§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ Clause 1 (Short Title of Act).
§ MR. HENLEY
said, as the Bill professed to deal only with common lodging-houses, its present title was inappropriate. He would therefore move that, instead of being designated in the 1st clause as "The Crowded Dwellings Prevention Act, 1857," it be called "The Common Lodging-houses Act Amendment, 1857." He thought, if the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill (Mr. Cowper) was in earnest in dealing with the common lodging-houses, the Bill ought to take that distinctive title.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."
said, perhaps the title suggested by the right hon. Gentleman was the better of the two, if the Committee thought it would apply as well to the clause relating to the common lodging-houses as to that giving power to the Commissioners of Police to enforce the application of a part of the Nuisances Removal Act.
said, that, under all the circumstances, he would suggest the propriety of postponing the further consideration of the measure until next Session. As introduced in the Lords, it applied solely to the Metropolis, but now it was extended to the whole country. Considering the nature of the alteration made in the Bill, and the great difference of opinion which existed in respect to it, he thought that at that period of the Session it should be abandoned.
said, that the Bill had been before the House sufficiently long to be amply considered. It was true that the Bill, as originally introduced, was restricted to the Metropolis, where the evil to be met chiefly existed; but, as the Bill referred to the Common Lodging-houses Act, which applied to the whole country, it was thought proper to extend the application of the Bill. Except for the purpose of defeating the Bill, he could not understand the reason of postponing its consideration.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, that the object of the Bill was hardly urgent enough to induce the House to pass it at this period of the Session. Moreover, the whole Bill was drawn up so unintelligibly that it would take a long consideration to make the enactments clear to an ordinary understanding.
§ MR. AYRTON
observed, that the usual Chairman of Committees had left the House exhausted. He was also exhausted, and, desiring to be present at the business of the House to-morrow, and not thinking that matter now under consideration of sufficient importance to keep the House sitting at one o'clock in the morning, he moved that the Chairman report progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, that the object of the Bill was to prevent the overcrowding of the dwellings of the poor, and he maintained that it was necessary to add to the enactments of the Common Lodging-houses Act the provisions of the present Bill. The lateness of the hour had been alluded to, but it was not too late to provide for the comfort of the poor by improving the state of their dwellings.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
said, he objected to this Bill because it interfered with every man in the metropolis and throughout the country as to the mode in which he chose to live in his own house, and enabled the police to enter every man's private dwelling at any time. The object of the measure was a selfish one. It interfered not for the protection of the poor, but for that of the rich, who said, "Your misery may lead to our misfortune; we shall suffer because you may breed disease." The noble Lord at the head of the Government had stated that the opposition to the Bill proceeded from speculative builders, but this was not the case. He opposed the measure because it was ridiculous and absurd, because it infringed upon the liberties of the subject, and because it turned the poor out into the streets without providing them with any new accommodation. The Act did not apply to Ireland, and Irish members, therefore, might allow him and others to maintain the miserable old doctrine that 'every Englishman's house was his castle.' The interference of the police in the domestic affairs of life was already quite sufficient, and he was decidedly opposed to giving them any further powers.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, it was plain where the shoe pinched. This was a question between speculating builders, who wished to overcrowd the houses they erected, and the poor who were the victims of their cupidity. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that an Englishman's house was his castle. In this ease every builder's house was his dungeon; and it was into this unhealthy dungeon that, for the sake of private gain, they crowded a number of persons, who could not live together with safety to either body or mind. The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that Irish Members had no business to intrude their opinions in a matter of this sort. He (Lord Palmerston), however, contended that of all Members in this 1859 House they were most called upon to support this Bill, because there was an immense number of Irish poor in this metropolis, who, being strangers here and depending entirely upon their personal industry for support, were perhaps more interested in this question even than the natives of England. It did honour, then, to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. P. O'Brien) that at personal inconvenience he stayed here to support a Bill which so deeply affected his fellow-countrymen. As to the question of time, that was a common-placed, stereotyped argument, which hon. Members, who felt they could not oppose a Bill upon its merits, frequently brought forward. He hoped the Committee would listen to no argument of that sort. Every objection which had been urged against this measure applied equally to the Lodging-house Act, which we prove to have conferred the greatest possible benefit on the poor in this metropolis, and he trusted that the Committee would defeat the attempt to throw out this Bill, and would thereby complete the good work which that Act had begun.
