THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I took the liberty of moving that the orders of the day should be postponed in order that I might bring under the attention of the House a Bill the object of which is the purification of the river Thames. The condition of the waters of that river has fallen upon the inhabitants of this metropolis, generally speaking, as an unexpected calamity; but I believe there has always been an observant minority in the community which has expected the catastrophe that has recently occurred; and I find that several years back, when this House, in pursuit of health, determined that the sewage of the metropolis should be diverted to the waters of the Thames, there were some persons of great authority on such matters who forsaw the consequences of that measure. Sir, all that they then predicted has been more than fulfilled. That noble river, so long the pride and joy of Englishmen, which has hitherto been associated with the noblest feats of our commerce and the most beautiful passages of our poetry, has really become a Stygian pool, reeking with ineffable and intolerable horrors. The public health is at stake; almost all living things that existed in the waters of the Thames have disappeared or been destroyed; a very natural fear has arisen that living beings upon its banks may share the same fate; there is a pervading apprehension of pestilence in this great city; and I am sure I am only taking a step that will have been anticipated when I ask for leave to introduce a Bill which will attempt—and I trust the attempt will be successful—to terminate a state of affairs so unsatisfactory and fraught with so much danger to the public health.
"If this be your object, it will be asked, what is the quarter from which a remedy is to be provided? Where are we to find the means and where the machinery for attaining these remedial results?" In fact, the question at once arises, which has been asked by everybody in this city during the last few weeks,—"Is this a local or a national business?" Now, at the first glance it certainly does appear that the inhabitants of a great city should be responsible for the purity of the river that washes its walls; 1509 but then it is urged, and no doubt with considerable force and plausibility, that the position of the City of London is of a peculiar character. It is not merely a city in Her Majesty's dominions, but it is the Metropolis of Her Majesty's dominions. It is a city of paramount importance. Here the Court is present; here the Parliament holds its sittings; here are the halls of justice; here is the centre of administration; and upon these grounds it is alleged that in a city which includes so many national interests, and where so many national institutions exist, the inconveniences which are experienced are of a national character and should be remedied at the national expense. It is alleged, however, on the other hand, that the very circumstances which are adduced to substantiate a claim on behalf of this afflicted metropolis to assistance from the national resources tend—when impartially considered—to a directly opposite conclusion; because, it is said, with equal plausibility, that the very facts that the Sovereign, the Legislature, the courts of justice, and the centre of administration, are to be found in this city, show that they must necessarily have greatly contributed to the importance and prosperity of the metropolis, and that if not the principal, they are, at least, among the chief causes of the splendour and power of the Capital. Under these circumstances, one is naturally inclined to ask—Are we, or are we not, to trust to that municipal principle which is so often eulogized in this House, and of which we are all so proud, as one of the chief characteristics of our constitution? What is the value of this municipal principle if it is limited in its application? Ought it to be so limited? If it is the duty of a population of 30,000 to cleanse their streets and clear their river, why should not such a duty be equally imperative upon a population which may be counted by millions? What becomes of that admirable principle of self-government, that system of local administration, of which we are all so proud, to which we appeal so frequently in our legislation, and in the influence and efficiency of which we have so much confidence, if when a great trial like the present arrives we abandon, as defective, the system of local administration, and we admit the inefficiency of the municipal principle; giving up all hope of relief from such sources, and declaring that this is a case which must be taken up 1510 by the nation, and which must be met from the aggregate resources of the people of this country. Sir, Her Majesty's Government having considered this question without prejudice, and with the utmost anxiety to submit to the House a proposition which would be adequate to the occasion, are of opinion that this is an instance which must be met by local resources. The object is to remedy or diminish a local inconvenience, and in their opinion means for applying a competent remedy should be provided from local resources. But then it is said that though in theory that is a very sound position it must be borne in mind, as I need scarcely remind the House is the fact, that, with the exception of a very small portion of the metropolis, which has been under the control of an ancient and celebrated corporation, the municipal administration of this great city of London—a city, not only the most extensive of modern times, but greater than any ancient cities of which we have authentic records—is still really in its infancy. In the disagreeable and difficult position in which the inhabitants of the metropolis have found themselves during the last six or eight weeks, they have naturally contrasted the enormous extent of the evils with which they have had to contend with the feebleness of the muncipal machinery by which only a remedy could be provided. We have looked into that question, and I trust also without prejudice. We have examined the conduct of that Metropolitan Board of Works which, not much more than two years ago, was instituted by Parliament to constitute the powerful and efficient municipality of this great city. That body has, however, beyond all question, not hitherto proved itself to be very effective in carrying out those works which come within its control. It must at the same time be borne in mind that the period of its existence has, as yet, been brief, and that although the Legislature has committed to its hands the performance of great and important duties, we have not combined with those duties the power adequate to their due discharge.
I hope that I have now given a fair and impartial summary of the position in which the Metropolitan Board of Works has been placed by Parliament. Well, the question then arises, can we invest that body—which occupies the influential position of the municipality of this metropolis, and which is, as a consequence, the body to which we ought to appeal 1511 in those instances in which grievances connected with the metropolis should be remedied—with powers adequate to the accomplishment of that great work which we are all so anxious to promote? You will, generally speaking, find the corporation of a great city like London—the capital of an ancient kingdom—in possession of considerable estates, and when under those circumstances a large and unexpected demand upon its resources and energies arises, it has the means of raising the funds necessary for the performance of the work which it may be called upon to execute. We have, however, in the present instance to deal with a corporation which has great duties to discharge, and which nominally is intrusted with great powers for the purpose, but which in reality is almost completely denuded of all means of raising a considerable sum of money. In theory, it is true, its members have the power to avail themselves of large resources. They possess the power of rating, and of rating, I believe, to an unlimited extent, the inhabitants of those districts the affairs of which they administer. The House must, however, on reflection perceive that nothing is more illusory than a rate, and no means of raising money is more unsatisfactory, no matter how liberal the language used by the Legislature may be, than a rating power whenever a large amount is sought to be obtained. A corporation being called upon to invest capital to a considerable extent in public works very naturally does not anticipate that it is to be furnished with that capital out of its income. If, indeed, it should happen to be in the possession of large estates it might raise the necessary sum of money at a moderate rate of interest; but in dealing with a simple power of rating you must bear in mind that the rate exists only for a single year, and that therefore it constitutes, practically speaking, a security upon which no person would be disposed to make any considerable advances. When, therefore, a rate is the only security which you have to offer you are in this position, that you can procure only a small sum of money, and that too at a high rate of interest—a result which would by no means meet the exigencies of the case with which we have this evening to deal.
Now, Sir, the Metropolitan Board of Works have, I am bound to say, given to the question of the purification of the Thames and the main drainage of the Metropolis very careful consideration.
