HL Deb 18 May 1896 vol 40 cc1514-8

The members of the Water Board shall be appointed as follows:—

*LORD ALDENHAM moved an Amendment with the object of increasing the representation of the Common Council of the City of London on the Board from two to four members. He said the Corporation of the City of London stood in a peculiar position as having done more in the matter of regulating water than any other body. Up to 1892 it was the only body that had any right of initiative, and they used their rights as fair intermediaries between the consumer and the water companies. Whether regard was had to rateable value or population, he contended that the representation given to the City in the Bill was too small. In all other particulars the Bill was a good and a just Bill, but in respect of the present question he was representing the views not only of the Corporation of the City, but also, he believed, the interests of the consumers of water. The City paid more and used less than any other class, because its population consisted of day dwellers only, and it would suffer more in the event of any increase in the price of water. Consequently it would be in the interests of economy that the City should be well and largely represented on this Board. Nothing was further from his intention than to impute extravagance to the London County Council, as Lord Monkswell on the former occasion had rather taunted him with doing. He had not the slightest thought of giving them a monopoly of extravagance. What he maintained was that any body of men whatever, even this Water Board, however constituted, having the power to dip its hands into the rates, made for extravagance, whereas any constituent of that Board, any member of it who would himself suffer from extravagance, might be trusted to do his best to keep to the lines of economy. Under the Bill as it stood, the County Council would have a majority on the Board. With the Amendment, the County Council would have a representation equal to that of all the other bodies together. There was another reason for the Amendment. When certain of the water companies desired to increase their borrowing powers, and, therefore, to increase their profits, the Corporation thought it reasonable to ask Parliament to provide that, after allowing a fair proportion of the profits to those who had made the improvements, the remainder should be reserved for the benefit of the water consumers. Parliament assented to this proposition, and as a result of it, a sum of £267,000 a year had been saved for the consumers. The Corporation had the responsibility of investing this money, and ultimately of employing it in the purchase of the companies for the good of the consumer. Therefore, if Parliament had put so great a responsibility on the City, it was but reasonable that it should have a greater representation on the Water Trust.


said, that as the only County Council representative of the City in their Lordships' House, he should support the Amendment. A strong feeling existed in the City as to its inadequate representation on the proposed Trust. In view of the fact that the rateable value of the City bore such a large proportion to equal areas in other parts of London; and in view of the fact that the City had been such a great sufferer by the inequitable system of water-rating which had prevailed so long in the Metropolis, he hoped that the Amendment would be accepted.


said, that since the Bill was read a Second time he had had communications with a great many representatives of different areas, and he had endeavoured to meet the demands which they had made. He wished he could accept the Amendment of his noble Friend, but he could not do so at the present stage of the Bill, at any rate. If the Amendment were accepted the whole composition of this proposed Trust would have to be altered. The number of members under the Bill would be 30, and, looking to the relative population and the relative rateable value of the London County Council area, it was felt to be impossible to do otherwise than give to the London County Council a majority on the Trust—16 members. The Amendment would increase the total number of members from 30 to 32, and would then leave the County Council without a majority. The only hope he could hold out to his noble Friend was that he should endeavour to get rid of some of the representatives of other bodies—for instance, the Conservators of the River Lea—and then to fill their places by representatives of the Corporation, so that the total number of 30 members of the Trust would not be increased. The City of London, he must admit, might, from one point of view, well urge a claim to larger representation; but so did other bodies. The county of Surrey, with its growing population, complained that it only had one representative while the City of London had two. How could he meet the demand of the county of Surrey if he increased the representation of the City? In some sense the view of the City had been followed in the Bill. In 1891 the City of London and the London County Council entered into a kind of compact that a Commission should be formed, and then the City asked for one-eighth of the representation of the County Council. The present Bill gave the City two members to the Council's 16; but his noble Friend was now asking for one-fifth instead of one-eighth of the County Council's representation. Looking to the only two tests which could be applied, the City hardly made out its case. According to the census of 1891, the population of the County Council area was 4,200,000, and that of the City of London was only 37,000; though, of course, that was the population resident in the City throughout the 24 hours. Again, the rateable value of the County Council area was about 30 millions, and that of the City of London was £4,200,000, or less than one-seventh. The proposal in the Bill was more in accordance with any rule which the noble Lord could lay down than was the Amendment. Then, the City of London had its representatives on the London County Council as well as its representatives on the Water Trust. It was true that under the Bill as now drawn the City's representatives on the County Council could not vote in the election of the Council's representatives on the Water Trust. But the moral weight of the City's representatives on the Council would be very great.


said that in the Bill of 1891, which was agreed to by the County Council, though it was not passed, the City was to have eight members out of a total of 48. His Amendment asked, not for one-fifth, but for one-eighth of the whole number of representatives.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4,