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SOUTH ESSEX WATERWORKS BILL [Lords] (By Order).

Private Business – in the House of Commons on 22nd May 1928.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."

I do not think this Bill should pass its Second Reading without the opportunity being seized to advance for the consideration of its promoters a very legitimate grievance from which the users and consumers of this company's service suffer. The South Essex Waterworks Company has always opposed the extension of the Metropolitan Water Board's service beyond Ilford and Barking, and in the case which the company has submitted to Members of this House, it advances as a reason for passing the Bill that extensive housing developments have taken place in its area. If the company has opposed the extension of the Metropolitan Water Board's service into its area in the past, I think that fact imposes a responsibility upon the company to see that its service and its charges should be equitable and fair and at least equal to those which the Metropolitan Water Board can give to its users and consumers. As a matter of fact, the charges of this company work out very much in excess, and I believe that that is caused by a policy of imposing extras for certain additional services.

There is one additional charge which I particularly wish to ask the promoters of this Bill to reconsider and. if possible, to modify, and that is the annual charge of 10s. for a fixed bath. That was given to the company in its 1921 Act as an optional charge. As far as I can ascertain, it was not advanced from the standpoint that it would be a compulsory or a universal charge, but in fact this charge is, I understand, universal, and it has the effect of making the water rate of this company work out in a very inequitable way. The smaller the type of property and the lower its rateable value, the higher the water charge becomes; and I should like to quote some figures to demonstrate the point that I desire to make, which I base entirely on the grounds of equity and public convenience. One of the housing developments in the area covered by this company is the London County Council Becontree estate, just beyond Ilford and Barking. On that estate there are houses of different values, and I want to quote four types of house.

On a cottage erected on the Becontree estate—and this prevails throughout the area of this company—of a rateable value of £8 10s. the total water rate levied, inclusive of the charge of 10s. for a bath, amounts to £1 3s. a year, or 13.5 per cent. on the rateable value; on a cottage, the rateable value of which is £12, the annual inclusive charge for water is £1 6s. 10d., or 11.2 per cent. on the rateable value; on a cottage of £30 rateable value, the total water charge is £2 19s. 6d., or 9.9 per cent.; and on a cottage of £60 rateable value, the total water charge is £5 1s. 6d., or 8.5 per cent. on the rateable value.

Photo of Sir George Newton Sir George Newton , Cambridge

Is that the case where one bath or two baths are installed?

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

I am quoting the figures for one bath, but I think the question of the hon. Member strengthens my case and goes against the custom of this company of charging extra for additional baths and closets. I wish to emphasise that the water rate charged on a cottage of £8 10s. rateable value is 13.5 per cent., and on a cottage of £60 rateable value it works out at only 8.5 per cent. I do not believe that where a company is asking for privileges from this House, it would be the general desire of the House that differences of this description should prevail.

Let me take another phase of the rateable value of small property. The old type of four-roomed cottages prevailing in the area of this company, which have not, generally speaking, a bath, have a rateable value of from £4 to £7 10s., but the new type of four-roomed cottages that are being erected under the various Housing Acts are all fitted with a fixed bath, and the rateable value runs from between £13 10s. and £17 10s., so that I think we can argue that the increase in the rateable value in itself yields an income which should satisfy the com- pany, without this additional charge. The point that I should like to address to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health is that under the Housing Acts of 1923 and 1924, I believe, the installation of a bath is one of the conditions imposed before a subsidy can be obtained. Therefore, we have a recognition by this House that the installation of a bath in a house is now a matter of public policy and conforms with the general desire to improve the standard of health of the community. If Parliament, on the one hand, is imposing an obligation upon both builders and local authorities, before they can get a grant from public funds, to provide a bath, it is, I think, equally incumbent upon Parliament to see that no powers are given to a company like this which tend to retard the development of baths in houses for people whose means are very limited. I think every hon. Member will recognise that the large rents that are necessary in the post-War period impose a strain on the wages of the working-class tenants quite sufficient in itself without the additional charges represented by a water rate.

In 1908 the Metropolitan Water Board—and I do not quote this as derogatory to the South Essex Company—came to this House and sought to obtain permission to establish a uniform charge for its water service. Under that Bill it abolished the previous facilities that it had had to make additional charges for baths and water closets. On that occasion that Bill met with the unanimous approval of Parliament, and on all sides the policy of a uniform charge to be imposed by a water company, removing these irritating, vexatious, and inequitable impositions, was welcomed as a move in the right direction. I feel that if the policy of a large company like the Metropolitan Water Board in that direction has met with the approval of Parliament, then, in subsequent Bills, the influence of this House should be directed to bring the policy of other companies into line. As this Bill affects large sections of the population contiguous to London. I hope this point will obtain support, particularly from the Parliamentary Secretary, in view of his connection with the Housing Acts.

Let me give a very simple illustration of the additional charges which this company levies in comparison with the Metropolitan Water Board. On a cottage of £12 rateable value, the charges of the Metropolitan Water Board work out at 15s. 8d. a year, whereas the South Essex Waterworks Company charges for the same type of cottage work out at £1 6s. 10d., or 11s. 2d. more. I am quite prepared to admit that possibly the Metropolitan Water Board obtains considerable economies because it serves a densely populated area, but there is a responsibility on the South Essex Company to submit to this House figures and accounts to prove that it is justified in this outrageous increase of 11s. 2d. That is 71 per cent. more than the Metropolitan Water Board charges.

Major-General Sir JOHN DAVIDSON:

Are the Metropolitan Water Board prepared to go into this area on better terms?

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

I am not authorised to speak for the Metropolitan Water Board, but I understand that some time ago either the London County Council or the Metropolitan Water Board desired to extend the Board's service beyond Ilford and Barking. Possibly there are other hon. Members more familiar than I am with the policy of the London County Council, who could give the facts, but I believe there was a desire to extend its service, and this company opposed the extension of the Metropolitan Water Beard's service. I do not say that with certainty, however. I understand that if we take water companies adjacent to London, and probably serving areas very similar to that of the South Essex Waterworks Company, such as the companies that serve Croydon, Epsom, East Surrey, and Sutton, as far as I can gather neither of these companies is in the habit of imposing this additional charge for a bath. It is the general practice now that companies operating in London and in the areas contiguous to London have been able to abolish this charge and this House ought to require the South Essex Waterworks Company to do the same. The only other company that does impose any additional charge for a bath, which is a part of the ordinary domestic supply—and I contend that it should be laid down by this House that the Water-Works Company should adapt their practice accordingly—is the Colne Valley Water Company that serves Hendon and the surrounding districts, but them charge is only 4s. 3d. as against the 10s. charged by the South Essex Waterworks Company.

