HC Deb 10 February 1848 vol 96 cc385-424

* Sir, in now moving for the second time for leave to bring in a Bill for the Improvement of Public Health, especially in our towns and cities, I certainly do not feel any diminution of the anxiety and earnestness which attended the first effort, and which was also the first and I hope the last failure on the same subject. I do not feel myself called on to dwell upon the history of that transaction, still less do I wish to make it the subject of complaint or dispute between any of those who were parties to it: in the moment of defeat last year I had no such wish, I made no such attempt; still less should I do so now. The circumstances of that Session, the space of time that could be devoted to the measure, the inherent difficulty of the subject, the attempt, perhaps, to compass too much by too summary methods—may have all borne their part in it. What took place then, however, has left two feelings uppermost in my mind on the present occasion: one, common to myself with the Government and the Parliament, of the increased responsibility which devolves upon us that there shall not be a renewal of failure; the other is peculiar to myself in the discharge of my present duty, that whereas on the previous occasion there was much said and nothing done, so now comparatively little may be said, but a great deal more must be done. It may be recollected that in the discussions which closed the proceedings of last year upon this subject, two injunctions were somewhat authoritatively delivered to me, which I have regretted to find considerably at variance with each other. The first was not to incorporate by way of reference the enactments of other Bills, but to set forth plainly in the body of the new Bill what it was proposed to enact; the other was to bring in a Bill of one or two clauses. Now, with the first of these injunctions, which though perhaps not the most enticing of the two, I considered to have most of real substance in it, we have endeavoured to the best of our power to comply. The other injunction I would certainly have most willingly obeyed. I could indeed have done it in three ways, but none of which I am inclined to believe would have been acceptable to the House or country. I might have done it, or done something like it, by continuing the mode from which I have * From a pamphlet published by Ridgeway. just stated I felt myself to be debarred by the objection taken last Session, and by the real weight of the objection—the mode of incorporating or adopting, by wholesale, the contents of other Bills. I might have done it by giving large and summary discretionary powers to bodies acting in subordination to the Privy Council, without the specification of those powers by Parliament. I will not disguise from the House that in many points of view this course would have smoothed many difficulties, and it might have secured great efficiency; it would have been able to do that which no general Act of Parliament can do, to accommodate itself to different localities and varying circumstances—to have niche itself, if I may so term it, into the most appropriate fittings. I doubt, however, greatly whether the House of Commons would have been prepared to concede such powers—powers including the right to legislate, and the power to tax, without the intervention of Parliament, to any extrinsic body. The third mode, which I only mention at once to repudiate, was to bring in a meager and inadequate measure. Being, therefore, little disposed to adopt any of these three courses, we felt that we had no alternative but aiming at as much conciseness and brevity as were attainable, discarding or postponing many collateral objects and adjuncts which otherwise we should have been well pleased to include, and which we only hope to reserve for future opportunities; we should still in the Bill now to be brought in, deliberately lay the foundations, and distinctly set forth the provisions, for an efficient measure of sanitary reform. I cannot state more summarily what the objects are at which any measure of this kind ought to aim, and what we shall hope to attain by the present Bill, than in selecting one of the petitions which were presented in favour of the Bill of last Session; it is styled the Working Classes Petition; and I would just say in passing, that these are the very classes for whom our legislation—not indeed confined to them or to any class—is mainly intended. The wealthy, the easy, classes can build themselves commodious houses; they can select healthy situations, they can in most instances command unfailing supplies of pure water and fresh air; if health fails them in one place, they may pursue it in a thousand others; but for the children of poverty and toil, if legislation does not interfere to bring it to them, it will become as unattainable a blessing as the rarest gifts of fortune. Those who gain their daily bread by daily labour, and who, with their families, depend for support on the continuance of health, recommend, in their petition, the following points:—

  1. "1. An unlimited supply of pure water to every house at a very small rate.
  2. "2. A general and effective system of sewerage and drainage in all houses, streets, and courts.
  3. "3. The removal of nuisances, as slaughterhouses, Ac, from crowded neighbourhoods.
  4. "4. The erection of more wholesome abodes for the working classes.
  5. "5. The ventilation of workshops, schools, and public buildings.
  6. "6. The establishment of baths, wash-houses, and bathing-places.
  7. "7. The formation of gymnasia and exercise grounds for all classes.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that you will be pleased to pass into a law the above named Act for improving the health of towns, by which they will be shielded from the great physical and moral evils to which they are now exposed, and from which, without legislative interference, they cannot hope to escape. I will not longer delay to state the main provisions of the Bill, and its main points of coincidence or contrast with former proposals. In doing so, I cannot forbear to mention how much my Colleagues and myself are indebted to my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, who, with the able assistance he could command, has bestowed much praiseworthy care in considering its provisions, and in putting it into the state in which we hope it will be found least liable to inconvenience and objection. We propose, in the first place, to abide by the appointment of a general and central Board of Health, with very much the same composition which was sanctioned by a large majority of the last House of Commons: it will consist of five members, of whom two will be paid, and will be presided over by a responsible Member of the Executive Government. This is the proposal which in fact embodies the principle of State supervision, to which all those who are jealous of what is termed centralisation are inclined to object. I can only state my positive conviction, that without some such means of applying experienced, scientific, and responsible control, any measure of the kind would be a mockery. As I have already quoted a petition of the working classes, I feel quite inclined to draw my argument in favour of State control from the letter of a working man which I received in the course of last year. He says— Neither do I agree with those who would leave everything to regulate itself, or to the exertion of private individuals, who, however well meaning, lacking that information which is always at the command of a Government, would never be able to do it as effectually as it should be done. My opinion is, that the Government have the best means of obtaining information as to the amount of evil resulting from a deficient supply of water, drainage, and sewerage, and also that the Government possess greater facilities of procuring information as to the best means to be employed to remedy the existing state of things. Therefore I think that the Government should prepare the plan or plans, and having passed them, leave the corporate bodies to carry them out, the Government contenting itself with appointing commissioners or inspectors to visit those towns, and see that the spirit of the Act was carried out. I quote also the resolution of the anniversary meeting of the Health of Towns Association, held in the Hanover Square Rooms in December last:— That all past experience, and the nature of the case, enforce the necessity of combining in any sanitary measure an efficient local admistration responsible to the ratepayers, with the superintendence of a Government department duly represented in Parliament. I have made the following extract from a report on the sanitary condition of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, by Dr. Robinson. An Act of Parliament for improving the borough of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which received the Royal Assent on the 26th of June, 1846, contained a series of provisions for promoting the health of the town. The report, after enumerating these provisions, proceeded to say— Were these powers vigorously exercised, it is evident that many of the evils above described could not have existed. But, with the exception of a recent effort to induce manufacturers to use measures for the diminution of the smoke nuisance, the powers vested in the town-council by this Act have remained wholly inoperative. There is, however, no reason to believe that this remissness has arisen from any personal antipathy to sanitary improvements. On the contrary, many of the most active members of the corporation are zealous advocates for the physical and moral improvement of the working classes; and some have, at considerable expense, voluntarily introduced smoke-consuming contrivances, and otherwise ministered to the health and comfort of their fellow-townsmen. Nor can I describe the delay which has occurred in the execution of the Towns Improvement Act to any other cause than the disinclination to active exertion so often induced by a sense of divided responsibility. While I thus echo and act upon these opinions in favour of the expediency of a certain regulated amount of State control, I am quite willing that the actual agency and habitual working of these measures should reside in local bodies, responsible to the community whose interests are espe- cially dealt with. The part of central control is to provide indispensable preliminaries, to suggest useful methods, to check manifest abuses, but to leave the execution and detail of the requisite proceedings to local agency and effort. I proceed then to the constitution of the local bodies. We adhere to the opinion we expressed last year, and in which we were supported by the House of Commons, and in which sub sequent consideration has greatly confirmed us, that these bodies ought to be connect ed with, and not disjointed from, the town councils of places where municipal corporations are in existence. In a still earlier period of last Session the high authority of the right hon. Member for Tamworth was expressed to the same effect. Two objections were, however, urged to the adoption of town-councils as the local bodies for sanitary purposes: one was, that they would prove too numerous and cumbrous for the objects in view; the other, that the discrepancy which would frequently obtain between the present boundaries of the municipality and the boundaries best suited for sanitary objects, with a view to the continuation of suburbs and the natural levels for drainage, would be a fertile source of difficulty. I believe, indeed, this point was, more perhaps than any other, in the way of successful legislation last year. We now propose to obviate the objection as to the too great number of town-councillors, by providing that, after an application from a certain number of inhabitant householders of any district, and an inquiry founded on the same, the Order in Council which will apply the Act to any district shall prescribe the number of the local body or board of health, who are to carry into effect its provisions, in proportion to the size and requirements of the district: this will probably be in every case a smaller number than the municipal body; it will therefore not In; the whole municipal body who will be charged with the sanitary department of the district, but a selection from them to be made by the municipal body itself, so that they will not clash with the prevalent feelings and views of the governing body, or of the community at large, who have appointed them by their collective votes to administer the internal government of the lace. We have thought this modification of the course we adopted last year to be preferable to constituting a complete electoral body to be appointed by an additional system of election, and a different organisation of electors. Now, with respect to the other objection, in the case of the municipal being coterminous with what I may call the sanitary boundaries, the method I have described will work simply and smoothly; but in the many cases where the sanitary boundaries will outstrip and overlap those of the municipality, as there scorned to be an objection last year to constituting them summarily parts of the municipal communities, and thus subjecting them to the previous liabilities of the corporate district; and as it would seem manifestly unjust to include them in the sanitary district, but withhold from them alone their share of representation, we propose that the same Order in Council should define the number of sanitary councillors or commissioners, who shall act in behalf of those portions which are in excess of the municipal boundaries, and that these persons should be elected by the ratepayers of the adjoined district, and be then associated for the purposes of this Act with the selected members of the town-council.

