HL Deb 17 July 1893 vol 14 cc1639-62

Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.


said, he had to move the Amendment which stood in his name, and he must explain it at some length, because the matter was not generally understood. He hoped their Lordships would not think it inappropriate that it should be moved by one who, until recently, had been an Alderman appointed by the Body which was promoting the Bill. The object of the Amendment was to restore to the Bill a provision that was inserted in the House of Commons, but which their Lordships' Committee had rejected. He would first impress upon their Lordships that this Motion was not made by the members of the London County Council out of their own heads, or to please themselves, but on behalf of the vast body of Londoners whose chosen servants and agents they were. It was not a new proposal by any means. It had been mooted for a quarter of a century and upwards, first through the imperfect representation of the Board of Works, and now through the more perfect representation of an elected Council. The desire of Londoners to act as a common body for their common interests and to have a voice in the local affairs which concerned those interests—very feeble, if they went back for a few years—had now grown very strong, and it increased in strength year by year. It was shown in the first Council elections in 1889, and it was shown still more emphatically in the second election of 1892, when those candidates were returned most decisively who held most clearly the doctrine that Londoners should have the main voice in those local affairs that were peculiar to themselves, and should have a voice in local affairs which concerned them, though they might not be peculiar to themselves. He was told that, sharply accentuated as were the differences in the London County Council on some points, there had been no dissentient voice heard on this point; and that was because the members knew that their constituents-wished the thing to be done, and would support them in their efforts to get it done. Then, he asked, was the Thames Conservancy a local matter affecting the interests of London? They had only to see what the functions of the Conservators were. They had power to make regulations about docks, piers, vessels discharging cargo and ballast or taking them in, and such matters as dredging the river, scouring it, cleansing it, and keeping it clean, embanking, and so forth. To put it briefly, they had large powers of regulation over the access to the river, the flow and volume of the river, the purity of the river, and its use for navigation and recreation. The River Thames flowed through London for 20 miles; and as London lay upon both banks, there were 40 miles of bank on which vast masses of Londoners dwelt. But London had interests far beyond the 20 or 4.0 miles. It was calculated that the basin of the Thames contained 6,500,000 inhabitants; and of these,. 4,500,000, or more than two-thirds, were Londoners. It was calculated again that of those 4,500,000 Londoners, 2,500,000 drank the water of the Thames and used it for all their domestic purposes; whereas of the outsiders who did the same they did not know the number, but they were stated not to amount to 1,000,000 people. The flow and the volume of the river deeply concerned the low-lying lands that were exposed to inundation. The purity of the river affected the health of the whole community; the access to it and the use of it affected the convenience and the business of the whole community. Now Londoners could, through their various Local Authorities, of whom the London County Council was the principal, execute various works having a bearing upon the Thames. They could embank and bay back floods so as to affect the volume and flow of the river; they could make bridges for which they must use the bed and also affect the flow of the river; they could make ferries, for which they would use the surface of the river; and as for its purity and the health of the population, which was dependent upon it, there was no subject which now so constantly engaged the attention of the Local Authorities of London. Thus he could show that Londoners had power relating to access to the river, its use, its quantity, and its quality, and the Thames Conservators had the very same. Therefore it was that Londoners asked to be a part of the Thames Conservancy. What request could be more reasonable? What request was likely to conduce more to the public welfare? It was so reasonable that he should not have made these remarks at length if he did not see in the voluminous evidence, which it had been his fate to read, the most persistent attempts to minimise and disparage the interest of London in this great matter, and to make out that it was a mere trivial interest, or even none at all. He would not labour it more now; but he would only anticipate a general assent to this proposition—that when they had a public administrative Body framed on the principle of representing a diversity of interests, it was a reasonable thing that the largest of all interests should be represented on that Body. That the Thames Conservancy was a Body framed on that principle was apparent from a very short review of its history. Before the year 1857 the only authorities were the Crown and the City of London. Quarrels arose, litigation, compromise, and in 1857 a body of Conservators was established. They were 12—seven from the City of London, two from the Trinity House, two from the Admiralty, and one named by the Privy Council. That was not found satisfactory, and in 1864 other interests were represented; six were added representing four private interests—the owners of ships, of tugs, of lighters, of river steamers, and of docks and wharves. That was done with respect to the Lower Thames—that was the river from Staines to Yantlet Creek mouth. But two years later it was thought right to combine the Conservancy of the Upper Thames with that of the Lower, and five more Conservators were added—one appointed by the Board of Trade and four appointed by a body which he should not describe inaccurately if he called them the riparian owners. So that they had a Body framed to represent those interests—the City of London, which he trusted their Lordships would not confuse with London, for the City was not London, and did not represent London, and its interests were very frequently adverse to those of London, but it was represented there, and riparian owners were represented, and public authorities concerned with navigation and with trade, and various private proprietors who were in the habit of using the river. Now they asked that a greater interest than any of these might be represented too. Then, he would ask, by what amount of authority was their proposal backed? Their