§ LORD ASHLEY
had now to bring under the consideration of the House a subject very homely in appearance after the stirring questions that had so lately agitated the public mind; but one which he thought he should be able to show was of vital importance to large classes of the community. Twenty years ago it would have been necessary to state many principles, and urge 1259 many arguments; now, he believed it was necessary merely to state the evil and indicate the remedy, but he should wish to lay before the House the experience of himself and others in regard to the subject—one which he had studied for several years, and in reference to which he could say that he believed a very great existing evil, pressing upon a large portion of the labouring community, might be removed, and that without establishing institutions of an eleemosynary character. He would first call the attention of the House to the condition of this population, looking upon it as stationary and as migratory. To begin with what might be called the stationary population, those who were living in houses, not removing every week or night by night from one lodging-house to another, but permanently settled. A return made in 1842 gave the following result of a house-to-house visitation in St. George's, Hanover-square, reported to the Statistical Society:—1,465 families of the labouring classes were found to have for their residence only 2,174 rooms; of these families 929 had but one room for the whole family to reside in, 408 had two rooms, 94 had three, 17 four, 8 five, 4 six, 1 seven, 1 eight; the remaining three families were returned "not ascertained." If this was so in one of the best parishes in London, what must be the condition of the over-populous and more needy parishes in the east of London? Now, this return said nothing of the condition of a great many of the residences of the working people, in which there was not one family in a room, but two families, three, four, and, as he had himself seen, five; four occupying the corners, and the fifth the middle of the room. To look first at the moral aspect of the subject: In these rooms there were grown-up persons, male and female, of different families, or the same family, all living together; in these rooms every function of nature was performed. How could decency be preserved? Education was impossible; pernicious example was ever before the child, Who could wonder that in these receptacles nine-tenths of the great crimes, the burglaries, and murders, and violence, that desolated society, were conceived and hatched? Or if the physical state of these people were considered, what must be the condition of dwellings with 8, 10, 20, or 25 persons, or even more, living in a single room? Nothing produced so evil an effect upon the sanitary condition of the population as overcrowding within limited spaces; 1260 and if people were in a low sanitary condition, it was absolutely, impossible to raise them to a just moral elevation. Their general state of health and capacity for work reduced, they must be brought upon the parish, and the general charity of the community. Here was a very remarkable statement of the evils of a system existing now over the length and breadth of this metropolis and all our large towns; it was an exemplification of the effects of living in a crowded atmosphere. In the report of the London Fever Hospital for 1845, of one particular room in an establishment it was said—It is filled to excess every night, but on particular occasions commonly 50, sometimes from 90 to 100 men, are crowded into a room 33 feet 9 inches long, 20 feet wide, and 7 feet high in the centre. … The whole of this dormitory does not allow more space, that is, does not admit of a larger bulk of air for respiration, than is appropriated in the wards of the Fever Hospital for three patients.What was the consequence? Why, that considerably more than one-fifth part of the whole admissions into the Fever Hospital for that year—no less than 130 patients affected with fever—were received from that one room alone. The experience of the Board of Health went to the same point. The horrible desolation in the children's infirmary at Tooting was found to arise principally from enormous numbers being crowded in small ill-ventilated apartments. A similar case occurred, about the same time, in Hackney, in a charitable institution where the parties were well cared for, well fed, well warmed, well clothed, surrounded by a district in which there was not one death, and yet the mortality in that establishment amounted to no less than 10 or 15 per cent of the inmates, simply because they were put in ill-ventilated and closely-crowded apartments. Such was the condition of the stationary population; this was what might be seen by any one who would take a walk into the more crowded parts of the metropolis. How was it with the migratory population—those who flitted from one lodging-house to another, and were perpetually moving? Here was a report made by one of the city missionaries:—On my district is a house containing eight rooms, which are all let separately to individuals who furnish and relet them. The parlour measures 18 ft. by 10 ft. Beds are arranged on each side of