With respect to non-corporate towns the same course will be pursued as with respect to the outlying portions of the corporate towns; if upon application, and inquiry, it be deemed advisable to apply the Act to them, the Order in Council will fix the limits of the district and prescribe the number of members for the local boards, who will then be elected by the ratepayers much on the same footing as now pertains to the election of guardians of the poor. Within England and Wales the Bill makes no exceptions. I hope, indeed, that Scotland and Ireland will soon participate in the benefits of the Act; but, for the reasons I stated last year, I judged it best not to encumber this Bill with the variety of provisions necessary for adapting it to Scotland and Ireland; if this Bill should prove acceptable and be adopted here, I hope my Friends and Colleagues, especially connected with the Government of those countries, will lose no time in accommodating its provisions to them in the manner required. I have said the Bill makes no exceptions in England and Wales, and accordingly the metropolis is not excluded from its operations; but I do not wish to mislead my hearers; owing to the great number of existing interests, of local bodies, and generally the whole condition of a community outnumbering in itself many Continental States, I am bound to declare that some preparatory and supplementary measures must be enacted by the Legislature, before the provisions of the Bill I am now introducing can be made applicable to the case of the metropolis. One of such measures I hope to introduce within a very short period. Having constituted the local administrative bodies, the object of the Bill will next be to define those things which it will be imperative for them to do, and those things which it will be allowable or permissible for them to do. I think this is a prudent distinction. There are some points of indispensable and universal obligation which must be done if any progress at all is to be made in promoting the public health; these are of course the things which it is made imperative upon them to do; there are other points which may be more desirable, more suitable, more practicable in some localities than others, concerning which it would be advisable to allow more latitude for cautious experiment, for gradual adoption, for feeling their way as they go. It will be imperative upon the local administrative bodies—To hold meetings for transactions of business; to appoint a surveyor; to appoint an inspector of nuisances; to procure a map of their district; to make public sewers; to substitute sufficient sewers in case old ones be discontinued; to require owners or occupiers to provide house-drains; to cleanse and water streets; to appoint or contract with scavengers; to cleanse, cover, or fill up offensive ditches; to keep a register of slaughterhouses; to keep a register of certain lodging-houses; to provide sufficient supply of water for drainage, public and private, and for domestic use. The permissive powers to be granted to the local administrative bodies—To enlarge, lessen, alter, arch over, and improve sewers; to re-make or alter unauthorised sewers; to make house drains upon default of owner and occupier; to require that new buildings be altered, &c, in case of building upon improper levels; to alter drains, privies, water-closets, and cesspools, built contrary to the Act; to make by-laws with respect to the removal of filth, and the emptying of privies, &c.; to whitewash and purify houses after notice; to require that certain furnaces be made to consume their own smoke; to provide buildings to be used as slaughter-houses; to make by-laws with respect to the licensing, &c, of slaughter-houses; to inspect slaughter-houses and places used for the sale of meat; to alter public buildings improperly built with respect to ventilation; to inspect lodging-houses; to pave streets, &c.; to provide places for public recreation; to purchase and maintain waterworks. I do not propose to add to the many provisions of this Bill any complete code for the construction of cemeteries beyond the precincts of towns; this must be rather reserved for distinct legislation; but I do propose at once to enact, that if the General Board of Health shall be of opinion that the continued use of any existing burial-ground is absolutely dangerous to health, they shall have the power of directing it to be closed, and its use prohibited. Of course all these powers must be put into effect through the means of rating; but this is scarcely the opportunity to go into the details of this portion of the subject. I am willing to hope that the provisions for rating are drawn up in as simple a method, and put upon as fair a footing as the number of subjects to be attained would possibly admit. Having now mentioned the main outlines and principal provisions of the measure I hope to obtain leave to introduce and to submit to Parliament and the country, I wish, before I conclude the immediate office I am now performing, to impress upon the House with all the earnestness of which I am capable, some few, some very few of the grounds which convince me that it is their bounden duty to adopt this, or some better measure, without any unnecessary delay, and in its full or increased efficacy. As one of these grounds I do not wish lay any material stress upon the possible approach of the cholera. Highly desirable, obligatory, indeed, as it is upon us to adopt all available means of prevention and precaution, yet it probably would only prove a temporary evil, and might so far be encountered by temporary modes of alleviation; in such, as far as their power went, the Government have not been wanting. Within a few days of my being in my present office, I revived the Cholera Act of 1832. But it is far from any temporary evil, any transient visitant, against which our legislation is now called upon to provide. It is the abiding host of disease, the endemic and not the epidemic pestilence, the permanent overhanging mist of infection, the annual slaughter doubling in its ravages our bloodiest fields of conflict, that we are now summoned to grapple with. I do not wish to rest the merits of my case on the precise details or exact amount of any sanitary statistics, which right-minded and clear-headed men, incapable of any intention to misread, with no object before them but to ascertain the truth, have collected from the most authentic quarters, and grounded on the most pains-taken calculations. There may be partial instances of exaggeration—there may be occasional sources of miscalculation. I have lately had the opportunity of perusing an article in the British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review, written with much ability and research, but apparently with almost the express object of convicting some of the more eager sanitary advocates and statists of mistakes and exaggerations, which, however, they do not impute to any Willful intention. Now, I am led to believe that the sanitary writers and speakers in question would in many instances be able to hold good their ground; but I am willing to embrace all the deductions of this not hostile but still rigid critic. After passing in review the computations generally made of the varying rates of mortality in different districts, the reviewer says— The conclusions to which our examination of sanitary tests and estimates has led us are the following:—1, That the advocates of sanitary reform are justified in assuming 2 per cent as the rate to which the mortality of all towns, and à fortiori of the country at large, may, by proper sanitary measures, be reduced. 2. That there are fair grounds for assuming for the whole of the population a still more favourable rate of mortality. 3. That the estimated annual sacrifice of 35,000 lives in England and Wales, and of upwards of 60,000 in the United Kingdom, is not greatly exaggerated; and that a more moderate estimate of 30,000 for England and Wales, and 51,000 for the United Kingdom, may be very safely assumed, 4. That the estimated amount of sickness, like the estimated waste of life, expressed in years, has been somewhat exaggerated by the advocates of sanitary reform; that 20 cases of unnecessary sickness to I unnecessary death is a safer proportion to assume than 28 to 1; and that the total cases of unnecessary sickness will have to be reduced accordingly. He admits, therefore, that there is an annual waste of 30,000 lives which we could prevent, and that there are 20 cases of unnecessary sickness for each of those deaths. He goes on to say— The annual waste of life and sacrifice of health reduced to equivalents in pounds, shillings, and pence, under the heads of sickness, funerals, and labour lost, is represented by a grand total for England and Wales of 14,873,931l., or little less than 15,000,000l. sterling. Of this enormous total the metropolis contributes very nearly 2,000,000l., and Lancashire upwards of 4,000,000l. The standards of comparison employed in these calculations are the rate of mortality and average age at death in the most healthy registration district of each county; the ages of the living being disregarded, and the rates of sickness to death being taken at 1 to 28. If this essential element of age had been taken into account, if the more moderate standard of two per cent had been sub- stituted for the perhaps too favourable mortality of the most healthy district, and if the ratio of 1 to 28 between deaths and cases of sickness had been made to suffer some abatement, it is not impossible that these 15,000,000l. might be reduced I to considerably less than half. Possibly the total waste of money might not exceed the sum annually raised in the shape of poor rates. I wish to state the case as fairly as possible; but the Reviewer himself goes on— The calculations published in the tables of the Health of Towns Association embrace only three heads—funerals, sickness, and labour wasted. Orphanage and widowhood, which impose a perpetual burden on the poor-laws of about 50,000 women and children, and an annual burden, which, though not yet ascertained, cannot but be considerable, are not taken into the account. Then there is another enormous item of waste or misappropriation of money, not contained in these tables—namely, the sums squandered in the shape of defective and costly structural arrangement above and below ground. I will not fatigue the House by going through the details:— What all these barbarisms have cost and are costing us it would be difficult to say; but that they amount to several millions a year no reasonable man can doubt. We refer our readers to the reports of the Health of Towns Commission, and the publications of the Health of Towns Association for particulars. If they appear exaggerated, let them halve or quarter every item, and there will still remain the most remarkable exposé ever yet made of municipal and national extravagance. One broad principle may be safely enunciated in respect of sanitary economics—that it costs more money to create disease than to prevent it; and that there is not a single structural arrangement chargeable with the production of disease which is not also in itself an extravagance. Now, for the purpose of my argument I discard all the higher computations which those who have given most of their thoughts, and labour, and self-sacrifice to the subject, consider they have established. I adopt the most reduced scale which ingenuity applied in that direction can suggest; and I say still, that if in the course of every year in England and Wales 30,000 lives are lost which we can save, six or seven millions are spent which we can spare, and we forbear thus to spare and save, our folly will be only less than our crime. The Registrar General's reports are probably the most authentic documents to which we can have resort on a subject of this character. The last quarterly report says— The quarterly returns are obtained from 117 districts, subdivided into 582 sub-districts; 36 districts are in the metropolis, and the remaining 81 comprise, with some agricultural districts, the principal towns and cities of England. T he population was 6,612,800 in 1841. 57,925 deaths were registered in the last quarter. The average number of deaths deduced from the returns of the corresponding quarter of nine preceding years, and corrected for increase of population, is 46,509. There is, consequently, an excess of 11,376 deaths in the quarter. The deaths registered in the December quarters of 1845, 1846, and 1847, are 39,291–53,093–57,925; the mortality in the first is to that of the last quarter nearly as 2 to 3. A slight increase in the mortality was noted in the returns of the Juno quarter, 1846; the mortality in the following hot summer, when the potato crop failed, was excessive. Cholera and diarrhœa prevailed epidemically. In the autumn of 1846 as well as the winter and spring quarters of 1847, the mortality was still higher. Scurvy prevailed in the beginning of the year, but in the summer the public health appeared to be slightly improved. Epidemics of typhus and influenza, however, set in, and have made the mortality in the last quarter of 1847 higher than in any quarter of any year since the new system of registration commenced. I quote a passage from Dr. Hall, of East Redford, who has exerted himself zealously in the sanitary cause: he is talking of typhus fever:— About 16,000 a year, which multiplied by 10, the recoveries to each death, a calculation lower by 18, than Dr. Playf'air's, we have yearly in England above 160,000 attacks of this loathsome disease which may be prevented—a disease which does more to pauperise our population, to fill our workhouses with widows and orphans than any other, and for this reason—the typhus fever for the most part attacks men and women in the prime of life—from 20 to 40. This is the age at which the members of the working classes marry; and if the father of a family is cut off, the widow and her children are cast for support on the poor rates. This is a painful cause of pauperism, and it becomes more so from its permanence. A widow so left with children is seldom married a second time. From the books of the unions it appears to take place only in one case out of thirty No wonder then the poor-law unions have to support 40,000 widows and 100,000 orphans year after year. That positive actual deaths do occur from such causes—causes existing in all our cities, towns, villages, and farms, which we can as easily and effectually remove as we can eat our daily dinners, there is unhappily an accumulated bulk of proof. I quote again from Dr. Hall:— The deaths of infants in Preston under one year were—in well-conditioned streets, 15 deaths to 100 births; middling-conditioned streets, 21deaths to 100 births; ill-conditioned streets, 38 deaths to 100 births; worst-conditioned streets, 44 deaths to 100 births. The difference ranged from 15 in 100 in the best-conditioned districts to 44 in 100 in the worst-conditioned. Then referring to a statement of Mr. Clay, of Preston— We see then, and the remark holds good not only in Preston, but also in other towns, that the mortality is in proportion to the condition of the houses in which the children live, and the streets in which they are situate; no less than 29 per cent more of deaths taking place in the worst than in the best-conditioned streets of Preston, the mortality being 15 and 44 percent. In reference to the mortality in Leicester, it was said— Take, for instance, the parish of St. Margaret, Leicester, the average age at death in 1840 was—well-drained streets, 23½ partially-drained streets, 17½ streets without drains, 13½. The following statement was made as to the mortality in Nottingham—

