HC Deb 10 May 1847 vol 92 cc669-70

On the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Health of Towns Bill,


said, that he would take that opportunity of stating what the intentions of Her Majesty's Government were with respect to this Bill. He should say that every communication which he received convinced him more and more, not only of the propriety but of the necessity of this measure; and nothing could be more acceptable to him than to think that the House could devote sufficient time for the consideration and adoption of the entire measure. However, other subjects—he would not say of greater importance, for nothing could be of greater importance than the efficient maintenance of the public health in the towns of this country; but other subjects of more immediate pressure, owing to their sudden emergency—had occupied a great portion of the time of the House during this Session, and promised to occupy still more of it. Under these circumstances he had received a communication from the Health of Towns Association—a body composed of gentlemen who devoted all their time and their efforts to the promotion of the public health; and in it they represented to him how desirable it was that something should be done—that some beginning should be made this Session towards carrying out the desirable object which they had in view, and also that it would be a pity to risk the danger of not doing anything by trying to bind the House to give its attention to the more complicated and controverted parts of the measure. In accordance with that opinion, and concurring as it did in his own views on the matter, he was disposed to ask the House to agree in the course of the present occasion in the following parts of the Bill. He would propose to confine the positive application of the Bill to the county corporate towns of England and Wales—to those towns that were made subject to the Municipal Reform Act, and that already possessed regularly constituted bodies, to which the new powers and functions created under this Bill could be applied. They would allow other towns to obtain the benefit of a participation in the Act on petition to the Privy Council; and here he might add, that the Government were willing to drop that part of the measure which reserved to the Crown the nomination of one-third of the commissioners. They would not include the metropolis in the Bill, not that it did not want improvement, but because, acting on the warning which he had received from the noble Lord opposite, the Member for Falkirk (the Earl of Lincoln), he thought it was complicated and difficult enough to warrant them in proceeding, with regard to it, by a separate Bill. With regard to gas works, they would propose in the Bill to give power to the commissioners to construct gas works; but only in towns where such works did not exist before; and also to contract with existing gas companies. They proposed, also, giving the commissioners power to construct water works, and to lease existing water works. It was proposed to value property under the provisions of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act; and they would reserve to a future Session the right of addressing themselves to the remaining parts of the subject when they should have more leisure to devote to it. Under these circumstances, perhaps, the House would allow the Bill to be now read a second time for the purpose of having it committed pro formâ and reprinted, and he should not afterwards propose to take any other step with regard to it until after the Whitsuntide holidays.

Second reading deferred.

House adjourned at a quarter past One o'clock.