HC Deb 14 May 1855 vol 138 cc562-85

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed—"That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, that, had it not been that he saw a notice of Motion on the paper with reference to this subject by his noble Friend and colleague (Viscount Ebrington), he should have contented himself with simply moving that Mr. Speaker leave the Chair. The noble Lord, however, had stated his intention to move as an Amendment, that the further consideration of the Bill be deferred till the House has decided upon the principles of the Bill announced by the President of the Board of Health for the modification of the Act commonly known as "Hobhouse's Act," which Act is proposed to be incorporated in the Metropolitan Bill. Now, he (Sir B. Hall) begged to state at once that it was not his intention to interfere at all with the principles of that Act; but, as the present measure was applicable to the whole of England and Wales, it might be convenient if he explained the nature of the Amendments he proposed to make, and which were four in number. By the Act 1 & 2 Will. IV. the qualification of vestrymen in provincial districts was fixed at a 10l. rental, but in the metropolis at 40l. It had, however, been shown by returns that in many metropolitan districts the number of 40l. houses bore a very small proportion to the rest of the houses in the parish, and he therefore proposed that the qualification of vestrymen for such parishes should be reduced to a 25l. rental, but that in wealthy parishes, such as St. George, Marylebone, St. Pancras, and St. James, it should remain the same as at present. By Hobhouse's Act it was provided, that there should only be one polling place for the whole parish. This had been found to be a source of inconvenience, as in the parish of St. Pancras, where, with four polling places for Members of Parliament, there was only one polling place for the 20,000 parochial electors. He, therefore, proposed to raise the number of polling places to eight, but to give no polling place to any district which should have less than 1,000 electors. The next alteration he contemplated was, the reduction of the three days' polling to one; and the last was, that whereas by Hobhouse's Act it was necessary that vestrymen, to be duly qualified, should reside in the parish, he proposed that it should be sufficient that persons should be duly rated therein. The propriety of that alteration, he thought, would be apparent to every one, for it was well known that many wealthy merchants and manufacturers who had warehouses and countinghouses in the metropolis now resided in the neighbourhood, and were consequently disqualified from being vestrymen, when they were the very persons whom it was desirable to see in such an office. This was a measure almost as important as the Reform Act or the Municipal Corporations Act, and he thought it had been very favourably received by the inhabitants of the metropolis. He found from the Report of the Committee upon Public Petitions that four petitions with 271 signatures had been presented against it, besides eight from bodies the interests of which it was likely to injure; and there were not more than five petitions with 612 signatures, and twelve petitions from self-elected bodies for alterations in the Bill. It had only been denounced at one public meeting, which was presided over by a paving Commissioner, at which the Resolutions were moved by paving Commissioners, and at which he believed there were not thirty ratepayers present. He hoped the House would, therefore, go into Committee on the Bill, and endeavour to put a stop to a state of things which would not be tolerated in any provincial town.


