HC Deb 18 June 1847 vol 93 cc727-53

Order of the Day for going into Committee upon the Health of Towns Bill read.

On the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,

COLONEL SIBTHORP moved that the House should resolve itself into a Committee that day six months. He objected to every part of the Bill. He objected in the first place to the appointment of Commissioners under the patronage of the Government, particularly with the speedy prospect of a general election before their eyes. He objected also to their being salaried, entertaining a strong feeling that if they had not patriotism enough to give their services for the good of their country, they were utterly unworthy of so important a trust. He objected also to the appointment of three inspectors. These things led to a great deal of bribery of a peculiar kind; and he had served long enough in that House to be extremely jealous of all Governments, whether Whig or Tory. They all could, and did, do a great deal behind the scenes; and there was a great deal of secret service money spent. But it was most indecent and improper to hurry on a Bill of this sort so late in the Session, when it could not be properly considered. He also objected to the Bill, in consequence of its not including the metropolis. There were many important towns in the kingdom, with scarcely an exception that he knew of, that were equally pure as, or rather a good deal more pure than, the metropolis; and he could not see why it should be pushed out of the Bill so suddenly. Why, was St. Giles's—the immaculate St. Giles's—to be deprived of this advantage? He recollected well, that when the great change in municipal corporations was contemplated, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London arose and exclaimed, "Beware how you meddle with us If you do, no more turtle, and venison, and champagne for you. We are a very important body." And so the matter dropped, and the corporation of London was left in statu quo. The first duty of a Government should be, he thought, to act impartially to all; and he objected to this Bill that it was not based on that principle of impartiality. He was also opposed to it on the ground of the expense which it would impose on the country, and of the improper period of the Session at which it was brought forward, and at which it was impossible the measure could receive that consideration from the Legislature which the importance of the subject required.


thought the inhabitants of the places near Coventry had taken unnecessary alarm at this Bill, as it would not affect them. He fully concurred in the objection urged by the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln against the Bill, on the ground of the metropolis being excluded, being of opinion that there was no part of the empire in which its application was more needed; and he still entertained the hope that the noble Lord (Viscount Morpeth) would he induced to include the metropolis in the operation of the Bill. He did not believe that he would encounter any opposition in taking such a course, now that the grounds of opposition which existed to the former measure had been removed. If London were included in the Bill, he should give it his cordial support.


was afraid the neighbours and constituents of the hon. Member had good reason for differing from him on the subject; they had taken good legal advice upon this measure, and had been informed that the words "towns and districts" were used almost convertibly in the earlier clauses of this Act; that any district which came under the operation of an Order in Concil was to be deemed a town for the purposes of the Act; and that so large a discretion was given to the Commissioners that there was nothing like a clear definition of the places which would come under their control. He objected to the Bill on the ground that it involved a principle which had recently been called the "tentative principle," or, in other words, the principle of getting in the narrow end of the wedge. He objected to the establishment of a commission, and to the issuing of Orders of Council which, during the recess of Parliament, would have the force of Acts of Parliament, and which would impose taxation upon those who had been before exempt, and for purposes from which they could derive no benefit. How unjust it would be that the agricultural districts around Coventry should, by one of these Orders in Council, be put upon the same terms and taxed in the same manner as Coventry itself; for what benefit would they derive from lighting, and watering, and paving the city of Coventry? Yet there was no limit to the discretion of the Commissioners. There was nothing whatever to limit the discretionary power of the inspectors; but he did not object to the Bill merely on that account; he objected to it on the ground that it usurped the powers which were now placed—and which ought to continue to be placed in the hands of the municipal authorities. Instead of this, a new authority was proposed to be introduced totally foreign to every principle of the English Constitution. In the United States he was told that there were very strict provisions relative to the matters treated of in the Bill now before the House; but he should like to see any Minister of the United States propose to introduce such an interference with the rights and duties of municipal authorities as was proposed to be introduced into England. He did object to such tentative policy, because he regarded it as a departure from the free principles of the British Constitution, and a gradual usurpation, behind the backs of Parliament, of the power which ought to belong to the representatives of the people, and one step more towards the adoption of the continental system of centralization, to which he was decidedly opposed. He objected to it on the ground of the espionage which it would introduce; and he would earnestly entreat the House not to allow the wedge to be introduced at all, especially under present circumstances. By the measure it was proposed at one sweep to clear away boards of commissioners which had frequently been instrumental in conferring great advantage on the communities which possessed them, and that too without the slightest fault being alleged against them. It was provided that the moment the inspectors made an unfavourable report on the state of matters entrusted to commissioners, that then the functions of the local boards should cease, and be at once transferred to the town-councils. That was the bait which was held out to the town-councils; but he was happy to say that these bodies generally were too well aware of the consequences of taking this bait to allow the apprehension to be entertained of their swallowing it. Consider this also: by the provisions of the Bill powers might be taken for all purposes; and he would ask the noble Lord to say whether the powers to be so taken would not include the administration of justice—whether, as the clauses stood, districts annexed to boroughs would not be removed from the county magistracy, and placed under the municipal magistracy? [Lord MORPETH: Yes, they will.] This was another startling exhibition of the tentative policy. Not only was provision made for the management of sanitary and other matters, but by the general terms of the Bill the House was called upon to disturb the criminal administration of he knew not how many large districts of country. He must say that he could not but look upon this measure as a disguised attempt to bring about changes in the institutions of the country of a kind and to an extent of which the people were little aware. He trusted, however, that the Members of the House of Commons who held popular principles would support him when he said that the institutions of England should not be so changed behind the backs of Parliament. Let the House adhere to the great principle of making such powers as those contained in the Bill emanate from Parliament alone. No man entertained a higher regard than he did for the prerogative of the Crown, or would do more to support and maintain its just rights; but he would assert that it was a dangerous thing to allow Ministers to interfere in the way proposed with the administration of criminal justice. He trusted the House would not proceed one step further in such a course of policy till a future Session, when it might have become fully aware of the consequences of the step it was called upon to take, and be in a position to limit the powers to be invested in the respective parties.