the room, composed of straw, shavings, rags, &c. In this one room slept, on the night previous to my inquiry, 27 male and female adults, 31 children, and two or three dogs, making in all 1261 58 human beings breathing the contaminated atmosphere of a close room. In the top room of the same house, measuring 12 ft. by 10 ft., there are six beds, and, on the same night, there slept in them 32 human beings, all breathing the pestiferous air of a hole not fit to keep swine in. The beds are so close together that, when let down on the floor, there is no room to pass between them; and they who sleep in the beds furthest from the door can, consequently, only get into them by crawling over the beds which are nearer the door. In one district alone there are 270 such rooms.The statement went on to say—These houses are never cleaned or ventilated; they literally swarm with vermin. It is almost impossible to breathe. Missionaries are seized with vomiting or fainting upon entering them. 'I have felt,' said another, 'the vermin dropping on my hat like peas. In some of the rooms I dare not sit, or I should be at once covered.'These were some of the worst instances. But, though they were the worst instances, it must be recollected that these houses were the receptacles of thousands. He hoped the House would forgive his going into these details, because the conclusion he desired to enforce was not to be proved by argumentation, but by an induction of facts, the collection of which must be the result of much inquiry and long investigation. He was sorry to say the state of things he had described was not confined to London. It prevailed in many parts of the kingdom, and in almost all the great towns. The following was an extract from a report of Mr. Rawlinson, an inspector of the Board of Health, being a communication from a clergyman in Dover:—From a ministerial experience of thirteen years, first in a parish of 7,000 souls, then in a parish of 20,000, and now in a parish of 10,000, I am perfectly satisfied of the close connexion subsisting between the sanitary and moral condition of our poorer classes. At Fulham, Maidstone, and Dover, I found, without any exception, the worst demoralisation in the worst constituted dwellings and neighbourhoods, the one being-traceable from the other directly as effect from cause. I affirm, in conscience, that to raise them while they live in such places and under such circumstances as they do now, is impossible. No sense of decency or self-respect can struggle against the difficulty; and the chief force of our pastoral ministrations is rendered nugatory. I may add, that I have very rarely met with a parish priest, accustomed to minister in a large town, who has not fully felt the same conviction. The relieving officer for Charlton stated—'There are 650 houses, or rather substitutes for houses—hovels. The whole parish is one receptacle for filth. In reference to Barwick's-alley, where there are about fifty separate small huts, built in steps, one over the other, against a steep hill-side, there are but three privies attached, and there is only one very dirty draw-well to supply the whole neighbourhood with water. The horrid state of this alley is beyond description.1262 Birmingham was in the same condition; so were Manchester and Leeds. He could make that statement from his own personal experience, having examined Manchester from one end to the other. Morpeth was worth mentioning, because, being a small town, it afforded a very fair sample of what occurred in small towns. Of these, there was scarcely one in the kingdom where a measure of the kind he proposed ought not to be brought into operation. Looking to Morpeth, the inspector said—In Lumsden's-lane I found lodging-houses dirty and crowded, one of which was over a large ashpit, the same where the woman had died of cholera. At the head of Lumsden's-yard there are also open middens and privies, the drains from which pass under the adjoining cottages.And he went on to describe a place called Bell's-yard. He proceeded:—This state of things surrounds the poor inhabitants with a surface of visible filth, and also keeps them in an atmosphere of foul gases, where the seeds of disease most readily ripen. Fever, according to the medical evidence, is almost constant in these places; and cholera, as shown, is first developed in such rooms as that over the privy and ashpit situated in Lumsden's-lane. This undue crowding is as destructive to the property as to the health of the poor inhabitants. The wet and damp retained by the middens generate rot, and the surface filth is trodden into the houses, the cleansing of which is consequently neglected, and the result is rapid decay. If a labouring man is compelled, for want of better accommodation, to reside in such tenements, he loses his health, loses his labour, and the owner cannot obtain payment from a family reduced to pauperism, and so he loses his rent.That was a state of things which was frequently found to exist. A labouring man came to a town where employment was to be had, when he was in the prime of life, from 25 to 35, and capable of making 15s., 20s., or 25s. a week. It was necessary he should take a lodging near the place where his