WATER UNDERTAKINGS (MODIFICATION OF CHARGES) BILL.

WEDNESDAY, 20th JULY, 1921.

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Pearce, Sir William (Chairman).

Adamson, Mr. (Fife, Western)

Ashley, Lieut.-Colonel (Lancaster, Fylde)

*Atkey, Mr. (Nottingham, Central)

Barker, Major (York, W. R., Sowerby)

Barton, Sir William (Oldham)

Beckett, Mr. (York, N. R., Scarborough and Whitby)

Bell, Lieut-Colonel (Wilts, Devizes)

Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)

Bird, Sir William (West Sussex, Chichester)

Blades, Captain Sir Rowland (Surrey, Epsom)

Bowerman, Mr. (Deptford)

Brittain, Sir Harry (Middlesex, Acton)

Britton, Mr. (Bristol, East)

Broad, Mr. (Derby, Clay Cross)

Bromfield, Mr. (Stafford, Leek)

*Brown, Mr. James (Ayr and Bute, South Ayrshire)

Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel (Lanark, Coatbridge)

Cairns, Mr. (Morpeth)

Cobb, Sir Cyril (Fulham, West)

Cockerill, Brigadier-General (Surrey, Reigate)

Cowan, Mr. (Scottish Universities)

Davies, Mr. Evan (Monmouth, Ebbw Vale)

*Edwards, Major John (Glamorgan, Aberavon)

Guest, Major Oscar (Leicester, Loughborough)

Hayday, Mr. (Nottingham, West)

Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel (Essex, South-Eastern)

Hotchkin, Captain (Parts of Lindsey, Horncastle)

Howard, Major (West Suffolk, Sudbury)

Jones, Mr. John (West Ham, Silvertown)

Kennedy, Mr. (Kircaldy District Burghs)

Lawson, Mr. (Durham, Chester-le-Street)

Lister, Sir Ashton (Gloucester, Stroud)

*Lorden, Mr. (St. Pancras, North)

Loseby, Captain (Bradford, East)

Lowther, Major Christopher (Cumberland, Northern)

Mills, Mr. (Kent, Dartford)

*Mond, Sir Alfred (Swansea, West)

Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)

Perkins, Mr. (Hants, New Forest and Christchurch)

Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel (Dewsbury)

Ramsden, Mr. (York, W. R., Elland)

Rankin, Captain (Liverpool, East Toxteth)

Rees, Captain Tudor (Devon, Barnstaple)

*Richardson, Mr. Robert (Durham, Houghton-le-Spring)

Robertson, Mr. John (Lanark, Bothwell)

*Rodger, Mr. (Lanark, Rutherglen)

Simm, Mr. (Wallsend)

Stanton, Mr. (Merthyr Tydvil, Aberdare)

Steel, Major (Kent, Ashford)

Stehenson, Lieut.-Colonel (Sheffield, Park)

*Walton, Mr. James (York, W. R., Don Valley)

Weston, Colonel (Westmorland)

Wheler, Major (Kent, Faversham)

White, Mr. Charles (Derby, Western)

Williams, Mr. Charles (Devon, Tavistock)

Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert (Somerset, Weston-super-Mare)

Wintringham, Mr. (Parts of Lindsey, Louth)

*Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, West)

Worsfold, Dr. (Surrey, Mitcham)

* Added in respect of the Water Undertakings (Modification of Charges) Bill

MR. WILLIAMS Committee Clerks.

MR. FERGUSON Committee Clerks.

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801 STANDING COMMITTEE C Wednesday, 20th July, 1921.

[Sir WILLIAM PEARCE in the Chair.]

WATER UNDERTAKINGS (MODIFICATION OF CHARGES) BILL.
[OFFICIAL REPORT.] CLAUSE 1.
—(Modification of provisions affecting water charges).

(1) Where on the application of any water undertakers it appears to the Minister that for the purpose of meeting any increase in the cost and charges of and incidental to the carrying on of the undertaking attributable to circumstances arising since the fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and fourteen, which were beyond the control of and could not have been reasonably avoided by the undertakers, an Order under this Section should be made with regard to the undertaking the Minister may, if he thinks fit, by Order—

  • provide for modifying any statutory or other provision affecting or regulating charges to be made by the undertakers, and of any statutory or other provisions consequential thereon or supplemental thereto in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be just and reasonable;
  • provide for the modification of the provisions of any award or agreement which determine the price to be charged by the undertakers for the supply of water or for any fittings, materials, or service in connection therewith;
  • Provided that no such modification shall be made except such as may be reasonably necessary for the purpose of meeting such increase.

