HC Deb 17 June 1852 vol 122 cc881-4

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1,


said, he wished to call the attention of the noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Works to the expenses of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers, which at a recent period had amounted to 25 per cent on the work done, besides the expenses of supervision and payment of damages. Last year complaints had been made on this subject, and this year there had been an alteration with regard to the manner in which the accounts were sent in to the House of Commons. Great hopes bad been entertained, from the change which had taken place in the constitution of the Commission, that there would have been some diminution in the expenses of management; but instead of that there had been an increase. Last year he found that works were executed to the amount of 86,000l., and that the cost of management and surveys was upwards of 32,000l., or 40 per cent upon the works done. In 1850 the debt was 25,920l. In 1851 it had increased to 36,832l., although the receipts had in the same period increased from 91,00l. to 129,000l. The debt of the Board was consequently increased this year, as compared with last year, by 10,912l. He (Sir B. Hall) thought that they should have some account as to the manner in which the Commission was conducted, for it was impossible that the ratepayers should be satisfied when they were totally deprived of any share in the management; and he hoped that the noble Lord would see whether some diminution of the extravagant expense might not be made. He had given notice that he would put the following questions to the noble Lord, namely, as to what was the amount of debt due by the Commission at present; what had been the increase of debt since the passing of the Act of last year; and how much money had been levied by the Commission since last year? He understood that the Victoria sewer was in a dangerous state, and he desired to know what it bad cost. As regarded the Bill itself, the first clause, which provided that there should be an alteration in the mode of rating, and that land should be rated to district sewers on one-fourth of its annual value only, ought not, he thought, to pass in the present year.


said, in answer to the first question of the hon. Member, he would state, that the amount of debt and liabilities due from the Commissioners at the present time was 159,848l., to which must he added 3,900l. in respect of contracts in progress, making the total liabilities 1.63,748l. As to the second question, the increase of the debt and liabilities since the passing of the Act of last year was 19,848l. There had been levied by rates since the last Act 67,889l. 1s. 6d., of which 34,800l., or thereabouts, had been expended in reducing former liabilities. For new works about 11,750l. had been expended; the cost of management during the period was 11,870l., and of supervision, 5,000l., making together, 16,870l. As to the state of the Victoria sewer, it was partly satisfactory and partly unsatisfactory, the reason for which was, that it was placed in soil not particularly well suited for it. The total cost of that sewer was 25,381l. 15s. 2d., which did not include the sum payable for reconstruction of buildings, occupation of premises, and compensation, but did include 5,000l., the estimated amount of certain extra work not yet finally ascertained. With respect to the clause alluded to by the hon. Member, the intention of which was to give partial relief to the land in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, it was one of the clearest cases of justice which was ever submitted to the House.


said, he thought the exemptions contemplated in the Bill were unjust, and hoped the noble Lord would act upon the suggestion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall, and not press the clause.


thought that to place acres of land under the same rating as houses, would be an injustice which would not be submitted to for a moment by the Committee.


said, he considered that it was not fair, as the Bill was only to he continued for one year, that this question should be brought forward now. The estimated cost of the Victoria sewer was 12,000l., but the actual cost was 25,000l., being more than 100 per cent over the estimate. Could it be wondered at that the public complained of the manner in which the Commission exercised its powers? The sum expended on the new works, in the course of the last year, was only 11,7508., whilst the cost of management was between 16,000l. and 17,000l.


said, that last year, no fewer than 12,000 persons died in consequence, he firmly believed, of diseases arising from the want of proper drainage, and he understood that it might be reckoned that for every death twenty-eight persons recovered, so that it might be presumed that 300,000 were in one year affected, in London, by illness the result of want of proper drainage. As for the Victoria sewer, in consequence of the contractors being obliged to encounter difficulties which would not have occurred if the original design had been carried out, increased expenditure was the inevitable result.


said, the whole of the evils complained of in the construction and increased expense of the Victoria sewer was in consequence of the course pursued by the office of Woods and Forests. He went to the Chief Commissioner and endeavoured to induce him to permit the sewer to be discharged into the Thames within the limits of Crown property; but that request was peremptorily refused. He (Mr. Stephenson) saw no reason why Crown property should be exempted, or, at least, why it should stand in the way of the best system of drainage for the metropolis. He, however, received a peremptory command that the sewer should not be discharged within the limits of the Crown property. This refusal made a large difference in the expenditure, and, worse than that, the foundations having been bad in the new line, a great portion of the sewer was now in a very dangerous state. Whether the responsibility of this rested on the late Chief Commissioner (Lord Seymour) or not, he would not undertake to say.


said, he must admit that the Woods and Forests had objected to the discharge of the sewer through Crown property; but the reason for that was, that if they had done otherwise, the effect would be greatly to deteriorate that property.


said, he strongly objected to the power which the Bill conferred, of raising the rate from 3d. to 6d. in the pound.


said, there were existing liabilities to the amount of 38,000l., and that the enlarged rate was necessary, in order to wipe off the arrears and carry on the necessary business.


said, he would not now offer any objection to the progress of the Bill; but he hoped the noble Lord would turn his attention to the working of the Commission. It was impossible that the public could suffer the Board to go on in this way.


said, the attention of the Government had been, and would continue to he, directed to the subject.

Clause agreed to;—as were the other clauses of the Bill.

House resumed. Bill reported.