1512 They have employed in the investigation of the subject a long period of time. They have availed themselves of the knowledge, the science, and the practical and personal experience of the highest authorities. They have arrived, too, at results with respect to the subject in the accomplishment of which they place complete confidence. They in no way shrink from the responsibility of endeavouring to effect an object which we all have so much at heart, and which it will certainly become their paramount duty to use every means in their power to attain, provided Parliament will only place them in a position in which the remedies which they have in contemplation may be effectually brought to bear. Now, the expenditure which it would be necessary to incur in order to secure that end—in order to cleanse and purify our river and to complete the main drainage of the city—is estimated at a considerable amount. It cannot, indeed, be computed at much less than £3,000,000; and now comes the question, how is that expenditure to be met? In reply to that question, I have to state, in the first instance, that Her Majesty's Government propose, for the consideration and, as I trust, for the final adoption, of the House the following scheme. We propose to take steps by means of which this new corporation to which I have referred should find itself in the possession of a considerable income—I shall not say of a permanent, but at all events not of a transient character; that, in other words, it should have an income at its command for a considerable number of years, which will enable it to effect all those objects which we now seek to accomplish. In order to carry out those views we propose that Parliament should interpose and impose a rate on the inhabitants of the Metropolis, which shall form a special rate, for the purpose of purifying the river and completing the main drainage of the city; a rate which shall be confined to the promotion of those objects only, and which shall be denominated in legislation and practice "The Main Sewage rate of the Metropolis." We propose that it should be, both as regards its amount and the duration of the period of its imposition, a tax which should effect these two objects—namely, that it should supply the necessary funds for the accomplishment of the great work which I have mentioned—the cost of which, as I said before, we cannot estimate at a less sum than £3,000,000—and that it should 1513 furnish a basis upon which engagements may be entered into, conditions subscribed, and regulations made under the direction of competent authorities—to whom I shall subsequently more particularly refer—by means of which, at the expiration of the period during which the rate may be levied—a sinking fund having been in simultaneous action—the complete extinction of the whole of the debt which may be contracted for the attainment of the end which we have in view may take place. If that result can be brought about, it will, in our opinion, be found to furnish a satisfactory solution of the financial part of the question. Now, we are informed, and I have documents before me which afford evidence of the justice of the calculation, that a rate of not more than 3d. in the pound, levied for a term of forty years, will be sufficient to provide funds for the completion of the whole of the main drainage of the Metropolis, and at the same time furnish a sinking fund which, at the end of that period, will enable the Metropolitan Board of Works to liquidate the debt which they shall have incurred in order to carry this scheme into execution. That this result may be arrived at, an appeal—and to my mind an appeal of a legitimate character—has been made to Her Majesty's Government for assistance. It is not an appeal made on behalf of the Metropolitan Board of Works to aid them by an advance of the public money or by contributing by a tax levied upon the community generally to meet any portion of an expenditure which, although considerable in amount, is still of a local nature. They simply ask us to assist them, as we have been in the habit of assisting the prosecutors of public works in almost every portion of the kingdom. The House cannot fail to be aware that there is a machinery in existence through the medium of which pecuniary aid is extended at a moderate rate of interest, for the purpose of promoting public enterprises, such, for instance, as the building of bridges, gaols, and other public institutions, and which also provides the mode in which those advances should be repaid. The establishment through whose agency this is effected is known under the name of the Exchequer-bills Loan Commissioners Advances; but its powers and resources, I may add, are of too limited a character to enable us to avail ourselves of its interference in the present instance. We propose, however, to attain the end at which we aim by means of a 1514 machinery, if not of a precisely similar, at all events of an analogous character. The House will perceive that if we invest the Metropolitan Board of Works with the power of levying a rate of 3d. for a period of forty years, which would amount to about £140,000 per annum, they would then be in the possession of a considerable, though, not altogether permanent income, and would have it in their power to raise money. But another difficulty arises then—the money requisite. Most of those institutions in this metropolis which have large amounts of capital at their disposal, are prevented, either by by-laws or by conditions in their deeds of incorporation and settlement, from lending their capital except upon real securities or upon the security of the public funds. Therefore they would not be enabled to lend money to the Metropolitan Board of Works, even if it be endowed with this power of raising a revenue of £140,000 a year for forty years, and even if they would be satisfied with such security. What, under these circumstances, we propose is, that the Government should guarantee the principal and interest of the sums which the Metropolitan Board of Works may wish to raise for the fulfilment of the task imposed upon them upon certain conditions. We propose that the Government should guarantee capital and interest as to the sum of £3,000,000, provided the Metropolitan Board of Works raises this revenue of £140,000 a year for forty years, subject to conditions which are contained in this Bill, which will place the financial operation under the control of the Treasury, by which means we shall secure not only the payment of the interest, but also the regular operation of the sinking fund. We propose that we should guarantee these advances up to £3,000,000 during a term necessary for the construction of the works, and at a rate of interest not exceeding 4 per cent, and thus, according to an estimate which we have drawn up, by the highest authority, the £140,000 per annum to be raised will not only pay the interest upon the £3,000,000, but will leave the debt incurred by the corporation entirely liquidated. It is possible, indeed, that the Government may not be called upon for a single shilling, for, with such a guarantee, there will be no difficulty at this moment in the way of the Metropolitan Board of Works raising as much money as they may require at that rate of interest. By these means the Metropolitan Board of Works will find themselves in possession 1515 of a sufficient and adequate income, not only for the construction of all works connected with the main drainage of the metropolis, but also for a sinking fund which at the end of the term will have liquidated all advances. Such, Sir, is the outline of the financial part of the plan we propose. Her Majesty's Government having now placed the Metropolitan Board of Works in an efficient position as regards finance—if this scheme be sanctioned by the House—had next to consider what should be their course as to the construction of the works themselves. After having given the subject all the consideration which its importance demands—and I assure the House with no desire of shrinking from responsibility—we are of opinion that it would be the wisest course, if our plan be adopted, to leave the Metropolitan Board of Works in perfect freedom as regards the construction of the works. We shall therefore propose, that all the regulations contained in the original Bill constituting the local government of the metropolis, which require that under certain circumstances it should be incumbent upon the Metropolitan Board of Works to apply for the sanction of the First Commissioner of Works, and under other circumstances to ask for the sanction of Parliament, shall be entirely repealed. We propose to give to that body ample and adequate means for the fulfilment of the duties imposed upon them, and we also propose that they should be left in the full enjoyment of freedom and of that responsibility which must result from the position in which we desire to place them. The Bill provides that the works shall be completed in the term of five years and a half—that is, by the end of 1863, and during that period the advances will be made. I anticipate, as far as I can at present form any opinion, that upon the whole we may reckon that £600,000 per annum, or £300,000 every six months, will probably be required to carry on these works. I believe I have now laid before the House a general outline of the scheme which we intend to recommend to Parliament. There are in the Bill many clauses of importance, but they are all details, and it would not be convenient for me now to enter fully upon what are proper subjects for consideration in Committee. The House will have to decide whether the course which we have taken is, upon the whole, the most prudent that could be devised, and at the same time adequate to the conjuncture. What we have sought to do is to make the Metropolitan Board of Works 1516 a real corporation; to invest it with sufficient funds—to endow it with sufficient power, and to give it not only power, but responsibility—a responsibility which cannot be expected unless we leave it perfectly unshackled and untrammelled. We have endeavoured to reconcile the attainment of these great objects without trenching in any degree upon the national resources in aid of what, after all, we cannot but consider to be a local work, and so far as we recommend Parliament to sanction any interference on the part of the Treasury, we have done so in unison with the general conduct of Parliament in such cases; and I trust the House will conclude that it is a legitimate and, under all the circumstances, a prudent application of that power. I have now, Sir, placed before the House the general features of this measure, and I ask for its leave to introduce a Bill to alter and amend the Metropolis Local Management Act (1855), and to extend the powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works for the purification of the Thames, and the main drainage of the metropolis.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
rose to a point of order. He wished to put it to the Speaker whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought not to have moved for leave to bring in the Bill in a Committee of the whole House, seeing that it was a Bill imposing a tax. It appeared to him that, according to the Rules of the House, the right hon. Gentleman ought to have begun by moving the Speaker out of the Chair, and then have introduced a Resolution in Committee authorizing the introduction of such a Bill.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I beg, Mr. Speaker, to ask your opinion on this point. There is nothing in the Bill which levies a tax on the country. The character of the Bill is such as to show that it is not to Imperial but to local resources that we appeal.
