Bill comes to us from a Committee of your Lordships' House, recommended, not as a Bill of ordinary character, but recommended to your Lordships' adoption upon grounds of public policy. Now, my Lords, this Bill which is so recommended involves a novel principle, and the public policy which is to be found in this Bill is neither more nor less than this—the substitution of a municipal monopoly in the matter of water supply—the compulsory substitution of a municipal monopoly for private enterprize. Now, my Lords, the Committee do not assert, or in any way say, that the Water Company, which for many years has provided water to Sheffield, has been in any way wanting in its duty. They do not say the Company have been guilty of providing an insufficient supply, or accuse them of overcharges, or of providing impure water. So far from that, in consequence of the way in which this Company has dealt with Sheffield in the matter of its water supply, the Committee of your Lordships' House say that they hope the Company will be 151 liberally treated when it comes to a question as to what sum is to be paid to them if this compulsory power is given to the Corporation. Now, my Lords, I think it is possible that an attempt may be made to induce your Lordships to assent to this Bill, which, I venture to say, contains a very novel and, I think, very dangerous and hurtful principle, on the ground that the purchase of works of an existing private enterprize only applied to a locality—that it only applies to Sheffield—and that, therefore, not being a general Bill, your Lordships may agree to pass a measure. Supposing such an argument is used? It is an argument with which your Lordships, by this time, ought to be familiar. It is an old friend with a new face and with a new name; but still it is the old argument of exceptional legislation. Well, my Lords, we know how—when exceptional legislation is passed in favour of any case—the evil grows. Noble Lords who come from other places besides Ireland know how evil principles introduced into legislation under the guise of exceptional circumstances have spread to Scotland; and they are showing themselves in the Metropolis in reference to leaseholds. Therefore, I wish your Lordships to treat this question—as I think it should present itself to your Lordships—as a great question of principle, and to treat it, not in its local, but in its general application. My Lords, I have very much doubt, if this Bill is passed, whether Sheffield will be greatly benefited by its becoming law. It so happens that other Corporations besides Sheffield have dealt with water, as they have with gas, in the United Kingdom for many years; and although these Corporations have prospered in their dealings with gas, yet they have failed and lost money in their dealings with water. For instance—and I believe they themselves admit it—the Manchester Corporation, who took up the water supply of Manchester in the year 1858, have, up to the present time, lost £110.000. The town of Bury—a town with which my noble Friend who was Chairman of this Committee (the Earl of Derby) is connected — that Town Council also took up the supply of water, and it has lost £3,000 in so doing; and your Lordships must remember that these are losses which came upon the rates generally. They are made up by 152 extra charges on the borough funds, which applies to people who, in many cases, do not benefit by the water. Therefore, my Lords, it is not always Corporations who are successful in their trading, and although they have succeeded in gas, they have failed in water; and I very much doubt whether the town of Sheffield will, under this Bill, be bettor supplied with water than it has been by the private enterprize of the Water Company, which it is now intended compulsorily to abolish. With reference to the trading by Corporations, I should like to ask why they should be confined to gas and water? Gas is not such a necessity of life as bread or clothing; and, that being so, why should not Corporations—if they are to become traders—deal in clothes, and keep tailors' shops? Why should they not keep bakers' shops and butchers' shops, and. deal in anything which is necessary to life? Why should they not keep a great store like the Army and Navy Stores in London? This Bill is brought before your Lordships as a compulsory Bill. My objection to this Bill is that its compulsory character is now for the first time introduced into this kind of legislation; and I ask, if it is to be applied to gas and water, why should it not apply to all other necessaries of life? Then we shall come to this pass, that no man in the City of London, nor in this free country, will be able to live, move, or have his being without being under some sort of government or local inspection as to his private business. That is what it will come to under this proposed system of legislation. But, my Lords, I will admit, for the sake of argument—I do not admit it otherwise—that this Bill will confer a benefit on the town of Sheffield. Even admitting that, for the sake of argument, I still ask your Lordships, on the very ground upon which this Bill is submitted to your Lordships—namely, on the ground of public policy—on these broad grounds, and on that broad principle, I invite your Lordships not to consent to the third reading of this Bill. My Lords, what will be the effect of passing a compulsory measure of this kind? It will entitle the Corporation of Sheffield to take forcible