§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, this is a short Bill designed to help certain small companies, and other water undertakings, who are in financial difficulties, by enabling them to increase the charges authorised under their statutory provisions. The Bill provides a cheap method by which these companies can increase their charges to such an extent as will enable them to meet any increase in the cost of carrying on their undertakings, attributable to circumstances arising since August 4, 1914, and which are beyond their control. The principle is not a new one, since the old Local Government Board, now the Ministry of Health, were empowered under the Public Health Act to alter the rates charged by public authorities, and this Bill merely gives the same power to undertakings authorised to provide water under Acts of Parliament other than the Public Health Act.
The procedure is simple. If an application is made the undertaking which makes the application has to publish it, and then, if no objection is raised, either by the local authorities or the consumers, the Minister, if he is satisfied that the proposal is a justifiable one, may make an Order. Then, if there is an objection raised, an Inquiry must be held, after which an Order can be made. If there is any objection after the Inquiry then the Order is only provisional, and it comes to Parliament in the ordinary way as a Provisional Order. There are stringent provisions in the Bill as to the manner in which Orders may become operative, and the uses to which the proceeds of increased rates may be placed. Bills on the same line have been passed through the other House dealing with gas, harbours, tramways and so forth, and this only applies the same principles to water. Those principles have been applied to Clauses in private Bills enabling the Minister to make alteration in the rates.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
§ Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith: House in Committee accordingly: Bill reported without amendment, and read 3a, and passed.