Ward. Deaths to each 100.
Worst. Byrne's Ward 1 in 32
St. Ann's Ward 1 in 36
St. Mary's Ward 1 in 38
Best. Castle Ward 1 in 43
Sherwood Ward 1 in 50
Park Ward 1 in 50
Sometimes, however, an individual case seems to bring us more into the actual connexion of cause and effect, to put us more face to face with death than any of the comprehensive summaries of mortality, I do not hero so much allude to that painfully long list of men, whose official duties, nobly understood, and correspondingly discharged, have led them, whether as medical practitioners, as relieving officers, as ministers of religion, into the squalid haunts of infectious disease, the chambers of death. I hold in my hand a list contained in the Journal of Public Health, at the head of which stands the honoured name of Dr. Lynch, and only quote a paragraph at the conclusion:— A few short months ago, Bishop Riddell, the Rev. J. Standen, and Dr. Charlton, were in communication with the authorities of Newcastle, to represent to them the filthy, over-crowded, and infected condition of Sand gate and the neighbouring localities. The project was then entertained of removing fever-patients to a more open elevated part of the town, where, in some temporary or other building, their chance of recovery would be greater, while the spread of the infection among the inhabitants would be kept in check. A similar suggestion was made by Mr. Green how at the time of the cholera. Dr. Bowring, in the paper which he read in Newcastle, in 1838, at the meeting of the British Association, gave a remarkable illustration of the success of such a removal in the case of the plague; but the proposal of June last, in Newcastle, was not adopted; the sanitary condition of the infected district has since undergone little amendment, and the fever has extended its ravages. The rev. J. Standen is dead—the right rev. Dr. Riddell is dead; martyrs to their self-denying devotion to the cause of suffering humanity. It may be thought—it will not be said—that these men died in their vocation, that they did what all our soldiers and sailors always do, freely spend their lives at the call of duty. This, no doubt, is perfectly true; but we ought not to forget that for those whose case I am now considering, our physicians, and officers of the poor, and clergymen, a grateful country makes no provision for those they leave behind them. I intended, however, to allude more especially to the unofficial victims, those herds of sufferers whose deaths can actually be traced to causes which we can remove, though the blow is generally struck by more lingering and circuitous methods. Among other illustrations of the cause of disease and death from noxious effluvia, arising from want of drainage, I may adduce the following:— A long investigation recently took place before Mr. Baker, at the Windmill, Rosemary-lane, on view of the body of Mary White, aged 2 years. The inquiry was instituted by the medical officer of the White chapel union, in consequence of the many deaths which have taken place from a similar cause. Anne Briant, a married woman, said she had lived in Hayes-court about a week. During that period there was scarcely a house in which some one was not ill of fever. The child, her mother said, had been labouring under a fever for two months. Witness for the last week assisted the mother to attend the child. It died on Tuesday. Witness had no doubt that its death was caused by the impure atmosphere of the court. Several of the jury observed that the witness seemed to be in a state of fever, and Mr. Webb, the summoning officer, said that the whole of the inhabitants of the court had the same appearance. Mr. John Liddle, surgeon of White chapel union, said that he was first called to see the deceased on the 20th of August, in compliance with an order. It was then suffering from fever and diarrhœa. The parent would not let him go into the room, alleging that it was offensive and dangerous, and the mother brought the child to him at the next house. He prescribed for it, but the medicines would not act as they would have done in a healthy atmosphere. Witness has now six patients in that court. The first witness stated that she knew two children in another house, one of whom was dying of the fever, another was very bad. Coroner (to the surgeon): Do you register this a natural death?—Mr. Liddle: No, a death from the poisonous effluvia of the atmosphere from the want of drainage. It has been proved that the gas, in its pure state, arising from the decomposition of animal matter, is fatal; and M. Thénard, a French chemist, has found that 1.800 of its volume will destroy a dog, and 1 volume in 250 is sufficient to destroy a horse. Some course ought to be adopted, as the whole neighbour hood is liable to be attacked with fever. The jury returned the following verdict—' That the deceased died from diarrhœa and fever, caused by noxious and poisonous effluvium in Hayes-court from want of drainage. Mr. Roche, surgeon to the Lying-in Hospital, Liverpool, to the editor of the Journal of Public, Health:On the 28th of September, 1846, I was requested to visit a young man residing at Hard- wick-terrace, Prescot-street. I found him suffering from a severe attack of dysentery; and was not many minutes in the house when the smell all through the lower part of it became most offensive, arising from the privy and the cesspool, which were situated about four feet from the hall. On making inquiry, I was informed that whenever anything was thrown into it the stench was scarcely to be endured through the house, oven to the upper rooms. One disaster after another now occurred in this family; the father and two younger children were attacked with dysentery; the mother (who was near her confinement) soon became a prey to the same disease: and then, to crown the sad catastrophe, the two eldest children were seized with typhus fever, and the father's case took on typhoid symptoms. Here then were seven human beings placed in jeopardy by a most unwarrantable nuisance; and it is to be feared that this is only one instance among many in this town. The mother and youngest child with the infant died; all the others were spared, but their recoveries were very tedious, until I had them removed to another house in the neighbour hood, when in twenty-four hours the change in the father's case was most remarkable, and all the children got rapidly better; but the pecuniary resources of the family were entirely destroyed by their long illness. There were several persons ill in two houses of the same terrace, and doubtless from the same cause. I might multiply instances. Let me mention a case more particularly brought under my own notice. Any of my hearers interested in agriculture will be acquainted with the name of Mr. Josiah Parkes. He is conducting some extensive drainage works for the Crown, in executing which be bad a most intelligent foreman, of the name of Fewson. I bad a letter from him as follows:— Fewson is here, his mother being dead; she was buried yesterday. She was a nice, clean, and working, respectable woman, and, what is very vexing about her death is, that a nasty filthy town drain that runs under their house has been the cause of it. I tell Fewson he should inform Lord Morpeth of it. Such deaths are really awful, and of very common occurrence. Fewson is my superintendent of drainage in the Phœnixpark. He writes me that he fears, his father will fall a sacrifice also to the same disease. I wrote inquiring into the circumstances of the man, and received a letter from Mr. Cresskill, celebrated as a successful inventor of agricultural implements, in which he says— I find that within a space of 30 yards square there are 10 houses, wherein there have been 18 cases of fever, one of which, Mrs. Fewson, has died; and several others have had a very narrow escape. One medical gentleman, Mr. Boulton, a magistrate, who has attended 10 out of the 18 of the above named fever cases, is of the same opinion as myself, that those fever cases are brought on by the bad state of the drain, which is alongside of the 30 yards square; in fact, Fewson's house, I believe, is partly built upon it. The drain is a public one, for the use of the east part of the town; it is arched over about 20 feet beyond the 30 square yards, but from the yards there are side drains and grates without cesspools, and also beyond the 20 feet it is an open drain, the stench from which is at all times very offensive; it is one of the worst drains we have, but the whole drainage of the town is very bad, very shallow, with little fall, so that they always contain large quantities of stagnant water and filth, which, I fear, nothing can remove except your Health of Towns Bill. Another correspondent writes to me as follows:— I made inquiries of one of the most practical men in Beverley, who is well acquainted with the drainage of the neighbour hood, and is now professionally employed in the Barmston drainage, which runs from near Beverley to the sea, and he, while quite admitting how open the locality to which your Lordships' attention has been called is to complaint, yet assures me that there are many worse instances in the town, and that nothing but a general deepening of the drainage can effectually remedy the evil under which the town, in this respect, labours. This can only he accomplished through some such measure as your Lordship's Health of Towns Bill; and until that has been passed, and it is rendered compulsory on local authorities to deal with these evils, I feel assured your Lordship will not attain any satisfactory result by interference in an individual case like that which has been pointed out to you at Beverley. Am I taking an extreme instance? Is Beverley a remarkable place for its insalubrity? How is Beverley spoken of in a recent report of the state of Ipswich—a place I should not have thought exposed to any extraordinary unwholesome influences? I quote from Mr. Glyde's Report on Ipswich:— Average annual deaths in Suffolk (from a calculation of seven years), 1 in 51; in Ipswich more than 1 in 42. If we assume the population during this period to have been 25,600, and the rate of mortality to have been the same as Beverley and Yarmouth, the number would have been 512 instead of 603, showing a loss of 728 lives in eight years. This reference to Beverley shows that it is regarded as a favourable instance of a salubrious town. Infantine mortality is considered one of the most important tests that can be applied to prove the sanitary condition of a town. In Whit by, 26 per cent; in Lancaster, 29; York, 31; Ipswich, 39 per cent die under 5 years of age. In Ipswich there are 103 streets and lanes, 15 of which are without any drainage, 19 with surface drains on one side only, extending only partly through them, and 42 streets and lanes not paved.…Where there is no drainage, dampness is a general complaint. Paper rots on the wall, water rises in the cellar, and things get mouldy in the cupboard. There are several cases where 10 or 12 houses have privies in common. The purity of the water which comes to the town has been spoken of in high terms, and the ability to afford abundance generally acknowledged; yet the water from the pumps is complained of for its impurity, and many of the poorer classes have a great distance to fetch their water. On the head of expense, there were, in 1842, 82 deaths above the average of Huddersfield and Beverley. The general expenses of these, at 4l. 10s. each, amounted to 369,137l. Deaths were, from consumption, 41 above the average of England. Taking the duration of illness at nine months, the expense of sickness at 10s. per week, there is a loss from excess of deaths from consumption of 728l. If for every death there are 20 cases of sickness, an excess of 82 deaths would give 2,296cases of unnecessary sickness. Take the average expense of each case of sickness and medical attendance at 10s.,there is a loss from unnecessary sickness of 1,148l.; excess of funerals, 369l.; deaths from consumption, 728l.; unnecessary sickness, 1,148: total, 2,245. Now, of course, I cannot pretend to take the House through all the provincial towns, concerning which the most afflicting and appalling statements have come before me. I shall mention only one or two of the most recent details. This is from the account of a public meeting at Newcastle on-Tyne. Dr. Headlam said— He was sorry to say that streets and suburbs were rising with the same disadvantages. Streets were built without sewers, the ground not even leveled, and the soil in the centre saturated with filth. Mr. Currie, of the Working Men's Association, said— He and other members of the committee were appalled by the scenes they had witnessed. He had never conceived that a locality existed in so miserable a condition as Sand gate. There was not a privy in its whole length or breadth. Mr. Gallen resided in Westgate:— The annual value of the property was 25,000l. Little more of the property than was valued at 50,000l. was sewered. Places quite as bad as Sandgate. Dr. White:— The statements of Mr. Currie and Mr. Gallen were not overcharged. The misery of Sandgate could not be conceived; it must be seen to be realised. In one single room in that locality he had seen thirteen cases of fever. Mr. Green how:— They were too well aware of the unusual prevalence of fever in Newcastle for some time past. During the whole of the time while the gaol was surrounded by fever, there had been even less disease than usual within its walls. To what was this to be attributed? Simply to the adoption within the prison of those sanitary regulations which it was their object to extend to the whole community. Dr. Lonsdale, in his report on Carlisle, says— In the assurance tables of this country, the mortality in Carlisle within the last twenty years used to be estimated at 1 in 54 of the inhabitants; being lower than the present average of the fifteen healthiest counties in this kingdom. Now, in 1841, it was 1 in 39; being actually higher than that of the average of the fifteen unhealthiest counties. If, as is now admitted, the healthy and natural standard of mortality in England and Wales is 2 per cent per annum, or 1 in 50, it is evident that Carlisle, with its rate of mortality 1 to 39, or more than 2¾ per cent per annum, stands greatly in need of sanitary improvement. I might give you similar recent accounts of Hull, Bradford, Wolverhampton, and Hertford; but I feel that it would be out of the question to trouble the House at more length. I am greatly obliged to the House for the indulgence which it has already extended to me. I shall only quote one more extract, and that applies to the sanitary condition of Sheffield. It is from a report by James Heywood, chemist, and William Lee, civil engineer. They say— We wish we could find language sufficiently strong to impress upon the council the absolute necessity for immediate action. The case is desperate, and supine ness would be criminal. After the first few days' experience in our recent inspection, we were able, with an awful precision, not only to detect the unhealthy parts of the town, but the portions of streets, and the particular houses in streets and in courts, especially liable to febrile and other diseases. In hundreds of these we were able at once to describe to the sufferers all the symptoms of the disorders with which they were afflicted. The result of that inspection is a conviction which nothing can ever remove or weaken, that besides all the instances in which persons ultimately recover from long sickness and consequent distress, 1,000 at least are destroyed every year in this town by diseases which would have no existence under complete sanitary arrangements. To realise in the aggregate this unnecessary amount of mortality, and to appreciate the concomitant evils of domestic bereavement and pecuniary embarrassment, struggling poverty, and helpless pauperism following in its train, must appeall the mind of every member of the council, and lead to the most strenuous efforts in the application of remedial measures. They go on to say— That the water supply, cleansing, and paving, are at present in the hands of three distinct bodies, under the authority of as many distinct Acts of Parliament. The sewerage, though much has been done during the last few years, is illegitimate. All these must be harmoniously worked together as parts of the same system; and we are firmly convinced that this can only be done by placing them and all other sanitary arrangements under the control of one public body. We believe that in Leeds, and several other large towns, the sectional boards, tenacious of life, oppose this transfer of their present limited powers; but common sense dictates that in Sheffield and all other incorporated towns, the municipal council is the only body to whom these important powers should be intrusted. With regard to a particular part of Sheffield, they say— The cesspools here are generally full, and the accumulation of refuse so great, that the house adjoining is seldom occupied, and scarcely tenantable. It is a remarkable fact, that scarcely any of the children born in this yard who were attempted to be brought up came to maturity, for out of the four houses which it contains (one generally empty) no less than thirty children have died within the last forty years. In regard to another place, they say— Sixteen cases of fever and one of death have occurred in the adjoining houses within a few months; and four cases of fever and two deaths in houses whose windows are directly opposite to the point where drainage from this lane escapes into Edward-street. It is worthy of remark that no such cases have occurred in places further removed from this vicinity; the inference in this instance is irresistible." They add— We would suggest the adoption of the following measures; namely, better constructed dwellings, both as regards light and ventilation, and a liberal supply of water; the substitution of water-closets for the present open privies, and as many as possible of them in relation to the number of houses; also more spacious and commodious yards, well paved and drained, with public washing-houses and baths in populous districts; and, above all, places for proper and rational recreation. In the course of this survey, too long I fear for the patience with which the House has treated me, but with reference to the materials most rapid and imperfect—I have carried you to some of the towns and cities of this country most distinguished by its special characteristics. I have mentioned places which supply a great portion of the fuel that feeds our chimneys and furnaces—which forge the iron and steel which first shape and then waft along our countless manufactures—which weave the fabrics that on the banks of the Wolga meet and outsell the products of all the looms of Asia, and clothe the furthest tropics. Then let it not be said, or if it has been said hitherto, let it be said no longer, that the hives of this vast industry, the sources of these innumerable supplies of comfort and civilisation to mankind, the homes of the men who do and make these things, should be pre-eminently the seats of filth, of disease, of degradation in its worst shapes and forms; that toils the most unsparing, exertions the most successful, should be beset by influences the most deadening and enervating; that the herculean labour of England, which cannot be said to be still in its cradle, is not able to strangle the noisome reptiles which infest it. Even here this night, I claim for British labour and its agents, all the assistance and ap- pliances which our fostering care, our advancing knowledge can suggest. I do not ask you to overlay either local exertions or individual enterprise with State interference, or stifle them with too much looking after. I wish you to leave them in their ordinary action to their own resources and development; but I wish you to see that the imperial knowledge, science and skill—our best heads, and most adroit hands, are made available to show them the proper paths, and to take care that they do not go far astray from them.


