§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, he should move that the House resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill, on that day three months. He much regretted that such a Bill should have been introduced at so late a period of the Session. The object of this Bill was to continue the present Commission, and to give the Chairman a salary of 1,000l. a year. There were several other subjects, such as the supply of water and the question of interments, which with that now before them were branches of one great question, and should all be dealt with together upon some comprehensive plan; but he was sorry to see that Her Majesty's Government did not at present show any intention to do so. The business of this Commission was conducted in the loosest manner, and he thought it was not right that the ratepayers of the metropolis should be taxed to the extent they were by an irresponsible body like this Commission. 1684 They had much better appoint one responsible and well-paid party as the head of the Commission, and do away with such a mongrel body as the present board. During the last year the Commission had received 77,000l. from rates, and 13,000l. from contributions; the total payments, however, during the year, were 94,500l., and the total charge was 125,900l. The charge for management was 23,463l.; and observe that this enormous charge came out of the pockets of the metropolitan ratepayers, who were complaining of this Commission as a greater nuisance than even the sewers themselves. Under these circumstances, it would not be very pleasant to them to see that the Chairman of the Commission was to receive this salary. He hoped that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would see the propriety of merely prolonging, with alteration, the powers of the Commissioners, until some new arrangement could be made with regard to all the branches of this important question. The gentleman (Mr. Frank Forster) who conducted the general engineering business of the Commission received 1,500l. a year. Now, if he was a competent per, son, why not make him the only Commissioner, and they would then obtain, a concentration of responsibility?
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
seconded the Amendment. He considered the measures which the Goverment had introduced with respect to the metropolis as gross jobs, which had met with the general disapprobation of the inhabitants of the metropolis.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he did not think that either of the two Gentlemen who had addressed the House had shown any good reasons for rejecting the Motion before them. The Bill had not been introduced at an earlier period of the Session, on account of the investigations which had been going on before a Select Committee with respect to the supply of water to the metropolis, for as it was evident that this was intimately connected with the sewer question, it was thought inexpedient to bring in any measure which might have been rendered unnecessary, or have been superseded by the Report of that Committee. As, however, that Committee had not been 1685 able to make any Report during the Session, it was necessary to pass the present Bill, which merely proposed to continue the present Commission, with some alterations introduced to make it a more working Commission, and to secure the regular attendance of one person. It was not proposed as a permanent measure, but as a means of bridging over this year, and of waiting for the Report of the Committee which he had mentioned, and which might lead to quite a different arrangement. But while it was inexpedient to bring on a permanent measure without being in possession of the information which would be derived from the Report of that Committee, it would be impossible to let this body drop during the present year, as there were works and arrangements in progress which must be carried out.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, that the argument of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer would have been a very good one, if applied to the Commission as it now existed; but this was a new Bill altogether. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to appoint a Commissioner with a salary of 1,000l. a year, and to reduce the quorum from six to two. He considered such a proposition a perfect farce: who ever heard of such a quorum?—there was not a single public body doing business with such a quorum. As to the present Commissioners, it was utterly impossible they could attend to the duties of the Board; for all of them, except perhaps his noble Friend the Member for Plymouth (Viscount Ebrington) had various other duties to perform; the consequence of which was, that the proceedings of the Board were continually adjourned. The Government ought not to do this themselves; it was their duty to give to this great town municipalities of its own, and let them govern their own matters. He objected to bridging over the next year at an expense of 1,000l. a year, for the Commission had already cost the country sufficient. They had in the last year levied a rate of 33,000l., and he believed that all of it but 6,000l. was expended. Rather than proceed with this new Bill, be would prefer continuing under the old system.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
wished to ask the noble Lord (Viscount Ebrington) what was the original estimate of the Victoria sewer, what was the contract price, and what was the actual cost? He decidedly objected to this Bill, nor did he think that it was creditable to the Government to act 1686 as they had with respect to it, bringing it in on the 25th July, and then telling the House that they must pass it because some Bill was necessary. He believed that it was quite an after-thought to say that there was any intention to deal with this and the water question, and that of interments in one measure. He would not, however, even by the inducement thus held out by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, be led to pass this Bill, which would give 1,000l. a year to some officical personage, and give the Commissioners the power of acting with such a quorum as he had never before heard of. He would support the Amendment, and he trusted the House would prevent the Government from passing the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said: In rising on this late but first and only opportunity yet afforded me of answering the calumnies—for by no other name will I describe the speech of the hon. Member for Lambeth—the calumnies and misrepresentations sp sedulously circulated both in this House and out of this House against my Colleagues of the Commission of Sewers and myself, I feel that I am placed under very heavy disadvantages. My own natural incapacity for public speaking, aggravated by the habitual silence imposed on me for several years by my late office; the absence of my distinguished Colleagues the Members for Whitehaven and Norwich, whose high reputation and practical skill in the planning and execution of great works are known to every one except to the Members for Marylebone and Lewes; and, above all, the peculiar nature of the subject under consideration, which, while it deals with much that is disagreeable and repulsive, requires much study and attention before it can be comprehended: these obvious disadvantages, together with the unfavourable period of the Session we have arrived at, would almost make me despair of your attention; but for my confident reliance, I will not say so much on the indulgence of the House, though I know I much need that, as on that spirit of justice and love of fair play, and that readiness to give a full hearing to any one who has been attached, when speaking in vindication of himself and his Colleagues, which have always honourably characterised this House. In order to place the whole case more clearly before you, perhaps I may be allowed very shortly to recall to the recollection of the House the condition in which Her Majesty's Government found the administration of 1687 the sewers of the Metropolis, when they issued the first Consolidated Commission in 1847, and a short recapitulation of what those two Consolidated Commissions performed, before I come to the acts of my Colleagues on the present Commission and my own.