Probably it will be advanced by those who desire to defend the policy of the company in this respect that the profits of the company do not permit them to sacrifice the income that this concession would represent. I do not claim to be completely intimate with the finances of the company, but I understand that for some years now the company has paid maximum dividends on all the stock for which it is liable. It has not only met its liabilities of interest and dividends on all its stock to the maximum extent, but for some years now it has been paying arrears on dividends. If we were to take the profits of the company for the last two years and eliminate all back dividends, the company would be declaring a dividend of 18 per cent. on all the current stock for which it is liable. From time to time in this House we have engaged in controversy as to how far the present generation should be held liable for the responsibilities of posterity, but here, not only are we meeting our liabilities to-day, but we are being asked in the policy of this company to meet all the charges and arrears of debt for the non-payment of dividends that have accumulated on the stock of this company since 1861. That is not desirable at all. If the financial policy of the company in the past has represented nothing, then I think it ought to accept that position and ought not to ask the people who use its service to-day—

Photo of Colonel Sir Joseph Nall Colonel Sir Joseph Nall , Manchester Hulme

And let them be without water!

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

There is no question of their being without water. The company has met its current liabilities, I but do not think the users of the service to-day should be responsible for any misdirection of the company's policy as far back as 1861. The actual profits of the company in 1927 amounted to £87,000 and the charge which it had to meet on its liability in relation to stock was £55,000, leaving an excess of profits over actual current liabilities of over £31,000. My contention is that out of that surplus of £31,000 the company ought to meet a concession of this description. The revenue of the company will be expanding and not contracting. I assume that the company will have the advantage of the Rating and Valuation Act that was passed in 1925, and, in an area like this, there will be a considerable appreciation of the total value of the property on which the water charges are levied. Therefore, the revenue of the company will be expanding, and that, I submit, should be considered by the promoters.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I would like the hon. Member to clear up one point, if he will. What would be the effect, if this charge were taken away, upon other small tenants who may not have a bath in their cottage? That is the dilemma in which I, as a private Member, find myself.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

My last point was directed to the fact that out of their surplus profits this company should be able to meet any concession of that description. These profits have worked out at 18 per cent. for the last three years. The rateable value on which the income of this company is levied is not a contracting factor, but it is an expanding factor. All these additional houses that have been erected represent an increased rateable value over the type of property to which the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Brown) has referred. In the early part of my remarks I rather stressed the point that the increased rateable value of the new property erected should yield of itself an income to the company without any additional incidence on the lower type of property. My whole case is that the company levies a water charge which is higher than that of the Metropolitan Water Board.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

Can the hon. Member tell the House what would happen if this charge were not made?

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

I understand that if this charge were abolished it would represent a loss to the company of, roughly, £20,000. If the company is going to give this concession, which represents a loss to it of £20,000 a year, I think I have proved fairly conclusively that there has been a surplus revenue of £31,000 over current profits which will meet a liability of that description. I wish to submit to the Parliamentary Secretary that the responsibility does not primarily rest on persons like myself who represent the public who have to meet charges of that description, but it rests on the water companies of this country. My case rests on the fact that, of all the water companies serving London and the contiguous areas, five have seen fit to abolish these additional charges and to meet the liabilities for which they are responsible and to derive the necessary income without levying charges in excess of those imposed by the South Essex Waterworks Company. The Metropolitan Water Board has not only abolished its additional charge on the bath, but its total charges on a cottage of £12 rateable value are 71 per cent. lower than those of the South Essex Waterworks Company. It is not my responsibility to prove where the South Essex Waterworks Company is to get its revenue in the future. The responsibility for that lies upon the promoters of this Bill. They have come to Parliament to ask for powers to extend their services. They are coming here to obtain additional powers, and the whole responsibility is purely upon them to prove to Parliament that they are giving the consumers and users of water the best possible service at the most economical price. I have endeavoured to prove that this company is not doing that, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether the time has not come when an intimation should be made to the promoters that they should revise their policy in this respect.

Photo of Mr Samuel March Mr Samuel March , Poplar South Poplar

I beg to second the Amendment.

I have been approached by a number of people round Dagenham and Rainham in connection with this matter. As my hon. Friend has already said, many of the people who have moved into this area are now being called upon to pay 10s. extra water rate for a fixed bath. I cannot quite understand how it is that they have to pay this sum, when they have been told to get out into the country from the congested areas. I cannot understand why they should have to pay this extra, charge when they have already to pay more to get to and from these places and when they have to suffer a great deal of inconvenience and loss of time. We are told that the company are also desirous of extending their undertaking very considerably. We also notice that the company are asking for powers in another direction. Under this Bill, they will be entitled not only still to continue to charge this 7 per cent. on the rateable value of the property, but they will be able to increase it from time to time until they reach a figure of 9 per cent., so that the present consumers are being asked to pay to the company another 2 per cent. to enable the company to make these developments. The present consumers will receive no extra benefit or advantage by paying that extra sum.

Of course, it will be said by the promoters that the company must spend money. One naturally expects that they cannot develop unless they do, but is that any reason why the present consumers, who are not to receive any extra benefit, should be called upon to pay that 2 per cent. while that development is going on? It may be said that if this Bill should be rejected we are out for preventing the employment of labour. That is not the case at all. We are very desirous that there should be as much employment as possible, but at the same time we also think that the company should not have a right to make this extra charge upon the people in this way. I further notice in the Bill that, if a bath contains or holds a certain quantity of water, the company can not only charge an amount not exceeding 7 per cent., but in another Clause the Bill says that they may charge what they think fit. Apparently, there is to be no check upon what the company may charge if a bath should contain more than 59 gallons of water. We think that there ought to be something in the Bill to prevent that kind of thing happening. There should be a limit fixed, although the question may not affect a very large percentage of the working men who have spoken to me on this matter.

8.0 p.m.

Then, again, there is a question of the second water closet. There are not a very large number of working-class houses which are built with a second water closet, but there are people who have fairly long gardens, and when they get home they like to do a little bit of gardening. It is not always convenient for them to take off their boots and run upstairs, and so they think that they would like to have an extra water closet downstairs as well as one upstairs. Apparently, that cannot be done unless they are charged a further 7s. 6d., and yet, as they have put it to me, and as must be patent to the mind of everyone, it is only the people who occupy the house who use those places, and there would be no more water used than with one, but they have to pay this further 7s. 6d. as well as the extra percentage.