§ LORD ADOLPHUS VANE-TEMPEST
said, he did not believe there was one hon. Member in this House who would oppose this Bill from a wish to promote his popularity among any section of his constituency. He had every desire to promote the improvement of the lodging-houses of the poor, but he could not agree to such a despotic measure as this, which would enable the police to enter every private dwelling-house in the country, being proceeded with at half-past one o'clock in the morning.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he thought it would be a great pity if after the discussion of the Bill on the previous night the House did not endeavour to amend it. If it could not be amended, then let it be put an end to. The noble Lord had rather provoked hostilities, by charging those who opposed this unintelligible Bill, with being actuated solely by a desire to further the selfish interests of those capitalists who built great dungeons for the poor. He could assure the noble Lord that he had had a good deal to do with Bills of this nature, and when the first of this class of Bills was brought in by a noble Lord, now in another place, it was even more unintelligible than this, and yet, that noble Lord used precisely the same language as that used that night by the noble Lord at the head of the Government against those who 1860 wished to make it intelligible. That Bill was referred to a Committee upstairs, with the view of putting it into a working shape, and when it came back it was as different from the Bill in its first shape as a white from a black horse. He would suggest that it should be so altered as to make it applicable to common lodging-houses alone, and not to private dwellings.
said, that the Bill was not intended to be applied to any private dwelling-house, its object being directed to common lodging-houses alone. If hon. Gentlemen would allow the Committee to proceed, he would alter the clause so as to declare it applicable to common lodging-houses alone.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he had frequently before that evening resorted to Motions for delay, when the Government attempted at an early hour in the morning to carry arbitrary and despotic measures by means of the majority which was always ready to do their bidding. The insinuations of the noble Lord at the head of the Government against those who opposed the Bill was altogether unfounded. The Bill was never intended to regulate common lodging-houses. If that were its object, it was not wanted at all, as the Common Lodging-houses Act was sufficient for such a purpose. Nor would it affect the builders of that class of houses referred to, but only the poor tenants, who would be liable to be summoned before a magistrate for breach of its provisions. The real aim of the measure was to place the dwellings of the poor under the surveillance of the police, and to subject the country to an odious system of domiciliary visits.
§ MR. KNIGHT
said, he regarded this as only one of a series of stringent measures for increasing the power of the Government over the subject, which ought to be strenuously resisted. The police ought to be strictly confined to their single, proper duty—the prevention of crime; otherwise, the same system of gradual encroachment which had enslaved the nations of the Continent would be insidiously extended to this country.
§ MR. NICOLL
said he was not a Metropolitan Member, and had no connection with speculative builders. He regarded this Bill as a step towards the policy of the French Government, which was to pull down the dwellings of the poor, and erect in their stead houses which the rich only could afford to occupy. He believed this Bill to be extremely dangerous 1861 in its principle, and he would oppose it by every constitutional means.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, he must complain of the presumption of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) in laying down the law for the House on every possible occasion. They all admired the eloquence for which that hon. and learned Gentleman was distinguished, although it must be confessed that he was prone to be a little too lavish with it; and at the close of the Session his lengthy harangues were particularly unseasonable.
said, that he must beg to repudiate the unworthy motives to which the noble Lord at the head of the Government had described the opposition offered to this Bill.
§ LORD ADOLPHUS VANE-TEMPEST
said, it was clear from every word of the Bill that it was intended to be applied to the private dwellings of the poor, and not to common lodging-houses. He had no wish to perpetuate the present state of things, but he thought that at two o'clock in the morning it was time to report progress.
§ MR. COX
said, he thought the Chairman ought to report progress, in order to allow the noble Lord at the head of the Government an opportunity of reading the Bill, of which it was evident he knew nothing. Had the noble Lord ever read the History of England? If he meant to play Wat Tyler with the people of England they would be able to find persons to play the tyrant against him.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he also must disclaim the imputation that had been cast upon him of having opposed the Bill from unworthy motives. He had opposed it lest its stringent provisions should disgust the people with that beneficial enactment, the Common Lodging-houses Act.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
remarked, he did not know what was meant by saying that the Government had imputed base motives to those who opposed the Bill. If any imputations had been caste, they had been rather cast upon the Government by those who opposed the Bill, that under the semblance of improving the Common Lodging-houses Act, they were attempting 1862 a tyrannous interference with all private houses, and that they sought to establish domiciliary visits. The hon. Member for Finsbury had even gone so far as to impute to him a desire to imitate the example of a person whom the hon. Member conceived to be a great tyrant. If the hon. Member inquired within the limits of his own borough into historical facts he would acquit him of any display of arbitrary Government and tyranny, as resulting from an imitation of Wat Tyler. He earnestly hoped the Committee would adopt the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley), which the Government were quite willing to accept.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 22; Noes 35: Majority 13.
§ Question, "That the word proposed to be left out—stand part of the clause;" put and negatived.
§ Amendment made.
§ Clause as amended, agreed to.
§ The House resumed. Committee report progress; to sit again on Thursday.
§ House adjourned, at a quarter before Three o'clock.