§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
proposed that the House should meet on the next day to forward some Railway Bills.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
I am unwilling to offer any opposition to the progress of public business; but I do think that going on with these Bills to-morrow, as the noble Lord at the head of the Government suggests, is a course which will be productive of great inconvenience to many Gentlemen, who, never expecting that any important business would be proceeded with on Saturday, or, in fact, any business at all, have made arrangements and engagements which will prevent their attendance. Saturday has always been a holiday, and the Government have given no notice of their wish to alter the custom. Besides, I cannot really see what there is so pressing as to require a departure from the regular course.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
We only propose to take those stages of Bills to which there will be no opposition to-morrow. Objections have been frequently made in the House of Lords to the lateness of the period of the Session at which Bills go up to them from the House of Commons. I do not propose to go on with the Health of Towns Bill to-morrow; but as there are so 712 many stages of other Bills which will be unopposed, we wish to proceed with them. It was not unusual for the House to sit upon Saturdays. They had done so in previous Sessions.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, as the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) seemed to be so anxious to economise the public time, he would recommend him not to waste it in discussing Bills which were not to be passed. Thus many important Bills had been brought forward this Session of Parliament; among the rest, the Health of Towns Bill and the Railway Bill. As regarded the former, there was not a single town in the kingdom whose interests the measure did not affect. In the object of the measure he entirely agreed; but the means by which that object was to be achieved were the most crude, unprepared, and undigested—and the most critical—if he might use the term—to be worked out. In short, this Bill could not possibly pass without consuming many most laborious evenings. There were hosts of objections to it; and he might say the same thing of the Railway Bill. The two Bills were quite enough of themselves to occupy the House of Commons for the next six weeks, and most laboriously too; and after all, he was quite sure neither one nor the other of them would pass into law during the present Session. There was a Motion now before the House, to which he was speaking. There was another most important Bill to be considered—the Poor Law Amendment Bill. That was a very important Bill, he repeated, and must be carried. His noble Friend (Viscount Duncan) had withdrawn a Motion which was deemed of great importance by his constituents; and he was quite sure that, unless his noble Friend felt deeply the necessity of yielding to the wish of the Government, he would not have given way. He hoped that the obliging disposition of his noble Friend would be reciprocated by the noble Lord at the head of the Government— that he would well consider the position of public business, and not burden Parliament with unnecessary labours, which could result in no practical advantage— which would take up a great deal of time, and do no earthly good. Where was the use of fighting and wrangling over Bills which could not pass? He could not help thinking that these two measures were pressed upon the noble Lord by parties out of doors, who did not stop to consider what course would best conduce to the public welfare.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
, on moving the Order of the Day for a Committee on the Health of Towns Bill, said: I wish to say a few words in reference to what has been said by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bath upon the Health of Towns Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, this Bill is to be met by a host of objections; but I do not think that is any reason why either the House or the Government should take it for granted that the measure is not to pass—at least without such objections having over been stated. The hon. and learned Gentleman said the Poor Law Amendment Bill "must pass," and that it was most important it should pass; but the hon. and learned Gentleman might upon this Bill be met with his own declaration upon the Health of Towns Bill; for there were many objections to it— many hon. Gentlemen who thought it ought not to be passed. We, however, discussed the Bill, and heard the objections against it; and I can see no reason why the Health of Towns Bill should not be proceeded with in the same manner. I think, Sir, that if the Government acted upon such suggestions as those of the hon. and learned Gentleman—if they gave as a reason to the House of Commons for not proceeding with an important Bill, that there were a great many objections against it, that they would be liable to just censure for neglect of duty. My remarks apply to both Bills. I now, Sir, move that the House go into Commit-tee on the Health of Towns Bill, so that we may at all events hear what those formidable objections are.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
did not wish the noble Lord to withdraw these Bills, or any other Bills; but he asked him not to press upon the House any measures which he did not think he could carry out. What the noble Lord had just said as to listening to the formidable objections against the Bill, convinced him that the noble Lord had made up his mind that it could not be carried out. If, however, they were to have a discussion upon the measure, the sooner it was commenced the better.
§ MR. MACKINNON
thought the remarks of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) exceedingly unjust and unfair towards the noble Lord. What would the hon. Member have the Government do— what could they do with this Bill but that which they were doing? This measure, or a nearly similar one, had been recommended by the highest authorities in that House. The right hon. Baronet the Member for 714 Tamworth had recommended it. In fact, the utility of a sanitary Bill, and the necessity for it, was admitted in all quarters; and yet when the Government brought it forward, they were taunted for not abandoning it. Surely nothing could be more unfair. He knew the Bill had many enemies; but he exhorted the Government to persevere with a measure which had been recommended in three Speeches from the Throne, and which was called for by the unanimous feeling of the country. Let them, therefore, go into Committee upon the Bill; and even if they were not to go through with it during the present Session, they would, at all events, have put in the point of the wedge—have established a principle upon which, he trusted, the new Parliament would act, and carry it into full operation.
§ MR. WAKLEY
thought the most advisable course for the noble Lord to pursue would be to state upon Monday next to the House what Bills the Government took an interest in, and which they determined to proceed with; and what Bills would be thrown overboard altogether. Such a course would be conferring upon the House a great obligation; for then hon. Members would know the amount of work which was to be really done, and upon which they were at present completely in the dark. With respect to what had been said by the hon. Member for Bath, he thought there was much point in his observations; but at the same time, he must say that he felt indebted to the Government for bringing forward the Health of Towns Bill, and trusted they would go on with it, and endeavour to pass it into law. In his opinion, the Government deserved the public thanks for pushing it forward, and would, even if unsuccessful in their efforts, be entitled to the public gratitude. There might be good objections to the machinery of the Bill; but he thought there was nothing in the details which could not be modified and amended in Committee. He would conclude by again expressing a sincere wish that the Government would not abandon this measure, and, unless overpowering difficulties presented themselves, to persevere in the laudable resolution to which they had come.
