HC Deb 17 May 1819 vol 40 cc451-3

Mr. Peter Moore moved the third reading of this Bill.

Sir R. Fergusson

confessed, that he was not very friendly either to Gas Lights, or Water Work companies—not that he was hostile to the ingenious improvements or discoveries, by which the public had derived great convenience; but his dislike arose from the way in which these companies conducted themselves. They might be termed a sort of amphibious animals, sometimes upon land, sometimes upon water. In another view, a kind of ambiguous animals, sometimes presenting fire instead of water, and sometimes water instead of fire. So that it was frequently doubtful whether the public of this great metropolis were to be exploded by fire, or overwhelmed with water. In many instances their concerns were so wretchedly directed, as to excite fears and alarms. With regard to the present bill, he thought it so defective in many particulars, that as he despaired of any satisfactory amendments in its present form, he should move the third reading on this day six months.

Mr. Colclough

, although he admired the public utility derivable from the gas lights, yet could not approve of the manner in which the companies conducted their concerns. In some cases, the gas amounted to 5s. per cubic foot only, while in others it reached 14s. The bill now before them was, he believed, in the latter calculation, and therefore was of sufficient quality to answer the purposes intended. But while parliament was encouraging chartered gas light companies, it forgot a paramount duty to the public, that was, to protect the health of the inhabitants of London and Westminster—to take care that nothing pestiferous should arise from the manufacture of gas, so as to endanger the lives of that community which the companies were bound to serve. The mode now adopted in discharging their off-scowerings into the river Thames, put the salubrity of the whole metropolis to the hazard. This refuse from the gas contained a deleterious composition, which, impregnated into the Thames, endangered the lives, not only of all the fish in the river, but of all the inhabitants' of London and Westminster. But he wished for a rivalship in the various gas light companies, by which the community might be benefited, and would, for the sake of an experiment, support the bill.

Mr. P. Moore

thought, that there would be just cause of complaint, if those who opposed the bill were to succeed. The gentlemen concerned in the proposed company, had already subscribed 120,000l. sterling; and before they had ventured to make any application to parliament, four-fifths of their capital had been realized. They had also applied to the directors of the chartered gas light company, stating, that if any objections occurred on their part to the plan now submitted to parliament, the new company would willingly enter into any explanation, so as to reconcile all differences. But all the answer which they could receive was, that they had received no orders to state any objections. They afterwards, however, proceeded with a total want of candour, by assailing and condemning the project with every prejudice and every effort of hostility. It was even insinuated to their friends, that if the present bill were not thrown out, they would be no longer able to command the monopoly of the metropolis; and this by a company whose rental exceeded 100,000l. a year. But it would be extraordinary indeed, if this great and populous city, consisting of 8,500 streets and squares, should, in the application of gas light for public convenience, be left to the caprice or control of such a company. The House would see the policy of rousing a spirit of competition, not only to prevent the probable inconvenience, but perhaps the arbitrary exactions also of the said company.

Sir J. Yorke

had no partiality for the fire and water companies. By their conduct, they were a nuisance to the public. In his opinion, all the competition or rivalry which they produced was the rivalry of who should pull the pavement most violently to pieces.

Mr. H. Sumner

, in order to accommodate the various parties, recommended the recommitment of the bill. If the measure were a good one, and he was inclined to think it was, it would be unfortunate if the prejudices of the moment were to defeat those who had embarked so much property in the concern. The advantages derived from the application of gas were manifest. Besides the great convenience to the public, by rendering the streets, squares, and passages, light as day, gas was highly advantageous to the police. This last recommendation alone ought to operate in favour of the bill.

Mr. Alderman Wood

approved of what had fallen from the last hon. member. The aid which the police derived from gas lights was of the greatest importance to the community. With regard to the complaints of the refuse of the gas being thrown into the river, and endangering the lives of the inhabitants of the metropolis, a clause should be introduced into the bill, ordering that the commissioners of sewers should take care that no nuisance of the kind should be suffered. Thinking that the provisions of the bill might be beneficial, he was in favour of the re-commitment.

Mr. Bennett

however much he admired the gas light confessed his apprehensions and fears from some sudden derangement of the pipes or works, when perhaps nearly the whole town might be left in total darkness. We reposed too much confidence in these companies. It was advisable to draw some line between their profits and the public safety.

The House divided: for the amendment, 134. Against it, 31. The third reading of the bill was consequently put off for six months.