§ Bill read 3a, according to order.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
moved to amend Clause 17, which ran—Any builder being about to erect any building or part of a building who shall require 343 a supply of water for that purpose shall be deemed to be the occupier of premises within the meaning and for the purposes of the section of this Act relating to "Supply by measure." Provided that if the Board so determine they may instead of affording the required supply by measure afford the same at a rate not exceeding seven shillings per hundred pounds of the probable total cost after making such allowance as the Board may think reasonable for decorative or iron or steel work not requiring the use of water,by altering the proviso so as to make it obligatory, on the application in writing of the builder, that he should be afforded the supply at a rate not exceeding seven shillings per £100 of the total cost of the buildings. He explained that he moved the Amendment on behalf of the Association of Master Builders of the Metropolis, and that the effect of it was to place builders back under the Bill in the same position as they were in at present as regarded the charges for water supply in the carrying on of building operations. He thought this a very important matter as it affected the cost of building, and cheap houses were very essential in the solution of the housing problem.
Amendment moved—In page 9, lines 37 and 38, to leave out the words 'Board so determine they may' and to insert the words 'builder shall in writing so require, the Board shall.'"—(The Earl of Wemyss.)
§ VISCOUNT CROSS,
as Chairman of the Joint Committee which considered this Bill, opposed the Amendment. He held that builders benefited enormously under the Bill, but, like Oliver Twist, were not content and asked for more. At present builders had no legal right to insist upon a supply of water in these cases, but the Bill gave them that absolute right, which was an important concession. The proviso in the clause as it stood was inserted after consultation with the master builders. The position taken up by the Metropolitan Water Board was that although 7s. per cent. might be a fair amount to charge in some cases, there were others in which it would be inadequate. The compromise in the Bill was the best at which they could arrive, and he hoped their Lordships would resist the Amendment.
§ * LORD ALLENDALE,
on behalf of the Local Government Board, joined with Lord Cross in resisting the Amendment.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of ONSLOW) ,
in opposing the Amendment, said the whole case had been gone into very carefully by the Joint Committee of both Houses, of which Lord Cross was Chairman, and he asked their Lordships to hesitate before lightly setting aside the decision thus arrived at. He did not think it was alleged that ample consideration was not given by the Committee to this question, and he ventured to think their Lordships would be undertaking a very serious responsibility if they upset the decision of the Committee on anex parte statement.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD LUDLOW
moved to amend Clause 29—The rate for the supply by the Board of water for watering any of the Parks or Gardens situate within the limits of supply and maintained out of the public funds and the roads in any such Parks or Gardens shall notwithstanding any other provision of this Act be the fixed rate of sixpence per thousand gallons,by inserting after the word "funds" the words "or rates." The noble Lord was proceeding to state the case in support of the Amendment when,
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
said it might save time if he stated his willingness to accept the Amendment, which was practically of a drafting nature.
§ LORD LUDLOW
then formally moved the Amendment.
Amendment moved—In page 14, line 25, after the word 'funds' to insert the words 'or rates.'"—(Lord Ludlow.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD LUDLOW
moved a new clause to provide that the annual value on which the water rate is chargeable outside London should be determined in accordance with the provisions of section 68 of the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847, and should in no case be less than the rateable value according to the poor rate valuations. He said the relief given in the Bill to the area outside the metropolis involved a cost to London of about £140,000 a year, which was most unfair. The provision, as it stood in the Bill, was opposed in 345 another place by the whole of the London Members and it was opposed also by the old London County Council which was Progressive, and by the new London County Council which was Moderate; and if their Lordships allowed the clause to remain unamended a great hardship would be done to London, and the districts outside would be relieved of a burden of which they had never complained. He recognised that if the Bill were amended now it might possibly be lost altogether, but he hoped the Government would give a pledge that they would deal with the question in a Valuation Bill next year. If that were done, it would meet the case.
Amendment moved—To insert the following new clause:—Notwithstanding anything in this Act contained the water rates shall continue to be payable according to the annual value of the house or building, or part of a house or building, supplied with water by the Board, and such annual value shall (except with the unions and parishes to which the Valuation (Metropolis) Act, 1869, extends) be determined in accordance with the provisions of section sixty-eight of the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847, and shall in no case be than the rateable value according to the poor rate valuations.—(Lord Ludlow.)
§ * LORD WELBY,
while sympathising as Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Water Board with the Amendment, accepted the decision of the Joint Committee. The Finance Committee had differed from the Board upon the point under discussion, but they were overruled by the Board, and the decision of the Board had been upheld by the Joint Commiteee. The question had been very fully and fairly considered, and the decision of the Committee should be accepted frankly and fully. At the same time, speaking on behalf of the ratepayers of London, he would be very glad indeed if His Majesty's Government could give an assurance that in another year a Bill would be brought in by them to promote rating unification.
§ * LORD AVEBURY
submitted that the Committee were quite right in the decision at which they arrived, and urged their Lordships, in the interests of justice to the outlying districts, not to alter the Bill as proposed. The outside districts had good cause to complain. They were paying more than they would have done 346 if the Water Board had not been formed, and their wells and springs were being lowered to supply London with water. The matter had been very carefully considered by the Committee and he hoped the House would uphold their decision.
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
explained that the Act which constituted the Water Board imposed on that body the obligation of introducing a Bill for the equalisation of the water rate throughout the area of supply, and the present Bill was in discharge of that obligation. The actual loss to London was not £40,000, as stated by the noble Lord, but £10,000. This was not a party question. The President of the Local Government Board spoke very strongly in favour of the Bill as it stood, and Mr. Walter Long, an ex-President of the Local Government Board, spoke equally strongly in its favour. The real point was what was best to be done, and the Bill as it stood was the result of the most careful deliberation. If the Amendment were carried the Bill would go to pieces. Of course the real solution would be a Valuation Bill, and this was pressed upon the Committee, who, however, could not deal with that question, which was one for the Government of the day.
§ * LORD ALLENDALE
said the Local Government Board strongly supported the proposal in the Bill. It was the intention of the Government to introduce a Valuation Bill in a future session, and he hoped soon, although he could not pledge the Government to introduce such a Bill next year.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
opposed the Amendment. Although important as a matter of principle, the effect on the London ratepayer would be very small indeed. It was merely a question of £10,000, which was not more than one-sixteenth of a penny in the rate.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.