I take it that the right hon. Gentleman will not require a preliminary Resolution, provided the Bill is only an extension of the borrowing powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works; but if it goes further, and pledges the public credit for any loan to be raised, you must proceed by Resolution, for the Standing Orders require that for a Bill for such a purpose you should proceed in that manner.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
No doubt we propose to guarantee 1517 the payment of principal and interest of any money raised by the Metropolitan Board of Works. It is the main feature of the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am not exactly acquainted with the form in which the Bill is drawn, but unquestionably if its main feature is the guaranteeing of money raised by loan, it may reach taxation, and the proper form of proceeding would then be by way of Resolution in Committee of the whole House.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am not aware whether I can move to go into Committee without notice.
Notice may be given for going into Committee to-morrow; but by the rules of the House there must be a clear day between every stage of a money Bill from first to last.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
suggested, that the right hon. Gentleman might bring in a Bill without the clause of guarantee, which might be subsequently moved in Committee, thus saving a day.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The question really turns on the form in which the Bill is framed. If it is framed for the purpose of draining the metropolis and granting increased power to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and there are clauses in it which refer to public money, there are many precedents in which in those particular clauses the House resolved itself into Committee and a Resolution was moved. But, not having any knowledge of the exact form in which this Bill is drawn, it is difficult for me to express a decided opinion.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he had a case in his mind in which the judgment of a Speaker of the House had been taken, and which certainly constituted a precedent which it might be convenient he should state to the House. The case to which he alluded involved these points; not only whether the House should proceed by preliminary Resolutions on the question of a money Bill affecting the Imperial Exchequer, but whether they were not subject to the same restriction in the case of a Bill for metropolitan taxation; and subject to that restriction also, even where the tax was purely incidental, and beside the main object of the Bill. The case was this: In 1843, it was his duty, on the part of the Government of Sir Robert Peel, to introduce a Bill which had for its object the purely social purpose of operating a change in the condition of the coal-whippers, and which Bill was obstinately contested at every stage. There happened to be a 1518 necessity for raising the sum of £1,000, entirely beside the general purposes of the Bill, in order to enable the Corporation of London to furnish the office of the coal-whippers with pens, ink, and paper, desks and forms, and it was proposed that that sum should be secured upon the coal duties by a purely incidental provision of the Bill. But when they came to, he believed, the third reading of the Bill, the present Sir Benjamin Hawes, who had been its keen opponent, took the objection that incidentally the clause which authorized the payment of the £1,000 might be the means of laying a tax upon the metropolis, inasmuch as it was a possible case that the £1,000 might not be forthcoming from the funds provided by the Bill, which were entirely voluntary, and in that case the coal duties might be continued, perhaps, for one day longer. In that event there would be a tax; and if there was a tax it would be fatal to the plan, and the plan of legislation would go to the winds. That point was formally submitted to the Speaker, and also to the law officers of the Crown, especially the late Sir William Follett, who were asked to give their opinion whether the powers conveyed by the Bill would be sufficient to enable the authorities of the City to levy the coal duties for one day longer; and in the end the Speaker decided that the powers granted by the Bill would not be sufficient for that purpose, but he also stated that if the powers of the Bill were sufficient, in that contingency, and in order to enable the City authorities to levy a single shilling additional on coal duties, the Bill was good for nothing, and there was no option but to abandon it, for the error was irremediable.
§ MR. WALPOLE
believed his right hon. Friend was perfectly right in the view he had taken of the precedent. He would suggest, however, that they might proceed in accordance with the forms and rules of the House, and not lose a stage by giving a new notice of Motion. There were clauses in the Bill, the object of which was to enable the Metropolitan Board of Works to execute certain works, and which might clearly be brought in without violating the forms of the House. For that purpose he thought leave might be given to bring in the Bill; and in that case the portions of the Bill to be introduced would be those which affected neither the question of the extension of the rating powers now vested in the Metropolitan Board of Works, nor the question of guaranteeing on the part of the country the repayment of the loan. 1519 The House would be entirely in order if the Bill were brought in in that form to-night, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer could hereafter move that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to consider Resolutions which would enable them to go on with the financial part of the measure.
§ MR. AYRTON
suggested that the same object might be attained by introducing two Bills—one to extend the powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the other to provide for the raising of the £3,000,000.
§ MR. SPEAKER
quoted the Standing Order which referred to the introduction of Bills by means of a preliminary Committee, and said, I have not the least doubt of the power of the right hon. Gentleman to introduce the Bill; and if the clauses referring to the raising of the money were guarded by being passed through a preliminary Committee of the whole House, all that is required by the forms of the House will be accomplished.
called attention to another Standing Order, of the 29th of March, 1707, which provided—That this House will not proceed upon any Petition, Motion, or Bill, for granting any money, or for releasing or compounding any sum of money owing to the Crown, but in Committee of the whole House.That had been held to involve all questions of guarantee or whatever might become a charge upon the Consolidated Fund.