said, he rose to move, as an Amendment, that the further consideration of the Bill should be deferred till the House had decided upon the principles of the Bill announced by the President of the Board of Health for the modification of the Act commonly known as Hobhouse's Act, which Act was proposed to be incorporated in the Metropolis Bill. He begged to disclaim the assertion that had been made, that he was opposed to local self-government, or that he wished to do away with any needful reform. The object of Hobhouse's Act was to enable such parishes as desired it to adopt an improved system for the election of their vestries and the management of their parish business. It was now proposed, for the first time, to impose upon vestries duties not only not identical with those they had hitherto been accustomed to perform, but also other duties of a perfectly novel character. The Bill before the House was called a local Bill, but the House must recollect that its extent ranged over twenty-five square miles, and included 3,000,000 of inhabitants, a population larger than that of the kingdom of Scotland, and bearing in a very material manner upon the interests of the Empire at large. The property of the district to which this measure applied amounted to not less than 13,000,000l. per annum. For several years past he had called attention to the evils which arose from the misgovernment of that district. His right hon. Friend (Sir B. Hall) had dwelt upon the amount wasted in the metropolis, wasted upon local management, but he should have thought the President of the Board of Health would rather have dwelt upon such topics as the 20,000 preventible deaths and the premature mortality that occurred among such a vast population. His right hon. Friend was inaccurate in the contrast he made between the cost of management of Marylebone and of other bodies, for in his calculation he excluded the expense of attending the election of the superintendents. With respect to the proposed Board of Metropolitan Drainage, he considered it too numerously constituted, and that it was a retrograde movement on the principle of consolidated management. He considered that thirty-six boards instead of seven would occasion a very much greater expenditure for the salaries of engineers and staff. He must object also to the boundaries of the divisions proposed, and to the total ignoring which it showed of the lines of water sheds, in opposition to the recommendation of the commission of engineers, who urged that the drainage of the metropolis should be conducted as far as possible in accordance with the natural facilities afforded by the water sheds. With regard to Hobhouse's Act, he had attended a very numerous meeting of his constituents, and he did not find their opinions to be in any degree opposed to his own in regard to the inapplicability of that Act to local management without some considerable amendments. He could conceive no system more mischievous than that proposed by his right hon. Friend of giving every elector a vote in populous places for some forty persons at each election, instead of dividing the constituency into small areas returning a moderate number of persons upon a similar principle to that which regulated the election of members of municipal corporations, and in some cases of Boards of Guardians. The Bills contained no provision by which to obviate the monstrous evil of sending the voters to polling places to deliver their voting papers, instead of appointing a person to collect them at the residence of the voters, thus preventing an enormous waste of time and trouble which would otherwise operate as a prohibition upon many of the votes which it was most desirable to have recorded. Upon these grounds he wished the House to pronounce an opinion as to the constitution to be given to the metropolis before they proceeded to consider the merits of the Bill. He would, however, remind his right hon. Friend that he would have had no difficulty in preventing the Motion being brought forward, inasmuch as his right hon. Friend might easily have reduced his present vague and indefinite proposals into writing, and have laid them upon the table in the usual form of a Bill, or of printed clauses to a Bill.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words— The further consideration of the Bill be deferred till the House has decided upon the principles of the Bill announced by the President of the Board of Health for the modification of the Act commonly known as Hobhouse's Act, which Act is proposed to be incorporated in the Metropolitan Bill,"— instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, the great part of the speech of his noble Friend who had just sat down was an attack upon the principle of the Bill, which, the House bad already ratified. He thought it would be most inconvenient to enter into a discussion upon generalities, and he therefore trusted that the House would proceed to consider the improvement of details of this Bill in Committee, which was certainly the most convenient opportunity. It would hardly be fair to his right hon. Friend (Sir B. Hall) to postpone a measure of this infinite importance, especially as he had said that he would state the details of the measure he proposed to bring in. He trusted, therefore, that the House would go into Committee.


said, he approved of the principle of the Bill, but considered that its details were hardly intelligible. Could any one, for instance, tell how the Metropolitan Board was to be constituted? There were certainly several schedules attached to the Bill, but the first he understood was not to be acted upon, and the schemes set forth in the others were neither practicable nor intelligible, He therefore hoped before they went into Committee, some explanation would he given on this point. In another case he should like to know how Hobhouse's Act was to be applied to a small parish in London, where it would only act as a disfranchisement. He also found the powers of taxation given under this Bill were so enormous that the House if it understood what they were, would hardly grant them. In the case of some districts, where the amount of good conferred upon a wealthy district was to be considered by such a body as the proposed Board, he was afraid that these powers of taxation would virtually amount to confiscation. Under the powers given a landlord might come to a tenant for his rent, and find that the tenant had paid it all away. After reading the Bill he had come to the conclusion that it would be highly dangerous to have a house in London, for it is quite clear that if the owner displeased any person belonging to a vestry, or local Board, it would be much better for him not to have one. He trusted, therefore, that the House would consider before it granted these powers of taxation, which were so unusual that he defied any one to show an instance in which powers had been given to any similar body under any Act of Parliament. He wished to know what the constitution of the Metropolitan Board was to be, and on what basis the representation was to be founded, for he had great doubts of the capability of any vestry to perform these functions. He was quite sure that to cast upon the vestries this enormous taxing power, would ensure the failure of the Bill, from the immense amount of work to be done. The sewerage was a question which ought to be kept quite distinct, whether there were two separate bodies, as some contended there should be, or not, for it would be quite absurd to have thirty-six rival bodies cutting and carving the metropolis up amongst them, and deciding the knotty questions which had so perplexed their predecessors.


said, he fully agreed with what had been said by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere), and he also thought that the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir H. Willoughby) was not justified in occupying, as he had, the attention of the House, as his objections were made not to the principle, but to the details of this measure, which could better be discussed in Committee. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Health had stated the alterations which he proposed to make in Hobhouse's Act, and the House had apparently assented to them, so that the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Viscount Ebrington) could not object to the Bill on this ground. It had been stated, among other things, that at present in the large parishes there was a great difficulty created by reason of there being but one polling place, and that this prevented many persons from coming to give their votes. In order to obviate this he would suggest that large parishes should be divided into polling districts, and that each district should send a certain number of representatives, according to the number of vestrymen. He considered that the present Bill, although not wholly perfect, was yet acceptable to a large portion of the metropolis, and was a very fair attempt to settle a very difficult question.


