HC Deb 31 July 1854 vol 135 cc967-1005

Order for Second Reading read.


I rise, Sir, according to notice, to move the second reading of the Bill to continue for two years the Board of Public Health, and those Acts which confer their powers on the local and general boards of health. There cannot, I conceive, be any subject which is more interesting to Parliament, or which is more deserving of the attention of Parliament, than that which contemplates arrangements for the protection of the public health. When I say "the public health," I do not allude to the health of those wealthier classes of society who either have the means when casual sickness attacks them to have recourse to the best medical advice, or who, when they find themselves in a place where an epidemic has broken out, can fly to a healthier region, where, with all the appliances of art, and all the resources which opulence can place at their command, they can screen themselves from the danger which menaces them:—I speak of those humbler and poorer, but much more numerous Members of the community, who by their calling are fixed to spots from which they cannot fly—who by their poverty are precluded from having recourse to the aids of art and science—who, from their want of information, are unable to protect themselves, by such means as may be at their disposal, from the noxious influences which surround them, and for the protection of whose health, therefore, it is most incumbent on the Legislature to make provision. We must remember that with such persons health is not, as with the upper classes of society, a more question of pleasure, of enjoyment, or of comfort. Health to the lower classes is life—it is existence itself—it is the very breath they breathe. As long as they have health, so long they are able to labour, and to apply their industry to purposes useful to themselves and beneficial to others; but when sickness oppresses them, they are cast down into helpless poverty, and either they themselves, with their families, or their families if they should die, probably become burdens to that community of which they ought to be the mainstay and support. There is no part of the world more favoured by nature than this island in which it is our happiness to live. Men of science have explained to us how it happens—by what beautiful and merciful contrivance of Providence it has been so arranged—that these islands which, from their position in regard to the globe, might have been afflicted with the climate of Siberia or the Baltic, do in fact enjoy the most temperate climate in the world — how it happens that this country is free, on the one hand, from those burning heats which are so destructive to animal and vegetable life in other quarters of the globe, and exempt, upon the other, from those extremes of cold which in so many regions of the world make man, and beast, and vegetation alike torpid during the greater portion of the year. Our climate offers to us the means of enjoyment, the means of industry, the never-failing opportunity of accumulating wealth; and not only has it increased the opulence of the country, but, through the exertion of acquiring it, it has given to the people who reside in it habits of intellectual energy and physical strength, which enable them to rival the people of any part of the habitable globe. But although nature has done much, it cannot be said that man has seconded by his efforts the bounty of Providence. We are certainly liable to this reproach, that we have turned our attention too much to the production of wealth, and have forgotten that the very conditions of society which are most favourable to that object are also most favourable to the production of those influences which affect health, and by so doing counteract the production of wealth, and lead to the engendering of poverty. In order to the production of wealth, it is essential that men should be congregated in vast masses in towns. All the tendencies of our commercial and manufacturing habits have for years proceeded in that direction. Our towns have increased greatly in number, and prodigiously in extent, and our wealth has proportionally augmented. But men engaged in the active occupations of business, and in the acquisition of wealth, have not their attention sufficiently called to the influences incidental to the condition of the towns in which they live—influences which tend to undermine, or it may be destroy, the health of those masses on whose exertions they depend for the employment of their capital and the increase of their wealth. This matter forced itself on the attention of the Legislature some years ago; and in 1848, my noble Friend (the Earl of Carlisle) brought into Parliament a Bill—of which I now propose the continuance—in order to establish a General Board of Health, the object of which should be the diffusing of information, and the spreading of local organisation throughout the country for purposes of general health and comfort. The general outlines of that arrangement were, that there should be established in London, in connection with the Government, a Board to take cognisance of the health of the country at large, to superintend sanitary organisation, to collect authentic information on the subject, and to give advice to those who might require it. But the ultimate purpose to which the labours of this Board were to be directed was to create in towns and in districts local boards, self-governing, composed of persons belonging to the respective towns or districts, who, by their knowledge of the particular condition of the locality, and by the information they might acquire of themselves, or obtain from the General Board, might be in a position to make effectual those arrange- ments, and to adopt those precautions, necessary for securing, as far as human regulations may do it, the health of the quarter committed to their charge. The Act of Parliament then passed gave to these bodies large powers, but powers not more extensive than were necessary for the attainment of the object for which these boards were to be established. There was a certain process defined by means of which, upon an application from town's and cities, these local boards were to be established, and the powers of the Act to be consigned to them. And the Act had this merit also, that it guarded against an evil which had long been complained of, and which had been very severely felt, in respect to Parliamentary proceedings. One most serious obstacle to local improvements in former years was the great expense of carrying local Bills through the two Houses of Parliament. This evil, which had been long felt and generally condemned, was remedied a few years ago in a particular class of cases—such as the Inclosure Acts — by arrangements which have proved most satisfactory, and which have tended very greatly to the improvement of the country, while it had prevented much needless expenditure. Arrangements of a similar description were, therefore, adopted with regard to these local boards of health; and the result has been, that whereas in the ordinary course of proceeding the cost of each of these Acts would have been, upon an average, 2,000l., these local bodies have been constructed under the provisions of the Act which it was now proposed to continue, and invested with all the powers that a local Act could have conferred upon them, at a cost varying from 150l. to 200l. each. From no fewer than 300 towns there have been applications to be brought within the operation of the Act; 182 local boards have been actually established; and in regard to all these a saving of five-sixths of what would have been the expense had it been necessary to go through the process of obtaining local Acts has been effected. The Act—the Public Health Act—has been continued from time to time, but it will expire at the end of the present Session of Parliament. Such is the present state of the question. But, I am sure that there cannot be two opinions as to the inexpediency of permitting arrangements which have been so carefully contrived to fall now suddenly into disuse. You are dealing with the interests of millions of your fellow-subjects—men who cannot take care of themselves, and who, if exposed without protection to the calamities which from time to time sweep over the face of the country, will become not only wretched and ruined themselves, but will become, through themselves or their families, a serious burden on the community at large; for if an unfortunate workman, afflicted with a fatal sickness, died, his family in all probability was thrown upon the parish. But, it must also be remembered that, even if death should not overtake either him or them from the want of sanitary arrangements in the towns wherein they dwell, the children are probably brought up in a state of disease, the consequences of which they feel for ever, and they are consequently dependent all their lives on private charity or the support of the parish— To help them through that long disease—their life. This is, therefore, a matter which we are bound to take into consideration, not only upon grounds of humanity and duty, but also out of regard to the interests of those whose interests we are especially bound to protect. It is a matter which concerns alike the pecuniary, the commercial, and the local interests of the country; and, as such, it has an imperative claim upon the attention of Parliament, and Parliament is bound to take care that those arrangements which now exist for the preservation of the public health should not be permitted to drop. At the present moment I think it would be peculiarly unfitting that such laws should be allowed to expire. I do not wish to create alarm—I frankly admit there is no ground for alarm; but the truth ought to be known: it would serve no purpose of policy to conceal the fact, that a terrible disease—a disease more terrible in apprehension than in reality—the cholera—prevails more or less in many parts of Europe; and that, during the last twelve months, it has prevailed with fatal violence in many parts of this country. We all know what ravages it made in Newcastle, and that it has been very severe in Glasgow. Even now it is showing itself in various districts of this metropolis. I do not, I repeat, desire to create alarm by this statement; on the contrary, I am sensible, and I should wish the country to be aware, that although the most formidable and fatal of all maladies if left to itself, it is, I believe I may venture to say, of all calamities the most manageable if taken in time, and if proper and scientific measures are adopted in its early stages. It is a fact established by experience, and attested on the authority of the most eminent medical men in Europe, that if you apply to the cholera in its earlier stages those means and methods which medical skill and science enable you to apply, you may almost in