§ Order of the day for the Second Beading read.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIUGH
My Lords, I think I shall best consult the convenience of the House if I make no speech at this stage. The Bill is a long and complicated one, and I do not know that I could say anything about it which would be new to noble Lords who take an interest in it, without going into a mass of history and detail which would take some time, and would probably weary your Lordships. I think it would be most for the convenience of the House that I should defer any remarks I may have to make until I see to what points objection is raised, when I will do my best to reply, I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.
Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, it is at least as irksome to me as it must be to you that I should continually rise at this Table to find fault with the proposals of His Majesty's Government, and yet I do so from no captious or carping spirit, because I really do believe that, however good the objects of these proposals may be, the methods adopted to carry them out are little likely to prove successful. I suppose there must almost necessarily be some unreality in debates in this House. Either we have a small attendance, or else we are a small body on these Benches and we find ourselves surrounded by serried bands of those who disagree with us. But it does not seem to me that His Majesty's Government have done much to add to the unreality and hollowness of the debates in this House.
983 I think that if your Lordships will consider the mere occurrences of the last ten days, you will admit that this House has not been treated by His Majesty's Government with that respect which its position and its dignity deserve. Take the history of the last few days. In the early hours of Thursday of last week, an Education Bill of immense importance, a Bill which your Lordships were well able to debate, and in which you were intensely interested, was read a third time in the House of Commons, and brought up for First Reading in your Lordships' House, the Second Reading following not many hours after it was read a first time. The Second Reading debate was limited to two days, and I think the speeches that have been delivered in Committee since show that debate might well have been protracted another two days to great advantage. Within three days the Committee stage was entered upon, and that stage was pressed through this House by means of long and unusual sittings on days when your Lordships do not usually meet. Exactely the same course has been taken with regard to this Bill. Again, in the early hours of Thursday, a Bill is read a third time in the House of Commons—read a third time before it had even been printed in its completed form. Amendments of an important character had been introduced into the Bill on Report, and yet the Bill when it was read a third time in the House of Commons, did not even present to that House the appearance it now presents to your Lordships. This Bill in its present form was not delivered to us till late last night, and I only saw it with the Amendments introduced in the House of Commons on Report when I arrived home late last night after the sitting of this House. I ask, is that the proper way to treat the House of Lords? I appeal to the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack, who is the natural guardian of the rights and privileges of this House, and who, so far as I have been able to notice, has always been only too ready to maintain and to assert them, to join in the protest I make against the treatment your Lordships have received, and use that great influence which be must have in the counsels of the Party to which he belongs to prevent us being treated again in a manner which is not worthy or proper. So much for the procedure 984 which has taken place with regard to this Bill.
I come, now, to the Bill itself, and let me at once say I am glad it is unnecessary for me to go in detail into the ancient history of the measure. We are all to a large extent agreed on the subject of the Bill. I think we are all agreed as to the necessity of purchase. It is rather on the terms of purchase, and as to the conditions on which the water supply of London is to be managed, that we differ. I think that this Bill now does present a much improved appearance compared to that which it presented when first introduce. What with the labours of the Committee and the House of Commons the Bill has been greatly improved, and I do not think that within the Bill, so far as the provisions of purchase and so forth are concerned, there would be any fair ground for me to move the rejection of the Bill on the Second Reading. The only thing that I consider justifies me in this course is the constitution of the authority which is to work the Bill. But, at the same time, do not let the interpretation be read into my words that I consider the provisions of the Bill, so far as purchase is concerned, to be perfect. I think that just as in the case of the bargain with regard to the Education Bill between State and Church, the presumption of which is all in favour of the Church, so in the case of this Bill a bargain has been struck for London, in which again the presumption seems to be all in favour of the Water Companies. I will give the House a little proof to support that assertion—proof taken from the money article of The Times of yesterday. In that article appeared the following—Among water stocks Lambeth rose 10 to 315, East London 91/2to 235, and South wark and Vauxhall D 71/2 to 200, and there was also a rise of 5 each in Kent to 305, Lambeth 71/2 percent. to 225, New River to 400, West Middlesex to 300, and Southwark and Vauxhall to 2071/2; of each in ditto B Debenture to 98, West Middlesex 3 percent. to 98, Grand Junction A to 1161/2, and ditto D to 1021/2; pf 11/2 in ditto C to 541/2; and I each in ditto B to 58 and West Middlesex 41/2 percent. to 1421/2.You will see there that really in the whole mass of the water stocks on Wednesday there was a jump of a most considerable character, showing, at any rate, that the market thought the Water Companies and the owners of water stocks 985 were not likely to suffer very much from the bargain. It so happened that I had to go towards the City yesterday morning, and out of curiosity I thought I would ask what about water stocks, and I caused an inquirty to be made of a broker. And what was the answer? Why, that they were not in the market; that there were no sellers. I agree that this is the time for holders of water stocks to retain them with a view to liquidation under this Bill.
Now to come to the particular point on which I am going to ask your Lordships to refuse a Second Reading to this Bill, namely, the constitution of the authority under the Bill. My first proposition is that a reasonable common-sense proposal would have been to have made the London County Council the authority to purchase the Water Companies and to administer the water supply for the benefit of the people of London. I have, I think, high authority for that view. Viscount Ridley's Committee in 1891 recommended that course, and I think London has great reason to regret the fall of the Government of 1895, which involved the dropping of the London County Council's Bills of that year. But I will quote an authority which will perhaps have greater weight with your Lordships than that of Viscount Ridley's Committee— the authority of no less a person than the late prime Minister. Lord Salisbury said—I am told that there are certain subjects that it is necessary that a central body should conduct and control. I quite admit there are such subjects. They are principally connected with the main drainage of the Metropolis, with the management of the river which flows through this city, and, if you will, with the water supply; in fact, with those matters which depend upon the natural law that water will run down and will not run up. All these things which depend upon those natural laws are necessarily brought under a central management, but if that management were duplicated or multiplied it would cause confusion.The proposal that the duty of managing the water supply for London should be given to the London County Council is one that commands the precedent of almost all other boroughs throughout the country. There are in Great Britain 931 county and municipal boroughs which have a municipal water supply, and of these only thirteen have a joint authority of the nature of that proposed 986 under the Bill, and I believe that in almost all these thirteen cases the joint authority is not for the purpose of distribution of water, but for the provision of particular water sheds between different consumers. In the case of no less than sixty-six of these municipal boroughs, Parliament has passed private Bills transferring the water supply from private companies to municipalities. But then it is said that the London County Council is not a proper authority, that it is and administrative County Council and therefore does not stand in the position of the borough municipalities who administer the water supply in the country. That is a proposition which I take complete exception to. The London County Council is essentially the municipality of greater London and it is also the direct successor of the Metropolitan Board of Works. It had to take over its duties of all sorts, and this new authority which you are proposing has in it the very same elements of failure which led to the death of the Metropolitan Board of Works.
