HC Deb 07 August 1848 vol 100 cc1173-80

House in Committee to consider the Lords' Amendments in this Bill.

Clauses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, agreed to.

On Clause 8 (on the petition of not less than one-tenth of the inhabitants rated to the relief of the poor, the General Board of Health may, if and when they shall think fit, direct a superintending inspector to visit such city, town, borough, parish, or place, and to make public inquiry, and to examine witnesses, as to the sewerage, drainage, and supply of water, the state of the burial-grounds, &c., for the purpose of enabling them to judge of the propriety of reporting to Her Majesty),


was aware that peculiar importance was attached to this clause, owing to the circumstances under which it had been introduced into the Bill. It must at once be admitted, the clause was at variance with the principle of the important Amendment made in the Bill when it was before the House of Commons, on the proposition of the hon. Member for Oxford, and assented to by the Government. In the House of Lords this Bill had been referred to a Select Committee; and he believed that in determining on that course their Lordships were actuated by no desire to infringe upon the constitutional privileges of the House of Commons, but solely by a wish to make the Bill as efficacious as possible. The clause was proposed by a right rev. Prelate, who, perhaps, had a more intimate acquaintance with the condition and requirements of the poor than any other Member of his sacred order; for his Lordship had derived his knowledge upon those points partly from having performed his duties in the most exemplary manner, partly from being the bishop of the most densely peopled diocese, and partly from having acted as a Member of the Commission appointed to inquire into the health of towns. But although the clause came to the House recommended by what he at once admitted to be very high authority, he was about to ask the House to consent to make an alteration in it. Having placed himself in communication with the Registrar General—whose official reports, by the way, were the most valuable documents in a statistical point of view which ever appeared in this or any other country—that officer had expressed an opinion that the state of diseases enumerated in the clause would not always afford a fair criterion of the sanitary condition of the district, and therefore he was about to propose au alteration in the clause, which would effect the object which the framer of the clause and the House of Lords had in view in a more simple manner. The returns of the Registrar General gave for every registration and sub-registration district in England an accurate account of mortality, and the proportion of the number of deaths, calculated on an average of seven years, to the population at large; and he intended to make that information available for the purpose of the amendment which he wished the House to effect in the clause. He would propose that all the words in the clause relating to particular diseases should be omitted, and their place supplied by other words, which would provide that where the deaths in any city, town, borough, parish, or Place" should amount to twenty-three to a thousand of the population for such "city, town, borough, parish, or place," the General Board of Health might direct inquiry to be made for the purpose stated in the clause. The proportion of twenty-three to 1,000 would afford security that the Act would not be put into operation except in cases where there was such a manifest amount of unhealthiness indicated by the high rate of mortality, that no persons possessed of the ordinary feelings of humanity would object to the application of sanitary regulations. Te average of deaths for all England, according to the Registrar General's returns, was twenty-one to 1,000 of the population. The average in the most healthy districts—Reigate, Godstone, and Barnet—was fifteen and sixteen to 1,000; and the average in the most unhealthy districts was twenty-nine and thirty to 1,000. When, therefore, he took twenty-three to 1,000 as the proportion of deaths necessary to justify the application of the Act to any district, it could not with justice be alleged that he had fixed upon too low an average. Before resuming his seat, he was anxious to address a few observations to the House upon a topic of the deepest interest. It was far from his wish to excite undue alarm on the subject of the cholera; but he would not be acting a fair and friendly part to the public, were he to conceal the fact that it had been ascertained that the cholera was advancing in precisely the