Lordships would find it to be very considerable. As long ago as 1867 the Board of Trade addressed a letter to the Thames Conservancy, begging them to make arrangements to find room on their Body for nominees of the Metropolitan Board of Works. But nothing was done. Time ran on. The Board of Works did not forget the matter, but they did not prevail; and when they quitted office, and the County Council took their place, they handed on a strong and elaborate Memorandum which they had prepared for the purpose of agitating the question again. The County Council lost no time. He thought it was the first Bill they introduced in which they made the proposal for having seven nominees. He supposed they asked for seven because the City had seven; but he really did not know. So the matter stood. He was told that that Bill was considered a very ambitious Bill by the Treasury Authorities, and they pruned it severely; but they did not prune away this clause, and this clause went to the Committee of the House of Commons, of whom Sir Joseph Bailey was Chairman. That Committee recommended that the County Council should have five nominees upon the Thames Conservancy. Then the matter came into the House, and what was done in the House was very remarkable. Two Ministers of the Crown spoke—Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, who was at the Board of Trade, and Mr. Ritchie, who was at the Local Government Board. Neither of them objected to the proposal in principle. Both of them approved the proposal in principle; but they urged that there was a wider question—there were other interests, and they suggested that the matter should be put aside now, and that there should be a general inquiry next year, where all interests might be represented. He would now read a passage or two from what those right hon. Gentlemen said. Mr. Ritchie said that he was in favour of the Council being represented on the Conservancy Board; but he did not commit himself to the proposal in the Bill. Then he made the suggestion which he (Lord Hobhouse) had mentioned—that the whole question should be gone into upon a general inquiry. Mr. Ritchie said— As the noble Lord (Lord Compton) has referred to me, I feel bound to say just one word upon the subject. The noble Lord is perfectly accurate in saying that I am distinctly in favour of the London County Council being represented on the Thames Conservancy Board. Having constituted a great Body like the London County Council, it ought to have something to say with regard to a river which runs through so large a portion of its district; but as to whether or not the representation proposed in this Bill is too large, whether it is adequate or inadequate, I do not express any opinion, and on that question I desire to withhold my opinion. I think the course suggested by my right hon. Friend (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) is the right and proper course. It is quite clear that if the London County Council are to be represented on the Board there will be claims for representation on the part of other County Councils through whose district the river runs, and that they also should have representation given to them. That, I take it, would be the view of the London County Council also. And he (Lord Hobhouse) said it was the view, and always had been the view, of the London County Council— And, that being so, I should deprecate the London County Council proceeding with these clauses this year. That was in 1890. The hope that was held out of an inquiry had not been realised at that moment—three years later—and so, in the present year, the Bill was renewed. The County Council again asked for seven nominees. The matter went to a Hybrid Committee of the House of Commons, nine in number, who proposed that they should have four nominees. That Committee made a Special Report; and the Report bore so strongly upon what he thought was the strongest objection urged against the proposal that, as it was short, he would take the liberty of reading it to their Lordships. The Committee said— We are of opinion that reasons exist which make it desirable that the London County Council should be represented on the Thames Conservancy, and that they should have increased representation on the Lea Conservancy. Their Lordships would see that this Amendment did not relate to the Lea; but the two things were mixed up in the Report of the Committee. Then they said they wished to guard themselves against giving any opinion as to what should be the adequate representation to be given to other County Councils in the event of a general reconstruction, on the principle of giving representation to riparian owners by some future Parliamentary action. Then they went on to say they did not wish it to be supposed that the abstract claim of the London County Council to have a representation on the Thames Conservancy was not weaker than it was in 1890, when a Committee of that House, on which they were represented, agreed to a clause giving them five seats on that Board, and that they had thought it desirable to exercise caution with regard to the number of seats now allowed them by the Board, in order that nothing should be done now to make it difficult in case of future reconstruction to give, within limits, a total number of Conservators in either case. That seemed to him a very careful, well-balanced judgment. The Commissioners were impressed with the expediency of remodelling the Thames Conservancy, and with the likelihood of its being done before long; but they considered that there were preponderating reasons why they should not now hesitate to give the County Council its nominees. Those reasons were not stated, and he could only guess at them; but he assumed them to be the reasons which he had been assigning to their Lordships. Now he reached the last division of his case, and he asked what objections there were to the proposal? A great many Petitions were filed in opposition; there had been speeches made in the Council, and, of course, every conceivable objection had been made, besides some that were not so conceivable. He would pass over most of them, but there were two or three to which he must advert. First, he said the proceedings bristled with the suggestion that the Londoners had no grievances to complain of, and that, unless the Thames Conservancy Board had committed some fault, it ought not to be interfered with. He was glad to say that he had no such topic to bring forward. Those who had paid attention to the subject thought that the Conservancy would gain in power by the new element, and that they would display more energy of action, particularly with regard to the purity of the Thames, and they were confident that friction would be avoided in all those cases in which the two Bodies had to take action