said, he thought that the fairest course would have been to have had the intended alterations of Hob-house's Act in print, and then the House would have been able to form a judgment as to what that Act was likely to be before it was incorporated in the present Bill.


said, that the hon. Member for Evesham had stated that the present Bill contained very great powers, and had warned the ratepayers against the extent to which those powers might be carried. Now, he (Sir W. Clay) thought that all who had attended to the course of events in the metropolis, especially in the times of fearful epidemics, would feel that there were enormous evils to be contended with, which could only be met by considerable powers. He did not think that the powers in this Bill were too much for the purposes for which they were given, and, if the ratepayers felt themselves oppressed, they had the remedy in their own hands, because they could dismiss an incapable Board and elect a vestry in whom they had full confidence. The objection which had been made to the Bill had not been made to its principle, but had reference much more to its details. On the whole, he should support the Bill; for, though he was not insensible to the objections which had been urged against it. he thought they might be removed in Committee.


said, he considered the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone was most reasonable; but as the right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall) had intimated his intention with reference to alterations of Hobhouse's Act in this Bill, he thought his statement so far satisfactory as to induce the House to consider the details of the measure in Committee. He therefore hoped the noble Lord would consent to withdraw his Amendment.


said, he believed that the metropolis generally approved of this Bill. The object of the authors of it appeared to him to be in forming an uniform system for the whole of the metropolis to introduce generally the principle of Hobhouse's Act, but it being found that to do so would place some parishes in a worse position than they were in now, inasmuch as Hobhouse's Act laid down a 40l. rating qualification, and some parishes now had a rating qualification of 20l., it would be found necessary, he thought, to make an alteration in that respect. He hoped, after the explanation given by the right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall), the House would go into Committee, without listening to the noble Lord the other Member for Marylebone—the Member for St. Pancras.


said, he hoped, if the House went into Committee, it would not be understood that by doing so Members gave their assent to all the principles of the Bill, especially to the clause making the application of Hobhouse's Act compulsory, for there was some reason to fear that such a proceeding would create political dissension in many parishes hitherto peaceable. With that reservation he did not object to going into Committee.


said, that, after the appeal made to him, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On the question that Mr. SPEAKER leave the Chair,


Sir, in the Motion I am about to make, I am desirous of giving all credit to the framers of this Bill for the trouble they have taken on the subject, but, at the same time, I must express my firm conviction that this Bill, as it now stands, can never pass into a law without great amendments and various alterations in its details. The purpose of the framers of this Bill seems to be, to establish all the parishes of the metropolis on one uniform principle in their vestries, in accordance with what is styled Hobhouse's Act. It is intended to have twenty parish vestries, fourteen districts, and two from the City—in all thirty-six, which are to elect forty-four persons to form a central Board for the local management of the metropolis, which Board elects a chairman with a salary of 2,000l. a year, this Board to have very extensive power, and to supersede all other authorities, in paving, lighting, watching, &c., &c., in the metropolis, by this means forming one huge system of centralisation, and depriving the parishioners and ratepayers over the expenditure of their money; for this central Board is not elected by the ratepayers in the first instance, but, in a secondary degree, by the vestries of the several parishes and the districts mentioned. This system of centralisation seems to me repugnant to our principles and our taste, which have hitherto always encouraged local self-government. The fact is, that the greater part of the clauses in this Bill are copied verbatim from the French code of municipal government in Paris. The President of the Board of Health seems to me, in copying these clauses, to have followed the example of a friend of mine who was desirous to write a play, not having materials for that purpose he copied a French play, and, to disguise it, he put in much of his own—the play was acted, the French part was applauded by the audience, but what my friend had inserted was hissed, and the play was condemned. My Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, copies the French code, wishing to have a Bill; what he puts into it from himself is good, what he copies from the French code is to be condemned smacking of centralisation, and must be expunged. By this Bill all power, all influence is placed in the vestries, the magistracy and property out of the question. The vestries in general are not composed of the most respectable and well-informed or best men of business in any parish, these are too much engaged in their own pursuits; the vestries are usually composed of active bustling tradesmen, with one or two men of high station who do not attend; thus the business is left to men who may be inclined to favour jobs and to promote their private interests, or who may prove very tyrannical in their enactments. A body of 120 persons may be fit for legislation, but not for administration; in the latter duty the fewer act the better is the execution. Now, let us look at some of the clauses in this Bill as to the power of the central Board of management. By the 120th clause "Any land may be taken when required by the central Board with consent of the Secretary of State." By the 162nd clause, "Any person acting for the Board, not being a constable or peace officer, may take up any one and bring him or them before a magistrate." By clauses 142 to 155, "Any sum may be raised without limit by mortgaging the rates." By clause 173, "If indemnity is offered and refused no action can be brought against the Board." Thus it appears that a most arbitrary power is about to be formed, of collecting whatever sums the central Board may think fit, taking land when they please, in short, having a positive despotic power over the persons and property of the inhabitants without any responsibility or control whatever. Under these circumstances, is it not better to refer this Bill to a Select Committee upstairs than for this House to be detained here until the last days of August discussing clauses which never can be allowed to pass into a law. Sir, under these circumstances, although well aware that both on the Government side, and on that of the Opposition, the feelings are that the clauses of this Bill should be discussed in an open Committee, I shall not shrink from recording my sentiments by moving that this Bill be sent upstairs, and shall press the House to a division on this question. Before I sit down, let me observe that I think some legislation on the subject of the government or local management of the metropolis is desirable, and that if the obnoxious clauses which I have mentioned are struck out I think those that remain may be passed, and some amelioration in the administrative system be obtained.