    (2) If at any time on the application of the undertakers or a local authority, or where the local authority are the undertakers of twenty consumers, it appears to the Minister that owing to change of circumstances affecting an undertaking in respect of which an Order has been made the powers of charging effected by the Order are insufficient or excessive for the purpose aforesaid, the Minister may make an amending Order revising the powers of charging, so, however, that the revised maximum charges shall not in any case be less that the statutory maximum charges applicable to the undertaking prior to the said fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and fourteen.

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    (3) An Order under this Section may—

  • fix the date (which may be a date not more than six months earlier than the date on which the Order is made) as from which the charges authorised by the Order shall become operative;
  • revoke, vary, or modify, in whole or in part, any Order relating to a water undertaking made under the Statutory Undertakings (Temporary Increase of Charges) Act, 1918;
  • contains such incidental, supplemental, and consequential provisions as may be necessary to give full effect to the Order.
  • The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Alfred Mond): I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "owing to change of circumstances affecting an undertaking in respect of which an order has been made the powers of charging effected by the order are insufficient or excessive for the purpose aforesaid,—" and to insert instead thereof the words "the costs and charges of and incidental to the carrying on of the undertaking in respect of which an order has been made have substantially altered." This is really a drafting Amendment to make it clear that in making an amending Order it shall not be necessary for the Minister in every case to refer back to 4th August, 1914.

    Mr. LORDEN: I suppose that would include the question of dividend?

    Sir A. MOND: No. The Bill does not refer to dividends The dividend is fixed by an Act, and the Minister has no power to vary dividends. It only deals with the charges for water.

    Mr. LORDEN: There is the question of the power to make up a dividend which has not been previously paid. I do not think we should legislate here in regard to that matter, and I want to be quite clear on that point.

    Sir A. MOND: The hon. Member may rest assured on that subject. It does not deal with that point at all. It is a question of modifying Orders with regard to charges. It does not affect the question of dividends.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In Sub-section (2), leave out the words "prior to," and insert instead thereof the word "on."—[Sir A. Mond.]

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    Sir A. MOND: I beg to move, in Sub-section (3, a), to leave out the words "(which may be a date not more than sis months earlier than the date on which the Order is made—)." This is really a limiting Amendment which prevents Orders being made retrospective as was first arranged in the draft of the Bill. I think the idea of making an Order retrospective is rather unpopular in the House and also very difficult to work in practice.

    Mr. LORDEN: Will the leaving out of these words have the effect which the Minister suggests? Apparently, it will leave it indefinite and will leave it in his power to make it retrospective if he so desires. Surely, it will want at the end of the paragraph the words "and in no case to be made retrospective." It seems to me that if you read it with those words out it fixes a date as from which the charges authorised shall become operative. It might make it three years. It seems to me it enlarges the scope. It will be almost impossible to deal with the matter in a retrospective way, because there may be, in this period, several tenancies. I am not satisfied, and I would ask that the words "and in no case to be retrospective" should be inserted. I shall have to move to insert those words on the Report stage if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept them here. The administration of the Act will be difficult if it is made retrospective, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has the power in his own hands to make these orders, it seems to me that instead of limiting the Clause it increases the scope of it.

    The CHAIRMAN: I understand that an Act cannot be made retrospective unless it is specially specified. If I am right, and I understand I am right, the words which the hon. Member proposes are not necessary.

    Sir A. MOND: I may explain that if there is nothing in the Clause to make it retrospective, it becomes automatically non-retrospective.

    Mr. LORDEN: You must admit that unless there is some Statute or practice that bars that point, you enlarge the scope.

    Sir A. MOND: I quite agree.

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    Mr. ATKEY: It is obviously unfair either to the water authority or the water undertaking that this shall not be made retrospective if it be in the power of the Minister to make it so. The increased charges have been put on these authorities, whether companies or public bodies, without notice or warning and with a rapidity that has overwhelmed them with a deficit. If that be so, surely it would be the least amount of justice to give the Minister a discretion extending over six months. Even that would be inadequate to make up for the loss which they have been forced to incur

    Amendment agreed to.

    Mr. LORDEN: I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (3, a), to add the words "and in no case to be retrospective."