Then it is said that the London County Council cannot give the necessary time for the management of the water supply, and that its time is already fully taken up. My answer to that is that really and truly all these various proposals which are made which give to the London County Council large representation on the particular Board involve as much time to the members of the County Council as if the control were given over to them entirely. You propose under this Bill to give fourteen seats on the new Board to the London County Council. In the same way Lord James's Bill proposed fourteen members, and Viscount Llandaff's Commission ten members of the London County Council. In the ordinary case supposing the water supply was transferred out and out to the London County Council, you would probably find that it would be administered by eighteen or twenty men at the outside, so that there would not be any more burden laid on the County Councils proposed to be laid on them by this Bill. Then it is said that the County Council is not a suitable body because it does not represent the outside area, and that you must include in your London water scheme a large 987 area outside, which does not come under the jurisdiction of the London County Council at all. I quite admit that that is true, but London is no singular case in this respect. You find the same thing throughout the length and breath of the land. Let me take a model municipality, one that should recommend itself to noble Lords opposite as having been brought into activity and life by one of their own colleagues—I mean the municipality of Birmingham. The inside area there consists of 19'9 square miles, with a population of 522,183 and a ratable value of £2,735,420; and the outside area is of 112 square miles, with a population of 252,462 and a ratable value of £1,182,417. Yet the municipality of Birmingham controls the water supply for the whole area without any representation from the outside area. The case of London is almost identical. The population of the London water area is 5,500,000, and the population of the County Council area 4,232,000; the ratable value of the London County Council area is £30,000,000, and that of the outside area £11,745,000. It seems to me that the two cases run on very parallel lines, and what works well in Birmingham would also be found to work extremely well so far as London is concerned. Yon will find exactly the same state of things in Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton, Bradford, Leicester—I could name a hundred towns who all supply water on exactly the same grounds. The fact of the matter is, the Government are afraid of the London County Council. They mistrust it, and will not give it its natural work, either alone or in combination with other bodies represented in proportion to their interests. Let it be so. Lord Balfour, on the Committee, ruled that the acceptance of the Bill on Second Reading precluded the suggestion of any second authority in the form of the Board. But if you are going to have a Board, let it be a practical Board of moderate size. Let it be a Board in the nature of a board of directors, a business body, rather than something in the nature of a deliberative assembly or a debating society. I am quite ready to accept a Board if that Board is a sensible one.
Again, I say the authorities in favour of a moderate sized Board give you an absolutely answerable case. I cannot 988 conceive how my noble friend will be able to advance an argument against what I am going to put before him now. In the first place I will go back to the proposals of Lord Cross in 1878-80. He then proposed a Board of 21 members. Viscount Ridley's Committee in 1891 rejected Trusts of 39 and 50 in favour of the London County Council itself. Lord James's Bill in 1896 proposed a Board of 33, on which the London County Council had 14 representatives. Viscount Llandaff's Commission proposed a Board of 30, on which the London County Council was to be represented by 10 members. It is a curious thing that all the distinguished persons, whose names I have quoted in respect of these Commissions and Bills, are noblemen who have held the highest position in His Majesty's present Government. It seems to me that the present proposal must be a fantastic emanation from the Local Government Board and the brain of Mr. Walter Long. I claim that the whole weight of opinion of the Committee of the present year was not originally in favour of the proposals of the Government, but in favour of my contention. I am afraid I must trouble the House for a moment with the proceedings of the Joint Committee of the two Houses which sat upstairs.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The proposal to have the County Council as the authority was put and unanimously rejected by the Joint Committee, not on my ruling, but on the merits.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I have abandoned the case of County Council. I have simply thought that it was a fair thing to state it, and I am only arguing now for a common sense Board instead of an impracticable, fantastic one. The Bill was read a second time in both Houses—rather an unusual procedure I believe—and was sent to a Committee of ten, consisting of five Members from each House. There was some discussion about the appointment of that Committee, and it was decided by all parties that it should be an impartial Committee without any party element, that it should be struck in the fashion of a Private Bill Committee, and that its procedure should follow those 989 lines. I may say at once that I was perfectly satisfied with the composition of the Committee, and I bring no shadow of a charge of any party animus having been found amongst its Members. The Committee met, and very early in its proceedings passed a Resolution deleting the representation of the Metropolitan Boroughs from Schedule III, and of the urban districts and boroughs in the counties of Essex, Kent, Middlesex, and Surrey, other than the borough of West Ham, and requesting the promoters to prepare a fresh schedule, on the scheme indicated by this decision, for a Water Board consisting of about thirty-five members, instead of sixty-eight, including the Chairman and Vice Chairman, but without giving a majority on the Board to the representatives of any one county. This resolution was carried by six votes to three, one Member of the Lower House not being present on that occasion. I am afraid the promoters of the Bill were rather taken aback by this early decision of the Committee. At any rate, they quickly appeared by counsel and drew a most gruesome picture of what was going to happen in consequence of this resolution. They said the decision of the Committee had been considered by the Government and received by them with profound regret. I suppose the promoters of the Bill had a right to use all the powers they are allowed before the Committee, and I do not hesitate to say they used whatever powers they had to the full. The result of their argument was that fresh evidence was laid on the subject from both sides. Then, my noble friend, Viscount Llandaff, I think, did not show himself quite so astute as usual, for, instead of leaving it to the opponents of the former resolution to move that it should be rescinded, he moved that the former resolution should be adhered to. It certainly does seem to me that that was a most unnecessary thing to do. The Committee had come to a decision by six to three, and why it should be necessary afterwards to move that the resolution be adhered to I cannot conceive. The noble Viscount did not seem to have been quite sufficiently instructed in the methods of transacting business in your Lordships' House, for the result was an equality of votes on this motion to adhere to the resolution that had been arrived at in 990 April, and it was then decided that this equality of votes caused the rescission of the former resolution. I think it was an extraordinary conclusion to come to.
When the schedule was reached which dealt with the question of the Metropolitan boroughs, and which enacted the inclusion of representatives of those boroughs on the new Water Board, we had another case of the rule of your Lordships' House being used, I do not say ultra rives in any sense, but at any rate, as I think, to defeat the very objects for which your Lordships made the rule and act upon it. When the schedule was before the Committee, the Chairman, instead of putting the question, "That this be the schedule of the Bill," put the question in this form— "That the schedule be disagreed with." Having put the question in that form, one would have imagined that that was the view of the Chairman of the Committee, but when the vote was taken he voted against his own motion, and by that means an equality of votes was secured, which was interpreted as negativing the motion, and therefore causing the schedule to stand. As I understand, the practice of your Lordships' House is founded on the maxim, semper prcesumitur pro negante,and that the object of that is to give an opportunity for consideration. But on both of these occasions no opportunity was given for reconsideration. On the contrary, the matter was decided off-hand, and therefore I say that the interpretation put upon this practice of the House by the Committee and by the Lord Chairman is one that does not fall into line with the rule of the House. I have argued that all authority, including the Committee upstairs, is in favour of a comparatively small body, not exceeding thirty-five in number, including the chairman and vice chairman. But the authority proposed to be set up in this Bill is to consist of sixty-eight members. How is that body composed? On that enormous body there will be twenty-nine representatives of the Metropolitan boroughs. If I remember rightly, the total number of electors in the Metropolitan boroughs is something like 650,000. The ordinary ward contains on the average about 1,000 voters. These twenty-nine men who are going to sit on this Board will only directly represent the average 991 thousand electors each in his own ward; that is to say, out of the 650,000 voters you will only have a small proportion, namely about 30,000, brought directly in contact with these representatives.
There is another astonishing thing, to my mind, to which I should like to call attention. As I understand, a concession was made in the other House the other night by providing that when one of these representatives ceased to be a member of the borough authority, he would cease to be a member of the Water Board. I thought, when I saw that that concession had been made, that it was a very proper one, and one for which there was a great deal to be said, and I still think so. But as it is, as I understand, within the power of the borough authority to appoint a man who is not a member of the authority at all, that concession seems to me a very infinitesimal one. After all, you have these sixty-eight members elected by seventy-eight distinct authorities. These distinct authorities have some 3,000 members among them. Some of these gentlemen do not even represent single authorities, but groups of authorities. I will take one instance. One member is sent by the councils of the urban districts of Brentford, Hampton, Hampton Wick, Hanwell, Heston and Isle worth, Sunbury, Teddington, and Twickenham. Each one of the councils of these individual places has to appoint a small Committee, and each of these Committees has to meet together to choose the person who is to be sent to represent them on the Water Board. This is an instance of indirect representation run mad. There is no representation in it left to speak of. You will have this enormous body of sixty-eight members, and you will have on it Progressives and Moderates. You will have debates and Party divisions, and all the other consequences of a big deliberative assembly; and yet what are the duties of the Water Board? It seems to me they are few and simple. Their first business is to purchase the Water Companies' undertakings. That is a very transient duty, one that will be quickly accomplished, and one in which they will be largely assisted by the Board of Arbitration, who really have the settling of the terms on which the undertakings of 992 the Water Companies are taken over. Then they will have the permanent duty of supplying London with sufficient and wholesome water. I do not think that is a duty which will be performed by long debates; it is exactly a duty which would be best performed by a body of men, small in number, but of a thoroughly businesslike character, like a good board of directors. The third duty which they would have to decide would be from what quarter additional supplies should be brought, if it is found, as I think will be most probable, that the supply from the Thames will not be sufficient for future needs. I do not think that need be a question for great debate. It is rather one to be decided by the expert, by the engineer, by the geologist, the statistician. The reason why I ask your Lordships to reject this Bill is that the new authority will be unwieldy and without cohesion, will have unlimited powers of raising money, will be only indirectly responsible to the ratepayers, and will not have the necessary experience to qualify it for the work entrusted to it. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.
