HC Deb 05 July 1847 vol 93 cc1186-92

House in Committee on the Health of Towns Bill.


thought it would be better to postpone the clause respecting the costs of preliminary inquiry. He did not think that the charge should be placed on the Consolidated Fund, for many towns, such for instance as Liverpool, could well afford to defray this charge from their own funds.

Clause postponed.

On Clause 18 (who shall execute the Act in corporate towns),


objected to the absolute power given to the Government under this clause, by which they could, by an Order in Council, put in force the Act in any corporate town. He thought the town-council ought to have some discretionary power in the matter. He objected also to the whole of the duties of carrying out the Bill being imposed on the town-council. He should propose to add to the end of the clause the following words:— Or that some commissioners should be elected out of their own body, or that the duties should be discharged by such other persons such town as they shall appoint resident in hereafter mentioned.


doubted whether it was advisable that a town-council, which was a fluctuating body, should have the power of delegating the performance of public duties.


thought that a power might be reserved as to putting in force the Order in Council in particular places, where at the present time an efficient and satisfactory system was carried out. In the town which he represented, they had in operation an Act for improvements, which was passed the year before last, and which worked most satisfactorily. The commissioners to carry out that Act were elected by each ratepayer voting for one-half the number. Thus, this body was divested of all political feeling, or bias. He did not think that merely for the principle of uniformity they should interfere in this general way with a system which worked well. He would recommend his hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment, and propose the Amendment of which he had given notice.


thought that his noble Friend (Lord Morpeth) had given ample reason, on a former occasion, why the powers under this Bill should be given to the town-council. He thought, however, there was great weight in what had been stated by his right hon. Friend (Mr. V. Smith). He did not see how the commissioners could be elected by the ratepayers without its being open to the same objections as were urged against the town-councils having these powers.

Amendment withdrawn.


then moved the insertion of an addition to the clause, enacting, that any body of commissioners or trustees now invested with full powers to execute all the good purposes hereby intended, should be the commissioners or trustees, for the purposes of the Act, in the room and stead of the council of any such town or district.


was satisfied if the House agreed to this addition to the clause, it would damage the Bill.


was by no means satisfied of the advantage of this clause as it stood in the Bill. He thought there were very grave objections to giving these powers to the town-councils, although he admitted some advantages might result from their having them. The noble Lord, however, was now about to depart from the promise which had been made by him when he stated that it was essential that the town-councils should alone have authority in these matters. The noble Lord on that occasion said, that the political character of the town-councils could not be put an end to until they had to execute duties of this kind. He did not mean to say that the commissioners of King's Lynn and Northampton might not conduct their business in a satisfactory manner; but he doubted, as a general rule, whether a discretionary power should exist of continuing the present commissioners. He believed the town-councils would become unpopular in many instances in attempting to carry out this measure. If they looked into the Towns Clauses Consolidation Act, it was clear that they must look to different bodies from the present commissioners to carry out the regulations required by law. He would suggest, instead of giving these powers to the town-councils or to the present commissioners, that they should be entrusted to a body of commissioners elected partly by the ratepayers, partly by the town-council, and partly by the commissioners. Before he sat down, he wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the state of the Bill before the noble Lord withdrew the two clauses which originally stood at this part of it. He was satisfied that the omission of the 19th and 20th Clauses of the former Bill would render the measure nugatory in most cases. The first of these clauses was, that the boundaries of boroughs might be extended by Order in Council; and the other provided that when a new ward was added to a borough, the town-council might be increased. By the withdrawal of these clauses, the Bill had been reduced to an absurdity and an impracticability. They were now pursuing the same course with respect to sanitary matters which they did last year with respect to railways. They last year created a Commission for Railways; and they then said they would determine in the present Session the plan on which it was to act. They had now come to the end of the Session; but no new duties had been imposed on the Commissioners; and at present they had no more duties to perform than could he executed by a couple of clerks. This was precisely the course they were pursuing with regard to the Sanitary Commission.


