HC Deb 03 July 1844 vol 76 cc282-5
Mr. Mackinnon

on moving that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair, that the House may resolve itself into a Committee on the Smoke Prevention Bill, said, he deemed it his duty to explain to the House the reasons that had induced him to bring forward this measure and to frame this enactment. In the course of last Session a Committee was formed of which he was named Chairman to investigate whether detriment arose to the health of the community from the increase of smoke in all large manufacturing places. The attention of the Committee was directed in the first instance, to ascertain whether such nuisance was injurious to the health of the population, which was shewn to be the case from preventing among the lower elasses that attention to personal cleanliness and comfort so necessary to a healthy state of existence. The Committee then, under his advice, proceeded to investigate whether or not the nuisance of smoke could effectually be prevented; next, if such was the case if the prevention could be effected without injury to the interests of the manufacturers, and lastly, in the event of the two former enquiries being answered in the affirmative, whether any legislative enactment could be framed so as to prevent the nuisance. After a considerable time was occupied in examining witnesses and proprietors of factories, the evidence was conclusive, that smoke, which is imperfect combustion, could be effectually prevented by the admission of atmospheric air into the furnace in a certain quantity, it also came out in evidence that a considerable saving of coal might thereby be gained, in fact, the saving of fuel to the proprietor would in a very short time, more than make up for the expense of the apparatus to cause perfect combustion. In fact some of the ingenious persons who had devised the means of preventing smoke, were willing, at their own expense, to put up the requisite apparatus in furnaces at their own cost, on being allowed by the proprietor one-half of his gain in the saving of fuel. He (Mr. Mackinnon) thought it right here to mention that the Committee was not composed of his personal friends, or of Members on his side of the House, but was composed chiefly of Gentlemen representing large manufacturing towns such as Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Ashton, Liverpool, and others, and also of the Members for Lancashire and Cornwall, and the metropolitan districts, districts where most coal was consumed. After hearing a vast mass of evidence the Committee came to the unanimous conclusion that the nuisance was great and ought to be abated, and that a resolution should be agreed on, that a Bill be brought into Parliament for the purpose by the Government, that in the event of Her Majesty's Ministers declining to frame a Bill, that he (Mr. Mackinnon) as Chairman of the Committee should undertake that duty; he added, that as far as he was individually concerned, he felt no interest in the matter, as both in London and the country he was not annoyed by smoke but that he had undertaken the measure on public grounds as Chairman of the Committee and as a Member of that House. So satisfied were the population of Leeds, that the nuisance of smoke could be prevented that they passed a local bill to prohibit the nuisance; this Bill had been rendered inoperative from the manner in which it was drawn up, as the Bill allowed the magistrates, under their warrant, to let an Inspector enter the premises of a factory, and examine if the apparatus for preventing smoke was equal to the purpose. This power to enter premises was very obnoxious to the occupants of factories, besides which, the inspectors did not turn out to be persons capable of forming an opinion as to the efficiency of the machinery set up to prevent imperfect combustion. In consequence, the Local Bill of Leeds, became a dead letter. In his Bill he (Mr. Mackinnon) had endeavoured to avoid the mistake in the Leeds Bill, he had thought, it advisable, in the first place to define the nuisance of opaque smoke and then to fix a fine for the commission of the offence. He added that any one acquainted with the forms of that House, must know the hopelessness of any Bill being taken through that House by an individual unless supported by the Government, even the Government themselves were often foiled in their attempts at legislation, he was however desirous at this stage of the business, to learn the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and to ascertain this, and the sense of the House, he moved, that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair.

Mr. Manners Sutton

said, that since the Bill was introduced, it had been his business to make some inquiries on the subject of the parties interested in the Bill, and the result was so very unsatisfactory that he felt the greatest difficulty in pronouncing any decided opinion upon it; and as he did not think the House was then in a condition to come to a decision upon that important measure, he hoped the further consideration of it would be adjourned.

Mr. Ward

said, if the Bill were persevered in, he was determined to oppose it in every stage. He moved that the House would resolve itself into a Committee that day three months.

Sir J. Easthope

I presented a petition from the town of Leicester, in accordance with the general principle of the measure proposed by the hon. Member for Lymington, and I am quite disposed to concur in the general principle of his Bill; but, perceiving as I do the prevailing sentiment of the House to be against proceeding with it at the present time, I recommend his consenting to its postponement, and I hope it will be revived with success early in the next Session.

Sir R. Peel

also expressed a hope that if the hon. Gentleman withdrew his Bill for the present, he would be enabled to take it up more successfully next year. This, however, would mainly depend upon the assistance he could get from those who were capable of affording it; and he did hope, that all persons connected with the manufacturing districts, and who were anxious for the health of the towns with which they were connected, would turn their attention to the subject; otherwise the exertions of the hon. Member for Lymington next year would probably turn out as fruitless as they had been on the present occasion. He understood that there were some forty or fifty inventions for abating this nuisance, and he hoped that men of practical experience would examine some of them.

Amendment carried.

Bill put off for three months.