HC Deb 23 February 1818 vol 37 cc576-8
Mr. Dickinson

having moved the second reading of this bill,

Colonel Palmer

opposed the motion. He was, he said, instructed to state, by the mayor and corporation of Ball), that they did not object to the principle of the measure, but that as the guardians of the interests of their fellow citizens, it appeared to them that as there was much difference of opinion with respect to the merits of the Gas Light, as there was no necessity for the immediate adoption of the invention in Bath, and as improvements were every day making in the preparation and management of the gas itself, it would be better to wait the result of those improvements than to take a hasty step of which they might afterwards repent. It had been said by the friends of the bill, that it was the universal wish of the inhabitants of Bath, that it should be carried. The fact was, however, that a great majority of the owners of property in Bath were adverse to it. The promoters of the measure were shareholders, and other interested persons. The corporation, on the contrary, had no interest in it, but were actuated solely by their zeal for the prosperity of the city. He pledged himself, that whenever it should appear to be the real wish of the majority of householders, and other inhabitants of Bath, to have the gas introduced, the mayor and corporation would not only consent to its introduction, but aid it by every means in their power. There was one clause of the bill to which he wished the attention of the House to be particularly directed, as it clearly manifested the contrariety of opinion which existed on the subject in Bath; he meant the clause by which the property of one of the principal land owners in Bath, earl Manvers, was exempted from the operation of the bill. Another great land owner at Bath, lady Rivers, objected to the bill. If this bill for the partial lighting of Bath, were agreed to, the whole city might be injured, should it prove a nuisance rather than a benefit. He had been one of the warmest advocates of the gas light himself. No man could observe its beauty, and reflect on its economy, without being so; but within the last two days, he had heard some circumstances which rather shook his opinion. If there was any one place in the kingdom in which it was to be expected that the gas would be in the best state, it was the spot on which they were, as it was naturally the interest of the contractors to take care that it should appear to advantage under the observation of the members of the legislature. He happened lately, however, to be in company with a gentleman who resided in the immediate vicinity of that House, and who declared, that frequently for days, and sometimes for weeks, the smell of the gas was abominable. He had also been told by another gentleman at Chelsea that having been at the expence of fitting up his whole House with gas lights, he had found the effluvia so intolerably offensive, and so injurious to the health of his children, that he had been compelled to have the apparatus removed. On all these grounds, he moved, as an amendment, that the bill be read a second time that day three months.

Mr. Gordon

maintained, that if the corporation of Bath had no objection to the principle of the bill, it ought to be allowed to go into the committee, in which its various details might be fully discussed. There had been petitions from two or three thousand inhabitants of Bath in favour of the measure. The fact was, that the corporation of Bath wished to undertake the job themselves, conceiving that it would be profitable. They had already the superintendence of the Water, the Assembly Rooms, &c. and it would be too much to add thereto that of the Gas Lights.

Mr. Methuen

observed, that a more respectable body of gentlemen could not exist than the members of the Bath Gas Light Company. He should therefore contribute every thing in his power, to carry their wishes into effect.

Mr. Curwen

observed, that the clause respecting earl Manvers was copied from the corporation bill. He had had a communication with the corporation of Bath, on the subject of the proposed measure, and although he had offered to guard the interests of that corporation in the bill, by every practicable provision, he was not listened to, but was told that they would depend on the strength of noses in the House of Commons.

Lord John Thynne

opposed the second reading of the bill.

Mr. Protheroe

thought the only question for the House to decide was, in whose hands the supply of the city should be placed. As for the corporation, he feared they were a set of gentlemen who moved about business much too slowly in their fur gowns, to expect they would effect any thing that required energy or spirit. He felt a preference for the other parties, as being more competent and efficient, and should, therefore, support the bill, at least until it was brought into a committee.

Mr. P. Moore

wished the bill to go into a committee, and expressed his intention, when it got there, to draw the attention of the committee to the prices charged by the Gas Light Companies. For lamps for which they formerly charged 25s. a-year, their present demand was four, five, or six pounds. For parish lamps, which they formerly charged at half a farthing a piece, they now charged three farthings.

Sir B. Hobhouse

hoped the bill would be permitted to go into a committee, when, if its regulations appeared beneficial, the House would do well to forward it through its remaining stages.

The House then divided: For the Amendment, 38; Against it, 79.—The bill was then read a second time.