possession—I do not care whether they pay fair compensation or not—it will entitle them to take forcible possession of works which they have not created, but which were 153 created by private enterprize. That necessarily must discourage private enterprize; and what has private enterprize done for this country? Why everything. It is private enterprize that has given us canals; it is private enterprize that has given us railways; it is private enterprize that has given us gas, electric lighting, and the telephone; it is private enterprize that puts, not only part of the country in communication with another by moans of railways and telegraphs, but which by telegraphs put the Empire into connection with the Colonies and our Indian Possessions. All that is the result of private enterprize. At the present moment the greatest engineering work which has ever been undertaken in this age of engineering skill—the Forth Bridge, in which many noble Lords in this House take an interest—that is entirely the result of private enterprize. It was private enterprize which cut the Isthmus of Suez, and which is cutting the Isthmus of Panama; and, above all, do not forget this, that it was private enterprize, and nothing else, which gave us our Indian Empire, and practically our Colonial Empire. Well, my Lords, I say in countries such as ours it is essential that nothing shall be done for the benefit of any local town or for any other reason which can interfere with the great principle of independent and private enter-prize. Macaulay, in the third chapter of his History, referring to the progress that this country had made in the hundred years before he wrote, said it was due mainly to the confidence and security which was afforded to property in this country and that which was created by industry, energy, or by self-denial. Whether that property was created by, and remains the property of, individuals, or whether it is aggregated into the property of Companies, the principle is the same; and I ask your Lordships to take care how you deal with that principle in this House. Above all other Assemblies, your Lordships' House ought to be looked upon as the guardian of the questions involved in this great principle. What is the secret of all this successful private enterprize? It is, as Macaulay says, confidence and security with reference to property. If you take away confidence and security, what hope can there be that there will be private enterprize in the future as there has been in the past? 154 If, whenever a Company is prosperous, a municipality may cast its eye—a covetous eye—upon it, and come to Parliament to buy, even though they are not disposed to sell, there will be an end to all confidence. It has been well said by Sir Frederick Bramwell—the most able engineer, and brother of the distinguished Lord who bears the name— that Government trading, whether local or imperial, was fatal to progress and to the national prosperity. If your Lordships wish for an example how unwise State interference is you have it in a Bill which has passed or is passing through your Lordships' House—I mean the Electric Lighting Bill. In 1882, an Electric Lighting Bill was brought in by the Government of the day, which empowered the Government at the end of 14 years to take possession of the property of Electric Lighting Companies without giving compensation on taking the business on as a going concern, but treating it as an old marine store, and simply at the end of 14 years paying for the plant as old iron. The time was extended when that should happen from 14 to 20 years. That Bill was passed in 1882, and what has happened? All enterprize in electric lighting was absolutely and entirely stopped and killed by these compulsory powers which the Government proposed to take. So last year, electric lighting being at a standstill, a Bill was brought in and submitted to a Committee of your Lordships' House, which proposed to extend the 20 years when the Government could come in to 40 years. The Bill which is now passing through your Lordships' House is based on that extended period. That is a most pregnant instance of the evil of compulsory interference with private enterprize, and it is because I feel that it is in the cause of public policy, it is on the ground—the sole ground—of public policy, that I ask your Lordships to refuse to pass this Bill. There is one point which must have struck your Lordships, and to which I have not referred; and that is that it is always right and customary for your Lordships to support the decision of a Committee of your own House. Now, my Lords, that is a general proposition which no sane man in your Lordships' House, and no sane man in the other House of Parliament, would for one moment venture to dispute. While I was a Member of the 155 House of Commons, and since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House, whenever a decision of a Committee has been attempted to be overthrown, I have always given my vote in favour of the decision of the Committee. I think we ought to be grateful to noble Lords who give their time to these Committees, and it is only under most exceptional and most peculiar circumstances that your Lordships, or the other House, should be asked not to give effect to the views of the Committee. Now, if this had been a simple question between two Private Bills promoted by the Corporation and the Water Company in the ordinary course, with no new principle involved, I should