work was carried on. The tenements he had to choose from were many of them in ill-drained, ill-ventilated neighbourhoods, and of the filthy description already mentioned. From these, however, he was compelled to make his selection. What was the consequence? The consequence, as appeared from the testimony of city missionaries and minister of all denominations, was that of hundreds and hundreds of these men, who came in the prime of life to a town in search of employment, it was found, ere long, that their health was broken down, that they came on the parish, that they sank into the grave, and that they left their wives and families a permanent burden on the community. Now, 1263 the following graphic description of the lodging-houses in Morpeth was furnished by the town-clerk:—The table will show the narrow space afforded to each, but it can give no idea of the actual state of the rooms, or the scenes they exhibit. Those that offer beds have these articles of luxury filled with as many as can possibly lie upon them. Others find berths below the beds, and then the vacant spaces on the floor are occupied. Among these is a tub filled with vomit and natural evacuations. Other houses have no beds, but their occupiers are packed upon the floor, in rows, the head of one being close to the feet of another. Each body is placed so close to its neighbour as not to leave sufficient space upon which to set a foot. The occupants are entirely naked, except rugs drawn up as far as the waist; and when to this is added that the doors and windows are carefully closed, and that there is not the least distinction of sex, but men, women, and children lie indiscriminately side by side, some faint idea may be formed of the state of these places, and their effect upon health, morals, and decency. Fevers prevail, and the sick-ward of the workhouse is filled with typhus in its worst form from these places.A gentleman, who had taken a great interest in the examination of towns, with a view of obtaining some remedy for the existing evils, gave an account of a part of Leeds, in which he stated that in a yard he inspected—was a house containing one room, with one bed in it, and no fewer than eight persons were found occupying it. In the same yard was another house, comprising two rooms, and containing three beds, and 31 persons were occupying them, giving an average of more than 10 persons to each bed. In that yard there were several other houses, in which three, four, or five persons occupied each bed. In a semicircle, drawn in a radius of about a quarter of a mile, they found 222 such lodging-houses.What wonder, then, that typhus fever greatly prevailed? that the medical officers reported that it mainly had its origin in the low lodging-houses of the town? Again, another from Bradford writes—In some of these cellar-dwellings, of about four yards square, there were collected sometimes 20 persons, some in beds, some on the floor; some naked men and women together; children in the smallpox in the midst of them. One of these lodging-house keepers had been fined a few days before for having taken in so many. 'Sir,' said he, 'what is to be done with these people? there are not houses for them; can I let them lie in the street? 'I am told,' said his informant, 'that supposing Bradford to contain 60,000 people, at least One-fourth are at this moment thus lodged.'He should mention only one other place in London, for the purpose of showing the absolute necessity that existed for some remedy similar to that which he contem- 1264 plated; because it was right that the House should know the effect that clearances and alterations, made with the view of beautifying the metropolis, had on the accommodation of the working classes. When the great thoroughfare of New Oxford-street was opened, a great number of wretched dwellings were cleared away, and no provision was made for the accommodation of those inhabitants who were displaced, so that while the formation of that street added to the beauty of the town, it had the effect of exaggerating the evil that pressed on the humbler classes. There was a district in Bloomsbury called Church-lane, one of the filthiest that existed in the metropolis, and one of the most unsafe to visit, from the constant prevalence of fever. It was examined in 1848 by the Statistical Society, whose committee stated in their report that it presented—a picture in detail of human wretchedness, filth, and brutal degradation. In these wretched dwellings, all ages and both sexes, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, grown-up brothers and sisters, the sick, dying, and dead, are herded together. Take an instance: House No. 2, size of room 14 feet long, 13 feet broad, 6 feet high; rent 8s. for two rooms per week—under-rent, 3d. a night for each adult. Number of families, 3; 8 males above 20; 5 females above 20; 4 males under 20; 5 females under 20; total, 22 souls. Landlady receives 18s. a week; thus a clear profit of 10s. State of rooms filthy.Now, the average number of persons in each house in Church-lane was 24, in 1841; when an examination took place in the end of 1847 the average was 40 persons to each house; and he desired particularly to direct the attention