on the same object matters. It stood to reason that if two Bodies had to act upon the same object-matter it was better they should have a common link between them, and better that they should discuss arrangements before taking public action, and before committing themselves in public to particular views and to particular sides of a controversy, instead of doing it afterwards. With great deference to those who were constantly insisting upon this topic, he (Lord Hobhouse) protested against being told that a body like the Londoners must make charges of neglect and misconduct before they could ask to be represented on the Thames Conservancy Board. He denied that if they had a Body framed upon the principle of representing a diversity of interests, that when the greatest of those interests came forward to be represented they should be put to the invidious task of making and proving accusations. He would also make this remark—if that objection was good against their proposal, it was equally good against all proposals to interfere with the present constitution of the Thames Conservancy Board. And yet he had referred to what had been said from time to time by officials in Parliament; and he did not know a single official or a single section of Parliament which had been charged with the duty of specially attending to that matter who had expressed an opinion that the Thames Conservancy Board did not require recon- struction, or, indeed, which had not expressed an opinion to the contrary. He did not know how far their Lordships' Committee had attributed weight to that particular reason, for he had not had the advantage of seeing their reasons; but he did know that at every turn of the controversy it had been urged upon them, and he said that if they had attributed weight to it, it was a new objection in the mouth of such a Body, and that it would not stand the brunt of public discussion. There were other Bodies who came forward, whom he would treat together, because their objections ran upon the same ground. The riparian proprietors came and said they were in a minority of 4 in 23, and they did not wish to be in a minority of 4 in 27, and they accused the London County Council of trying to control the affairs of the Thames; and the riparian County Councils came and said that they were not represented at all, that they had as good a right to be represented as the Londoners had, and they also accused the London County Council of aiming to control the affairs of the Thames, and to exclude other people. His answer was this: As regarded control and exclusion, there was not the smallest pretence for saying that the County Council or any of their advocates had at any time set up any such claim. They excluded nobody; they only asked to have a voice or a few voices, if their Lordships liked to put it so, among a great many in that affair which so much concerned them. And as to representation, what might be the case with the riparian owners—whether they had too little or not—he did not know. They had four members, which were all that the Londoners were asking for; and he really could not tell whether they ought to have more. But as to the riparian owners, he said that they had a good claim—and the London Council had always said that they had a good claim. But it was a claim they had never put forward except for the purpose of excluding the London Council. The moment they put forward their claim in a positive shape, he thought he might say he would undertake—at all events he felt perfectly confident—that they would meet, not with opposition, but with support from any body of Londoners, including the London County Council. But when they opposed the County Council, not because they were injured by the Bill, but because it did not give them what they had never asked for, he thought that it was not a worthy objection, and he trusted that the House would attribute no weight to it. Of course, the Londoners could not put forward the claim of the other counties, and the House of Commons' Committee-dealt with that matter specially in their Report. They could not deal with that claim until it was made; but the moment that it was made the matter would stand upon a different footing. Well, really those objections led up to one of greater weight, which was this: that that was not the time or occasion for making alterations in the Thames Conservancy; that it should be done in a Thames Conservancy Bill, where all interests might be better represented, though it seemed to him they had been very fully represented before the Committee of that House. That was the objection which prevailed in the year 1890, and which pressed very much upon the House of Commons this year; and possibly—he did not know that—but possibly it was the ground of the decision of their Lordships' Committee. He would be uncandid if he did not confess that the objection had a great deal of reason in it, so much that it might guide the judgment of a reasonable man. But their Lordships would remember that the House of Commons had it all before them, that they dealt with it specially in their Report, and that they thought it was overborne by other considerations. He agreed with them, and he urged upon their Lordships that, notwithstanding that fairly good reason against their proposal, there were far stronger and better reasons in favour of it. Those were the reasons which he had been endeavouring to explain, and he would briefly summarise them thus:—The Thames Conservancy was a composite Representative Body for representing a diversity of interests; Londoners were far the vastest and densest mass of persons who had an interest in the matter. The local affairs of the two touched one another at various points; therefore it was desirable that the Governing Bodies should be in touch with one another. Londoners desired it; they had asked it for 25 years and more. It was a reasonable desire and a healthy desire; it had been favourably received by officials of all sections of the Legislature, and had never been unfavourably received. In 1890 it was put off for the reason that he was dealing with now; but the hope then held out of its comprehensive treatment had proved futile to that day. Every year that passed did not weaken the reasons for representing the County Council, but strengthened them; and their strength was now so fully felt that this year, at last, they had the House of Commons with them. He hoped that they would not again be put off by this prospect of a perfect reconstruction of the Thames Conservancy Board—a reconstruction which he admitted to be reasonable, which he admitted to be desirable, but which they could not bring about, and which, he believed, was more likely to be brought about by the infusion into the Body of a new and energetic element than by any other means.