not have ventured to have given this Notice, and I should have been considered extremely foolish if I had done so. But this is entirely a different case. Although there were attempts made to prove before the Committee that there was a precedent for this Bill of the Corporation, if I am rightly informed the Chairman of the Committee did not think much of the precedents adduced, and the promoters were advised to go on to other points and not to attempt to prove their case by precedents. It is well they were so advised, for no precedent exists for their Bill. I say this Bill is novel in principle, wholly unprecedented in character, and, for the first time, it imposes upon a Company the possibility—a certainty in this case—that they would have to part with their property at whatever sum the arbitrators chose to fix. This is a question wholly outside any question which is ordinarily referred to a Committee of your Lordships' House. Indeed, my Lords, I say that it never could have been your Lordships' intention that five Members of this House—no matter how able, no matter what their record of Parliamentary experience may be—should, upon the question of a Private Bill, introduce into legislation a great and novel principle which may strike at the very roots of enterprize and the commercial prosperity of the nation, which lives upon the security of property which has been created by private enterprize. I maintain that a principle such as that ought not to be passed in your Lordships' House on the third reading of a Private Bill, but ought, if required, to be taken up by the Government, and take its place in a general measure 156 brought in by the responsible Government. I hope, my Lords, that your Lordships will not pay attention to the arguments about supporting the decisions of Committees, but will support me in my Motion for the rejection of this Bill.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Earl of Wemyss.)
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
, in rising to support the Bill, said, that neither he nor any of the noble Lords who considered the Bill in Committee had any sympathy whatever with the Socialistic ideas of which his noble Friend on the Cross Bench (the Earl of Wemyss) was so much afraid. They were not enemies of property or of private enterprize. The Committee in question had devoted 14 days to the consideration of the Bill, and whilst he sympathized to a great extent with the noble Earl, he could not forget that there were many undertakings which could be better managed by public authorities than by private enterprize; and this matter of water supply appeared to be one of them. The state of things at Sheffield was as follows. There were two Bills before the Committee, one promoted by the Corporation and the other by the old Water Company at Sheffield, which had for many years supplied the borough. In 1864 it sustained a great disaster owing to the bursting of the principal reservoir, and it then came to Parliament for relief, and obtained power to levy for 25 years an increased water rate. This power would expire in 1889, and the Company, in the Bill which they recently promoted, sought to make it perpetual. Then came the Bill promoted by the Sheffield Corporation, in which they sought to take the water supply into their own hands. They were supported by the great bulk of the ratepayers, the voting having been something like 21,000 for, and 3,000 against. The Committee, after hearing the arguments pro and con in favour of the higher scale of rates, came to the conclusion that the Sheffield Water Company's request was not a reasonable one, and that it ought to be rejected; and the only alternatives were to allow the Company to go on supplying the water on the old rate or to transfer to the Corporation the powers of supply- 157 ing the water. The Committee were influenced in their decision by the fact that the sanitary arrangements of Sheffield were unsatisfactory, and that to be made satisfactory they required to be carried out on a wider scale; and also by the fact that the water supply was in the North of England generally in the hands of the municipal authorities. They therefore resolved to transfer the powers of water supply to the Sheffield Corporation, and made provision upon a very generous basis for the purchase of the Company's undertaking. He had little doubt that the present shareholders in the Sheffield Water Company would in reality be much better oft by the purchase of their property, than they would have been by going on with their undertaking on the reduced scale of rates, which was all they would have been entitled to after 1889.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