of the House to the fact that, the parties who had swelled those numbers were people displaced along that line of street occupied now as New Oxford-street, displaced in consequence of the formation and beautifying of that thoroughfare. When great improvements were in progress it was a matter for consideration whether provision ought not to be made for the accommodation of those removed, not only for their own sakes, but for the sake of the community, who were exposed to peculiar danger from the confluence of many persons into places which fostered typhus and cholera. Now, to give a summary of the state of the country, he would mention that the inspectors of the Board of Health had examined 161 populous places, the aggregate population being 1,912,599; and he might safely say that, without ex- 1265 ception, one uniform statement was made with respect to the domiciliary condition of large masses of the workpeople, that it was of one and the same disgusting character. It was therefore to meet such a state of things that he asked leave to bring in a Bill which should be as nearly as possible a transcript of the Baths and Wash-houses Bill. That measure had not been fully worked out in all respects as he trusted it would be; it was coming slowly into operation; but, where it had been applied, it had conferred a boon on the people, of which the benefits were incalculable. The provisions of the Bill he now asked leave to bring in would be—1, That the Act might be adopted in certain boroughs and parishes; 2, that the council of any borough might adopt the Act, the expenses to be charged on the borough funds; 3, that on requisition of ten ratepayers, churchwardens might convene a vestry to determine whether the Act should be adopted, but the resolutions were not be deemed carried unless two-thirds voted for it; 4, that, when the Act was adopted, the vestry should appoint commissioners for carrying the same into execution; 5, that the overseers levy, as part of the poor-rate, such sums as the vestry should deem necessary; 6, that vestries of two or more parishes might concur; 7, that town councils and commissioners might erect lodging-houses, or adapt buildings, or purchase existing houses; 8, that if lodging-houses were considered unnecessary, or too expensive, they might be sold with the approval of the Treasury; 9, that the council and commissioners might make bylaws, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, and also fix charges subject to an appeal to the Poor Law Board; and, 10, which was a necessary provision, that no person receiving parochial relief should be allowed to be a tenant. This Bill he proposed to be altogether permissive, and not compulsory; it was desirable to follow, in this request, the precedent of the baths and washhouses. He might now state from some experience of the model lodging-houses, what good effects they had produced. Nothing was more remarkable than the cheerfulness with which the rents were paid. By an accurate or rigorous system, by not allowing rents to fall into arrear, the greatest punctuality was observed, equally beneficial to the parties who let, and the parties who paid. Another advantage was the freedom from disease. There was a very remarkable statement 1266 by Dr. Duncan, an officer of the Board of Health, writing from Liverpool, with reference to the effect which even a registration of lodging-houses had attained:—In a certain number of registered lodging-houses, the history of which has been traced, there occurred annually, before registration, which involves supervision, prevention of overcrowding, and attention to cleanliness, 150 cases of fever. During the late epidemic there occurred in these houses only 98 cases of cholera, while the total cholera cases in the town were to the fever cases of the preceding years referred to as two to one. So that cholera after registration was only in the proportion of one to three as compared with fever before registration.The Model Lodging-house in George-street, Bloomsbury, was within a stone's throw of Church-lane. The ravages of cholera in Church-lane were dreadful; in the model buildings in George-street, Bloomsbury, not one person died, and there was only one case of diarrhœa, which speedily yielded to medical treatment. There was another benefit. The wages the people earned they kept. These were not expended on medical relief or the beershop. The accommodation offered in these houses held out inducements to remain at home; the possibility of cultivating some of the better part of man had been the means of reforming many in these establishments. These parties said, "The wages we earn we now keep." It was impossible to go among them without hearing the liveliest expressions of gratitude. One who visited the Model Lodging-house in Streatham-street would see the advantage to children, who had a large open space for play, instead of running in the streets and forming evil associations. Some objections had been stated to the system. First, it was said an increase of rent was a consequence which working people would not be able to boar. Assuming an increase, he was convinced they would be able to bear it, from the greater health they enjoyed, and the greater