We have also considered the question of the rateable value of the houses. I am living in one of the new houses that have been built at Rainham. The rateable value, presumably on account of the bath, has been increased in proportion to what is paid for the houses opposite, which have not baths. We are rated at £15 per annum and we have to pay £7 per cent. water rate, and then the extra 10s. for the bath on top of that, whereas the houses with practically the same kind of accommodation except the bath and bathroom are rated at half that amount. One would have thought the company was well compensated for the extra rateable value which we are paying. That is the view of practically all the people with whom I have come in contact who have moved into these houses. Many of them have moved at great sacrifice. They have bought plots of land and built bungalows and got up to date amenities as far as they possibly could, and, having done that, they have this extra charge put upon them because they dare to have a bath fixed in their room. If it came to a question of a portable bath, the company would not be able to make this charge, and there is quite a possibility that people will inconvenience themselves and go back to the old portable bath which they had for so many years. The company and hon. Members must not think that because they are working-class people they do not sometimes have a bath. They have it, though it may be very inconvenient to them. It may be, as I once heard one of our Members say, that after all the others have gone to bed he gets his wife's bucket and puts one leg in and washes one half at a time. Now they get a wash even if they have the bucket or the extra large bath they do their washing in. If these things are allowed to go on without demur there is a possibility that the company will come along and make an extra charge for people who do their washing at home, because perhaps in better class houses they do not do the amount of domestic washing that working-class families do. We protest against the company being allowed to make these charges, for which the consumers receive no extra benefit.

Photo of Hon. Charles Rhys Hon. Charles Rhys , Romford

I am particularly interested in this Bill, because most of the area concerned lies within my constituency. I think the House has rather been led to deal with Committee points, important as they are. I do not think hon. Members have been led to visualise the very large problem which this company has to endeavour to solve. It is clear that their present supplies will be quite inadequate to furnish water to the area to which they are under a statutory obligation. The town of Becontree will contain within the next few years, at the present rate of progress, a new population of 120,000 people. Surely, the waterworks company that is called upon to provide water for these people is entitled to come to the House and ask for certain powers. It has been found that the river Stour, the boundary between Essex and Suffolk, is the only suitable and available supply of water. This Bill has passed the House of Lords and has been before a Committee of that place, before which various points were very carefully thrashed out, and it seems hardly fair to the company that the Bill should be thrown out on Second Reading in this House. We ought to give it a Second Reading, and any defects found by hon. Members opposite can be thrashed out in a Committee of this House. I am not in the least prepared to say that 10s. is necessarily the right charge for a bath, but, if an adequate case can be made out before the Committee for a reduction, they will be entitled and empowered to limit the company's powers. I look with a wide view at this great and growing population which has to have water. If the Bill is thrown out, the provision of the water will be very seriously retarded, and, indeed, may not be available when it is required by this large population. I took the trouble on Friday and Saturday to get into communication with the local authorities in my constituency, some on the telephone and others verbally. I find not one of them is now prepared to oppose the Bill. They are elected to carry out the wishes of the ratepayers, and one of them has a majority of the political persuasion of hon. Members opposite. I have had representations from them as to the charges for baths, but they are not in the least prepared to offer opposition to the passage of the Bill, because the company has very largely met them in the House of Lords Committee.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

Is this authority in favour of a charge of 10s. for a bath?

Photo of Hon. Charles Rhys Hon. Charles Rhys , Romford

I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. They are not in favour of 10S. for a bath but they are prepared to have that dealt with in Committee. They are not prepared to oppose the Second Reading. I hope the House will bear in mind the disastrous consequences of rejecting the Bill. There is no alternative, as the Metropolitan Water Board are not prepared to enter the area and supply water. That being so, there is only one course for the House to take, to give the Bill a Second Reading, reserving, as I do, perfect freedom to negotiate with the company on the smaller points with which a Committee is perfectly competent to deal.

Photo of Colonel Henry Burton Colonel Henry Burton , Sudbury

As one of those who have very consistently opposed the Bill every time it has been mentioned, I feel it is up to us who have deserted our fellow opponents on the other side to give some explanation why we have done so. So far hon. Members have spoken of the use of the water from the point of view of those who will reap the ultimate benefit of it. I should like to speak of it from the point of view of the constituency that actually supplies the water. The river Stour is the boundary of my constituency on the South. Its sluggishness is a by-word both in Essex and Suffolk. Indeed, a local comedian has a verse in his song which says: There's a river, the Stour, to Harwich it leads,But you never can get there because of the weeds. For years we have been praying for someone to come along and take the water out of the Stour. We found that when originally they came and asked us for water they imposed such a tremendous lot of restrictions with regard to its pollution that we could not accept the Bill as it stood, and we have opposed it until now. But the promoters have very generously conceded a large number of the points we desired. They have not given us all we wanted, but I must admit that they have given us a great deal more than we expected. They have conceded that, instead of being under the Water Company or under the despotic influence of the Essex County Council, we shall find ourselves under the paternal guidance of the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, and, in addition, if ever we are to be punished in regard to the pollution of our river we are to have something to say in regard to it in connection with the Suffolk East and West County Council.

They have agreed to amend Clause 24 so as to provide that the Water Works Company shall not exercise the powers conferred on them by the Clause without in each case obtaining the consent of the Ministry of Health. That is a very great advance. It will be arranged by the inserting, after the word "consent," of the words "of the Ministry of Health," with consequential Amendments. Then there is scheduled an agreement between the Company and the Stour Navigation Trust which is alleged to be ultrâ vires. The Company have agreed that, as regards liquids and matters discharged into the river or its tributaries at points within East or West Suffolk, the provisions of the said Acts shall not be enforced except with the consent of the County Council of East or West Suffolk as the case may be.

They go on to say that if the Navigation Company will not agree to the deletion of Clause 4 of the Agreement a Clause is to be inserted in the Bill that the Water Company will not request the Navigation Company to exercise their powers unless with the consent of the Drainage Board. A Clause is to be inserted in the Bill, and it constitutes part of the terms of the agreement we made with the Company, that the Water Company will not exercise any powers under any agreement entered into with the Navigation Company under Clauses 21 (4) and 29 of the Bill without the consent of the Drainage Board other than powers con- ferred by Clauses 1, 2 and 3 of the Agreement. Then a Clause will be inserted in the Bill in order to preserve, and, we hope, to improve the drainage of the area affected above the intake. It is to the following effect: Nothing in the Bill is to prevent the Drainage Board from exercising any powers now vested in them of lowering the level of the water in the River Stour at or above the Mill Weir at Stratford St. Mary to such a level as may he agreed between the Drainage Board and the Water Company, or, failing agreement"— and this is the important part so far as we are concerned— determined by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health, acting jointly, to be reasonable. Provided that the level of the water at the said Mill Weir shall not be reduced below such level relative to ordnance datum as may be fixed by the said Ministries jointly before 31st December, 1928. So we have six months in which to get this level secured, and by that time we hope that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture will have opportunities to look into the matter. Nothing in the Bill, according to the Agreement, shall preclude the Drainage Board from taking over the River Stour navigation interests. We do not think much of the interests of the River Stour Navigation Company. They are more or less a moribund concern. The water company have entered into an agreement with them which is alleged to be ultra vires, and we do not mind provided they do not enforce it. These heads of the agreement are to form the Clauses in the Bill when it is re-drafted in order to go before the Committee. Having regard to the manner in which the company have met us, we feel that there is some apology due to hon. Members opposite who have helped us so vigorously in their opposition in eventually getting the company to agree, but, at the same time, we feel that the Bill is of such importance to us and to everybody concerned that we have withdrawn our opposition, and we shall vote in favour of the Bill if it goes to a Division.