§ MR. G. PALMER
said, that although he sincerely desired to see the object of the Health of Towns Bill arrived at, he must say that the measure before Parliament proposed to accomplish that end by such unconstitutional means, that he could 715 not support it. The most arbitrary and unconstitutional power was given to an individual nominated by the Crown—a power which completely nullified several Acts of Parliament which had been formerly passed for the protection of the property with which this Bill was to interfere. Then the property upon which this inspector reported was to be handed over to a town-council or a board, and by them dealt with as they thought fit, the proprietors having scarcely a voice in its valuation or further disposal. Why not leave the matter to be managed by the town-council, with the consent of the parties? They had acted in this way with gas companies—why not with water works, where the property amounted to several millions in value? Why should the management of such valuable property be intrusted to a parcel of tradesmen, who, in many instances, knew nothing whatever about it? If the compulsory clauses of the Bill were loft out, he should have no objection to support it; but if they were to be included, he considered them to be of so arbitrary, unjust, and unconstitutional a character, that he should feel it to be his duty to give the measure all the opposition in his power. It was something new in legislation to pass a Bill empowering the parties taking the property of others to take it not upon the terms of the owners, but upon the terms which those parties themselves thought fit. It was surely hard upon owners, after investing immense sums of money in large, useful, and expensive undertakings, to be deprived of those undertakings at the very time when they might hope to derive some profit from their investment.
§ MR. HUDSON
thought the noble Lord should have told the House what Bills the Government intended to proceed with tomorrow. Some hon. Members were engaged in transactions of importance upon the Saturday, and had engagements which they could not dispense with; so that, from want of due notice of the wish of the Government, they must either run the risk of omitting to discharge their public duty, or break up their arrangements. He entirely agreed with his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) in this respect. He thought it a great pity that the noble Lord (Lord Duncan) had withdrawn his Motion respecting the window tax, which was one of great importance, particularly as regarded the health, the comfort, and. the enjoyment of the poor; and upon the whole a subject which might be discussed with a much 716 greater prospect of practical advantages than that now before the House. It certainly was a singular time to bring a measure of so much magnitude under discussion, when they were on the very eve of a dissolution, and every day expecting to be sent before their constituents.
§ MR. DIVETT
thought this was an ill-considered Bill, and that it involved provisions of a most unconstitutional and arbitrary character. He held in his hand a petition from a rural parish near Exeter. The petition set forth that the inhabitants of this town had, at a considerable expense, got up a good system of drainage; but if the present Bill were to be passed, the parish he spoke of would be included in the corporation of Exeter; the waterworks would be taken into the hands of the corporation; and the inhabitants of this rural town heavily taxed for that which they had at present at a comparatively cheap rate.
§ MR. PROTHEROE
trusted that his hon. Friend who had just sat down, and who entertained such objections to the Bill on behalf of Exeter, was at least ready to state that Exeter was prepared to meet the cholera, which, when it visited England, was worse in Exeter than any other town. For himself, he must say that he had received communications from his Yorkshire constituents to give this Bill his most strenuous support; and, in fact, the only complaint he had to make of the noble Lord who had charge of it was, that he had not included the city of Westminster in its operation. The stinks, the foul air, and the malaria in that city, among which it was his misfortune to live, caused him deeply to regret that the noble Lord had not included in his Bill the cities of London and Westminster.
§ MR. BUCK
also vindicated Exeter from the charge brought against it, and said there was scarcely a town in the kingdom where such large sums were spent in the improvement of the place. He complained of the noble Lord for bringing in a measure of such an unconstitutional character, which would put a large proportion of the agricultural districts under the municipal authorities, or under the power of commissioners appointed under this Bill. The same thing was done at the passing of the English Municipal Bill; and though a Boundary Bill had been introduced to ex- 717 empt the small districts in the neighbourhood of towns from the pressure of municipal burdens, yet the town interest had been strong enough to prevent that measure from passing. He, therefore, trusted the agricultural interests would persevere in their opposition to this Bill, unless the noble Lord would undertake to exempt from the operation of this Bill all lands in the neighbourhood of towns which derived 110 benefit from the operation of the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH
said, there was nothing in the Bill which was intended to include the rural districts, or that would affect the landed interest in any way. The only extension of the Bill bearing upon this subject was intended merely for the purpose of including those streets and buildings which might be outside of a town; but there was no intention whatever to include the rural districts themselves.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
expressed the sentiments of a large body of his constituents when he said that he hoped the noble Lord would proceed with his Bill. It was a useful measure. No objection was made to it except on the part of certain water companies; and be believed that the Bill had been so modified as to meet even their wishes. It would tend to promote the health and comfort of the inhabitants of large towns; and when it was recollected that Dr. Lyon Play fair had stated that the loss created by sickness and death arising from causes which might be prevented amounted in Manchester and Sal-ford alone to not less than 1,000,000l. sterling annually, he thought that no one would wish to avoid any little trifling taxation, for the sake of accomplishing so important a benefit. He was not aware that this measure had any application to the rural districts. Hon. Members connected with those districts were very sensitive; hut he could toll them that in the suburbs of large towns landowners had derived great advantages from the industry of their neighbours, and he knew cases where landowners had their incomes advanced from 5,0001. to 20,0001. a year, without doing a single thing to promote the welfare of the inhabitants by whom they were so much benefited.