Moved, in Preamble, page 1, after line 3, to insert—

(20 & 21 VICT. c. CXLVII.)

"And whereas the Council have various duties and obligations with regard to the banks of the River Thames and the prevention of floods, and are otherwise interested in the flow of the river and purity of the water and the conservancy thereof."

"And whereas the inhabitants of London have no direct representation on the Thames Conservancy Board, constituted under the Thames Conservancy Act, 1857, and the Acts amending the same, and it is expedient that the Council should be empowered to appoint members of the Thames Conservancy Board as hereinafter provided:

And in page 5, after Clause 2, to insert the following clauses:—


"(2A.) From and after the passing of this Act the number of the Conservators of the River Thames shall be 27 instead of 23, and the additional Conservators may be elected as hereinafter provided:—

  1. (1.) It shall be lawful for the Council to elect four persons out of their own body to be Conservators, and the several persons so elected shall hold office as Conservators only so long as they continue to be members of the Council;
  2. (2.) The first, Conservators to be elected by the Council may be elected at any time after the passing of this Act, and such Conservators and any other persons appointed in their place shall, if they continue to be Members of the Council, remain in office until the second meeting of the Council in the month of November, 1649 one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four, when they shall retire and a fresh election shall take place, but such retiring members shall, if they continue members of the Council, be re-eligible;
  3. (3.) The Conservators to be subsequently elected by the Council shall be elected triennially at the second meeting of the Council in November of every third year, and shall remain in office until the next triennial day of election, if they shall so long continue members of the Council;
  4. (4.) Any Conservator so elected retiring from office at any triennial day of election and continuing to be a member of the Council shall be re-eligible;
  5. (5.) Any vacancy in the office of Conservator occasioned by the death, resignation, removal, or disqualification of any member so elected shall be filled up with all convenient speed by the election of a new Conservator by the Council, who shall retire at the same date as the Conservator in whose place he is appointed would have retired.

"The additional Conservators elected by the Council shall (subject to the provisions of this Act and as from the passing thereof) severally have the same powers, functions, duties, privileges, and obligations as other Conservators under the Acts relating to the conservancy of the River Thames, and shall form part of the corporate body of the Conservators of the River Thames.


"(2B.) All the provisions of the Thames Conservancy Acts or of any other Act relative to the powers, functions, duties, privileges, obligations, or proceedings of the Thames Conservators as a body, and all acts and proceedings done, taken, or pending by, against, or in relation to the Conservators as a body, shall remain unaffected by the addition to and incorporation with that body of the four Conservators added by this Act, and (except only as is in this Act expressly otherwise provided) shall in all respects continue and be as if this Act had not been passed."—(The Lord Hobhouse.)


said, after the very lengthened statement to which their Lordships had listened, and with the knowledge that there was a subject of great importance to be discussed later on that evening, he would be as brief as possible in replying to the point which had been raised by the noble Lord opposite, and in asking their Lordships to affirm the decision which their Committee came to upon this Bill. He was somewhat at a loss to know whom the noble Lord represented—whether he represented himself alone. He supposed he did, because he (the Duke of Richmond) did not imagine that he had any commission from the County Council to act on their behalf.


said, he was instructed by them, and asked by them, to move the Amendment.


said, the noble Lord would be kind enough to explain to him—because to him it was a perfect mystery—what had taken place in the County Council within a very short time on that very matter. He found, upon the adjourned Report of the Parliamentary Committee of the County Council which sat upon the 27th June, paragraph 4 of the Report, which raised objection to the proceedings of the Committee to which he had the honour to be Chairman, and went into the various points, was withdrawn. It said that of the only three matters upon which there was serious objection were the representation sought by the County Council on the Thames Conservancy Board, and the additional representation on the Lea Conservancy—he need not go into the other, because that was abandoned—the proposal for the representation on the Thames Conservancy Board was opposed on behalf of the Thames Conservators. Then it went on to say that, in the event of their Lordships making important Amendments in the General Powers Bill, the Representatives of the Council in the House of Commons should be requested to oppose the Amendments when the Bill returned to that House. Then there was an Amendment to that Report; but the Amendment was lost and the Motion was carried, and it was resolved accordingly, and then—and this was the point which he should like the noble Lord to explain, because he did not understand it—it went on and said— The Vice Chairman of the Committee who brought up the Report withdrew, by leave of the Council, paragraph 4.