every case give such a check to the malady as will render its further progress impossible. But these means and methods require direction and combination. One of the most efficient and beneficial plans for preventing the ravages of the cholera that has been adopted is that which is called "house-to-house visitation," suggested by the General Board of Health—the system by which gentlemen, in a manner most honourable to themselves, formed themselves into committees, and undertook the task of going through their districts day by day, and ascertaining the existence of those premonitory symptoms, of which the persons who suffer them are hardly conscious that they mean anything particular, but which when pointed out and disclosed, render possible the application of remedies by which thousands upon thousands of lives have been saved. Amongst the Queen's troops stationed at Newcastle, last year, there were 800 cases of incipient attacks of cholera; but only four turned out fatally. These men, it must be remembered, being under the hourly inspection of their officers, and having the advantage of continual medical attendance in their regiments, applied for medical relief as soon as the disease manifested itself, and while they were stationed in that town, only four of them sank under the prevailing epidemic, I say, therefore, that upon general principles of public expediency, it is desirable to uphold this system; and if this be so in periods of comparative security, surely the case must be still stronger in a season of national emergency. Surely, at a moment like the present it would be something worse than madness—it would be absolute guilt—on the part of Parliament to deprive the country of the advantage of those medical arrangements against a calamity which may in a few hours overspread the land, which this Board was purposely established to provide. If we do so we shall pursue a course as criminal as it is infatuated, and we shall probably have upon our consciences the deaths of thousands, who, in the absence of such means of protection, will fall victims to a devouring malady. I cannot believe, therefore, that Parliament will hesitate to continue for a limited period the General Board, and the arrangements with respect to the local boards which have been established under its supervision. The question, however, fairly arises, upon what conditions the Board shall for the future be placed. On this subject I can have no hesitation in saying, that although the arrangements introduced by Lord Carlisle's Act had many recommendations, and worked well in many respects, yet they have not, on the whole, produced such a condition of things as it would be advisable for Parliament to continue. The constitution of the General Board was, in the first instance, one paid member, one unpaid member, and the First Commissioner of Board of Woods and Works. The latter was President of the Board only in virtue of his office as chief of the other department; therefore the Board was, to all intents and purposes, an independent body in the State, administering matters of the greatest public importance, but not under the control of any department of the Executive Government of the country, nor represented by any responsible organ in Parliament. This, I think, was a mistake. I think it was a mistake to place a Board having various and important functions to perform—functions in which many interests are, one way or another, involved, and which it was scarcely to be expected that they should be able to discharge without in some degree thwarting the views and projects of a large class of persons, who derived a fair and legitimate advantage from the previously existing state of things. Such being their position, and such the delicate and difficult character of their duties, it was, I think, upon the whole, a mistake to place the Board in the independent, and, so to speak, "unseen" condition in which it has hitherto remained. Therefore, although the object of the present Bill is to continue the Board for a limited time, and to a certain degree in its present condition, it introduces an important alteration in its government and administration. Its object is to connect the Board with the office of the Home Department, so that it may be a branch of that establishment. In a word, I wish to place the Board under the direct order and control of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Not that the Home Secretary should be a member of the Board, bound to daily attendance, for that would be physically impossible; but that he should have the power of the appointment and removal of the members of the Board, and the right to give such orders and directions to the Board as, acting upon his own responsibility, he may think fit to issue. The result will be that the Home Secretary will be, in the first place, answerable for the personal composition of the Board; and he will be, in the next place, responsible for anything done by the Board of which complaint may be made. Either individuals or bodies, who may suppose they have a cause of complaint in regard to anything which the Board has done, or is about to do, will make that complaint to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who will examine into the matter. If, upon a full consideration of all the circumstances of the case, he shall think fit to sanction what has been done, or what is intended to be done, he will be here to answer for the proceeding in his place in Parliament; but if, on the contrary, the complaint shall, in his opinion, prove to be well founded, he will make it his business to grant redress upon his own responsibility, so that no man may suffer an injustice. This, I think, will be an improvement upon the former system, which, I must say, was not altogether in accordance with the principles of our Parliamentary constitution. It may be asked, why place this Board under the Home Secretary? Simply because the Home Secretary is or ought to be Minister for the Interior, and there can be no business which more imperatively commands, or more eminently demands, his attention than the care of the general arrangements for the health of the country. If he does not do that, what is he to do? You may as well abolish his office altogether, as to deny him jurisdiction over concerns which are matters of vital interest—I do not mean a play on words—to the masses of the community. It is, in fact, the first duty, and the most legitimate function, of a Home Secretary to attend to such matters, and from which he cannot shrink. Even as it is, although I have no power over the Board of Health, which, as at present constituted, is an entirely separate body, and no mere bound to obey my orders than is the Navy Board or the Victualling Department, I every day of my life receive from some part of the country applications connected with the business which the Board of Health is specially appointed to transact. One correspondent complains of defective drainage, another calls my attention to the fact, that an epidemic has broken out in a particular district; and thus I am, in one way or another, in continual communication with the Board of Health upon these subjects, although I have not a particle of authority over them, not the least official power to order them to do or leave undone any particular thing. The Home Secretary is, in my opinion, the man who, upon every principle of justice and sound policy, and from the constitution of his office, ought to be vested with the authority and responsibility of these matters; and it is for the purpose of conferring such authority and responsibility upon him that I have framed the Bill for which I now solicit the sanction of the House. It may be said that I ought to create a new office for this purpose, and that there should be a President of the Board of Health sitting in Parliament, who should be an entirely independent officer. If such a suggestion be made, all I can say is, that it is a new thing for Members of Parliament to press upon a Government the expediency of creating a new office which the Government do not think necessary for the public service. Looking simply to the convenience of Government, in regard to the divisions in this House, and looking to the three great objects of making a House, keeping a House, and cheering the Minister, I apprehend no Government would object to have a new office forced upon them by a vote of this House. But the matter is one of too great importance to be dealt with on the principle of party convenience. Consolidation, and not the splitting up of departments into various sections, has been the principle upon which administrative organisation has of late years been pressed upon the Government and acted upon by them. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has made some arrangements of great value on that principle in the naval department, consolidating under one head various departments of the Navy which had previously exercised a comparatively independent authority, and the result has been most beneficial to the service. Parliament and the country have been crying out lately for the application of the same principle to the military department. Everybody has been saying that the separate Boards should be abolished, and that Commissariat, Ordnance, and barracks should be brought under one head to ensure unity of action and singleness of responsibility. This being the spirit of the age and the prevalent opinion, it would be an anomaly to separate the department of the Board of Health from the Home Office, and to constitute it a new and independent department. And, so far from any advantage arising from it, it is my opinion, the constituting it into a separate department would be productive of the greatest inconvenience and delay. The Home Secretary could not shut himself out from applications in respect to matters of this kind, and it is manifest that a correspondence between the Home Office and a separate and independent department would be attended with much delay, uncertainty, and confusion, and even, perhaps, conflict and collisions of opinion, all which would be avoided by placing these subjects under the responsible control of the Home Secretary. It is on these grounds that I submit to the House the arrangements contained in this Bill. It provides that the Board shall continue for two years; but, if the House should be of opinion that it would be better to limit the duration of the Bill to one year, that is an alteration to which I shall not object. Moreover, if next Session the House should be of opinion that it would be desirable to inquire, by means of a Select Committee, into what has been doing in this matter since 1848, I shall not be disposed to controvert the propriety of that course, or to oppose it in any way. I do not want to force upon the House my own opinions in this matter, but I do submit that it is expedient