To leave out the word 'now' in order to insert 'this day four weeks.' "—(Lord Tweedmouth.)
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, as I indicated to your Lordships a short time ago, I will do my best to meet the criticisms and objections which the noble Lord opposite has passed upon this Bill. In any case, I shall not shrink from discussing with him the procedure of the Committee upstairs. I am relieved from going much into the history of the past transactions in regard to this matter, because the noble Lord passed lightly over them, and especially there is no conflict between us as to the fact that the time has now arrived when the water supply of the Metropolis ought to be in the hands of a public body. At the commencement of his speech the noble Lord made a general complaint of the treatment of this House by the Government, not only in regard to the Education Bill, but in regard also to the Bill which is now before your Lordships. So far as the former of these two Bills is concerned, I can only say that I believe the arrangement arrived at was one by mutual agreement for the 993 convenience of the House as a whole, and in regard to this Bill I really cannot see that the noble Lord has any cause for complaint. The House was made acquainted early in the Spring with the provisions of the Bill, and it consented to the Bill being read a second time pro forma and referred it to a. Committee upstairs. In these circumstances it does not seem to me unusual that the first reading of the Bill brought from the other House should be regarded as a purely object to being taken under the circumstances in which this Bill was taken. I confess, after the statement of the noble Lord that to a large extent he agreed with the Bill, I am surprised he should have thought it worth while to submit a motion for its rejection at this stage. I never supposed he would like the constitution of the Board, but I thought that that would be a point which he would raise in Committee, and I still think it would be more appropriately raised there than by a motion for the rejection of the Bill. But I cannot see that, under all the circumstances, this House has been in any way badly treated. I venture to put this further point. If the Education Bill and this Bill had not been taken now it would have necessitated the prolongation of the Session over the Christmas holidays and the New Year, because I do not think your Lordships would have liked, on the plea of want of time, to nullify the whole of the laborious proceedings which have been gone through in regard to both these Bills in another place and upstairs during many moths past. I maintain that on balance of convenience to this House and of public advantage the course taken by the Government is one which has overwhelming considerations to justify it.
I will deal at once with one point to which the noble Lord referred early in his speech. He made great play with the fact that the stock of the Water Companies had gone up greatly in price during the past few days. I do not know whether the noble Lord is aware—he certainly did not tell the House—that that rise in price will have no sort of effect on the terms which the Water Companies will get under the arbitration.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
It is perfectly obvious, because, if the noble Lord will refer to the 8th sub-Section of Clause 23, he will find that there is a. distinct provision to this effect, that the Court of Arbitration shall not make any allowance for compulsory sale, and shall not take into account any enhancement or depreciation of the market value of any stock or shares of the company which, in the opinion of the Court, was caused by, or resulted from, the passing, or the anticipation of the passing, of this Act; but the Court may make such allowance as they think just for recoupment of any loss of interest pending reinvestment, as well as for the cost of reinvestment. That is a distinct direction to the Court of Arbitration to take, as one of their bases, at any rate, the value of the stock and shares of the companies as they stood anterior to the introduction of the Bill.
The main point to which the noble Lord directed his speech was as to the Board which is to be constituted the water authority for the Metropolis in the future. I venture to lay down, as an axiom, that that authority must include representatives, both of the county of London and of the outside areas; that it must be representative in its character, and that the administrative county of London must have a large preponderating majority upon the Board. A very few figures will justify that statement. The London water area is 620 square miles; of that area 121 square miles are in the county of London. The population of the whole area is 6,250,000, of whom 4,500,000 are within the administrative county of London. The ratable value of the whole area is£50,500,000. of which the county of London represents £40,000,000,the outside area representing the remaining £10,500,000.The plan adopted in the Bill is to give the representation which is due to London partly to the County Council and partly to the sanitary authorities of the Metropolis, including the boroughs and the Common Council of the City of London. The County Councils outside London are also represented. The noble Lord adversely commented on the fact that some of these authorities had to be grouped. If they had not been grouped 995 the body would have been out of all proportion as a possible body in the matter of size, and I am sure the outside bodies would rather have one representative shared with others than to be without representation at all. The noble Lord, I think, wished to convey to the House that the weight of authority, not only of Committees and Commissions, but of experience in other matters, tended to show that on both these grounds the County Council of London ought to be made the water authority for the area.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I did not in the least say that. I quoted two authorities in favour of the County Council being the authority—namely, Viscount Ridley's Committee and Lord Salisbury. The other quotations from authorities which I gave, were, undoubtedly, all in favour of boards made up partly of the London County Council and partly of the Councils representing the outside areas in each case forming a small body of from thirty to thirty-five members.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I am quite aware that later in his speech the noble Lord said he abandoned the case for the London County Council, but he certainly quoted the authority of Viscount Ridley's Committee in 1891 and said he could quote a hundred boroughs to show that the councils of those boroughs were the water authority and had dealings with outside areas. These are the two points with which I wish to deal. I venture to say that of all the Commissions and Committees which have sat on this question, the Committee of 1891, presided over by my noble friend Viscount Ridley, is the only one which can be quoted in favour of constituting the County Council the water authority.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Everybody did not know its County Council as well then as it knows it now. But I do not wish to get into any recrimination as to the tendency of the London County Council. I say, quite frankly, that I have had to deal with it on more than one occasion. I have had to deal with it on the Commission of 1892, 996 on the Joint Committee and on the Rating Commission, and I have never, either in public or private, failed to bear testimony to the ability with which its cases are got up and put before the tribunal; but I think that in many matters it has taken a more partisan political line than is altogether desirable; and it did this from the very first, because, although the earliest election for the County Council was run fairly, as far as the Party to which I belong was concerned, on non-Party lines, the narrow majority obtained by the Party opposite was used to put in the whole of the Aldermen they were entitled to elect. I am not going further into that matter. The Bill of 1896 provided a mixed body of about thirty for London Water. It was opposed, and most severely criticised as to its composition, not only by the noble Lord who has just spoken, but by Lord Monkswell and the noble Earl now on the Front Cross Bench (Lord Rosebery), and it did. not go further, partly owing to the opposition of the outside areas, who-did not wish to be associated with the London County Council in a body of that kind, and partly because the London County Council had obtained agreements with those bodies for the severance of the works. On that point the Government of the day appointed a Commission, presided over by my noble friend Viscount Llandaff, and his Commission reported distinctly against the policy of severance, and also-recommended a body of about thirty—not the County Council; and it made this recommendation besides, that that body was to be a body of paid experts. That proposal has not found favour with any one, and I do not think it has been ever proposed seriously, either in or out of Parliament. The Joint Committee over which I had the honour to preside this year was unanimously against making the County Council the water authority.