was sure there would be but one feeling pervading the House of an earnest desire to remedy those evils which the noble Lord had so powerfully set before them. When the noble Lord brought forward a similar measure last Session, he could not acquiesce in it, not that he was less anxious than others for the welfare of his fellow-creatures, which he was sure the whole tenor of his life disproved; but his main reason for objecting to the measure was the reluctance which appeared to exist on the part of Her Majesty's Government to include the metropolis in the boon which was to be conferred on other towns. He thought that reluctance savoured of a wish to favour the constituency on account of the support which they had given to a leading Member of Her Majesty's Government. He confessed he did cheer when he thought that the noble Lord had introduced the metropolis into the present measure; but he had since found that he had been too hasty; for he had just learned, with some degree of disappointment, that the metropolis was still to be excluded from the Bill. The reason certainly could not be that the metropolis needed this measure less than other places. Let them look at St. Giles's and Billingsgate, and other parts of the metropolis, and let the noble Lord tell him what there was in those places which could induce the House to withhold from them the boon which was to be granted to other towns. They were told that a Commission had recently been appointed, and that the House must wait for its reports; but, he would ask, why were these reports not upon the table, and in possession of Members, before the noble Lord brought forward his Bill? The noble Lord had further told them that two paid Commissioners were to be appointed under this Bill; but the noble Lord had not told them what was to be their salary. He distrusted these measures of partial, and, therefore, of suspi- cious operation; but he was ready to support the principle of the measure, and even to contribute out of his own pocket to assist in carrying any measure which would benefit the working classes. He hoped, therefore, having made this declaration, which he would strictly adhere to, that he might be allowed to call upon the noble Lord to introduce a measure which should not be partial in its operation, for it would afford him the most sincere gratification if he could assist the noble Lord in carrying any measure which would, in the least degree, benefit his fellow-creatures.