Sir GEORGE HAMILTON:

I am afraid that the actual point of the origin of this water supply coming from, I understand, the Stour River, some 40 miles from Ilford, does not much interest me. What does interest me is that this Bill has been passed in another place and considered by a Committee of another place. The evidence given there does not appear to me to be satisfactory as to why the Metropolitan Water Board should repudiate their statutory responsibilities towards this vast estate which the London County Council, who are, after all, first cousins to the Metropolitan Water Board, have dumped upon the county of Essex. Take as a side issue the question raised by an hon. Gentleman opposite, the question of a charge of 10s. a year for a bath. Is it the policy of this House to encourage baths to be put into working men's dwellings or is it not I When I raised this question with representatives of the company they said: "If we take off this charge it means that we have to raise the water rate of all the other cottages which have not baths." If we want to encourage baths, surely the right thing to do is to refuse to allow a charge to be made for a bath when it is in a cottage. Then, if the water rate is increased slightly, you will encourage those in cottages without a bath to get baths put in, as they will not have to pay an increased water rate. It does seem absurd that a charge of 10s. should be made on one side of a street in Ilford if there happens to be baths in the houses, and that on the other side of the street, which is served by the Metropolitan Water Board, no such charge is made, and the water rate is much lower. I am not satisfied with the evidence that was given by the Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board before the Committee in another place. The question was put to him: I think this must be the Section to which you refer: 'notwithstanding anything in this Act the Board shall not be hound to furnish any supply of water or lay down any pipe for such purpose in any part of the limits of supply which part is for the time being supplied with water by any company or by any body or authority other than the Board?' The Chairman's reply was: Yes, that is the 1907 Act. The 1907 Act of the Metropolitan Water Board certainly gives them power where, as I understand it, a satisfactory and equally economic supply of water is available for any part of their area, to say that they are not bound to supply water to that area. I do not think that this House should allow the Metropolitan Water Board to get out of its statutory obligations quite as easily as it would like to do in connection with this huge London County Council Housing Estate at Becontree in Essex. Another question was asked of the Chairman: At the present time it is probably known to you that the water consumers in Ilford and Barking who are supplied by the South Essex Water Company are paying considerably more than if they were being supplied by the Metropolitan Water Board? The chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board said: I live in that area myself. I know all that. Probably he is a rich man, and it does not matter to him, but it does matter to the unfortunate tenants on the London County Council Housing Estate who are already rented and rated to such an extent that they do not know where they are. The next question is: Does this represent the policy of the Board? You said: 'It may be that the time will come—I am not seeking for it—when possibly other water undertakers who are in difficulties on the fringe of the Water Board's undertaking will find it better to come in and get their water from the Board. Would you agree that this is a water undertaker on the fringe of the Water Board's undertaking?' — Undoubtedly, it adjoins. This area of Ilford and Barking used to be in the statutory boundaries of the Metropolitan Water Board and only by a Section in the 1907 Act can they get rid of us. I feel that if the South Essex Water Company's Bill is to be accepted by this House—I am not going to oppose the Second Reading—I want to make my point so that it may be duly considered in Committee. If we pass this Bill without any protest at all, surely we shall be throwing away any claim which in the future we may have to this area which is outside London and which, if I may remind the House, is the only area where London on the East can extend. There is not a square foot to be built upon until you get to Ilford, where we have 8,500 acres, only half of which is covered with dwellings. The remaining 4,250 acres are all scheduled for building. Special schemes are going on every day outside the London County Council building scheme, but the London County Council are threatening to let a contract almost immediately for an additional 5,000 houses. We are hopeful in Ilford that a little pressure from the Minister of Transport may prevent them building these houses, because the people living there cannot get adequate transport to and from London. What we want to look at in this House is, will this South Essex Water Board in 30 or 40 years' time really be capable of supplying the water necessary for this area which we know will become a huge second London? The water which they get under this Bill is 12,000,000 gallons per day, I understand. That is estimated to be sufficient for a population of 520,000, in addition to their present supply. The present population is 347,000. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rhys) knows, to his cost, that his Division of Romford is growing even faster than the Ilford Division, and that a large part of the increased population is due to the London County Council dumping their housing estate in his Division.

If we give this Bill a Second Reading and it goes to a Committee of this House we should insist on finding out more in detail why the Metropolitan Water Board will not take over Barking and Ilford and supply those districts with water and so relieve the South Essex Water Board of those vast areas. Then the South Essex Water Board's present supply of water will be sufficient for their area for many years. My fear, and it is a perfectly honest fear, is that long after I have become an angel Ilford will find itself in a condition of having an insufficient water supply. The Metropolitan Water Board will then say: "The House of Commons, Parliament, did not give us these powers. Parliament handed over the powers to the South Essex Water Board, and we, the Metropolitan Water Board, have no responsibilities whatever." They will repudiate Ilford and throw it on one side.

We know perfectly well that the available water of the Metropolitan Water Board to-day is not being used even up to 50 per cent. of the water which they can obtain. This scheme is going to cost £1,250,000 to bring water 40 miles from Suffolk to Ilford and Barking. Why should not the Metropolitan Water Board spend something like £1,000,000 and bring water to the London County Council housing estate which has been dumped into the county of Essex? Why should not the Metropolitan Water Board find and spend that money and let the South Essex Water Board carry on with their available supply? If that were done, we in Ilford and Barking would be supplied for ever with as much water as we could possibly require, and we should not have to pay 10s. for a bath.

Photo of Mr Francis Broad Mr Francis Broad , Edmonton

I am sure the House must have been very interested to hear the reasons given by the hon. Member for Sudbury (Colonel Burton) who announced the reason why he was withdrawing the objection which he had previously held in regard to the Bill. His objection was that the area which he represents should not be prevented from polluting the river, but now that they are to be allowed to pollute the river, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Health, his objections are withdrawn. That is a very amusing reason to give. I am strongly opposed to the provision in the Bill of a distinct charge for the supply of water for baths. That is putting a penalty on cleanliness. As this time of day we should do nothing to give any inducement to any landlord or to anybody investing in property to build houses not provided with a fixed bath. We have been told that cleanliness is next to godliness. Our health statistics up and down the country show that in degree as the people have a proper water supply and the provision of baths in every little cottage has become the rule, the health of the people and the life of the people has been improved. We ought to work upon the assumption that in the future no house will be built without a fixed bath. If the London County Council or any other local authority build more houses in this area, we may be sure that public opinion will require that each house has a fixed bath.