The noble Lord made play with the precedents of other large cities. He quoted the case of Birmingham, Glasgow, and other places, and said that the policy of Parliament was to give the control of the water supply to the central area, and; leave it to deal with the outside areas. But there are two great differences between those cases and the case of London. Without exception, before 997 Parliament has given such authority to the central area, that area has come to Parliament with agreements on the part of the authorities which it proposed to supply with water, and therefore Parliament has been dealing with a matter which has been the subject of agreement, and that is not so in the case of London and the other areas here. There are also a larger number of other authorities concerned, and it would be not only from the reason I have given, but also from the magnitude of the case, a new departure if Parliament had given the London County Council power to deal with the outside area in this way. In all these cases, again, the water supply has been obtained from a great distance—Birmingham from Wales, Liverpool and Manchester from the Cumberland Hills, and Glasgow from Lock Katrine; while the London water supply is got from a variety of sources, some of them within the very districts of those local authorities which are to be represented on the Board. I pass on to the next point. The noble Earl was very severe in his criticism of the size of the Board. He said what he would like to have seen established was a practical body, and that this Board was much too large for its work. Well, that is a very newly-found doctrine on the part even of the London County Council, for I would remind the noble Lord that the County Council themselves have introduced Bills within the last few sessions of Parliament proposing an authority of forty-seven, forty-eight and forty-nine. There is no difference whatever in principle between a body of forty-seven and one of sixty-three or sixty-five, because, in either case, the Board must work through committees. Therefore it is too late for the County Council to object to this Board on account of its size. The reason why the Government have adopted this proposal is that they recognise that London must have a predominating voice. You can only give London a predominating voice in one of two ways—either in the way we have suggested, or by giving the predominating voice to the County Council itself; and for some reason or other there is hardly a single outside authority which is willing to join a Board with 998 the London County Council in a predominating majority upon it. Therefore, if London is to have a predominating majority, the representation of London must be divided between the London County Council and those other sanitary authorities mentioned in the Bill. These authorities have been formed since Lord Llandaff's Commission reported and I think it is good for the corporate life of these boroughs that they should have an interest in this large and important subject of supplying London with water.
It has been suggested that the Water Board will not have enough work to occupy its energy. I venture to point out that at present the water supply of London is managed by eight different Boards, with a considerable number of directors; and it was given in evidence before my Committee upstairs that such a public authority as this must be able to man a very considerable number of committees. I have made a list of the committees which such a body as this would have to work through. There would have to be a Supply Committee, a Rating Committee, a Works Committee, a Stores Committee, a Parliamentary Committee, a Finance Committee, and probably a General Purposes Committee; and I venture to say that this body is not one bit too large effectively to man those committees. Therefore, I sincerely hope your Lordships will not be led away by the noble Lord opposite, but will agree that though this Board, as proposed by the Government, may not be ideal in constitution or numbers, still, of a choice of all the alternatives that are before the Government, it is the best that can be devised, having regard to the wishes of the authorities concerned and to the due representation of such an immense population and ratable value. It has been objected by the noble Lord opposite that the Borough Councils may send as their representatives on the Water Board men who are not members of their own bodies.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
What I said was that I understood it had been granted as a concession that when a man who was sent by a Borough Council to represent it on the Water Board ceased, to be a member of the Borough Council,
999 the ceased also to be a member of the Water Board. I said I did not think that concession amounted to much when I had since found out that Borough Councils could elect men outside their own bodies to the Water Board.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Surely the arrangement which the noble Lord has correctly stated is extremely wise and judicious. It is one of the complaints against the Borough Councils that they will not be able to find among their own body people of position to send to represent them. We are, therefore, given the choice of selecting a gentleman from outside. If they wish to have an outside representative, they will appoint an outside representative; if they wish to have a representative from their own body, they will choose him; and if their desire is to have a representative from their own body, surely it is fair that when he ceases to belong to that body he should cease to belong to the Water Board. If the Borough Council is satisfied with him, they can re-elect him. The arrangement in the Bill gives the maximum of freedom and choice to the Borough Councils, and I hope it will not be altered.
As to the question of the procedure in the Joint Committee, I say frankly and at once that I have not a word of complaint to make of the manner in which the noble Lord brought it before the House. I admit that it is not surprising that the procedure, should have astonished some of those who arc not accustomed to the practice of your Lordships' House. But I can prove to your Lordships that the course which was taken was exactly in accordance with the precedents which govern this case. In the first place, the situation in which we were placed was a very novel and somewhat difficult one. The Government were the promoters of the Bill. I was asked to take the Chair on the Committee, and the noble Lord will hear me out that the position was not one of my own seeking. I took it because I believed that it was the generally-expressed wish that I should do so. The situation, although novel, was not altogether without precedent. There was a precedent in the case of the Railway Rates and Charges Provisional Orders, which were promoted 1000 at the instance of the Board of Trade, which, curiously enough, I was then representing in this House. Those Orders were referred also to a Joint Committee upstairs. We resolved, as I think we were bound to resolve, to treat this as a private Bill touching private rights, and to frame our procedure as nearly as possible upon the well-known procedure of a Private Bill Committee. But at the outset we were met with this difficulty—that to this Bill there was no preamble on which the preliminary general discussion could take place. The discussion as to whether or not a preamble is proved ranges over an infinite variety of subjects and over every detail of the Bill. You can raise any question about any Clause on the preamble discussion, and the decision is given that the preamble is proved in respect of such-and-such Clauses and not in respect of others, or is proved as a whole. We had to evolve, as I have said, our own procedure, and the way in which we did' it, in order to get a preamble discussion, was to take groups of the Clauses which raised kindred issues, and we had a discussion upon them by the unanimous agreement of the Committee, and with the entire approval of all the parties who appeared before us. The first of these discussions embraced the Clauses up to Clause 18, and we decided that in their general structure the case for the Clauses was made out, and then we went on to the next group, which had reference to the authority. Upon that I again proposed a general approval of the provisions of the Bill. An Amendment was moved and carried to delete certain words from the Bill. I am not responsible for the form in which that Amendment was presented. It was an Amendment proposed by the hostile element in the Committee, and was carried by them in their own words and in their own way. I am not responsible for that. I think it was a wrong form to use, because they arranged to delete certain words. All that ought to have been said was that when they came to that part of the Bill in detail such-and-such provisions would be altered. They went on to give directions, which was probably perfectly right, to bring up Clauses involving other arrangements. As the noble Lord has said, a further 1001 discussion took place, with the result that one member who was before absent was present, and another who was before in the majority changed his mind and voted on the same side as I did myself. The noble Lord commented on the simplicity with which the noble Viscount behind me was led into moving a certain Motion. I will not conceal the fact that that was practically a matter of arrangement. For this reason: we could only give a decision, and if that decision had been given that we adhered to the previous decision without any explanation, we should have been misleading all the parties before us, because by that time it was known that when we came to the schedule the question would be put according to the practice of Joint Committees, and in a different way" from that in which it is put in Private Bill Committees. I said to the Committee that if the decision went out without any explanation of that kind we should be misleading all parties, and it would not be fair. On that the noble Viscount consented, fully knowing what the result would be, to move the Motion in the way he did, and it was only anticipating what the ultimate decision would be that the. Question was on that occasion put in that particular way.
I should like to go a little further into this question of procedure. It must be obvious to everybody concerned that the decision in the case of equality of votes is. and must often be, determined by the mode of putting the question. All that Sir Erskine May says on this subject is this:—In case of au equality of votes the not-contents have it, and the question is declared to have been resolved in the negative.… The effect of this rule is altered where the House is sitting judicially, as the question is then put for reversing and not for affirming, and consequently if the numbers are equal the House refuses to reverse the judgment, and an order is made that the judgment of the Court below be affirmed.This method, therefore, of putting the question in this case is designed to ensure the desired result—namely, that the judgment shall not be changed without a majority against it. In the case of a Private Bill Committee the difficulty does not. and cannot, arise, because its numbers are always uneven, unless the parties agree by consent to go on with a smaller 1002 number. But in the case of joint Committees there is always an equal number of Members of both Houses, and the numbers are always even, and it follows, therefore, the Committees being always equal, that there is always a liability of an equality of votes occurring. Of how little there is in this I may perhaps be pardoned for giving an example. If you have a Bill in which the word "expedient" is found, and if in a Joint Committee, or any Committee with an equal number, it was moved to insert the word "not" before expedient, on an equality of votes the Amendment would be lost. But if the Motion was to leave out the word "expedient" for the purpose of inserting "not expedient," a different way of putting the question, the Amendment would be carried and the Bill altered, though no other word would be insisted. Therefore, much depends on the accidental way in which the question is put—upon the ingenuity of the mover, or perhaps, the noble Lord would say, the ingenuity of the Chairman. But the matter does not rest there. The course which I took was absolutely according to the settled practice and precedents of Joint Committees. That practice was made for the first time in the case of the Duke of Richmond's Committee on Railway Rates and Charges, to which I have already alluded. They were equal. I was present on more than one occasion when they divided equally, and they first left out words upon the Motion that such-and-such words stand part of the Bill. Then, when it came to inserting other words, they came to the deadlock, because the voting was equal and the words were not inserted.