hoped it was unnecessary to assure the House that he would be the last person to rise for the purpose of placing any obstacle in the way of a sanitary measure. He had listened with the deepest attention to the speech of the noble Lord in introducing the present Bill; and he rose merely with the view of directing the noble Lord's attention to one omission which he had hoped, from the notice he (Viscount Duncan) had placed that night on the table, would not have occurred. The noble Lord had remarked that there had been a great deal said and little done with respect to sanitary measures. He fully concurred in that assertion. But the noble Lord had also been pleased to say, that he had observed great apathy respecting this measure out of doors. He begged to tell the noble Lord that there was no apathy about sanitary measures out of doors, and that the working classes were anxiously looking for the interference of the Legislature on the subject. The noble Lord stated the object of the measure was to check obvious abuses. Now, he had listened attentively to the noble Lord's list of obvious abuses. The noble Lord had mentioned defective sewerage and drainage; but he thought the noble Lord spoke rather under his breath when he came to the subject of ventilation, although he remembered that not many years ago the noble Lord was quite eloquent on that subject, as well as on the window-tax. But how did it come that— His lips were now forbid to speak Those once familiar words? He held in his hand an extract from a speech delivered by the noble Lord in Wakefield, in the year 1846: that speech was delivered by the noble Lord after his re-election; and he said, amongst other matters, that the homes of the bulk of the population were inferior to what he should wish, them to be; they were capable of almost indefinite improvement—they required the admission of fresh air, good water, and wholesome light. Now, the question he had to ask the noble Lord was, why no mention had been made with respect to the window-tax on this occasion? He held in his hand a pamphlet, entitled the Report of the Committee of the Members of an Association who had met together to consider Lord Lincoln's Drainage and Sewerage. The noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) was at that time a Member of the Opposition, and had looked to the Bill introduced by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Lincoln) with all the eyes of jealous criticism, and he formed with other hon. Gentlemen, who were sitting around him, that Committee. He would read their names. [Lord MORPETH: I did not attend the Committee.] The noble Lord said he did not attend the Committee; but all he could say was, that the Committee had published this report with his name attached to it, and he had never heard the noble Lord deny that he was a Member of the Committee of the Health of Towns Association. If the noble Lord now denied it, he (Lord Duncan) begged the noble Lord would allow him to read the report of that Committee to refresh the memory of the noble Lord on this occasion. He remembered having read in Gulliver's Travels, that when Gulliver arrived in Laputa he found every one there was so deeply engaged in thinking of sublunary matters, that he required a flapper to refresh his memory. And if the noble Lord would allow him, he would act the part of a flapper to the noble Lord, and state what at least his Colleagues on the Committee had published on this subject. Nothing could be more clear or distinct:— They said that they had directed much attention to the subject of remedial measures necessary for the improvement of the sanitary condition of towns—that they had carefully considered Lord Lincoln's Bill page by page and clause by clause. Then Dr. Southwood Smith and the other members of the Committee declared it to be their opinion that no sanitary measure could be considered complete without that which they had observed had been altogether passed over in Lord Lincoln's Bill'—namely, the abolition of the window-tax; and that a wise Legislature would never think of stepping in between God's greatest gift and the population, by laying on a tax for the enjoyment of the light of heaven, without which life was scarcely bearable; the effect of which was to oblige the poor to pay quadruple that which was paid by the rich. He (Viscount Duncan) trusted to be able to show that such was the fact when they came to a discussion of the question on a future occasion. The Committee then spoke of the omissions in the Bill of the noble Earl, one of which was not making any modification of the mode of collecting the window-tax; and he perfectly agreed in the report of that Committee. He would next call attention to a report of the directors of the Metropolitan Association for the Improvement of the Dwellings of the Lower Classes; they stated they had paid much attention to the question of the window-tax, and wished that in any measure that was introduced, the Legislature would keep their attention fixed upon that point. He would now call attention to a case respecting the assessed taxation, reported to the House under the authority of three of Her Majesty's Judges. It was the case of an individual, who, having heard of the comfort to be derived from the proper ventilation of his dwelling-house, attempted to effect such ventilation by forming apertures in it. The name of the man was John Williams, of Penryn; and those apertures having been assessed as windows, he appealed against the charge of 6l. 17s. for three windows, and the Commissioners allowed his appeal; but three of Her Majesty's Judges having considered the case, decided that, according to the present law of the land, the man should be fined for having actually attempted to ventilate his dwelling. He did not now desire to draw on a discussion of the window-tax; but he wished to show the noble Lord that there was a strong feeling out of doors that no sanitary measure could be complete which did not embrace the subject of the window-tax. He would tell the noble Lord that the people of this country were looking forward to the revision of taxation, and expected to see taxation apportioned on each man according to his means. He could also tell the noble Lord that neither this nor any other sanitary Bill the noble Lord could introduce would be popular in this country unless the noble Lord grappled with the whole question.


said, the noble Lord who had moved for leave to introduce the Bill, had manifested all the zeal of a philanthropist with the ability of a statesman. The measure was large and comprehensive, and if followed up with vigour it could not fail of success. He thought the noble Lord had come to a judicious decision in having two paid Commissioners, as one, he thought, as was proposed by the measure of last year, would not be sufficient for the duty. With regard to the salaries of these offi- cers, he was satisfied there was no such false economy as the underpayment of public servants, and therefore he trusted the noble Lord would not be deterred, by any taunts or sneers that might be thrown out, from making the measure efficient by securing able Commissioners, and giving them adequate remuneration for their services. The annual salary of 1,000l. suggested last year, was, he thought, too little. Amidst so much that was gratifying, he was unwilling to use the language of criticism; and, therefore, if he did advert to an old grievance, still he hoped the noble Lord would not doubt that he felt grateful for what was proposed to be done. But he regretted that the question of interment in towns was a subject which was almost altogether omitted in the Bill. There was, indeed, a clause proposed which went as far as this, that if the Commissioners thought the health and life of the inhabitants would be endangered by continuing the practice of interment in any particular burying-ground, they should have power to prohibit the practice. If that was the whole that was proposed, he feared it would be very ineffective. Six years ago this question was brought forward by the hon. Member for Lymington; and the Secretary of State at that time said that the time for legislation upon the subject was fully come. The noble Lord, in his very powerful and effective speech, had alluded to the progress of typhus fever. Now, Dr. Chambers and Sir Benjamin Brodie both stated, before the Committee which sat upon the subject, that the typhus fever which prevailed, even in such streets as Brook-street, was to be traced to the putrid miasmas that escaped from the over-crowded graveyards of the metropolis. Mr. Russell said, it had become a serious question, with their increasing population, how burials in the existing graveyards could go on without danger to the public health. A mass of correspondence from the mayors and authorities of various towns were produced to the same effect; and if that volume were laid on the table of the House, it would be perhaps the most remarkable that was ever presented to Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State had found, however, in the recent Session of Parliament, such great difficulties in dealing with the subject, that he was compelled to abandon the attempt. In the following Session the hon. Member for Lymington said, that he would not wait for the Government, and accordingly he moved a resolution upon the subject of this great nuisance; and that Motion was carried, although the Government had declared that it was little short of a vote of censure. The right hon. Gentleman who was now Secretary of State for the Home Department, on that occasion urged the necessity of providing some remedy for the evil, and supported the Motion. In the following year the hon. Member for Lymington brought in his Bill, which was read a second time; and then, at the end of 1846, withdrawn, on a pledge being given that the Government would bring in a general measure on the subject. But last year this subject was altogether omitted from the general Bill brought in by the Government, on the ground that it would be better to deal with it in a separate Bill. It was clear, therefore, that there were some difficulties, some mysterious difficulties, in the way of the Government, which had never been explained; and he thought that they ought now to be informed what it was which prevented the Government from taking up this important part of the general subject. Dr. Milman, twenty years ago, had said that, in a return made to that House, it was stated that no more burials could take place in St. Margaret's churchyard; and, on one occasion, when a Committee of that House complained of the closeness of the committee-room, Mr. Bellamy said that, in consequence of the disagreeable exhalations from the churchyard the windows could not be opened; but that very day he had observed that another grave was, now opened in that very churchyard. He hoped, therefore, that some assurance would be given by the Government that supplementary Bills would be brought in to remove this and other nuisances not affected by the present measure; and if the noble Lord felt that the Government could not carry an efficient measure on the subject to which he had called attention, he hoped that he would state his reasons, and he (Mr. Horsman) was convinced that the public would come to his aid in order to enable him to surmount all obstacles. If it was a mere question of expense and of remuneration to the clergy, the feeling was now so strong that that House would have no objection to a vote for the purpose, to be "proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the people would joyfully submit to that sacrifice, for the purpose of getting rid of so great a grievance.


