HL Deb 03 August 1897 vol 52 cc205-10

Nothing in this Act contained shall prejudice or affect, or shall enable any local authority or other person to injuriously affect—

  1. (1.) The irrigation of lands in a rural district, or the supply of water used for such irrigation;
  2. (2.) The supply of water required for the purposes of any waterworks established by or under the provisions of any Act of Parliament, or of the compensation water required to be given by the owners of such waterworks, unless Die local authority shall have previously obtained the consent of such owners;
  3. (3.) The navigation on or use of any river, 206 canal, dock, harbour, lock, reservoir, or basin in respect of which any persons are, by virtue of Act of Parliament, entitled to take tolls or dues, or the supply of water to the same, or any bridges crossing the same, or any towing-path thereon;
  4. (4.) The purification of any river or stream in respect of which any persons are, by virtue of any Act of Parliament, authorised to exercise jurisdiction, or the rights, powers, jurisdictions, and authorities conferred by such Act.
Provided always, that it shall not be lawful for the local authority to execute any works in, through, or under any wharves, quays, docks, harbours, locks, reservoirs, or basins without the consent, in writing, in every case of the persons entitled by virtue of any Act of Parliament to take tolls or dues in respect thereof, and such persons may, at their own expense, and on substituting other sewers, drains, culverts, and pipes equally effectual, and certified as such by the inspector to the local authority, take up, divert, or alter the level of any sewers and drains, culverts, or pipes, constructed by any local authority, and passing under or interfering with such rivers, canals, docks, harbours, reservoirs, or basins, or the towing-paths thereof, and do all such matters and things as may be necessary for carrying into effect such taking up, diversion, or alteration.


said in this clause he proposed to insert after Sub-section (1) the words: "any supply of water used for domestic or agricultural purposes." He proposed to enact that water which had been brought by any one to a house or a farm or cottage at his own expense, should not be liable to be taken by the local authority for public purposes. That was the whole intention of the Amendment, and the object seemed so reasonable that he had hoped to spare their Lordships any remarks upon it, but he had some little doubt as to how his proposal would be received. By Clause 126 the Bill gave to a local authority, which their Lordships would remember was to be the new district authority, and no longer the Parish, full power, if it should be thought expedient, to acquire, provide, or arrange for a supply of water for the domestic use of the inhabitants, and for sanitary and other purposes, and for the purpose the local authority was to have power to acquire and conduct water from any lake, river, spring, or stream, to dig wells, and to construct reservoirs, and so on. They were given full and absolute power to take any supply of water within the district for these purposes. Then in this Clause (189), there were certain exceptions admitted to this expropriation, and it was proposed to enact that the local authority should not be allowed to prejudicially affect the irrigation of lands or the supply of water required for waterworks, or for navigation, or for the purification of any river or stream. So it would be seen that as the Bill stood at present it would be in the power of the local authority to take for their particular purpose any supply of water not exempted by Clause 189. He could hardly believe it to be the intention of the Government that it should be in the power of a local authority to take any private supply of this sort. Of course, he might be told two things, that this was the law at the present time, and that it has been in the power of the parish authority to take any supply of water, and moreover it might possibly be said that the thing had never been done. But though this should be said, yet still he should think it a very bad answer. It was to be remembered that by legislation the area was being altered and also the local authority. Of course, these Public Health Acts were being read much more carefully than they used to be, and advantage would be taken of any omission or slip in drafting; therefore it must not be assumed that because this had happened to be the law under the Act of 1867, and had not been applied in parishes, that it would so remain in the future, if it continued to be the law in regard to districts. It might possibly be said that owners would be protected in this case by the Lands Clauses Act, and that under that Act the compensation claimed would be so large that practically the owner would be in no danger. It was not, however, difficult to imagine a case; such cases frequently occurred, of a supply being necessary to a farm or farm buildings, or a cottage. He heard only yesterday of parish authorities proposing to do the very thing with water that went to a private house, proposing to intercept the supply for the purpose of taking it to a school instead. How could any pecuniary compensation under the Lands Clauses Act be sufficient for a man who was deprived of his water supply? If any exceptions were to be made in the Bill, clearly they should include a domestic and agricultural supply. He called attention to the exceptions as they stood in the clause. First the local authority was not to interfere with water for the irrigation of land in rural districts, and he would ask their Lordships was not the water supply for a dwelling house of equal importance to irrigation water? Then the supply for water works was not to be affected, and probably this was because, but for the exemption, water companies would have great trouble, and would have opposed this part of the Bill. That, however, did not create any difference in the justice of the two claims. Then came the further exceptions for navigation purposes and for the purification of rivers and streams. But he contended that if there should be any exemption at all in the Bill, then the domestic supply was the first and most important, and therefore he proposed this Sub-section. If the Act came to be construed in court—it might be said perhaps that it never would be done—but if the matter came before a court the Judge would find in clause 126 full and absolute power given to the local authority to take any water supply, and then turning to clause 189 he would find three or four exemptions, and domestic supply not being among these exceptions, was it not obvious that any Judge, any lawyer, would say,— Where are the exemptions from the Act and as this is not among them, it is clear it was the deliberate intention of the Legislature that domestic supply should not be exempted. Of course it might be said the matter might be left as it had hitherto stood, but the whole object of this big Bill was to clear up obscurities in the law and make new laws. In his opinion it was never intended in 1867 that a private water supply should be appropriated, but if the Legislature intended that a private water supply should be liable to be taken, let that be understood, but a matter of this sort should not be allowed to slide and slip into one Act, to the surprise hereafter of persons when it was taken advantage of. He proposed at the end of Sub-section (1) to insert a new Sub-section: (2) Any supply of water used for domestic or agricultural purposes.


