HC Deb 25 June 1858 vol 151 cc421-47

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the putrid state of the River Thames, and to suggest that a Commission be appointed by the Crown to carry out the embankment of the River Thames, and the prevention of the Sewage of the Metropolis from flowing into the river within the tidal limits of reflux; and that a Bill be introduced by the Government this Session to repeal so much of the Act 18 & 19 Vict. c. 120, as gave powers to the Metropolitan Board to embank the River Thames, and to confer the necessary powers on the Commissioners to enable them to carry out the necessary works without delay; also to ask several questions with reference to the supposed causes of the existing nuisance. He wished first of all to assure the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Roupell) who had given notice of a similar Motion upon going into Supply, that he did not wish to step in and take the subject out of his hands. It would be in the recollection of the House thst similar questions were put to the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works by the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Brady), and by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), and that the noble Lord in both instances stated the nuisance was not under his control. He (Mr. Stanley) quite believed that the answer was made in perfect good faith, and that the Government were not to blame. That fact, however, rendered it necessary that the extent of the evil should be pointed out, in order that some means might be taken for abating it. With regard to the extent of the evil in that House, he had only to appeal to Mr. Speaker and to those hon. Members who were in attendance on their duty from day to day in the House or the Committee rooms, to be borne out by their experience in saying that the nuisance was intolerable, both in the Committee rooms, and latterly in the House itself. It was no wish of his, however, to confine the complaint to their own case, and yet he was glad the evil had come home to themselves, as the public were the more likely to obtain, he hoped, a speedy relief. It was an intolerable nuisance which had poisoned the whole air of the metropolis, and which, if continued a few weeks longer, or even a few days at the present high temperature, would probably produce a pestilence in the metropolis. To bear him out in what he had said of the nuisance, he would refer to two or three cases he had extracted from the public papers, Mr. Gurney, who had charge of the ventilation of that House, had, as it was understood, addressed a letter to the Speaker, in which he said:— That he can be no longer responsible for the health of the House; that the stench has made most rapid advance within two days; that up to Tuesday he got fresh air draughts from the Star Chamber Court; but that when night came the poisonous enemy took possession of the Court, and so beat him outright. The next was a Report of what had taken place in the Court of Queen's Bench:— Mr. James called the attention of his Lordship to the foul state of the Court and passages. Lord Campbell said, that if he were assured that the state of the atmosphere was such as to be dangerous to the lives of the counsel, jurymen, and witnesses, he should feel it to be his duty to adjourn the Court. His Lordship inquired whether there was any medical man in Court? Mr. John Bredall, who was attending the Court as a witness in the cause which was being tried, here came forward, and, being sworn, in answer to questions put by Lord Campbell, he said he was a surgeon, at No. 3, Moor Hall-place, Kennington Lane, and had been compelled to leave the Court three times in consequence of the bad smells. The atmosphere in Court became irrespirable, and it was quite as bad in the passages. The smells came from the Thames, or from sewage of some kind. He gave it as his opinion, as a medical man, that it was dangerous to breathe this atmosphere. He thought it would be dangerous to the lives of the jurymen, counsel, and witnesses, to remain. It would produce malaria, and perhaps typhus fever. Lord Campbell said that, in the discharge of his duty, he would adjourn the Court; but, addressing the counsel, his Lordship said that if they were willing to remain he was quite ready to do so. Mr. Serjeant Shee said, counsel were ready to do whatever his Lordship thought best. Lord Campbell said, he would not keep the jurymen against their will. The jury said the smell was very offensive in the passages, but they did not smell it so much in Court. In the Court of Exchequer the Lord Chief Baron also was obliged to notice the same pestiferous invader:— The Lord Chief Baron said—Gentlemen, I will, if you desire it, read over the whole of the evidence to you, but if not, I will be as brief as possible in my remarks, for this reason, that the river at low tide becomes so offensive, as many of you doubtless know, that it behoves all who can to get away from its banks as soon as possible. A Juror—I went home very ill from it the first day of this trial, my Lord. The Lord Chief Baron—I am sorry to hear it, but many have likewise suffered. The stench from the river is most offensive, and I think it right to take public notice of this, that in trying this case we are really sitting in the midst of a stinking nuisance. Since then a woman had attempted to commit suicide by jumping into the river, and the surgeon who examined her stated, that the offensive nature of the water which she took into her stomach nearly caused her death. There had been an inquest upon the body of a lighterman who died from cholera, and the jury had returned a verdict that it was caused by the effluvia from the Thames. An engineer had been taken to St. Thomas's Hospital suffering from the same cause. He would not quote other cases, and only referred to these to show that not only in that House but in the courts of law, and all along the shores of the river, this nuisance was quite intolerable. He believed that the offensive smell extended from Chelsea to Greenwich, and, having himself taken several trips by steamers in order to ascertain what was really tare state of the river, he could say that it was all he could do to remain on deck. The medical officer of the Dreadnought, in his last week's Report, said:— The water of the Thames stinks most abominably. I cannot but think that the foul air has a deleterious effect generally on the health of the patients of this hospital, and I know that it has had something to do with the inducting of fever in two cases on the orlop deck, the portals of which are only a few feet above the surface of the water. Several men on board, myself among the number, have suffered slightly from diarrhœa. He had also heard that all along the banks of the Thames, particularly on the Lambeth side, the men employed hr different works were yesterday suffering from diarrhœa, and many of thorn were obliged to leave their work and go either to their homes or to the hospitals. They all knew that offensive effluvia of this sort did not at once produce fever or cholera; that result was only brought about when the system had become enfeebled and the blood impoverished; and if this nuisance continued, the metropolis might yet suffer from such a pestilence as had not been known since the time of the great plague. It was not his wish to exaggerate any of the circumstances of this nuisance; but, regarding Her Majesty's Ministers as the guardians of the public health, he must remind them that this matter concerned not only the lighterman and workmen on the Thames, but also the Sovereign in her palace, and that it was no use their having expended thousands in the purification of the lake in St. James's Park if the air breathed by those who walked upon its banks was charged with pestilence and the forerunner of disease. He had with great submission ventured to suggest a remedy —or rather a means of remedy—for this state of things, similar to one which was foreshadowed by the late First Commissioner of Works the other evening. We had, in this matter, recently suffered from a double government more intolerable than that of India, or of the Horse Guards and the Ministry for War—a double government which had brought everything to a deadlock. On the one side we had the Metropolitan Board of Works, with its staff of engineers, and on the other the Chief Commissioner of the Board of Works with Iris advisers and engineers. Two propositions for the draining of the metropolis and the cleansing of the river had been submitted by the Metropolitan Board to the Chief Commissioner, and both had been rejected by him. A third scheme had been submitted by him to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and, although he (Mr. O. Stanley) could not say that they had absolutely rejected it, they had postponed its consideration till October. The time had now arrived when something must be done. He believed that the only way in which the matter could be remedied would be to place the responsibility where it ought to rest—upon Her Majesty's Ministers, and especially upon the Chief Commissioner of Works. Let the Government propose the appointment of a Commission —a paid Commission, if they pleased—to carry out so much of the drainage of the metropolis as related to the sewage when it came immediately upon the banks of the Thames, and let them bring in a Bill empowering the Commissioners to purchase land, and do everything necessary for the official discharge of the duty intrusted to them. He trusted they would act immediately, for the matter was one of the most pressing nature, and could not be neglected without danger to the lives of the community. The Commissioners of Sewers, who had been in active operation for many years, had completed the first portion of their duties, and every house in the metropolitan area now emptied its sewage into certain main drains which discharged their contents into the Thames, poisoning the water to an intolerable extent. As yet, however, no plan had been devised for carrying away that accumulation of filth from the metropolis. He might be permitted to mention the case of the Victoria Sewer, with regard to which, as it appeared to him, considerable blame really attached to the authorities. That sewer was begun in 1849 or 1850. The original contract was £12,300; but the drain was so badly constructed, that a portion of it tumbled in and had to be entirely renewed. Upon that renewal about £16,000 more was spent; and according to the last Return he could find, dated 1855, the expenditure on the Victoria Sewer, up to that time, amounted to no less a sum than £60,000. Probably about half as much again had been expended since. But that was not all. The outlet at Percy's Wharf had been closed for many months, and the House might imagine the accumulation of filth which had taken place during that time, A few weeks ago an outlet was opened for the Victoria Sewer in the immediate neighbourhood of Westminster Bridge, and he believed it was the accumulation of sewage at that point which caused the poisonous atmosphere from which every hon. Member of the house was now suffering so severely. Having thus stated the case to which he wished to call attention, he would also beg to ask the Chief Commissioner of Works the following questions: Whether it be true that the Victoria Street Sewer has had no proper outlet for many months past, owing to its defective construction and partial falling in? Whether it be true that an outlet for all the accumulated contents of the Victoria Street Sewer has quite recently been made in close proximity to Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament? How large an area of London is drained into the Victoria Street Sewer? How much money has the Victoria Street Sewer cost, from its construction to the present day?