same direction as that which it pursued in 1832—that it had been heralded in this country by the same precursor as on the former occasion, namely, a great amount of influenza, which prevailed a few months ago, and by a great increase of diarrhœa, ending fatally in many cases, now prevalent—and that by recent accounts it had spread as far west as Riga, Narva, and Revel. It would be most gratifying to his feelings to be able to state that this frightful visitation was approaching us in a more mild form than that under which we had already had dreadful experience of its mortal effects; but unfortunately that was not the case, as would appear from the communications received from our Ministers and Consuls abroad, some of which he would take the liberty of reading to the House. A return of the casualties from cholera at St. Petersburgh to the latest date, July 24, gave the following results:—Cases, 17,742; deaths, 10,138; cures, 4,618; under treatment, 1,986—Proportions per 100—deaths, 57; cures, 26; under treatment, 17. At Moscow the cases were 9,754; deaths, 4,309. The account from Odessa was almost as afflicting:— Odessa, Juno 28,1847. My Lord—The presence of the cholera in this town was for the first time acknowledged by public authority yesterday. According to official report there were on that day—New cases, 133; deaths, 44; recoveries, 23, And from the 19th of May to the present day, in town and in the port—total number of cases, 824; of deaths, 332; of recoveries, 235; remaining sick, 257. The present population of Odessa is stated to exceed 90,000 inhabitants. I am not yet prepared to speak on the mode of treatment adopted here, which, in the hands of professional men, varies very materially under different circumstances. All condemn neglect of first symptoms, however trifling, recommending instant and energetic remedies; and the simplest means thus applied, in numerous cases, have proved successful; such as large doses of the essence of peppermint, even brandy with pepper or ginger, and, in particular, violent friction. The cholera is reported to be very severe in Nicolaveff and Cherson, and in parts of Bessarabia. It is spreading throughout the country, and is advancing rapidly westward. It has likewise reappeared in the towns on the Azoff, though in a very slight degree.—I have, &c. JAMES YEAMES. The Right Hon. Viscount Palmerston, G.C.B. The noble Lord read several other letters to show the progress of the disease. It could not be expected that the adoption of the Bill now under consideration would arrest the approach of this most malignant and mysterious disease, which was spreading over the whole territory from the Neva to the Nile; but all testimony derived from experience, both in this country and abroad, showed that if we could not arrest its progress or prevent its arrival, still it was possible to modify materially its effects, if not to save some districts from its ravages altogether. A recent number of a most able publication called the British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review proved by induction from a mass of facts that certain atmospheric conditions and electrical states concurred in the production of cholera; "but," the Review observed— Whatever be the electrical or the atmospheric conditions of the air during epidemic visitations of cholera, there is no doubt that, in any given country, we can with tolerable certainty foretell both the locality and the class of people which will be chiefly affected. The locality will be that in which, from situation, or from the habits of the inhabitants, the air is damp from the exhalations from rivers or marshes, and is at the same time rendered impure by the animal and vegetable exhalations which steam up from a crowd of people, ignorant or careless of sanitary precautions; and the class of people will be those who are subjected to these influences. These simple principles—so simple, that it appears almost unnecessary thus formally to announce them—have been proved by a multitude of observations, both in this country and in India. Knowing, then, that the victims of this dread and mysterious disease were chiefly to be found amongst those classes who were unable to adopt sanitary precautions, he felt justified in calling upon the House to adopt the Amendment which he had offered to their consideration. If after Parliament had broken up, the cholera should suddenly appear in this country, spreading dismay and consternation in every quarter, hon. Members would not like to have their conscience accuse them of having neglected an Amendment which would probably have the effect of mitigating the ravages of that dreadful pestilence.