§ MR. SPEAKER
then put the Question,That Leave be given to bring in a Bill for the Main Drainage of the Metropolis.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he had also heard with great satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, because he had always repudiated the idea of this metropolis being dependent upon the Executive Government for the management of its affairs. What he desired to remark, however, was, that the right hon. Gentleman had not stated that he was disposed upon some future occasion to enter fully and completely into the question, and to consummate the good work which he had inaugurated that night. The right hon. Gentleman had truly observed that the metropolis had no corporate fund such as that which it would have possessed had it been an ancient institution like the Corporation of the City of London or Liverpool. Why was it in this position? Because it had been played and trifled with from century to century by the Ministers of the Crown. The Imperial Government, undertaking to some extent 1520 to manage the affairs of the metropolis, had indemnified itself for so doing by levying taxes upon the inhabitants and appropriating them to the public Exchequer. Now, that might have been justifiable if the Chancellor of the Exchequer took upon himself the responsibility of paying for all the great works, and it would have been equally justifiable to pursue the system if, for example, the right hon. Gentleman found money for the main drainage which was now required. But how did the Exchequer treat the inhabitants of the metropolis? In the first place, it had levied upon them a Hackney Coach Tax, which, in 1851, amounted to £95,000 per annum, and in 1855, after its reduction, to £73,000. This was entirely a local tax; and between this and the next Session of Parliament the right hon. Gentleman must be prepared to employ his comprehensive mind in reviewing the whole of the circumstances of the case, for when he laid down the principle that the metropolis had no claim upon the national Exchequer, he must also adopt the principle that the national Exchequer had no claim upon the local resources of the metropolis. Another charge which, though professedly a national tax, bore with peculiar weight upon the metropolis was the Stage Coach Tax. How did that tax operate? Why, that in 1855 the metropolis, with its two millions and a half of inhabitants, paid no less than £80,000, whilst the whole of the rest of the United Kingdom, with its twenty-five millions of people paid only £52,000. So that the metropolis was charged with £75,000 more than its just proportion of this tax, which, to that extent, was, in fact, a local tax upon its inhabitants. This was not all. For the Imperial Exchequer and the little Corporation of the City of London had the right to levy a Coal Tax. Here, then, was nearly £250,000 more per annum specially borne by the inhabitants of the metropolis. But there were other duties which this little corporation, in the centre of the metropolis, with its hundred thousand inhabitants, levied upon the two millions and a half of people who surrounded it, and appropriated to its own purposes, He did not desire to see this little corporation extinguished altogether, but he did wish to see it assume proportions which would remind us of its former power and dignity. He did not want great dignitaries like the Lord Mayor and other City functionaries to devote the whole of their time to the peddling affairs of a small community of 100,000 souls, for some of these civic offi- 1521 cers were men of great ability, in the receipt of emoluments equal to those enjoyed by the heads of State departments; but he desired to enlarge their powers, extending them over the entire metropolis, and making them more commensurate with their great abilities and their handsome salaries. He wished, in short, to see the Corporation of London superintend the whole affairs of the metropolis, instead of being a mere instrument for gratifying the pompous folly of a few people in the City. Again, the inhabitants of the metropolis were taxed £280,000 per annum for the police, and the Commissioner of Police expended the amount without being subject to any contest, nor did he condescend to render an account of his expenditure to any local authority. This, with other contingencies, brought up the amount levied annually upon the inhabitants of the metropolis, by or under the auspices of the Imperial Exchequer, to a sum little short of £700,000, over the expenditure of which the inhabitants had no control, and a considerable portion of which was applied to none but Imperial purposes. But whilst the inhabitants of the metropolis were thus unduly taxed, a great extent of property was exempted from contributing towards any local charge, on the pretence of its being public property. There was no just reason why the public establishments, such as the Houses of Parliament, should not pay their fair share of taxation as well as all property now enjoying special and peculiar privileges. In passing the proposed Bill, the metropolitan Members should enter their solemn protest against its being assumed for one moment that they had justice done them in these great questions, they should rather regard the course now being pursued as a foundation for the consideration of their demands in another Session. The inhabitants of the metropolis were pressed down by this indirect taxation, and they might be led to entertain a dangerous ill-feeling against the Government, which they must consider as the cause of it, if they were now to be called upon to pay an additional rate to remedy the evils which had been entailed on them by the mismanagement of their affairs in former times by the Ministers of the Crown. For the sake of the public tranquillity, therefore, it would be the duty of the Government between the present time and next Session to examine all these questions, and to provide a complement to the measure wisely and judiciously begun to-night, dealing with the questions 1522 to which he (Mr. Ayrton) had incidentally alluded, by giving to the whole metropolis real and effective municipal institutions, and providing the resources requisite to enable the municipality to discharge the important duties it would be required to perform.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
said, he regretted that he could not feel all the satisfaction which had been expressed by his hon. Friends (Mr. Williams and Mr. Ayrton). In his opinion the Bill shadowed forth by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very much like the play of Hamlet, with the principal character omitted. The House and the public had been given to understand that the right hon. Gentleman was to bring on a measure for the purification of the Thames; but up to this moment the House was in utter ignorance whether any plan had been suggested either by the Metropolitan Board of Works or anybody else which Her Majesty's Government thought would be effectual for the grear object they had in view. Indeed, so fa from the Government having come forward and made any statement of the kind, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had carefully guarded himself against expressing an opinion upon the subject. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman said he would leave the matter entirely in the hands of the Metropolitan Board of Works; that he would take from them the shackles which were placed upon them by the Act under which they were constituted—namely, that the Chief Commissioner of Works should have power to veto any outrageous scheme which that Board might choose to adopt; that he had entire confidence in that Board; that he would not exercise his own ingenuity and look into the question himself, but come down to the House, dilate at considerable length upon the impure state of the Thames, describe everything that everybody was already acquainted with, and finally content himself with giving the Board some new facilities for raising money through a Government guarantee, for the purpose of doing—what? That "what" nobody knew better now than he did before the right hon. Gentleman rose to address the House. Now, be (Mr. Locke) did not feel satisfied with the present position of affairs; and he would appeal to the late Commissioner of Works whether, in his opinion, the suns of three millions mentioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer could by any possibility be sufficient to carry out the works which the Metropolitan Board of Works 1523 had had in view up to the present time. He knew not what was the nature of those works, but it was his opinion that they would never be executed for that sum. Moreover, they had no guarantee where the sewage was to be taken, or whether it was to be conveyed beyond the metropolis or not; and that was the great question at issue between the late Chief Commissioner of Works and the Metropolitan Board of Works. In the interview which took place between the Chief Commissioner and the head of the latter body, the right hon. Gentleman said, "You propose to convey the sewage down to such a spot; in the first place that is contrary to the Act of Parliament which gives you your powers, and in the next place, if you only carry it there, whilst you incur an enormous expenditure, it will be of no advantage at all." It was then suggested by the Chief Commissioner that the sewage should be carried to a spot beyond that, so as to relieve the metropolis from its coming back again. What was the answer of the head of the Metropolitan Board of Works? "Oh, if you do that it will cost eleven millions of money;" and, it appeared that the sum the Chief Commissioner was prepared to put it at was £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. The present, therefore, was the first occasion on which he (Mr. Locke) had heard of £3,000,000 being considered adequate for the great purposes which were to be attained by the Bill. What, then, was the meaning of the present Bill, which had been brought down to the House with such a great flourish. Nobody understood it. Her Majesty's Government had not explained what was to be done. All they said was, "We will place unlimited confidence in a body who have hitherto done nothing. They tell us they can do for three millions that which, up to the present time, they have always declared they could not do for less than five or six millions. Such is our confidence in them, however, that we will withdraw any wholesome restraint which has been placed upon them, leave the matter entirely in their hands, and give them facilities for raising money to do—what, we don't know," and it appeared they did not much care.