said, he could tell the noble Duke how that was.


said, he was dealing with the noble Lord opposite at present.


said, he was a member of the Council, and he knew all about it.


said, that he knew nothing whatever about it.


said, he might take it to be the fact that the noble Lord was moving the rejection of the conclusion which they arrived at knowing nothing about it. He told him (the Duke of Richmond) that he was acting on behalf of the County Council; and now, when he pointed out to him that the Vice Chairman of the Committee of the County Council had withdrawn that very clause which he was now advocating, he said that he knew nothing whatever about it. He did not think that was a proper way of dealing with the decision of the Committee of their Lordships' House. In the first place, he should, in a very few words, ask their Lordships to reject the Amendment of the noble Lord, and to adhere to the decision of the Committee. In the first place, the Committee were unanimous; in the second place, they heard everybody who desired to be heard with the greatest possible attention, and he might say patience; they refused no evidence whatever; they allowed the parties to bring forward everything on either side that could strengthen their case and could put before them the information which they desired to have before they came to a conclusion, and, as he said before, the decision of the Committee was unanimous. He thought it would be a bad thing for the House to reject the decision of a Committee unless there could be shown to be some ground for rejecting their decision—unless it could be shown that they had excluded evidence, that they had not allowed the counsel to explain the different points to them at so much length as they desired, and that the Committee had acted, he might really say, not with bona fides, and without giving the best of their attention to the subject-matter before them. He thought their Lordships ought to uphold the decision of the Committee, or it would not be very easy to find noble Lords to serve on Committees if, after they had worked hard and done their best, a Motion was to be made by a noble Lord who said he knew nothing about it to upset the decision of that Committee. That was why, upon general grounds, he thought their Lordships ought to uphold the decision of the Committee. What was asked by the noble Lord? In the first place, it was a point, though he did not seem to think so, that the Thames Conservancy had done its work admirably. He would not go into the history of it, because the noble Lord went into it at some length, but in 1864, 1866, and 1867, Acts of Parliament were passed, out of which the Thames Conservancy resulted; 200 miles of the Thames were under the Thames Conservancy, and that touched no less than nine County Councils. The London County Council had, by the Act of 1888, power to initiate Private Bills; and they were the only County Council who had that power. The noble Lord said that no other County Councils had come forward in the matter. For the best possible reason, that they had not the power to do so. The County Councils, other than the County Council of London, could not initiate private legislation. He desired to call their Lordships' attention to the style of legislation and the manner in which this was dealt with. The proposal was to entirely alter the constitution of the Thames Conservancy, a constitution which, after public inquiry, was agreed to. The number of members of the Board was decided after considerable inquiry was made; the last time, he thought, was in 1866. The noble Lord said that this matter had been frequently before Parliament; but he thought that rather weakened his case, because it showed that each time they came before Parliament, Parliament rejected their proposals. He concluded they would think that was unanswerable, and that they did not think that was the mode in which the constitution of the Thames Conservancy ought to be dealt with. The proposal was to alter the constitution of the Thames Conservancy by a clause in a Private Bill. As he had said before, there was no other County Council in England which had power to initiate legislation; and he asked their Lordships to listen for a moment to the sort of Bill in which the revolutionising of the constitution of the Thames Conservancy was attempted. First of all, it was to provide for representation, then— To empower the Council to prohibit or regulate the creation of dwelling-houses on lowlands subject to floods; to confer powers on the Council with respect to their procedure, prevention of epidemic diseases, the requiring of Returns, the re-arrangement of wards, compensation to workmen, and electric lighting, and leasing of lands"; and then, though one would hardly expect to find it in a proposed re-constitution of the Thames Conservancy Board, it provided— Against the giving of false alarms of fire, to extend and explain the powers of the Council with respect to sky signs, and with respect to bands, and to confer certain powers on Vestries and District Boards. His point was that that was not the style of Bill out of which a re-constitution ought to come. The noble Lord thought it not very reasonable that one should take up the point that the Thames Conservancy had done a remarkably good work, and that, in fact, no fault could be found with the manner in which the Thames Conservancy had done the work allotted to it. Therefore, he said, of the Thames Conservancy—that if no fault could be found with the Thames Conservancy on account of the manner in which they had carried on their duties—if nothing could be urged against them that they had neglected their duties, that they had not taken every possible care of the conservancy of the river, then he said they had no right to alter that constitution by a clause in a Private Bill, which was not the mode of dealing with the question. The late Deputy Chairman of the London County Council stated before the Committee of the House of Commons that he had no charge to make against the Conservancy, and could not lay his finger on a single action on which the Conservators had not done their duty. In 1891, before Sir Matthew White Ridley's Committee, Lord Farrer stated he gave the Conservators every credit for taking all the pains in their power, and that from his knowledge of the Conservators he was satisfied they had done whatever was in their power. The engineer of the London County Council stated that he was often surprised the Conservators had been able to do as much as they had; and, in addition to that, the counsel who was advocating the Bill said he had no allegations to make against the Conservators. Then, he said, when they found a Public Body who was doing work in the manner which all parties agreed the Thames Conservancy had done theirs, that was not the sort of Bill in which they ought to alter their constitution. If there was a necessity for any alteration in the constitution of the Thames Conservancy Board—and he was not there to say, one way or the other, whether it was desirable or not—he said the re-constitution of that Board ought to be done after full public inquiry by some Government Department in which every person interested would have the opportunity of being heard, and of stating his views upon the matter. The noble Lord had gone into the various duties which devolved on the London County Council. He thought, he said, they were interested in the banks of the river, in the prevention of floods, in the various bridges crossing the river, that a large population derived their supply of water from the Thames; but all that was not peculiar to the London County Council, because the Surrey County Council might have said exactly the same thing. The Surrey County Council constituents had a large supply of water from the Thames. That County Council owned bridges across the river, they had a large and increasing population, and they were interested in the prevention of floods. They had, therefore, an equal right to be represented; but they could not bring forward their case, because they had no right to initiate Private Bills, He said, therefore, if they were going to alter the constitution of the Thames Conservancy Board, they should do it by a public inquiry, where everybody interested would be represented, and where justice would be done, and that they should not alter the balance of representation on the Thames Conservancy Board by means of a Private Bill to add four members which would alter the representation entirely which was come to in 1866. He would, therefore, ask their Lordships, for the reasons which he had advanced, and which he thought it wiser not to set out at greater length, to reject the proposal of the noble Lord opposite.