It was decided by the Duke of Richmond's Committee that the principle of the ancient rule was best carried out by holding that the Bill as referred to the Committee after Second Reading "held the field." and must not be amended without a majority against it. Through all their procedure subsequently they acted on that rule, and the question was put that the Amendment le agreed to and not that the word be left out, and if there was an equality of votes the Amendment was not agreed to and the Bill remained as it stood. That practice was further carried out by Lord Cross's Committee 1003 on electric lighting. I have the precedents here. Lord Cross's Joint Committee followed the precedent of the Duke of Richmond's Joint Committee, and I, as Chairman of the Joint Committee upstairs, did no more than follow the precedent of these two Joint Committees. I maintain that in doing that I was absolutely right, and that if I had taken any other course I would have been wrong. I know quite well that if the noble Lord had been inclined to speak of this in a hostile spirit he might have suggested that I abused my position as Chairman of the Committee and a member of the Government for the purpose of arriving at this decision. If I had done so I should have been unworthy to hold the position of Chairman of any Committee. The action I took was in accordance with the two precedents I have given, and, in the circumstances, I do not think I could have acted differently. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that after the criticisms which the noble Lord has passed, and the criticisms which had been made outside I could not have done less than take this opportunity of justifying the course I took, and I sincerely hop your Lordships will persevere with the Bill as it stands.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
My Lords, having taken great interest in this question in the London County Council for a great many years I desire to say a few words on this Bill. The noble Lord opposite began his speech in that good-tempered, straightforward manner which is his distinguishing characteristic by saying that he would be able to make a very good case for the Bill on its merits. Well, I regret to say I can hardly agree with him, because he has been in the first place perfectly unable to show what I imagine would have been the most important thing to prove, namely, that London either wants or likes the huge Water Trust which the Government are creating. The noble Lord has not in any sort of way tried to prove that the Bill is in sympathy with the wishes, aspirations and hopes of the enormous number of our fellow countrymen who live in the County of London. We have heard a great deal about the Borough Councils, and I dare say we shall 1004 be told that they are very anxious to come on the Water Board. The Borough Councils were created in 1899, and this Bill was bought forward in 1901, but we have not heard, directly or indirectly, from these transformed vestries that they desire to do so. I admit that the London Members of Parliament voted for the Bill, but it must be remembered that the last general election was fought in London only on the question of the war. No domestic questions at all were brought forward when Conservative members were returned with very few exceptions all over London. But when the Government went to war with the School Board and the London County Council, which, I venture to say, has gained the respect of the vast majority of the people of London, very different results were shown, not only in the election of the London School Board in 1900, but also in the election of the London County Council in 1901, which was fought on the housing question and the water question. That shows conclusively that the domestic policy of the Government with regard to London was not the success the Government seemed to think it was.
The noble Lord opposite made a statement with regard to the London County Council which I must ask the House to forgive me for alluding to. He said his own objection, and I suppose he meant the objection of the Government, to the. County Council was that it was run on Party and political lines. I must remind the House that from 1895 to 1898 the members of the Council were absolutely equal—there were the same number of Moderates and Progressives—and Lord Onslow, who at that time led the Moderate Party with great success, brought this question of the Water Trust forward in the Council and carried his point by a majority of one. Lord James's Water Bill was introduced in 1896, and though it passed easily through all its stages in this House it was never proposed at all in the House of Commons. The next year Lord Salisbury made his famous attack on the London County Council in his Albert Hall speech, when he advised the Moderates to capture all the seats on the County Council. London took up the challenge, and the great battle was fought in the following year. As a result, 1005 the Moderates, if I may venture to use the expression, were absolutely "snowed under," and at the present moment, our of a membership of 137 there are only 3-4 Moderates on the Local Government Committee. Eight noble Lords resigned their seats on the Council, and the Moderate Party, to an extent, threw up the sponge. All the County Councils, including the, London County Council, are the children of a Unionist Government, but the London County Council grew too fast, and became, I am bound to confess, a little rebellious. The Government then determined that this child perhaps wanted smacking, and during the last few years they have treated the London County Council with what I might be allowed to call "Penruddockian severity." The first punishment that the London County Council received was in 1899, when the Government turned the vestries into Borough Councils in order; to play them against the London County Council whenever it would be necessary to assert what the noble Lord opposite called London's predominant authority. The second smack was when the Government appointed the Joint Committee, which was so ably presided over by the noble Lord opposite. Mr. Walter Long said on March 3rd of this year that the Committee would consider the number of governing bodies in the freeest possible manner. Lord Salisbury said the same thing. But what happened? The Bill followed the ordinary course of private Bill legislation. When the Committee came to Schedule 111. containing the Borough Councils, Lord Crewe moved that the Schedule stand part of the Bill. Lord Balfour of Burleigh, as has been said, refused to put it in that form, and insisted that the Motion should take the form that the Schedule be disagreed with. The votes were equal. The Chairman declared ' that the Motion was carried, arid the Government won all along the line, the Schedule standing as it was proposed. What Lord Balfour had described as "the desired result" was arrived at, and, so far as the Government was concerned, all went well. I understand that Lord Balfour relied on the judicial practice of this House, and the custom when the House sits as a judicial body is always to put the question in this way, that the 1006 judgment of the Court below be reversed. I have always understood that the principle of the House of Lords is that no legislation should pass unless a majority of the House approved of it. This is carried to its logical conclusion by the fact that the Chairman of Committees in this House has no second vote, though the Chairman in the House of Commons has. The House of Lords, as Court of Appeal, acts differently, and what it has to decide is whether or not the decision of the lower Court is to be upheld. If the votes are equal the decision of the lower court is upheld. Why? Because of the votes of the majority of the lower Court. I suppose they put all the judges together and the majority have it.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The votes in this House only arc counted. If there is an equality in this House, and the Motion is put to uphold the judgment and it is lost on an equality, the result would be that the majority of the judges would not get effect given to their judgment. But the votes of the lower Court are riot counted in this House.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
My point is that if the votes are equal the decision of the lower Court is upheld.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Yes, but you can only get at that Inputting the Motion in the reverse way.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
In the case of a Bill I respectfully submit that there is no lower Court. The position is absolutely different; there is no similarity at all, unless the noble Lord would argue that the opinion of the promoters of the Bill—the Government—is to be taken as the decision of the lower Court. This is either absurd or else it is an absolute reversal of the practice of the House of Lords which the noble Lord has justified by one single precedent in the case of a Railway Rates Joint Committee on a trivial point of detail.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I believe such a thing as this has never been done before, and it is a reversal of the practice 1007 of the House of Lords which the noble Lord has justified by the single precedent of a Railway Rates Joint Committee on a point of detail. I have nothing more to say. In our opinion, to set up to manage the water supply of London this huge Water Trust, a body which is not directly responsible to anyone, and consists, to quote Lord Crewe, of uninterested and uninteresting people, a body which London has never asked for and which the water directors in the House of Commons have announced to be unsatisfactory, is a step which is not in the best interests of our fellow-citizens. Nobody believes it will be able to carry out its work efficiently, and therefore, as a member of the County Council, and in the interests of my constituents, I shall certainly record my vote against this Bill.