activity and diligence they would be able to bestow on their work. In many instances a working man was calculated to lose about 30 days in a year. At 1s. 6d. each day, the loss would be 2l. 5s., which was a vast deal more than any increase of rent for superior accommodation. He would say, besides, there was no increase of rent, but a diminution, and with that an adequate profit. It was stated that—The average rent paid in Snow's-rents, Westminster, 'a vile place,' was, in 1844, 2s. 4½d. per week per room. The people employed in the docks 1267 pay from 1s. 6d. to 3s. per week for single rooms, which for filth and disgusting appearance were such wretched hovels as defied giving a fair description of them. The single men pay in the lodging-houses 1s. 6d. per week for half abed, and 2s. for single beds, several sleeping in the same room, wanting in comfort, cleanliness, &c.Another statement was, that the apartments rented by the London Dock labourers were at 2s. to 4s., the average being 3s. per week per room. Another person said—As near as I can judge, the average price paid per week for the wretched rooms occupied by the lowest poor in the vilest neighbourhoods is about 2s. 6d. To make up this rent the apartments are crowded to the greatest excess.What was the rent in the model lodging-houses? In George-street, Bloomsbury, every man had a compartment to himself, with a bed, chair, and space for all necessary movements. For that compartment he paid 4d. a night, exactly the same payment demanded from him in the worst and most disgusting locality. That house yielded a clear profit of 6² per cent on the money invested. Then houses of three rooms, with every accommodation and a constant supply of water, were given at a rent equal to that exacted for one room elsewhere. The rent varied, according to the position of the rooms, from 3s. 6d. to 7s. An artisan, with 25s. to 30s. a week, might take a house at 6s. or 7s.; those making less, a house at 4s.; but they received every accommodation for the same sum that they paid for one disgusting room, which often had to be shared with another. Then it was said these matters ought to be left to private speculation. He should much object to that. Private speculation was very much confined to the construction of the smallest houses, of the lowest possible description, because it was out of those the most inordinate profits could be made. Private speculation was almost entirely in that direction. Then private speculators would not undertake these houses, for to make the lodging-house system work well, there must be constant and vigilant superintendence. Again, at this particular time there were many advantages for the construction of model lodging-houses. First, the reduction of the duty on bricks had greatly facilitated the operations. It was a reduction of 15 per cent to the consumer. On the entire cost of the house in Streatham-street it was about 3 per cent; but when the hollow brick was brought into use for houses of moderate size, a saving would be effected 1268 of no less than 25 per cent. He wished also to bear testimony to the great value of reduction of the window duty, and wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer were present to hear the result of the experience obtained by those interested in the model lodging-houses. The Streatham-street house contained suites of apartments for fifty families. If these suites were separate dwellings, there would be no window tax; but, being under one roof, window tax might be demanded to the amount of between 60l. and 70l. a year, adding 25s. a year to the rent of each set of apartments. The removal of the window duty would permit a reduction of rent from 7s. to 6s. 6d., and so on. Now, the present proposition violated no principle. These houses were self-supporting. What had been the result of some years' experience? The Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes had expended 20,750l. in building and fitting up these new piles of model houses, and 2,250l. in improving, adapting, and fitting up these ranges of old dwellings, making together an expenditure of 23,000l. The net return on the same, after deducting all incidental expenses, including those of management and ordinary repairs, averaged 6 per cent; or on new buildings, 5½ per cent; on old, 12 per cent. They had kept one house as a curiosity, and as an illustration of the exorbitancy and intolerable profits levied by the low lodging-houses. It was a small house, on which the profit was not less than 30 per cent. There could be no doubt that, from many of the houses a much larger profit was obtained. By the removal, too, of single houses in some localities, much might be done to promote a better circulation of air, and improve an entire district at a very cheap rate. It would, moreover, be very desirable to remove impediments in the way of associations to be formed with limited liabilities; but the expense of a charter was now an insuperable obstacle to the formation of all societies. He was anxious the House should take up a matter which had excited the interest of all civilised Europe; from parts of which, as well as from America, letters had been received, asking for the plans, and