The existence of Commissioners of Sewers is of very considerable antiquity; but with those times we have nothing now to do, further than to remember that the law under which the former separate Commissions acted, was the general statute on Sewers of Henry VIII., together with certain separate local Acts, most of them of recent date, and all containing different, if not conflicting, provisions. The total number of Commissioners having jurisdiction over the seven districts into which the natural drainage area of the metropolis was arbitrarily divided, had long amounted to between 500 and 1,000. The whole of these Commissioners were by law nominated by the Lord Chancellor, and nothing was less attended to in their appointment than their qualifications or fitness for the office. The members of the various Commissions consisted of a few persons of the highest eminence, such as the Duke of Wellington, the Lord Chief Justice, and others of that class, who, of course, never attended at all—indeed, some of them learnt, for the first time, the office they had for years been filling, on receiving their writ of supersedeas in 1847; of a number of less eminent persons, who attended very seldom; and, lastly, of a small, and in some instances by no means disinterested, body of persons, who, in fact, transacted the business of the Commission, though latterly cheeked, to a certain extent, in the instance of the Westminster Commission, by the public-spirited opposition and interference especially of Mr. Byng and Mr. Leslie. The Holborn and Finsbury Commissioners were wisely in the habit of acting on the suggestions of their able and valuable officer, Mr. Roe; but as to the demoralised system of management of the Westminster Commission—and that may serve in most particulars as a sample of others—I need say no more than that, on most conclusive evidence, Mr. Leslie's allegations were established (I quote from the Report of the Metropolitan Sanitary Commission), as to the practical self-nomination of the Court; as to the surveyors being paid by a commission upon the cost of their works; as to a series of suspicious circumstances on 1688 each occasion of obtaining contracts; as to the increase allowed to parties after they had obtained contracts: while as to the engineering skill, it was proved that works in opposition to the known principles of engineering and hydraulics, and sewers of a form at once most expensive, and ill calculated either for durability or efficiency, were ordered, in spite of the remonstrances of the surveyor; that there were no complete maps, levels, or plans of the district, and that what few existed were so bad as to mislead rather than assist those who sought information. I need say no more of the other districts, which seem generally to have been rather worse than better managed as separate concerns, than to observe that there was no uniformity of practice and little concert among them for combined works, though the natural lines of outfall often led from one to another; and that in the Surrey and Kent division, comprising a rental of more than one and a half millions, works were on the point of being executed by the Commissioners at the time they were superseded, to the extent of more than 100,000l., and others still larger were contemplated, most expensive as well as inefficient and objectionable in their character. In consequence of the want of combined action, and of the complete absence of trustworthy information, examples most ludicrous, if they had not been disastrous and expensive in their consequences, occurred of sewers running up hill, or parallel to each other; of their missing each other when intended to join, and crossing each other when never expected; but the most serious instance is that given by Mr. Roe, of a quarter of a million wasted in the construction of large works on a radically wrong basis. Not to speak of the larger works of sewerage, or rather elongated cesspools of that description upon which not tens but hundreds of thousands had been wasted, I may mention that the ordinary drains for houses communicating with the street sewers cost more than four times as much on an average as our's now do, and that the expense of other operations on the new system, when compared with those under the old, is in much the same proportion. And, lastly, I must add that for such corrupt and inefficient and uncombined management, the general average of cost to the ratepayers was, during 1847, at the rate of more than 7s. per cent per annum on the rateable annual value of the seven 1689 districts, while, notwithstanding the disadvantage of having to procure much information which ought to have been bequeathed to us by our predecessors, the charge for management under the new Consolidated Conmmission was, during 1849, actually below 5s. per cent on the rateable annual value of the district under their active jurisdiction; and has not since at all materially increased.
When in the autumn of 1847, as is well known, the whole of these former Commissioners were superseded, the new Commissions for the seven districts were all addressed to the same body of gentlemen, who formed practically one consolidated Commission for the management of the sewers of the metropolis. They continued thus, by an evasion, to manage the business as one concern, till Parliament, by the Metropolitan Sewers Act of 1848 placed the whole metropolis, with a certain extent of suburban district, under the jurisdiction of one body of Commissioners; and the Crown, with some few exceptions, reappointed the original body as Commissioners, to work out the provisions of the new Act. On account of its unmanageable numbers, and for other reasons which I need not now enter upon, that body was superseded in October, 1849, of the following year, when the present Commission was appointed. As I, however, was a member of both these Commissions, and as much abuse has been most unfairly levelled against them, I hope the House will allow me to recapitulate a few of our principal labours. And I will do so, not in the words of my noble Friend, Lord Carlisle's Charge to the Westminster Jury, nor in those of any official or Government authority, lest the account should be tainted with partiality, but in those of a bitter assailant of the Government—a writer in the Westminster Review, who concludes a most hostile article on the Ministerial proceedings of the Session of 1849, with a short review of what had been done with regard to the sewers of the metropolis:—The Metropolitan Sewers Act was passed, with the object of consolidating the metropolitan areas under one management, and for giving extended powers of draining and sewering the whole. The gigantic cesspool system, which had so long numbered its thousands and tens of thousands of victims, was to be grappled with, and, if possible, put an end to. The main sewerage was to be remodelled every where, and introduced for the first time in many parts. The river was to be purified, and some other outlet provided for the liquid refuse of 2,000,000 of human beings, and 1690 several hundreds of thousands of horses and cattle.The universal abolition of cesspools was a totally now proposal. No such measure had ever been realised in the history of the civilized world. It required that there should be introduced for the first time, into the wretched tenements of the poor, conveniences and luxuries that have always been the monopoly of the rich, and which are associated in the public mind with affluence and expense.To effect this object, it would not serve to give the order to the builders and plumbers, whose business it is to supply first-class houses with water-closets and drain pipes, to enlarge their business fifty-fold, and go forth to every court and alley, and erect their fittings in every domicile. The consequent bills, in their aggregate of millions of money, could never be discharged by the population that had entailed them. If there were no other alternative, London must be a city of cesspools until it became at least a city where every man paid Peel's income tax.To reduce the cost of the water-closet apparatus so low, that every householder in London could afford to pay it, was therefore, one of the duties of the new Commission. This task had to be accomplished partly by the utmost economy in the apparatus itself, partly by distributing the cost of it over a series of years in the form of an improvement rate. The preparation and collection of this now species of rate formed one very heavy item in the duties of the Commission. A number of other matters, many of them full of difficulty, had to be undertaken as indispensable conditions to the grand desideratum of purifying the dwellings of the metropolis, and the water of the Thames. The procuring of a proper supply of water is only one of several of those preliminary conditions.On the matter of rectifying the main sewerage and obtaining a proper outfall, it was obvious, that a perfect survey must first be obtained. This was commenced in the beginning of last year; and from the enormous extent of ground to be gone over is not yet completed.In connexion with the purification of the Thames, extensive inquiries and experiments had to be undertaken as to the means of disposing of the sewage in the agricultural lands of the suburbs. Although the value of this sewage as manure has been proved beyond dispute, it has never yet been applied on a great scale; and the difficulty of the application in the case of the metropolis, probably surpasses what would have to be encountered in any other place whatsoever. Any person who has followed the actual proceedings of the Commission, instead of merely listening to the personal altercations that gave newspaper value to its debates, will find that it was fully aware of the extent of the operations devolved upon it. The survey was prosecuted with the utmost speed that the Ordnance could be stimulated to sustain. The means of economical house drainage were carefully considered and brought to maturity. The question of substituting impermeable earthenware pipes for expensive brick sewers was reduced to practice. The value of the sewage manure and the practicability of disposing of it on the suburban lands were made the subjects of direct experiments with clear practical results: and in the meantime the Commission were taking the most active steps that lay in their power for mitigating 1691 the evils of the existing state of the drainage, while preparing for its total renovation. No promise was given of an immediate remedy of all that was matter of complaint, but works were commenced, and actively pressed forward to secure this after a reasonable interval of time.The first practical difficulty that clogged its Operations is now pretty well known to have been the existence of a small minority of two or three Commisssioners, who differed from the great body in the point of working by committees; it being scarcely disguised that the exclusion of the dissentients from the Works Committee was the cause Of the stand taken by them in the principle. This minority acquired more and more of the character of a standing opposition, whose business it became to scrutinize with hostile fervour all the Current proceedings of the body.A memorial abruptly produced at one of the meetings of the Committee, by the chief surveyor, containing a fierce onslaught on the policy of his masters, and propounding a great subterranean tunnel scheme for the removal of the entire drainage of the metropolis, was the occasion that brought the Commission Under the special lash of the Times. This organ had made up its mind on the proper mode of draining the metropolis, and was not to be gainsaid by mortal man.To the antipathy of the "Thunderer" was joined the factious opposition of the parochial bodies, which showed itself in many ways. The internal Opposition was led by the representatives of vestries; without, there arose a perpetual shower of calumny at the meetings of parochial boards. The Commission was held liable at all hands for every nuisance in the metropolis; the popular mind was studiously imbued with the notion that it was since this Commission came into existence that the gullies began to smell, and the open ditches to exist. Boards of Guardians, when applied to to take steps for the temporary abatement of nuisances during the height of the cholera epidemic, threw off their responsibility and laid it on the Commission of sewers.I have given this passage thus at length, because it lays down very clearly what I have always considered to be the real end and business of the Commission. There may be differences of opinion as to the order in which these several indispensable requisites for the economical providing of efficient sanitary arrangements for the metropolis should be dealt with; and as to the extent to which the requisite operations for the water supply, sewerage, and house-drainage, street cleansing, and disposal of sewage manure, may be advantageously undertaken by one body; as to how much of them should be discharged by public bodies, as a public trust, and how much of them made over to traders as a commercial speculation; but one thing is clear, all must be efficiently conducted before the sanitary condition of the metropolis can be pronounced to have been placed on a satisfactory or economical footing.