was surprised that the noble Lord, after expressing the greatest respect for the right rev. Prelate who had proposed the clause now under the consideration of the House, should have taken the extraordinary course of proposing the omission of the most important portion. As to the cholera, if it should please God that that dreadful disease should come here, the cumbrous machinery of the Bill and the immense time which would be necessary to put it in motion, would prevent its being of any use in staying its ravages. The noble Lord's statements on that subject were all very well as a moans of exciting public attention upon an important matter, but they had no practical bearing upon the clause before the House. He thought Members should be allowed some time for consideration; it was hardly fair to call upon them to pronounce "aye" or "no" with respect to such an important proposition.

The clause, as amended, agreed to.

On the question that the Amendment to Lords' Amendment to Clause 33 be agreed to,

The Committee divided:—Ayes 55; Noes 35: Majority 20.

List of the AYES.
Abdy, T. N. Henry, A.
Adari, R. A. S. Heywood, J.
Armstrong, Sir A. Hobhouse, T. B.
Barnard, E. G. Hood, Sir A.
Bellew, R. M. Hume, J.
Blackall, S. W. Jervis, Sir J.
Boyle, hon. Col. Mackinnon, W. A.
Brotherton, J. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Brown, W. Mitchell, T. A.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Moffatt, G.
Dundas, Adm. Monsell, W.
Dunne, F. P. Morpeth, Viset.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Morrison, Sir W.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. O'Connell, M. J.
Forster, M. Paget, Lord A.
Fox, W. J. Parker, J.
French, F. Perfect, R.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Peto, S. M.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Pinney, W.
Hamilton, G. A. Price, Sir R.
Robinson, G. R. Townshend, Capt.
Russell, Lord J. Vane, Lord H.
Russell, F. C. H. Villiers, hon. C.
Sandars, J. Wilson, J.
Seymer, H. K. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Sheil, rt. hon. R. L. Wood, W. P.
Smith, J. B. TELLERS.
Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W. Hill, Lord M.
Thornely, T. Ebrington, Visct.
List of the NOES.
Anstey, T. C. Howard, P. H.
Archdall, Capt. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Bentinck, Lord G. Marshall, J. G.
Bright, J. Muntz, G. F.
Brocklehurst, J. Napier, J.
Carew, W. H. P. Newdegate, C. N.
Christy, S. Rice, E. R.
Clay, J. Scholefield, W.
Clay, Sir W. Sidney, Ald.
Cubitt, W. Stuart, Lord D.
Drummond, H. Stuart, H.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B. Thompson, Col.
Duncuft, J. Urquhart, D.
Ewart, W. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Waddington, H. S.
Heald, J. Williams, J.
Henley, J. W. TELLERS.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Spooner, R.
Hildyard, R. C. Pechell, Capt.

On the Smoke Clause,


said he had opposed every Smoke Bill that had been introduced to the House, and he thought this clause contained all the absurdities of all the former measures put together. It would only tend to turn into ridicule the legislation of that House, as it was quite impossible to work out any Smoke Bill. For example, the kind of smoke to be put down was "opaque smoke," and it was to be considered opaque when it was not transparent. But, did not everybody see that the opacity of smoke coming out of a chimney would, by this description of it, depend very much upon whether there was a black or a white cloud behind it? By the clause, opaque smoke was only to be permitted during a certain time, which was allowed for putting on fires; but this would be found utterly unworkable. Sometimes the smoke of ten or twelve smithies adjoining each other was sent out by one common chimney. The fires of these smithies were renewed several times an hour; and how, then, was it possible to enforce the Act in such cases? In point of fact, the clause was ridiculous, and it would he impossible to carry it out. Parties producing smoke were to provide a "well-approved plan" for consuming it; but who was to decide what the well-approved plan was? In Lancashire, no three men were ever found to agree upon any effectual plan for preventing smoke.


said, the question was certainly beset with difficulties, and he must admit that the clause contained inconsistencies which it would not be easy to reconcile. If his noble Friend took his advice, he would not press the clause upon the House.


supported the clause. If there were in it any inconsistencies which would prevent its working well, let those be amended; but let them not, on that account, throw out the clause. It should be recollected that a Committee of that House, which contained several manufacturers, had unanimously decided in favour of a measure for the prevention of smoke. If the clause were not operative, as had been alleged, then it would do no harm; and it would have a salutary effect at least in inducing owners of factories to abate the nuisance, and require their stokers to be more careful.