Had this been a Bill promoted by a borough council, a city council or a county council to enable them to give a water supply to their areas, and they had asked for this special provision of a charge for baths to be inserted, hon. Members in all quarters of the House and the public Press would have denounced that local authority as a most reactionary body. We must regard the supply of water to day as being just as necessary as a proper sewage provision. The water charges should be fixed on the rateable value of the property, so long as we regard that as the right basis on which to fix local charges. There should be no extra charge because the people in the houses desire to make provision for cleanliness of body, which leads, perhaps, to cleanliness of mind also. I recollect that a few years ago some of us agitated for a compulsory provision that in all houses newly built baths should be provided. When we urged that in my district our opponents regarded us as wild Socialistic, revolutionary people, and scoffed at the idea of baths being put in working-class houses. They used to say that we should keep ducks or coal in the baths. Even in regard to the bigger middle-class houses some years ago there was not a fixed bath; but better habits have come down to us.

One great feature in the development of these better habits has been that our local education authorities are sending our youngsters to the swimming baths, to learn to swim. When the boys arrive at the baths, if a boy is dirty he is jeered at by his mates and the teacher tells him to go aside and have a wash before entering the swimming bath. When the next, week arrives and the visit to the swimming bath becomes due the boy worries his mother to let him have a bath before going to have a swim. The youngster seems to enjoy it so much that presently mother thinks she will have a bath, and she, too finds it very nice. When father comes home, he says: "How nice you are, Mother," and he, too, thinks he would like a bath. That is how the desire for baths spreads. The provision of a fixed bath allows this very useful and desirable habit of washing the body to develop, and we ought not to allow the Bill to pass its Second Reading containing the Clause for a charge in respect of a bath unless a distinct understanding is given or an instruction is given to the Committee that this provision will be removed in Committee, or that we should have an undertaking from the promoters that they will get the provision removed when it goes before Committee.

We do not want to hang up a Bill which is to provide a necessary public service. Many of us would have liked to have seen this water supply under the Metropolitan Water Board. We recognise that it is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Water Board. A very great injustice has been done to these outer London areas, in many respects. People who have lived in London and have, through their parents, paid for the Metropolitan Water Board supply and for the schools and public services in London, find suddenly that their families are to be thrown out into an area all by themselves, where they have to provide anew all the necessary public services. The burden is going to be an intolerable one in such areas. It should be a responsibility upon those areas who have, perhaps, removed the poorer element of their population as far as they could from their own borders, to take their share in providing public services for them. The Ministry of Health should recognise its responsibility and see that along with houses other necessary services are supplied as well. The Ministry of Health should recognise this, and if the company cannot provide a water supply on a basis which we regard as just and proper then it is for the local authority to provide that service; and it is the business of the Ministry of Health to see that they do.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I only desire to make a few observations from the point of view of my Department which, of course, is not concerned in the promotion of this Bill. The House has to decide whether it will give a Second Reading to this Bill or not. The only decision which has to be arrived at is whether the Bill is to go forward or not. That is the sole issue, and it is to that issue that I propose to direct myself. So far as the Ministry are concerned, they see no objection to the main proposals of the Bill. The population in the company's area of supply, which includes the Becontree Estate of the London County Council, is growing very rapidly indeed and it is correct to say that the company's services will not be sufficient to meet the demand by 1930 unless some further provision is made. It is in these circumstances that we have to consider this Bill to-night. This matter was investigated by the Lords' Committee and can be investigated by a Committee of this House. All we have to decide now is whether the Bill shall have a Second Reading and from the point of view of the Department we have come to the conclusion that large additional services will be required in the near future.

During the six years ending June, 1927, the population supplied has increased from 219,000 to 327,000, an increase of 50 per cent., and the average consumption has risen from 6,400,000 gallons per day to 9,000,000 gallons per day. We are advised that the undertakings of all the existing companies are being fully developed and, therefore, the conclusion we have arrived at is that it is clear that a large additional supply of water will be needed in the near future. I understand that there is no source within the company's area from which they can obtain a supply adequate for future requirements and they are therefore seeking to obtain further powers in this Measure to be allowed to procure their water supply from the River Stour. The hon. Member has raised an important question in relation to certain charges for baths. Whether what he has said is correct or not, whether his financial scheme would stand the test of examination and re-examination, whether he has given consideration to every matter which a careful and competent administrator of a water supply would give, I cannot say, nor do I suppose can any other hon. Member. It is obviously a matter which we cannot decide on the Second Reading of this Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) and I cannot see how the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Broad) is going to find the extra money if the price is taken off the baths. I cannot say whether he is correct or not. If he is not correct there is a danger, if you take the charge off these baths, that it might fall on the poorer members of the community. No one can tell; and we cannot rely on his somewhat imperfect information.

Obviously a matter of this sort must be thrashed out in Committee. That is what a Committee of the House of Commons is for. We cannot debate matters of this kind on Second Reading. I think the view is shared in all parts of the House that baths should he as cheap as possible, and that water should be as cheap as possible. That is not a monopoly of any party. Anyone can say that they would like to see water cheaper and baths cheaper, but what is more important is that there should be a proper and practical way of doing it, and that is the point to which we should turn our attention. That is a matter which can be properly dealt with in Committee. I do not think anyone will suggest that, although the price of baths and the price of water are important considerations, the Bill should not be given a Second Reading and this great area deprived of its water supply and the only means of securing it during the next few years. It would be a monstrous position for the House, on a matter which is, although important, of a minor character, to stop the Second Reading of this Bill on a contention of that kind. Everyone concerned will have an opportunity of putting these matters before the Committee, and I want to say to the House, purely from the point of view of the Ministry of Health and the need of this great area, including the Becontree Estate, where thousands of houses have gone up through the efforts of the various departments concerned, for an adequate supply of water which will be needed in a few years time, that they should give a Second Reading to this Bill. I appreciate the motive of the hon. Member who has moved the rejection of the Measure. Although important, it is a minor point which will have to be considered by the Committee. As to whether we shall go forward with the Bill or not, I have no hesitation in advising the House to give it a Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Francis Broad Mr Francis Broad , Edmonton

Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself to the principle of a distinct charge for water?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I could not discuss that matter on the Second Reading of a Private Bill. The question of the relationship between housing on the one hand and water charges and transport on the other is a very interesting and a very difficult one. An hon. Member who has spoken said that some of our housing schemes had few means of transport and that raises some very difficult problems, but I would not care to give a considered judgment on such a question in a Second Reading discussion on a Private Bill of this kind. All we are concerned with here is as to whether we shall or shall not give a Second Reading to a Private Bill.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

I rise to deal with quite a small financial point, but I cannot refrain from pausing, at the outset, in order to congratulate the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) on the amazing sincerity of his language. It is not often that one hears a Member on the benches opposite speaking so frankly the inmost thoughts of his heart as to describe a great housing scheme as "dumping." I never heard a Member of Parliament before describe his constituents by implication as rubbish. The people who have been "dumped" in Ilford are people with wills of their own, and I cannot think that they will enjoy hearing their representative describe their entry into his territory as a process of "dumping."