1692 In October, 1849, as I have already-said, the present Commission was appointed; and as it is that Commission's acts which I have this day to defend, I must again entreat the indulgence of the House, while I shortly state the difficulties we have had to contend with, recount some of the things we have done and are doing, and reply to as many as I can remember of the multifarious and often contradictory charges that have been brought against us here, and elsewhere If I am asked, whether I consider that the inhabitants of London have had all that was requisite and feasible done for them; if I am asked whether the Commission have satisfactorily discharged all the functions which are theoretically entrusted to them by law, and have done all the work which they are presumed to have the power to do: I answer at once in the negative. The Commissioners are most painfully conscious how far what they have done falls short of what is required for the health of the metropolis. It is impossible that a body so constituted, under such an Act of Parliament, an Act of 146 clauses—encumbered with such an absurd machinery, and fettered by such perplexing technicalities—should discharge at its intermittent meetings such vast and important functions with satisfaction to themselves or the public. The fault, however, rests not with them, but with the system under which they are working. When I compare what we have done, with what ought to have been done, I am grievously disappointed. When I compare what we have done, with what, circumstanced as we were, we might have been expected to have done, I am astonished at our having effected so much. When I reluctantly accepted the thankless office, at the request of my truly zealous and excellent Friend Lord Carlisle I warned him that the Commission, under such a system, must prove a failure. And I can answer for it, that nothing but the public spirit, good feeling, and industry of the Commissioners and their officers, could have enabled me to lay before the House the results to which I will shortly call your attention.
When the present Commissioners entered upon their duties, they found the business of the Commission disorganised by the quarrels of the officers, fomented, if not originally caused, by the contentions already described among the former Commissioners their masters. We began by restoring order. We found in 1693 the office above 200 plans for the drainage of the metropolis, which had been imprudently invited by our predecessors: every one of these was carefully analysed, and separately considered. Not one of them, however—though many of them displayed much ability—was found to be practically available; and for this obvious reason, that the surface survey and the subterranean survey, which were indispensable preliminaries to the preparation of any efficient plan of drainage, were not sufficiently advanced at the time when that premature invitation was issued, to enable any one to frame a proper plan of operation. The present Commissioners, however, pressed forward the subterranean survey commenced by their predecessors; and it may now be pronounced complete, with the exception of correcting levels, and finishing some small branch sewers. A total extent of 760 miles of underground sewerage has been surveyed, besides some 4,500 acres, or two square miles, for house drainage. The survey for the new arterial drainage, extending to six miles, has been accompanied with plans for the sewers made on a large scale; the Ordnance survey on the twelve-inch scale only requires four sheets out of the 44 entirely to complete the mapping of the area embraced by the Commission; while of the block plan, of five feet to the square mile, 380 out of the 450 sheets required to complete it have been finished. These plans and surveys will be completed in less than half the time, and one-third the cost, at which the work was calculated by the Ordnance, in the original estimate they sent in to Sir Robert Peel; and both of them are now on sale to the public at the same low rate of price as the maps and plans of the Ordnance are. I need not tell any Gentleman conversant with matters of this kind, how indispensable it is to other works, besides those of drainage and of water supply, that accurate maps, plans, and levels, should be easily accessible.
Meanwhile the Commissioners were not idle, as they were represented to have been. Though they would not be driven by any popular clamour into undertaking works On insufficient data, before they were satisfied as to the line of drainage which ought to be adopted, they executed Of superintended the execution of 34 miles of sewers, which they knew would fall in with any plan that might be ultimately adopted for the drainage of the metropolis; and they also went into the subject of 1694 contracts, which involved the consideration of 15,000 items in the price list, requiring 150 drawings for their illustration. Though each court requires the attendance of half the total number of Commissioners, we have held every month upon an average two courts, instead of one (which is all that was required by law), besides six committees of the whole body (not required by law at all), not to mention meetings of the Finance Committee, or other meetings for particular business. Nearly 2,000 orders of court have now been made by us since our appointment; and it is to be remembered, that at the courts only the formal announcements are pronunced of decisions at which the Commissioners have arrived after previous consideration in committee. The mere record of the business transacted at a court sometimes occupies 90 or 100 pages; and the manuscript minutes of one single committee frequently extend to a similar number. To say nothing of the time bestowed by myself, Mr. Lawes, Mr. Hawes, Captain Dawson, or others upon the business of the Commission, I remember on one occasion Mr. Stephenson sat up at work for us throughout the whole of the night. The result is, that some 13,000 complaints, and some 4,000 applications for private drainage, have been attended to; and that above 20,000 letters have been officially registered as received and sent, exclusive of a mass of correspondence between different branches of the office.
I ought to have mentioned that the Commissioners, as soon as the surface and subterranean surveys were sufficiently advanced, directed their engineer to prepare a general plan for the arterial drainage of the metropolis, and had many and anxious deliberations on that most important subject. In August last the general scheme for the drainage of the south side of the Thames was formally announced, and in the following January the scheme for draining the north side of the Thames. As the latter involved dealing with the drainage of the City, it was requisite to submit it to the Commissioners for the City, who, I am happy to say, fully concurred with us, and have indeed co-operated with us throughout in the most friendly and harmonious manner. It Was not until the general plan was settled that the Commissioners were enabled to proceed with full vigour; but the Secretary's report laid on the table of the House at the commencement of the Session, showed that up to the close of 1850 the present 1695 Commissioners had constructed upwards of 85.000 feet of pipe sewer, and more than 30,000 of brick sewer, at a cost of about 85,000l., besides planning and superintending the execution of private works to the amount of upwards of 40,000l. more. We have since completed more than 55,000 feet of pipe sewers, and more than 15,000 feet of brick sewers, at a cost of about 42,000l., and have superintended private works to the amount of more than 33,000l. besides. The total cost of the works planned and executed under the present Commission, to the 26th of this month, is about 200,000l. When it is remembered that the present Commissioners, as has been shown by accounts and estimates found in the office, execute their works at less than half the cost for which similar works used to be executed by the former separate commissions; and that the engineering staff costs altogether about 19,000l. a year, some 6,000l. of which is expended in the preparation of the surveys; I do not think, that if this were all, the Commissioners could be justly charged with extravagance in that department. But there are, in addition, works fully planned with drawings and specifications quite ready for execution, some now actually in progress, some ordered to be proceeded with, and others, for reasons I will presently mention, though ready, suspended for the present, to the amount of 150,000l. more. So that works have been superintended and executed by the Commissioners, or are planned and ready for execution, during the year and nine months we have been in office, to the amount of 350,000l.; while the detailed drawings and specifications for the general arterial schemes of drainage to the north and south of the Thames, that is, of works of an estimated cost of some 2,000,000l. are in an advanced state of preparation, and expected to be completed in the course of a few months.