expressed his gra- tification at what had fallen from the noble Lord; but he regretted that an abuse which existed in the town which he represented, and to which last Session he had called the attention of the noble Lord, had still escaped amendment. The House would recollect that considerable discussion had arisen as to the mode of electing the commissioners to manage the local affairs of towns; and the Bill of last Session was attended with great difficulties, in consequence of its references to other Acts of Parliament, which had appointed a mode of election by plurality of votes; but he hoped that this Bill would state clearly what the mode of election was to be. He regretted the omission noticed by the noble Lord the Member for Bath. That morning he had formed one of a deputation that waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he had done all in his power to extract from the right hon. Gentleman what his notion of a window was, but his efforts were unavailing. With respect to the window-tax a strong feeling existed in the country, and he was sure that no measure would be satisfactory until light and air were admitted freely into dwellings, without the interference of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


felt rejoiced at the prospect they now had of some progress being made in the work of sanitary improvement; but while he approved of a large portion of what the noble Lord proposed, he ventured to suggest that as this measure was to be carried out coercively in some instances, and permissively in others, it would be attended with a large local expenditure. In whatever way it was carried out, it must be attended with local taxation in a heavy degree; therefore it behoved Her Majesty's Government and the House, in taking this general and comprehensive proceeding, and in extending the benefit of those improvements to all parts of the country, with a view to have purity of water, better air, and the removal of effluvia, to consider whether they should leave out of the category the removal of the window-tax and the removal of the churchyards—for the one tended to prevent ventilation above, and the other to putrify the water below. They must look at the subject as a whole; and all they could do would be fruitless, unless light and air were freely admitted to the houses of the poor; it would be a defective measure unless the window-tax was repealed altogether. That House of Commons might properly be called upon to fulfill the pledge of the last, and the repeal of the window-tax was a pledge which had been frequently given. Lord Althorp had given a pledge that that should be the first tax taken off, and that at all events it should not be increased; but the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had violated that pledge, and increased the tax; the faith of a Chancellor of the Exchequer was, therefore, shown not to be worth much, and he advised the House to take the matter into its own hands. It was a mockery to propose the present measure without the other; to continue the tax upon light and air, and to continue the burial-grounds, the source of so much pollution, and yet to pretend to legislate for the removal of a state of things disgraceful to a country claiming, as this did, to be a little civilised. He admitted that the Government deserved credit for what they had done; but he trusted that they would yet do more, and that what they did they would do effectually.


had not the slightest intention, when the noble Lord included his speech, of addressing the House on the occasion, for, generally speaking, it was more desirable to wait for the second reading of a Bill when the Bill was before the House, and when a person was much better able to discuss its merits than at the present moment. He should have adhered to that resolution, had not each of the hon. Members who had addressed the House began with great laudation of the noble Lord's Bill, and wound up their speeches by referring to the omissions in it. He would not follow their example, but rose for the purpose of protesting against those observations, and stating his opinion, that so far from their being a ground of complaint against the noble Lord for omissions, he thought he had acted most wisely in not encumbering the measure with any provisions that would interfere with its progress. So far as he could judge from the noble Lord's statement, the details were quite comprehensive enough already; and if the noble Lord could pass the Bill, the provisions of which the noble Lord had announced that evening, he was of opinion that the noble Lord would have made a valuable commencement of sanitary reform. He submitted it would be better to pass a measure of this kind, than run the risk of losing it by adding to it the difficult and intricate question of interment in towns. It was not because the noble Lord did not now allude to it, that he precluded himself from doing so hereafter. He hoped the noble Lord would be enabled to deal with that question more successfully than his predecessors. As to the window-tax, no person could doubt that in an abstract point of view it would be most desirable to get rid of the window-tax; but he had no doubt that the noble Lord, if he proposed its abolition, would find an impediment in his right hon. Colleague on his left, in the present state of the revenue. No doubt that a sanitary measure which embraced the repeal of the window-tax would be more complete, yet he thought it was wise to take what they could get. He could aid the hon. Gentleman that had preceded him by pointing out five or six other branches of sanitary reform which it might be desirable to press; but he could not complain of the noble Lord for not introducing them. He would now simply state that so far as he could judge from the statement of the noble Lord, his measure was a considerable improvement on that of last year. The local machinery was much more likely to meet with the approbation of the country than that proposed last year. The noble Lord had obviated this difficulty. In the Bill of last year he did not embrace the natural area of drainage; or, if he did, taxed many of the inhabitants without enabling them to elect those who imposed the taxes. He thought also the noble Lord was inclined to confine within legitimate limits the central authority, and permit no more meddling with local authority than was absolutely necessary. If all this turned out as he supposed, he anticipated for the measure a favourable issue.


observed, that a great change had taken place in the population of the country within the last half century. By the population returns, it was shown that in 1790, and from that period down to 1800, the labourers who were employed in husbandry were as two to one to the dwellers of the towns. But those proportions were now exactly reversed; and he thought this showed that a great change had taken place in the social pursuits of the population, and any Government desirous of improving their condition was called upon to make corresponding changes in its measures. The average increase of the population of this kingdom, from 1801 to 1831, had been, in five of the largest towns, 98 per cent; and since that period the increase had been going on in a still more rapid ratio than in those towns to which this measure could more particularly apply. In consequence of these vast changes in the social condition of the country, large masses of the population were suffering irreparable injury from the want of proper sanitary precautions. While the average annual mortality in the country districts was only two per cent, in the large towns it was three per cent; and in Liverpool, which unfortunately possessed celebrity in point of unhealthiness, the annual mortality had been 3½ per cent. But if the returns were more closely analysed, and the mortality of the working classes alone were taken, in particular districts it would amount to 4 and 5 per cent. And a great portion of this mortality arose from causes easily suppressed or removed. In 1840, the Health of Towns Commission prosecuted their inquiries, and their report strongly enforced the absolute necessity of large and comprehensive measures for the better draining and cleansing towns, and for a more plentiful and purer supply of water. In 1842, there was presented to the House a general report on the condition of the labouring classes. This report was the result of personal inquiries made by Mr. Chad wick; and he could not mention the name of Mr. Chadwick without adding his humble testimony to the great exertions of that Gentleman—to the ability, intelligence, and perseverance which he had directed to this important subject. He might differ on some points from Mr. Chadwick; but he would readily admit that the working classes owed a deep debt of gratitude to that gentleman for his benevolent and untiring exertions in their behalf. In that report of 1842, it was stated that the greatest evils were found to exist in the large towns—that those evils were removable, and many remedies were pointed out. In 1845, another Commission, of which he had the honour to be a member, was appointed. Its report, like those of its predecessors, stated that enormous evils existed in the large towns. The report pointed out the remedies, and these remedies were comprised in the provisions now brought forward in this Bill. The report was made up from inquiries prosecuted in 50 large towns, principally in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire, where the health of the inhabitants was most affected. The result of the inquiry, as to the three important points of drain- age, cleansing, and supply of water, showed that in scarcely one of the large towns was there a perfect supply of water; in 45 or 46 of the towns out of the 50, the supply was most imperfect, and its quality most unwholesome. He went into 16 of these towns, and he could state as a witness that any description that could possibly be given by the noble Lord of the suffering and wretchedness of the working classes could not be exaggerated. In the close courts and narrow alleys of the miserable and neglected neighbour hoods, evils of the most monstrous kind met the eye in every direction—evils which, he firmly believed, might be removed if the measures now proposed were supported by the House, and carried out by the country. Hon. Gentlemen complained that the Bill would entail a great expense on the country. Instead of causing additional expense, it would effect a considerable saving—it would be a measure of economy. It would not merely be a benefit to the poor, but it would also be a saving to the rich. It would diminish the poor-rates, and it would also diminish crime, inasmuch as it would remove many of the causes of crime. The country would repay itself doubly and trebly by the adoption of the measure. In this country it had always been held that the property of individuals was sacred, and the doctrine was right. He would ask the House—not as a matter of compassion, but as one of justice—whether the poor man's property—his health, his strength, his sinews, his power to labour—the poor man's only property—were not to be protected as well as the property of the rich? If they did not protect that property, did they do the poor man justice? The protection of the poor man's health would give him an improved condition and status in society. They would find, on inquiry, that the moral condition of the poor was in exact conformity with their physical condition. If the poor became dirty and degraded in the eyes of themselves and their neighbours, they at the same time became reckless of their character—they became discontented, and flew to intoxication as a brief remedy for the depressing sensations they experienced, and crime too often followed as a natural consequence. He had seen in the narrow alleys and confined courts of large towns, children, who certainly went to school; but all the benefit they might receive there was neutralised and destroyed by the evil habits, by the filth and dirt, they found when they arrived home. But the greatest hardship was not suffered by the man in possession of his power and his strength; he could be almost constantly from his home; the greatest hardship fell upon the wretched women and the children, the widow and the orphan. He trusted that the issue of the enlightened policy now begun would be successful. They would then witness a vast and pleasing change in the habits and condition of the poorer classes. Their comforts would be increased; and with that change intoxication would diminish, and crime would also diminish in an equal proportion.


