HC Deb 12 July 1855 vol 139 cc796-802

[Progress, 10th July]. Order for Committee read; House in Committee.

Clause 28 (Nuisances arising in the case of Trades, Businesses, Processes, or Manufactures).

Amendment proposed, in page 14, line 40, at the end of the clause to add the words, "Provided also, That nothing herein contained shall be interpreted to extend to the smelting of metal."

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 25; Noes 27: Majority 2.


said, he did not consider the clause necessary, as the parties whom it would affect would still remain liable to an indictment at common law for any nuisance they might commit. He also objected to it, because it made it compulsory on the local authorities to proceed against any party who should be certified to have caused any effluvia injurious to health. The effect would be to drive many of our most necessary manufactures out of the country. He wished to secure some place in which these certainly offensive, but still necessary trades might be carried on. He would, therefore, beg to propose an Amendment to that effect.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the clause to add the words, "Provided always, That the provisions hereinbefore contained shall not extend or be applicable to any place without the limits of any city or town."


said, he fully concurred in the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire, and in doing so could bear testimony to the extreme fairness and candour with which the right hon. President of the Board of Health had met every proposal for amending the measures he had introduced. Trade nuisances might be divided into three classes. The first included cases in which the nuisance was brought for the first time into a neighbourhood; and under those circumstances it could at once be put down. The second class referred to places which they might almost say were consecrated to bad smells. Now, it was not lawful to bring even there a fresh smell, but if the new manufacture were of the same description as those already carried on in the neighbourhood it could not be put down. The third class related to cases where an offensive trade had originally been established at a distance from any house or road, but where the district had afterwards become inhabited. With respect to cases like those it had been held over and over again that if persons who complained had come to the nuisance and not the nuisance to them, they had no remedy. Now, he understood that what his hon. Friend meant was to save the rights of persons who conducted trades that fell within the last category. He believed that the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Works was afraid that the word "town" would not include such places as Chelsea or Hammersmith, but the right hon. Gentleman was in error, for there had been several decisions in which the word had been interpreted in its popular sense. He should, however, recommend his hon. Friend to add to his proviso the words "or populous districts."


said, he objected to the addition on the ground that "populous districts" was a very uncertain phrase.


said, he did not know what was the meaning of the words "populous districts." They had no legal signification, and he was afraid that their adoption would lead to endless litigation and disputes.


said, he had no wish to drive the trades referred to by the clause out of the country, but he was desirous that where nuisances existed the local authorities should have the power to interfere, and if the party complained against preferred having the question decided by a superior tribunal, instead of by two justices, the next clause would give him the power to put an end to the jurisdiction of the justices on entering into his recognisance to bring the matter before a superior tribunal. He approved the words "populous districts" as affording a definition of the word "town," and he thought he should be doing right in assenting to the proviso, with those words added to it.


said, he should support the proviso. The Bill having since its introduction taken the form of a measure for the suppression of those nuisances only which were injurious to health, it would be but wise and fair to make a distinction between places where large numbers of persons were congregated together, and districts inhabited by a scanty and a scattered population.


said, he strongly objected to the retention of the words "populous districts." The copper works in the neighbourhood of Swansea, for instance, were neither a city nor a town; but they were certainly a populous district, for hundreds of persons had come to live in their neighbourhood; and upon the continuance of those works depended the welfare of the whole population of Glamorganshire. Those works, however, would fall within the operation of the clause.


said, he would beg to ask the hon. Gentleman if the copper works he had referred to were a nuisance injurious to the health of the neighbourhood, and if so, whether the owners had neglected to use every practicable means to abate it? Because, unless that were so, the provisions of the Bill would not apply.


said, he could not tell. Those were questions that could only be determined after much litigation.


said, that the health of Swansea was above the average. Considering the immense amount of capital invested, and the hundreds of thousands who gained their bread by those and similar works (for all the metal trades were equally concerned), the House were bound to protect the owners from annoyance on the part of persons in the neighbourhood who complained of injury to their gardens.


said, that some years ago an action was brought against the proprietors of the copper works by a farmer in the neighbourhood. The trial took place in Carmarthen, but the point chiefly insisted on was a very irrelevant one, namely, the amount of capital the works had brought into the district. The verdict was for the defendants; but there could be no doubt as to the deleterious effects of the works both upon vegetable and animal life, for cattle were brought into Court suffering from distortion of limbs produced by the contiguity of the works. The proprietors, not with standing that they had obtained a verdict, afterwards spared neither ingenuity nor expense to abate the evil; and in every case where the same pains were taken they would be exempt from annoyance from the Bill. Even if a decision from the local authorities should happen to be obtained against them, they would have nothing to do but to appeal to a higher Court, and it would be quashed.


said, that nothing was wanted to neutralise the effects of copper smoke but plenty of water. The remedy might, no doubt, be easily applied to one establishment; but the river at Swansea would be wholly inadequate if it were attempted to be extended to the entire district. The cattle referred to had not been injured by the direct effect of the works upon the atmosphere, but by the dew becoming impregnated with sulphuric acid falling upon the herbage, and if they pleased, poisoning it. He only knew that he could keep his horses in much better condition at Swansea than in London.


said, he thought the arguments of the hon. Member (Mr. Davies) were conclusive against the retention of the words "populous districts," for they might, on the hon. Gentleman's own showing, lead to much litigation and annoyance.


said, he must remark that in discussing the earlier part of the Bill a great deal was said about the attention which ought to be given to the condition of the poor; but the clauses affecting their condition were nevertheless very speedily passed. They happened now, however, to be discussing clauses which had nothing to do with the poor, and now there seemed to be great difficulty in proceeding with the measure. If the Committee were really merely there to represent the gas companies, the water companies, and the great manufacturing interests only, let it be so understood; but if they were there to represent the public at large, let them not delay the measure by making such exceptions as were now proposed.


said, he was of opinion that a particular mode of legislation could never answer any good purpose. At the same time, while they were seeking to preserve the health of the public, they ought not to forget that there were vast multitudes of the population who were dependent for their means of livelihood on those establishments which it was now sought to control by Act of Parliament.


said, he did not think that any hon. Members were open to the taunt of the right hon. Baronet, that they were seeking to Legislate for the rich at the expense of the poor.

Amendment proposed, to add at the end of the proposed Amendment the words "or populous district."

Question put, "That those words be added to the proposed Amendment."

The Committee divided:— Ayes 57; Noes 41: Majority 16.

On Question that the clause as amended, stand part of the Bill,


said, he should move its omission. He was of opinion that the clause, if adopted, would either compel the total sacrifice of large manufacturing property, or would seriously depreciate its value. Those manufacturers engaged in the smelting trade would be placed at the mercy of a couple of medical men—perhaps troublesome medical men, for there were such at home as well as abroad. The expenses thus imposed upon the manufacturers would be enough to swallow up all their profits; and the result would be to lower the wages of every miner in Cornwall.


said, that it had been coolly assumed that the clause would put down manufactures. Now, it certainly would have no such effect. It merely gave a power to two justices to compel manufacturers to use the best practical means for putting down nuisances. Every hon. Member ought to take a general view of the subject, and not to narrow his view of it according to the interests of his own constituents.


said, he objected to the clause, on the ground that it would in effect carry every question arising under it to the superior Courts, and involve the parties in expensive litigation.


said, he would refer hon. Members to the removal of Muspratt's chemical works from Liverpool, and afterwards from Newton, by proceedings at law, and he considered those cases were sufficient to meet any case of nuisance.


said, he should support the clause, as it gave the parties indicted the opportunity of showing that they had used all practical means to put down the nuisance, and were unable to do so—a right which they did not enjoy under the present law. In so far, the clause was a remedial measure; it directly protected trade against the common law.


said, he entertained considerable doubts whether the clause was necessary. The 8th clause defined what should be considered a nuisance; by that (the 28th) clause a remedy before two magistrates was provided, but by the 29th clause it was intended to give the parties the right to have the question tried before a jury at quarter sessions. Why, he should like to know, were certain trades and businesses singled out in the 28th clause? He would suggest that the clause should be withdrawn. When dealing with the manufactures of the country, it behoved the House to take care what they were doing. Nothing was more delicate and susceptible than capital, and nothing was more easily removed. He had known the case of a great English capitalist, influenced by legislative interference, removing vast works to Belgium, and taking with him some of the best skilled English workmen.


said, that the effect of withdrawing the clause would be, that all persons engaged in the trades and manufactures specified in the clause would be obliged to be proceeded against by indictment. The clause was a mitigating clause, because it allowed the parties to be proceeded against before two justices. He had seen many of the persons who were most nearly interested in that part of the Bill, and they all urged him to press the clause, considering it to be one greatly in their favour, because it would give them an opportunity of mitigating the nuisance by using the best means in their power, and if they should fail to do so, they would then, only in the last event, be prosecuted by the common law.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 85; Noes 39: Majority 46.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29 withdrawn. Clause 30 agreed to. Clauses 31 and 32 struck out. Clauses 33 to 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 (Police constables to aid the authorities and officers acting in execution of the Act).


said, he thought the clause unnecessary. The police were bound to give all the aid they could within the limits of their own proper functions—such as that of quelling mobs, and of preventing persons from breaking windows. He thought that if the police were to be considered specially liable to be called upon to enforce the provisions of the Act, it would, in the first place, have a tendency to divert their attention from their more immediate and proper duties, and would, at the same time, create a feeling against them, and would lead to their being employed in a species of espionage in matters in which they ought not ordinarily to be engaged.


said, he had been induced to adopt the clause from having received a return from Dublin showing the beneficial services rendered by the police of the city of Dublin in suppressing nuisances that were injurious to health. He thought if the services of the police were so conspicuous in the case of the city of Dublin, a similar plan could not fail to work beneficially here.


said, he was decidedly opposed to the clause, on the ground of civil and religious liberty. His house was his castle, and policemen ought not to be allowed to intrude themselves into a man's private dwelling on all occasions as they did under the stringent provisions of the Smoke Prevention Act. The work ought to be done by officially appointed agents who really understood their business.

Clause struck out.

Clauses 46 and 47 agreed to.

Clause 48 struck out; Additional clauses added.

House resumed; Bill, as amended, reported.

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