to continue, for a limited period, the arrangements that have been in existence since 1848, with the material alteration which I have already described —an alteration, the effect of which will be to bring the Board into active connection with a responsible public officer. Should it be the opiniou of the House next Session that this arrangement does not work well—for I, like any other man, may be deceived in my expectations—it will, of course, be competent for them to reconstruct the system on any other principle that may be deemed most desirable. There is one other point upon which I cannot avoid touching, though I do so with great reluctance—I allude to the objections that have been made to some of the persons who constitute the present Board; but, not having had any detailed information of their proceedings, I am not now disposed to express any decided opinion on this branch of the subject. But this I do know, from returns and from facts—this I do know, in some degree, from personal observation— that infinite good has been accomplished, and that a system has been suggested and carried into operation which has had the effect of saving a great number of lives which would otherwise have been sacrificed to epidemics. I know also that applications have been made by no fewer than 300 towns for the assistance of the General Board in the establishment of local boards, and I know that local boards have been actually established in upwards of 180 towns, and I am informed that, notwithstanding that circulars have recently been addressed to all these towns entreating them to petition against the renewal of the Public Health Act, two or three towns only have complied with that requisition, while the overwhelming majority have spoken of the Act in the highest terms of commendation, and have expressed an anxious desire that the present law should continue and their satisfaction at the arrangements that have been made by the Board. On the other hand, I am assured that great personal unpopularity attaches to one member of the Board. I know not how the facts may be, but this I do know—and I am bound to apprise the House of it—that all the members of the Board have placed their appointments in my hands, and have declared in the most frank and honourable manner that, if there be any prejudice against them, well or ill founded, which is likely to impede the operation of the Act, or to prove injurious to the public service, they shall be ready to retire from the Board whenever the Government thinks fit that they should do so. I think it right, also, to inform the House, that in the event of the Bill now receiving the second reading, I mean to propose a clause in Committee assigning retiring allowances to such officers of the Board as may be entitled to claim them, on the usual scale of retiring allowances, so as to make it easy for the Government, if they should think fit, to enable members of the Board who may, by former services, have a just and fair claim to retire. I mention this subject because I think it is due to the persons concerned, against whom I know that considerable prejudice exists, that I should state the circumstances. I am sure the sense of justice will induce hon. Members to weigh carefully the facts upon which these representations have been made. Prejudice, I feel well assured, will not overbear the interests of truth. Englishmen are not apt to be run away with by clamour, nor is it their habit to condemn men without knowing why. It has been said that the Board have, in their defence, imputed base motives to large classes of men; but that is not a fair way of stating the case. The Board have certainly had to manage arrangements which conflicted with the fair and legitimate interests of many very intelligent and very active men. That part of their system which enabled the General Board to erect local boards out of municipal councils without the expense or delay of obtaining local Acts, necessarily took away the fair and ordinary profits of many a respectable man. The improved arrangements which they suggested conflicted in many cases with the interests of water companies, as well those already in existence as those which were merely projected. The methods of engineering which they suggested interfered, for a time, with the previous opinions and the employment of local engineers; and, all things considered, it is not to be wondered at, that great prejudice should be created against them, in many respects without good and proper justification. However, I do not wish to enter into a discussion of this subject—it is one which rests between the Board and their accusers. My object is simply the organisation of the department. I do not want you to pronounce, any opinion upon the men; but I have their authority for saying, that they hope that no personal consideration affecting themselves will prevent any arrangement being come to which the House may think conducive to the public interest. I hope, therefore, that the House will perceive the propriety of passing this Continuance Bill. I think it a matter of the deepest possible interest to the great mass of the people in this country. At the present moment especially, to take away the means of guarding against an epidemic which is fatal only when it is not met by the anticipatory means which medical science affords, which means can only be effectually applied by consultation with some central authority, will be, in my opinion, to incur a responsibility which I should be very sorry to see the House of Commons taking upon itself. Well indeed would it have been for all the towns in this country if they had all adopted the same measures of cleanliness that have been adopted by some, under the superintendence of the Board of Health. Not the cholera only, but those diseases which now spread such, havoc amongst the population would have either altogether disappeared or assumed a softer and less formidable Character than they now, unhappily, present. Some hon. Gentlemen in this House are accustomed to lament the bloodshed and loss of life that inevitably accompany war, and there are others connected with agricultural interests who frequently deplore the injury inflicted upon those interests by the scarcity of husbandmen, which is consequent upon excessive emigration; but the House may depend upon it that thousands of lives are every year lost in this country which might have been preserved by better sanitary arrangements and more skilful methods of treatment; and I do not hesitate to assert that disease has deprived us of more men than all the ravages of war, or all the emigration ships that have ever sailed from England for all the ports of the world. It is a question interesting to every class—to the employers as well as to the employed. Upon the health of our people depend the prosperity, welfare, and greatness of the nation; and I hold it to be the primary duty of the Legislature to omit no means which can be provided by legislative enactments, or improved administrative and medical arrangements, for the purpose of securing the health of the labouring classes of the community, who are tied to the spot, who cannot fly from the pestiferous courts in which they live, who are compelled to see the pale faces of their children and their neighbours becoming more and more wan day by day, who are living in the midst of filth which I will not offend the ears of the House by describing, and who, even when no epidemic rages, are subjected to diseases which sap the vitals of their strength by deadly and irremediable poison. I conceive that, when by legislative enactment means could be afforded to that valuable and most numerous class of society to extricate themselves from those dangers to their health which they are now unable to escape, the House would take upon itself a responsibility I will not believe it will incur by refusing to adopt such an enactment. I shall feel convinced, until I hear the contrary, that no man who really feels as an Englishman—no man who is a friend to humanity —no man who is actuated by those sentiments which ought to animate every Member of this House—can propose to deprive the country of the necessary means of preserving the public health. I shall feel convinced, until I hear the contrary, that no man will get up in this House and object to the continuance of the Act to which this measure refers for the limited period pro- posed by the Bill. I beg, therefore, to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that, in rising to oppose the second reading of the Bill, he did so from no feeling of antagonism to the Government, or to the noble Lord who was so distinguished a Member of that Government:—this was no party question, and it would be a great misfortune were it ever so treated. The noble Viscount had spoken of this Act as having been introduced in 1848, and since then renewed from time to time; whereas it was passed in 1848 for five years, and to the end of the then ensuing Session of Parliament—so that this was precisely the time when the Legislature was properly called upon to review the operation of the measure, and nothing could be more unreasonable than the proposition of a noble Earl elsewhere —the non-official member and patron of the Board (the Earl of Shaftesbury)—that such review of its proceedings was an unhandsome attack upon absent individuals. The object of the Act of 1848 was twofold —to introduce sanitary measures for the benefit of the country, and to constitute a board for administering the functions created. As to the necessity of a Public Health Board, no one denied it; the point to be clearly established was the value of a Board which almost entirely depended on the manner in which it was administered. He thought he could show the House that, as the present Board of Health had conducted its proceedings, it had been a misfortune and a mischief rather than an advantage to the country. He would premise that, so far as he was concerned, the suggestion of the Home Secretary on a former occasion, that those who opposed the Board did so from feelings of personal or private dislike, was quite unfounded. He had no personal or private dislike towards the members of the Board; his whole communication with them had been of an official character, and his objection proceed altogether upon official and public information, and upon public grounds. The Board, as appointed in 1848, was to consist, not, according to the noble Viscount's notion, of two paid and one unpaid member, but of one unpaid member, one paid member, and a president, who was to be the Chief Commissioner of Works. With such a composi- tion, it was obvious that the Chief Commissioner of Works had a power which he could not have when they came to appoint two paid members. He had, then, a real controlling power over the Board, which was defeated when an additional paid member, appointed to carry out the