had not had the good fortune to hear the opening statement of the noble Lord, and could not therefore follow him into details. The noble Lord the Member for Falkirk (Lord Lincoln), in telling them that the measure was a tolerably good measure, did not pay the House a very great compliment; for the noble Lord admitted that if it had been a very good measure, there would be no chance of its being carried. If the noble Lord had formed a just estimate of the House, he was quite sure that the House was no faithful reflection of public opinion. The people of England were straightforward—they liked bold and comprehensive measures. The measure introduced by the noble Lord might be considered very good by some persons; but he begged to tell Her Majesty's Government that it fell far short of public expectation. Instead of being hailed with public approval, it would be met by public disapprobation. The great and comprehensive measure which they had been last Session led to expect had not been brought forward. He had been given to understand that the metropolis was excluded. [Viscount MORPETH: It is reserved for a separate Bill.] Why should it be excluded from this Bill? And when was this separate Bill to come forth? The public had a right to expect that where the greatest nuisances existed, there the remedies should be first applied. And where was that? It was in London, in stinking London, in filthy London, that sanitary measures should begin. The Government left untouched the very centre of the disease, while the spots and blemishes on the more distant parts of the body were to be subjected to a Ministerial dressing. That omission would be viewed with great dissatisfaction. It was all very well when minor grievances were to be remedied: there was no difficulty then; but when a monster evil was to be swept away—for which the Ministers required energy and courage, they were generally found wanting. A comprehensive measure, to include London as well as all the other large towns, was loudly called for; but vested interests stepped in, and the Minister flinched from his duty. The churchyards were crying evils. But if the Minister attempted to interfere with the churchyards, the Church was at him, and he was compelled to give way. Was it not preposterous to talk of giving improved drainage and ventilation—to insure to the public plenty of air—and then to tax their windows? Did they imagine that the common sense of the people would be deceived by such humbug? Depend upon it, a proper construction would be put upon the measure out of doors. To talk of affording more light and air, and to omit the repeal of the window-tax, was ridiculous. The public were to have an addition to their taxes, and the most obnoxious of all taxes was to remain. The measure before the House was a great measure; the present Somerset House Commissioners had a great deal to do with it. The Commissioners had a great desire that the people should have a full supply of pure air; he was quite as anxious that they should have plenty to eat. The Commissioners were of opinion that human life was shortened—that the comfort and happiness of the poor were destroyed by impure air, by want of drainage, and want of water. In short, they believed that the health of the poor man was injuriously affected by everything except a water-gruel diet. They seemed to forget that if they gave the poor man more air, and air of a purer quality, he would want something more to eat. The Bill, however, seemed to meet with general approval in the House. That extraordinary decapitated party on the opposite benches—the great Conservative party—made no signs of opposition. What the country most required now-a-days was a good Opposition—not a decapitated Opposition—not the opposition of a party that were known as land crabs, from progressing backwards. If the decapitated party would bestir themselves, they might have everything their own way. The noble Lord would have no occasion to designate the Bill as a tolerable measure; he might have made it a good measure. But now every measure emanating from the Government was received with gratitude by this generous assembly. As the representative of a large metropolitan constituency, he had a right to complain that they had not come forward in a more manly way. It was monstrous for them to introduce a sanitary measure, and to allow the window tax to remain, What would the large towns say to the measure? They would say, "You dare not meddle with the metropolis; you allow the window-tax to remain, and put additional taxes upon us." He felt grateful to the noble Lord for the exertions he had made in the cause of sanitary reform; but what the country wanted, and what he had hoped for, was, that the noble Lord should stand erect and bid defiance to all interested opposition. He must frankly confess that the noble Lord had not, in his opinion, given them such a measure as the country had a right to expect. He hoped the noble Lord would reconsider the measure—that he would make it more comprehensive; and the noble Lord might rest assured that he would have the people with him. It had long been the character of the Whigs, that when they had succeeded in doing a certain amount of good, and when they had the opportunity and should have done more good, they had uniformly brought discredit on what they had done, by refusing to go forward. The noble Lord had lately had representations made to him by gentlemen of the medical profession, and had signified his full accordance in their views; but yet he had not given them the measure they had a right to expect. The medical profession would not receive with gratitude the measure now before the House. The sanitary question was the question of the day: it was a question intimately connected with the welfare of the people—with their physical condition and moral improvement. It was a question perfectly well understood by the public. He (Mr. Wakley) did not think the noble Lord would receive that public gratitude which he expected, and he would probably deem the people ungrateful; but, considering the monster grievances which were left untouched by the Bill, it would be unreasonable to expect that they should be contented with its provisions. He asked the noble Lord why the metropolis was excluded? It was because the measure was not thought to be agreeable or convenient to the nasty turtle-eating corporation. Why did Her Majesty's Ministers not resist the soup influence? Why should that influence be allowed to prevail against any measure calculated to benefit the com- munity? Why should the corporation resist, as it constantly did resist, the Government whenever they were disposed to do something for the public good? Then, with regard to the important question of intramural interments. The noble Lord was perfectly aware of the poisonous effluvia arising from the metropolitan graveyards—he was equally well aware of its dangerous effects; but he could not encounter the opposition of the Church. The clergy had a vested interest in the churchyards, and it was not convenient for Government to interfere. Did the noble Lord believe—would the House believe—that the masculine mind of the people of England would be content with a measure of this kind—a measure which did a little, and then shirked the remainder? The public would be dissatisfied, and they had a right to be dissatisfied. The people in the towns would, more particularly, be dissatisfied with a measure which fastened on them a new burden for sanitary improvements, while it did not relieve them from the burden of the window-tax. He would again ask the noble Lord to reconsider the measure. Let his Lordship include the whole of the kingdom in one Bill. Let him not be content with remedying the minor grievances, but at once strike at the root of the mischief. He would bring to the mind of the noble Lord what was now going on in the metropolis. The noble Lord had lately received a deputation from Islington, in the centre of which densely populated district it was proposed to erect a fever hospital. Did the noble Lord propose to take powers in the Bill to prevent the establishment of such a nuisance? Who was one of the principal promoters of this fever hospital? No less a personage than Dr. South wood Smith, one of the Health of Towns Commissioners. The noble Lord did not propose to take powers to prevent this nuisance: he proposed nothing of the kind. The noble Lord told the House that he was afraid the accumulation of filth in the metropolis and large towns would create typhus, and that the typhus might become general; but here it was proposed to introduce the evil, in its worst form, in the very heart of Islington. The noble Lord knew that the ground had been purchased, and that the building of this fever hospital was about to be commenced; yet, with that knowledge, the noble Lord took no power in the Bill to prevent such an infliction. What an inefficient, miserable measure it must be! No such a thing could by possibility happen in Paris. There they had a public body always sitting, receiving deputations, and collecting information on the state of public health. Sub-committees were appointed to superintend separate districts. Those sub-committees reported to the Committee of Public Health, and that Committee, in its turn, reported to the Minister. If any erection was deemed injurious to public health, it was at once prevented. What would be the feelings of the people of Islington with regard to the measure of the noble Lord? When they found that it offered no remedy to them, they would be disappointed and indignant. He did entreat the noble Lord to extend the scope of the Bill, to rely upon the good sense and proper feeling of the people. If he were just to them, they would be just to him, and give him the best support he could desire.