I think after this statement I may claim for the Commissioners and their officers the credit of not having wholly neglected the duties intrusted to them. No one has yet dared to make any attack upon the survey, or on the plans for the arterial drainage of London which the Commissioners considered themselves more especially appointed to prepare and to execute; but the parochial gentlemen and their representatives, who have been so clamorous against the Commissioners, 1696 have uniformly confined themselves to attacks upon the smaller works, or to questions about official appointments. Nay, such absurdities has malignity suggested, a doubt was actually cast upon the identity of a man who had been personally known for many years to more than half the Commissioners who appointed him, and the public was seriously told that Mr. Forster was not himself, but somebody else. One of the chief attacks has been directed against the Victoria-street sewer. I have, however, the high authority of my friend, Mr. Stephenson, who personally inspected every inch of that sewer, as well as of Sir J. Burgoyne, Mr. Peto, and several other gentlemen well acquainted with such matters, for stating that, considering the great difficulties involved in the completion of such a work, it was not discreditable, but the reverse, to the officers of the Commission. The nature of the ground through which both parts of the sewer had to be taken, some of it hollow and treacherous from the remains of old arches and former buildings, now buried beneath the surface—some of it rendered dangerous and difficult by subterranean quick sands and morass—would sufficiently account to any person practically acquainted with such works—though not perhaps to such critics as the vestries of Marylebone, or St. George's, and their representatives—for the extra time and money expended beyond the estimates on its construction. As the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests thought proper, the other day, without giving me any notice, to read a report with regard to the lower part of this sewer, implying some reflections on the Commissioners and their officers, it is right that the House should understand the position in which the Commissioners have been placed with regard to its construction. The Commission has not been thwarted at all in the first contract west of Westminster Abbey, for this part of the sewer lying through private property, they had full power over it; but in that part of the sewer which lay between Westminster Abbey and the temporary outlet in the Thames, and which passes through Crown property, we have been much thwarted, and many obstacles have been put in our way. Though by the law of sewers the Commissioners have full power of passing through any private property, on making compensation for damage, there is a special exemption with regard to land in the occupation of the So- 1697 vereign. A question was raised whether Crown property would be considered land in the occupation of the Sovereign, and the Commissioners, ever averse to litigation, wished to settle the matter by amicable negotiation with the Woods and Forests: the Woods and Forests, however, objected to the proposals of the Commissioners, and required them successively to abandon two lines which they had suggested for the temporary outlet of the sewer; the one in front of Richmond Terrace, which did not involve passing under any buildings at all; the next, through Whitehall Place, which would only have touched a single stable and cartshed; and they ultimately compelled the Commissioners, under very stringent conditions, to adopt the present line against their better judgment, and to tunnel under the very buildings, the damage to which, though much to be regretted, has been so absurdly exaggerated. The following letter sufficiently speaks for itself; I will not allow myself to add one word of comment to it, further than to say that none can more sincerely regret than do my Colleagues and I, that we should have been obliged by the Woods and Forests to put the occupants of the houses in question to so much inconvenience:—(Copy.) "Office of Woods, &c, June 15, 1850. "Sir—I have, on behalf of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Woods, &c, to acquaint you that they have had under consideration the subject of the proposed Main Sewer extending from Parliament-street to a temporary outfall at Scotland Yard Wharf, and in respect of which the Board requested (through Captain Vetch) that no proceedings might be taken in the matter until the working plans and sections had been laid before it, in consequence of the proposed Sewer running principally through Crown lands, and under Government buildings.Captain Vetch having submitted and explained the working plans and sections of the proposed Sewer to the Commissioners of Woods, &c., I am instructed to say that, as forming part of a general measure for the improvement and drainage of the Westminster district, this Board will not raise any obstacle to the execution of the work provided the following requirements be agreed to:—1. The Board, in permitting the sewage to pass through the Crown lands, cannot consent to its being discharged into the Thames, so immediately near to Whitehall Place as, according to these plans, it is proposed to be; but they must require that the line be prolonged in its proposed direction to a point near to the outfall of the Northumberland-street Sewer.2. That the Sewer be inserted by drift ways, and not by open cuttings, at the following sites, viz.:—The south-east corner of Mr. Alderman Thompson's house; through Lord Liverpool's garden, 1698 taking care not to injure the trees; under the offices of the Exchequer; and through the gardens of Gwydyr House, and the residence of the Duke of Buccleuch.3. That during the work a passage be left open to the door of Lord Liverpool's house, in Middle Scotland Yard.4. That the Sewer be made quite impervious to the admission or escape of water in its course, except by gully-holes and street or house drains.5. That all the drains and sewers intersected by the new Sewer be carefully connected with it, and that all cesspools and house drains near its course be received into the same.6. That the Sewer shall be commenced at the River end, and that, proceeding towards Parliament-street, it shall not pass through Whitehall Gardens until after the rising of Parliament.7. That the Commissioners of Woods, &c, and their tenants, notwithstanding the permission granted to pass through the property, shall be entitled, as the Sewer Act provides, to compensation for any loss, damage, or injury which the property of Her Majesty may sustain by the formation of this Sewer.8. That the Commissioners of Sewers shall provide all the necessary shoring, supports, or other works that may be required for upholding the buildings and fences above and near to the Sewer, and that all such works shall be done under the supervision, and to the satisfaction of the architect of the Commissioners of Woods, &c.The Commissioners of Woods, &c., consider the above requirements necessary for the protection of the interests of the Crown and the amenity of its tenants; but, these being complied with, the Board, as I have already stated, will not throw any impediment in the way of works deemed necessary by the Commissioners of Sewers for the improvement of the drainage of Westminster.—I am, &c. (Signed) "A. MILNE.The Secretary to the Metropolitan Commissioners of Sewers, 1, Greek-street, Soho.As a question has been raised as to the estimate of the second contract for the Victoria-street sewer, I will give the House what information I possess on the subject. The estimate was 8,212l.; the contract price was 7,700l. The actual cost of the works up to the present time is 12,306l.; and the probable cost will be 13,556l. I have already mentioned some of the special difficulties of the work, but I would further remind the House that this is not the only case in which engineering and architectural works have exceeded their estimates, for of such excess you have a striking example in the house in which we are now assembled.