Interments Act, came into operation; and with it was defeated also the intention of the Legislature. He had great respect for the zeal and charitable motives of Lord Shaftesbury, with whom he had acted most confidingly on various Commissions; but there were many social principles of action which guided the noble Earl from which he entirely dissented, and those principles were conspicuous in the administration of this Board. The Public Health Act and the Nuisances Removal Act together permitted an interference with every trade and every occupation, of the most arbitrary and most stringent character. Inspectors might enter any house they pleased, order what improvements they chose to call so, and, if the improvements were not made by the owners, have them made under their own direction, and mulct the owners of the cost. These were great powers, which could safely and properly be intrusted only to persons who would exercise them with the greatest judgment, the greatest caution, and the greatest forbearance. The Board of Health had exercised them to a very large extent, without either judgment, or caution, or forbearance. The Board was not only an executive Board, it was also a legislative Board, enabled to make provisional orders which, in the case of rural districts, or of small places not protected by local Acts or by actual interposition on the part of the House, were carried out by Orders in Council, obtained almost as matters of form, but which then operated as Acts of Parliament. The noble Viscount said that the functions of the Board were to advise the Government as to sanitary measures, and next, to administer the law intrusted to their care. Neither of these functions had been satisfactorily discharged by the Board. As to their advice, the Government of the time had required the Board to advise it upon the subject of metropolitan interments. The Board took a long time—above a year and a half—in making inquiries, and involved the country in heavy expenditure in getting information, or what purported to be information, from all parts of the country and from abroad. In 1850 they had completed these inquiries, and prepared their scheme. What was their scheme? Its two great principles were, first, that the Board itself should be constituted a corporate and permanent body, to carry out the act which they recommended to the Government; and secondly, that the body so formed by the Board should have the monopoly of all the funerals of the metropolis, so that no one within its limits, high or low, rich or poor, should die, but that they were to be empowered to pounce upon the body, to bury it, and to exact a fee from the survivors. All the ordinary feelings of mankind were to be set aside, all the tender emotions of relations to be trampled upon, all the decency of mourning, all the sanctity of grief, to be superseded, in order that the Board of Health might get their funeral fee. So great and general was the alarm produced by the promulgation of the scheme, that the Secretary of the Home Office — the present Secretary of the Colonies—would only consent to take the measure up in a modified form, and, having greatly altered its scheme and provisions in order to allay the public feeling, presented it to the House, where it passed, still much to the dissatisfaction of the general public. That was one instance of the advice given by this Board. Let him mention another. The House would remember that there was a great desire in the public mind that some scheme should be brought forward for the supply of water to the metropolis. The public feeling, indeed, on the subject was so strong that the influence of the water companies would have been as nothing against it; and had the Government brought in any really effective measure of their own on the subject, whatever it might have been, there was little doubt it would have been carried. But, unluckily, the Government again recurred to the advice of the Board of Health. The advice of the Board was, that they themselves, as a corporate body, should control and regulate the whole supply of water to the metropolis, that all the existing river and stream supplies should be abandoned, and that the 2,000,000 of persons inhabiting the metropolis should be left dependent on such supply of water as could he scraped out of the sand of the Surrey hills. That scheme of theirs was under the consideration of two Governments—of the Government of the noble Member for the City of London and of the Government of Lord Derby; but neither the one nor the other could make up its mind to adopt such a scheme. Both rejected it; both were necessitated to reject the advice which had been given by this notable advising Board. Where, then, was the use of such advisers? Why, their advice was worse than useless; it was advice which, if adopted, would have been in the highest degree injurious in both the instances he had cited. There was another occasion of recent date on which they had given their advice to the noble Minister of the Home Department. His noble Friend, indeed, had carefully guarded himself against the imputation that he had so wasted his time as to read the Report they had sent in to him, setting forth their advice in extenso; but, unluckily, he had taken their advice, which, proceeding on the premiss that the Commissioners of Sewers were going on very badly, declared that nothing would save the country but the adoption of tubular drainage, the pet device of the Board of Health. Thereupon the noble Lord sent a letter to the Commissioners of Sewers; and the next thing the public heard was, that the Commissioners of Sewers sent in their resignation in a body. There was general consternation as to what would be the result of the advice of the Board—general confusion. The Commissioners had, however, been got to work again—and how the noble Lord had managed it he could not imagine. What was the precise state of the matter now was not very clear; but such was the advice of the Board on that matter. Another illustration of the advising capabilities of the Board was presented in the Nuisances Removal and Diseases Prevention Act Amendment Bill, which, framed on their advice, Lord Shaftesbury had presented to the other House of Parliament. That was a measure which, so far from mitigating the objections which the arbitrary and stringent character of the previous Act had everywhere aroused, so aggravated the stringency of the existing measure, that when the Bill came down from the Lords, he (Lord Seymour) had, with the general approval of the House, moved that it be read a third time that day three months, and the noble Viscount had been fain to withdraw it. So much for another specimen of the valuable advice of this Board. He would put it to the House whether the public were to continue to pay a Board for giving such advice as that. Was it worth while to keep up an advising department on such terms as these? Their advice, he would repeat, was worse than useless; it was advice calculated to bring discredit on the Government and on the House itself, which should, for a moment, entertain such councils. The advice these gentlemen gave was not limited to the Government or to the House; they advised on a much larger scale, but still at the public cost. He held in his hand a statement exhibiting how they diffused their advice. The House was aware that the charge for public printing was assuming an absolutely frightful aspect; that more than 250,000l. per annum was expended on this charge. And what sort of printing did they get? When the House ordered a public paper to be printed, they were satisfied with printing 1,000 copies, and a handsome number of copies too; but the Board of Health, when they ordered a paper to be printed, were by no means so satisfied. For example, their "Report on Extramural Sepulture," a lengthy document, of no practical use to the general community, but pleasing to the Board as an advertisement of their own merits, was printed to the number of no fewer than 6,000 copies, and distributed throughout the country, in such quarters as to the Board seemed most expedient for their own purposes. Then, again, there was their "Report on the Water Supply of the Metropolis;" of this 5,500 copies were printed and distributed; then came—1st, "Appendix to Report on the Water Supplies," 5,500 copies; next, 2nd Report, 5,500 copies"; then, 3rd Report, 5,500 copies; and lastly, 4th Report, 5,500 copies more. This was an expenditure on the part of a public Board, at the public cost, which appeared to him totally indefensible. And, moreover, what were these so costly Reports? How were they made up? When Committees of that House were appointed to inquire into any matter of public importance, Members from both sides of the House, of different ways of thinking on the particular subject, were nominated upon it, in order that, by a comparison of various views, and an investigation of contending evidence, the truth might be realised. Such, too, was the object with Government Commissions; take, for example, the Commission on Limited Liability, where it was of the very essence of the question that the different views of opposing authorities should be elicited, so that by their careful comparison and sifting the real state of the case the true principle of action should be arrived at. With neither Committees nor Commissions was it the practice for three or four men, having preconceived views, fixed prejudices upon a particular subject, to meet together, and, having carefully collected only such evidence as went undisputed to confirm their theories and to fortify their prejudices, to send forth the one-sided testimony thus carefully prepared as the rule of belief for the community. Yet such had been the practice of the Board of Health, and, in consequence, their Reports were all unanimous, all one-sided, and all useless. Having thus reviewed the Board of Health as an advising department, he now came to consider them as an executive department. It had been his lot to have been himself in many offices, and, from this source and from the many inquiries in which, at the request of different Governments, he had taken part, he had a considerable amount of practical knowledge as to the working of public departments. Speaking with that practical knowledge, he was prepared conscientiously to say that he had never known or seen such a department as this Board of Health; it was a perfect anomaly; and it was fortunate for the country that it should be so—that it should be an anomaly—that there should be nothing at all like it. He would give an illustration of what he meant—a specimen of the proceedings of this singular Board. In 1850, the Metropolitan Interments Act having been previously determined upon, he had accepted office. This was in the spring of the year. At the close of the Session, that measure having been carried very much owing to the personal