§ MR. BYNG
said, he could not entirely agree in all that had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, and he should be wanting in his duty if he did not tender his thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government for having endeavoured, as far as they could, to grapple with one of the most important 1524 subjects that could command the attention of the House at the present moment. Still, there were omissions in the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which he deeply regretted. As they would have eventually to consider how the purification of the Thames was to be carried out, he thought the Government ought to have kept in their hands the power of vetoing any proposal submitted to them by the Metropolitan Board of Works, until, at least, it was sanctioned by that House. He was confirmed in that opinion by the Parliamentary Papers recently presented, according to which it appeared that the Government referees had condemned, and in no measured language, the proposal which the Metropolitan Board were prepared to carry out, if the necessary powers were given to that body—he meant the plan of Messrs. Bidder, Hawksley, and Bazalgette. He believed that for carrying that plan into execution £3,000,000 would not be half enough. Again, there were circumstances connected with the Metropolitan Board of Works of recent date which required some explanation, and which ought to make the House careful how it gave to that Board the power of rating the metropolis. He referred to the intended purchase of Berkeley House, in Spring Gardens, for upwards of £40,000. He thought it but fair and right that the metropolis should pay for all that might be necessary in the way of drainage; but he trusted that the Government would take into consideration the propriety of subjecting the large amount of Crown property in London and the Government offices to a fair amount of taxation. He did not wish to enter into the various schemes that had been proposed, or to give an opinion upon them, seeing so many eminent men differed regarding them. He was not, however, disposed to agree to a rate of 3d. in the pound being imposed on the inhabitants of the metropolis for forty years until he had some explanation as to whether the Government were prepared to sanction the plan he had mentioned, or whether they intended to exercise the right of putting a veto on that or any other plan before the Bill passed into law.
said, that this was the first time that he had heard of Government advancing money on guarantee for such a purpose; and, instead of having a veto through the Chief Commissioner, as formerly, over the Metropolitan Board of Works, the responsibility would be shifted 1525 on to that body. If the propositions contained in the Bill were adopted they would be virtually voting £3,000,000 for carrying out a plan which was at this moment being pulled to pieces by three of the most eminent engineers in this country. A great deal of evidence had been given on this subject before a Committee of the House of Commons now sitting on the purification of the Thames, and from the evidence given it appeared that if the sewage was sent to Barking Creek the chances were, that almost all the sewage matter of a most disagreeable and dangerous kind would be floated back again and deposited on the banks of the Thames. The Government acknowledged the difficulty they were in, and they took steps adroitly to get out of it, and the House received the announcement with considerable pleasure, because no one would have to pay but those who lived within the metropolitan area, and he was afraid that would carry the Bill. But then came another point, and it was this:—Suppose the Metropolitan Board should be successful, what course would then be taken to prevent the Thames being offensive, as at present, from its mud banks? The Board would have no control to remove them or other nuisances. The Committee on the purification of the Thames had suggestions pouring in upon them from engineers, chemists, and all quarters in England, Ireland, and Scotland, and they were anxious not so much to go through plans as to arrive at principles which should be insisted on by Government. His fear was, that if the proposed plan was adopted, and power was given to the Metropolitan Board of Works to throw the sewage where they liked, the House might have no right to inquire into how they managed the matter. Before the Government let go their hold of the public purse it should be quite sure on the subject; and, although the Metropolitan Board of Works were answerable for the expenses, the Government ought to take care that the outlay was efficiently administered. He wished, in conclusion, to know what steps in the meantime, while these alterations were being carried out, which would occupy five or six years, were to be taken by the Metropolitan Board of Works in the shape of palliative measures.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, he wished to describe what had occurred between him and the Metropolitan Board of Works when he was First Commissioner of Works. About six months after the Metropolitan Board was created, they sent him a plan for the 1526 main drainage of the metropolis having its outfall at or near Barking Creek. It was impossible for him to sanction this plan, because, according to the Metropolis Act of 1855, it was declared that the point of outfall should not be at any place in or near the metropolis. He had therefore no option in the matter, and immediately returned the plan, stating the ground of objection. The Board then sent another plan equally open to the same result, and which necessarily shared the same fate. He then appointed Captain Burstal to consider and report to him at what point the sewage could be discharged, so that the provisions of the Act might be complied with, and so that it should not reflow into the Metropolis. Captain Burstal reported that the nearest point was at one mile above Erith on the south side, and at a corresponding site on the north side. At an interview which he (Sir B. Hall) had with the Metropolitan Board in November, 1856, at which Captain Burstal was present, the Board agreed to adopt the points of out-fall suggested by Captain Burstal and subsequently submitted a plan generally known as B*, as contradistinguished from a former plain B, which had its outfall much higher up the river, and was the second plan submitted and, as already stated, necessarily rejected. As soon as plan B* was received it was without delay referred to Captain Douglas Galton, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Blackwell, with directions that they should report fully upon it, and further, that if in the course of their investigations any better scheme should be suggested they should submit that scheme to him, together with their report upon the plan of the Board. The referees did submit a scheme, which he immediately transmitted to the Metropolitan Board without any special recommendation, but merely suggesting that as the plan emanated from persons of such eminence it might be worthy the consideration of the Board; such were the facts of the case as far as he was concerned. Subsequently the Board referred that scheme of the three referees to their own engineer, and associated Messrs. Bidder and Hawkesley with him, and they had agreed upon a plan altering in some parts the plan originally submitted, which plan he under, stood had been laid before the present Government. Although the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not mentioned this fact in his statement, he believed the Government had already, to a great extent, approved that plan, and were prepared to sanction a very ma- 1527 terial alteration in that part of the Metropolitan Act of 1855 which determined that the outfall of the drainage should not be at a point in or near the metropolis. The point of outfall now proposed was, he believed, on the south, two miles higher up than the point indicated by Captain Burstal and acquiesced in by the Board, and he thought some explanation on this subject was called for from the Government. Into the details of the plan submitted he would not go, but he approved entirely the principle that they should entertain none of the absurd projects and ridiculous notions which had been submitted to the Committee up stairs, but should have the work carried out by means of intercepting sewers to remove the drainage, as he hoped, out of the metropolitan area. The real question was, what was the nearest point at which the outfall should be fixed? And on this most important question he hoped the Government would, in the event of any alteration in the Act of 1855, propose proper safeguards, so that the metropolis should not be polluted by the reflux of sewage matter. If this was not secured the works would be incomplete, and the ratepayers would hereafter have to suffer. Although the principle of interception was one which, above all others, ought to be adopted in any scheme for the main drainage of the metropolls, yet he did not think that mere interception would carry out all that was absolutely desirable. He entertained a strong opinion that some day or other a much greater work must be undertaken—one which could not be borne by the metropolis, and which must be a national work—he meant the embankment of the Thames. Every civil engineer of any eminence who had investigated the subject arrived at the same conclusion, and believed that this was the only way to prevent the exhalations which otherwise would constantly arise from the river banks. As regarded local taxation, the metropolis was in a peculiar position on this point. To a certain extent, it possessed municipal institutions; certain local boards created under the Act of 1855 were invested with certain corporate powers; but, in point of fact, they bore no analogy whatever to corporate bodies existing in other parts of the empire. The hon. Member (Mr. Ayrton) said the taxation which was levied upon the metropolis, and which was not placed at the disposal of the metropolitan ratepayers, or persons elected by them to represent their local interests, and to be expended for their use, was £400,000 a 1528 year, but it really amounted to much more. That calculation did not include the metage of corn and other articles, which was at present swallowed up by the City Corporation. Now, if those powers of levying taxes were given to the whole metropolis, and the proceeds expended for the benefit of the metropolitan area generally, instead of having that power placed in the hands of the Corporation of the City of London, which was now a most