HC Deb 07 April 1846 vol 85 cc670-3

called the attention of the House to the consideration of the best possible means for lessening the labour and expense attendant on Private Bills, and for preventing, what he was sorry to say too frequently occurred, the sacrifice of the public interests. He did so on several grounds. But the Sanatory Committee had, in their second Report, embodied all the principles for which he had been contending for some years. They stated in that Report that, as matters had hitherto been arranged, there had been one Bill brought in for the construction of waterworks, one Bill for paving, one Bill for lighting, and one Bill for effecting other improvements—in short, a variety of Bills were brought in for one and the same locality, which had led to great expense to the public, whilst the interests of the public were not properly represented in the passage of such Bills through Parliament. By the Papers which he had moved for, it would appear that in the Session of 1844 there were forty-seven Bills before Parliament, consisting of paving, lighting, police, waterworks, docks, harbours, piers, and market Bills; that in 1845 there were seventy-two such Bills; and that this year there were no less than 134. Notwithstanding the Report of the Sanatory Committee, and the pledge which the Government had given to introduce a Bill for the purpose of carrying out the recommendation of that Committee, there were more waterworks Bills this year than had ever previously been known. He contended that none of those Bills should receive the sanction of Parliament until a Commissioner had been sent down, on the part of Government, to see that works of this description were required, and that evidence should be taken on the spot, where parties who were not interested might be examined upon the subject. It was a well-known fact that the best evidence was not produced before the House. A vast portion of private Bills were introduced upon the testimony of interested persons, whilst the interests of the public at large were almost entirely kept out of view. Instead of this House having to decide upon Bills running counter to each other, the question upon which the decision of the House ought to be asked was, what is the best mode of watering such places as Liverpool and Bristol; and money should not be expended upon such contentions as were now going on in the Committees of this House. There was no reason why a general Bill should not be passed, under which any town wishing to have waterworks might establish them without coming to Parliament at all. The same might be done with respect to Bills for the formation of piers, harbours, and gas works; and he hoped that after the Easter recess, Ministers would be prepared to appoint a Committee to take into consideration the best mode of framing one model Bill for all those different subjects, so that a form would be laid down in accordance with which the parties would draw up their plan, and on submitting it to the inspection of a public officer they should have their Bill agreed to without incurring the enormous expense of coming to that House. Those were the objects he had in view. The hon. Member concluded by moving— That a Select Committee be appointed to examine the applications for Local Acts during this Session of Parliament; to examine especially in respect to the Bills for the erection of new Waterworks, Drainage, and Paving and Improvements, according to the recommendations made by the Commissioners of Inquiry into the means of improving the Health of Towns and densely populated districts, and ascertain how far the principle of their recommendations may be carried out in relation to the Bills proposed, and whether any and what measures may be recommended for adoption by the House thereon.


would not detain the House more than a minute. He merely wished to state that he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose, that great public interests were involved in the question he had introduced. Last year, with reference to Enclosure Bills, the Legislature had adopted a principle which had been found to be most advantageous. They had passed a general Bill giving great facilities for passing local enclosure Bills, at the same time reserving to themselves complete control over the particular measures passed in each Session. He must say he thought that principle quite capable of very advantageous extension; and so far from opposing the appointment of such a Committee as that the hon. Member moved for, he thought it would be most advantageous to have it appointed after the Easter recess. With respect to the waterworks, the noble Lord the Member for Plymouth (Lord Ebrington) had done him the honour of calling his attention to the particular subject; and he regretted that his noble Friend Lord Lincoln was not at the present moment a Member of that House, as he had been prepared, on the part of the Government, to introduce a general measure to improve the health of large towns, by the supplying them with water, cleansing, draining them, &c. The effect of the announcement of that measure had been to stimulate speculation on the part of public companies, and a great number of Bills had been introduced in the present Session for the purpose of taking possession of all the great springs which could be obtained under a general measure. With reference to those Bills before the House, he thought it was indispensably necessary to take steps on the part of the Government; and he intended to propose that there should be a clause inserted in each of them, limiting the power of the companies over the springs they might have obtained, so as to give them not an indefeasible title, but only a dependent title contingent on the general measure which might pass. Then, with respect to gas companies' Bills and others of that kind, he thought that the jealousy of Parliament ought to be exercised, and that the Committee should devote their attention to the subject with a view to the benefit of the interests of the community at large. He should be most happy to support the appointment of the Committee.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman having referred to him, he would take the opportunity of saying, that he rejoiced the subject had been brought under the notice of Parliament. The course now indicated by the Government had been taken by them perhaps somewhat later than it ought; but now that they had entered upon it, he hoped the principle it comprised would be extended so as to lead to a general system of legislation with respect to all those matters which were, from the nature of them, monopolies.

Motion agreed to.