Sir G. HAMILTON:

I can assure the hon. Lady that none of them wanted to be dumped there by the London County Council. They would rather be living in the hon. Lady's constituency.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

I have letters day by day from people all over London imploring me to find them Becontree houses.

Sir G. HAMILTON:

There are 500 of them to let if the hon. Lady would like one.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I do not see what these arguments have to do with the South Essex Waterworks Bill.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

I was led away by the example of the hon. Member opposite and I thought I was in order in complimenting him on the sincerity of his language and hoping that his constituents would listen to it, should he repeat it in his constituency.

Sir G. HAMILTON:

I can assure the hon. Lady that it will be published in the local paper.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

I am sure it will be, and in thousands of leaflets also.

Sir G. HAMILTON:

Thank you very much.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

The hon. Member expressed anxiety lest the position of the people in the smaller houses should be prejudiced in connection with this matter and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health said that nobody could tell whether the position of the houses would be prejudiced by what we did or not. The fact is the company are seeing to it that it will be impossible to prejudice the postion of the people in the smaller houses. It is quite impossible, under the terms of the Bill, to make them any worse off than they are. If you take £4 per house then according to the provisions of Sub-section (5) of Clause 58 of the Bill these houses will never get off with less than 13s. a year and reckoning the percentage on £4 of 13s. it works out to 16 per cent. Under no conceivable scheme could the general rate be raised so as to overtake the enormous special minimum which has been fixed for the little houses—the bath-less houses. If you put the general rate up to 9 per cent. you could not get more than 13s. out of the bathless houses which are at £4 to £7 10s. If you raised the basic rate to the full extent that the Act provides, you could not make these little cheap houses pay any more.

Now I want to turn to the financial position under the Act of 1921. The dividend on ordinary stock was limited to 8 per cent., but the company are repaying the whole of the difference between 8 per cent. and the amount earned in previous years and that, as an hon. Member has already pointed out, goes back to 1861. They are limited by a provision in the Act of 1921 for they cannot repay the amount by which the dividend in any previous year of their history fell short of 8 per cent. if they are charging more than 7½ per cent. for their water. Taking these two facts together if you imposed a considerable extra charge, it, would be met by ceasing the repayment of dividend. It must be so met, because the conditions under which they can repay past losses in dividend depends on the rate charged for water; they cannot repay if they raise the rates too high. There is this very large sum of money which is being repaid every year to persons who lost money in the seventies or the eighties or the nineties and which must either go back to the shareholders or be used for concessions to the ratepayers. It is, of course, impossible to calculate exactly how much it maybe, but I would only point out to the House that there is this amount of money knocking about out of which concessions could be granted to the houses with baths. The minimum rate is fixed so high that it is impossible that any extra charge could be placed upon these very small and bathless houses.

I think myself it is a very curious thing, and is really a violation of the spirit in which Parliament, when it grants a monopoly, limits the dividend, that the company should actually be in a position not merely to pay the statutory dividends allowed by the Act but to return to the stock holders a great part of what they would have got had the company been flourishing many years ago. I think we shall have to look very carefully into that matter. It appears to me that there is a very large sum of money which could be diverted from the payment back of dividends and devoted to the improvement of the condition of the houses with baths. It appears almost impossible, having regard to the high minimum which I have already mentioned, that, whatever we did, anything extra could be taken from the bathless houses because they are already fully rated. Taking all these circumstances together I think it is rather too much at this time of day that the South Essex Water Company should impose these special rates. Again I wish to emphasise that the enormous development of the Becontree Estate and the erection of these 13,000 new houses, must inevitably increase the revenue of the company. It will afford them a great deal of custom and they will take every year a considerable amount of money in this respect; and it is contrary to the public interest that a company charged with the duty of providing for a model estate of this kind should put into its Bill such antiquated and oppressive conditions as those in the present Bill.

Photo of Mr Herbert Looker Mr Herbert Looker , Essex South Eastern

As the representative of a constituency which includes a population many of whom are in poor and straitened circumstances and who have to depend entirely on the operation of this company for their water supply, I should like to support the Second Reading. It must be remembered that the area which is served by the company is an area of 150 square miles stretching from Ilford and Barking to Thames-haven and embracing such large and populous districts as Gravesend and Tilbury. It is increasing yearly in population, and is undergoing large and rapid development. Over 140,000 extra people have come into the district to reside since 1921, and in the first quarter of this year 2,300 additional houses were built, quite apart from the Becontree estate. The proposals in connection with that estate will mean another 130,000 additional houses in the next few years. The present source of supply of water to this district is quite inadequate for the company's area, or will be in a few years, and the company is obliged to seek for other sources of supply; that is why it is seeking permission for the powers which are included in this Bill. All the objections that have been put forward to-night are largely points that can be dealt with in Committee. If this Bill is not given a Second Reading, it is impossible to say where in a few years the large and poor section in this area will be able to get the water supply which it will badly need. Is it right or reasonable to refuse the Second Reading of a Bill of this nature, purely on various minor points which can be perfectly well put forward and dealt with in Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) has voiced his anxiety as to what would be the position after he is translated to a sphere, which I am sure he will adorn when he gets there. I can only assure him that the Metropolitan Water Board are under a statutory obligation to supply this area, if it is needed, and that the South Essex Water Company are also under a statutory obligation to supply water to this particular area. I am informed by them that they have no doubt whatever that they will be able to supply all the water which may be necessary in the future by the powers given in this Bill.

There is no doubt a great deal in what has been said about baths, and it may need consideration, but there is another point of view. There are an enormous number of houses in this area, a very large number of which are in my constituency, which have no baths, and, if a uniform charge to include baths were imposed, it inevitably follows that a much bigger rate would have to be made than would otherwise be necessary. The South Essex Water Company have very humanely and properly taken this fact into consideration, and have thought that it is not right to impose on houses which have not a bath a higher rate than would otherwise be necessary to provide water to houses with baths. It is surely a right and sound principle that a dis- tinction should be made in some districts-between houses of this description. If a uniform rate is to be charged for a bath, it would mean that the poorer districts, where there are no baths, would have to pay 9 per cent, instead of 7 per cent.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

Has the hon. Gentleman considered Sub-section (9) of Clause 58, where there is a minimum rate?

