HC Deb 31 July 1832 vol 14 cc966-8
Mr. Hume

presented a petition from the inhabitants of St. Mary Abbotts, Kensington, complaining of the regulations with respect to the Sewers of the Metropolis. The hon. Gentleman said, great exertions had been made on this subject some years ago, and from there being very many streets without any sewerage, nuisances extremely prejudicial to health were generated. The sums at the disposal of the Commissioners of Sewers for Westminster alone, amounted to 65,000l. per annum, and there was no power of calling them to account. These Commissioners were some hundreds in number, but the fault lay in the system, not in them, and there was no remedy, unless the Legislature would interfere to cause an inquiry, which was, he believed, the object of the Motion, notice of which had been given for this evening, by the hon. Baronet opposite.

Mr. Rigby Wason

could prove, that Chelsea paid a great sum to the Sewers rate, and that it was most imperfectly drained. It had a population of 32,000 persons, whose health was much injured by the ineffectual system of drainage adopted. He thought that the Government should take the matter up and provide a remedy.

Petition ordered to lie upon the Table.

Sir Francis Burdett

said, that the Motion which he was now about to bring before the House, was one of great importance, but as the hon. member for Middlesex had often called the attention of the House to the subject, he should trouble them with but a few observations. The same causes which had prevented the town from being supplied with pure water had prevented it from enjoying the advantage of well-formed and well-connected sewers. In some parts the sewers were in pretty good order, in many others they were in a bad state, and in not a few places there was no drainage at all. Yet this deficiency did not arise from any want of money; for in every part of the metropolis the Sewers duty was regularly levied, and the whole produce of it was found to amount to 216,000l. a-year, and that sum, if properly applied, was quite adequate to keep up a proper system of drainage. The duty was levied with the same exactness where there were no sewers as where sewers had been made. This was manifestly unjust, and he believed that if the money thus raised was properly applied, every part of the town might be well drained. Several of his constituents had written letters to him complaining of the state in which the sewers in their neighbourhood were left, or alleging that there were no sewers at all to carry off the filth, and that, in consequence of the want of them, the property in the neighbourhood was materially injured. The hon. Baronet read a letter to this effect from a gentleman, several of whose houses at Vauxhall had been injured by want of a proper drainage. He observed that that complaint was not confined to Vauxhall, but that the evil existed in equal force through a great part of the Tower Hamlets and in Stepney, and indeed he believed in every part of London. He should not detain the House further, than by recommending that the whole of London should be placed under the inspection of an engineer, that one plan should be adopted for every part of it, and that the drainage of the whole, instead of being under the direction of a great many individuals with no common interest and no concert among them, should be under the direction of one person, whose duty it should be, to see that proper sewers were everywhere established. He should conclude by moving "That Mr. Telford be instructed to report to that House on the best plan to be adopted for draining the metropolis, on the state of the present system of sewerage, and to point out any improvements that could be made therein."

Lord Althorp

said, that the subject was one of great importance, and it was desirable that an inquiry should be made respecting it; but he thought the matter had better be left in the hands of the Government, who could more conveniently arrange the expense that was to be incurred, and limit its amount, than could that House if it undertook the business.

Mr. Warburton

said, that his objection to the Motion was, that it did not touch the point he complained of, which was the present system of law relating to sewers, the whole of which ought to be altered. At present there were many different Boards of Commissioners scattered through the metropolis, but there was not a single individual amongst them responsible for the performance of their duty.

Mr. Hume

said, that if an alteration of the system took place, he was sure that the whole of London might be well drained without one farthing additional cost to the public. The money now levied and wasted would, if well applied, be amply sufficient for all that was required. The greatest advantage had arisen from putting the whole of the metropolitan roads into the hands of a few responsible Commissioners, and he thought the same course ought to be pursued with respect to the sewers.

Sir Francis Burdett

said, that his object, like that of his hon. friends, was to simplify the system, and to secure responsibility somewhere. After what the noble Lord had said, he should be content to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, understanding, as he did, that they would take it at once into consideration. He hoped they would consult Mr. Telford, and, perhaps, between this and the next Session of Parliament, they might be able to give a satisfactory account of their proceedings.

Mr. Hume

admitted the abilities of Mr. Telford, but thought that engineer ought not to be wholly relied on. He recommended that an inquiry should take place, and the witnesses be examined on oath.

Motion withdrawn.