asked permission to state a few facts in connection with this important question. Having bestowed a great deal of attention to the subject he found that the quantity of sewage discharged daily into the Thames amounted to 90,000,000 of gallons. There were 87,560,000 of gallons of water supplied by the various water companies, the whole of which, after passing through the sewers, was returned to the Thames in the state in which we now found it. Now, the quantity of pure water which daily fell over Teddington Lock was only 400,000,000 gallons; so that the bulk of wholesome water which daily flowed down the river was not more than four times that of the sewage with which it mixed. Mr. Goldsworthy Gurney had recently proved before a Select Committee that the sewage which fell into the Thames was carried down to the sea, but that, instead of mixing with the sea, only a small portion was decomposed, the greater part returning up the river with every flood tide—in fact, that that from which the metropolis was now suffering was the sewage returning front the sea, carried by the salt water below it. Such being the case the remedy was undoubtedly a difficult one. He had the honour of accompanying the Chief Commissioner down the river the other day for the purpose of ascertaining the general condition of the water. They found that the most offensive part of the river was at the mouth of the London Docks. That portion of the evil was certainly remediable. The dock company had the power and the means of pumping in an adequate supply of pure water at a proper state of the tide; but this at present they did not do; they allowed exceedingly impure water to accumulate, and then to flow into the Thames; now all that was requisite to remedy the evil was that they should adopt measures for having a sufficient body of water poured into their docks from time to time, and he had no doubt that if the matter were fairly represented to them they would take care to provide a proper remedy for the existing state of things. The greater part of the evil under which the metropolis was now suffering was, he apprehended, due to the extraordinary state of the atmosphere, which had checked the upper streams, and he was afraid there was no immediate remedy for it. He wished, however, to draw attention to some practical scheme for the purification of the Thames. Some gentleman had proposed the embankment of the river; but if what he bad stated was true—that the sewage returned from the sea—what would be the use of embanking the Thames? The Commission of 1844, presided over by Lord Lincoln, and composed of some of the most eminent men of the day, assisted by Sir Robert Smirke and Sir Charles Barry, reported in favour of embanking the Thames and making the stream more rapid. The question was then asked what ought to be done with the enormous spaces at those points where the breadth of the river was unusually great; and after consideration it was proposed to make docks of them. But if that were done it would be impossible to fill them up, and they would only be additional accumulations of impure water, producing an infinitely greater evil than the present. In 1845 a Bill was actually brought in for embanking the Thames from the Houses of Parliament to Black friars Bridge, the expense of which was estimated at the moderate sum of £300,000; but it was defeated by those carrying on business on the shores of the river, and to buy up the rights of all those who possessed wharves and wharehouses along the banks was out of the question. What then, he might be asked, could be done? In 1854 two engineers of great eminence, Mr. Bazalgette and Mr. Haywood, were appointed to consider this question. They proposed a scheme by which the sewage was to be intercepted on both banks of the river, and carried down on either side to a distance of about ten miles from the metropolis—on the north side to Barking Creek, and on the south to a place about the same distance. This project, he believed, would be perfectly practicable, and would answer its purpose, if in addition there was added the plan of obtaining sufficient land to deodorize the sewers at those two points, by which a mass of water would be procured limpid, colourless, and tasteless. The deposit matter must, of course, be carried away. The expense, he believed, would not be considerable—and, in fact, he had been assured that day by Mr. Bidder, that for a sum of £40,000 a year, the whole sewerage of this metropolis might be deodorized and returned to the river in the same pure state as was the case at Leicester. This scheme of sewerage might be carried out for £2,500,000. He could not suggest to the House that the sewage matter would produce one shilling, for he thought it would be found useless as manure, as it had been at Leicester. Now, what other practicable project had been proposed? It had been proposed to take these intercepting sewers twenty miles further down, and pour their contents out in Sea Reach. Now, if it were poured into the sea there, a very large proportion of it would be returned up the river at flood tide, owing to its inclination to float on the surface of the sea, consequently the evil complained of would be by no means remedied by carrying the sewage further off: but if they added to this the plan of deodorising, he had been assured that this plan would cost £10,000,000 of money. With respect to the state of the water at the London Docks, he thought it would be perfectly easy for the First Commissioner to induce the dock companies to look into the matter as far as they were concerned—indeed they were indictable for a nuisance; but he believed from the high character of the gentlemen connected with those companies that they would readily take measures to put an end to the nuisance they occasioned. The case of cholera which had been referred to occurred exactly at the spot—the eastern entrance to the London Docks—where the offence from foul matter was something inconceivably great. He believed very much of the evil was to be attributed to this. Government could do this: they could call on the Metropolitan Board of Works to proceed in the direction he had pointed out. This would not at all prevent a larger scheme. if they carried the sewer down to Barking, and found it did not answer, they could go further—to Sea Reach—and the first expense would not be in the least thrown away. His only object in addressing them was that, having paid some attention to the subject, he was desirous to direct the public mind in the right direction at this very important moment. He believed they had neither time nor means to set about embanking the river, but if they set about carrying out the plan of intercepting sewers, to which he bad referred, he believed it would lead to a good result. He wished to I refer to another point. Mr. Gurney had made a valuable suggestion, to this effect; that if the shores of the river, which were dry at low water, were arranged so as to present an even surface of gravel at an inclination of one in twelve, that mud would not deposit on a slope so arranged. To that he added dredging two trenches in the middle of the Thames; but on that proposition there might be different opinions. He would urge the Government to call on the Metropolitan Board of Works to proceed at once with this question. They were now justified in concluding, upon the opinion of the most eminent men, that the extensive scheme of sewerage proposed by the Government Referees if not impracticable was nearly so, not only from the expense but from other circumstances, and if that were so, they ought at once to return to the scheme of Messrs. Bazalgette and Haywood which was practicable. With regard to the present mischief, it was due to atmospheric causes which they could not control. It was a great blessing that there was not now any epidemic, and he prayed that God in His mercy might not visit us with one. As to this House, there was one thing hon. Members might do, and that was by shortening their speeches, bring their labours sooner to a close.