reports on the subject. He was certain that he spoke the truth—and a truth which would be confirmed by the testimony of all experienced persons, clergy, medical men, all who were conversant with the working classes—that, until their domiciliary condition were Christianised 1269 (he could use no legs forcible a term), all hope of moral or social improvement was utterly vain. Though not the sole it was one of the prime sources of the evils that beset their condition; it generated disease, ruined whole families by the intemperance it promoted, cut off or crippled thousands in the vigour of life, and filled the workhouses with widows and orphans. Let this be taken as a proof: in the time of cholera, in the Model Lodging-house in St. Pancras, there were 500 persons under one roof. In a small court, called Peahen-court, in Bishopsgate-street, there resided 150 persons. Mr. Grainger, the inspector, went over that court, and reported to the Committee, that, if the cholera did break out there, the consequences would be frightful. Three days afterwards the cholera broke out on that spot. In the Model Lodging-house, not a single person died of cholera. In Peahen-court, there were 7 deaths; and in one day 12 orphans were thrown on the workhouse. He found that the number of widowers, widows, and orphans, in 95 unions, caused by the cholera was—widowers and widows, 628; orphans, 1,689; total, 2,317. In Bradford there were 27 widowers and widows, and 82 orphans; total, 109; in Leeds, 35 widowers and widows, and 73 orphans, 108; Lambeth, 81 widowers and widows, and 234 orphans, 315; West Bromwich, 34 widowers and widows, and 86 orphans, 110; Wolverhampton, 27 widowers and widows, and 68 orphans, 95; and most of these became permanently chargeable on the workhouse. But what cholera did suddenly and openly, fever did slowly and secretly. The cholera slew its thousands, but fever its tens of thousands; and, if they doubted the fact they might have, within ten minutes' walk of the magnificent palace that was now being built for Parliament, full evidence of it. His prayer was, for leave to bring in a Bill to remove some of the fatal impediments that prevented the free exercise of the activity and energy of the working classes. They had never sufficiently tested either the will or the capacity of those classes, who, from a variety of circumstances, had been placed in a condition very disadvantageous indeed to the exercise of all their energies. He saw no reason why the working people of this country should not equal, if not surpass, in physical prosperity their brethren of the United States. Their wages were enormous, but their expenditure, in a great measure owing to their sanitary condition, 1270 was wild and extravagant. Mr. Porter, of the Board of Trade, had published a work some time ago, called Self-imposed Taxation, and in that work he said that the expenditure of the working classes in this realm, in the consumption of three articles that might be abstained from entirely, or in a great degree, namely, spirits, beer, and tobacco, amounted to not less than 57,000,000l. a year. Imagine that sum expended in wholesome food, clothing, education, and the improvement of dwellings; and could any say that the moral, social, political, and religious condition of a responsible and immortal being would not be exalted in the scale of society? He could not believe they would fail in their efforts. He felt assured that God would bless such efforts, directed, as they would be, to the advancement of the social, moral, and religious wellbeing of a very largo portion of the human race; but it must be well borne in mind, that it was as necessary to pull down as to build: if these foul and dark receptacles were left, thousands would flow into them, and perpetuate the vice and wretchedness which disgraced these localities. The noble Lord then moved for leave to bring in a Bill to encourage the construction of lodging-houses for the working classes.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That Leave be given to bring in a Bill to encourage the establishment of Lodging Houses for the Working Classes.
§ MR. SLANEY
said, having himself been one of the visitors in fourteen large towns of the country, when he had the honour to be a member of the Board of Health, he could bear his testimony to the miserable condition of the working classes, arising from no fault of their own, but from the close and noisome courts and alleys in which thousands of them were unhappily located. He remembered, while in Wolverhampton, on visiting a small court there, a person with whom he conversed as to its condition, told him that he had seen all the inhabitants of that court transported twice over. He felt assured that permission would be given to bring in this Bill to allow them to direct their efforts to the mitigation of such enormous evils. One great difficulty arose from the law of partnerships, which prevented persons joining together to improve their dwellings; but he hoped there would be a remedy for that difficulty. The House should remember 1271 that the health of the working man was his property, and as they watched over the property of other classes, they ought also to watch over that.