could not altogether understand the new-born principle of popular feeling on the opposite side of the House. He was extremely jealous of it. [An Hon. MEMBER on the Opposition side of the House: Hear, hear!] That cheer perfectly explained the hon. Gentleman's notion of his jealousy. The hon. Gentleman fancied that he was hunting for popularity. He was not; and he did not think the hon. Gentleman would gain his own object by his course. But this Bill was a very important one. It had been introduced for the benefit of the majority of our fellow-countrymen, and deserved to be considered without regard to any claptrap politics. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwickshire objected to it because it introduced the principle of the continental system—the principal of centralization. But, if centralization were fairly explained, it meant persons carrying into execution certain duties under immediate responsibility to Parliament. He thought that the noble Lord deserved the thanks of the country for attempting by this Bill to unite all the scattered and disorganized elements, and consolidate them into one measure for the general benefit. But there was one district which was distinguished above all others for the density of its population, and for its numerous applications for legislative interference. If he were asked to put his finger upon the centre of the district, he should place it on St. Paul's Cathedral, and should sweep a circle of about thirty miles around it, giving a population of upwards of 2,000,000. Now, London differed much from Manchester, inasmuch as the population of the latter was comparatively new, and the interference of the Legislature in the town had been small and unimportant; and, consequently, the variety of laws requiring consolidation did not apply so much to Manchester as to London. He had every desire to support the noble Lord, to admire the boldness of his attempt, and to assist him in his benevolent intentions; hut he found the gallant Knight suddenlyt errified with the very phantom of the evils he was about to consign to oblivion; and which the more formidable it became, made him the more afraid. The noble Lord had gone to Bath, and there he found pestilence; he had crossed to Manchester, and pestilence was there also; he rushed to Birmingham, and there all the abominations—no matter of what description—could not resist his interference; he then swept round to London, and there, frightened by a phantom, he struck his flag, and cut—[An Hon. MEMBER: His stick.] Yes, and cut his stick! The vernacular was the fittest language for describing the somewhat ignoble flight of the noble Lord. He recollected that, when the Municipal Corporations Bill was brought in, if they had pointed out to them a scene of corruption more foul than another, it was on the other side of Temple Bar. He was not afraid of the other side of Temple Bar; and why should the noble Lord be afraid? He could not suppose that the electors of London had influenced the noble Lord. The noble Lord himself had a most remarkable constituency, living in compact masses. It had been his pleasure, as it was his duty, often to travel through the district represented by the noble Lord; and he had found that Leeds, Huddersfield, and Sheffield—those vast hives of our industry, wealth, and power—were not exempted from this Bill. The noble Lord did not shrink before his own constituency; and yet he would exempt London from the purifying influence of this measure. Why, he would ask, should not he have his sewer inspected, and his gaslights directed, under this Bill? Why should the noble Lord extend his fostering influence over the whole of England except for four miles round London? If such a thing had happended in New Zealand, he should have said, that the excepted place was tabooed. Would it be pretended that the corporation of London was distinguished by perfection—that the city was free from all filth and impurity? But there seemed to be something in the old associations of the city which struck terror into the Treasury bench. Let a Bill be brought in which affected the corporation, and the next thing would be a civic banquet, and Her Majesty's Ministers sitting down at the social board receiving all sorts of incense; and then noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen would get up to praise the city of London, well knowing in their hearts that if there was a corrupt place in this country it was that city of London. The noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) had spread his net wide; why was it cut, and this great fish let out? He (Mr. Roebuck), at least, would not act the part of the mouse, but would rather assist to reconstruct the net. Let not hon. Members be led away by the name of the city of London. Time was when it was the centre of all that was great and liberal in this country; and he could look back with pride upon that era when it was foremost in the fight of freedom; but now it was a large mass of individuals bound together simply by the ordinary routine of life—a mass, however, from its very density and immensity, requiring the most sedulous and careful attention of Parliament.


regretted the delay which had taken place with regard to this Bill. The noble Lord, when he introduced it, assured the House that it was a question of humanity, of morality, of economy; but, above all, he asserted that it was one of pressing necessity and imminent emergency. If then the measure itself were pressing, what was the nature of the opposition which had prevented its being proceeded with? Up to the latest reports the whole of the petitions that had been presented against the Bill was 21, with only 287 signatures. For an alteration in the details of the Bill, 16 petitions had been presented with 336 signatures; whilst 105 had been presented in favour of the Bill, with upwards of 32,000 signatures. This was the way of judging whether or no a measure was popular. If then, it were so popular, and if it were a matter of such imminent emergency, why was it so long delayed? Did hon. Gentlemen doubt the necessity of such a Bill, and that it should be extended to the metropolis? Let him then refer them to a few statistics relative to the graveyards of the metropolis, and then inquire whether such a measure was not required? Before a Committee of that House, which investigated the subject, witnesses stated that in one place 200 feet square, 70,000 persons had been buried within the century, in the graveyard of Enon Chapel, 50 feet by 40 feet, and 12,000 had been buried there since the year 1823; in the Lock chapel yard, only a quarter of an acre in extent, 7,000 persons had been buried very recently; in St. Martin's graveyard, one acre in extent, 14,000 persons had been buried within the last ton years; and in Spa-fields, two acres in extent, 29,000 within the last fourteen years. With these facts before them, the House ought to know what really were the difficulties in the way of a mea- sure which had been before Parliament for seven years, and for which there was such a general demand, and whether those difficulties were of so serious a nature that the ordinary resources of a Government could not overcome them. This measure did not stand alone; the conduct pursued with regard to it was part of a system of vacillation; we seemed to be come to a system of postponement and indifference. The Government had principles, but appeared determined not to face danger or incur risk on their behalf. We had to look in vain for any of that energy and earnestness which the chivalrous character of the noble Lord at the head of the Government led people to expect. All was conciliation and compromise. The Government had "stooped to conquer," and fancied that giving way to an opponent was the surest method of converting him into a friend. They could not at this moment carry any measure which depended upon their strength and vigour, because, by the course they had pursued, they had lost their influence. When the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) broke up that confederation which had been so mighty, he gave the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) a strength which a Liberal Administration had never before possessed; and that noble Lord might in a single Session have remedied many mischiefs and evils if he had then taken a correct estimate of his position. But, such was the undecided conduct of the Government, that hon. Members were going to their constituents without the power of giving them any clue to the intentions, any guess of the policy of the Administration. If he (Mr. Horsman) should be asked what had been gained by the substitution of the noble Lord for the right hon. Baronet, he could not deny that he had hoard stated more than once—that while under the Government of the right hon. Baronet liberal principles were steadily advancing, under the Government of the noble Lord they had gradually receded. That might be heard in many directions: it was the opinion of a great many persons in that House; and as, in the coming Parliament, the noble Lord would be judged by a different standard from that by which he had been judged in this, he was no friend to the Government, or to Parliament, or to the principles he held in common with the Government, who did not tell the Ministers those truths, by a knowledge of which it might by and by be too late to profit.