said, that the hon. Gentleman had very much anticipated what he had wished to suggest to the House. In considering this very great and grave question, he had not proposed to himself to recommend to the House any particular scheme for the purpose of curing the great nuisance which they all felt so much. His hon. Friend had mentioned that the points at issue were not points connected with London itself. In fact, all the plans proposed for the purification of the Thames had very nearly one common plan down to Barking Creek and below Woolwich. The question was as to the difficulty of taking the sewers beyond that point. If they referred to all plans, from those of Mr. Bazalgette to those of Mr. Frank Foster, who originated the whole scheme of the drainage of London, they would find that they all came to one common terminus below London. What he wanted to suggest, therefore, was that they should immediately set about carrying the sewage to that point, and whether it should afterwards be carried to the sea was a matter that might be discussed in the meantime. Of the various plans suggested there was one which had never had proper attention paid to it, and that was the plan of an eminent engineer (Mr. McLean) who, in 1849, was the first person to suggest intercepting sewers. That gentleman, after making out his scheme, got Sir Morton Peto, and other eminent contractors, to offer to carry the sewage down to Sea Reach. It could be done, according to Messrs. Peto's estimate, for £1,600,000, and Mr. Bidder, Mr. Hawkshaw, and Mr. Bazalgette reported that the previous part of the sewer could be constructed for £2,300,000; so that the sewage could be taken to the German Ocean for £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. It was important that the matter should not be done in a niggardly way, and if London was to be drained it should be done effectually. He believed with his hon. Friend that to begin with embanking the Thames was to begin in the wrong direction, for in walking at low water mark to London Bridge one would hardly get over the soles of his feet, except in a few places in mud. They ought to embark in the question of intercepting sewers, and carry down the sewerage to Barking Reach. He did not see the use of the proposed Commission, which would only have the effect of delaying action. The Government were in a position to deal with the matter, and he thought it might be safely trusted in their hands.