insignificant portion of the metropolis, he believed there would be no reason to complain, for the ratepayers generally would then have those proceeds of taxation in aid of the rates, and in diminution of the rates to which they might be subject. As to the means proposed for providing the necessary funds for the main drainage, he must of course approve of the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, inasmuch as the 141st Section of his Bill in 1855, when first introduced, contained the same special provision as that now suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he must again remind the House that it was no fault of his that the Metropolitan Board had not this power of obtaining funds when that Board was first created. He (Sir B. Hall) had urged the point most strongly, but he was so strenuously opposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and then sitting on the Opposition benches, that he was actually compelled to strike the clause out of his Bill. Respecting the provision by which the approval of the First Commissioner of Works was rendered necessary in certain cases, it would have been a great gratification to him if that duty had not been imposed upon him. It was a very troublesome one, and the noble Lord, his successor in office, was no doubt glad to get rid of it. The Bill enunciated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer now placed the whole of the main drainage in the hands of the Metropolitan Board—it gave them all they asked for in point of means, and he (Sir B. Hall) hoped that the Board would show some symptoms of vitality, and that the ratepayers would not eventually be called upon to pay more than the Board now said was sufficient for fully carrying out one of the great objects for which the Board was created.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
observed, that his right hon. Friend, in introducing this measure, had confined his statement to the general principles on which it was proposed to legislate on this important metropolitan matter, and in doing so he acted wisely and well, because unless the House arrived at distinct and definite conclusions as to the 1529 general principles that ought to guide the future relations between the Government and the municipality of this great city on this question, it was in vain to come to that House with plans, be they definite or be they indefinite, either for draining the metropolis or for embanking the Thames, or for doing anything connected with the duties of this newly constituted municipal administration. Therefore it was that his right hon. Friend was contented with explaining the general principles on which the measure he proposed to introduce was founded. These general principles, he begged the House again to understand, were, that those who had to pay for the works under consideration should have the liberty of deciding what those works were to be; and he did not know that he could put it in terser or more apposite terms than those of the homely proverb, which said "that he who pays the fiddler has a right to call the tune." He should be very happy to furnish any supplementary information in his power to the right hon. Member who had just sat down, and who was naturally jealous lest any alteration should be made by the Board of Works as regarded the points of outfall specified in the Act of 1855. Now, he was sure that his hon. Friend (Mr. Kendall), the Chairman of the Committee on the purification of the Thames, would bear him out in saying that if there were one thing that was established more clearly than another in the course of their important investigation, it was this—that they cannot arrive at anything like a conclusion as to the points at which the sewage thrown into the Thames would not return back again to the metropolis. He alluded to this because there had been a tendency during the debate, especially on the part of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. John Locke) to argue the question on engineering grounds, and to bring before the consideration of the House all the schemes that had been or that might be proposed, and to ask it to express an opinion, either favourably or unfavourably, on every one of them. Now, any one who had paid attention to the investigations of the Committee up stairs would know that it was absolutely impossible for any set of gentlemen, however well intentioned they might be, who had not professional and practical knowledge and experience, to form a sound conclusion on the subject. It was impossible for the House of Commons, constituted as it was, to express on a measure of this kind what should be or what should not be the points 1530 of outfall from which the sewage thrown into the river with certainty could not come back. He, for one, in his official capacity, must decline all responsibility in expressing an opinion upon that question; but he thought the hon. Gentleman had a right to ask, there being such very considerable doubts upon the matter, what security was about to be taken, whatever point of outfall the Metropolitan Board of Works might in the exercise of their discretion fix upon—what security was to be taken that no nuisance should be created by any change in the point of outfall? He thought the Metropolitan Board of Works had done wisely and well in determining that, should they fix on the points of outfall at Barking Creek, on the north side of the river, and Crosse's Point upon the south, they would deodorise the sewage there during six months in the year; and in the event of their fixing on a point nearer the metropolis than these two points, that they would then deodorise the sewage previously to discharging it into the river during the whole year. He did not know that any more practical or secure guarantee could be given that the discharge of the sewage into the Thames at any point should not create a nuisance, than those that had been mentioned to the House, and provisions would be found in the Bill to that effect. The hon. Chairman of the Committee which had investigated this subject seemed to think that Her Majesty's Government were wrong in not satisfying their minds as to what plan the Metropolitan Board of Works should adopt previous to introducing this measure. Now, it was utterly beyond the competency of this or any Government to satisfy their minds upon plans that required the greatest amount of professional intelligence and skill, and devotion to scientific details, and on which, after all, he must say, there was not an amount of agreement amongst those most qualified to pass their opinion on the subject to induce this or any other Government to come to the House of Commons and say, this is a plan that above all others satisfies the requirements of the case; we recommend you not now to adopt this plan and to become responsible for it, but we ask you to tie up the hands of the Executive Board, who should defray the whole cost of the works, and compel them, whether they like it or not, to adopt the plan. His hon. Friend (Mr. Kendall) would remember, in the course of the investigation that had taken place in Committee, they had other gentlemen there 1531 connected with great cities besides that of London, and a great deal of very important evidence was given from Glasgow. It was notorious, and he betrayed no confidence when he said that Glasgow found itself in as disagreeable a plight with respect to the Clyde as the metropolis did with respect to the Thames; but he did not find that the Government had been called on to dictate to the corporation of Glasgow how they should deal with the Clyde. The Corporation of Glasgow had called in the highest and most intelligent engineering and chemical assistance for the purpose of purifying the Clyde and preventing the nuisance, which they were informed was almost as disgraceful as it was in London; but no one ever thought of asking the Government to advise the Corporation of Glasgow as to how the matter was to be done, as the cost of the necessary works were to be defrayed out of the pockets of the people of Glasgow; and the principle of the Bill now introduced by his right hon. Friend was perfectly in accordance with the principle that it was not the duty of the Government or the House of Commons to take upon themselves to say to the municipalities of London how these great works were to be carried out. He had heard with some surprise the inquiry of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. John Locke) as to who were the persons to whom they were going to entrust these great and extensive powers. Now, he should have thought that the liberal representative of a great metropolitan community would not have asked Her Majesty's Government who the elected representatives of the metropolis were for its local management. If he really wanted an answer to the question he would give it him. They were the elected of the people for the purposes of local management; and Her Majesty's Government thought they could not better perform their duty in this matter than by acting fairly and fully in accordance with the wishes and views of those who do unquestionably represent this great metropolitan community for all local purposes. That was the principle on which this Bill was based, and he believed it to be a sound one, and that it would settle this question as satisfactorily as did another great sanitary and municipal measure connected with interments, which he had the honour to introduce when he was last in office, and upon the same principle—namely, by giving power to the municipal authorities to take such measures as they deemed most advisable for the removal of a great and 1532 growing evil. The hon. Chairman of the Committee had asked what temporary palliative for the existing nuisance would be adopted before the great works which were requisite could be undertaken and rendered effective. The hon. Gentleman would find that the Bill contained a clause giving full power to the Metropolitan Board of Works to adopt such temporary palliatives as might be necessary to prevent the evils complained of. He believed that when the Bill was in the hands of hon. Members they would find it was carefully and skilfully framed, and he believed that if the House sanctioned the measure, as he trusted they would, the country, on the one hand, would be spared the expenditure of a single shilling, and on the other, the metropolis would have the credit and glory of removing these long-complained of evils through a machinery and in a manner entirely consistent with the habits and institutions of our old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon community.