said, there was no essential difference between his own sentiments and those of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, more especially when the hon. Gentleman stated that the right hon. Baronet who was last in office had carried into effect professions which he had not made, whilst the noble Lord had not carried into effect professions which he had made. He agreed also with the hon. Gentleman in thinking, after the large promises which had been made, and the great expectations which had been raised, that it was not a little disappointing to find that the Bill fulfilled none of those expectations, and complied with the requirements of none of the petitions which had been presented on the subject. The petitions which were presented in favour of a measure for the improvement of towns, and the establishment of sanitary regulations, related to a great and general measure; but the measure then before the House was not of that character. The measure excluded from its operations the city of London; but if it were a good and remedial measure, and calculated to be really advantageous, why, he would ask, was any part of the kingdom excluded? If it were a stringent and cogent measure, on the other hand, why should any part have the advantage of an exemption from it? Why did they, in that case, propose to exclude a great and powerful body, like the corporation of London, from a measure which they imposed upon other parts of the country? They had no right to make such an exclusion. Although he was not the representative of London, yet he felt the deepest interest in the character of the city, and he heard with pain many observations which the hon. Member for Bath had made, and many of the assertions which he had cast upon it. He regretted that there was not a single Member for London present to answer the hon. Member for Bath, but that the hon. Member's speech was made at dinner hour—and there was no representative of London present, in consequence, to reply to it. When he objected to the attack of the hon. Member for Bath on the city of London, he felt it necessary to say that he agreed in the general tenor of the hon. Member's speech. That hon. Gentleman had said, that if he had a compass in his left hand, and wanted to describe a circle within which the greatest necessity for sanitary regulations existed, he would place the point of the compass at St. Paul's, and would within that circle in- clude a population of two millions. He agreed with the hon. Member for Bath in thinking that such a densely crowded district required the application of the best sanitary regulations; but according to this Bill the densely crowded city of London, which would be included in that circle, was not to be included in the advantages that such a measure was intended to bestow. He had no doubt that the measure was brought forward with a beneficent intention; but what was the effect of excluding the city of London from its operation? It was this—that the other metropolitan districts said to the noble Lord who introduced it, "If you exclude London from the operation of your measure, why do you not exclude us?" If there was such a general desire for a measure of this nature, why did the representatives of those districts ask to be excluded? If the measure was so desirable, why not include London? Did not the Lord Mayor of London require as pure an atmosphere as the Lord Mayor of York? Or, if the Lord Mayor of London was excluded, had not the Lord Mayor of York a right to ask for a similar exclusion on the part of York and Sunderland? This measure he had no doubt was well intended; but the omission of London was to be looked upon either as an exemption from an evil, or an exclusion from a benefit, and in either case he did not see why such an exemption should be made. The Bill before them was drawn up, he had no doubt, by a very able person—for he was sure the Government would employ none but an able person to draw it up—but it was like some other Bills, drawn up apparently by the same hand, beginning with a provision for the establishment of commissioners and other officers, and then providing for their salaries. He hoped that with such good intentions as the Government had on this subject, they would yet be able to introduce a better plan than that before the House, and one which would give more power to the local authorities. In conclusion, he would say that be believed they would find it impossible to carry the Bill with this exemption of London; but he believed they were pledged to the exemption. If they were not pledged, they could state so to the House, and thus place all parts of the country on a fair and equal footing.