said, he fully intended to proceed with the Motion of which he had given notice on going into Committee of Supply, as he was averse to discussions without practical result, as discussions on the adjournment of the House generally were. When the hon. Gentleman alluded to Victoria Street sewer, he omitted to state that the original contract for that work was under £12,000. Now, to his own knowledge, he knew that there was already £70,000 expended on it, and he believed that there were new claims to be satisfied, which would make the whole cost something near £200,000. It appeared that in this enlightened age we must have everything of great magnitude —great ships, a great Crystal Palace, and great sewers. No doubt the evil of the Victoria sewer arose from its situation, and with the two enormous sewers proposed they would be in the same position. The great sewers would be subject to the swampy condition of the sod, and the filtration of the water into them the same as the Victoria sewer. They should consider these thing before they embarked in any colossal scheme. He would only add a remark as to the effects on the health of those living on the borders of the river: the teeming thousands on the borders of the river were in a state of chronic cholera, and if we had a warm rain or the continuance of warm weather, we might fully expect some severe visitation of Providence, without which he feared the evil never would be arrested.


said, that as Chairman of the Committee which had been appointed to consider this subject, he wished to say a few words. He wanted to impress upon the House that even if they had been prepared to report to the House, as the law now stood nothing whatever could be done to amend the existing state of things. If the Committee were to determine to-morrow what ought in their opinion to be done, there were no means of carrying their decision into effect. There were the Board of Works, the Chief Commissioner of Works, the Thames Conservancy, and the Sewage Commissioners, each of which bodies was armed with certain powers in the matter. The House might appoint Commissions or do what they liked, but no remedial measures could be adopted unless the Government took the matter into their own hands. If they were to appoint three men competent and above suspicion the work would be done. There must, however, be some responsible body; for no irresponsible body could deal with the question. The Committee sat as close as they could, but as many of the members were engaged elsewhere, they could not sit de die in diem, and it was useless for them to make a Report, unless the Government were prepared to carry out their Report practically. A plan had last year been laid by the Board of Works before the Chief Commissioner of Works, who submitted it to certain referees, but they recommended a plan of their own, and the matter ultimately dropped. The House might appoint Committees on the subject, but the terrible state of things which at present existed would still continue. He must say that from the medical evidence given before the Committee, and from the opinions he had heard expressed privately by medicul men he was sure that none of the statements which had been made in that House or elsewhere exaggerated the evils which were to be feared. Something must be done, but he was convinced that nothing effectual would be done unless the subject was taken up by Her Majesty's Government.


said, that after all this was a money question. The main question with reference to this subject was whether the whole expense of the works, which might be necessary, should be thrown upon the metropolitan parishes, or whether a portion of it should be borne by the Imperial Government. It would be absurd to hand over such an enormous scheme to the Board of Works without affording them the means of carrying it fully into effect. He could speak on this subject with impartiality as he was not a regular resident in London, and he must say, he thought it was not the business of the metropolis alone to construct the extensive works which were required. Those works would be constructed not merely for the residents of London, but for the Sovereign of this vast empire—for the Legislature of the realm, who sat in this metropolis during those months when the nuisance and the consequent danger were at their height—for the courts of law of the whole kingdom; and it would be a shame and a scandal to the Legislature if they endeavoured to shuffle off the responsibility upon the parishes of London. In his opinion it was the duty of the Government to take up the subject, and the expense of the works which were indispensable might be divided, by equitable arbitration, between the parishes of London and the national treasury. It was said that the work was one of great magnitude, and that a long time would be required for its completion, but it would never be accomplished at all unless it was commenced. He was sure that, under the pressure of the existing nuisance, the House would assent most readily to any practicable scheme which was submitted to it, and the noble Lord at the head of the Board of Works would then enjoy the credit of performing a far greater work than that achieved by Hercules in cleansing the Augean stables.


In the first instance, I wish to answer the question put to me by the hon. Member opposite. I beg leave to inform him that I have no connection whatever with the management of the Victoria Street sewer. I was, therefore, obliged to apply to the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works for information upon the subject, and, with the leave of the Hence, I will read the statement with which he furnished me:— Sir,—Adverting to the contents of your letter of the 24th instant, I am directed by the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works to apprise you, for the information of the First Commissioner of her Majesty's Works, that the answers to the questions referred to in that communication are as follows:—1. The outlet at the Victoria Street sewer has for some years past been frequently, and now is, under repair, and during the present and all periods of repair, it has not a proper outlet for the discharge of its sew age. The sewer has been under repair for the last three months. 2. An outlet has not been recently made for all the accumulated contents of the Victoria Street sewer in close proximity to Westminster Bridge. All the sewage flowing into that portion of the Victoria Street sewer which is above Westminster Bridge, has for the last three months been directed into that old sewer as on all previous occasions of repair to the Victoria Street outlet. The Westminster Bridge sewer outlet is extended to low water and trapped at its mouth, and it is believed to be connected with Mr. Gurney's system of sewer ventilation. 3. The area drained into the Victoria Street sewer is about one-third of a square mile. 4. The amount expended on the same sewer up to May last was £73,321 16s. 6d. I beg to add, that by direction of the Chairman a quantity of lime will be immediately applied at the outlet of the Bridge Street sewer for the purpose of deodorising the sewage. Having read the letter, I can assure the House that all the steps which can be taken to secure a proper outfall for the Victoria Street sewer are being now taken by the Metropolitan Board of Works. With respect to the many questions raised by the hon. Gentleman who commenced the discussion, I regret that it will be impossible for me to answer them satisfactorily to the hon. Gentleman. We are all fully agreed as to the existence of the evil, and the source from which it arises, and, as a natural consequence, every hon. Member expresses a desire that something should be immediately done to rectify it. But beyond these two elementary positions, I do not think that any great light has been thrown upon what ought really to be done immediately. The hon. Member who commenced the discussion appeared most anxious to throw the whole responsibility upon the Government. Now, on behalf of the Government, I distinctly repudiate that responsibility. The law gives us no power of action whatever in the matter and without legal power, even if the means were at hand, I need scarcely say it is impossible for any Government or body to supply a satisfactory solution to the difficulty. I beg to call the attention of the House to the short history of the question, and to the way in which it was originated. It was thought by all classes most desirable that this great metropolis should be placed in a position in which its authorities could deal effectually with all municipal and local questions. An Act was consequently passed, only three years ago, to give effect to that principle, and in the same Act direct reference was made to the sewage of London. The House will recollect that the Metropolitan Board of Works have done what they could to carry into effect the wishes of the Legislature, as expressed in the Act to which I have referred. I have no wish whatever to throw the smallest blame upon that body, or any other authority vested with power for the better government of the metropolis. I believe that all parties have been actuated by the best and most honourable motives in their endeavours to fulfil those important functions that have been allotted to them. That they have not been able to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion in those matters appears to me to be a strong proof of the great difficulty of the question itself. The Metropolitan Board of Works has not refused to consider any plan that has been or may be submitted to them by either the late or the present Government; nor have they adjourned the discussion of the subject until October next. Quite the reverse; this very day the Metropolitan Board of Works has been sitting for the purpose of considering whether some plan could not be devised to rectify the nuisance, of which loud and just complaints have been made. No plan has been, or could be by law, submitted by the Government to the Metropolitan Board of Works. The hon. Gentleman who made the statement is alike ignorant of the law on the matter and of the facts. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite) has given the House a clear exposé of his views upon the question. The hon. Chairman of the Committee at present sitting (Mr. Kendall) has likewise favoured us with some suggestions. When, then, I find so many eminent authorities differing in opinion as to what is the precise source of the evil, and still more as to the proper remedy that ought to be applied—when we find that the remedy which is so much in fashion is one involving an enormous expenditure of the public money—that the metropolitan districts repudiate the idea of being exclusively responsible for the expenditure of that money—when all those facts are set before us, Her Majesty's Government have very naturally refused to take upon itself the responsibility of incurring this large expenditure, the amount of which no one can at pre- sent foresee. It does not become me to declare hastily, in answer to the appeals that have been made to us, that we are prepared to take upon ourselves the responsibility of carrying out the operations suggested, and to set ourselves to work to spend millions upon a scheme which is still sub judice, and in respect to which the most eminent medical and scientific gentlemen have not as yet come to a satisfactory or unanimous conclusion. What I can assure the House is, that the question is occupying the serious attention of the Government, and we will do our best before the Session closes to introduce a measure, if necessary, which shall confer sufficient power upon the Metropolitan Board of Works, or upon any other department existing, or to be created, for the satisfactory solution of this question. I will not go into the details of a question so complicated as this; I will not go into the inquiry how far the sewage ought to be carried down the river so as to insure its not being brought back, nor into the probable benefits to be derived from a system of embankment. Without entering into those questions, I trust that the House will be satisfied with the statement that the Metropolitan Board of Works, aided by all that experience which they have acquired during the last three years, are now sedulously engaged in the task of endeavouring to find a remedy for the evil, and Her Majesty's Government are prepared to act cordially with that body with the view of securing that desirable object. In the event, then, of the present law standing in the way of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion upon the matter, Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to submit to the consideration of Parliament a scheme in aid of the existing law, by which they think the evil will be abated. I admit I have not perhaps sufficiently explained the mode Her Majesty's Government intend to take in respect to this matter, but as I may have to explain it at greater length on a future occasion, I will now content myself with saying, that so far as my knowledge extends of the deodorising system adopted in Leicestershire, all that the hon. Member for Bath has said as to the success of that system was fully borne out by the facts. I am able to say so, too, from my own personal knowledge; and one of the leading physicians in Leicester has given his opinion that nothing can be more complete than the success of that system, so far as the sanitary results are concerned. I hope, Sir, it will not be considered that Her Majesty's Government are neglecting their duty, because we are unwilling to take the matter out of the hands of the proper authorities, but are rather anxious to afford them every assistance in our power to enable them to discharge their difficult duties with the greatest efficacy and effect.


said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the impracticability of carrying on the public business of the country with due care, attention, and deliberation in the pestilential atmosphere of the Thames. For this reason he would urge the expediency of presenting an Address to Her Majesty, suggesting the propriety of holding the remaining portion of this Session in some healthy portion of Her Majesty's dominions. During the last thirty years he had known the River Thames, it was never in such a dreadful state as at present. Unless something was done immediately to remedy the nuisance another plague of London might be expected. The traffic of the steam boats up the river greatly aggravated the evil. He believed that the Metropolitan Board of Works had been thwarted in every act by which they attempted to remedy the nuisance. He would warn the House, that unless it exerted its authority in the matter it would be responsible for the calamities that might arise. Disease, possibly of a new and fearful character, would show itself if something were not soon done. He could state of his own knowledge that families were already flying from the metropolis to avoid the coming pestilence, and a complete panic was commencing. As an illustration of the extent of the nuisance, he could state that, as he was riding in an omnibus en route Kennington to Westminster, the passengers were compelled to put their handkerchiefs to their noses as they crossed the bridge, and that the smelling bottle which a lady produced was greedily seized by all the passengers.


said, that he could not allow the discussion to close without protesting against the doctrine laid down by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles). He quite concurred with that hon. Gentleman as to the magnitude of the evil, and as to the necessity of remedying it in the most summary way possible. It was, in his opinion, the duty of the Government to adopt immediate measures to remedy the evil, the consequences of which no one could foresee. All he wanted to say was this, that the money necessary for this purpose should not be paid out of the wrong pocket. It was generally the practice of the metropolitan Members on all such occasions to try to saddle the country with the cost of the local improvements of the metropolis. In deference to the wishes of their constituents they came down to that House with their begging boxes in their hands for money out of the Imperial treasury to defray the expenses of their own peculiar works, instead of paying for them out of their own purses. Parliament was first asked for money for a park for the metropolis, and next a bridge was constructed, and they were asked to forego the security of the tolls; and then, when there came the question of the sewers, it was immediately stated that this was an Imperial question, and that the whole country was bound to contribute. It was monstrous that the richest city in all the world, which was surrounded by two of the richest counties in England, should be always trying to relieve itself from the just obligations that attached to it-self alone. The way to look at the question was this: what would become of London if it did not possess a good sewerage? Why, it would be deserted, and that desertion would involve a pecuniary loss ten times greater than the sum which was required to effect a remedy for the existing evil. On those grounds it appeared to him monstrous to suppose that the country should be taxed for those works. He therefore entered his protest against any such outlay of the Imperial fund.