§ MR. HUME
had listened with great attention to the statement of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley), and he must confess that it was a great reproach to that House that the state of things should exist of which the noble Lord had given such a painful description. Knowing the attention the noble Lord had paid to those matters, he (Mr. Hume) would ask any man whether he could have believed that such things existed in this country? Who were to blame? Not the unfortunate wretches who became the victims of badly-drained localities and ill-ventilated dwellings; but the Legislature, who had the power to prevent or remedy such evils, but had not exercised that power. The noble Lord had referred to the United States of America. There every man was taught to read and write; and what was there, he asked, inherent in the Englishman to prevent him from equalling the American? He remembered when 75 per cent of our whole taxation was levied from the working man, and it was not until within the last ten years that any attempt had been made in the direction of a more Christian and humane legislation. One great means for removing the present wretched state of things was the carrying out of the commercial policy of the late Sir Robert Peel; for the change of our fiscal system had proved very much calculated to improve the state of society. Another means was the promotion of education—an object, alas! too much obstructed by the opposition of rival sects of religion, who could not agree as to the system to be adopted, and so resisted any. In Manchester he was happy to find an attempt had been made to conquer this obstruction; and in Leeds, Liverpool, and other large towns, endeavours had been made for the diffusion of education, which deserved all praise. But the Government ought not to leave this great work to individuals. It was the duty of the Government to enforce the proper instruction of the people. Such measures as that before the House were useful; but it must be a general change alone which could remove a general evil, and until the various Christian communities united in the object of diffusing education among the masses, it was hopeless to expect any general improvement. The present measure could only be of any effect in distant parts of the country, by way of 1272 holding out examples worthy of imitation. Its object was laudable, but its effects would be superficial; and until the Government felt and acted on the conviction that legislative intervention ought not to be restrained to the mere physical improvement of the people, but applied also to their moral and religious education, no real progress could be made in the extirpation of the evils of which all perceived the existence.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, he gave a willing assent to the introduction of the Bill; the subject being, he was aware, intimately connected with the well-being of the great body of the people. He feared that the system which prevailed in the metropolis, and the other large towns, of crowding to-together masses of people in ill-constructed and in ill-ventilated houses, was destructive alike of their physical health and moral welfare. As to the measure proposed by his noble Friend, of course the House must suspend its judgment till the Bill was before it. He understood, however, that it was permissive, and was framed upon the principle of the Baths and Washhouses Act, which had in so many cases effected so much benefit. But he thought that the House could not look to any measure of this kind to remove the evil which existed in the country; and his noble Friend himself had indicated the means by which greater good could be done—that is, by encouraging associations for the promotion of these objects, and, to this end, removing the obstacles, fiscal, legal, or otherwise, which had hitherto stood in the way of the working of such associations. His hon. Friend (Mr. Slaney) had directed his attention to this subject, and had presided over a Committee last Session (another similar one having already been appointed), for the purpose of considering especially the expense of the obtaining of a charter by any such association. The attention of the Government bad been directed to this subject, and measures would be taken shortly to reduce that expense within reasonable limits. Such measures were more to be relied on than any direct legislation. He had been glad to hear his noble Friend state the importance of the alteration of duties like those on timber, and acknowledge the advantages arising to the working classes from the repeal of the window duties. And he was persuaded that by proceeding in this course, and removing obstacles in the way of the construction of lodging-houses for the poor, more good would be 1273 done than by any direct legislation on the subject. He was not, however, at all inclined to disparage the effort made by his noble Friend, under certain restrictions and in certain cases, to encourage the formation of model lodging-houses out of the poor-rates. He did not doubt his noble Friend would adopt the principle of the Baths and Washhouses Act, as establishing a scale beyond which the rents should not be raised, in the event of lodging-houses being erected and placed under the control of Commissioners. It was not only in towns, but also in the country, that the subject was important, for in many country districts not to be reached by any Bill such as that proposed by his noble Friend, the evil existed to as great an extent almost as in large towns. Speaking, however, of that part of the country with which he was more immediately connected, he would say that the attention of the upper classes had boon turned to the subject; and they had felt that the responsibility rested on them of providing houses for the poor, independent of any pecuniary advantages to be derived from such a system, and rather regarding those far higher and more valuable results, the improved condition and religious and moral elevation of the working classes. As to the question of education, he concurred with his hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) in thinking that it was of the greatest importance; and he agreed in the feeling of gratification his hon. Friend had expressed at the attempt lately made at Manchester, with a good prospect of success, to establish a system of education more commensurate to the wants of the population than any hitherto existing. Without, however, entering further into that subject, he must say that he thought his hon. Friend, in complaining of the inertness of the Government, had overlooked what they had recently been doing, and the great improvements they had effected in the promotion of popular education. But, after all, it was not to the Government, it was rather to the efforts of individuals, and associations of individuals, that they must look for real and general improvement among the great body of the people. All that the Government could do was to remove obstacles in the way, and to present facilities, by modifications of the law, more useful than direct legislation. He wished success to the scheme now set on foot for the abatement of so enormous an evil, and he thought the country was indebted to his noble Friend for having called 1274 attention to the subject. The very notoriety of the facts his noble Friend had stated, would lead persons to devote more attention to the subject, and each in his separate sphere would, he trusted, use his influence for the attainment of so important an object.
