HC Deb 09 August 1855 vol 139 cc2066-9

Lords Amendments considered; several agreed to.

On Amendment, Clause 49 (that the elected members of the Metropolitan Board of Works shall submit the names of three of their number to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who shall select one of them for Chairman of the said Board.)


objected to the alteration, and thought it far better that the Board should elect their own Chairman as originally proposed.


also disapproved of the Amendment, which he thought would tend to diminish the responsibility of the Board without giving any real power or responsibility to the Home Office.

Amendment disagreed to.


said, he approved highly of the Lords' Amendments, almost all the material ones among which were in accordance with views he had himself pressed upon the House. As some of these Amendments, however, related to pipe drainage, he would take the opportunity of calling the attention of the House to the remarkable report of the surveyors of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers with regard to the working of the pipe drainage in the metropolis, which had just been distributed to Members. And he did so, on account of its being not only upon the much-controverted question of pipe drainage, but also upon the personal conduct and character of the chief engineer of the Commission. The term, "pipe drainage," had been identified with the principle of using for the conveyance of sewage drains of dimensions calculated with reference to the quantity they had to convey, instead of with reference to the stature of man; because, for the drainage of all houses, without exception, of ordinary streets, and in some cases, of the whole of a small town, this principle had led to the laying down of pipes of from four inches to rather more than a foot in diameter, instead of constructing, as formerly, all house-drains and sewers of a minimum size of something like a yard in diameter, to allow of the passage of a man for the purpose of cleansing or repairs when required. He used the word therefore in this sense, though the strongest advocates of pipe drainage quite recognised the necessity of having recourse to brick sewers, whenever the quantity of sewage to be conveyed was too large for pipes to carry it off. Pipe drainage, taken in this sense, had been pronounced by the noble Lord at the head of the Government to combine the greatest degree of efficiency with the greatest degree of economy, as indeed it had been proved to do by the experience of many places for several years. Unhappily, however, several engineers, most eminent in other branches of the profession, had pronounced against it; and following in their wake, Mr. Bazalgette, the engineer to the Commission of Sewers, had latterly made himself conspicuous by his hostility to it. It appeared from the Return on the table of the House, that some time last year a number of pipe drains were opened and examined secretly in the dead of night by Mr. Bazalgette, and were then found, or rather were stated by him to have been found, either wholly or partially choked up in the manner graphically represented in the plates at the end of that Return. It would be for the House, after hearing the sequel, to attach to Mr. Bazalgette's unsupported assertions such weight as they might seem to deserve; but it should be remembered that Mr. Bazalgette had taken care that no producible witnesses—and least of all, any of the engineers of the Commission—should be present at these extraordinary nocturnal examinations. Still this Report of Mr. Bazalgette's for a time had produced a considerable impression on the public. A few months since, however, a second examination into the condition of the same drains was ordered by the Commissioners, and, unlike the other, was carried on publicly by the district engineers of the Commission, Mr. Bazalgette being specially invited by them to attend. This time, by a strange and most suspicious coincidence, the drains represented as choked or choking up more than a year before, had—not in one, but in dozens of cases—somehow run themselves so clear in the interval as to be working most satisfactorily, instead of choking up entirely, as might have been expected; in short, their condition, as seen by various competent witnesses, was what is represented in the other sections of the same Return. Mr. Bazalgette had previously made some most unfavourable Reports, since laid before the House, about the working of the new system of drainage in several provincial towns. The engineers of these works had, however, answered Mr. Bazalgette's Reports, and had most conclusively demonstrated their gross unfairness—to use no harsher term. In one particular case, that of St. Thomas's at Exeter, he (Lord Ebrington) himself had had an opportunity of ascertaining, by personal inspection, the utter disingenuousness and untrustworthiness of Mr. Bazalgette's Report. As to the system itself, its proved advantages were too great to be resisted, notwithstanding the weight and influence of some of its opponents. Town after town was adopting it; and even in the metropolis, the Commissioners of Sewers, though by no means originally predisposed in its favour, had adopted it extensively, and were adopting it more and more in spite of the strenuous opposition of their own chief engineer. He (Viscount Ebrington) had therefore no fears for the system. But it was a serious thing to have an officer in so responsible a position, conducting himself as those official documents showed Mr. Bazalgette to have done. He however rejoiced to feel that one of the operations of the present Bill, when it became law, would be to cut short this officer's tenure of office.

Other Amendments agreed to. Some disagreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to those Amendments to which this House hath disagreed.