said, he rose to repel the imputation which had been made, that metropolitan Members, in deference to the wishes of their constituents, came down to the House to ask for public money for local purposes. He had not only voted but spoken in that House against such grants. The difficulty did not lie in the demands of the metropolis, but in the fact that not merely for years, but for centuries, the metropolis had been a bugbear in the eyes of the Executive Government, and had been refused municipal privileges, lest municipal intelligence should go far to counteract the want of intelligence on the part of the Executive. It was only ten years since a Whig Prime Minister had declared that it would be impossible to grant municipal institutions to the metropolis because the population was so enormous. It was but three years since any approach to municipal institutions had been given, and did they suppose that the blunders of centuries were to be remedied in a moment? Had the right hon. Gentleman below him (Sir B. Hall) been able to carry his measure in its integrity, practical measures would have been taken ere now, but the municipal body had been counteracted by a Commission, and the result had been to cover the whole affair with absurdity and ridicule. He should astound the House by acquainting it with what this Commission proposed to do. It proposed to provide at once what might be necessary forty years hence, thus quadrupling the expense, and not only to carry away the sewage of the metropolis, but to make provision for ten times the quantity, besides all the rainfall of the surrounding districts. In his opinion, the simple mode of dealing with this question was to leave it to the metropolis. If it were left to men who would be practically responsible for its solution and settlement they would, by dealing with this as a practical sewage question, do as much as was really necessary to make the Thames, if not as pure as a mountain rivulet, at least free from injury to the health of the inhabitants. The amount required for that purpose would be comparatively small, and the work itself comparatively easy. The present was one of the difficulties which would occur on every question connected with the metropolis; and there was no escape from the dilemma except by giving the metropolis real and effective municipal institutions, and so putting it on the footing in that respect of every considerable town in the kingdom. A municipality would be able to deal with all these subjects with a practical intelligence and a practical responsibility, such as had never been exhibited by any Minister of the Crown.


wished to say a few words in consequence of what had fallen from the hon. Member who had just spoken, and who had, however, misrepresented the facts of the case. As soon as the Metropolitan Board presented him (Sir B. Hall) with a plan which had an outfall, but which was not at variance with the provisions of the Act of 1855, he put it into the hands of three of the most eminent engineers in England, and further, he asked them if they did not approve of it, to suggest some other plan themselves. They did propose a plan which he sent to the Metropolitan Board of Works without any delay, and the latter placed it in the hands of their own engineer. All he had to regret was that the Board of Works, when they received the Report of their own engineer, did not take it in hand at once, but postponed its consideration for many months—namely, till October next. On one point he agreed with the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, and that was that the Metroplis was placed in a peculiar difficulty. In all other towns in England and in Europe there was a municipality for the whole of the city; but the London municipality extended over a very small area, and regulated the affairs of but 129,000 out of two and a half millions of people. Other municipalities could levy money for the improvement of the whole city; but in London the power of levy ranged over a very small portion of the metropolis, and was expended within a very small area. This was a matter which required the consideration of Parliament. After what had passed on the previous day in that House respecting the Corporation Reform Bill, it was quite impossible it could pass during the present Session, and therefore there would be time for its consideration. He should refrain from further observations because the Chief Commissioners of Works had indicated that it was his intention to put himself in communication with the Board of Works, and see whether, in order that the main drainage should be carried out, it would be necessary to alter the law. Should he think it advisable to alter the law he (Sir B. Hall) recommended the noble Lord to look at the 141st section of the Bill, which was first presented in 1855, and which the noble Lord's party opposed, and which clause he (Sir B. Hall) was in consequence obliged to withdraw. The object of that clause was to enable the Treasury to advance money on the security of the rates, and in consequence of its withdrawal it was impossible for the Metropolitan Board to raise money on as easy terms as they desired. Should there be any new legislation he would strongly advise the re-insertion of this clause. If any scheme, such as that put forward by the hon. Member for Bath, should be considered, a new Bill would be necessary, because an outfall was already fixed, not only outside the metropolis, but was fixed so low down, in deference to the wishes of the House, as to preclude the possibility of the waters ever coming back. He ventured to throw out these suggestions in case the noble Lord should find it necessary to submit any new Bill to the House.