I have already stated that drawings and specifications are ready for works to the extent of 150,000l., which have not yet been commenced—and why? Because some technical defects in the Act prevented the Commissioners from raising money, as Parliament intended they should do, 1699 to execute such works, and diffuse the charge for them over a series of years. Up to a late period in last year the Commissioners expected that they would be able to raise the money required from some of the large insurance companies; on further investigation of their security, the insurance companies, without exception, refused. Immediately on discovering these technical defects, we applied to the Government, and asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had then a large surplus in hand, either to grant us an advance on the credit of the rates of the metropolis, as had been done for a variety of other less important purposes, such as the promotion of fisheries, the drainage of estates, the building of farmhouses, and so on; or else to bring in a short Bill merely to correct these technical defects, and to enable us to borrow the requisite funds, leaving the question of the constitution of the Commission completely open for the early consideration of Parliament. The only assistance the Commissioners got from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Government was the advice to collect the rates as fast as they could, and to spend as little money as possible. The Commissioners then found themselves in a very painful dilemma. They were obliged either to abandon altogether works which they had publicly announced, and which had met with general approbation—to leave unredressed and unremoved nuisances and, evils which it was clear from the weekly report of the Registrar General were causing preventible diseases and death in many parts of the metropolis—or else to raise within the year, for the execution of permanent works, at the expense of the present ratepayers, sums which msut press very heavily and unjustly upon them, and inevitably bring great odium and unpopularity upon the Commission. This subject received the deliberate consideration of the Commissioners, and they ultimately determined to adopt a kind of middle course, resolutely to face any amount of unpopularity wherever they thought the expenditure of money was urgently called for to prevent the sacrifice of human life, yet at the same time to hold their hands with regard to every work which did not appear to them of the most immediate and pressing necessity. For delaying our works till we had satisfied ourselves as to the main lines of drainage, and for the heavy proportion which our staff salaries last year bore in consequence to the total of our 1700 expenditure, we were willing, as I told my noble Friend, to bear any reproaches, and to accept the full responsibility; but for the preventible sickness and mortality resulting from our forced postponement of much that we desired to do, and for the actual undue pressure of rates within this present year, not the Commission, but Parliament, or rather the Government, ought to be held responsible. But the inconvenience caused by the want of borrowing powers, is only one out of many difficulties arising from the complicated and multifarious provisions passed by Parliament with regard to this subject; even if money could have been obtained for them, no extensive recourse could have been had to works under "special" or "improvement" rates, on account of the number of forms and notices required for them. Indeed, I have been told by the engineers that though the legal technicalities come comparatively little within their department, the superintendence, and planning, and execution of engineering works, has been, even to them, a light matter, compared with the trouble occasioned by a compliance with the technicalities and forms required by law. But for these difficulties, long ere now, many of the most wretched blocks of buildings would have been put in order with perfect drainage, supply of water, and water closets. As it is, the evils of the separation of the administration of the sewerage and water supply (though I am bound to say that the Commissioners have met with great liberality and assistance from the different water companies) have caused several stoppages of drains, and have aggravated the already too numerous technicalities which interfere with the sanitary improvement of-blocks of buildings. I was glad to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he had at last arrived at the conviction that it was desirable the sewerage and water supply should be dealt with simultaneously as one concern under a combined body. But he could not have pronounced a more severe condemnation of that most unsatisfactory Water Bill, which I felt it my duty to warn the House, on its introduction, must prove a mischievous failure, and which, I rejoice to find, the Government have since most wisely abandoned.
Complaints have been made to-day by the hon. Members for Finsbury and Marylebone, as well as by others, not only in this House but elsewhere, of the manner in which the business of the 1701 Commission has been carried on; but the House, in fairness, should consider the nature and duties of the Commission, and the law under which we are acting, on which I had, on a former occasion, to trouble the House at some length. Perhaps the body to whoso constitution that of the Commission may be considered most analogous, is that of the Court of Quarter Sessions, which executes county works, such as the construction and repair of county bridges, jails, and lunatic asylums, and collects county rates for the discharge of county expenses, as well as administers justice in those cases which come within its jurisdiction. It should be recollected that the Commission is not merely a body for the execution of public works, and for collecting large sums of money from great masses of ratepayers, but that it is besides a court of record, having to exercise jurisdiction on many points of a most nice and complicated character under an Act of 146 clauses, the provisions of which being new, left them without any body of precedents for their information and guidance. But the difficulties thus at first inevitably attendant upon keeping the records of the Commission have now been overcome; a series of forms and precedents have been arranged; and no such delay in entering the minutes as did unfortunately take place need ever occur in future; the minutes of the last monthly court, held during the present month, have in fact been settled—I have seen them complete myself—and they are by this time fully entered, or nearly so, upon the final record. Before I quit this subject, however, I must, at the request of the Secretary of the Commission, altogether demur, on his behalf, to the correctness of the account which the hon. Member for Marylebone purported to give, on his authority, the other day, about the confusion prevailing in the office with regard to the records of the proceedings of the Commission. Minutes of all the business transacted by the Commissioners have been throughout most carefully and regularly kept. I altogether deny that they were in any confusion whatever; though, for the reasons I stated, the final entries on the formal record were at one time unfortunately much in arrear. My hon. Friend must have completely misapprehended the statements of the Secretary; but it is not surprising he should have done so, considering how little he is acquainted with the business or law relating to the sewers.
1702 But the Commissioners have been charged with extravagance. I will not condescend to give any answer to the gross charge which has been made against the Commissioners by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams), that they squandered their funds in corruption. All I would say is, that if the characters of the Commissioners themselves do not suffice to protect them against such an imputation, nothing I could find time now to say on their behalf could be satisfactory; further than this, that, so far from courting secrecy, we have always invited inquiry. I have, over and over again, both publicly and privately, challenged hon. Members who threw out such insinuations in indirect and intangible terms, to move for a Committee of this House, and have the whole matter sifted to the bottom; and they know best why they have not taken such a course. I may state that the old separate Commissions contracted a debt of 65,000l., which has since continued in existence; but the present Commissioners have reduced the liabilities of the Commission by about 20,000l., and the debt is now less than when we entered upon office, notwithstanding the many miles of drainage we have completed. It is also right I should mention that, under the previous separate Commissions, accounts were very irregularly settled, and very imperfectly kept; that many of these unsettled accounts have been sent in to the present Commissioners for payment; and that actually, not many weeks ago, some of 1839 were brought before us for payment. The accounts of the present Commissioners are kept closely made up, and they have been twice audited by the Government Auditor, who has, on each occasion, highly complimented the Commissioners on the manner in which the accounts are kept. That is very satisfactory; but far more so is the fact that though a long notice of the audit is always publicly given to the ratepayers, and every opportunity is afforded them of examining the books, and of objecting to any improper item before the auditor, when any tangible charge about the expenditure would be sure of a searching and impartial investigation; on no occasion has any objection been made, or indeed, has any ratepayer whatever, out of all our numerous accusers, ever presented himself at all at the audit.