§ *VISCOUNT LLANDAFF
I hope your Lordships will excuse me if I detain you for a few moments while I offer some observation on this Bill. I am bound to admit that there are many things in the Bill which I dislike. Your Lordships are all aware that there are two Acts of Parliament framed expressly to meet such cases as we are dealing with in this compulsory purchase of the Water Companies' undertakings—the Lands Clauses Act and the Arbitration Act. Those two Acts of Parliament were carefully framed by the most skilful lawyers of the day, and they were expressly intended to embody the conditions which were thought fair when a man's property is taken from him. For some reason that I am unable to understand, this Bill sets aside and does not incorporate either of these Acts, which were expressly intended to meet cases of this sort. An acre of land cannot be taken compulsorily from the humblest landowner except under the terms and conditions laid down in the Lands Clauses Act. Yet here is a transaction involving forty or fifty millions in the purchase of property from the Water Companies against their will, and yet they are to be shut out from the Arbitration Act and the Lands Clauses Act. I admit there are words put into one Clause of the Bill that the compensation to be given to the Compaines shall be given as though the case were within the Lands Clauses 1008 Act, but there are a vast number of other provisions in that Act which have been interpreted by a long series of legal decisions, and which are shut out. Under the Lands Clauses Act the property does not finally pass from the person whose property is compulsorily taken to the statutory purchaser until the compensation has been both settled and paid. Under this Bill the whole of the property of the companies passes, on what is called the appointed day, from them into the hands of the Water Board, although the compensation may not then have been settled, and certainly not paid; so that cash balances, reserve funds, investments of all kinds, and books pass from the Water Companies. Their officers and servants become the officers and servants of the Water Board, and the Companies may go to this Board of Arbitration without an engineer or secretary to assist them, and with all their books and accounts handed over to the Water Board. True, they may have access to the books, and money allotted to them to meet the expenses of the arbitration; but that does not seem to me to be quite satisfactory, and I think, if your Lordships had one of your farms compulsorily taken from you and the rents, the estate books, the services of your bailiff all transferred to the purchaser before compensation was paid, that would not seem to you a satisfactory arrangement enabling you to conduct your case before the arbitrator with success. The Lands Clauses Act enables the dispossessed owner to appoint one of the arbitrators, so that he shall have one member on the Arbitration Board in sympathy with him. But the Water Companies have not been in the least consulted in the choice of any one of the three very distinguished gentlemen who will act as arbitrators, and they do not regard them as in any sense sympathetic towards them.
I pass to what is the greatest objection to the Bill—namely, the constitution of the Water Board. The noble Lord who preceded me in the debate argued strongly in favour of the County Council. I have not one word to say against the County Council; on the contrary, I have the greatest admiration for the ability, industry, activity, and 1009 public spirit which have characterised their proceedings; but for some reason which I do not go into, the London County Council are not favourites with their neighbours, and the Bill introduced by Lord James in 1896 was wrecked owing to the surrounding counties in the London water area declaring that they would not in any circumstances put themselves under the County Council. The Commission which sat since then, of which 1 was a member, had evidence from every one of the counties around the Metropolis, declaring that they would not on any account submit to having the London County Council for the water authority over them, and they demanded severance if the County Council has the control of the water supply given to it. We came to the conclusion that severance was an impossible solution of the difficulty, and since putting the water supply into the hands of the London County Council involved severance, that seems to me a fatal objection. The London County Council are extremely ambitious, and even magnificent, in their schemes, and nothing will satisfy them except fetching water from Wales. We came to the conclusion that fetching water from Wales was unnecessary, and would cost£50,000,000; that was good reason for excluding the London County Councillors from being the purchasers. The noble Lord who has the conduct of this Bill brushed aside with good-natured contempt the recommendations of the Commission of which I had the honour to be a member. I feel it would not become me to argue at all in favour of the recommendations of that Commission. I only wish to say that it consisted of a number of competent experts, and that it was unanimous in the decision it came to, after an inquiry of two years' duration, in which no labour was spared to get the best assistance which could be procured on all hands. It was a very deliberate and very careful decision, and, in substance, it was our judgment that a board of experts was the proper authority to manage this tremendous business. The water supplied by the London Water Companies is a highly manufactured article, requiring the greatest possible 1010 care and study and very careful management to procure. Yet instead of taking experts to manage the water supply the Government choose this remarkable and novel system.
I feel the force of what the noble Lord in charge of the Bill said, that the Government wished to give London something like that preponderance on the Board which, if it had been given to the London County Council, would have wrecked their Bill owing to the opposition it would have excited from all quarters, and therefore they resort to this system, of duplicating, so to speak, the representation of London. I recognise the ingenuity of that, but I am bound to say that the evidence given before the Joint Committee upstairs by these various bodies satisfied me that they would riot treat the London Water question in the interests of the whole of the water area, but that their representatives would come with the particular view of each little locality and would advocate that, and that only. We had a gentleman before us representing Wands-worth. He was asked, "Do you not know that Battersea differs from you?" "Oh, yes," he replied, "we always differ from Battersea; we never agree. "Then came gentlemen from Esher, the Dittons, and Kingston-on-Thames. They said they had a dreadful grievance against the Water Companies, and would, like to assert it by being represented on the water authority. Their grievance was that the large mains that bring the water into London passed under their roads, requiring those roads to be pulled up, and that the filter beds occupied valuable building sites in their areas. It must be remembered that Parliament has compelled the Water Companies to go up to Hampton to draw water for London, and therefore the mains must pass through these districts, and the filter beds must be near the intake. That was the evidence called after the Committee had decided to delete the representation of these small districts and go1 back to county representation, and it satisfied me that a Board composed of such elements would not be a useful Board for conducting this extremely difficult undertaking, which should not be' influenced by such petty considerations as those which arise in small districts.
1011 Allusion has been made to the proceedings of the Committee. I cannot lay claim to any such innocence as the noble Lord opposite attributed to me. I did wilfully propose the question in the shape in which it appears in the Minutes. It was done because we were then informed that the view of the noble Lord who presided over the Committee was that the proper wav to put the question was to put it in the negative form in which it now appears. That would have been done when we came to the schedule, and consequently, if we had proposed that the Resolution to delete these different constituencies be reversed, the equality of votes upon that would have led to the Resolution standing, and when we got to the schedule, the way in which the question would have been put would have caused that decision to be reversed again. That would have been a ridiculous position to have placed a Committee in before the public. I am not sufficiently old a Member of your Lordships' House to presume to say a word as to what the right practice should be. I can only say that for a noble Lord to put the question that the schedule be disagreed with, and then immediately vote that it should be agreed with, strikes me as a practice which requires a good deal of justification. I have no doubt it is right, but it is astonishing to me. of course, I feel that it is impossible to constitute this Board on more manageable lines without altering the whole character of the Bill, but I can only express my regret that the Government have adopted the system of this cumbrous and unwieldy Board. It is a serious matter for the London ratepayers, and I feel that the popularly-elected members of the Board will not be able to resist the outcry for the equalisation of rates. It seems to me that to bring to bear on the members of this Board, who are charged with interests that concern the whole of the water area, pressure which always will be exercised by small constituencies is unwise, and the result will be most unsatisfactory and disastrous in a pecuniary sense to the ratepayers of London. On these grounds I do not propose to give any vote on the Second Reading, but I regret that the Bill is shaped in its present form.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, this subject is one which naturally came before me when I was Chairman of the 1012 London County Council, and I have given a great deal of time and thought to it ever since. I wish we had heard more about the water supply of London, and rather less about the County Council and the proceedings in the Committee, The three great requisites of any system of water supply are that the water should be pure, that it should be sufficient and that it should not cost more than can be helped. This Bill will not affect the purity or the supply, but I fear that it will have the effect of increasing the cost. The Board, as proposed to be constituted, does not seem likely to conduct the business with efficiency and economy. But beyond these general considerations, I have been requested by the local authorities of Kent, in the absence of Lord Stanhope, to say that they fear they may be drained of their water supply, even more than is now the case, without the power of making any effective resistance. They could not but feel that they had too little representation even as the Bill was introduced, but part of that little was taken away in Committee. Their case, though not quite so grievous as that of Hertfordshire, is very serious, and already danger to health has arisen. The London County Council have always recognised the claim put forward by the local authorities of Kent for severance, and we ask the Government to treat us with the same justice as the London County Council have always been prepared to extend to us. The Kent local authorities are unanimous on this question, and they have given notice of a Bill for next Session for the severance of Kent from the London area, and I hope that the passage of the present Bill will not prejudice this forthcoming measure.
