, seeing the Secretary of State for the Home Department in his place, begged to call his attention to the Correspondence just laid on the table, from the Commission appointed to inquire into the Supply of Water to the Metropolis. He must say, in the outset, that this correspondence was any thing but satisfactory; and there were one or two points in it on which he felt it his duty to ask for some explanation. It appeared that the commissioners imagined that their powers extended, not merely to an inquiry into the present state of the supply of water to the metropolis, but that they were bound to suggest the means of making up the deficiency in the supply, if there was any, and of finding a remedy for the insalubrity of the water, if they found it to be so. Under this impression, they had entered upon a very extended examination, and had collected a large mass of evidence. After stating that they "had been occupied for four months in collecting a large mass of evidence relating to a much more extended inquiry than was comprised in the questions to which the right hon. Secretary had limited their commission," they proceeded to say, "this evidence, we hoped, would have prepared the way for our recommendation of a practicable and efficacious plan of supplying the whole of the metropolis with pure and wholesome water—an object which we cannot but esteem as of considerable importance, and which, as it appears from the several petitions to parliament giving occasion to the present commission, has been so loudly and so earnestly called for by the public." The right hon. gentleman objected, that great expense would result from taking levels and making surveys; but if those proceedings had not been originally intended, he would ask why an eminent engineer, Mr. Telford, had been appointed a member of the com- 1362 mission. What service could he render, if the labours of the commission were to be confined merely to an analysis of the water in its present state? The notion under which the commissioners had directed their labours was, that they were bound to suggest some mode of ensuring a salubrious and abundant supply of water to the whole of the metropolis. But in consequence of the opinion given by the Secretary of State, they had found it necessary to limit their inquiry. The right hon. gentleman had told them to make an analysis of the water; and they, in reply, had required him to wait six weeks longer before it could be made. As the evidence was already prepared, he thought it desirable to have it submitted to the House, without waiting for the analysis, the delay of which would make it impossible for any legislative measure to pass this session. In his opinion, it was not intended that the commission should be limited to a mere analysis of the water. Why, he would again ask, was Mr. Telford included in the commission, if some engineering survey was not intended? He understood, that, without taking a level, Mr. Telford could suggest such a scheme as would meet the wishes of government and parliament, and satisfy the objects of the commissioners. At any rate, he trusted the right hon. gentleman would order the evidence already prepared to be presented to the House.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that when he returned to office, he found that a commission had been appointed by a former Secretary of State, enabling certain persons named in it to institute a full inquiry into the state of the supply of water in the metropolis. He found that the three eminent persons named in the commission had power to administer oaths to the witnesses who gave evidence before them; and it certainly did appear that in other respects they were furnished with ample powers to conduct their inquiry. As to taking levels and making surveys, he had required an estimate of the expense before he would give his consent, but that had not been furnished him; and he could not agree to embark in any scheme without some limits being assigned to the expense that might be incurred by the country. The correspondence proved, that the commissioners had full powers to conduct their inquiry. He had not told them that they had nothing to do but to make an analysis of the 1363 water; but surely, when it was considered that this commission bore date the 5th June, 1827, it was surprising that no analysis had been made, with a view to ascertain the salubrity of the water. He did not think that that alone was all that was necessary; but he did think that no report could be complete without it. If the report of the commissioners should show that the present companies, who derived their supply from the Thames, could not from that source give a sufficient and salubrious supply, he trusted that new companies would be formed for the better accommodation of the public. But the expense of the surveys should fall on those new companies, and not on the public; unless government intended to undertake the supply of water themselves. If they left it to private enterprise, the expense of employing engineers should belong to the parties engaging in the speculation. He repeated, that he could sanction no plans of that kind, without a distinct estimate of the expense. The letter he had written to the commissioners, stating his views of their powers, had been, by his direction, laid before the right hon. gentleman (Mr. S. Bourne) who had issued the commission, and he had entirely concurred in the whole of it. He had no objection to present the evidence already taken before the commissioners, but before he determined to employ engineers he would repeat—"Let us have the report on what they are competent to decide; namely, the salubrity of the water."
Mr. S. Rice
said, that the delay which had occurred in the prosecution of the objects of the commission arose, as he believed, from the following causes:—At the time when the commission was appointed, they nominated a person as secretary, whom they afterwards found to be incompetent to the performance of its duties. The principal objection was, that this person was not versed in the science of engineering; and they applied to the noble lord, then at the head of the Home Department, to order the appointment of a practical engineer. Lord Lansdowne expressed some doubt as to the power which he possessed to interfere in the selection of such a person; but he informed the commission, that if they felt themselves embarrassed in their proceedings by the want of an engineer, and were disposed to make a selection of any gentleman acquainted with the science of engineering, he would 1364 sanction the appointment. His lordship added, that he did not understand the commission was appointed to examine into the propriety of any new works; but if they were decidedly of opinion that such new works were necessary, and were disposed to send in a statement of what they conceived those works ought to be, and an estimate of their probable expense, he would submit them to the consideration of the Treasury. The House would see, that nothing could be more inexpedient or more inconvenient than to have a kind of roving commission going about the country, in order to take plans and make levels under the direction of an engineer. It was in order to avoid this inconvenience that the commission was requested to send in an estimate of the expense; but no such estimate was sent in while the noble lord remained in office, nor did he believe that any estimate had been sent in since his resignation. Much, therefore, of the delay complained of proceeded from the commissioners themselves.
again asked whether the right hon. gentleman had any objection to the production of that part of the evidence which had already been taken.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he had no objection to the production of the evidence, if the commissioners consented. It might be that they had taken evidence upon only one side of the question in some cases; and if they were to publish that evidence without taking the evidence which might be opposed to it, their conduct would seem to be influenced by partiality. If, however, the commissioners were not opposed to its immediate production, he had no objection whatever.