said if his noble Friend had confined his Amendment to the case he had made out, there would be a good deal to be said for it. The noble Earl had laid great stress on the hardship that would occur to an owner who had brought in a supply of water by artificial means for domestic or agricultural purposes, if this supply was taken away. But the words of the Amendment went far beyond that; there was nothing to confine the exception to water artificially introduced, it would apply to any supply used for domestic or agricultural purposes. If these words were inserted he was advised they would absolutely prevent any local authority taking water from any part of a stream which in its lower course was used for domestic or agricultural purposes, for it would be open to be argued that the supply was thereby injuriously affected. He was certain his noble Friend did not contemplate such a result as that, for he knew, from discussion with him and a long acquaintance with him in business transactions, that he was of an eminently practical mind, and had no wish by a side issue to make clause 126 absolutely nugatory. The Amendment went far beyond the case he had argued and would render that part of the Bill absolutely useless. He frankly admitted this was the law and had so existed for thirty years, but not resting objection upon that, for he admitted that confined to the case he had argued there was a good deal to be said, but the Amendment went far beyond such a case, he was wholly unable to accept it and hoped it would not be pressed.


said he was perfectly ready to accept any Amendment of his proposal, which would confine the operation to the cases he had mentioned. He did not mean to confine the application of the Amendment to water artificially brought; he wished to extend it to water which was either artificially brought or came down in the usual channels. He would be perfectly prepared to modify the terms of the Sub-section, so that it should apply to any supply of water so far as used for domestic or agricultural purposes.


asked the noble Earl if he would adopt some such words as these:—"Any supply brought to any premises by any person for domestic or agricultural purposes." Or, perhaps, to save the time of the House, although the Standing Order had been suspended, the remaining stages of the Bill might be taken on the morrow, and he would meanwhile endeavour to arrange the words with the noble Earl. But he was afraid whatever Amendment might be inserted, he could not be responsible for its acceptance in another place.


said he was ready to accept that proposal. It must be distinctly understood his object was to save any supply of water, whether artificially brought or coming down its own channel, and used for supplying a house, cottage or farm.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 190, 191, and 192 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 193,—