Sir, although during the course of this discussion I think the Government has been treated not in a very friendly or candid spirit, yet I confess that my anxiety is wrapped up in the measure itself. Since I first had the honour of introducing the Bill, I have been exposed to a good deal of attack; but such must he the fate of every one who introduces a measure like this, which includes so many various and complicated interests, and I have therefore no complaint to make in that respect. I was first attacked for including the metropolis—I am now attacked for excluding it; but I am not sorry that in the first instance I proposed to include it, although I failed in the attempt. In proposing the measure, I included all that I thought the exigency of the case required; and I agree, as fully as any one who made me the subject of censure tonight, that the district now excluded requires improvement and sanitary regulations as much as any part of the country; and if, after all I had heard previously to the introduction of the Bill, any doubts remained in my mind on that subject, they would have been removed by all the representations and remonstrances, and even reproaches, which I have since received, and which have been well calculated to confirm me in my original impression. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire asks me if I am pledged to this exemption of the metropolis? I have already declared in my place in Parliament that it was not my intention to include the metropolis in the measure during the present Session; and I could not in good faith include the metropolis now. I have been asked why I left it out? and in reply I need only appeal to the knowledge of hon. Members of what has recently taken place in this House—to the subjects which have been under discussion, and the time which has been occupied by them, and to state that when I found out—not as the hon. Member for Cocker-mouth said, that I questioned the equal importance of this measure with any others that have been introduced—for I did not think any of them could go beyond this in importance—but when I found their immediate urgency in connexion with the condition of the sister country, and considered that they would consume so much of the necessary time of the House, that they would not permit me to carry into effect the whole measure which I originally proposed, I reluctantly consented to defer the part of the Bill which related to the metropolis for the present Session. I state the simple truth—the exclusion was caused by want of time. There was not time under the circumstances which I have described, to deal with a matter so complicated as the sanitary state and improvement of the metropolis; and I felt, therefore, that I had no option but to omit the provisions that referred to the metropolis, and to retain the portion which now remains. The hon. ember for Bath says that I have cut my stick. [Mr. ROEBUCK: No, no.] At all events I have endeavoured to save this brand from the burning. I have been asked why have I not introduced this Session any provision with respect to intra-mural interment? That is a most excellent object; but the period of the Session at which we have arrived, as well as what has passed to-night, convince me that I have enough on my hands; and if I am able to carry the remainder of the Bill during the present Session, I think it will be no mean achievement. So far from objecting to the reproaches which have been directed against mo on this ground, I ought rather to invite them; for they will keep public attention alive, and will next Session compel me, or whoever shall more worthily fill my place, to carry out the measure more fully. Those who represent me as deferring the prosecution of the Bill, and abstaining from bringing it forward in its original shape, from any regard for my own leisure and case, have little idea of the life I have led since last Easter; and I can assure the House that there is only one abiding result fixed in my mind, namely, to do what I can, when I can, and where I can, to promote the great work of sanitary improvement. Beyond any imputation on the Government or me for our conduct in this business, my chief anxiety is with respect to the subject itself; and I can assure hon. Members if they had the opportunity which I have had of receiving letters setting forth the general apprehension which prevails, and describing, I believe I may say, the actual presence of fever and disease in their worst forms in various parts of the country, aggravated by the vice and deficiency of the existing sanitary regulations, in the absence of such regulations as this measure would introduce—if they read the accounts of the loss and waste of health, and life, and happiness and strength, which are going on—not within the portion of society possessed of the means of ease, or persons in the sphere in which we generally move, but persons whoso lot is cast in hardships and privations—hardworking mechanics and labourers, living in toil and suffering—if hon. Members had the opportunities of ascer- taining the sufferings of those persons from the want of sanitary regulations, they would not object to me for undertaking the responsibility of introducing this measure, knowing, as I do, to what an extent the mischief prevails, and how much sanitary regulations would do to check and prevent it. Let hon. Members only reflect how important it would be to legislate on this subject, and to give the necessary authority, without the delay of another year, for carrying on the inquiries which it would be essential to institute, and for making the requisite plans and surveys which must be preliminary to any plan of general legislation, and which would probably take a year in themselves; so that if we postpone all legislation this year, and do not give authority for making these plans and surveys, we must, I fear, defer for two years any general plan of sanitary improvement. When I last addressed the House I quoted returns made by the Registrar-General from 117 districts in England and Wales, for the quarter ending the 30th September, 1846. I regret to state that the next succeeding return, that for the last quarter, only confirms the accounts which I then gave of the increase of mortality. The Registrar-General states— In the summer quarter of 1846 the mortality was greater than it had been in any quarter of the seven preceding years; and in the last winter quarter, ending March 31, 1847, 56,105 persons died in the districts which make the returns—a number greater than has been registered in any corresponding quarter, and 6,030 above the corrected average. The deaths in the quarter, in all England and Wales, may be estimated at 120,000. Upon the whole, the health of London, like that of the rest of the country, has been below the average; and although the causes are to a certain extent accidental, and as we may hope transitory, it is evident that the health of towns in England is at present stationary, not to say retrograding. It must be admitted that, on the whole, the Health of Towns Bill is an excellent measure, and well calculated to diminish the evils which have been discovered, and of which the effects have been recorded in these periodical returns. It concentrates offices that ought not to be separated in the hands of the municipal authorities, still maintained in close connexion (as they always have been) with the Crown; it seeks to secure water, pure air, and a little sunshine for the inhabitants of cities—now so large, active, and important a part of the population—and to extend to the house and street of the tradesman, artisan, and labourer, a share of the advantages which, elsewhere, are the boon of nature, by the use of means which have been suggested by science, and sanctioned by long experience. 'The reasons of the baleful influence of great towns, as it has been now exhibited, are plainly—first, the irregular modes of life, the luxurious debaucheries and pernicious customs which prevail more in towns than in the country; secondly, the foulness of the towns, occasioned by the uncleanliness, smoke, the perspiration and breath of the inhabitants, and putrid streams from drains, churchyards, kennels, and common sewers.'—(Dr. Price.) The mortality has a tendency to increase as the population increases; but the unhealthful tendency can be counteracted by artificial agencies; in other terms, the mortality of cities in England is high, but it may be immeasurably reduced. Now, though we have omitted London from the provisions of this particular Bill, I trust when the opportunity is given to the House to legislate for the remaining towns of England, that the House will not refuse to take such means as lie open to them to reduce that mortality which those who have the best means of ascertaining the facts state can be immeasurably reduced. The petitions on this subject have been referred to. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire treats them lightly, and says that they do not refer to the Bill now before the House; but, at all events, the petitions from the country do not refer to the state of the city of London: they would naturally look to themselves; and it is from the towns and districts of the country that petitions proceed in favour of a measure which does refer to them, though not to the city of London. The provisions in the present Bill were announced as intended to apply to corporate towns in the country, and they remain in the Bill still. Of the petitions which have been presented in favour of the Bill, there are, from corporations and commissioners, 13; from clergymen, magistrates, and religious communities, 28; from inhabitants of towns, 47; from medical men, 30; from working men and operatives, 6; and from associations, 43: in all 187. This analysis comes up to the month of May; but up to the present time there have been 220 petitions presented in favour of the Bill; and the total number of petitions presented against it have been only 22. I trust that this preponderance of petitions in favour of the Bill, and the almost total absence of petitions on the other side, will serve to show in what direction the public opinion of England, as respects those quarters which will be affected by the Bill, manifestly points. A resolution has been forwarded to me, which was passed by the Health of Towns Association of the Metropolis. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of York thinks proper to depreciate that body; because I can assure him that it consists of men of the greatest talent and information, reckoning among its members many of the clergy and of the medical profession, and others who are particularly well qualified to judge of the benefits that would be derived from the present measure. The resolution states— That it is desirable that the attention of Parliament be especially called to the important fact, that the clergy and members of the medical profession, who, from their intercourse with the poorer classes residing in the metropolis and large towns, are peculiarly well qualified to judge of the benefits they would derive from the enactment of a general sanitary measure, have very generally petitioned in favour of the Health of Towns Bill now before Parliament; and that among this number are the most distinguished physicians and surgeons in the kingdom, including the presidents of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons of London, the medical and surgical officers of the metropolitan hospital, and the faculty of Glasgow. Now, although I have no doubt that sordid motives have sometimes been attributed to those who have taken a leading part in promoting this measure, and it has been stated that they are desirous of getting places under the arrangements which it will be necessary to make by this Bill, yet I am sure that the president of the College of Physicians, the president of the College of Surgeons, and the members of the different medical faculties of the country, are utterly incapable of being influenced by sordid motives. I do not now, in seeking the consent of the House to go into Committee, think it necessary to refer to the special working of the different provisions of the Bill. I trust that when the time comes for doing so, I shall be able to show that though the Bill does enact that there shall be a general and special superintendence, it does not seek to supersede or paralyse local agency, and that the great object of the Bill is not to deter, but to assist, local exertions by central wisdom and experience. I trust that I shall show that though these superintending powers have been placed in one body, it is because it must be manifest from all experience that powers of this kind can be only exercised by one controlling management; and I hope to be able to show, that, with respect to waterworks companies, though the Bill allows a compulsory purchase of them, their claims have been regarded with special consideration, as is, indeed, admitted by themselves. I shall be ready when we go into Committee to consider and discuss all the special clauses and provisions of the Bill, and to see if they can be properly amended; and I hope the House will not refuse to take that preliminary step, but will proceed to the consideration of the Bill with an anxious desire to work it out and make it effect all the good of which it can be rendered capable. I do feel an. anxiety for its success not founded on party or personal considerations, but an anxiety grounded on the afflicting and appalling accounts which I am daily receiving from every part of the country, and which, I confess, have produced such an effect on my mind as to induce me to mix almost actual entreaty with the appeal which I now make to the House, not to refuse to go into Committee, and see if you cannot make some effective progress in the great work of sanitary reform.