9.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Looker Mr Herbert Looker , Essex South Eastern

I have not yet considered many Clauses of this extremely voluminous Bill, but I will give it my consideration when an opportunity allows me adequate time to do so. I suggest that, if the hon. Lady has any representations to make on that point, she should make them to me, or to the promoters of the Bill, so that they can be given consideration when the Bill goes to Committee. If the rates which are proposed in the Bill are thought by any section of the community served, either now or hereafter, to be excessive, and of such a nature that they should be reduced, there is ample provision in the Bill for applying to the requisite authority to have the rates reduced. It seems to me that the interests of everybody under this Bill are amply protected. The hon. Lady has made a great point of the question of paying back dividends. It was the provision by the original members of this company of the capital which they put up, which enabled Essex to enjoy the water facilities that exist to-day. They were for many years without any interest on their money, and it is only right and equitable that, now that the Company is on a basis on which it can pay a dividend, these shareholders should get some reward for the capital which they supplied, without which capital it would not have been possible to have this water at all. The return to the shareholders is actually only 51 per cent. However, that is not a point which should operate to deprive the inhabitants of this area of all possibility in future of an adequate water supply of which they are in need. I would ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill, and allow these points to be dealt with in Committee. They have already been thoroughly thrashed out in Committee in another place, and they can, if necessary, be thrashed out again. If the Bill is refused a Second Reading, it will mean that a large section of the population might be denied, in a very few years time, the benefits of a water supply, which otherwise they will not be able to get.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

I must admit that I have not read this Bill very carefully, but as I understand it, the real crux of the position is that the company, when they get these powers, are going to charge 10s. for baths in small houses. I do not know who is the responsible person promoting the Bill, and who is championing the cause of this company, but whoever is in charge of the Bill will be well advised to see that, when it gets into Committee, Amendments are moved, so that that part of the Bill which gives the company power to charge 10s. for a bath, shall be removed. If they are not prepared to do that, perhaps they will give an undertaking to have a compromise, so that the lower rated houses shall not be charged. There is a certain class of house in the area supplied by this company which is well able to pay for a bath, but there are a large number of people in the area who cannot afford to pay this extra charge. Although this company is applying for extensive powers, I am more than convinced, in view of what I know of that area, that if it develops beyond Barking, Dagenham and Laindon, and in that direction, the present plant will not supply the people who require water. I used to live at Laindon, and hon. Members will be surprised to know that there are hundreds of bungalows there which have no water supply at all. They have to rely upon the rainwater they get from the roofs of their bungalows. Sometimes they put down a well, but that is an expensive business. If any of the people who own these bungalows apply to the company to lay on water the excuse is made that building has not been sufficiently developed, and therefore they cannot see their way to put down the water mains, though some of them are exceedingly small mains. They say a water supply cannot be provided unless the owner is prepared to put down a certain sum of money. It is strange that the health of the community is made dependent upon whether a firm or a company can pay dividends. That is an absurd position for any com- munity to be placed in, whether they live in Essex or anywhere else.

The point raised by the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) is a very important one, though the Metropolitan Water Board incurred very heavy expenditure and were not in a position to pay their way for a good long time, and, in order to get rid of their difficulties, had to put another 1 per cent. on the charge per house. But the Metropolitan Water Board are restricted to certain areas and cannot supply water where they like. At any rate, I suggest you will not persuade the Metropolitan Water Board to put down extra mains somewhere, else because if they did you would have this other company opposing them, and it would be a very expensive business for the Metropolitan Water Board. Therefore, I say, we cannot blame them. So far as I am concerned, I have got the will but I have not got the power, or I would make the Metropolitan Water Board extend their mains a long way down, so that people out there could have a better water supply. And there is another point. If the train facilities in that district were better than they are there would be a greater development of building down there. I should like to compel this company to strike out the Clause giving them power to charge 10s. for a particular bath, and if they are not prepared to do that, at any rate I think that houses of a certain rateable value ought to be exempted from the charge. I am not sure whether my hon. Friends on the Front Bench have made up their minds to divide against the Bill, but if they do I shall go into the Division Lobby with them, but, assuming that the Second Reading were defeated, this water company would still find ways and means of getting out of the difficulty.

Photo of Mr Herbert Looker Mr Herbert Looker , Essex South Eastern

May I point out that the defeat of the Bill would entail great delay and a great deal of hardship on these people?

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

I know it means delay, but, as a matter of fact, sometimes you have to cause delay to get what you want, and why should these people have this monetary infliction put upon them? Ten shillings may not seem very much of a sum to us, but there you have a large number of people, living from hand to mouth, as it were, who cannot pay their way at all. As a matter of fact, they are in debt from week to week, and this extra 10s. would be a big thing.

Photo of Hon. Charles Rhys Hon. Charles Rhys , Romford

It is 10s. a year, not 10s. a month.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

Of course. I know it is 10s. a year. That means 3d. a week, but you ought to know that if you have not got the means to pay 3d., even 3d. means a good deal. If you are getting only 30s. a week, and it costs 35s. to live you cannot pay even an extra 3d.

Photo of Hon. Charles Rhys Hon. Charles Rhys , Romford

I understood the hon. Member to say "this monthly charge of 10s.," but it is an annual charge. It was only for the purpose of accuracy that I intervened.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

If I said that it was a slip of the tongue. I have made many a slip of the tongue, as I dare say you have in your time. I understand it is 10s. per annum. Is that plain enough? That means a few coppers a week. Is that plain enough? As a matter of fact, people have not got the coppers with which to pay, and cannot pay. These people, who are running into debt every week, cannot afford to pay this charge, even if it is only 3d. a week. I say it is a heavy infliction, and I want the promoters to give this House an understanding that if the Bill goes to Committee they will be willing to strike out that particular Clause.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I have listened to the whole of this Debate, and have listened to some of it with a great deal of astonishment. The right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, who is not now in his place, challenged us to say what ought to have been done and what could have been done. It seems to be forgotten that the London County Council and the Ministry of Health between them are responsible for the situation which the hon. Members opposite have been complaining about to-night. This is not something which has come upon us all of a sudden. The Becontree estate, under the wise guidance of the Tory London County Council, assisted in the main by Tory Ministers of Health, has been growing up for some years past, and all kinds of questions concerning the social amenities, of that estate have arisen. Again and again we have tried our best, both inside and outside this House, to get those questions effectually dealt with. Now comes the question of the water supply. As has been pointed out to-night, the Government insist that if they give a subsidy towards the building of a house, a bath shall be put in. Everyone knows that the bulk of the people who live on the Becontree estate can scarcely afford to pay the rents already charged. Many of them cannot pay rent at all, and the arrears are enormous. Others take in lodgers, although according to their agreement they are not allowed to do so; and all kinds of arrangements have to be made in order to enable the people to bear the tremendously heavy—relatively heavy—charges put upon them. Now the Parliamentary Secretary comes forward and puts the responsibility upon us of saying what the alternative should be.