popularity of the right hon. Gentleman, then Home Secretary, the present Colonial Secretary, that right hon. Gentleman, acting upon the strong opinion which was evinced both in and out of the House that something should be done in the matter, that not a week even should be lost, came to hint (Lord Seymour) as soon as the Act was passed, and asked him to see there was no delay in carrying it into operation. This was in August. He had, accordingly, determined, at much personal inconvenience, to remain in town during that autumn, in order to carry his right hon. Friend's wishes into effect, and had taken no vacation whatever, with the exception of a few days at a time, which themselves were spent in visits to places where the Act was to operate. Himself filled with this desire to carry the Act into effect without delay, he went to the Board of Health. The measure had passed in the beginning of August. On the 15th of August, Dr. Southwood Smith was appointed a member of the Board, for the purpose of carrying out the Interments Act. After Dr. Smith had been a fortnight in office, he (Lord Seymour) went to the Board to hear what they proposed and were prepared to do. He asked them, "Well, gentlemen, have you got into order? and, if so, what are you going to do? Have you made up your minds as to what shall be your first step?" "Oh, yes," said these gentlemen, "we have made up our minds what we shall do." "What is that?" "Well, we 're going to Paris. We have had a Board here to-day, and we are determined to go to Paris." It appeared to him a strange Board that thus began their work by going to Paris. He said to them that it appeared to him they had quite sufficient information already whereon to proceed; that Dr. Sutherland had already been travelling for them, at large public expense, in France and Germany, wherever a graveyard could be found; however, as they did not seem to relish his objections, and as he did not wish to commence working with them in a state of hostility, he did not insist further; and the Board accordingly did go to Paris, taking their secretary with, them, to write their letters and pay their bills. When they came back a fortnight, afterwards, he took the liberty of sending for the account of their expenditure on this little trip, which he took to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to show him how the Board was beginning its work. The next thing he heard of the Board was, that they wished to appoint a number of persons to attend to the decoration of the burial-grounds. They wished to appoint, among others, Mr.—now Sir Joseph— Paxton, a gentleman at that time the great oracle of the town on all questions of taste, who was to be delegated to look after the decorative department of the churchyards; while another gentleman was to be appointed churchyard architect; and a third, Dr. Brown, was to see about the planting and laying out of the burial grounds. His own impression as to the impropriety of these proceedings was confirmed by a letter to the Board from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, remonstrating with them for making appointments and determining upon expensive arrangements altogether without the sanction of the Treasury. In order that such objectionable proceedings might not occur again, he had sent to the Board of Health, requiring copies of all the minutes of their proceedings, so that he might see what was going on, it being im- possible for him at that time—the Board of Works and the Board of Woods being then united—to attend at the Board of Health, who were in the habit of holding boards every day for some three or four minutes per diem. He had, however, gone to the Board on several occasions. He went to them, for example, on the 30th of January, 1851, at the request of the Government, in a special case, which was this: The Board of Health had proposed to buy up at once all the metropolitan cemeteries, and determined to render themselves and the Government liable for the purchase, amounting to 250,000l., according to their own estimate, but to a much larger sum in the estimate of the persons who were to sell the properties. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had thereupon sent to him and expressed his entire objection to this arrangement—an objection in which he (Lord Seymour) fully concurred, deeming it most unwise to enter upon such an undertaking, and that the proper course would be to purchase, in the first instance, one, or perhaps two, cemeteries at either end of the metropolis, as the most practical means of testing the experiment. He went to the Board of Health on the subject. This was on the 30th of January, 1851. They had, at this time, received a letter from the Treasury, intimating that only two cemeteries should be purchased in the first instance, so that the experiment might be made with these, before the Board proceeded further. The Board read to him a long letter of seven pages, which they had prepared, and in which they argued the point with the Treasury. Thereupon, as the minutes recorded— Lord Seymour moved that a letter should be sent instead of the proposed draught, stating that the Board are ready to act on the suggestions contained in the Treasury letter. This Motion not being seconded, Lord Seymour stated that he wished that the Treasury should be informed, when the Board's letter is transmitted, that he differs from it. Now, as to this matter, Lord Shaftesbury, in his place elsewhere, had stated that the thing had not happened as he (Lord Seymour) had described it on a former occasion. Lord Shaftesbury, speaking upon his honour, spoke, it was to be remembered, upon the information of the secretary—not having been himself present on the occasion—whereas he (Lord Seymour), having been present, spoke from his own recollection. However the matter might have been technically as to the non-second- ing, certain it was that he had put the Motion he had mentioned, that it was not adopted, and that the long letter to the Treasury was. In consequence, he (Lord Seymour) had desired the assistant secretary to the Board to address to the Treasury this letter— The General Board of Health, Gwydyr House, Whitehall, Jan. 31, 1851. Sir,—In transmitting to you, for communication to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, the inclosed letter from the General Board of Health, in answer to your letter of the 22nd instant, respecting the proposed purchase by the Board of all the metropolitan cemeteries, I am directed to state that Lord Seymour, the President of the Board, does not agree with the letter of the Board, and that his Lordship rather recommends that the Board should act upon the suggestions of their Lordships as contained in your letter of the 22nd instant. "I have, &c., C. MACAULAY, Assistant Secretary. This was the first instance, in the book, of the differences between the Board and the Treasury, his position in which might be judged from the minute which he found at page 44 of the Parliamentary paper— Read—a letter from Lord Seymour, objecting to the answer which the Board had proposed to send to the Lords of the Treasury in answer to the letter of their Lordships dated the 13th instant, and recommending the Board to adopt forthwith the suggestions of the Treasury, instead of rearguing the subject with their Lordships. It was said that the best course would be to renew the Board for another year, and have an inquiry into the whole subject next Session; but it seemed to him impossible to go on with the present constitution of the Board, and especially with its present composition. Lord Shaftesbury had made it a charge against him that he had never attended the Board; this was not the case, though it was the case that he had ceased to attend the Board when he found by experience that it was to no purpose that he attended a Board where he was systematically overborne, while he could occupy his time to really useful public purposes in his own office. The noble Earl had added that he (Lord Seymour) had told him, in confidence, that he never meant to do anything that he was not compelled to do. He would not be so discourteous as to go into any discussion with the noble Earl as to the expression so attributed to him; all he would observe was, that if he had said this to the noble Earl in confidence, his confidence had been much misplaced, for the noble Earl had taken the very first opportunity of publishing what he had said, when he thought he could bring it out to damage his character. He (Lord Seymour) did not, however, wish to go into the matter, for he did not wish to occupy the time of the House with mere personal questions. With regard to the executive functions of the Board, the question was, if possible, still more important. Take their proceedings as to provisional orders. The Act provided that if one-tenth of the rated inhabitants of a place should petition the Board of Health to be brought within the Act, the Board of Health should be enabled to apply it. This, of itself, was opposed to every principle of the Constitution, that one-tenth of the population of a place was to govern all the rest, and to force such an Act as this upon them. Still, the power being enacted by Parliament, it might be so exercised that its objectionable features should be mitigated by the moderation of those who administered it. But how was it administered? The Act itself supplied no means of testing the validity of the signatures to the petition. A petition, then, coming to the Board, purporting to be signed by one-tenth of the inhabitants of a place, an inspector was forthwith sent down to the place, with no power, even if he wished it, to examine into the validity of the signatures. Nay more, the practice was that the inspector, so sent down, did not permit any inhabitant to see the petition; he said to the inhabitants, "You can't see it, you can't question it, you are delivered up, bound hand and foot, to the Board of Health." The unpopularity which such a measure as this must excite throughout the country was obvious. He could appeal on the point to the many Members who had, while he was in office, come to him, and asked to have towns struck out of the schedule. During the year that he held office under the operation of this Act he had himself struck out seven towns from the schedule after the Acts had been introduced relating to them, besides a good many more which he had struck out before the Act had been introduced. These, be it remembered, and others like them, were the cases of large towns or important districts which could defend themselves; but as to the smaller places and rural districts, which were without such protection, they were helpless as against the Board, which by their provisional orders, under the formal but effectual sanction of Orders in Council, completely overrode them. He had in his hands a remonstrance against this operation