said, he would second the proposition, because he considered the Bill to be as yet in too crude a state for consideration by a Committee of the whole House, nor did he think that it had been fairly discussed on its second reading. He would also remind hon. Members that the Bill contained no fewer than 186 clauses, a greater number than could be conveniently discussed below stairs.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be referred to a Select Committee," instead thereof.


said, he hoped that the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Mackinnon) was not going to lead to a long discussion. It appeared to him to be the wish of the House that they should at once go into Committee on the Bill. His hon. Friend's objections to the measure might be well grounded, but he (Sir G. Grey) did not think that he had stated grounds sufficient to justify the House to consent to his Amendment, but had, on the contrary, supplied strong reasons why the measure should be considered in a Committee of the whole House; for surely, as the measure is an important one, and if, as he (Mr. Mackinnon) had alleged, centralisation was the essence of it, the whole House was the best qualified body to consider it. His hon. Friend had, moreover, by going into the details of the measure on the present occasion, admitted that the House was competent to deal with it. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment had stated that because the measure contained a great many clauses it should be considered by a Select Committee; but that was a new rule, which he did not think the House would sanction. In the present instance he had to confess he did not see how a Select Committee could well go on. They would have to appoint all the metropolitan representatives members of it, and that would give them a preponderance which they ought not to have—nor did he think the House would delegate its powers to them.


said, he wished to see a greater freedom of voting conferred on the ratepayers than Hobhouse's Act gave them.


said, he should oppose the Amendment, but, at the same time, he must reserve to himself the right of opposing the objectionable clauses of the Bill when the House should go into Committee.


said, he thought it desirable that a measure of such importance should be considered in a Committee of the whole House, but, at the same time, he feared it would be impossible to make the House understand all the difficulties and complications of the Bill. He should wish the Committee of the whole House to deal with the constitutional principles involved in it, and that the clauses of detail should be referred to a Committee up-stairs.


said, he hoped the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Mackinnon) would withdraw his Amendment. The principles and details of the measure had been fully canvassed at the meetings held in reference to it throughout the metropolis. Those principles had, he thought, been fully approved of, but some changes were desired in the details.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 8: Majority 123.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee.

Clause 1, ("The Act of the Session holden in the first and second year of William the Fourth, chapter sixty, shall, subject to the provisions herein contained, become the law far electing Vestrymen and Auditors of Accounts, and otherwise be in force in every pariah mentioned in either of the Schedules (A) and (B) to this Act which has not adopted such Act, in manner therein provided, in like manner as if the forty-third Section of the said Act were repealed, and as if every such parish had so adopted the said Act, and notice of such adoption had been given as therein directed,")


said, the clause was one of considerable importance, and he thought the House would have done fight if it had adopted the proposition of the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Ebrington). The clause proposed to import Hobhouse's Act into the Bill; whilst it was said that it would not work with the Bill, unless certain alterations were made in Hobhouse's Act. Now, how could the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill avouch, with any certainty, the passing of the Bill to amend that Act in the manner which he had pointed out. Surely the more prudent course would have been to have ascertained the opinion of the House on that subject in the first instance. Now, what would be the effect of Hobhouse's Act on this Bill. There was no doubt the Bill would impose very considerable charges on property. Now, property ought to be adequately represented and protected. Under the Vestry Act, 58 Geo. III., a scale of voting was provided, by which an additional number of votes was given according to the scale of rating, and no person could possess more than six votes. That principle was carried out in the Poor Law Amendment Act, with an important addition, allowing property to be represented, so that owners, as well as occupiers, were entitled to vote; and if an owner was in occupation, he was entitled to both—both as owner and occupier. Property was thus projected against being overwhelmed by numbers, as it was likely to be under the present Bill. The clause now under consideration proposed to sweep away all such protection, and to force upon the metropolis, by compulsion, Hobhouse's Act, instead of allowing parishes to adopt it or not, just as they pleased. That Act, he believed, had been adopted in very few instances, and therefore it was clear that it was not generally considered a desirable measure. It appeared to him that this clause was a violation of the principle on which the Legislature had proceeded for a great number of years, and the course now proposed was the more dangerous, inasmuch as the House, apparently, was not aware of the peculiar nature of the Act which was to be rendered compulsory upon parishes. Under those circumstances, he felt it his duty to oppose the clause.