The alternative is quite simple and the hon Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) put it to the House. I am only sorry we really cannot submit it to the House to-night as an alternative and carry it, because I believe the ordinary common sense of the House would carry it. This district, indeed the whole of these new districts, ought to be linked up with the Metropolitan Water Board's system. If the Ministry of Health and the London County Council had done their duty they would long ago have seen that this was done. Things ought not to have been left to get into the chaotic condition in which they are to-day, so that Members are getting up one after another to tell us that unless this Bill is passed certain serious consequences will follow. This Bill will impose a great injustice upon a large number of people already bearing burdens which are too heavy for them to bear, because of the neglect of the Ministry of Health and the London County Council to do their duty. I do not believe we should allow any local authority to do what we are going to allow the company to do, and that is to impose heavy charges in order to pay for something which ought to have been paid long ago, namely, the dividends over a certain number of past years. Those dividends were not paid at the time, and now these poor people who have moved out there from London are to be penalised in order to make up those dividends. It is perfectly disgraceful, and the House ought not to allow the Bill to go through with such provisions in it. If dividends could not be earned in the past they ought to be wiped out, as any ordinary business has to wipe them out. The people who are to be supplied with water ought to be allowed to start more or less clear.

We object to this Bill as it stands, first of all, because you are taking the wrong course to deal with the situation which has arisen, and which in our judgment ought never to have arisen; and, secondly, because the course you are adopting is placing burdens on the shoulders of people who cannot bear them. I do not believe hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite understand the kind of people who are being dumped into this district. To hear some people talk it would appear that the poor people who go out to Becontree are people who are committing some crime against the people of Essex, because the people out there seem to think that all those large open spaces should be left uninhabited, and that the poor people have no right to go there. We hear a good deal of talk about the responsibility of the London County Council and this person and that person, as if the poor people have no right to live at Becontree at all, and as if the people living in the slums had no right to go to a place where there are no slums. It is absurd to talk about the burdens put upon Essex by the poor people going to live there.

Photo of Mr Herbert Looker Mr Herbert Looker , Essex South Eastern

We were talking about the burdens which fall upon some of the poorest people in Essex, and it is only right that we should make some reference to them in this House.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I want to point out that every person who goes to live in that district increases the value of the land on which the houses are built, and every house adds to the value of the land and property in the county where they are living. These people buy and consume food and purchase furniture, and in that way add to the trade and business done in that particular neighbourhood. There are many of ray own personal friends living at Becontree, and to hear them talked about as being dumped down in that district as so much rubbish is sheer nonsense. We might say the same about the Cranwell Estate and the top hat brigade which has been dumped there.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

That does not seem to be relevant to the question before the House.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

The hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) introduced this question. He said people had been dumped down there from the East End of London; and I am resenting the accusation that these people are, as it were, superfluous rubbish that has been dumped down there. I know these people are of no value to the ladies and gentlemen living on the Cranwell Estate, or those who belong to the top hat brigade who ride up to the City every morning with second-class season tickets. On this question, I agree that we are in a kind of cleft stick, and, if we were to defeat the Bill, a long period would probably elapse before the work that is necessary could be carried out, but we do not propose to divide against the Second Reading of this Measure. At the same time, we do intend to tell the Government plainly that we shall most certainly do our best to fight as hard as we can against the Third Reading of this Measure unless there are some very drastic amendments made in the Clauses to which I will allude. Under the heading Miscellaneous Provisions, Clause 58 of the Bill provides, in Sub-section (6), that: In addition to the rates and minimum sum authorised by the foregoing provisions of this section the Company may charge in respect of water closets and baths on any premises supplied with water the following sums:(i) in respect of every such water closet beyond the first (for which no additional charge shall be made) a sum not exceeding 7s. 6d. per annum. I want to point out that the discussion has very largely ranged round baths, but I wish to call attention to the sanitary arrangements as being something of equal importance. The people who live under the circumstances which I myself live under have not much conception of the sort of conditions under which many working-class families are obliged to live owing to the lack of proper sanitary conditions where two families are concerned. My view is that where there are two families living in one house which is not divided into tenements there should be separate sanitary conveniences for each family, and to lump on an additional charge for such conveniences is in my opinion quite an iniquity. That is a provision to which we very strongly object, and it is something which does not apply in London and which should not apply outside London. Consequently, under this Bill the people of the East End of London will be called upon to pay for a convenience which in London they would get in the ordinary way included in their rent. The next provision I will quote from the same Clause is as follows: (ii) in respect of every fixed bath capable of containing not more than 50 gallons and of every bath having an emptying aperture, and capable of containing more than 25 gallons but not more than 50 gallons a sum not exceeding les. per annum;(iii) in respect of every such bath capable of containing more than 50 gallons such sum as the Company may think fit. We propose that when this Bill comes hack to the House, unless there has been some drastic change in its provisions, we shall do our best to fight it during its final stages. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House know the advantage and the convenience of baths in their homes or in the places where they reside. The working classes at one time used to be spoken of as "the great unwashed." I want to say that unless people have the necessary conveniences with which to keep themselves clean you have no right to expect them to be clean. What I assert is that if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, or myself or my wife and children, had to put up with the conditions with which tens and hundreds of thousands of working-class people have to put up with in relation to bathing, the bathing of children, and the washing business generally, we should be exactly in the same condition as these poor people are at the present time. It is no use minimising this business, and these people should have the same facilities for bathing as we have ourselves. I can scarcely describe to this House the difference it made in my home where we had a big family of children when we turned over from having to bath in a tub in front of the kitchen fire to having a proper bath with hot and cold water taps which is now quite an everyday occurrence in my home.

It is because I know the convenience and, on the other hand, the slavery it is to a woman who has to bath her children in the old-fasioned way, that I think the House and those who represent the House on the Committee which will deal with the Bill, ought to consider it, not from the point of view of paying the back dividends of this company, but from the point of view of supplying the people concerned in these districts with the thing which you yourselves and I myself need, and without which we can scarcely live. So, although we would prefer, if we had the power, to throw out this Bill and bring in a better Bill compelling the Metropolitan Water Board and the county council between them to deal with this matter in a thorough and effective manner, in the circumstances we shall allow the Bill to get a Second Reading, reserving to ourselves the right if these Amendments are not made, to object to it and fight it when it comes back for Third Reading.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed.