HC Deb 21 February 1855 vol 136 cc1713-9

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of the Nuisances Removal and Diseases Prevention Acts Consolidation and Amendment Bill, said, that it might be well if he were to state, then, the various alterations it had been decided to make in the Bill. Previously to the introduction of the Bill he had some conversation with his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate for Scotland about the propriety of separating the Bill and bringing in a special one for Scotland. The Lord Advocate entirely acquiesced in his proposal. Subsequently he saw the Secretary for Ireland, and that right hon. Baronet desired that there should be a separate Irish Bill also. The Bill now before the House would, therefore, apply only to England and Wales. There were two objects in the Bill. The first was that of general application, and the other had for its object provisions which could only be applied under special and peculiar circumstances. With regard to the first object of the Bill, it was thought that its provisions should apply under all circumstances whatsoever; with regard to the other provisions of the Bill, they could only be applied under peculiar circumstances, when the President of the Board of Health should obtain the sanction of the Council, under whose orders the provisions of the Bill should be enforced. If the House would allow him to take the second reading of the Bill now he would go into Committee pro formà, strike out everything that related to provisions which could only be applied under Orders in Council, leaving the Bill as it stood with reference to the removal of nuisances, and then he would introduce another Bill whose provisions should be applied under special Orders in Council. He had already made a statement on moving the first reading of the Bill, but he hoped the House would allow him to reply to any questions or suggestions that might be made. He would now merely move that the Bill be read a second time.


said, he considered that the Nuisances Removal and the Public Health Bill should be taken and considered together. It was impossible to speak of one without at the same time speaking of the other. He thought the course taken last year by the late Government was a very judicious one. It was very fortunate that they had now in the House an hon. Member who represented the Board of Health, and to whom complaints could be made. So far they had gained a great step; but when he came to consider those two Bills, he must say he found, especially in the Public Health Bill, a great deal that would require consideration and considerable alteration before they could be satisfactory to the country. There were some portions of the Public Health Bill which it certainly would be more judicious to remove to the Nuisances Removal and Diseases Prevention Bill. The power of summary interference given to the Board of Health when deaths exceeded twenty-three in a thousand ought to be taken out of the Board of Health Act altogether, and should come under the Diseases Prevention Act; for the Public Health Bill proceeded on the principle of the election of local boards by local ratepayers, and not on the principle of the arbitrary interference of a central board. Then, the question of boundaries to be enforced was one of great difficulty, doubts, and disputes, and ought to be very carefully considered by a Select Committee upstairs. Again, it was provided that where there was a district to be brought under the Act, and a small suburb in the neighbourhood, a majority of votes in the district should suffice to bring in the suburb, whether that suburb liked or not. Now, he thought that was not only unfair, but unjust. There ought to be afforded to a small suburb some means of defending itself against a large town in the neighbourhood. The suburbs were just the parts that were the most improved. They had been recently built, they were generally well drained, and to them was congregated, in most instances, the wealth of the neighbourhood. No doubt, the larger town would be anxious to bring them in for the purpose of putting a rate upon them, and relieving themselves to a certain extent. The inhabitants of the suburb would consequently find that, although their district was properly and healthfully conducted, they were to be called on to pay for the health of the town in the neighbourhood, in which they were not at all concerned. The Board of Health, under the Bill, might take water and might take property, and to whom was there any appeal? The quarter sessions and the justices were totally unsatisfactory. The justices would not even attend to listen to business of this kind. Then there was the Buildings Bill. Now, if there was anything that could try the patience and good temper of the people of England, and if there was in Europe an oppressive and tyrannical Bill, such a Bill was the Buildings Bill.


All the clauses of the Buildings Bill have been struck out of these measures.


said, he was very glad to hear it. That at once got rid of what was most objectionable in these measures. The Committee upstairs ought also to have power to call for persons, papers, and records, and to take evidence. This Bill was one which must carry with it the good temper of the country, for the comfort and happiness of all were connected.


said, it must be satisfactory to the country to have obtained the valuable services of the right hon. Baronet. The Bill before the House corrected, at all events, a great number of hardships and inconveniences, which had been a fruitful source of contention in a great number of large and populous towns. But it must be by the declared and manifest consent of a majority of the ratepayers that anything could now be done. He had shortened his life by the battles he had had to fight with former Governments; and he hoped that under the administration of the right hon. Baronet all those battles would cease.


said, he considered that the proposed measures fairly recognised the principle of compensation. He thought that some compensation ought to be made payable by those who sought to remove what they considered nuisances to the persons whose property was injured by the removal.


said, he thought that evidence ought to be taken by a Select Committee on this subject. It was very important, and the law upon it ought to be carefully settled.


said, he thought that the determination that had been taken to legislate separately for England, Scotland, and Ireland, was a step in the wrong direction. He could see no objection to the separation of the Nuisances Removal Act into two parts; but many serious objections would still remain in the Bill. It would be very inconvenient to have neighbouring towns governed by different laws; the one by local Acts, the other by a general Bill. When they considered how many were the places in which the deaths exceeded twenty-three in a thousand, he thought great numbers of those who were anxious for a popular principle of government would find a central authority coming down upon them when they little expected it. With regard to the different modes of making the districts, great improvement was wanted. He did not think that parties were sufficiently guarded from being taken in against their will. The power of voting against being taken in was no sufficient defence, for the inhabitants of a rural district were always much less numerous than those of a neighbouring town that might desire to join that district to itself. He thought, also, that the scheme of referring matters of this kind to tribunals like the quarter sessions and the justices was most objectionable. He could not conceive any tribunal less fit for the exercise of such a jurisdiction. It was a jurisdiction wholly foreign to the duties of a magistrate, whose commission of the peace never contemplated his being saddled with duties of this kind also. It was one of the objections to the House of Commons that Members could rush in at the end of a debate, and vote without having heard either one side or the other. In the same way, at the end of a trial of some days, a batch of magistrates from town would come into the court of a rural district and decide its annexation to the town by an overwhelming majority. It was also a very objectionable thing to give to districts in the country a power to repeal all local Acts; and there were many other provisions to which he could by no means assent. He thought it ought to be seen how the Bill would work before there was given so great a power as that to remove gasworks, soap-boiling works, and other establishments which might be thought to be obnoxious in the districts where they were.


said, he approved the principle of the Bill, and gave great credit to the right hon. Baronet for the pains which he had taken, not only with this measure, but with all the matters connected with his office. He contended, however, that, in the event of some of those trades which created nuisances being done away with, ten times greater nuisances would be occasioned. Suppose every person were obliged to keep his dust in his yard, what a nuisance that would be! He would put another case. One of his constituents was extensively engaged as a market gardener. He had commenced business years ago, when there was not a house near the spot. He was now surrounded with houses, and the manure which he used for fertilising his garden was complained of as a nuisance; but if market gardens were to be abolished, what was to become of our refuse and manure? He certainly thought that persons whose business was interfered with and destroyed should be entitled to compensation, as provided under the Act of 1844.


said, he objected to the powers which it was proposed to confer by the Bill, especially those which related to the owners of establishments in which the machinery was worked by water power from pools and ponds. If the right hon. Baronet would consent to a clause at a future period, which should give compensation for the ponds or pools which might be closed up by the operation of the Act, the objection would be obviated, for it was unfair to interfere with private property in this manner.


said, he did not agree with the principles involved in these Bills, for if they were carried out they would most unjustly interfere with the rights of property. He could not consent that a principle which would establish the boldest democracy ever dreamt of should be referred to a Select Committee upstairs, without being fully discussed by the House. It was unfair that in a case of such importance to property, mere numbers should override property. He must dissent from the precedent of handing over to a Select Committee questions which dealt with the rights of property in the manner proposed by these Bills.


said, he trusted that the inspectors who were to be appointed under this Bill would be medical men. He cordially agreed to the compen- sations recommended by his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth (Mr. Wilkinson), for the owners of property might be driven out of the districts in which they had invested a large amount of capital. He also highly approved of the mode of single voting, for the system of plurality of votes was a modern innovation, which had never been granted until Sturges Bourne's Act.


said, he thought that great advantage would be derived from the division of the Nuisances Removal Bill into two Bills, one being applicable to permanent, the other to temporary circumstances. He quite approved of the Bills being sent before a Select Committee, but he hoped that it would not occupy such a length of time as to prevent legislation during the present Session. He was glad to find that the right hon. Baronet's (Sir B. Hall's) experience of his office had taught him the necessity of adopting a number of the principles and plans of his much calumniated predecessors. With regard to the Public Health Bill, while approving of many of its provisions, he lamented the introduction of one or two enactments which were new, and which appeared to him to be rather of a retrograde character. He also objected to the principle of a majority of temporary inhabitants entirely excluding permanent owners of property from any voice in the arrangements under the Bill. Questions of this sort seemed to require more careful consideration than appeared to have been given to them in the Bill as it stood. He likewise objected to the machinery provided for voting, which seemed to him to be also of a retrograde character, and calculated to consult rather the convenience of the few than of the many, and which would practically disfranchise thousands of voters. He hoped evidence, however, would be taken on these points.


said, he trusted that the Committee would be so selected as to be a fair representation of the House. He recognised the valuable principle of local self-government which pervaded the Public Health Bill, but he thought the powers which it proposed to confer on the quarter sessions were so large and extensive, that they would require the most careful consideration of the Committee, to see that they did not trench upon those rights which it was the duty of the House to preserve. According to the plan proposed, the owners of property, from the limited time of notice, would frequently be unable to attend, and the working of the Act would be left in the hands of those who had no permanent interest in the matter. He trusted that as soon as the Bill had been duly considered by the Select Committee it would be printed, and ample time given for the country to become fully aware of the extent to which the House intended to delegate the powers of legislation on those questions, and that due respect would be paid to the rights of property.


said, he thought that to be effective the Bill should provide that the inspectors should be medical men. Several clauses would require careful consideration—particularly that one which so far interfered with private rights as to prevent any private person erecting an hospital without the consent of the board.

Bill read 2°.

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