said, he intended to leave the task of answering the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) to his noble Friend Lord Farrer. The only reason he rose was to allay the apprehension in the mind of the noble Duke with regard to the resolution of the London County Council as regarded Clause 4 of that Report. He was present at the Council, and it was withdrawn at his suggestion. For this reason, because he thought it would be more respectful to their Lordships' House if they heard the noble Duke's reasons why his Committee disagreed with the unanimous votes of the Commons Committee of nine before they instructed their repre- sentatives to move in this matter. He would only say one word more. The noble Duke said the Committee in that House was unanimous. Considering the very high reputation and high standing of the noble Duke in that House he was not at all surprised that the Report was unanimous; for if the noble Duke was very strongly of any particular opinion he could hardly imagine that it was likely noble Lords of far less experience and standing would care to differ from the opinion of the noble Duke, whose experience and position in that House were so high. He hoped he had made the matter clear that the London County Council, instead of wishing to show disrespect to their Lordships' House, was induced at his request, out of respect to their Lordships' House, to forego the consideration of that clause to which he had alluded.


said, he wished to say a few words on behalf of Surrey, though the case had been put so extremely well by the noble Duke opposite. He would detain their Lordships but a very few minutes. The County of Surrey, as the noble Duke had said, was quite as much, even more, interested in the Thames than the County of London. It had 28 miles of shore. And then, beyond that, there were other counties which were all interested in the river, and all for the same reasons. Kent, Essex, Middlesex, Berks, Bucks, Oxfordshire, and Gloucestershire—all these counties were desirous of being represented, and he thought justly so, on the Thames Conservancy Board. Then they were told by the noble Lord that the County of London did not wish to oppose the other counties; but the noble Duke had explained why the County of Surrey had not been able to bring forward their case, because they were not allowed, while the London County Council was allowed, to initiate a Private Bill. If the County of London was really so zealous a champion of the rights of other counties, why had not they included them in the Bill? Then they would have really shown themselves to be the champions of county interests. What had the County of London done? They had endeavoured to get a clause for their county only into a General Powers Bill. And why was it opposed by the other counties? Not in the least because they did not wish London to be properly represented, but because they knew very well that, if the County of London was represented, that county would, on the principle of quieta non movere—having got all they wished for, be glad enough to let things remain quiet. That was why the other counties did not wish such a clause introduced into a Bill of this description. Then besides that, the circumstances had been entirely changed since the constitution of the Thames Conservancy Board. They made noallegation against that Board—they did not blame it; they did not say it had done wrong or was in fault. But they said this: that if at the time that Act was passed County Councils had been established, as a matter of course Riparian Councils would have been represented on the Board; and they asked that in case any change were made in this Board all Riparian Councils should be represented. And how did they ask that that should be done? They asked that it should be done by a Committee of Inquiry next Session—as he supposed it was too late to appoint it now this Session—with the view of re-constituting the Thames Conservancy Board, in order that the London County Council and all the other Riparian Councils might be justly and fairly represented.