My Lords, as Vice-Chairman of the London County Council I must ask your Lordships to allow me to say a few words in support of their action last Tuesday in condemning the Bill by seventy votes to nineteen. I may observe that there are thirty-four Moderates on the County Council, so that the minority of nineteen shows that the Bill has not by any means the unanimous support of the Moderates. I occupy, I am sorry to say, the position of being the only Member of 1013 your Lordships' House who has been on the London Comity Council since it was first established. I very much regret that there is not one single Member 'on the Conservative side to represent this House on the Council, and that is all the more remarkable because we have on our side six Liberal peers, whereas we are out-numbered in this House to the extent of certainly twelve to one. The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland said he thought it was in accordance with the convenience of the House that this Bill should be taken at once, and, if I may say so, rushed through. My complaint is that it is not courteous to this House to treat it in that way, and I do not think the noble Lord tried to answer that contention. The noble Lord did not meet the point of my noble friend as "to the movement in the shares of the Water Companies; the point was that, despite the safeguards in the Bill, directly it was certain that the Bill would pass the shares went up by leaps and bounds. Although he began by referring to the great respect in which he held the London County Council, the noble Lord said we were a partisan body who refused to do simple justice to our adversaries in electing the aldermen. It is true that when, after a hard struggle, we succeeded in getting, not a small majority, but a considerable majority, some of us were so much flushed with victory, and so angry with the things that were said about us at the election, that we, unfortunately as I think, took nearly all the aldermen to ourselves. We have since repented of that action, and have given to the Moderate party the full allowance of aldermen to which they are entitled by their position at the poll.
The noble Lord said the London County Council were not entitled to take exception to this Board of sixty-eight, inasmuch as they themselves proposed a Board of forty-eight. But there was a good deal of difference between sixty-eight and forty-eight. Noble Lords are wrong in saying that we on the London County Council are determined to have, our own way, and that if we cannot get our own way we immediately say we won't play. The reason forty-eight was put in our Bills was in order to conciliate opposition. We thought that forty-eight was too large a number of members to have on the Board, but fixed on that number as a compromise in order to 1014 conciliate particularly the opposition of the City of London. I think the noble Viscount opposite very greatly exaggerated the unpopularity of the London County Council. As to the outside areas disagreeing with the County Council, they do not agree with the present scheme, and the Government had specially stated in the other House that they will not interfere with any outside authority who choose to put forward a case for severance.
I have not the exact form of the statement, but I think the noble Lord will find that I am absolutely accurate in saying that the Government stated they would not pre judge any case as to severance and would allow any authority who desired to do so to put forward cases for severance.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The Government cannot prevent an authority bringing it forward, but I will ascertain accurately what was said. I believe that one authority which has indicated its desire to be severed has been told that during the period of transition the Government will oppose the Bill.
But after the period of transition they will not interfere! We were doing our best to come to an agreement with the county of Surrey and other outside authorities, and I think if we had been allowed time we should have come to an agreement. Viscount Ridley's Committee suggested, as we all know, that the London County Council should be the authority, but the London County Council has never suggested that they should be the sole authority in the sense of having nobody associated with them; they would have been quite content that the Committee through which they acted should contain representatives from outside in the same way as the Technical Education Board of the County Council, which is not exclusively manned by County Councillors. The London County Council has been ousted, as we have heard tonight, for two reasons. First 1015 of all, because it is said that they are in favour of severance and the Government are against it. As to that, I do not think I need say more, because it is perfectly certain that the Government will have to agree to severance whoever is the authority. The second reason is that it is said we ought not to be the authority because we advocate, and have advocated for some time, a scheme for getting water from Wales. The decision of Viscount Llandaff's Commission would have been entitled to a great deal more weight if the Commission had not taken as gospel the Report of Lord Balfour's Committee without reopening the question of whether the evidence given before the Committee had or had not been refuted by the course of events. The noble Viscount said they were not going to re-open that question, and on the evidence given before Lord Balfour's Committee, which has been refuted by the events of the last ten years, they founded their opinion that we ought not to go to Wales for water. Lord Balfour's Commission took the evidence mostly of the Water Companies and of persons representing their interests. It appears to me that the noble Lord is extremely guileless; it must have been obvious that it was to the advantage of the Water Companies to have Thames reservoirs rather than go to Wales. Their evidence may have been perfectly honest, but every word they said has been contradicted by subsequent experience. In support of our scheme we produced our engineer, and we were absolutely without bias. How could the County Council have any bias at all except to do what they thought was best in the interest of the ratepayers? It is nut surprising that the conclusions of Lord Balfour's Commission have been absolutely refuted by events. The noble Lord is perfectly well aware that it was suggested by the Water Companies that only twenty-five gallons of water would be necessary, and that that would be a lavish supply per inhabitant, but even since 1891 the Water Companies have been wrong in predicting that the requirements would go down. It had gone up from thirty two gallons in 1891 to thirty-five and a half in 1897, and what our engineer said—namely, that it will be as much as forty before 1931, is 1016 likely to be true. With regard to the depletion of the Thames, the companies were proved to be in the wrong and our engineers in the right. It seems to me that the London County Council were perfectly right in asking to go to Wales, and thereby stop the depletion of the Thames. The Welsh scheme was condemned on evidence which has proved untrustworthy, and if we are not soon, allowed to take land in Wales other authorities will grasp the sources of supply, which fact London will have great reason to deplore.
With regard to the size of the Water Board, it seems to me that the noble Viscount has so completely riddled the Government's proposals on that matter that it is hardly necessary for me to say anything. But I would observe that my noble friend Viscount Hampden, who is the Chairman of one of the Water Companies, has expressed himself in the strongest way against this Board of sixty-eight. Our view of the case is very different from that of Lord Llandaff. The noble Viscount thinks that the Water Companies will go into arbitration perfectly unequipped and apparently without any money to enable them to place their case properly before the tribunal. The London County Council, on the contrary, view with apprehension the proceedings before the Court of Arbitration between two bodies so differently equipped in knowledge and experience as the Water Board and the Water Companies. The Water Board would at the outset be unwieldy, unorganised, discordant, ill-informed, and ill-equipped. The companies would be united, experienced, and deeply interested, monopolising all the most eminent professional advice and be able to draw on the ratepayers for the expenses of the arbitration. On this point the late Lord Farrer (then Sir Thomas Farrer), than whom there could be no higher authority, said as to the proposed appointment of a commission of fifty-one members—The appointment of such a commission, unwieldy and incongruous in its composition and unfitted to enter into negotiation and contest with the united companies, would, under the circumstances described, be virtually to place the interests of the people of London in the hands of Water Companies.With regard to the Borough Councils, it never occurred for a moment to those 1017 bodies that the water supply was a question which they ought to manage for themselves. There was a great conference some years ago, presided over by the Earl of Onslow, of the Metropolitan authorities to consider what powers should be delegated from the London County Council to the minor authorities, and not one single person in the course of the proceedings suggested for a moment that the water supply was a matter that ought to be managed by the minor authorities. With respect to the evidence on that point, the Lord Mayor of Manchester (Sir Bosdin Leech), when before the Joint Committee, was asked—Speaking for Manchester, do you think that it would be at all desirable to have separate parts of the city separately represented on your Board?And his answer was—I certainly think not. At one time there was an impression that each ward should have a representative on the Committee, but experience has proved that that has not worked well. It was attempted for some time and broke down.The size of the Board is objectionable, not only from the point of view of management, but also from that of purchase, because this body will have to deal with the subject of purchase before the Court of Arbitration, and the questions raised will necessitate intimate knowledge of the Water Companies' history. The companies now claim that they have a monopoly; some time ago they claimed nothing of the kind. Fifty years ago, when the first Water Rating Act was passed, and before that time, the charges were by agreement. Then and previously competition was invoked as a safeguard to the public. When they wanted to get rating the Water Companies invoked compensation, and when they had got rating powers, in order to get more for their undertakings they invoked that blessed word "monopoly." There are great questions as to the stability of their income. The Llandaff Commission stated that Companies may be at the height of prosperity today, and yet in the near future be compelled to incur great and unremunerative expenditure. It seems that, notwithstanding what is put in this Bill, the companies are going to urge that the value of their income from full rating powers, and not their present income, ought to be taken into consideration, and we shall have to fight that as best we can.