    The CHAIRMAN: I cannot accept that Amendment. It is obvious that if the Committee puts those words in it goes some way to destroy the present position, which is that no legislation can be retrospective unless it is specifically laid down.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    CLAUSE 2.
    —(Procedure for making orders.)

    (1) Before making an order under this Act the Minister shall require the applicants to give, in terms approved by him, and in such manner as he may consider best adapted for informing any local authorities or other persons affected, public notice of the application for the order, and as to the manner in which and the time within which the objections may be made, and as to the manner in which and the place where any documents submitted to the Minister in connection with the application may be inspected and copies thereof made, and where copies of the application may be purchased, and shall consider any objection which may be duly made, and in the event of any objection being made and not withdrawn shall cause an inquiry to be held.

    (2) On the making of an order under this Act notice shall be given of the making of the order and the effect thereof to any local authority which may have appeared at the inquiry (if any), and if any such local authority within four weeks from the date of such notice as aforesaid give notice in writing to the Minister that they object to the order, and the objection is not withdrawn, or if for any other reason the Minister thinks it desirable, the order shall be provisional only and shall not have effect unless and until confirmed by Parliament, but in any other case the order shall have effect as if enacted in this Act.

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    (3) Rules may be made by the Minister with respect to applications and other proceedings under this Act, including the payments to be made by persons making applications or objections, the publication and service of advertisements and notices, the making of representations and objections, the holding of inquiries, and the cost of such inquiries, and with respect to such other matters of procedure as may be necessary, and the rules with respect to the holding of inquiries may apply the provisions of section seventy-two of the Local Government Act, 1894, relating to local inquiries.

    Sir A. MOND: I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "where copies of the application may be—" This is really a small point of procedure. The point has been raised in an Amendment on the Paper which I do not think expresses it very well. There was some doubt as to whether you could get a copy made. A local authority might want to have that done, and there is no question that that facility ought to be given.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Sir A. MOND: I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "which may have appeared at the inquiry (if any) and if any such local authority—" and to insert instead thereof the words "or persons who have objected to the application for an order under the preceding Sub-section, and if" This and the next Amendment I am moving in accordance with the undertaking I gave on the Second Reading in the House to extend the provisional order procedure and give the House a further amount of control than was intended when the Bill was originally drafted. This Amendment will enable persons who are objecting, including consumers, to receive notice of the making of an order and obtain the information necessary to enable them to carry their objections to the inquiry.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Sir A. MOND: I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "as aforesaid" ["such notice as aforesaid"], and to insert instead thereof the words "any such local authority, or, where a local authority are the undertakers, twenty consumers being persons who have so objected as aforesaid," 806 This Amendment is necessary in order to fulfil a pledge I gave in the House on the Second Reading of the Bill. We have made the number of consumers twenty so as to prevent just one or two fractious persons causing difficulty. I think the number is not unreasonable.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 3 (Interpretation) ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    CLAUSE 4.
    —(Short title and extent.)

    (1) This Act may be cited as the Water Undertakings (Modification of Charges) Act, 1921.

    (2) This Act shall not extend to Scotland or Ireland.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

    Mr. LORDEN: The effect of the Bill is to enable Acts of Parliament and agreements to be varied by a Government Department. There should be some limitation on this procedure, and some limitation of time in the Bill itself. I suggest that we should add to this Clause the words "and the operations of this Act shall cease on 31st December, 1924." By that time we should have got back to normal conditions.

    The CHAIRMAN: This Clause deals only with the Title of the Bill, and it is not possible to make that kind of amendment.

    Mr. LORDEN: Is it not possible to make an amendment in the Bill?

    The CHAIRMAN: I do not say that, but we have passed the other Clauses.

    Mr. LORDEN: If you rule me out of order, I will put down an Amendment for the Report stage.

    Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

    Bill, with Amendments, ordered to be reported to the House.

    Committee rose at Twelve minutes before Twelve o'clock.

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    THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

    Pearce, Sir William (Chairman)

    Atkey, Mr.

    Bell, Lieut.-Colonel

    Broad, Mr.

    Brown, Mr. James

    Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel

    Edwards, Major John

    Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel

    Hotchkin, Captain

    Lorden, Mr.

    Mond, Sir Alfred

    Newman, Sir Robert

    Perkins, Mr.

    Rankin, Captain

    Rodger, Mr.

    Simm, Mr.

    Steel, Major

    Weston, Colonel

    Wheler, Major

    Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert

    Wood, Sir Kingsley

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