, in explanation, said, that he had spoken on the Bill as a Government Bill, and as a scheme of Government policy; and so far was he from imputing personal blame to the noble Lord, that he thought he should have treated him with the greatest injustice if he had done so.


was glad the hon. Member had made that explanation, as every one must admit that the noble Lord deserved great credit, not only for his praiseworthy motives, but for the great labour and attention he had bestowed on the subject. He, however, could not vote for going into Committee, because he did not think the provisions of the Bill fully carried out the preamble. The preamble set forth that whereas farther and more effectual measures ought to be enacted for the better draining, ventilating, and so on of all cities and boroughs; but in considering the Bill it would be found that it was as universally applicable as it professed to be. It appeared to him that the promises made by the noble Lord when he obtained leave to bring in this Bill, had not been fully carried out. He recollected that when the measure of municipal reform was carried, that the objections raised to the city of London being excluded from its operation, was met by promises that its abuses, which were acknowledged to be many, should hereafter be reformed; but, from that time to the present, no Bill for that purpose had been introduced, and the abuses of the corporation of London still remained unreformed. They ought, therefore, before they assented to go into Committee on this Bill, to inquire what was the state of the metropolis; and for an answer to that question he had only to refer to the petitions before the House, signed by the physicians and surgeons of the metropolis, by the president of the College of Physicians, which urged the House to extend the provisions of this very Bill to the city of London and its environs. Had hon. Members read those petitions? Did they know the state of the city of London, and the districts around it? In the name of humanity he called on them to pause before they went into Committee. He did not ask them to say nay to the principle of the Bill, hut he did request them earnestly not to listen to any representations for the purpose of excluding the metropolis from its operations. He held in his hand a petition which was put into general circulation by a society which had taken a great interest in the question of sanitary regulations, namely, the Labourers' Friend Society; and they had there an abstract from a statement made by a deputation which waited on the Lord Mayor, no longer since than the 26th of May last. It stated that the sanitary condition of the metropolis was most deplorable; that there was a want of proper drainage—a want of water—a want of common sewers, and, in short, a want of every arrangement necessary for the maintenance of the public health. It appeared from a statement made by Dr. Lynch, that "of all the thirty-six wards the ward of Farringdon street Without was perhaps the worst; the houses were built back to back, admitting of no ventilation—that the privies wore under the staircases, and communicated with cesspools, the exhalations from which poisoned the air around—that in the places where there were sewers, the want of water and the faultiness of their construction rendered them useless, and noxious and pestiferous gases were generated by the accumulated filth which remained within them. In many places the cesspools overflowed, and their condition was so dreadful that the dust contractors' men refused to perform their duty, except they were bribed by a gratuity." The hon. Member described other abominations, of a like character, which were common in this ward; and then asked the House and the noble Lord whether they ought to be permitted to exist any longer, or whether, after reading such statements, the noble Lord would persist in excluding the metropolis from his Bill? What he complained of was the partiality of the measure. He was not one of those who were led by political prejudices, as the hon. and learned Member for Bath said they were who sat on the Opposition benches; on the con- trary, he was willing to give his best attention to the Bill of the noble Lord; but he rose chiefly to beg him to defer it for the present. He was certain that clause after clause would give rise to lengthened debates, and that it would occupy a great extent of time. He believed its intentions were excellent, and he agreed that it was necessary some such Bill should pass; but that Bill was too partial, it gave the Commissioners too much power. He alluded particularly to the 12th Clause, which gave them jurisdiction not only over the limits defined by the Reform Bill, but the power to add half a mile more if they pleased, and, consequently, agricultural districts would be subjected to the same taxation as the towns for sanitary benefits which they did not share. [Lord MORPETH: They must contain streets or buildings.] He asked hon. Members to look at the clause, and see if it said one word about streets or buildings. It was true that since the Bill had been printed he had received four or five folio pages of corrections, and it was, indeed, difficult to know what the Bill was. He hoped and trusted the noble Lord would listen to the remonstrances which had been addressed to him, and consent to withdraw the Bill for this Session. He was no enemy to the Bill, and if he sat in the next Parliament he would do all in his power to make it as perfect as possible; but as the Bill now stood, he felt it his duty to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Lincoln.


