HC Deb 17 July 1856 vol 143 cc993-5

Order for Committee read; House in Committee.


said, he felt called upon to complain of the increasing cost of this Board. At first it was only £1,300 a year, and now it had increased to between £19,000 and £20,000, besides pensions to the amount of £1,500 a year. The Board had done more harm than good, and its defective mode of laying down sewers—at Croydon, for instance—had caused more disease than it had removed.


said, the General Board of Health was not responsible for laying down sewers in provincial towns. All it did was to approve the plans, and if there was any defect in the sewerage at Croydon, which the hon. Member had instanced, it was certainly not in the plans, but in their execution. As to the expenses of the Board, he would remind the hon. Gentleman of the large amount of public money saved by the application of the Public Health Act to fifteen towns, at an expense of only between £150 and £200, whereas a separate local Act would have cost them something like £1,000 each. Those towns at least were not dissatisfied with what they had thus obtained. The hon. Member had forgotten, too, that by the Act of 1848, before a town could borrow any money for public works, to be repaid in a term of years, they must have the sanction of the Board of Health. In such cases the Board had to take care that the interest of the persons who were to pay the loan hereafter should be considered, and that if the work undertaken did not promise to extend its benefits beyond a period of ten years, the repayment of the money spent should not be extended beyond that period. The amount of money which had been borrowed under the Public Health Act up to the present time amounted to no less than £2,500,000. All the works which were to be made with that money had been carefully examined by the General Board, and that was one of its functions which, while it was most important, was also one which gave great satisfaction to the local boards. Hardly a week passed without plans being sent up by local boards for the inspection of the engineer attached to the General Board, and it very frequently happened that those plans turned out utterly worthless, involving a great expenditure of money, and certain to prove failures and produce disappointment. In many instances the General Board of Health had prevented local boards from thus wasting their money, and in that way he felt certain that it was productive of much good. It should likewise be remembered that the General Board was instituted, not only to carry out the Public Health Act, but for a great number of other useful purposes, to which he need not now allude. He only hoped, however, that the friends of the sanitary cause in that House would not allow themselves to be blinded by mere prejudice against the Board of Health, but would consider how necessary it was that there should be some department of the State whose business it was to take cognisance of all those matters in which legislation or the action of Government might be usefully employed to protect the lives, to preserve the health, and to promote generally the physical well-being of the people of this country.


said, he could not avoid expressing his disapproval of the Act of 1848, and hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give some idea of the improvements he intended to make in that measure next Session.


said, he wished to ask his right hon. Friend to give his attention to the Bill recommended by the Select Committee, which had inquired into the subject, and of which he was a Member. He believed that if such a Bill were introduced in the next Session of Parliament, it would meet with a more ready acquiescence than any other measure that could be proposed.

Bill passed through Committee; House resumed; Bill reported, without Amendment.