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A PLAIN STATEMENT,
THE Gas Companies connected with the City of London, having observed that at various meetings which have been held for the purpose of coercing a considerable reduction in the price of Gas charged to the Citizens, very exaggerated statements have been made of the profits derived more particularly by the City of London Gas Company, the period has at length arrived when the public should be undeceived on a point so important to its real interests. In order to do this, I claim attention to the following particulars :
In consequence of extravagant statements which had obtained credence in the public mind, the Honourable Mr. Hume moved for a Return to Parliament of the prices charged by all the incorporated Gas Companies in the United Kingdom. That Return was accordingly presented and printed in the month of July, 1847; upon reference to which it will be found that, with some exceptions, the prices charged in the Metropolis are less than in the Provincial Districts; showing
that those opinions were unfounded, and that the Citizens of London had not been unfairly dealt with by the Companies they patronized.
It must be known that in the early period of Gaslighting Companies had many and great difficulties to encounter from public prejudice and other causes; and since it was an undertaking extremely doubtful as to its results, a price was charged correspondent with the risk to which the Promoters of what has now become an Article of indispensable use were exposed, and the Price then fixed, in London, was 15s. per 1000 cubic feet. This, at different periods, has been reduced to its present rate of 6s.—which yields an average per centage upon the capital employed of rather less than £5 per cent. per annum, including in that average the City of London Gas Company; which, for reasons not at all connected with the manufacture of Gas, is the only Metropolitan Gas concern paying a Ten per Cent. Dividend :* surely, then, the Inhabitants of London can have no just cause of complaint on account of the largeness of the Profits made by the Metropolitan Companies.
*The rate of dividend being larger than that paid by other Metropolitan Gas Companies, arises from the fact of the City of London Company having been formed out of two unprofitable Companies who were unable to carry on their concerns, which were purchased at less than the one half their original value.”. Abstract of Gas Companies' Returns, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 22nd July, 1847, No. 734.
Under the Act of Parliament incorporating the City of London Gas Company, powers, extending over the whole of the Cities of London and Westminster, and the Borough of Southwark, and the Liberties and Precincts thereof," were given to them. Subsequently, however, owing to representations made by the late Sir William Congreve to the Government, that the Public were exposed to great hazard by a plurality of mains of different Companies being laid in the same streets, a correspondence took place upon the subject between the Honourable Baronet and the City of London Gas Company; he, for the reason stated, calling upon them to curtail the powers with which they had been originally possessed. To this proposal the Company offered the most strenuous opposition; but after a lengthened negotiation, there was conveyed an intimation that Government, by some legislative enactment, would compel them to acquiesce; they therefore found it expedient to give way, but only on the assurance that in the extremely small district to which they were restricted, they should be guaranteed an uninterrupted occupation.* Since that time various Companies have been incorporated, seeking very extended powers, but in no instance has an Act been obtained without the clause describing the bounds of the district being enforced. For the sake of example: When the British and
* See Appendix.