said, that as it was his intention to vote for going into Committee on the Bill, he should have abstained from saying a word on the present occasion, if by that course, looking to the hour of the night at which they had now arrived, he could have facilitated the progress of the measure. But he rose in consequence of so large a portion of the present discussion having turned on the omission of the metropolitan districts from the Bill, as he considered that for that omission he might be in some respects responsible. At all events he was the individual, he believed, to whom the noble Lord alluded as having pressed for the omission not of the city of London, but of the whole of the metropolis, when the Bill was first introduced, inasmuch as he expressed his apprehension that the inclusion of London would insure the failure of the measure. It was his fear that such complicated machinery as would be applicable to London would not be ap- plicable to the country; and, vice versâ, that the machinery suited to the country would not suit London. He was bound to say that the necessity for excluding the metropolis, with the view to legislation for those districts in a separate Bill, appertained far more to the measure which he had had the honour to introduce, than to the measure brought in by the noble Lord, because the noble Lord had introduced totally different machinery, giving far greater authority to the central body than he had proposed, and taking far more summary and compulsory powers to obviate the inconveniences which he had felt, arising from the existence of local acts and boards of commissioners, which undoubtedly complicated any proposal for dealing with this question as regarded London. Whilst, however, he claimed for himself a fair share of responsibility for having urged the noble Lord to exclude London from the operation of the measure, he, nevertheless, felt justified in stating, that the Bill in its present shape, and with its present machinery, if good at all, was perfectly applicable to the | metropolis. At the same time, he did not mean to imply any approval of the machinery of the noble Lord's measure. He stated the objections which he entertained to the machinery when the measure was introduced, and would not now enter into any discussion upon that point, which would with more propriety come under consideration in Committee. It appeared to him that the noble Lord, in framing this measure, had gone beyond the sound principle which he laid down in the course of his speech, when he stated that the proper course to pursue was, to maintain local authority and superintendence over all operations of this nature, and only to assist them by central authority. The Bill went greatly beyond that object, for the central authority which it provided would completely control, if not entirely supersede, all local authority. When he urged the noble Lord to exclude London from the Bill, he did not wish to exclude it from all sanitary legislation; on the contrary, he believed that it required to be subjected to legislation of that description more than any other part of the country. Although he had thus briefly intimated some of the objections to which the Bill was obnoxious, he would vote with the noble Lord for going into Committee, because he was unwilling to have it supposed that he was adverse to the great principle of the measure; and he still hoped to see the details to which he objected amended in Committee. Before sitting down, he would take the liberty of offering a suggestion to the noble Lord. If, in consequence of the present evening having been lost at this late period of the Session, it should be found necessary to abandon the Bill, he begged the noble Lord to consider whether it would not be expedient to introduce a Bill—it might consist of but a single clause—to give to town-councils and commissioners for paving and draining, the optional power of carrying into operation in their respective districts the provisions of a Bill called the Towns Improvement Consolidation Bill, which had just passed the House of Lords. That Bill contained some very useful provisions; and if the noble Lord should find it expedient to adopt the suggestion which he had thrown out, he would have the satisfaction of knowing that the Session had not been allowed to expire altogether without some sanitary legislation.


said, that if the present measure was to be abandoned because London was excluded from its operation, Parliament might, on the same principle, have rejected the measure of corporate reform passed some years ago, from which the country had derived much benefit. He would vote for going into Committee.


, in reference to what had fallen from the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) as to rural districts being exempted from the operation of the measure, observed that he did not know what the intentions of Government might be upon that subject; but certainly as the Bill was drawn, its provisions were applicable to every district in which 300 householders should sign a petition in the manner prescribed in one of the clauses. It was, however, very difficult to ascertain what the Bill really proposed to enact, for so many other Bills were incorporated with it that no one but a special pleader could understand it. The Bill should be reprinted, in order that the House might know exactly what it was intended to enact. He complained that the Bill did not deal with the admitted evils which existed in this metropolis, while it would interfere with numerous petty interests throughout the whole kingdom. He considered that the principle of the measure was good. He admitted that sanitary reforms were much needed; but he also thought that this Bill proposed to carry out those reforms by bad means, and he did not think it was capable of being altered in such a manner as to render it a good and efficient measure. By the Towns Improvement Bill, no house could remain thatched after the lapse of seven years; and if this rule were applied to the rural districts, he would ask the House to consider what would be its effect. It was provided by the same Bill that no house should be built without party walls; but was it intended to enforce that regulation in the country districts? He considered that many of the provisions contained in this Bill were most objectionable; and he therefore felt it his duty to vote against going into Committee.