thought the Government acted wisely in leaving the Board of Works responsible to those by whom they were elected for the expenditure of the loan; but he wished the House to consider whether the mode in which the loan was to be raised was the best and most economical that could have been adopted. As he understood the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, this Bill would authorize the Board of Works to impose a rate to the extent of 3d. in the pound upon the inhabitants of the metropolis for a period of forty years. He took it that the sinking fund would not be by way of annuities, but the fund would be allowed to accumulate at compound interest. He would suggest whether as the Government took all the responsibility it would not be better for them to make a loan for that specific purpose, and advance the money as required through the Exchequer Loan Commissioners, who had a perfect machinery for the purpose. That would be the more economical course, and would avoid the necessity of creating a new department in the Treasury, which was not at all fitted for the duty. With respect to a question that had been mooted, whether the public buildings ought not to be made liable to the proposed rate, he would observe that the Committee which had sat to consider the question of exemption from poor-rates now enjoyed by public buildings had reported that, with the exception of buildings in the personal occupation of the Sovereign and buildings for religious purposes, there 1533 should be no exemption from poor rates. He thought there was no reason why the same principle should not be applied in the case of this sewage rate, nor why that House, the occupants of which would certainly derive benefit from the contemplated works, should be exempted from all contribution to the expense.
§ MR. NORRIS
hoped that her Majesty's Government and the First Commissioners of Works would avoid committing themselves to any particular scheme devised for carrying out the works. The entire responsibility ought to rest with the executive body, which should be entrusted with carrying out the scheme. A question had been raised as to whether the Board of Works ought to be entrusted with this duty, but in his opinion their conduct had been without reproach, and they were fully equal to carrying out this great undertaking.
§ Mr. TITE
did not desire to enter into any detail of the plan that might be adopted, but wished to remind the House that the evidence before the Committee clearly showed that if they deodorized the sewage, it mattered little at what part the sewage water was turned into the river. Therefore it would be unnecessary to continue the limits within which the outfalls were not to be made. The cost of deodorization would probably be about £40,000 a year, or an additional penny in the pound upon the proposed rate; although, he must confess, that he felt apprehension that all the results desired to be produced would not, in the first instance, be derived from this measure; yet he thought it was a step in the right direction, and could not help believing that, had it not been for the veto given by the Bill of the right hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall), the sewage question would have been settled before now, as the plan which it was understood had been adopted was the same as that which was proposed five years ago. At first, no doubt, the ratepayers, when they were called upon to pay the rates, would endeavour to diminish the expenditure, and he therefore desired to see in the Bill some provision by which the operations of the Board should not be rendered imperfect by interference of that nature. The money, he had no doubt, would be easily raised at 4 per cent. The Metropolitan Board of Works, it appeared to him, had at first set to the consideration of this great measure with diligence and skill; but he was astonished to find that, a few days since, 1534 they had postponed further consideration till October. He was inclined to think that the Board was too numerous for an executive, and that if a few of the most experienced were selected, presided over by the Chairman, they would form a more manageable and efficient body for carrying out these works. At all events, he would congratulate the metropolis on the probability that the great nuisance and evil of which they justly complained was in a fair way of being got rid of.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he must deny that the Committee now sitting had come to any decisive opinion on the subject of deodorising the sewers—the efficacy of which system he very much doubted. At any rate the evidence which had been taken showed that for deodorization a large space was required, and he doubted much if it could be accomplished without being a nuisance of the greatest magnitude to the metropolis. The works at Leicester were in the country at some distance from the town, and the whole circumstances were quite different. He did not wish that it should go out that the opinion of the Committee was in favour of the deodorizing scheme. He was glad that this Bill had been brought forward, and he agreed with those who said that the whole difficulty had been one of money. That difficulty was owing to the 141st clause of the original draft of the Metropolis Local Management Act having been struck out. The guarantee of the Government was what the Metropolitan Board had asked for all along, and by giving it the Government would remove the difficulty which the Board had to contend with. He was very glad to think that they were likely now to arrive at some conclusion. With regard to the position which the Commissioners of Sewers held in regard to the question, he was bound to say that if they had agreed to the original plan of Mr. Bazalgette it was pretty clearly proved that the plan would have turned out an entire failure. He had always entertained the opinion that, to make the work complete, they ought to carry the sewage to a point so low that none of it should flow back again to the metropolis. He was satisfied by the papers now before them that there was considerable difficulty as to the point of outfall, but he felt that they had delayed long enough, and that the work must be begun. There was nothing in the plan now proposed, he believed, to prevent the sewage being ultimately carried to Sea Reach, if 1535 it should be found necessary. As to the period of forty years, which was proposed for the repayment of the money advanced, he thought that the period of fifty years might be given, as that would facilitate the borrowing of the money.
§ MR. STEPHENSON
said, he could not allow one remark of the hon. Baronet to pass without remark. The hon. Baronet said, he rejoiced that the Commissioners had rejected the original plan of Mr. Bazalgette, for it would have turned out a total failure. Now he (Mr. Stephenson) happened to have been a party to that plan, and was, therefore, practically acquainted with its minutiæ. As the drainage of the metropolis then stood, the intercepting system, as originally proposed by Mr. Frank Foster, and afterwards by Mr. Bazalgette would have been effectual, and would have saved much subsequent alteration in the internal drainage of London. But since then the improvements in the sewerage had been extended most rapidly, and they were undergoing such continual alteration that the plan that was approved of now, would be rejected six or eight months hence. He believed Mr. Bazalgette's plan was the best for the drainage as it then existed, and if it had been carried out, it would have saved a great deal of money, as a great deal of the internal drainage of London would have been rendered unnecessary. He thought the House was labouring under an error as regarded the question of outfall. They seemed to be under the impression that by adopting the intercepting system and fixing an outfall, they would be fixing themselves to a certain plan. That was not the fact, because provided they adopted the intercepting system, it was a matter of indifference whether the outfall was at Barking Creek or at Sea Reach. One point he should like to see the Government insist upon, and that was that the intercepting system should be carried out. If thoroughly carried out between this and next year, it would produce the most important benefits in the river. It was essential, therefore, that the system should not be delayed, but that it should be vigorously persevered in. It possessed this striking advantage, every step you took you improved your condition, which could not be said of any other plan. The great difficulty in the matter was the storm-water which came down from the surrounding country and forced the sewage into the Thames in a mass. Few persons would believe that a 1536 large portion of the area of the metropolis was below high water-mark, and consequently, for a great part of the day, perfectly tide-locked; and the consequence was that that portion of London was practically undrained for eleven hours every day, and a great deal of the sewage was constantly accumulating in the sewers above low-water mark. The consequence was that when the storm waters came, all this mass of sewage was swept out into the Thames at once, a great deal of it was deposited on the banks which were uncovered at low water, and thence arose those periodical visitations of stench which were so much complained of. A system of intercepting sewers would, in a great degree, prevent that; and then when they were constructed they might proceed to arrange the internal drainage of London at their leisure.