said, what they had to consider was how their decision would be looked at hereafter. The record would be only that in the case of a Company, absolved twice from the charge of negligence, their works should be sold compulsorily, on the ground of public policy. If he were still at the Bar, and were representing a Corporation, he should know what use to make of that record. He learned in 1864 that the Company had reduced their maximum charges in 1853, believing that their prosperity and that of Sheffield would go on increasing. They said that since that time the great calamity of the landslip and flood had come upon them and upon the town, and on application to Parliament they were granted increased rates for 25 years. The Chairman of the Committee, and he (Lord Grimthorpe) himself, thought that by the end of that period things would have come round, and the Company thought so also. They were all wrong; j and the real fact was that the dividends had been continually going down, notwithstanding the additional rates. There was no doubt that if these rates were stopped the Company would have no dividends at all. They could now prophesy after the event, and it was clear that the Company were asking for nothing unreasonable in asking for the rates, which were still below the original ones, for a longer period than 25 years, and there would be no doubt that if the Committee could have seen in 1864 how things 158 would turn out, that they would be granted a longer period. In his opinion, the present Committee must have miscarried in their calculations, in supposing they were giving fair and liberal terms. If the Company in 1853 had kept up their old rates instead of decreasing them they would never have had to come to Parliament, and would have been able to pay a dividend notwithstanding the calamity. The Corporation had issued a paper of reasons for the purchase of the undertaking. The paper said that it was a generally admitted axiom that water-works should be in the hands of Corporations, as they were more economically worked. That was not the general result of experience. Mr. Burdett, secretary to the Loan Department of the Stock Exchange, read a paper on municipal finance some two years ago, and showed in it that out of 38 Corporations' books it was evident that upon the whole they lost upon their water-works. They borrowed at 3½ per cent, and did not receive as much in return as they paid in interest. It was absolutely wrong to say that Corporations could manage these undertakings more economically than Companies could. The latter paid dividends, and the former did not make enough, to pay the lowest common rate of interest. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) said the ratepayers by a large majority were in favour of the Bill. They always were, because they did not understand economics. He admitted that when a Corporation and a Company came to Parliament for rival Bills for water-works, it had been the practice to prefer the Corporation. No harm was done to anybody under those circumstances; but the present case was one of buying on very unfair terms. The only case approximating to it was that of Middlesborough. In that case the Company were charged with supplying very bad and insufficient water, being restricted in the quantity they could take from the Tees. The result was that the works passed out of the hands of the Company into the hands of the Corporation, and that Corporation, which had been so sensitive when they got the Bill 11 years ago, had not done a stroke of work yet, or had done it very recently if at all. That was the only case of straightforward compulsory purchase founded on 159 the alleged misconduct of a Company. At Birmingham the Company agreed to sell their works to the Corporation in 1851. The Corporation went on for 24 years before they thought of acting upon the agreement, and then Mr. Chamberlain persuaded them to purchase the undertaking. They inserted in the Bill a provision for 20 years' purchase. The Committee declined to pass the clause, and eventually 29 years' purchase was agreed upon. Was that a good thing for the town? It gratified the town, and there was no doubt that the time would come when it would be a good thing for the town if the Company were otherwise to go on raising more capital with a high dividend, which, however, could easily be prevented. The Corporation also said, in the paper of "Reasons in Favour of Third Reading" which they had issued, that it was not a fact, as stated by the opponents of the' Bill, that Parliament had ever refused to sanction the purchase of the works by the Corporation, and they enlarged upon that point. They seemed to have forgotten that in their own Petition against the Company's Bill this year they had said exactly the opposite. They said that they had several times endeavoured to effect such transfer. They tried it in 1864, and the Committee were of opinion that the Corporation had not made out a sufficient case for compulsory purchase. The Corporation said, first of all, that they were going to proceed upon particular local grounds, and not on public policy, and then they issued that paper which, from beginning to end, argued the case upon grounds of public policy. A worse case of issuing misleading statements he had never seen. Nobody would suffer in an ordinary ease of purchase by arbitration. In this case the Company would suffer by being ruined, and every shareholder would feel it. The ratepayers would gain by the transfer, because they would get for nothing these works which cost a million and some odd pounds. As to the assertion about public policy, he had shown that every precedent contradicted it, and so does the only public Act on the subject. It would have been perfectly easy for the framers of the Public Health Act to have provided that it should be lawful for any Corporation to buy the water works on arbitration terms. They were authorized to buy water rights—a totally 160 different thing—from the persons possessing them, but they were very carefully excluded from buying water works compulsorily, especially on such terms as these, which practically told the arbitrator to treat the Company as insolvent after 1894. He could not see any grounds for passing the Bill.