, with respect to the omission of the clauses alluded to by the noble Earl, was prepared to defend the course he had taken. He had consented to the omission of these clauses because it had been repeatedly urged that it was hardly a constitutional power to enact that the Crown might make, without the consent of Parliament, alterations to any extent in the boundaries of boroughs. However important he might have considered the clauses, as assisting in carrying out this measure, he should persist in calling on the House to go on with the Bill, notwithstanding the omission of these clauses. In those places where the Bill could not be carried into immediate effect, advantage would arise from passing it; for under it they would he enabled to make inquiries as to the districts which should be added to the towns for the purposes of this Bill; and before next Session full reports could be made on the subject, so that then they would be enabled to bring the subject to a final settlement. In all those towns where an alteration of the boundaries was not called for, the Bill could be brought into operation without delay.


felt, if the object of the Bill was only to see what could be done next Session, it would be better to confine the Bill to the regulations as to making new boundaries to the boroughs and towns affected by it. It was clear that they could not enforce the regulations embodied in it at present.


thought, after the observations of the noble Earl, that it must strike every one as to the uselessness of proceeding with the Bill during the present Session. He agreed with his hon. Friend that it would be better to limit the Bill to inquiry into boundaries.


said, that his noble Friend had already stated very clearly that in many towns this Bill could be carried into immediate operation; but there were some places, in consequence of the way in which the Bill had been framed, in which it could not he carried into effect until there had been an alteration in their boundaries. In some cases an extension of the area for drainage, so as to carry out sanitary regulations, was absolutely necessary. The noble Lord (the late Chief of the Woods and Forests), in his Bill, proposed that entirely new areas and boundaries should he taken for the boroughs, and also that a new representative body should be created to carry it into operation. He thought the plan of the noble Earl was open to very grave objections. He thought the body which was entrusted with the administration of the municipal affthe administra-would best effect the objects aimed at by this Bill; and the creation of a new body for this purpose would he attended with great inconvenience by interfering with the municipality. According to the plan first proposed in the Bill, power was given to extend the boundaries of boroughs by means of Orders in Council. This was liable to the objection, and, as he thought, the very fair objection, that the power given to such Order in Council should only exist by Act of Parliament. His noble Friend, therefore, proposed to take those places where the area was already fixed by Act of Parliament, and where the measure could be carried out without interfering with them. He thought that the plan of his noble Friend was much better than the one proposed by the noble Earl. It was, he admitted, making the reform more gradually, but at the same time more securely.


thought, they were blindly legislating on this subject. It was most unreasonable on the part of the noble Lord for him to press this Bill, and endeavour to smuggle it through the House at a twelve o'clock sitting, when forty Members were not present. It would be better for the noble Lord (Viscount Morpeth) to dispose of the measure altogether, if he could not induce the noble Earl (the Earl of Lincoln) to take it in hand, as he seemed altogether incapable of taking care of it himself. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cheltenham, with more candour and honesty than he could have expected from him as the representative of Cheltenham, said, that the town to which all infirm and ailing persons resorted for the recovery of their health was in a worse situation than any other with regard to the prevalence of fever and miasma. If such was the state of drainage under the commissioners, it was not calculated to increase the reputation of the town.


was sorry that the noble Lord, after their long acquaintance, should have charged him with a want of candour and honesty. he had merely stated that, according to the annual returns of deaths, the mortality at Cheltenham was greater than in any other place in England of the same size. He had never stated that fever and miasma prevailed to any great extent, for he was not aware of anything of the kind. Why he wished this Bill to be successful was, that the municipal affairs of Cheltenham were managed by a self-elected body of the political friends of his noble Friend, and they carried on matters upon the rotten-borough system. His object was to get rid of the friends of his noble Friend.


remarked, that it was the last thing in his mind to raise any doubt as to the honesty and candour of his noble Friend. Indeed, he believed his hon. Friend's honesty was greater than his own.

Clause agreed to.

House resumed. Committee to sit again.