said, that he had on a previous occasion stated the nature of the amendments which he proposed to make in Hobhouse's Act. They were of a trifling character, and it would be impossible to introduce them into the present Bill, because only those localities likely to be affected by this measure would have the benefit of those amendments, He therefore thought it desirable to bring in a short Bill to amend Hobhouse's Act. He intended to adopt that Act in its integrity. He did not propose to have a system of plural voting in the metropolis, being of opinion that single voting was far preferable in large cities and towns. With respect to the non-adoption of Hobhouse's Act, he might stale that in the four most wealthy parishes in the metropolis—St. George's, Hanover Square; St. James's, Westminster; St. Pancras. and Marylebone—Hobhouse's Act was in force. It certainly was not a compulsory Act, and was so clogged with peculiar provisions that its adoption was a matter of great difficulty; and, as a proof of this, he might mention that, at a meeting which took place in Paddington the other day, only eleven persons voted against it, while some 2,800 persons voted in its favour; but as 2,800 ratepayers did not comprehend two-thirds of the whole of the ratepayers of the parish the Act could not be adopted.


said, he did not think there was much satisfaction with the Bill, even among the ground landlords, but the persons most aggrieved were those who laid out their capital in buildings—who were, practically, owners for a great number of years of the land which they were in possession of, and who would have no voice in the disposal of the taxation to which they were subjected. If the sewers, rates were paid by the owners, the authorities would have the pleasure of constructing sewers upon other people's property with other people's money, thus dissevering taxation and representation. He believed the Public Health Bill—not the Bill of his right hon. colleague—had worked very well for the interests of the owners as well as for the interests of the poor. He should have the pleasure of supporting the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir F. Thesiger), not for the exclusion of Hobhouse's Act from the object for which it was originally intended, but from all such interference as this Bill proposed.


said, everything depended on the engagement that the right hon. Baronet would so modify the Bill as to make it palatable to all parties. He (Mr. Wilkinson) had never heard any objection in Lambeth to the system of single voting, though there had been objections made to other parts of the Bill. The Camberwell trustees objected to extending the time for taking the poll and other matters; but not a word of objection against the system of single voting. So, likewise, the Camberwell guardians of the poor. He (Mr. Wilkinson) would be glad to see the system of voting by papers replace the present system.


said, he could confirm the statement made by the right hon. the President of the Board of Health, that his Bill was satisfactory to large proprietors in the metropolis.


said, he considered that it was important that the principle of voting should be ascertained before this Bill was proceeded with. The true principle of voting, as had been stated by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Viscount Ebrington), was, that it ought to be regulated by the charge on property, and it would be monstrous to give to those who were not to bear the charge the power of fixing any amount of charge. The House must recollect that this was not like a case where the charge was leviable for one year, for it would be for the immense works properly contemplated by this Bill. The right hon. Baronet said the principle of single voting was the best for large towns, but he did not propose to apply that principle to small places. Why not? Why should not owners have the same facilities given them for protecting their property in the one case as in the other? It was most important that this clause, which was the foundation of the Bill, should be clearly understood, and he therefore hoped that the right hon. Baronet would postpone it until after he laid upon the table the Bill for the modification of Hobhouse's Act, so that the House could see what was intended, and do it justice, for he was certain it was the desire of the right hon. Baronet to act as fairly as possible.


said, if he intended in the slightest degree to alter the principle of Hobhouse's Act he would certainly have laid the Bill in question upon the table. What he had said with respect to single voting was not that it was good in one place and not in another, but that the plurality of voting might be applicable to some districts; in large towns single voting was much better. He did not desire to prevent the landlords from voting if they bonâ fide paid the rates; but that was not so, for he had communicated with some of the principal land-lords of the metropolis, who had expressed themselves in favour of the Bill, and stated that they invariably had an agreement with their tenants with respect to the payment of the rates and taxes, and by the 169th clause agreements between landlords and tenants were not to be affected. The practical effect of giving votes in proportion to the value of the property would be that some of the largest parishes of the metropolis would be placed under the control of a few individuals. In St. Pancras, for instance, the bulk of the property was owned by the Duke of Bedford, Lord Southampton, Lord Camden, and Lord Somers; in St. Marylebone, by the Duke of Portland and Lord Portman; Hanover Square district would be under the control of the Marquess of Westminster; and Paddington under that of the Bishop of London. The agreements to which he had referred principally related to the sewerage rate, which was levied by a Commission appointed by the Crown, and they knew very well that Commission after Commission had failed for years past. The sewerage rate was leviable on the tenant, and, if he might use the expression, deductible from the landlord; but, inasmuch as every landlord in the metropolis had an agreement with his tenant, it would be destroying the principle of the Bill if he were to leave out the clause; but he would give this assurance to show that he was desirous of acting with good faith—namely, that as soon as this Bill went through Committee, and before it came to a third reading, he would introduce the Bill containing the Amendments of Hobhouse's Act to which he had referred, and would insert those Amendments into this Bill.