I think, Sir, that the discussion, so far as it has gone, must be considered satisfactory to the House. My noble Friend the President of the Board of Works has dealt with this question in so candid and clear a manner that it is really unnecessary for me to touch it at any length. An hon. Gentleman, I think, has charged the Government with the responsibility of this matter. After what has been stated, it is unnecessary for me to say that no legal responsibility can devolve on the Government in respect to it; but I admit that a moral responsibility lies upon us to do all in our power to prevent public disaster, and I am sure no set of men in our position would for a moment wish to avoid that responsibility. For the last three or four days our earliest and constant attention has been given to the subject, and I trust the result of that attention will be for the public advantage. The Commissions and Committees on this question have, no doubt, in many respects done their duty well, but the time has come when it is absolutely necessary that action should commence. I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) in the observation which he made as to the delay that had taken place in the establishment of this new Board in this great metropolis. But, although there is much truth in his observations, it is also impossible to deny that what has occurred has been the natural consequence of what probably could not have been prevented—the jealousy which always exists when new institutions are rising by the side of ancient ones. We must not forget all that, and we must remember that under the pressure and consciousness of these circumstances Parliament a few years ago determined to establish a great Corporation—I mean the Metropolitan Board, to which so much reference has been made. But, although we have established this Corporation, although we have invested it with great powers, unfortunately this great Corporation, which has to guard the interest and regulate the management of probably a hundred times more people and property than are entrusted to the guardianship of the Corporation of the City of London, although invested with an unlimited power of rating, has found itself in possession of only a theo- retical revenue. It cannot carry its power into effect. It has experienced, in its local direct taxation, the same obstacles which we experience with regard to Imperial direct taxation. I, therefore, think that the time has come when, having thrown upon this Corporation so great a responsibility, we should consider whether we ought not to furnish it with those means which are adequate to the due fulfilment of duties. Now, I believe that it is in want of funds. It is to that fact, and not to any system of double government, as has been suggested, that the inefficiency of the Metropolitan Board of Works is to be attributed. I think that Parliament would act prudently in providing that body with sufficient means for the adequate fulfilment of its duties. In the present situation of affairs, there are two duties which Her Majesty's Government have to fulfil—one towards this House, and one towards the population of this metropolis generally. With regard to their duty to this House, I certainly am perfectly prepared, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to say that there shall be no lack of energy and no want of zeal on our part to bring the business of this House to a conclusion as soon as we can consistently with our public duty. We shall not hesitate to sacrifice many measures which, though important, may, if it should be necessary to make that sacrifice, be regarded as of only secondary importance. But I trust that the House will respond to this desire on our part, and assist us as much as possible by not entering upon unnecessary discussions. There are, however, certain measures which I think it is absolutely necessary should be carried, and I trust that the House will assist us in carrying them. But it is not our desire that they should not undergo adequate discussion, for which opportunity will be given. These measures I trust the House will, with all their energy, assist us in carrying. With regard to the community, our responsibility will not cease with the termination of the Session; and I can only again repeat that there shall be, on the part of Her Majesty's Government no want of energy in their endeavours to make those arrangements which are adequate to the occasion, or in the exercise of the powers they possess for preserving the public health. And if we find it is necessary to appeal to Parliament before it is prorogued for powers to carry the necessary operations into effect, we will not hesitate to appeal to Parliament with confidence for such powers. Before I sit down I hope I may be permitted to refer to a question which was addressed to me on a subject of a very different character, and to which I should not feel it necessary under those circumstances to reply; but I thought it might be deemed a want of courtesy if I were to give no answer to the hon. Gentleman. It appears that the hon. Gentleman has discovered that a considerable part of the data on which his inquiry is founded is inaccurate. I think the House will feel that there is nothing more inconvenient than to found an inquiry upon second-hand information of a conversation which has taken place beyond the walls of the House. I shall not touch in detail upon those allusions which are contained in the inquiry of the hon. Gentleman, because I understand he himself now admits that he has discovered that they are founded on incorrect information. [Mr. P. O'BRIEN: it is only the first part of my notice that is incorrect.] Well; the first part is incorrect, and the other is inaccurate. Now, with regard to the intention of the Government on the subject to which the hon. Gentleman referred, namely, that of landlord and tenant in Ireland, I may say this, that it is a great many years—some five or six—since that question was introduced into the discussions of this House, and it has been frequently, and almost constantly, debated since its introduction. I think and hope that all of us—Gentlemen on both sides of the House—have profited by those frequent discussions. It certainly is the intention of Her Majesty's Government during the recess to give their earliest consideration to that question. My right hon. Friend the Attorney General for Ireland has already directed his attention to it, and I shall be happy if he may be able at the reassembling of Parliament to introduce a measure upon the question of landlord and tenant in Ireland which may prove a satisfactory and conclusive settlement of the question.