Having thus answered all the charges which I can recollect to have been made against the Acts, I now come to the ques- 1703 tion of the composition of the Commission. To the objection of the hon. and gallant Member for Middlesex, that we have almost all of us, other heavy public or private business to attend to, I can only answer that, on principle, I am entirely agreed with him; but when I hear hon. Members talk of us as a dilettante Commission, I say that such a charge could only have emanated from the most presumptuous ignorance. For, with regard to the construction of the Commission, I may state that six of its members received an engineering education, as officers of the Army—Sir H. De la Beche, a name familiar to the scientific world; Sir John Burgoyne, and Captain Vetch, well known not only for their services in the Peninsular War, but since, for their useful labours in the arts of peace, the one as head of the Board of Public Works in Ireland, the other as member of the Harbour Commission; Captain Dawson, for years engaged in the superintendence of the business connected with Maps in the Tithe Office; Captain Harness of the Mint, and Colonel Alderson, who has since died. It is sufficient to name our two civil engineers—nowhere, except, it seems, in the Vestries of St. Marylebone and St. George's, unknown—the author of the Britannia Bridge, Mr. Stephenson, and Mr. Rendell. Mr. Hardwicke is not only the architect of some of the most admired buildings in the metropolis, but is also largely engaged in the management of house property in several parts of it. Mr. Peto is one of the most eminent contractors in Europe; while of the three Commissioners who have no professional qualification for the actual execution of the works—Mr. Lawes is a barrister, who has made himself master of the complicated law of sewers; and Mr. Hawes, to whose indefatigable attention is mainly owing the satisfactory state of the accounts of the Commission which I have already mentioned, is well known in the City as a man of business. The only remaining Commissioner is myself; and of myself I cannot speak without unfeigned reluctance. I may, however, be permitted to say thus much, that if there be one subject to which I have devoted more labour, time, and attention than another, it is the sanitary condition of the people, and the means for its amelioration. Since the time when I prepared the lecture on the subject, which I delivered in the winter of 1844, at Plymouth, down to the present moment, I have made it my business not only to read 1704 most of what has been written on this subject abroad as well as in this country, but also personally to visit some of the most wretched parts of this and other large towns; to examine works in progress; and to make myself practically acquainted with the most approved modes of effecting improved sanitary arrangements. So much for the trouble I have taken; others must judge whether it has been labour in vain. With regard, however, to the imputations thrown out against me by the hon. Member for Lewes, he must allow me to tell him that he cannot entertain a lower opinion of my qualifications, than I do of his fitness to pronounce any opinion upon them. It is some satisfaction to me, under these circumstances, to reflect that I have been three times elected the representative of one of the oldest and most important of our seaports—not, he will allow me to tell him, by the aid of thousands mysteriously expended on my behalf there, but—by the unbought suffrages of a numerous and incorruptible constituency. It is some satisfaction to me to reflect that on the last occasion I was placed at the head of the poll—not, I will inform the hon. Member for Marylebone, because I had acted as the organ of any select vestry there, for Plymouth, happily, posseses no such body, nor, if it did, would I ever consent to bind myself to act upon its instructions. The honourable position in which my constituents have placed me, is not the fruit of any sacrifice of my own conscientious opinions, or any truckling to popular clamour; it is the result of mutual confidence; and that confidence, I must confess to the hon. Member for Lewes, is of itself, if there were no other, an abundant consolation for the loss of his good opinion. I may be allowed to inform him, however, that I did not wait, before deciding on the course which I should adopt in the matter, for the expression of his opinion, or that of any other Member of the House, as to my fitness for the office of paid Chairman to he created by this Bill; still less for the amount of the salary to be fixed. Some time ago, indeed as soon as the general intentions of the Government on this point were communicated to me, I made known to the Government my determination to decline accepting that office—[Lord J. RUSSELL: Hear, hear!]—if it were offered me under present circumstances, which, in truth, I hardly expected it would be.
I have now stated to the House the 1705 labours and performances of the Commissioners, and I may be asked, as they had no sinecure, whether they have been highly paid? On the contrary, the whole of the services rendered by the Commissioners have been gratuitous. That those services are arduous, I venture to think I have shown; and that they are thankless, every thing that has passed during the Session, as well as on this occasion, has most abundantly proved. But arduous as have been our labours, and unremitting our attention, we could not have effected a tithe of what we have done without the most cordial harmony and co-operation among ourselves. Whatever dissatisfaction or discord raged outside the walls of our court room, peace reigned within: we have not, I believe, a division on our minutes, and I shall always look back with pleasure to the friendly intercourse into which the business of the. Commission has brought me with so many eminent men, and shall ever remember with gratitude the kindness and support I have invariably received at their hands. But, have we shrunk from inquiry? So far from it, I have over and over again challenged it, publicly and privately, on behalf of myself and my Colleagues; indeed, I may state that at a general Committee of the Commission, on the 27th of May last, at which all the body, with the exception of two only, attended, it was resolved that the unanimous opinion of all the ten Commissioners present should be conveyed to Sir G. Grey, that, "unless the Government see decided inconvenience in such a course, a Committee be moved for in the House of Commons to inquire into the proceedings of the present Commission since its constitution in October, 1849." That resolution I placed in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and it was only at his suggestion that the members of the Commission who had seats in this House have hitherto waived their intention of moving for a Committee of Inquiry, before which our accusers might have been compelled either to withdraw or to support their charges against us. With regard to the present Bill, I had not seen it at all until half an hour before it was read a second time; and my Colleagues have unanimously requested me to state, that as a Commission, they decline offering any observations whatever upon it, further than this, that it does not embody the suggestions which they had made to Her Majesty's Government.
It will be for us hereafter carefully to 1706 consider what course we shall think it our duty to take under the circumstances in which we are now placed.
In conclusion, I cannot help remarking that, since the Earl of Carlisle left the office which he formerly filled, the Commission has not received from the Government that co-operation and assistance upon which they had reasonably calculated, and without which I do not think that the present Commissioners would ever have consented to undertake their difficult, laborious and thankless office. I believe that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, the noble Marquess who so ably leads the other House of Parliament, and, above all, my truly noble and excellent Friend the Earl of Carlisle, are sincere in their desire for the promotion of sanitary reform; but I must remind my noble Friend that it is impossible for him to claim with consistency the approval of the wise and good, and, as I think, rightly-judging persons whe desire the sanitary improvement of the population, and, at the same time, to obtain favour with those who may, with equal consistency, be opposed to it. I am sorry to say that I see indications in several departments of the Government of an intention to thwart, in detail, measures for which the Government, as a whole, takes credit in Queen's Speeches and on other public occasions. Such a course is neither consistent, nor creditable, nor satisfactory; and the sooner a distinct understanding is come to with them as to their real views and intentions with regard to sanitary subjects, the better it will be for all parties.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
thought a great deal of the noble Lord's statement wide of the question before the House; and much that related to the conduct of the Commissioners had been of a most unsatisfactory character. He should prove, from printed documents now in the hands of hon. Members, and from statements made by the noble Lord at the head of that Commission, that it was the most unsatisfactory and inefficient Commission that had ever existed in the metropolitan district. He had, on the 16th of May, made a statement which had never been contradicted, that although many meetings, both of the Commission and of Commissioners, had been held, yet no minutes of those meetings had been entered up from the 11th October last to the 13th May. It was not the business of those who had opposed 1707 the Commission of Sewers to move for a Committee of Inquiry into that Commission. What they had to do, and what they did, was to urge the Government to bring in their Bill, and then the noble Lord might have an opportunity of defending them. The noble Lord had referred to former Commissions, and had charged them with being inefficient, incompetent, and corrupt. Now they had nothing to do with the sins of former Commissions, which no doubt were guilty of great extravagance; but he (Sir B. Hall) knew that while the former Commission only levied 3d. in the pound, the present one levied 6d. The noble Lord had referred to the quantity of the correspondence transacted by the Commission; and there was no doubt that no other bodies in the kingdom carried on so voluminous a correpondence as the Commission of Sewers and the Board of Health; he wished, however, that they had confined themselves to practical purposes and objects, instead of writing letters and employing a whole staff of