HL Deb 11 May 1891 vol 353 cc465-6

My Lords, in the absence of my noble Friend (the Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham) he has asked me to put the question which stands in his name. I will not detain your Lordships by adding any remarks of my own, but simply ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to a statement in the Evening News and Post of the 29th ultimo, and to a letter in the Globe of the same date, relative to an alleged water famine at Port of Spain; whether it is a fact that the existing water supply was condemned by Dr. de Montbrun, as causing dysentery and other infectious diseases, as far back as 24th July, 1887; whether the water, in consequence of its insufficiency, has now to be shut off at the mains all night; and if the fires of the 11th and 15th February this year were not attended with great loss of life and property owing to want of water to extin-tinguish them; whether the Director of Public Works for Trinidad, Mr. Tanner, did not on 1st December, 1890, lay on the Table of the Legislative Assembly plans for ensuring a full supply of pure water to Port of Spain; whether anything further has been done in the matter; and if the Secretary of State will avail himself of Mr. Tanner's presence in England to take, in concert with him, such steps as may be necessary to have Port of Spain provided with water?


My attention has been called to the statements in question. I have to state that I am informed that Dr. de Montbrun, a medical practitioner in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in a letter of the 24th of July, 1889 (not 1887, as stated in the question) did express an opinion that the quality of the water supplied was the cause of dysentery. I am informed by the Director of Public Works in Trinidad that in 1889, during an abnormally dry season, it was necessary to shut off the water at the main during the night, but that this was not done in 1890, nor has it been done in the present year, as far as my informant knows. I have no official information as to the alleged want of water for extinguishing the recent fires at Port of Spain alluded to in the question. A statement to that effect was made in the newspapers, but it was immediately contradicted by the Acting Director of Public Works in the colony. It is true that a Report of the Director of Public Works was laid upon the Table of the Legislative Council on the 1st of December, 1890, submitting a scheme for an additional water supply to Port of Spain at an estimated cost of £106,000, but I am not aware whether any action was taken on that Report. I will call for information on the subject, but I need not tell your Lordships that it is for the Legislature and Government of Trinidad to take such steps as they may think right in the matter.