said, at one time, in consequence of his connection with the Local Government Board, which he represented, he had had Ms attention called to some provisions in the Bill; but those matters were all arranged. Whilst looking into those matters he was brought into contact with the promoters of the Bill, and had an opportunity of learning how matters really stood. The mistake in the paper of reasons as to Parliament having never refused to sanction the transfer of the works had crept in through the death of the late Town Clerk. It was discovered by a gentleman in the office of the agents who circulated the paper, but too late, as the paper had been sent to all the Peers. He was sure his noble Friend did not intend to imply that the Corporation had made wilful mis-statements. It would not have been of any use to have made an attempt to mislead the House, as the Chairman of the Committee was also the Chairman of the Committee which refused to sanction the transfer, and it would not have passed unnoticed. The noble Lord's contradiction of the statement in the paper proved that this was no new question for the people of Sheffield, and that they had had ample time to make up their minds on the question, and the majority which had been quoted by the noble Earl in favour of the purchase was the more significant for that fact. It was the result of no catch vote, but the deliberate vote of the people of the town. He did not think it was just of the noble Lord to say that the Company could be bought for nothing at the end of a certain number of years. He thought the Company was placed in an exceptionally favourable position for going before an arbitrator, and the Select Committee had gone out of its way to say that the terms should be fair and liberal, and that was a most important point on behalf of the Company when they got before the arbitrator, as he hoped they would do if Parliament passed the Bill. A great deal of discussion had gone on about the propriety 161 of Local Authorities managing gas and water works. They were not there to discuss the general question any more than the Committee upstairs. They had to decide whether the Bill should be allowed to pass. The noble Lord said that the Corporation would not be able to make a dividend — a Corporation ought not to make enough to pay a dividend—if it did, it showed that the water was not supplied at the lowest possible rate; and so far from that being an argument against Corporations purchasing these undertakings, it was all the other way. He was quite sure that he would carry the House with him if he said that if it had not been for the expressions of the Committee about public policy, they would never have known about the matter at all. There was another point he would like to allude to, and that was that the noble and learned Lord behind him (Lord Grimthorpe) seemed to imply that Sheffield was a decaying place. He was, however, informed that so far from that being the state of the case, the population of Sheffield had increased since 1864 by 100,000.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
said, that he pointed out that the receipts from water had considerably decreased, and that he, therefore, supposed such was the case.
, continuing, said, the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss) urged that Sheffield would not benefit by the transfer. He (Lord Balfour) wished to point out that the vote taken in the town resulted in 21,936 being in favour of the change, and only 3,785 against—a very conclusive decision as to the Sheffield feeling in the matter. The noble Earl, again, had complained that local circumstances had not been sufficiently stated for the passing of the Bill. Well, he (Lord Balfour) submitted that if they were to hear all the local circumstances, that would be discussing the question upon its merits, which was undesirable in the House. As to the local circumstances, he thought they might trust a Committee which sat 15 days, and have every confidence that the decision arrived at was a just one. In conclusion, he wished to say that if the noble Earl was so anxious that a Corporation should never be allowed to purchase compulsorily under any circumstances, the right time to have stated that would have been on the occasion of 162 the second reading, and not on the third, when the parties had been put to such an amount of expense. If action against the Bill were necessary to be taken now, the proper course would obviously have been to move for its re-committal, and if their Lordships now passed the third reading the Bill would still have to go before the other House, when the objectors to it could again be heard.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he could not quite agree with the noble Lord (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) who had just sat down, when in the earlier part of his speech he said that he should vote for it purely as a Local Bill, and not take the question of public policy into consideration. He thought, on the contrary, that important considerations of public policy were involved in the question, and wished to explain to his noble Friend that in the interest of those general and abstract principles of which he was so powerful an advocate, he hoped that House would not refuse their sanction to read the Bill a third time. One contention was that valuable private property should not be taken by Public Authorities compulsorily to the sacrifice of private interests. He recognized the importance of the principle, and if this Water Company had been a great and thriving concern he should not take the view he did. The speech of his noble Friend opposite, however, proved that the Water Company's position was one which might be practically described as one of bankruptcy. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Grimthorpe) stated that it was not in a position to earn any dividend whatever; and, further, that even under the favourable recommendations of the Committtee, the Company would benefit little or nothing by the compulsory sale. But, at any rate, he relieved their minds from the fear which his hon. Friend on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss) had sought to instil, which was that they were ex-appropriating a valuable property in Sheffield. The Company, however, unless it obtained new powers, had no valuable property whatever. It came to Parliament and asked for new powers, and surely they had a right to inquire into the matter. They were not bound to give them new powers, and they must look at the whole question as one of public policy as to whether the powers should be granted. That ground of objection 163 had been entirely removed. They wore all agreed in one sense or another, and there ought to be some reform in local government in this country. He confessed, however, he was one of those who had been alarmed at the way in which every community was being stimulated to go in for Home Rule. Heaven only knew—or rather "the other place" only knew—what were the powers which leading politicians would not give to local governing bodies. It looked almost as if the power of life and death, and the power of taxation, were to be given over to local governments. He thought that this was a real danger, and that the public mind ought to be disciplined upon the matter. Looking at it in that light, therefore, he considered that it was of the highest importance that Sheffield should not be refused a privilege which she so manifestly asked for. The Company itself was practically nonexistent, and they had to consider the question as that of a great city desiring the management of its own wants. He could conceive nothing more likely to exaggerate that feeling in favour of local government than Parliament refuting to great cities any of the legitimate powers they ought to possess. He agreed that it was an argument in favour of Corporations having control of water works that in their hands they did not pay large dividends. The use of water was now so intimately connected with, sanitary arrangements that it was most important that the water supply should be in the hands of the Local Authority. Many places had taken over the management of their own water supplies; and Glasgow had done the same thing at enormous expense, but with infinite benefit to its inhabitants, and he firmly believed that such matters derived great advantage by being in the hands of municipal government instead of those of private companies.
§ LORD BRAMWELL
said, he felt it his duty to oppose the third reading of this Bill. The case before them—that of a Company with an undertaking—was not like the common case of a portion of land being wanted without which a scheme could not be carried into execution. Everyone would admit that, however reluctant the man might be to have his land taken, it must be acquired on the ground of public policy. This, however, was a very different thing. Here 164 the scheme was completed. The Water Works Company were in possession of their water works, which their Act of Parliament gave them power to construct, and it was now proposed to take it from them and to give them compensation. Well, as to that, the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Grimthorpe) stated that the Company would not be better off when their property was taken from them, and they received the compensation. At any rate, they said—"Let us be the judges, and leave us alone." The first consideration, therefore, their Lordships had to look at was—did they think it a desirable thing when persons had embarked their capital in an enterprize of this description that anybody unless for the most urgent reason in the world should have the right to say to them— "Now, we shall put a value on your porperty and take it from you, giving you that value for the possession of it?" Was it desirable that when any scheme was propounded requiring capital that those subscribing should be told—" You go into this speculation subject to this, that it may be taken from you at a certain value?" It was a singular thing, but if it was so beneficial to the Water Company shareholders, they were a most ungrateful and unwise set, for he did not find that the value of the shares had risen in the market since. He was sorry to differ from the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby); but he understood him to say that from the discussion on the Company's Bill, the Committee learned that they could not carry into execution those matters which were necessary for the welfare of the Company at Sheffield, and the noble Duke who had just sat down (the Duke of Argyll) used the expression that they were coming for further powers. They were not coming for further powers, except to raise their revenue for the purpose of augmenting their dividend, which had been a small one; but they did not admit, and it was not proved, that their situation was such that they could not do everything that the people of Sheffield had a right to expect. He was told that was so, and he believed that in the reasons given by the Corporation it was not suggested that the means of the Company were not such as that they could do everything which the Corporation could do if the property was transferred to them. All 165 the Company asked was something to enable them to augment their dividend. For these reasons, there was no good cause why their property should be taken from them if they were unwilling to part with it. It was urged that the ratepayers were the best judges of what they wanted, and these were of opinion that the service would be better and cheaper. Well, he did not see how the Corporation could work it more cheaply than the Water Company, and if they paid the Water Company a fair price, it followed that the ratepayers would have as much to pay for their water as they were now doing. It was obvious that if the Corporation could work the affair more cheaply, it would have to pay a fair price, and they must in time charge the ratepayers accordingly. It was said that a great many Corporations had the control of the water supplies. Well, a great many more, on the other hand, had not, and he did not understand that those who had not were worse off than where the power rested in the Corporation; and, he felt perfectly satisfied that it was impossible, in concerns of this sort, that they could be managed as well as by private enterprize. In conclusion, he asked them in a case such as this, where the promoters of an undertaking were unwilling to part with it, whether it was in accordance with public policy to ask Parliament to pass a Bill to compel them to sell that undertaking?