said, the principal question was with respect to single voting and plurality of voting, and he did not think the objections on that head had been well met by the right hon. Baronet. If the principle were good in the one case it was in the other; but, in his view, it was precisely where the ratepayers were numerous that they ought to give the power of voting in proportion to the value of the property, so as to create a fair balance of influence between the landlord and tenant. The right hon. Baronet had referred them to the 169th clause, providing that agreements should not be interfered with; but the 138th clause provided that the tenant should be allowed to deduct the sewerage rate from the rent. The right hon. Baronet had not met the objection that the right of representation would, by this measure, be severed from the power of taxation.


said, that if the great proprietors granted leases after the passing of this Bill they would take care that their tenants should still pay the rates and taxes.


said, the definition of the word "owner," in the Public Health Act was the person receiving for the time being the rack rents of the land. In hundreds of cases in the suburbs the "owner" of property, not occupying that property, had to pay the sewers rate, though by the Bill they would have no voice whatever in the appropriation of that rate.


said, under the Vestry Act no man could have more than six votes, and he was perfectly satisfied with the law as it stood. He believed no one desired that the great landlords should have votes at all representing their interest, but they would be content to take the present limit of six votes. It was found a few years ago that the affairs of the parish of St. Luke, Chelsea, of which he was an inhabitant, had passed under the management of the small tradesmen, and that many abuses prevailed. The gentlemen of the parish took the matter in hand, and, by means of the plurality of votes they possessed, returned a certain number of themselves as guardians, and a marked improvement then took place in the parochial affairs. If the system of single votes were adopted this would be impossible, and the substantial inhabitants of the parish would be deprived of all voice in its management. Every man who occupied a house, however small, would have an equal right of taxing the parish as the man of the largest property. The principle was new, and it was, moreover, unjust; and it was so reasonable a man with larger property should have a greater number of votes—to the extent at least of six—than a man of smaller property in the management of parochial taxation, that he (Mr. Malins) should support the Amendment.


said, plurality of voting was the cause of discontent in all the metropolitan parishes with which he was acquainted, and in his opinion nothing could more certainly exclude gentlemen from the management of parochial affairs than its existence in a parish. In all the cases of agreement between landlord and tenant with which he was acquainted it was covenanted that the occupying tenant should pay the rates and taxes.


said, he was quite sure that the proposal of the right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall) would not meet the objection which he (Sir P. Thesiger) made to this clause, which forced parishes to adopt Hobhouse's Act whether they chose it or not. It was not only fair and just, but it was absolutely necessary, that there should be a plurality of votes, especially in large towns, to protect property. If plurality of votes were abolished in this instance, a blow would be struck at the principle in other instances—such as the Poor Law. He (Sir F. Thesiger) considered the question of such importance, that he should certainly divide the Committee on the clause.


said, he thought that some weight in the matter should be given to the feeling of the parishes. All the great parishes of the metropolis had agreed to adopt the Bill with certain modifications. It, therefore, behoved the Committee to attend more to the wishes of that large portion of the population than to the anticipations of the hon. and learned Member.


said, the majority of his constituents were not satisfied to be compelled to adopt compulsorily the provisions of Hobhouse's Act. There was a meeting of ratepayers at Greenwich, at which dissent was expressed at the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. He could not understand the mode of legislation in this case, because it appeared to him very strange to say, that though Hobhouse's Act should be adopted in the Bill entirely, it should be completely nullified afterwards by a new Bill, which was to overturn all that had been previously agreed upon. With great respect to the Committee, he would submit that such a course of legislation would be exposing them to strong remarks on the part of those who were not thoroughly initiated in the way of legislating in that House. The best course for the Committee to adopt, in his opinion, was to frame a clause, which should say that Hobhouse's Act, with certain exceptions, should be adopted in the metropolitan districts. Several important objections to Hobhouse's Act had already been correctly enumerated, and the very first impediment to the working of Hobhouse's Act was, the impossibility of getting a majority of those to vote who were clearly entitled to vote. This, he thought, might be remedied by a clause framed to meet that special difficulty. His opinion was, that property which was liable to be taxed for parochial purposes ought to have a proper voice in returning the vestrymen who had the power of making roads, sewers, &c., and charging the expense by way of rate on that property. As far as this clause was concerned, he must oppose it, though most reluctantly, if made compulsory.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 33: Majority 56.