said, he could assure his noble Friend who had just sat down, that as a Surrey man, as well as a London Alderman—that if Surrey came forward another year, or if there was another opportunity, which there certainly would be after the Report of the present Water Commission, of altering the constitution of the Thames Conservancy Board, that the London County Council would give them every assistance in procuring adequate representation. The Surrey County Council were endeavouring to purify the River Wey, as he knew to his cost, and not very satisfactorily as far as things had gone; but at present they were doing their best, though their best had not come to much. He should not have ventured to speak upon this subject if it had not been that it was one he was conversant with during the whole period which he passed at the Board of Trade—a period on which he looked back with much pleasure—when he served under the noble Duke opposite; and it was a curious fate that—he should have kept silence if there were no other obligations to the contrary—his first duty in that House should have been to oppose him. When the Thames Conservancy was first established it was not only a movement in London, but it was a movement which pervaded the country to take the management of the great harbours out of the hands of the Municipalities and to place them in the hands of persons who should represent the trade. He was glad to say that in order that he might dissociate himself from certain wild schemes that the County Council or Bodies of that sort should undertake the management of the Lower River. Everything pointed to a very different solution entirely—namely, a separate Board which should manage the Lower Thames navigation, and a Board which should control the Upper Thames, in which the interests were quite different. He remembered well the Upper Thames being placed in the hands of the Thames Conservancy. The circumstances were these. The Upper Thames was in the hands of Commissioners, a helpless, numerous body, who, in consequence of the claims of mill owners and claims of railroads, had become hopelessly insolvent. They applied to the Conservators of the Lower River to undertake their task, and he had no complaint to make of the way in which they discharged their duty; but he had no hesitation in saying that if the London County Council had existed at that time, and if the other County Councils had existed, the Upper River would not have been placed in the hands of the Thames Conservators. When the Thames Conservators got hold of this Upper River what did they find? They found a hopelessly insolvent concern. The navigation did not pay; the tolls would not pay for its maintenance, and they looked about them and made an arrangement with the Water Companies. The Water Companies paid them certain sums, not for the purchase of water, which the Conservators had no right to sell, but in consideration of the sums paid them, which, of course, came out of the pockets of the consumers, the ratepayers of London, that sum amounting now to about £80,000 a year. He should like to know how much of it had been spent on purifying the water of the Thames?—for that was the consideration for the large sum which they were to receive. He did not say that they had misused that sum, but he said that it had not gone exactly as it might have done for the benefit of the water consumers of London. He made no charge against the Thames Conservancy. Their accounts did not enable them to pull them to pieces. He merely asked what had been done really for the purification of the Thames? He should say a very small amount. What were the interests of the Upper Thames? First of all, there were the riparian owners; secondly, there was the navigation, which had become so small as to be almost neglected; thirdly, there was the fact that the Thames was the great play place for those living in the Valley of the Thames, and for Londoners especially—that was a very large London interest; fourthly—and by far the largest interest—the fact that the Thames afforded the largest part of the water which the inhabitants of London consumed and paid for—that was out and out the largest interest. It was to the interest of the Thames Conservancy to keep that water pure. It was a curious fact that on the Thames Conservancy there was not one person who represented the water consumers of London. There were the persons who represented the navigation of the Lower Thames, and very properly represented them. There were the nominees of the Government Department, who no doubt did their duty, but, as he testified, were originally appointed with a view to navigation and trade. Thirdly, there was the City. Now, that might be said to represent London, but it did not represent the County of London or the inhabitants of London. The inhabitants of the City of London—the permanent inhabitants who used the water—were 37,000 as against upwards of 4,000,000. A curious thing was that the City itself did not consume the water of the Thames. It consumed the Now River water, which did not come from the Thames at all. Therefore this greatest interest—far and away the greatest interest in the Upper Thames—was totally unrepresented on the Thames Conservancy; and he defied his noble Friend to say that there was any interest at all comparable to that of the water consumers of London. Consider what the interests were. What were the interests of riparian proprietors? The interest of a person who lived below him was that the water should be pure. He knew very well that on the Wey the Surrey County Council were endeavouring to purify the stream. They were all glad to put their own drains into the river, but they wished to prevent those above them from putting their drains into the river. That was, on a great scale, the case with London. London was at the foot of this great river, and the riparian proprietors had the natural desire to act in a selfish way and to drain into the river; and the natural interest of the water consumers of London was to prevent those drains going into the river. But then they were told that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander; the London County Council turned their sewage into the Thames, and, therefore, the Essex and the Kent people had the same claim as against the riparian proprietors above. That was true, he thought, to this extent—that the Thames Conservancy had done good service by protecting the navigation of the river in connection with the old Metropolitan Board of Works; and he wished to see the Thames Conservancy so re-constructed as to make a powerful body representing navigation able to hold their own against the City or Councils, whatever they might be. But there was this enormous difference between the river below and the river above—Essex and Kent did not drink the water of the Lower Thames as London drank the water of the Thames which came from the upper part. Surrey did not drink any of the water which London polluted with its sewage. All the water that Surrey drank came from above London. That was, upon the grounds of the purity of the water alone, a most important consideration. But then, it was said, what would putting four persons upon the Thames Conservancy Board do to protect the purity of the water? There were many things that they could not do. They could not give them money for the purpose; they could not extend the jurisdiction. If the Thames Conservators were ever so willing to do their duty, their jurisdiction was limited—their money was limited. Their jurisdiction did not extend more than 10 miles from the place where any effluent entered the Thames, and a great many of the effluents were very different 10 miles out. Their jurisdiction did not extend above Guild- ford, and the water below Guildford was like dirty soap-suds. That could not be cured. What could be done was to put members of the County Council on the Thames Conservancy, and to see that the Thames Conservancy should do all they could to consult them and to help to prepare the necessary measures which the new Board might propose. There must be a new Board constituted, after Lord Balfour's Commission had reported, to inquire and prepare the measures for that purpose. He felt very strongly upon this point, because he knew that in the London County Council and amongst the members of the London Council there was a very strong feeling indeed about it. Nothing would give cause for deeper regret than any feeling on the part of the London County Council or of their constituents that their interests or their feelings did not receive full consideration in that House. He should regret that most deeply as a member of both; and he should regret it the more because he knew very well, from his personal knowledge of some of the Members of the Committee that had decided this point, that such an impression would be entirely unfounded.