Sir, I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is neither advantageous to the country, nor convenient to this House, that we should occupy our time, in profitless discussions; but it is not owing to any fault of mine that I am compelled to claim attention for a few moments, while I reply to the observations of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. P. O'Brien) who has so personally alluded to me. The allusions of that hon. Gentleman, in reference to the part which I took in the late interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, render it necessary that I should say something in my own vindication; and I regret, Sir, that I should be obliged to speak in a manner that would appear egotistical. I have been, Sir, a Member of the House since the year 1852. Since that time my Parliamentary career has been open to the observations of Gentlemen on both sides, and of all parties; and I think I may safely assert that I have ever acted the part of an upright and independent Member. If I have not done so, then I have failed in act, but certainly not in intention. It was not by any act of mine that the Government of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was broken up. I voted for the noble Lord against the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton; and I would have gone into the lobby one hundred times over with the noble Lord, and against the right hon. Gentleman on any such Motion. But the present Government being in office, though by no vote of mine, I conceived that I should not be doing my part as an independent Member, as the representative of an Irish constituency, and as a fair, impartial, and upright politician, if I did not give that Government fair play, and a fair trial, so that they might have sufficient opportunity of developing their policy, whether that policy was for the good of the country, or the contrary. I believe that, so far as the present Government have gone, they have done great things for the cause of progress. They have done things that no other Government, at least within my remembrance, have ever attempted to do. I care not by what motives they have been actuated—whether they were pressed by superior numbers, or coerced by their own judgment; but the fact is before the country, that they have done more for the cause of progress than any of their Whip predecessors who have been in office for the last ten years. Therefore, as a liberal of advanced opinions,— fully as advanced as those held by the hon. Gentleman, the Member for the King's County—I submit to the House whether that hon. Gentleman has a right to assail me because I am anxious to give fair play to the present Government, and to avoid all those miserable squabbles and factious proceedings, which bring disgrace on those who join in them, and even sully the name and fame of the highest and proudest states man in the land? Now, as to the tenant question. I ask, is it owing to any fault of mine that the tenant question has been brought to its present position in this House? Was it I—was it my hon. Friends with whom I act—who rendered the passing of such a measure as was asked for impossible? Was it we who rose to place and power upon the ruin of a great party? —was it we who, by deliberate treachery, clove asunder a noble national organization. and reduced it to a hopeless mockery? It was not my hon. Friends who sold the Irish party to the Government of the day, and sacrificed the cause of the tenant to their own selfish purposes. It is then no fault of mine—it is no fault of my hon. Friends—that this question has not been brought ere this to a satisfactory settlement. The Bill which I brought in this Session was rejected by an overwhelming majority—a majority of something like three to one. Why did it fail? Because it contained what is known as the retospective principle, with regard to compensation for improvements. That principle was emphatically denounced by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, in the debate on the Motion for the second reading this year; and it was equally condemned by the noble Lord last year, on the occasion of an interview with the noble Lord, when my hon. Friend Mr. Moore, the Member for Mayo, with some forty other Irish Members, waited on the noble Lord, and urged him to allow the Bill to be read a second time. Thus on two occasions the noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton, declared his decided opposition to the "retrospective clause;" and the noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas) also denounced this clause, or its principle, on the part of the present Government. Here, then, were the representatives of the two great parties protesting against this principle, and proclaiming their determined opposition to it; and the House adopted the views of those noble Lords, and of those whom they represented, by a majority of three to one. What was I to do then? what were my hon. Friends to do? was I—were they —to Keep that Bill, or a Bill of a similar character, before the House, for a mere election cry? If we had done so, we would have deserved the scorn of this House, and the contempt of our countrymen. Instead of doing this—instead of keeping up a dishonest sham—instead of again bringing in a Bill which we knew, in our souls and consciences, we could not carry—my hon. Friends and myself endeavoured to do something practical. We considered that, by our fair and impartial conduct, we had a just claim upon the consideration of the Government; and, therefore, not wanting anything for ourselves—not being desirous of a seat on the Treasury bench, and not being applicants for a Lordship of the Treasury, or such other offices as are thrown to minor politicians—we did beg of the Government, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to bring in a measure which would effect a settlement of the question. It is quite true that I did say, and that my hon. Friends did say, that we were not unreasonable enough to insist on the Government embodying the retrospective principle in any Bill they brought in, and simply for this reason—that, after the emphatic repudiation of that principle by the house, and its condemnation by the leaders of the two great parties, it would not only be a hopeless attempt to carry it, but its introduction would be fatal to any Bill which contained it. We did not ask for a "moderato," or "very moderate measure," as has been erroneously represented; what we did ask for was a large and a liberal measure, such as would effectually—protect the industry of the tenant, and develope the resources of the country. The hon. Gentleman has made some kind of insinuation against newspaper proprietors and writers. I am a newspaper proprietor and writer, and I am not ashamed of my profession. It is true, if I had followed the profession of the Bar, I might now be in a different position; but I am not the less proud of that which I occupy. I, however, am not one of those newspaper writers who stab in the dark, or slander either enemy or friend under the concealment of anonymous writings—I am not one of those who, from behind the shield of individual irresponsibility, would damage his own party, or even strike at the breast of a colleague; but I attach my signature to what I write, so that all men may know who is responsible for what those writings contain. But the hon. Member appears to labour under some strange hallucination—I know not its cause, whether the state of the weather or Thames—when he imagines that any writer in Ireland would select him as a fitting theme for his article. Why, Sir, I venture to assert that the very humblest editor in my country would not make the hon. Gentleman or his eccentricities the subject even of an ordinary pa- ragraph. For my own part, I have never been guilty of even so grave an offence as that of mentioning Ids name, in any sense whatever; and I can safely promise him, I shall be equally guiltless for the future, as I have been for the past. The hon. Gentleman is anxious to know why he. "a member of the Independent party," was not invited to take part in the interview with the Chancellor. I shall tell him why he was not asked. It was simply because it would have been a ridiculous mockery to have asked him, or to have joined with him. Those Members only went who, by their fairness and neutrality, had a just claim on the consideration of the Government, But what was the fact with respect to the hon. Gentleman? Hardly had the present Government been twenty-four hours old, and certainly before they had warmed in their seats, than the hon. Member rushed down to this House, and, speaking in the name of all Ireland, made a tremendous attack upon them, intending to destroy them on the instant. It is true, that terrible attack did not shake them to the centre. The hon. Gentleman then appeared to speak in the name of all Ireland, and of a great and united Irish party; but where was the responsible echo from Ireland, to the appeal of the hon. Gentleman? Where the petitions winch, it might naturally be supposed, would have crowded the table of the House after such a denunciation? Why, Sir, we can perceive that the Government have outlived his assault, and even survived his eloquence. It would, then, have been a practical mockery to have represented that hon. Gentleman as having given a fair consideration to the Government which he—I shall not say so absurdly, for that would be wrong—but so discreetly assailed. The hon. Member also labours under some delusion in supposing that he is, or ever was, authorised to speak in behalf of any party whatever. Where are his followers? nay, where is the single human being over whom he has influence? Yes, there is one distinguished individual whom he does lead, and whom lie does follow, too—himself—but even between the hon. Gentleman and himself there are at times strange misunderstandings. I can now assure the hon. Gentleman that I treat any attack of his as the idle wind that plays over my head, or, as is suggested by an hon. Friend near me, as a puff of the Thames nuisance—an evil to which we are all liable, and must all submit. I shall, in conclusion, only express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his promise to introduce a measure on the landlord and tenant question, which measure I earnestly hope may settle a long-standing cause of difficulty and dispute.


said, that a personal attack of a kind very unusual in that House had been made upon him. He would tell the hon. Gentleman, as he had told him in "another place," where matters were treated differently from what they were in that House ["Order, order!"]—


The hon. Gentleman must confine himself to explanation.


said, that the hon. Member had insinuated that he had resorted to anonymous attacks in newspapers.


I never intended to say, nor did say anything of the kind.

Motion agreed to,

House at rising to adjourn till Monday next.