begged, as a member of the corporation of the city of London, and as a commissioner of sewers, to make a short statement on some of the topics adverted to by the hon. Member for Finsbury. That hon. Gentleman had spoken of the corporation of the city of London as a nasty and turtle-eating body. Now there might be some difference of opinion as to the applicability of the word nasty, but there could be none as to the turtle. The hon. Member, however, could not be aware of the extent to which the corporation had effected sanitary reform, otherwise he would not have spoken as he had. He believed that the city corporation were the first metropolitan body who attempted to grapple with the sanitary question. He believed that every main street, and almost every court and by-street, had been sewered at enormous cost; and it was only bare justice to the commissioners of sewers, who represented the corporation, to say that they were most solicitous to avail themselves of every known improvement; and his belief was that the city of London would not be found to interpose obstacles when the Government attempted to deal with the entire metropolis. The corporation knew that the city formed an integral portion of the metropolis; it knew that the sewers already laid down would require to be adjusted so as to suit the metropolitan sewers; but at the proper time it would be seen that the corporation would throw no obstacles in the way of a comprehensive measure. He might also speak of a part of the city with which he was connected, the ward of Billingsgate. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Col. Sibthorp) had spoken of the districts of St. Giles and Billingsgate in no very complimentary terms. He (Mr. Alderman Sidney) was prepared to testify to the healthy position of Billingsgate. He had the pleasure lately of dining with a party of thirty gentlemen who lived in that ward; and of these twenty laid claim to having lived upwards of fifty years in the locality. He had also to state that the constituency of Stafford, whom he had the honour of representing in that House, had requested him to give his hearty support to any general measure of sanitary reform. He had assured them that he should do so, provided the Government consented to allow the ratepayers in towns and boroughs to control the details. He understood that the present measure provided for some general supervision on the part of a Government board, but that the ratepayers should have a control in the management; and such being the case, he should give the measure a hearty support. It was a question in which his constituents were deeply interested; for he regretted to say that the statistics of mortality showed the number of deaths to be one in thirty three in Stafford, while in some other places the mortality was not more than one in sixty-six. He sincerely hoped that the attention of the Government would be directed to the prohibition of intramural interments, to the abolition of the window duties, to the removal of markets from crowded thoroughfares, and other points bearing more or less on the promotion of the public health.


said, that the public had already had a specimen of what legislative interference would be in the proceedings of the Metropolitan Sewers Commission. The commissioners, at their first meeting, ordered that a block-plan of the metropolis should be prepared, and they calculated that the survey and plan would cost 61,000l. It would cost more than five times that sum. If the system pursued in the metropolis were carried out in the country, the measure would be enormously expensive. In his opinion there existed no necessity for a block-plan, inasmuch as the 6th and 7th William 4, c. 96, provided that all towns should be surveyed for the purpose of assessing the poor's rate; and all the suburban districts had been surveyed under the Tithe Commutation Bill. He hoped some means would be taken to establish a system of medical police—he considered that to be a most important point.


begged to ask the noble Lord whether it were intended to bring in a similar Bill for Ireland?


said, that as soon as the present measure could be matured, he hoped that the Secretary for Ireland would be able to supply a similar measure for Ireland.


begged to ask the noble Lord when the separate Bill for the metropolis would be brought in?


A Bill for extending and consolidating the Commission of Sewers will be introduced immediately; and the Sanitary Bill for the metropolis will be brought forward as soon as the Sanitary Commissioners make such representations as the Government can properly act upon; which will be, I hope, in the course of a few days.


approved of the measure so far as it went; but expressed his sorrow and deep regret that its provisions were not to be made applicable to all parts of the kingdom. He could not see why its provisions should not be extended to Ireland and Scotland. He looked upon this omission as a most serious error. He conceded to the Government every credit for their good intentions regarding the sister country, and he was far from thinking them amendable to the charge which had frequently been brought against preceding Administrations, that when they had a good measure to give they tried it first upon England, and that when they had a bad measure to dispose of they made the first experiment in Ireland. He said he was not disposed to agree with those who brought such charges against the Government. But still he could not help again expressing his regret that they were not about to give this good measure a trial in Ireland. It was not pretended that Ireland was less in need of sanitary improvement than this country. In point of fact, if there was one part of the United Kingdom more than another which especially stood in need of a new sanitary system, it was Ireland; and if there was one place more than another in Ireland requiring a thorough cleansing it was Dublin. He would read some portions of the evidence taken before Mr. Abraham Heywood, of Dublin, the Queen's Counsel, a gentleman well known to many hon. Members in the House. Mr. Heywood had been appointed to inquire into the merits of a Bill introduced some time since, and intended for the benefit of the city of Dublin, and in the course of his inquiry he elicited a large amount of information regarding the sewerage, drainage, paving, &c, of the city, to which he (Mr. Reynolds) begged to call the attention of the noble Lord. [The hon. Gentleman read extracts from the report, and also from the evidence of Mr. Willis, showing the defective condition of the sewerage, some of the most important squares, and many streets in the city, being wholly destitute of sewers; and in many others the sewerage was so extremely defective as to be almost useless. The consequences were, the contraction of habits of the utmost carelessness and filth by the lower orders of the people, the increase of fever, the establishment of malaria, and the nursing of hosts of diseases of various de scriptions in the crowded dirty back streets and by-lanes.] He would only, after having read these extracts, express a hope that the noble Lord would take into his consideration the propriety of extending the provisions of the Bill to all parts of the kingdom. He was not going to allude to that colossus of the kingdom, the giant corporation of the city of London, nor to the part adopted by that colossus towards the noble Lord's measure. But he had to allude to the giant's sister, the corporation of Dublin. Standing as he did as sponsor for that body, he begged to assure the noble Lord that nothing would give them greater satisfaction than the introduction of the provisions of the Bill into their city; and he trusted that the question of their extension to them would be taken into consideration by Her Majesty's Cabinet. The question, too, ought to be considered in connexion with that most obnoxious impost the window tax; for he believed no measure for the improvement of the sanitary condition of the people would give general satisfaction unless it were accompanied by the abolition of a tax on light and air.


said, that having paid much attention to the subject of sanitary improvement, the House would; excuse him for making a few remarks on statements which had fallen from some previous speakers. He intended to have followed the hon. Member for Finsbury; but he rejoiced that he had not done so, as it had afforded an opportunity to a member of the corporation which had been so hardly spoken of, to vindicate its procedure and intentions. As the hon. Member for Fins bury did not hear the statement of his noble Friend, it might be inferred that he did not thoroughly understand the question in its details, or at least that he had learnt them at second-hand. The hon. Gentleman was wrong in his calculation with regard to Paris. A city with hardly any sewers, where cesspools universally prevailed, could hardly be considered as a model for adoption. Imperfect in many respects as London was in sanitary appliances, it must be allowed that Paris was a great deal worse. The hon. Member for Finsbury also complained of the proposal to erect a fever hospital in a crowded parish. He thought that a gentleman connected with the medical profession would have appreciated the difficulties which beset such a question, looking at the feeling which ought to be shown for the patients. When the enormous extent of the metropolis was considered, the miles upon miles of buildings on every side which existed, it must be considered that it was no light thing for a fever patient to be conveyed and jolted through crowded thoroughfares till he arrived at some hospital built on a spot which had not yet been surrounded with buildings. A moment's consideration should convince the hon. Member that the question could not be disposed of in the off-hand and easy way he seemed to suppose. With regard to the expense of the survey referred to by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Wyld), he (Lord Ebrington) believed that, from the best estimate, the expense would be 27,000l, exclusive of the cost of engraving. The noble Lord, in conclusion, congratulated the House on the unanimity with which the proposed measure of his noble Friend had been received.


approved of the Bill, and thought the noble Lord had exercised a wise discretion in excluding the metropolis from its operations, and trusted he would make it the subject of separate legislation.


expressed his approbation of the Bill.


replied. He begged to express the gratitude which he felt towards hon. Members for the manner in which they had received the statement he had had the honour to make; and he hoped he might look upon it as ominous of future success. The only comment with which he was at all disposed to quarrel had been made by the only hon. Member who had not heard the statement. He was glad to see the hon. Member (Mr. Wakley) again in his place, in full health—certainly in full vigour; but if he had heard the explanation of the provisions and intentions of the Bill, he would have spared some of those remarks in which he had indulged. He (Viscount Morpeth) would not repeat what he had already stated respecting the metropolis. He looked upon it as most desirable that they should apply to the metropolis the same principles of legislation which were deemed correct as applied to all other parts of the country. There was no intention to make any exception; but there were certain particulars and details in the case of London which rendered it absolutely necessary that there should be separate legislation. He was strongly of opinion, seeing all that was now being done there, that the metropolis would in time take the lead in sanitary progress, and present a perfect model to the rest of the country. With regard to the suggestion of establishing fever hospitals in the outlets, it would receive the most serious attention from the Government; but the transference of fever patients would be certainly attended with serious difficulty. But it would hardly have been wise in the Government to have attempted to introduce into that measure such arrangements as would have opened up the large and extensive question of the establishment of cemeteries—a subject that required great deliberation and caution. The Bill, however, was comprehensive enough in this respect; not only, as he had stated, would it be in the power of the Central Board to prohibit the use of any burial-ground which was shown to be obnoxious to the public health, but it would also be enacted—and this he had omitted to state—that in future, after the passing of this Act no corpse or corpses should be buried in any new burial-ground which had not obtained express license. Powers would also be taken for purchasing or hiring premises for the reception of the dead, previous to their interment, the want of which accommodation had been the source, he believed, of much distress, many harassing scenes, and many injurious influences among the poor. The Government would not shrink from their duty on all these subjects; but hon. Members must remember that they were subject to the usual law in human affairs; they could not do everything at once, and if they attempted such an impossibility the result would assuredly be that they would do nothing at all.

Leave given.

Bill brought in and read a first time.