said, he would detain the House but a very short time. They had listened to two interesting and somewhat lengthy speeches which appeared to him to make a very strong case for an inquiry into the constitution of the Thames Conservancy. But the point which was really before the House did not seem to be much affected by them—indeed, if he might take for example the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Hobhouse), it seemed to him that the noble Lord's own argument was very much stronger in favour of the conclusion at which the Committee had arrived than of the Amendment which he had moved. The question was whether the House was prepared to cancel the decision at which the Committee had arrived. He believed their Lordships very rarely took that course, and then only when it was quite clear that the evidence which could be adduced had not been adduced, or that by some accident a decision had been given contrary to the evidence. Nothing of the kind had occurred in the present case. The Committee had been most patient; it had listened to the whole of the evidence; it had had the whole case before it; and he ventured to think it would be a mistake if their Lordships, having only an ex parte statement, should reverse the decision of the Committee, arrived at after a full consideration of the question, and having heard the arguments for and against the representation of the London County Council on the Thames Conservancy Board. Of course, there might be other grounds for modifying a decision which had been arrived at by the Private Bill Committee. There might be public rights and private interests which might override the decision which the Committee might rightly arrive at. He did not himself think—and he thought the House would agree with him—that any such case had been made out on the present occasion. He was inclined to think the London County Council ought to be represented on the Thames Conservancy Board, and he thought it was highly probable that other Bodies should be represented upon it; but for one of the Bodies, which asked representation upon that Body by a Bill of its own, to introduce representatives upon that large and important Body, and so to upset the equilibrium of that Body, seemed to him to be altogether a wrong principle. It seemed to him, as the noble Lord who moved the Amendment had stated, that it was a case which called for public inquiry. The whole of the constitution of the Thames Conservancy might fairly be inquired into; and then the case of the London County Council, and of other Bodies which required representation upon it, would be fairly considered. He might add one further argument in this direction, and it was that since 1867, when the Thames Conservancy was created, the constitution of that Body had been altered by Public and not by Private Acts. He would only venture to urge upon the House the extreme undesirability of disturbing a decision of its Committee deliberately arrived at in a case like the present, which was clearly a matter which ought to be dealt with by public and not by private legislation.


said, that after what had fallen from his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees, and having regard to the evident feeling of the House, he should not think it right to put the House to the trouble of dividing; but if he might, he would strongly urge the noble Earl the Leader of the House (the Earl of Kimberley) to move the Government to speedy action, or at least to speedy consideration of the subject, with a view to that general inquiry which he gathered from the noble Duke was the most adequate mode of dealing with this case.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.