HC Deb 18 April 1821 vol 5 cc439-41
Mr. M. A. Taylor

rose pursuant to notice, to move for leave to bring in a bill with respect to the law as it affected nuisances by smoke issuing from Steam-engines. Of the pernicious effect of such nuisances, no gentleman could be unaware. The steam-engines productive of these nuisances were not only injurious to the health and comfort but even ruinous to the property of persons who happened to be resident in their vicinity. Of the latter effect, a very distressing instance had come to his knowledge. It was that of a clergyman, who, after having erected additional buildings for the purpose of extending his school, was actually obliged to quit his premises, in consequence of a steam-engine erected in an adjoining field, the smoke from which actually rendered his house uninhabitable. If it were said that this clergyman might obtain redress by preferring an indictment he would answer, that the gentleman could not afford to pay the ex- pence of a prosecution, which, upon a writ of certiorari, was much more considerable than might be generally supposed; and upon prosecutions by indictment, it was known that the prosecutor must pay his own costs. Hence, the most pernicious nuisances were often tolerated through the inability of those under the necessity of residing in their vicinity to defray the costs of a prosecution.—He did not intend to interfere with the existing law as to nuisances, or to withdraw from a jury the power of deciding upon any question of nuisance. Therefore he could not accede to the proposition suggested to him of investing two or three magistrates with the power of promptly inquiring into and suppressing any nuisance of this nature by summary process. The matter to which his motion referred, had undergone the consideration of two committees, before whom, the extent of the nuisance, with the practicability of reducing the smoke that occasioned it was fully proved. The hon. member mentioned several places where apparatus was provided in the furnaces of steam-engines to consume their own smoke, and particularly the manufactory of Mr. Parkes of Warwick, which he had himself personally inspected. He also instanced the case of the Lambeth Water-works, where for some time the steam-engine was such a nuisance that although on the other side of the river, neither he nor his neighbour, lord Liverpool, could walk in their gardens in consequence of being overclouded with smoke. How noxious then must that smoke be to those in the immediate neighbourhood of the engine? But he and lord Liverpool had determined to prefer an indictment. Upon intimation, however, of their complaint to the gentlemen connected with the waterworks, measures were promptly taken to cure the evil, which had been done effectually by the introduction of a smoke consumer into the engine. But the same cure might be generally applied both in town and country, where such nuisances existed. Now, to remedy this evil, and to encourage people to prosecute, he proposed to proceed upon the principle of the highway act, by which, persons not removing any nuisance upon due notice, were subject to certain penalties; he meant, that if the proprietors of Steam-Engines did not reduce the nuisance to which he referred, upon due notice or complaint to them, it should be compe- tent to, the judge before whom any indictment might be tried, to order the party prosecuted to pay the costs incurred by the prosecutor, and also, before sentence, to order inquiry to be made by proper persons whether the nuisance which was the subject of prosecution could be abated? The lion, member concluded with moving for leave to bring in a bill "for giving greater facility in the prosecution and abatement of nuisances arising from furnaces used in the working of Steam-Engines."

Mr. Tremayne

was favourable to the general principle of the bill; but doubted the expediency of applying its provisions to the cases of engines worked in the mining districts.

Mr. D. Gilbert

said, that the hon. gentleman's bill must be considered as almost tantamount to a new law: it would therefore be necessary to guard against the interruption of important works, on account of a trifling inconvenience or proceedings from groundless complaints.

Sir M. W. Ridley

supported the bill, and mentioned the instance of a steam-engine in one of the largest collieries in Northumberland, where, by the application of proper machinery, the smoke had been so reduced as to lose all its offensive power.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, that as there were no complaints of steam-engines in Cornwall he thought it would be better to exempt that, and perhaps some other counties, from the operation of this bill. If some such limitation were not adopted the bill would probably have to encounter great opposition. Cornwall itself they all knew, might send a pretty considerable force in hostility to it.

Mr. M. A. Taylor

expressed his determination not to exclude any particular county. If the House should agree to introduce such a provision, he would abandon the bill altogether.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.