, who rose amid cries of "Divide, divide!" said, that he presumed he had as much right to address the House as any other Gentleman; for as he had been closely connected with several important cities and towns, he had had opportunities of acquiring some information on the subject. His principal objection to the Bill was, that it had been introduced at so late a period of the Session, that a fair opportunity could not be afforded for considering its provisions; but if no other objection had existed, the fact that the city of London was to be exempted from its operation, would have induced him to oppose it in its present form. He could not conceive why the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) did not, in the first instance, propose a measure for improving the sanitary condition of the city of London and the metropolitan districts; for the Government would then have an opportunity of vigilantly watching the operation of the scheme—of ascertaining from their own observation how far it was successful—and of determining whether it was advisable to apply it to the whole country. He called upon the House not to pass one law for the city of London, and another law for the provinces, but to do away altogether with class legislation. An hon. Gentleman opposite had said that there was a strong feeling in Yorkshire in favour of this Bill; but from his own observation he could not think that assertion was well founded. He admitted that there was a very general feeling in Yorkshire in favour of the adoption of some sanitary regulations, and that petitions praying the House to consider and sanction such measures had been presented from corporations and from public meetings. But it must be remembered that the persons who signed those petitions had not seen this Bill, and that, though they might consider some sanitary regulations ought to be adopted, it did not follow that they approved of the measure now before the House. He hoped the Bill would not be pressed during the present Session. Let the Government first experimentalize upon the city of London; and if they found their scheme work well there, then they might extend it to the country. He thought the evils resulting from defective sanitary regulations had been very much exaggerated, and he hoped the House would pause before they gave their assent to this measure. He blamed the Government for excluding London from the Bill, since, from its immense population, it was worse than any other place in the kingdom. He hoped the House would oppose the passing such a Bill this Session, and that in the next, the Government would be prepared with a more acceptable measure—one avoiding centralization; the country was sick of centralization, of commissions, of preliminary inquiries—of all sorts of jobs. The people wanted to be left to manage their own affairs; they did not want Parliament to be so paternal as it wished to be—interfering in everybody's business, and, like all who so interfered, not doing its own well.


said, in explanation, that he had presented numerously signed petitions from the people of Hull in favour of the Bill; and, therefore, it could not be said that he was unacquainted with the views of his constituents on this question.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland has certainly made what I consider the very first objection against going into Committee on this Bill, which, if the premises were sound, would be a valid argument against that proposition. He says there is no need of any further inquiry—that the towns conduct perfectly well their own affairs—that there is no need of centralization—and, therefore, that this Bill is totally unnecessary. If the right hon. Gentleman be right, undoubtedly any legislation on this subject would be quite unnecessary; but I appeal to all the reports which have been made, to all the facts which have been stated, to show that some Bill is necessary, and that the local bodies cannot be trusted entirely, without some further measures, to adopt those sanitary reforms which are required for the health of towns. The right hon. Member for Sunderland and other hon. Members have used an argument which I think tends to a conclusion quite opposite to that which they wish to establish, that the metropolis should be included in the Bill. Their argument would naturally be, that, as it is said there is great need of further improvement in the metropolis, and remedies are required, we should go into Committee on the Bill, and insert the clauses by which the metropolis should be included. But they say quite the contrary; they say, if London is not to be included, where there is so much filth and disease, only think what a hardship it will be that Exeter and Hull are obliged to be cleanly and wholesome; how painful it will be to find that these towns have got improved drainage, sewerage, and means of health, whilst the same advantage is not given to the metropolis. Now I cannot think that those towns will be so very sensitive, or that they will think, because the metropolis has not the benefit of this Bill, therefore their towns are to remain dirty and unwholesome. As to the reasons why the metropolis is not included, I will say that, at all events, such was the view taken by the noble Lord opposite, who devoted great attention to this subject, of the measure proper to be introduced. The very first clause of the Bill of 1845, says, that the Act shall extend to all places in England and Wales, excepting London and the places within five miles of Charingcross; and till 1846 the noble Lord did not bring in any Bill including the metropolis. No doubt he thought a Bill affecting the metropolis would be necessary. So we think likewise; but he did not consider it necessary to begin with the metropolis. He thought it would be advisable to begin with other towns, and that to take the metropolis first would only lead to serious difficulties. Some hon. Members say, we will not consider any measure till you have introduced the metropolis; and the hon. Member for Somerset says he is against considering this Bill, because there are a great many long clauses in it which will require very long protracted discussion. If so, surely twenty or thirty clauses for the metropolis will require more. I was certainly not one of the metropolitan Members who made a representation to my noble Friend that London ought not to be included. I should certainly have been very glad if the whole metropolis could have been included in the Bill; indeed I think there can be no doubt that with respect to parts of England and Wales, more inquiry is necessary; and whilst wishing to go into Committee on this Bill, I should certainly keep in view the necessity of adopting a similar measure for the metropolis. With respect to the noble Lord's suggestions for improving the machinery of the Bill, I can only say that anything which falls from him will be listened to by Government with the greatest attention, because I know he has applied himself very much to the subject; and his good judgment upon these matters is, perhaps, more to be listened to than that of any individual Member of this House. The House has already sanctioned the principle of the Bill, and I hope they will now consent to go into Committee.


wished only to state that he had certainly been in communication with parties opposed to particular clauses of the Bill; but he believed the majority of the West Riding of Yorkshire were decidedly in favour of its principle, and therefore he should vote for the measure.


did not mean to detain the House many minutes. The Bill, with all its improvements, was a very bad Bill, a very vexatious Bill, and a very anomalous Bill. In the first place, it excluded places which required more inspection than the towns included in it; next, it included all other places which required very little attention or inspection; and next, towns that were not incorporated were not to be included, unless they so chose it; and these were the very towns on which the Bill ought to be imposed. Why not do that which was plain—let every town that petitioned for inspection have it? He was not in favour of these commissioners and inspectors. It was a very expensive principle, a very unsafe principle, and a very unsound principle. The people were clever enough to manage their own affairs. The people in London were not more clever than those in the country. If they were, how did it happen when they wanted to put a top on Nelson's pillar, they had to send to Birmingham for a man to do it? He saw the man and knew the man who did that for them—who put a capital on their Nelson's pillar. He read all the reports on this matter—they were grossly exaggerated. The commissioners, like all other persons in their situation, wished to make themselves of importance. There was a mania now for sanitary measures. In fact, there was an insanity in sanity. There was more mortality now than formerly, it was said. It was quite true; and the reason the people were dying was because they had short, bad, and insufficient food. To show how easy it was to misstate matters connected with sanitary reform, he would only instance a report of Mr. Chadwick in 1841, in which that gentleman had drawn a comparison between the mortality in Birmingham and of Bridlington. That statement was exaggerated, and could not be relied on. He believed that it was impossible to carry the Bill this Session, and therefore he should not give his support to it.


wished plainly and distinctly to say that he was for a Health of Towns Bill, but not for a Bill which excepted that part of the kingdom which, if the Bill had any virtue at all, should most especially be comprehended. This exclusion was his justification for voting against the Bill.