of the Board, received within the last few days, since the declaration of Lord Shaftesbury elsewhere that the Board never forced its measures upon any place, which remonstrance — from Barton-upon-Irwell—energetically denounced the proceedings of the Board towards that locality. The noble Viscount seemed to think that matters would mend when the Board should be placed under the control of the Home Office; but, as to the smaller and unprotected districts, the control so anticipated would prove, with the present composition of the Board, and under its present mode of internal action, altogether nominal. The noble Viscount had contended that the whole principle of our Government was not to separate departments, but to consolidate them; but there was the striking example to the contrary of the Poor Law Board, which, having been under the Home Office, it had been found essential to separate from it, and to create of it a new department. The effect of the proposed control would be simply this—that when a grievance came before the Secretary at the Home Office he would write on the corner of it, "Remonstrance—for the opinion of the Board of Health;" and the Board would send in an elaborate Report to the noble Lord, which the noble Lord, according to his own announcement, would not waste his time in reading; and the Board would then act as before, except in cases where the parties aggrieved were in a position, by themselves or their representatives, to make a fight against the Board. That would be the course of things, and that was not the way in which the public business ought to be done. The Bill provided that there should be two paid and one unpaid Commissioner who were to be the Board. Now, it appeared to him that where the Executive Government was to be responsible for the proceedings of a Board, the amateur member proposed was altogether objectionable. He had great respect for Lord Shaftesbury's personal character, but he entirely objected to the noble Earl's grand principle of government—the centralisation of everything—the interfering with everything and everybody. Such centralisation, such interference, should be the exception, not the rule; and, where exercised, should be exercised with the greatest caution and forbearance. It appeared to him, then, that the most beneficial sphere in which the noble Earl could apply his ability and his zeal was in such general superintendence, as a legislator in his place in the House of Lords, over the Board, and other boards, as the case should require in his opinion, and he was sure always to be listened to with attention. With regard to the noble Viscount, he apprehended that the only effect of his assuming the control of the Board in the way proposed would be that the noble Viscount would feel himself called upon, whenever a grievance was alleged against the Board, to come down to the House and with some dexterous and amusing speech defend the Board—to throw the shield of his own popularity over their unpopularity, of his adroitness over their blunders. The noble Viscount had vastly entertained the House with laying down the rule that there was in every town a dirty party and a clean party, the dirty party being distinguished by their hostility to the Board of Health, the clean party by their affection for that body; but he must express the opinion that the jobbing of the Board of Health presented an amount of dirt which must be very startling to the clean party in question. The whole thing was perfectly monstrous. Some engineer whom no one else would employ, or some medical man whom nobody would consult, would be anxious to have the Health of Towns Act applied to his district; he would then get a few signatures, and would send up his impartial suggestion that a particular place could not get on without the interposition of the Board; the Board, jumping at the suggestion, would forthwith send down one of its elect inspectors, equally craving employment, who would, on arrival at the luckless place of his destination, place himself in communication with the doctor or engineering adviser, who being the person who had communicated with the Board, would thus have acquired a locus standi; the united pair would then consult with the surveyor of the local board, whose opinion, seeing that he could only be removed by the central Board, would be sure to take only one direction, and, by this combination of powers, the principle of self-government was utterly violated under the operation of this Board. He must protest against the continuance of this most objectionable system of great power exercised without anything like adequate responsibility. What he wanted to see was, some person made really responsible for the acts of this Board. He did not say that this person should not be a Cabinet Minister, that he should not be a Member of that House—not at all; but he wanted to see some practical man, well acquainted with business, at the head of the Board, and not a more sanitary theorist. It seemed to him that the Board were always trying to make business for themselves, because they felt that they had not business enough to do. He thought that if they were to appoint a responsible head, with a secretary, instead of the present Board, such an arrangement would work far better than the one proposed. The noble Lord had talked as if all those who opposed the Board of Health, were opposed to measures for securing the health of the people; but this had nothing to do with the question before the house. What they had to deal with was, first the existing Act, and next the Board by which it was to be carried out. He admitted that the Act must be continued for another year, but not subject to its being administered by the present Board. It would be necessary next year to reconsider the question, and he was anxious to have independent persons at the Board who might give their opinions as to the operation of the Act. The gentlemen who were now at the Board were pledged to the present Act, and it was not likely, therefore, that they would afford evidence which would tend to a diminution of the powers conferred by the Act. The present members of the Board had entirely lost the confidence of that House, and it was, therefore, absolutely necessary that they should be removed. The noble Lord said, however, that the cholera was approaching. The cholera was always coming whenever the powers of the Board of Health were about to expire; but, if the cholera was at hand, that was the very reason why they should establish a Board in which the public had confidence. It had been stated, in defence of the General Board, that many documents of the local boards bore testimony in their favour; but how were these things managed? He found in the Appendix to the Croydon Drainage Report that statements were given from letters represented to be received from several local boards, and among them was the following extract from a letter from Leamington— I do not consider the General Board interfere unnecessarily with the local board; on the contrary, we have not been able to obtain their assistance so readily as we could have desired. We have, nevertheless, already found their aid and assistance most valuable, from the useful information we have obtained from them. Instead of our connection tending to augment expenses, I consider it has, in all respects, quite a contrary effect. The Report containing this extract was published in August last year; but he found in a local newspaper, in the autumn of that year, an account of a meeting of the local board, at which the publication of the statement was discussed, and the following resolution was unanimously adopted— That the clerk do, by letter, express to the General Board the surprise of the local board at the paragraph in question, which never proceeded from or was sanctioned by the board of health for the district of Leamington. The statement seemed to have been sent by some individual, and the General Board at once published it in a Report, of which they distributed some 5,000 copies, and which contained other letters in their praise. The instance he had mentioned, however, certainly shook his confidence generally in these letters of commendation. When the local boards were established, they sent down inspectors, who usually objected to the plans that might have been prepared by any engineer, however eminent. He had in his hand a communication from Mr. Robert Stephenson— who might certainly bear comparison as an engineer with any officer of the Board of Health—in which he said— I have long entertained the strongest conviction that the detailed plans of towns required by the Central Board of Health prior to giving their sanction to the improvements proposed from time to time by local boards, involve a very unnecessary expenditure of money, and I have not hesitated to express this opinion unequivocally whenever called upon to do so. On this subject I have conferred with several very experienced engineers, and they entirely concur with me in this opinion. The General Board of Health would have large and detailed plans, their inspectors usually threw aside the plans of the local engineers, and he had received letters from every part of the country complaining of the manner in which the proposals of excellent engineers had been overridden by the inspectors of the Board; at Grimsby, for instance, the plan of Mr. Rendle had been rejected in favour of some unknown engineer who was attached to the Board. Considering, therefore, the proposed constitution of the Board to be very objectionable, he hoped the House would decide that the Bill should not be read a second time, in order to show that they meant to have a Board that should be properly responsible to the House, and that they would not be satisfied with a Board constituted in the manner proposed by the noble Lord. It was clear that the Home Secretary would not control the proceedings of the Board, but would only act when an appeal was made to him. He (Lord Seymour) thought he had stated enough to convince the House that the Board, as at present constituted, ought not to be continued, and he hoped that the House would reject the measure, in order that, in introducing another Bill, the Government might propose a Board constituted in a more satisfactory manner. He was not responsible for the measure having been introduced so late in the Session; for it might very well have been brought in much sooner, for it contained only seven clauses. He did not wish to interfere with the Public Health Act, but he desired that it should be differently administered, for the manner in which the present Act had been carried into effect during the last two or three years by the General Board of Health had not only been disadvantageous to the community, but most discreditable to the House. He, therefore, begged to move as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."