Clause agreed to, as were also Clauses 2 to 19 inclusive.

Clause 20. (Relates to the constitution of the Metropolitan Board of Works.)


said, he had presented several petitions from different localities affected by the Act, protesting against the irresponsible powers of the Board, and praying that care might be taken to ensure the election of competent persons to be members of it. Unless this was done he was convinced that the Board would be at the mercy of their engineers and staff, and the only business they would have to do would be to register their works. He should rather approve of a Board of scientific persons, appointed by the Crown, but he was afraid they were too much out of favour. He hoped that if the Board was to be constituted as proposed in this clause, the number of members would be reduced, say to fifteen members, they might be paid something like two guineas for their attendance each day, like the board of directors of railways, and be made responsible to their constituents.


said, he had had a great many representations made to him with reference to this important clause. He was quite ready to diminish the number of members in the Metropolitan Board of Works, but he could not consent to reduce it to so small a number as fifteen, He was sure that a Commission by the Crown would be most unsatisfactory after the fate of the many Commissions which had existed during the last few years. In order to make the Bill work well it must be put on such a basis as would ensure popular feeling in its favour, for people never would be satisfied to have their money expended unless they had some control over the expenditure. It should be understood that all this Bill did was to give the same powers to the ratepayers of the metropolis as were enjoyed by the ratepayers of provincial towns. He would candidly admit that this Metropolitan Board of Works could be greatly reduced in numbers, but he could not decide what the reduction should be until they had disposed of those sections of the Bill relating to the management of the sewers. He would, therefore, propose, that the clause which affirmed the establishment of such a Board should be agreed to, and clauses 21, 22, and 23, which related to the numbers, should be postponed.


said, that, the principle of Municipal Boards being generally conceded, the next question to be considered was the number. He hoped his right hon. Friend would not reduce the numbers too much. The City Commission of Sewers was a very large body, and yet, as he understood, it worked very efficiently. The great bugbear seemed to be the payment. His right hon. Friend thought that the chairman should be paid highly, but others thought he should not be paid at all. That was, however, a matter the consideration of which might be postponed.


said, he agreed that time should be taken before the right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall) determined upon reducing the proposed number of the Metropolitan Board. He did not think the number was too large considering the extent of the metropolis, and the powers the Board would have to exercise.


said, he must strongly urge the expediency of establishing one central authority over the Commissioners of Sewers. District Boards of management only served to create confusion and encourage extravagance.


said, he was quite satisfied that nothing would be done unless the Metropolitan Board of Works were made as despotic as possible.


said, he thought that if the number of members of the central Board were curtailed the authority of the Board would be diminished, and great jealousies would be created in the various parishes.


said, he wished to propose an Amendment, the effect of which was to divide the proposed Board of Works into two Boards, one having authority north of the Thames, and the other having authority south of the Thames.


said, it was the intention of the Commissioners that there should be only one Metropolitan Board, and he was of the same opinion. There were various reasons why there should be only one Board; the expense would be less than if they had two; and the Committee should consider in what respect the establishment of separate Boards would affect such questions as the embankment of the Thames, which had been before the House.


said, he would support the proposal of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt), in deference to the opinions of influential persons on the south side of the Thames.


said, he looked on this as one of the most important parts of the Bill. It proposed the appointment of a Board with an endless power of assessment, and the right to dispose of the money as it pleased. When they proposed to give them such extensive powers with regard to assessment, they ought, at the same time, to enable them to carry out the whole scheme of the drainage of the metropolis without limit. The metropolis was sick of Commissioners of Sewers; but he must warn the Committee not to run into the other extreme of appointing a Board of Representatives which should prove equally extravagant in its expenditure and defective in its working. It appeared to him that there was a great want of the scientific element upon this proposed Board of Works. With regard to the Amendment, there could be no doubt that the system of sewers must be different on both sides of the Thames; and, therefore, the ratepayers on the south side had some foundation for their claim to a separate Board, and on that ground it might perhaps be desirable to have separate Boards. But, on the other hand, great inconvenience would flow from having two Boards, and there could be no doubt that having one only would be much more economical.


said, that it was his intention to take the 20th clause, but to postpone clauses 21, 22, 23, and 24, which determined the number of persons to be sent from the different districts to the central Board.