secretaries and clerks. The noble Lord had spoken also of the plans for the drainage of the north and south side of the metropolis, which were no doubt announced as stated by the noble Lord; and these announcements created the greatest consternation amongst the ratepayers, who feared that they should have a rate of 3,000,000l. or 4,000,000l. fastened upon them to carry out the plans of this inefficient Commission, and the rate would more likely be 7s. in the pound than 6d. When the noble Lord said they had executed their works at half the cost at which their predecessors did theirs, he would ask the House to refer to the only work to which the Commission could refer with any boasting—the Victoria-street sewer. It appeared that the original estimate of the first contract was 5,082l., the contract price 4,600l., and the actual cost 7,443l. or 2,843l., or 62 per cent above the contract price, and 45 per cent above the estimate. The Commissioners had adopted one curious plan; whenever they got into any scrape, and a return tending to throw any light upon it was ordered, they immediately directed somebody to make a report upon the same subject, excusing them, to be presented with the return. Now, amongst the costs of this part of the Victoria-treet sewer was an item of 450l. for expenses incurred in preventing one of the towers of Westminster Abbey coming down. But what business had they to go so 1708 near Westminster Abbey? Why did they not carry their sewer at a proper distance from the towers? Then they said that it was necessary to have concrete; but could it be supposed that the engineer did not know the nature of the soil upon which he was working, until at the last moment he ordered concrete to be added to the original estimate at an extravagant expense? According to the noble Lord himself, the ultimate cost of the second length of the sewer would be 13,000l., against an original estimate of 7,700l. If, therefore, they might judge by what had taken place here, the costs of the new works which had been suspended, would have been, not 150,000l., as the noble Lord estimated them, but about double that amount, or nearly 300,000l.; and he thought that the inhabitants of the metropolis ought to be thankful for those technical defects in the "Act which, according to the noble Lord, were the only reasons why this sum was not levied upon them. The noble Lord had surprised him (Sir B. Hall) when he said that the debt and liabilities of the Commission had been reduced; for, by a return presented to that House, according to the 11th &c 12th Victoria, it appeared from the accounts of the Commission, to December 1850, that their liabilities were 58,195l., while the liabilities of the present Commission, after an existence of only fourteen months, amounted to 135,342l., and that during that time they had increased their expenditure no less than 77,147l. Coming to the expense of works, surveys, and cost of management, he found that 57,665l. had been expended upon works, and 8,618l. on surveys, making a total of 66,283l.; while the management of the Commission during that time cost 21,104l., or about 30 per cent on the works and surveys put together. Something had been said of the non-attendance of the Commissioners at the meetings, and of their theoretical rather than practical mode of acting; and it was very remarkable that if a by-law embracing any of those theoretical notions in favour of sanitary reform which they were in the habit of putting forth was to be passed, there was a full attendance of Commissioners; but when meetings were to he held to hear the appeals of the ratepayers, a meeting could not be formed, and ratepayers who had come to attend it were obliged to go away again. As a specimen of the by-laws the Commissioners adopted, he might state, that on the 15th of Octo- 1709 ber, 1850, they passed an order, or bylaw, which was confirmed on the 6th of December, providing that no drain, water-closet, or cesspool should be constructed or used without their approval. There was a person whose name had been frequently before that House, Mr. Frank Forster, who was the superintendent or agent of one of the Commissioners of Sewers, who, not requiring his services any longer, got him a place under the Commission of Sewers instead of Mr. Phillips, who held it before, who could not be said to have either neglected his duty, or to have been incompetent to transact the whole business of the Commission, and who would have done it at a salary of 400l. or 500l. a year. But because this Commissioner had no longer any further occasion for Mr. Forster's services at the bridge constructed over the Menai, or some other place, he was foisted upon this Commission. That was the way their business had been transacted, and he undertook to prove that the Commissioners had exercised their power in placing persons in that office because their services were no longer required in other parts of the country. He (Sir B. Hall) had got an order of that House for a report upon the metropolitan sewers, by one of their best surveyors (Mr. Smith), to be appended to the estimate of the Victoria-street sewer. Immediately upon his doing so, the Commissioners, although they had previously lauded this man, censured him, and appointed Mr. Frank Forster to go into the sewer, and make a counter report, in order to cover the disgraceful manner in which the work had been carried on there. He wished to know whether a large part of that work, which had cost 80 per cent above the contract price, had not since fallen in? The sewer was now in such a disgraceful state, that when, the other day, he found the street in front of the Horse Guards covered with water and asked the cause, he was told, "It is owing to the Commissioners making the sewers so small that they won't carry the water away." He thought that all these things having been made public, they had a good right to complain that this Bill was not brought in at an earlier period of the Session. The right hon. Home Secretary knew very well that the Commission would expire at the end of this Session of Parliament, and yet almost at the very end of July they were to be called upon to consider this question in its various bearings, and to pass a Bill 1710 to perpetuate this excessive nuisance. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: For one year.] Yes; but when people were thoroughly dissatisfied with the Commission, they did not like to be called upon to pay the rates and taxes that might be levied upon them for even one year. He was sure there could be but one feeling in respect to this subject—that the Commission should cease and determine at the earliest period; and looking at the extravagant manner in which the Commission had exercised its powers, and the unsatisfactory condition in which its works were left, he thought they should at once prevent them, by a clause such as that proposed by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) from levying more than a certain amount of rates during the next year. They had already levied a rate sufficient for two or three years; but he understood they had run into debt—that they were now under great liabilities—and that out of the sum they had levied, they had only a small sum left to be expended upon works. Some of these works no doubt must be finished; but let not the House give more powers than were absolutely necessary. He was sure that unless the principle of representation was introduced into the management of this department, they would not give satisfaction, and the same extravagance would occur again. Compare with the expenditure under this irresponsible Commission, that of one of the best-managed and richest metropolitan parishes—St. George's, Hanoversquare—where the representative principle was in action, and where the police rate, poor-rate, and county rate, only amounted to 1s. 6d. in the pound. He believed, in the words which his noble Friend (Viscount Ebrington) had applied to the former Commissions of Sewers, that the present Commission was perfectly inefficient and incompetent, and that the sooner it was done away with, the better satisfied would be the inhabitants of the metropolis.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he must object to the tone adopted by the noble Lord (Viscount Ebrington) towards the previous Commissions of Sewers, and also towards Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord had said that they were more heavily taxed under the former than under the present Commission of Sewers; but he (Mr. Henley) found that in the district where he resided, while the old Commissions only levied a rate of 3d. in the 1711 pound once in every two years, the present Commission, after receiving a rate of 3d. in August, 1849, had levied a rate of 6d. in April, 1851; thus taking 9d. in eighteen or nineteen months, instead of 3d. in two years, The noble Lord had spoken of the labours spent by the Commission in inquiring into the prices of the various works to be done; but it seemed as if these were not expended in a manner very profitable to the public, when the very first sewer that they made so much exceeded the estimate. It would have been much more satisfactory to the public if the Commission had been merely continued for a year, and restrained within some limits, and without an attempt to set up any new machinery. He considered that this Bill would virtually throw the management of the whole business into the hands of one man; for the 4th clause provided that two Commissioners, one of them being the Chairman, should be a quorum, and that the Chairman should have a casting vote, so that the Chairman might outvote his colleague and do what he pleased, the Board being still responsible for his acts.