§ COLONEL SYKES
Sir, there have been so many Thames doctors, with their prescriptions, both in the House and out of the House, that I have hitherto abstained from increasing the list and offering my nostrum. But there is now before the House a proposition to introduce a Bill specifically upon the drainage question, and as that Bill will sanction increased taxation of the inhabitants of the metroplis, I, as a house-owner and resident for more than twenty years, feel that the question comes home to myself, and I must offer therefore a few words upon it. Although the Bill will sanction increased taxation, I accept it willingly, because it is a step in the right direction; but at the same time I must express my regret that advantage is not taken of the occasion for a more comprehensive measure, in fact for taking the bull by the horns. Admitting that the proposed plan for the drainage of the metropolis proves effective at a cost of three millions of money—but in my opinion much more likely to prove five millions—the mud banks in the Thames will be still left to exhale their pestiferous gases, and both banks of the noble river will be still left in a state which has so long been a disgrace to the mightiest and wealthiest city in the world. Why not, therefore, combine the drainage, by means of intercepting sewers, with the embankment of the river; cover the mud banks with wharfs, which being made national property could be let out at an annual rent, and thus the outlay, whatever it might be, by the issue of Exchequer bills, would be more or less productive, whereas, the proposed plan involves the entire loss of the outlay and the per- 1537 petuation of taxation, to repay money borrowed and the annual cost of the management of the drainage. More than fifteen years ago the celebrated Belshazzer-feast painter, Martin, begged of me to look at his plans and drawings for the embankment of the river, and my attention has been called to the matter frequently since. Last week a series of plans and drawings were brought to me, which embraced the novel proposition of collecting a water head upon the areas of low lands about and above Battersea bridge, which are overflown at spring tides, for the purpose of flushing the intercepting sewers. It has been proposed to deodorize the feculent matters, and to burn some of the gases from the sewers: no doubt both these objects could be effected; but they would only prove palliatives, and the advantages would be wholly incommensurate with the cost and trouble. The only effective plan is that of intercepting sewers; which if combined with embankment and wharfage of the Thames, would, I repeat, not only be remunerating for the outlay, but remove a stigma from London.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, that in reference to what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Whitby (Mr. Stephenson) he wished to explain that he had not intended to say anything against Mr. Bazalgette's professional ability; but only that, as the circumstances had altered, he was glad that his plan had not been adopted.
said, that the question of outfall had been treated as an important one for the health of London; but, besides the various districts of London, there were other localities, such as Woolwich, Deptford, and Greenwich, which ought to be considered. The object of the inhabitants of the metropolis as well as that of the Metropolitan Board was naturally to get rid of all the sewage from London, and they did not care much where it went to. There was however an important minority to be considered in this matter, and he hoped that when the details of the Bill were known, fair consideration would be given to the question, and that hon. Members would not forget the very large population which existed down the river.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I think that I may congratulate the inhabitants of the metropolis upon the manner in which, generally speaking, the proposition of the Government has been received. So far as we 1538 are concerned the measure is chiefly of a financial character, and I cannot say that I regret that the Government have thought proper to limit their interference to the financial part of the subject. One result of the Bill will be to convert the Metropolitan Board of Works into a real corporation. It will give them power; with that power they will feel a sense of duty, and I cannot doubt that a body of Englishmen, elected by a large and enlightened constituency, like the inhabitants of this great city, will do their duty, and that their conduct will entitle them to the confidence and respect of their fellow-citizens. We have given them great responsibility, but we have also given them considerable resources, and I think that the union will be satisfactory. I will not touch upon the scientific portion of the question, which scarcely comes within the scope of the Bill; but I may tell my hon. Friend, who speaks with authority on the subject (Mr. Stephenson), that we make it a condition with the Metropolitan Board of Works that in effecting the object which we desire, that result shall be attained by the system of intercepting sewers, and that provision shall be made for such temporary and permanent works of deodorization as the metropolis has a right to require. With respect to the recommendation of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Wilson), that assistance should be given to the Board of Works by the Exchequer-bill Loan Commissioners, I may repeat that we did consider that proposition, but that the result of our deliberations led us to a different conclusion from that at which the hon. Gentleman has arrived. I see no reason whatever why under this Bill any advance of public money need take place. The Board will have the power of issuing bonds and debentures, which probably they will do at a fixed rate of interest, and they will obtain for them a sum of money according to the rate of interest in the market. At all events, they will have the power to deal with their own bonds and debentures, ad I have no doubt that they will become a very popular and satisfactory security, supported, as they will be, by the guarantee of the Government. Another subject of importance, to which the hon. Gentleman called attention, was the necessity of considering whether a large and valuable portion of public buildings should continue to be exempted from rating. So far as I am concerned, and I believe I speak 1539 the opinions of my colleagues upon the subject, I think exemptions are bad in principle—and certainly in financial legislation they should always be avoided. The Government had it under consideration whether they should not meet this point in the Bill; but considering that a Committee has been appointed to investigate the whole question, and anticipating from that Committee such a report as we have learnt to-day it turned out to be, we did not think it advisable to include the matter in the Bill. I cannot, however, doubt, that we are approaching a time when exemptions from rating will cease altogether. The practical effect of this will, no doubt, be to increase the resources of the ratepayers, as it will involve a large contribution from the Consolidated Fund to the rates, but it will be a contribution based upon sound principles of finance. The inquiry of the Committee, no doubt, has been limited to the poor rate; but the poor rate regulates all other rates, and if the recommendations of the Committee are adopted by the House, it will, of course, influence all other rates. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, who last addressed the House, seemed alarmed lest the Bill should lead to the removal of the nuisance from London to Woolwich; but he will find in the Bill a proviso which renders it impossible for the Board of Works to create a nuisance anywhere or in any way. But if that proviso were not in the Bill, I think the law generally would have come to the rescue of the district which the hon. and gallant Gentleman represents. On the whole then, when the Bill shall be in the hands of hon. Members, and when it shall have been well considered by them, I hope their mature opinion will be in favour of its details as well as its general scope. I take, I confess, a more sanguine view of the consequences of the measure than some of the Gentlemen who have spoken upon it. I believe that not only will it further the object in view, and go very far towards attaining it; but that it will give to the country perfect security for the advances it will make, and if there should be any excess of expenditure beyond the £3,000,000, it will not at all affect the security provided for the country. That security is guarded by a clause that renders it necessary that a separate account shall be opened at the Bank, under the supervision of the Treasury, and the proceeds of the rates for forty years can only be applied to the objects specified in the Bill. At first sight it seems hardly 1540 credible that the large financial result contemplated by the Bill can be carried out, to construct public works to the extent of £3,000,000 with a threepenny rate, and yet at the end of the operation to find yourself entirely out of debt; but the calculation has been made by a person of the highest authority. I believe the House may rely upon that judgment, and that the result will display the magic influence of compound interest when applied with prudence and discretion. I propose to read the Bill a second time on Monday, and with regard to an objection which has been taken on the point of order, I am empowered to state, that I have made no mistake in introducing it in its present form, and that no stage of its progress need be delayed on that account.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, the right hon. Gentleman had observed that he desired to make the Metropolitan Board of Works a true corporation. Now the Metropolitan Board of Works was constituted upon the principle of double election; but if this Bill passed, it would be found in process of time that the people who paid the money would desire to have the power of directly electing the Board of Works.
Bill to alter and amend the Metropolis Local Management Act (1855), and to extend the powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works for the purification of the Thames and the Main Drainage of the Metropolis, ordered to be brought in by Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Lord JOHN MANNERS, and Mr. HAMILTON.
§ Bill presented, and read 1o.