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Duke of BUCKINGHAM and CHANDOS)
said, from the position he held in the House as the Chairman of Committees, he desired to say a few words, as questions might arise whether the decision of a Committee of their Lordships' House had been given in accordance with the merits of the case placed before them, or whether considerations had been brought in which were not involved in the case before them. He happened to preside over a Committee in 1864, before which the Sheffield Water Company promoted a Bill, and in which they were authorized to make certain charges for 25 years. The 25 years had nearly expired; but at the time the Bill passed, neither the promoters, nor the Corporation, nor the Committee could foresee changes which in such a time had come over Sheffield, nor the expenses which would come on the Water Company. Now, in the pre- 166 sent Session of 1887, two Bills had been promoted and placed before a Committee. That Committee had negatived the Preamble of the Water Company's Bill, the principal point of which was to perpetuate the charges which, in 1864, had been limited to 25 years. The Committee had, on the other hand, passed the Preamble of the Bill promoted by the Corporation for the compulsory purchase of the Water Company's rights. The Committee, in announcing their decision, had placed on record certain reasons which influenced them in that decision, and it was practically only the statement of those reasons which had caused the debate on the question as to whether the Bill should be read a third time. There was no doubt that many who read the decision and the statement of reasons given by the Committee might consider that, bearing in mind the failure to prove improper management on the part of the Company, as stated by the Committee—they might think that the Committee had travelled beyond their province in negativing the Company's Bill upon the question of public policy. There was no doubt that it was of the greatest importance that there should be full confidence in the decisions of the Select Committees appointed to consider Private Bills. That confidence, he believed, existed universally; but occasionally, no doubt, questions might arise, as had arisen that night; and if the decision to be given that night was a final decision, if that was the second House the Bill had been before, instead of the first House, it might have been a question whether it would not be well to recommit both Bills and refer them to another Committee. But in this case it was not a final decision which the House was asked to give that night. If the Bill was read a third time it would be submitted to "another place," and be subjected there to close scrutiny. Before a Committee of the other House both parties, for and against the Bill, could take full advantage of the questions which had been raised before the Committee of their Lordships' House, and the discussion that night in their Lordships' House. The decision of their Lordships' Committee or of their Lordships' House could be reviewed, reversed, or altered in any way which, in the view of the Committee of the other House of 167 Parliament, the justice of the case might require. In view of the fact that the decision that night would not be final, and that the Bill—if read a third time— would go down to be carefully investigated elsewhere, he certainly thought their Lordships would do well to read the Bill a third time, and pass it on in the ordinary course for further investigation.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
said, he must confess that when he came to the House, having only seen the reasons which the Committee gave for passing the Bill, he felt very strongly in favour of the Amendment of the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss). The decision of the Committee, as stated in their reasons, appeared to be based entirely on questions of public policy, which it seemed to him should be decided in a general way and not on a Private Bill. But the noble Earl on the Front Bench (the Earl of Derby) had based the defence of their decision entirely upon local and special grounds, which had been ascertained after careful inquiry, and on that ground he should be unwilling to dispute the decision at which the Committee had arrived.
said, he felt no hesitation in voting against the third reading of this Bill. No blame had ever been cast on the management of the Water Company, which, living near, he would certainly have heard of. The promoters of this Bill promised cheapness and a supply for water-closets; but the Company's Bill would last on to 1890, and, as to cheapness, nothing could be worse than creating sewer-gas by water-closets. The death of the Earl of Chesterfield, at Scarborough, and the dangerous illness of the Prince of Wales were caused by it. Inquiry should be made as to the Chinese system and the Flemish plan of manuring, and as to the Rochdale system, instead of expensive manures being bought to maintain fertility of land without permanently enriching it. He would not pass the Duke of Portland's Bill for artificial manures, as described by The Nottingham Journal, on large farms on Sherwood Forest, on any consideration. He believed over-peopled countries could be fed by our restoring to the earth what we took from it.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, he was satisfied with the protest he had made, and would not divide the House, but would ask leave to withdaw the Amendment.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.
§ Original Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 3a; and passed, and sent to the Commons.