§ MR. STANFORD
said, for some years his attention had been directed to the subject; and he had in his own parish endeavoured to promote the object they had in view. He had, however, experienced much opposition from the ratepayers, and he was persuaded that the Government ought to interfere, and that it was impossible for individuals or associations to attempt the work without the aid of an Act of Parliament. He could confirm the statements of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley), and believed that great advantage would result from his measure—not merely from the lodging of a certain number of persons, but from the effect of the example of thirty-four model lodging-houses in the different parishes of the metropolis, which would compel landlords to improve the dwelling houses they let to the poorer classes. Such measures were far more important than political rights, for it was impossible to arrive at and improvement of the religious and moral state of the poor while they were badly clothed and housed, and unable to practise proper cleanliness and decency.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, there was a strong necessity for direct legislation, even more direct than that now proposed. The extension of education might, as his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose had stated, do much for the eradication of existing evils, but could not do all that was required. Instances occurred by hundreds of thousands of persons tolerably instructed coining to largo towns for the sake of employment, and forced by necessity into those dens which had been alluded to, there to herd with the wretched inmates, and to have their whole moral being degraded and debased. It was impossible for the poor of themselves to resist the inevitable effects of the evil and powerful influence of circumstances thus brought to bear upon them. There were two great difficulties which made direct interference on the part of the Government necessary. One was that the working man was limited in the range of his residence, being forced to sleep within a certain distance of his place of employment. The other was, that the farming out of old houses in the loathsome way which had been described, was a 1275 lucrative occupation, Such "fever factories," as they had been called, should not be allowed to exist, but should be proscribed by law. So long as such a system existed, nothing great could be effected by education among the working classes, who had not the power—by free competition—of resisting the wretched system to which they were exposed. His fear was that the measure of the noble Lord would be too feeble, and would not do enough. The very improvements effected in those parts of the metropolis or other large towns inhabited by the middle classes, aggravated the evil under which the poor suffered, for they were cramped up into a smaller compass, and were more and more crowded together. Such a system unquestionably called for powerful legislative interference.
§ LORD C. HAMILTON,
as a member of the Metropolitan Building Association, could inform the hon. Members who had preceded him, that much good could be effected without the aid of Acts of Parliament; and he could tell the hon. Member for Reading that steps had been taken to introduce the improved system of the association into that town, where he hoped it would have his support. His opinion was, that direct interference was not the duty of the Government, and that the removal of obstacles and difficulties was all that the Government should attempt. One main difficulty was in the expense of commencing an association, and he could state that the obtaining of the charter for the association he belonged to had cost 1,200l. If means could be devised for reducing the expense, much good would be effected.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the amount of the expense in that instance had been owing to peculiar circumstances, especially the great length of the charter, and a legal error in the course pursued by the association. Certainly, however, the expense of unopposed charters was at present too great, and the attention of the Government had been directed to the subject. He felt that whatever check might be imposed on the formation of such associations, it ought not to be in the indirect form of a heavy pecuniary fine, but rather with the discretion exercised by that department of the Government which was entrusted with the regulation of such matters. It was unfair to impose a heavy fine, in the shape of expenses, upon a charter the granting of which that department must have already decided was a public benefit. He believed the expenses would 1276 be reduced to such a moderate extent, that they would no longer interfere in the attainment of objects so desirable.
§ Leave given.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Lord Ashley, the Marquess of Blandford, and Mr. Slaney.