§ Order for Second Reading, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, he wished to vindicate himself and the Commissioners from the imputations which had been cast upon them. He could not trespass upon the House at that late hour, but he hoped that on a future stage of the Bill an opportunity would be afforded for the defence of the Commissioners.
said, he thought that the ratepayers of the metropolis had just cause to complain against the Government for the course taken with regard to this Bill. So early in the Session as three months ago he put a question to the Government as to the course they intended to pursue with respect to this Bill; and he had had occasion since so often, in consequence of never being able to obtain a satisfactory answer, to repeat that question, that the matter had much the appearance at length of a personal quarrel between himself and the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department. The ratepayers objected to the constitution of the Commission, and complained that their money had been thrown away in the most reckless and extravagant manner. Two years ago he presented a petition from the ratepayers, from which it appeared that three-fifths of the money levied on them had been consumed in the management of the Commission. Why had the noble 1469 Lord (Viscount Ebrington) remained silent during the whole of that time. He dared the noble Lord to disprove his (Captain Fitzroy's) statement. He always suspected that Government would introduce a Bill for continuing the Commission at the end of July, when it would be impossible for the ratepayers of the metropolis to offer effectual opposition to it; and that was precisely the course which had been pursued. The Commissioners showed by their proceedings, that they were ignorant of the first principles of business. Their minutes had been kept without any kind of system, as was shown on a former occasion by the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall); and the only reason which had induced a great number of the ratepayers to pay the extravagant charge which had been imposed on them, was the expectation that the Commission would be brought to a termination at the close of the present Session. Experience for the past and fear of the future may in time deprecate the continuance of these Commissioners. One Clause in the Bill to which there was particular objection was that which saddled the ratepayers with a Chief Commissioner at a salary of 1,000l. per annum. The only consolation they derived under the circumstances was from the fact that the Chief Commissioner was not to be a Member of that House, and therefore there was a probability of his being a man of business.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the object of the present Bill was simply to continue the Commission for the shortest possible time, and to do as little as possible. [Laughter.] Because there was at this present time a Committee sitting on the Water Supply to the metropolis. His noble Friend (Lord John Russell) a short time ago stated to the House that he hoped the inquiry now being carried on before Committee on the Supply of Water to the metropolis, might lead to some arrangement with respect both to the water and the sewers, which would be much more satisfactory to the inhabitants of this metropolis. Looking to the possibility of such an arrangement proceeding from that Committee, his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department thought it advisable to postpone the introduction of a Bill on the subject, in order to see what the Committee would recommend. The right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of that Committee (Sir J. Graham), however, having stated that 1470 there was no probability of the Committee reporting before the end of the Session, the Government had thought it right to bring in a Bill continuing the present Commission for one year only, in order to leave it open to them to introduce any change they might think necessary in the system of administration in the course of another year, and in the meantime making such amendments in the Constitution of the board as would make it work a great deal better. The principal amendment proposed by this Bill was to give power to appoint a paid Chairman who was not to be a Member of Parliament, and upon whom it would be obligatory to attend all the meetings of the board, which, he thought, would be a great improvement. He hoped, therefore, the House would agree to the second reading of the Bill now, and go into Committee on Monday.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, he could allow nothing of the sort. This Commission was the most objectionable that was ever propounded by the Government. Wishing to have some discussion upon it, he would object to taking the second reading at half-past two o'clock in the morning.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, that the Government were guilty of the most impudent attempt to smuggle the Bill through Parliament at that hour of the morning, and he felt certain that the attempt had been made with malice prepense.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer talked of the Bill doing as little as possible. Did he consider it doing little to continue for another year a public nuisance? For it was a nuisance affecting the whole metropolis. The fact was, that the public wished the Commissioners were at the bottom of their own sewers.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, it would be in the recollection of the House, that he had over and over again challenged hon. Members to bring forward this question in a form in which it might be fully discussed. He repeated that challenge now, and would be ready to meet his accusers when ever the House gave him an opportunity.
§ Motion, be leave, withdrawn;—Main Question put, and agreed to;—Bill read 2°, and committed for Tuesday next.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter before Three o'clock.