said, he thought his noble Friend (Lord Seymour) had taken a very great responsibility upon himself in bringing all the weight of his name and character to bear against a Board as honest, and skilful, and as effectual, he believed, as had ever administered any public department. He believed if his noble Friend had kept up a more frequent intercourse with the gentlemen of the board, many of the bad impressions which he had formed of them would have been dispersed or forgotten in the consideration of the great zeal and earnestness which they had always evinced in the business on which they had been engaged. His noble Friend had adopted the principle of selecting certain exceptional instances in particular cases as examples of how matters in general had been managed by the Board; and had wished the House to take its conclusions solely and simply from those exceptions. He did not think that a fair line of argument, for he was satisfied that in the great majority of cases, of which the noble Lord had taken no notice, the Board had acted most judiciously and greatly for the advantage of the public. With respect to the proceedings of the General Board towards places in the coun- try in which the Health of Towns Act had been introduced, the noble Lord seemed to wish it to be understood that the Act had been forced upon them against their will; but he (Mr. M. Milnes) could state that out of 182 local boards embodied under that Act, and which were now in full operation, there were only six who were in any dissension whatever with the General Board. His noble Friend had also picked out for ridicule a few exceptional cases of what he deemed ill advice given by the Board to the Government on certain occasions; but he had said not one word about the judicious and wise advice which they had given to the Government from time to time, and he thought the Government would be ready to admit that they had derived great advantage from the recommendations of the Board. The noble Lord had likewise cited the conduct of the Board in reference to the question of intramural interment and the water supply of the metropolis. But the noble Lord would surely admit that those were questions of a most complicated character, and surrounded with considerations of private interest with which it was most difficult to grapple, and with other practical difficulties which, perhaps, nothing but time would overcome. The Bishop of London stated that, if the advice of the Board had been followed in regard to intramural interments, that difficult and important question would now have been settled. He would place the authority of the right rev. Prelate against that of the noble Lord. Surely, it was no reproach to them that they had consulted the principles of taste in the laying out of cemeteries. In reference to water supply, the noble Lord had sneered at the proposal of the Board for drawing it from the Surrey hills. The question was one of great magnitude; but they were encouraged by what had been done at Preston, Manchester, and elsewhere. Much had been said of the relations of the Board with the noble Lord himself, and it was to be regretted that he had not entered more closely into communion with the Board, instead of only attending seven times during his whole period of office. The inference was unavoidable, that he had a strong personal repugnance to the members of the Board. It was undeniable that, amidst all the splendour of the metropolis, there existed more squalor and misery amongst the dwellings of the poor than in any other city or country. ["No, no!"] His own experience led him to the conclusion that there was nothing to compare with it. This being so, how should we set about remedying the evil? The principle of self-government was strongly upheld in this country; but, recollecting that in the case of public nuisances, the proprietor of a sal-volatile manufactory even maintained that it was conducive to health, and that the proprietors of other more offensive works did the same, it became a question whether some sort of police surveillance should not be exercised over these cases. It was a question how this could be done so as to produce the slightest interference with individual liberty, and whether the existing Board fulfilled this condition. The noble Lord had failed to show a single instance in which the Board had abused its powers. The only case which he described as a tyrannical act of interference was one where the Board had waited eighteen months before exercising the powers with which they were invested. As the noble Lord, therefore, had not made out a single case in which the Board had abused its powers, he (Mr. M. Milnes) thought he was not justified in coming forward to demand the suppression of a public department on the ground of a general abuse of power. It was said the House had no confidence in the Board; but that confidence ought to be based on careful inquiry, and an examination of facts and documents on both sides. The Board might not always have acted in the best manner, but the vast benefits which they had conferred on the country were not to be overlooked on that account. He hoped the House would not allow these miserable elements to form part of the discussion. Unless it could be proved that Mr. Chadwick or the Earl of Shaftesbury had abused their authority by applying the law to cases which did not properly come within its scope, the House ought not to concur in the rejection of this Bill. It should be remembered that the House had selected those men as the best to advise and assist the people of England in all sanitary matters; and it was a most paltry charge against them that they had published a few thousand more pamphlets than they ought to have done. If the House put them in a position of great responsibility, and, the moment they came in contact with private interest, sided with those interests, they had much better have never legislated at all, but have left the people to wallow in their own dirt. It was said that voluntary efforts were sufficient in this matter, and that all Government interference was unnecessary, as in the matter of education. He thought, on the other hand, that the prudent exercise of a central authority was essential for keeping in check unwholesome trades, pestilential manufactories, and other matters. This might create a little momentary unpopularity, but that would be far outweighed by the benefits to be secured.


said, there was a very strong feeling in the country in favour of cleanliness, but it seemed as if the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken was resolved not to be satisfied unless everybody would consent to be cleaned by Mr. Chadwick; or, if they were unwilling to consent, that they should remain dirty. It was because the process of cleansing had been conducted in a manner very unsatisfactory to the great mass of the people that many of them were now doubting whether it would not be better to remain uncleansed than to be cleansed in the manner proposed by the Board. He (Mr. Henley) had taken some part in framing the Health of Towns Act. The subject was one of much difficulty and complication, and great discretion and skill were required on the part of those to whom were intrusted the large powers conferred by the Act. The question the House now had to consider was, whether a fortunate selection had been made of the persons to whom these powers had been committed? The Government showed, by the manner in which they introduced this Bill, that they—in common, he believed, with the whole country—had come to the conclusion that those powers had not been well and judiciously exercised. This was shown by the proposal to change the tribunal. The Board, therefore, must stand condemned, not only by the voice of the country, but of the Executive Government also, or a simple Continuance Bill would have been proposed without any change in the Board. The hon. Member who last spoke complained that it was unjust to condemn the Board when no instance of misconduct had been established against them. Why, if the hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with the "show up" the Board had received at the hands of the noble Member for Totness (Lord Seymour), he (Mr. Henley) did not know what would satisfy him. He (Mr. Henley) thought few Members in that House could have pressed into so small a compass such a tale of wrong-doing and mis-doing as the noble Lord had done in this case. The strong antipathy against the Board had not arisen from nothing. We were a long-suffering and a forbearing people; and it was only when we came to be kicked very hard, and especially on points very sensitive, that we could get up a feeling against the constituted authorities; and his hon. Friend might depend upon it that in this country it was impossible for any public department to fall into general disfavour so long as it discharged its duties properly. In this case he believed the Board of Health had operated more to delay than to facilitate the cleansing process. All the change, as far as he (Mr. Henley) understood it, which was now proposed by this Bill was, that the proceedings of this Board were to be removed from under the First Commissioner of Works, and placed wholly under the control of the Home Secretary, who was to be responsible to Parliament for their acts. Well, what would be the result? Why, the same thing that occurred when there was a Member of the Government answerable for the Poor Law Commissioners in that House. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), crammed by the Board of Health, would come down to that House full of his brief, and from that brief, with all the strength of the Government at his back, would endeavour to carry this Board through all their difficulties. But let the noble Lord beware, for he might easily bring on his head a degree of responsibility much greater than he appeared to reckon upon. It was desirable above all things that this Board should be constituted so as to obtain public confidence. Their powers must necessarily be large, and in some degree unconstitutional, to carry out the objects they had in view; and it should be the business of the House to see that the persons constituting the Board were likely to exercise those powers with discretion and judgment. But in the meanwhile he thought it desirable that the Government should introduce a continuing Bill, and should reform the Board on some such model as the Poor Law Board. He thought, under the circumstances, the noble Lord (Lord Seymour) had taken the only wise course which he could have taken; and he (Mr. Henley), therefore, cordially supported his Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.


hoped that before the House decided upon rejecting this Bill, they would well consider what was the exact difference between the Members who had spoken on opposite sides of the question. As to the first point, that there should be some body, some authority, administering provisions for the health of the country—this appeared to be generally admitted. The health of the community, the ravages of diseases and epidemics, and the best modes of counteracting them, were matters of such high import, that all must admit the essential necessity of some Board somewhere existing for the purpose of watching over them, and with adequate powers. So far, therefore, they were agreed. As to the precise extent of those powers, there likewise appeared to be no great difference of opinion. The noble Lord (Lord Seymour) objected to the power given to one-tenth of the ratepayers of any locality to have the Health of Towns Act applied to their town. He did not agree with the noble Lord, but this was a point which the noble Lord and other hon. Members seemed disposed generally to refer to a Committee to be appointed early next Session; and his noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) had stated that the Government was quite willing that the duration of the present measure should be limited to one year, with a view to a consideration of the whole subject next Session. He thought that a proposition to which the House generally would be disposed to agree. As to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that would be impracticable; for, unless the House thought fit to sit continuously for the next six months, the proposed inquiry could hardly be terminated before the Board, according to his view, came to its end. Then came the question, presented with great ability and condensation by the noble Member for Totness (Lord Seymour), whether the powers now given to the Board had been exercised with discretion; or, on the other hand, with such indiscretion that they could not, even for the limited time proposed, remain intrusted to the persons who now exercised them? With reference to that, great stress had been laid on some points on which he quite agreed with the noble Member for Totness the Board of Health had been mistaken in the advice they had given. He conceived that the members of the Board had exaggerated views on the subject of central powers, and on the mode in which those powers could be used in this country. He knew that, as to one of these gentlemen, Mr. Chadwick, he had stated to that gentleman twenty years ago his opinion that he did not take sufficiently into account the habits of self-government of this country, and the desire there was in all local bodies to continue that government in their own hands. On the other hand, it would not be denied that, while local government was an excellent thing, still, as to many things, there was frequently such irregularity, such neglect, on the part of those local bodies—for example, as to the Poor Laws, as to the health of towns, as to education —that it was useful to have some general supervision, some general board, which should, at least, furnish information and advice enabling local bodies the more effectually to manage their concerns. Such, at least, had been the course of legislation adopted with the general consent for the last twenty years. The noble Member for Totness had instanced several cases in which, according to his opinion, this Board had acted indiscreetly and given injudicious advice. He was not disposed, on this occasion, to enter into any discussion on each particular case of this kind; but he would say that there were other subjects on which the advice of the Board had been of great importance, and on which its merits had been overlooked. He could say, for example, with regard to cholera, that the Report of the Board which, some four years ago, was founded on their investigations and experience was one of the most valuable Reports upon the health question which he had ever read in his life. It proceeded upon the belief, confirmed by all the experience of the Board and all their inquiries, that, though cholera was a disease most difficult to deal with successfully—a disease which, once established, had exhausted the highest art of the most scientific medical men in the world—yet that, when encountered at an early stage, when it had been only one or two days in a place, by close attention to premonitory symptoms, by house-to-house visitation, and by careful treatment consequent upon such visits, it was possible to a great degree to meet an attack of cholera, or at any rate very greatly to mitigate its ravages. No public Board ever rendered a greater service to the community than was rendered by the compilation of this Report —a report which in any future visitation of the cholera would, he was satisfied, be the means of preserving many thousands of lives; nor could any public body ever render a greater service than by bringing all the facts together, and then showing what had been the experience of the different towns and the results deducible from that experience. So with respect to many other matters, which he did not wish to go into then, he considered that the Board of Health had been of great public service. With reference to that which was the special business under the Board of Health, it had been shown that in 180 towns the Board had been invited to interpose for the improvement of the health of those towns; and it was important to observe, as touching the question of local self-government, that what was done in these towns was not the putting them under the Board of Health, "bound hand and foot," as the noble Lord had said, but that the Board of Health gave its advice and assistance in the formation of local boards of health, which then provided for the health of the place. The other ground on which the Board was attacked was in reference to the persons who formed the Board. He felt himself in a great degree responsible for the nomination of these persons, because, in one office or another, he had been very much concerned in the appointment of those persons. Of Lord Shaftesbury he would say nothing, for that noble Earl required no defence and no eulogy from him. There was no man living who had done so much as the noble Earl to promote the welfare of the working classes, or done it so disinterestedly or so unostentatiously. However men might dissent from many of his views and many of his measures, still this testimony would be readily accorded to him, even in his own generation, and most assuredly in the generations which should come after him. But as to Mr. Chadwick, who was the object of much obloquy, he would say a few words; and, while he stated what he thought favourable to him, he would not disguise in what he conceived that Mr. Chadwick's administration of public affairs was faulty. Mr. Chadwick was a man of the greatest energy, and with a spirit of inquiry which induced him to labour, by zeal, by unremitting attention to the subject in hand, to go to the bottom of it, and to attempt some-remedy for the evils which he conceived himself to find there. He was appointed an assistant commissioner to inquire into the Poor Laws, and if in that large book, the Report of the Commissioners, they turned to the Report of Mr. Chadwick, they would find there the germ of that amendment which, in his (Lord J. Russell's) convic- tion, had saved the country from great social evils, if not absolutely from social revolution. He thought that this was a testimony which might be fairly proposed in favour of Mr. Chadwick. With respect to other subjects—with respect to crimes —Mr. Chadwick's inquiries had been of the greatest use to the country. The constabulary, which had been partly provided for the counties by Parliament, was very much the result of the inquiries which Mr. Chadwick made into the subject; and he (Lord J. Russell) trusted that in a future Session that valuable measure would be carried out to the extent which was requisite for the efficient police of the country. With reference to this subject of health, Mr. Chadwick's inquiries into the health of the metropolis and of towns had been carried on through various Commissions and investigations which had been undertaken on this subject; so that, on these various topics—the Poor Law, the improvement of the police of the country, and the improvement of the health of the country—there was no man to whose zeal and assiduity this country was more indebted than to Mr. Chadwick. Having thus stated what he regarded as Mr. Chadwick's merits, he would not disguise that, like many other men, ardent reformers, he very often, in his zeal for amendment, as he conceived it, overlooked or disregarded the objection and repugnance with which his views and propositions were received by others. Thus, when he was placed upon the administration of the Poor Laws as secretary, many of his proposals went altogether against the feeling of the country, were repugnant to the general sentiment of the country, and were therefore injudicious and not to be persevered in. With respect to this Health of Towns Act, no doubt, in many instances, Mr. Chadwick's acts had, in like manner, given offence. It was quite obvious that in many of our towns many of the ratepayers had rather be let alone than be called upon to take the measures necessary for their own health and that of their townsmen. There were likewise many persons who were pecuniarily interested that the plans of the Board should not be adopted, and it was very probable that Mr. Chadwick had not observed towards these classes of persons the most conciliatory tone possible. However, as to the persons forming the Board, his noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) had already informed the House that every member of the Board had placed his resignation in his noble Friend's hands, to be made use of whenever the Government should think it advisable to dispense with their services. His own opinion was that Lord Shaftesbury would probably think it too thankless a task to continue in his office. With reference to Mr. Chadwick, after the twenty years of labour which he had applied to the public service, at the cost of his health, now much impaired, it would not be deemed unfair that, were he to retire, his services should be compensated by a retiring allowance commensurate with the nature of the duties he was at present discharging. Mr. Chadwick, as he had said, had placed his resignation in the hands of the Government. With reference to Dr. Southwood Smith, it was very certain that, for the effective working of the department, a medical Commissioner was necessary, and it did not appear that any objection was made to this gentleman. Under all these circumstances, he ventured to submit that the proposal of his noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) was preferable to either of the others which had been laid before the House—the proposal, namely, to continue the Act for one year, upon the understanding that, at the commencement of next Session, there should be due inquiry into the whole subject, the result of which would show what powers were thereafter to be vested in the Board of Health, and in what authority those powers were to be vested, and that in the meantime the Board should be placed under the general supervision of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who should be responsible for its working. It was of the greatest importance that, for the next three or four or five months, the measure should have the services of those who were thoroughly acquainted with the details of the department, and not be placed all at once in the hands of new persons, so that the House, when it came to make the inquiry intended, might have the full benefit of the experience which the present gentlemen possessed, and not be in the hands of persons scarcely more experienced in the matter than itself. He ventured to submit to the House that there had been very little difference of opinion between the different Members who had spoken on this subject; that the rejection of this Bill would be a very unwise proceeding; and he hoped the House would adopt the plan submitted by his noble Friend.


said, he should sup- port the second reading of the Bill. He had received several letters from persons engaged throughout the country in carrying into operation the Health of Towns Act, acknowledging the obligations they owed to Mr. Chadwick, and, among others, the following from Dr. Peacock, addressed to Mr. Chadwick himself— Deanery, Ely, July 15, 1854. My dear Sir—I have read with equal pain and indignation the attacks which have been made upon your official character in the House of Commons and in the Times, and I think it is incumbent upon every one who appreciates the value of the important labours to which your life has been devoted to protest against such gross injustice. We are chiefly indebted to your investigations and reports for the first sound views which have been taken of the proper administration of the poor, and of the correct principles of sanitary reform; and it is to your courageous exposure of the jobs of parish vestries, water companies, and of engineers who have either an interest in the perpetuation of abuses or are too idle or ignorant to learn or to practise what a more enlarged and liberal experience should teach them, that you are indebted for the obloquy with which they are attempting to overwhelm you. I have no doubt but the triumphant success of the sanitary measures which are in progress under your auspices will speedily silence all your enemies. I can speak from my own experience, as chairman of the board of health at Ely, that we are, in a great measure, indebted to the kind support which you have given us for the success of our undertaking; without your support, our effort to effect the drainage and water supply of this place would have been stifled at its birth. Believe me, my dear Sir, very truly yours, (Signed) "G. PEACOCK. He thought they ought to pass the second reading of the Bill on account of the important services which the Board of Health had rendered and was still rendering to the country. He was authorised also to state on behalf of Mr. Chadwick, that his medical advisers had recommended him not to continue in the Board.


before giving his vote, wished to know whether, if this Bill were read a second time, the Government would undertake as soon as possible to remove Mr. Chadwick, and to reform the constitution of the Board?


said, it had been already stated that all the three members had placed their resignations in the hands of the Government, to be accepted whenever the Government might think fit; and as his hon. Friend (Mr. Heywood) had stated that Mr. Chadwick felt he was no longer able to continue to act upon the Board, there need be no longer any question about that gentleman.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 74: Majority 9.

Words added: — Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for three months.

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