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that some time ago when it was proposed to renew the Commission of Sewers for one year, little objection was made to such a measure, but the main source of complaint against the Commissioners was, that they had very seldom met. The question was, therefore, whether, in renewing the Commission, endeavours should not be made to make it efficient, and to remove that ground of complaint. It was obvious that the Commissioners of Sewers, many of whom were gentlemen of eminence, and had to attend to important avocations, could not be called upon at any time to attend the Board. Now, the only way to secure the attendance of one or more Commissioners, was to give him or them a salary; and the only question before them seemed to be the very narrow one, whether, in renewing the Commission for one year, they should attempt for that year to remove some of the defects of the Commission. Those hon. Gentlemen who wished to remedy the inconvenience which had been pointed out, would adopt the plan of the Government; but those who wished to keep alive the grievance for another debate, and to turn out the fox again next year, would oppose it. With regard to the history which had been given by his noble Friend (Viscount Ebrington), and by the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B, Hall), it was very diffi- 1712 cult to decide between assertions which were so completely opposed. His noble Friend said the amount of rates expended had been very much less during the last two years than it had been in 1845 and 1846. The hon. Baronet, on the contrary, said that the expenses had been very much greater of late, and that the rates levied had been considerably augmented. He (Lord John Russell) did not pretend to say which of these two authorities was right with respect to the management of the Commission; but he thought his noble Friend (Viscount Ebrington) had some advantage, from his statement that he and the Commissioners had all along wished for an inquiry into this matter—that they had been ready to promote such an inquiry—that they had hoped some hon. Member would have moved for it—but that the opportunity of having all the facts investigated had been denied them. He (Lord John Russell) concurred in the views of his noble Friend with respect to sanitary measures. He was most anxious that sanitary reforms should be effected; but Gentlemen whose minds were bent upon such reforms, might sometimes, in the eagerness of the pursuit, commit errors in judgment, for he did not suppose that sanitary reformers were exempted from human infirmity in that respect. There seemed to be little dispute with regard to the Bill before the House. They were all agreed that the powers of the Commissioners should be extended for another year. The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord D. Stuart) had said that he knew perfectly well what the intentions of the Government had been, and that they always meant to bring in such a Bill as this, and not to propose any other plan. What mesmeric power enabled the noble Lord to see into the minds of Members of the Government, he (Lord John Russell) did not know; but he could assure the noble Lord that he was mistaken as to the intentions of the Government. His (Lord John Russell's) wish had been that they might have had a measure which might be made to agree with a plan for the supply of water; but as the water supply question stood, they were not able to do so, and the whole of this great question must be postponed for the present; and it was, therefore, necessary to renew the Commission for another year. He agreed that there was hardly any question of more importance than that of providing for the sanitary state of this metropolis, with its 1713 2,500,000 inhabitants, whether, with regard to sewerage, water supply, or other subjects; but the proposal to introduce a great representative body into the metropolis to manage these matters, was one which demanded very grave consideration. He did not suppose that any measure could be introduced on the subject in the present Session, and when the House came to consider the question, he thought they would find innumerable difficulties in the way of carrying out such a proposal.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
begged to explain: what he had said was, that he saw all along that it was the intention of the Government not to bring in this Bill till the end of the Session, when there could he no opportunity of fully debating the subject.
§ MR. ALDERMAN COPELAND
hoped the Government would pay some attention to the expenditure of the Commission. The expenditure during the last year had been near 90,000l., of which 21,000l. was paid for the expenses of management alone.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put and agreed to; House in Committee.
§ Clause 1 (Appointment of a Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of Commissioners of Sewers),
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, in reply to the statement of the hon. Member for Marylebone, with reference to the records of the Commissioners' proceedings, that it was incorrect to say that minutes of their proceedings were not kept, though at the time to which the hon. Baronet alluded they might not have been finally entered in the formal record. He could not state exactly what the taxation under the present Commission of Sewers had been upon each of the districts, but he knew that from January, 1835, to November, 1847, under the old commission, rates to the amount of 240,000l. had been collected. During the existing commission the rate collected had not been so high in amount, the rate collected in 1849 and 1850 being about 130,000l., and there might have been some 60,000l. or 70,000l. collected in the course of this year; so that instead of the taxation being, as it was represented, to be more onerous now than before, notwithstanding the increased quantity of work done, there had actually been a smaller expenditure. It was not in consequence of the return to which the hon. 1714 Member for Marylebone had alluded, that the Commissioners were principally displeased with Mr. Smith, though he did not mean to say that he had acted wisely or judiciously about that. With regard to the charge brought against Mr. Stephenson, of providing for one of his friends, at the expense of the ratepayers, repelled with indignation such a charge upon his hon. Friend. He was quite incapable of such conduct. He could assure the House that so far from jobbing, the whole of the Commissioners were actuated by an anxious desire to make the best appointments, and Mr. Forster was unanimously recommended for it by a Committee of their body, composed of military as well as civil engineers, to whom the matter was referred.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
could undertake to say, that up to the time he moved for the return to which he had alluded, not only was Mr. Smith not censured, but he was always praised by the Commissioners. Sir Henry de la Beche, one of the Commissioners, had spoken of Mr. Smith in high terms of praise; but he (Sir B. Hall) believed that Mr. Smith had been censured, solely because he had shown up the infamous manner in which the Victoria-street sewer had been constructed under the direction of an engineer who received 1,500l. a year. He wished to know whether it was true that the workings of the tunnel for the Victoria-street sewer, having been commenced at each end, failed to meet in the middle?
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, that there was a slight deviation of fifteen inches on the part of the contractor, not of the engineer, in one part of the tunnel, which had long since been repaired. Mr. Smith was, no doubt, an admirable surveyor, and for evidence his conduct must be always in every respect immaculate; but the fact was, that on one occasion he did something which the Commissioners considered decidedly blameable.
§ MR. WAKLEY
moved, that the Clause be omitted. It provided that Her Majesty should select a Chairman of the Commissioners of Sewers from the existing body of Commissioners, and, considering the incompetency displayed by that body, he thought it an insnlt to the public to make such a proposal.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 21: Majority 14.
§ Clause agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T.||Matheson, Col.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Parker, J.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Rich, H.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Roche, E. B.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Romilly, Col.|
|Brotherton, J.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Seymour, Lord|
|Dundas, Adm.||Thompson, Col.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Thornely, T.|
|Evans, J.||Watkins, Col, L.|
|Forster, M.||Wilson, J.|
|Hall, Col.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Hatchell, rt. hon. J.||TELLERS.|
|Hawes, B.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Hindley, C.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Bell, J.||Greene, J.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Henley, J. W.|
|Butler, Sir J. Y.||Kershaw, J.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Osborne, R.|
|Copeland, Ald.||Spooner, R.|
|Duncan, G.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Edwards, H.||Thompson, G.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||TELLERS.|
|Fox, W. J.||Wakley, T.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Williams, W.|
§ Clause 2 (Salary of Chairman),
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause as amended stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 22: Majority 13.
§ Clause agreed to; as was also Clause 3.
§ Clause 4 (that two Commissioners be a quorum).
§ MR. J. BELL
said, he objected to the smallness of the number, and would suggest that it should be altered to three.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the object of the Clause was to secure the presence of two persons to transact the ordinary business of the Committee. The constant attendance of one would be secured by paying him a salary, and it was thought that the attendance of another might always be obtained. There were a great many things (such, for instance, as the jurisdiction of magistrates sitting in petty sessions) which were done by two persons.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that he would move that the Chairman should report progress. The Bill required further consideration, for it had only been recently 1716 introduced, and was not known to the metropolitan constituencies, from whom, when it was known, it would elicit a burst of indignation.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 7; Noes 50: Majority 43.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ On Clause 5 (Rates to be made, and Mortgages authorised by no less than six Commissioners, the Chairman being one),
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he wished to move two Amendments, the one prohibiting the Commissioners from levying any higher rate than 3d. in the pound; and the other depriving them of the power of borrowing.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he would assent to the first of these Amendments, but he objected to the second. It would be absurd to appoint Commissioners to attend to the sanitary condition of the metropolis, and to deprive them of the power to carry out the objects entrusted to them.
§ Amendment proposed, page 2, line 37, to leave out from the word "Commissioners" to the word "than" in line 38.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 33; Noes 22: Majority 11.
§ Clause agreed to; as were also the remaining Clauses.
§ House resumed. Bill reported.