said, that if the management of the sewerage was to be placed under these thirty-six district Boards, they would be obliged to have thirty-six subsidiary staffs, which would be overpaid or underskilled, and probably both. If, however, they were to adopt the Motion of the hon. Member for Southwark, and have a second Board of Works, then they might leave to this Board the superintendence of the sewerage on the south side of the Thames. The reason that he wished this Bill to be referred to a Select Committee was, in order that evidence might be taken as to the practical working of the hon. Member's proposal, and in order that hon. Gentlemen might be made aware of the financial and engineering complications of the question of sewerage.


said, that it was impossible to argue this question as to whether there should be northern and southern Boards without looking at the powers which were to be given to those Boards. This was the most important part of the Bill, if they looked at the want in the metropolis of a system of arterial drainage. Commission after Commission had failed to bring their minds and that of the public to agree as to what was to be done to get means for this purpose, and the way in which it was to be done. He did not think that this would be effected if they had too large a Board—for if they had, a great difference of opinion would arise, and there would not be sufficient executive power in the Board. In the arterial scheme in the present Bill they would have two difficulties to contend with. They would first have to get ratepayers sufficiently liberal to vote the required sum of money to carry out the scheme, and then the scientific men employed by them must have sufficient consideration to fix upon a plan which would be approved of by the scientific men appointed by Government. With reference to the Motion before the Committee, he thought that in order to get the metropolis well drained they ought to have a Board with considerable executive power, and that the greater unity of action they had the greater chance they would have of something being well done. For this reason he should vote for one Board for both sides of the water instead of a Board for each side.


said, that, although the natural division of the metropolis was the Thames, and although some advantages might be obtained by having two Boards, yet he could net help thinking that those advantages would be more than counterbalanced by want of unity. He agreed that it would add to the efficiency of the executive Board to put some limitation to the proposed number.


said, that, speaking from his own experience as a Commissioner, he thought that it was impossible that one set of Commissioners could execute properly the whole drainage of the metropolis. No doubt the local authorities considered that that provision which gave them the management of the district sewers was one of the most valuable in the Bill, but the overlooking of the main and the connection of the district sewers was quite as much, he considered, as one Board could do. The noble Lord behind him (Lord Ebrington) was apprehensive that under this arrangement there would be a deficiency of science in carrying out the sewerage, but if they looked to the city they found that a Board composed of tradesmen, assisted by efficient engineers, were able to carry out their work in a satisfactory manner, and he was at a loss to understand why a similar Board in St. George's, Hanover Square, assisted by competent engineers, should not do the same. As regarded the other side of the water, he would remark that the Commissioners had already determined to carry out an arterial drain on the Surrey side, but, until some Bill of this sort passed, they had no power to purchase land for the outfall, and consequently could not move in the matter. They would, however, have everything in readiness for the operations of the body which was to succeed them.


said, the only argument for giving the districts the control of the sewers was, that it would vest in them local management, but, as had been pointed out by hon. Members, the 109th section entirely superseded that power and vested the control in the Metropolitan Board. The question was whether they might not obtain all they desired through the representative system they were establishing, and if they had a single Board to supervise all the drainage they would gain two advantages—unity of action and diminution of expense. He thought this was a question well deserving the attention of the right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall); for, if they gave the parishes the local management they desired, and, at the same time, controlled their action by another power, the greatest inconvenience might ensue.


said, he could assure the Committee that this subject had been deeply considered, and the deliberate conclusion arrived at was, that it was impossible for one Metropolitan Board to manage the district as well as the main sewerage. It was their opinion that the management should be based on representative Government. His only object was to do that which would prove really beneficial to the metropolis. If the small tradesmen of the City of London were able to manage their own drainage, he could not understand why the aristocratic vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square, should be unable to undertake the management of the sewers of that district, which possessed every facility for drainage. So successful had been the management of the drainage of the city that the number of deaths in that district was only twenty in 1,000, while in other parts of the metropolis it was twenty-five, and sometimes thirty, in 1,000. He had no objection to empower the Metropolitan Board of Works to take upon itself the drainage of districts when the local authorities were unwilling to undertake it.


then withdrew his Amendment, and the clause was agreed to.

Clauses 21 to 24 were postponed.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 (Enacts that the Metropolitan Board shall nominate three gentlemen, from whom the Secretary of State shall select one as their Chairman.)


said, he saw no reason why the usual practice should be departed from in the present instance. He thought the Board should be at liberty to appoint their own Chairman.


said, that one advantage that would be gained by permitting the Board to select their own Chairman would be that they would in some measure consider themselves responsible for the manner in which their President performed his duties.


said, he was most anxious to avoid the appearance of Government interference, and as the clause was in no way connected with the principle of the Bill, he would be glad to dispose of it as the Committee might deem right.

Clause postponed.

House resumed; Committee report progress.