1018 I am told that the Water Companies are now rating up to the hilt. I happen to be on the managing body of Emanuel School, which is a charity, and a few weeks ago the Water Company which supplies the school gave us notice to terminate their agreement, which was to supply by meter. Hitherto they had supplied us by meter at a minimum rent of £10 a year; now they have told us that if we want to get water by meter the minimum will be raised from £10 to £30 a year, which would be as much as we should pay if we got the water under ordinary rating terms. The result of the companies grinding us down to pay this extra sum will be that one or two boys less will be able to get scholarships at the school. I was very indignant at this, and spoke to various people about it. They all replied—"That is what the Water Companies are doing all round in view of purchase." Amongst others I mentioned the matter to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee, and he said his water rate had also been put up. Therefore this is no isolated case. As an instance of the curious manner in which the representation on the Water Board works out, I may mention that Stoke Newington, with a population of 50,000, will have the same voting power as the Borough of Camber-well, with a population of over a quarter of a million. Moreover, there are fourteen urban and rural districts outside the County of London that will not be represented at all. The Water Companies are the spoilt children of legislation, and it is very curious how Parliament seems to do things for them which it would not do for anybody else. A few years ago an Act of Parliament was passed to rate advertisements on hoardings and walls, and directly the rates were raised in respect of these advertisements the Water Companies increased their charges too. I should have thought that directly Parliament found that out they would have remedied that injustice, but it has not been remedied. We object to this Bill because the authority is unwieldy and badly constructed, because it may lead to a large endowment by the ratepayers of water shareholders, and because we are perfectly certain that the provisions of the Bill are unduly favourable to the Water Companies, for the shares move in price with the prospects of this Bill
§ *VISCOUNT HAMPDEN
My Lords, I do not rise to continue this discussion on the principle of the Bill, for the obvious reason that it would not be judicious to do so, as I am interested both as a stockholder and director in one of the companies. But I hope your Lordships will allow me to make one observation on the statement of the noble Lord who has just sat down, that "the Water Companies were raising their rates all round in view of purchase." I think it is a pity that statements of that kind should be made, and that no trouble should be taken to verify them. I give the statement the most unqualified and deliberate denial. If we did so it would be a suicidal policy' on our part, because it would be obvious that the knowledge that we had done so would be before the Arbitrators. As a matter of fact, we are continually lowering and raising water rates in London; that is an automatic operation. There was a judgment given in the Courts that the net annual value was to be considered the same as the net ratable value. Then, further, there was an Act of Parliament by which it was declared that the net ratable value should be the basis of the water rate, and so, consequently, when the assessment is changed by the local authorities the water rate goes up and down automatically.
My Lords, I apprehend that the Government regard this Bill as one of the legislative triumphs of the session, but if that is so I am very much astonished to have heard only one speaker support it from the other side of the House. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill refrained in the first instance from addressing the House at all, and was apparently only reluctantly induced to say a few words upon it. Not one other speaker have we heard from the Government Benches in support of the measure, which looks as if the support of the Bill amongst noble Lords on the other side of the House is by no means unanimous. The first question one asks is, why a Bill dealing with a municipal matter of this kind should be introduced as a Government measure at all? Attempts have been made year after year by the properly-constituted body to remedy the present injustice, and these attempts have been invariably nipped in 1020 the bud by His Majesty's Government in the other House. None of the Bills promoted by the London County Council have been allowed to pass the Second Reading and reach the Committee stage, where they could be considered on their merits. London is always treated in a different manner from any other city in the kingdom. The principle which has-been applied to London in this Bill would not have been tolerated for a moment by Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, or by any other large provincial town. This authority is to manage a matter of domestic concern, and yet it is constituted by the Government without any consultation with the representative municipal authority, the London County Council; and in the first instance it was suggested, though that has now-been withdrawn, that the Chairman of the Water Board should be nominated by the Local Government Board and paid as if it were a Government Department. Every principle embodied in this Bill is in direct opposition to the system of municipal government which has obtained so far in this country. I cannot say that I attach very much importance to the gentle blessings which the London County Council receives from the other side in, debates in this House, for they scarcely represent the true mind of those who have always opposed the progressive policy of that body. Their object is really to destroy responsible municipal government and direct representation. Whether the London County Council has been wise or unwise, is, I submit to your Lordships, beside the point. The point is that the London County Council' is the directly elected representative body of the ratepayers, and if the ratepayers who elect it are satisfied with its policy, it seems to me that it matters very little who else is dissatisfied. This Bill violates what used to be considered a Liberal principle—no taxation without representation. An indirectly elected body, chosen by a most complicated and curious method, is given a rating power over the whole of the Metropolis, with no responsibility to the-persons it rates. We have heard from Lord Avebury that the outside authorities are revolting against the provisions of the Bill. I contend that the Bill is going to do harm to London in many respects. In the first place, it is going to raise the water-rate instead of reducing it. What 1021 can be the justification of legislation on the water question unless it be to obtain an equalisation and reduction of the water rate, and to transfer the control of the water supply to the municipal authority? The purchase is to be conducted by a heterogeneous body, and I ask, what chance has such a body, in preparing its case for arbitration, against the united skill of the eight great companies? That means that we shall pay too much, in the first instance, for our water, and the subsequent administration by this body cannot be so advantageous as administration by the municipal authority. The doubling of the representation of London, by bringing in representatives from the Borough Councils, I can only attribute to a desire that somebody other than the County Council should be represented. It does not seem to be the spirit in which legislation should be conceived, that because you are not in sympathy with the majority on a certain body you should try to set that body aside. We were told by Lord Balfour that the curious provision by which persons might be elected from outside was intended to give the maximum of
§ Bill read 2a accordingly and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.1022
§ freedom to the Borough Councils in electing their representatives. Yes; but it gives the minimum of freedom to the ratepayers, who will have little opportunity of turning off an incompetent and inefficient man. In the event of a member of the Water Board not being so upright as he should be, how is he to be attacked? The constituency he represents may be a small constituency, say of 600 voters. The only way in which such a man could be dealt with would be by attacking him in his constituency, and he may have an interest there which is purely personal, and the electors may take no interest whatever in the water question. The ratepayers have practically no control whatever over this body. That is the reason why the people of London consider that their interests have been betrayed by this Bill, and that they will suffer if it passes.
§ On Question, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion."
§ The House divided:—Contents, 51; Not-Contents, 18.1021
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Ellenborough, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Wellington, D.||Wharncliffe, E.||Harris, L.|
|Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Kenyon, L.|
|Winchester, M.||Falkland, V.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Knutsford, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Abinger, L.||Lindley, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Ludlow, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Balfour, L.||Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby.)|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Barrymore, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Belper, L.||Rowton, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Mount Edgeumbe, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Onslow, E.||Chelmsford, L.|
|Romney, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Wimborne, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Colchester, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Breadalbane, M.||Falmouth, V.||Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Burghclere, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Coleridge, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Russell, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||Wandsworth, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Monkswell, L.||Welby, L.|