On the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question, the House divided:—Ayes 191; Noes 50: Majority 141.

List of the AYES.
Acheson, Visct. Dundas, Adm.
Acland, T. D. Dundas, Sir D.
Aldam, W. East, Sir J. B.
Antrobus, E. Ebrington, Visct.
Arundel and Surrey, Egerton, Sir P.
Earl of Ellice, rt. hon. E.
Baillie, W. Emlyn, Visct.
Baine, W. Escott, B.
Bannerman, A. Esmonde, Sir T.
Barclay, D. Etwall, R.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Evans, W.
Bateson, T. Evans, Sir De L.
Beckett, W. Ewart, W.
Bell, J. Farnham, E. B.
Bellew, R. M. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Berkeley, hon. C. Fitzmaurice, hon. AV.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Forster, M.
Blake, M. J. Fox, 0. R.
Boyd, J. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Bramston, T. W. Gill. T.
Brisco, M. Gore, hon. R.
Broadley, H. Gower, L.
Brotherton, J. Greene, T.
Brown, W. S. Gregory, W. H.
Buller, C. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Buller, E. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Busfeild, W. Grosvenor, Earl
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Hall, Sir B.
Cardwell, E. Hamilton, W. J.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Hanmer, Sir J.
Chichester, Lord J. Harcourt, G. G.
Christie, W. D. Harris, hon. Capt.
Clay, Sir W. Hatton, Capt. V.
Clifton, J. T. Hawes, B.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Heathcoat, J.
Colville, C. R. Heneage, E.
Conyngham, Lord A. Hervey, Lord A.
Corbally, M. E. Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.
Courtenay, Lord Hodgson, F.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Hope, A.
Crawford, W. S. Horsman, E.
Dalmeny, Lord Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Dalrymple, Capt. Howard, hon. E. G. G.
Davies, D. A. S. Howard, P. H.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Hutt, W.
Denison, J. E. James, Sir W. C.
Denison, E. B. Jermyn, Earl
Dennistoun, J. Jervis, Sir J.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.T. Johnstone, Sir J.
Dickinson, F. H. Kemble, H.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Duncan, Visct, Lambton, H.
Duncan, G. Langston, J. H.
Duncombe, T. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Duncombe, hon. A. Lawless, hon. C.
Legh, G. C. Rice, E. R.
Lincoln, Earl of Rich, H.
Lindsay, Col. Roche, E. B.
Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B. Romilly, J.
Mackinnon, W. A, Round, J.
M'Donnell, J. M. Russell, Lord J.
McGeachy, F. A. Russell, Lord C. J. F.
Mainwaring, T. Sandon, Visct.
Marshall, W. Seymour, Lord
Marsland, H. Seymour, Sir H. B.
Maule, rt. hon. F. Shell, rt. hon. R. L.
Mildmay, H. St. J. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Miles, P. W. S. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Moffatt, G. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Monahan, J. H. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Morpeth, Visct. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Morris, D. Stanton, W. H.
Morison, Gen. Stuart, Lord J.
Mostyn, hon. E. M. L. Strickland, Sir G.
Mure, Col. Strutt, rt. hon. E.
Neville, R. Talbot, C. R. M.
Nicholl, rt. hon. J. Tancred, H. W.
Norreys, Lord Thornely, T.
Norreys, Sir D. J. Tollemache, J.
O'Brien, J. Tomline, G.
O'Brien, T. Trelawny, J. S.
O'Connell, M. J. Turner, E.
O'Conor Don Vane, Lord H.
O'Ferrall, R. M. Villiers, hon. C.
Ogle, S. C. H. Vivian, J. H.
Pakington, Sir J. Wakley, T.
Palmerston, Visct. Walker, R.
Parker, J. Ward, H. G.
Patten, J. W. White, S.
Pechell, Capt. Williams, W.
Perfect, R. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Philips, G. R, Wortley, hon. J. S.
Pinney, W. Wrightson, W. B.
Powlett, Lord W. Wyse, T.
Protheroe, E. D.
Pusey, P. TELLERS.
Reid, Col. Tufnell, H.
Repton, G. W. J. Hill, Lord M.
List of the NOES.
Adderley, C. B. Henley, J. W.
Archdall, Capt. M. Hudson, G.
Arkwright, G. Hussey, T.
Bankes, G. Ingestre, Visct.
Bentinck, Lord G. Lennox, Lord G. H. G.
Bodkin, W. H. Lowther, hon. Col.
Borthwick, P. Manners, Lord C. S.
Broadwood, H. Miles, W.
Brooke, Lord Neeld, J.
Buck, L. W. Newdegate, C. N.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Newport, Visct.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Palmer, G.
Carew, W. H. P. Rashleigh, W.
Cole, hon. H. A. Rolleston, Col,
Deedes, W. Shirley, E. J.
Dick, Q. Spooner, R.
Divett, E. Stuart, J.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Vivian, J. E.
Douglas, J. D. S. Vyse, H.
Dugdale, W. S. Vyvyan, Sir R. R.
Egerton, W. T. Waddington, H. S.
Floyer, J. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Forbes, W. Yorke, H. R.
Frewen, C. H.
Fuller, A. E. TELLERS.
Granby, Marq. of Muntz, G. F.
Halsey, T. P. Sibthorp, Col.

Bill considered in Committee. Commit- tee to report progress, and sit again on Thursday.

House adjourned at One o'clock to Monday.