thought the hon. Gentleman ought to weigh well the meaning of the word "nuisance;" for the question might be raised whether black smoke was prejudicial to health. The only justification for such a clause as this was, that smoke had an effect on the public health. That House, in legislating, ought always to be very chary of entering on scientific subjects. They ought not to forget the lesson their experience had road to them in the matter of the excise on malt. The more he had seen of this Bill the more he was satisfied that there was a great deal of quackery and mock philosophy in such questions, and that this clause was manufactured by some quack. It ought not too hastily to be presumed that what were called nuisances were necessarily injurious to health. All persons connected with butchers and knackers were known to be more free from disease than any other trade whatever; and it was a fact which was also well known that every trade had a class of diseases peculiar to itself.


did not think it possible to apply the clause to any manufacturing town.


was aware his hon. Friend (Mr. P. Howard) represented the highest chimney in England. When he had been told on authority he could not fail to respect, that this clause would not work, he hardly should think it worth while to incur the odium which, rightly or wrongly, seemed to attach to its adoption; more especially as it was not intended to put any thing into the Bill which should unnecessarily raise objections, and so frustrate the expectation of carrying the measure into effective operation. Nothing, he hoped, which might fall from him would tend to create the impression that he was not alive to the smoke nuisance. He held himself perfectly free, and perhaps bound, to be a party to the introduction or furtherance of a Bill having the abatement of that nuisance for its specific object.

The Lords' Amendment disagreed to.

On Clause 119, providing that the local boards should not execute certain contracts without notices, or without depositing plans, &c., with the General Board, and that the local boards should not proceed without the authority of the General Board, in case of the latter desiring further information.

The Committee divided on the question that the House agree with the Lords' Amendments in the clause:—Ayes 47; Noes 52: Majority 5.

List of the AYES.
Abdy, T. N. Mackinnon, W. A.
Armstrong, Sir A. Matheson, A.
Bellew, R. M. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Monsell, W.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Morpeth, Visct.
Blackall, S. W. O'Connell, M. J.
Bowles, Adm. Ogle, S. C. H.
Brotherton, J. Paget, Lord C.
Buller, C. Parker, J.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Patton, J. W.
Craig, W. G. Peto, S. M.
Dundas, Adm. Power, Dr.
Ebrington, Visct. Price, Sir R.
Forster, M. Rich, H.
Fox, R. M. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Glyn, G. C. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Goddard, A. L. Thompson, Col.
Grenfell, C. W. Townshend, Capt.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Ward, H. G.
Grosvenor, Earl Wilson, J.
Hayter, W. G. Wilson, M.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Jervis, Sir J. TELLERS.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Hill, Lord M.
Lewis, G. C. Tufnell, H.
List of the NOES.
Anderson, A. Drummond, H.
Anstey, T. C. Duncuft, J.
Arkwright, G. Evans, Sir De L.
Benbow, J. Ewart, W.
Bentinck, Lord G. Fagan, W.
Bright, J. FitzGerald, W. R. S.
Broadley, H. Fitzroy, hon. H.
Brocklehurst, J. Fox, W. J.
Bunbury, E. H. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Christy, S. Hardcastle, J. A.
Clay, J. Hastie, A.
Clay, Sir W. Headlam, T. E.
Cobden, R. Heald, J.
Conolly, Col. Henley, J. W.
Heywood, J. Palmer, R.
Hood, Sir A. Perfect, R.
Hume, J. Rice, E. R.
Kershaw, J. Seymour, H. K.
Lowther, hon. Col. Sidney, Ald.
Marshall, J. G. Tancred, H. W.
Masterman, J. Thornely, T.
Matheson, Col. Urquhart, D.
Maunsell, T. P. Williams, J.
Mitchell, T. A. Willoughby, Sir H.
Moffatt, G.
Mowatt, F. TELLERS.
Napier, J. Muntz, G. F.
Newdegate, C. N. Spooner, R.

Several Amendments agreed to; several disagreed to.

House resumed. Report agreed to. Committee appointed to draw up reasons for disagreeing to their Lordships' Amendments.