HC Deb 14 May 1860 vol 158 cc1258-61

Order for Committee read.


said he would state, in a few words, the exact object of this Bill; but first he would mention what it would not do. It would not increase the central power of the substitute for the General Board of Health nor the local powers of local boards of health. Its object was simply to carry out the intentions of the existing law, which was that there should be in every place in England a local authority responsible for the health of the district. The present Act, passed in 1855, provided that wherever there was a Local Board of Health that should be the local authority for the Administration of the Act. In the absence of a Local Board of Health, the municipal Council of the place was to be substituted; and, failing that, the Trustees or Commissioners for the purposes of local improvement. If there were none of these three, then the local authority was to be the highway board; if there was no highway hoard, it was to be the nuisances' removal committee, elected by the vestry, of which the surveyor of roads should be a member ex-officio. Should it happen that there was none of these five bodies, than the local authority was to devolve on the inspectors of lighting and watching, failing whom, the overseer of the poor, the guardian of the parish, and the surveyor of roads were to exercise the power. Such was the present law, and it worked very unsatisfactorily, as could readily be proved. There were in England and Wales 14,398 places, in each of which there ought to be a Local Board of Health. In each there was, of course, a local authority of some sort; and the test of its efficiency and utility was whether it complied with the first requisite of the Act—the appointment of a local medical officer. Only 2,005 out of the number he had mentioned, or one-seventh of the whole, had fulfilled that provision. So that six-sevenths of the whole local authorities in England had failed even to go as far in the discharge of their duties under the Act as to appoint a medical officer. The total number of places consisted of the following classes. There were 3,176 places of which they knew absolutely nothing, no returns having been furnished. In 2,099 places there was a local authority, of the exact character of which they were ignorant, although they believed it to be the committee of the guardians of the parish, the overseer of the parish, and the surveyor of roads. There were 6,216 places in which they knew that that committee constituted the local authority. That body, however, was much in want of organization, and never acted together. In fifty-seven places the local authority was the paving, lighting, and watching inspectors; in 1,715 the nuisances' removal commissioners; in 250 the highway board; in ninety-five the local improvement committee; in 679 the town council; and in 311 the Board of Health. The Boards of Health had complied with the first requisite of the Act in sixty four out of every 100 cases; the town councils in eighty-four out of every 100; the improvement commissioners in seventy-nine out of every 100; and the nuisances' removal committees in forty-six out of every 100. The other bodies were very backward indeed in the discharge of this duty, the high way board having complied in only forty-four, the inspectors of lighting, &c, in twenty-one, and the guardians and overseers of parishes in twelve out of every 100 cases. The greater part of these local authorities were imperfectly organized, and quite unsuitable for the purposes of the Act. The consequence, of course, was that they discharged their duties in a very unsatisfactory manner. Acting on the best advice he could obtain he had introduced this Bill. It retained the three local authorities first named—the Local Board of Health, the municipal council, and the commissioners for local improvements. All the nuisances' removal committees were also retained who had complied with the Act in regard to the appointment of a medical officer. The other authorities, who had shown themselves so incompetent for the task of local management, he had dismissed altogether, and had taken the guardians of the parish as a substitute. That body had always a medical officer in their employment, who could be referred to when wanted, and having to relieve the poor were peculiarly fitted to conduct measures for the prevention of disease.

House in Committee.

Clause 1.


said, he looked upon this Bill as a retrograde step in the way of legislation. The first Nuisances Bill was brought in in 1846. In 1848 that Bill was renewed. In 1849 another Bill was brought in which gave great power to the boards of guardians and the Poor Law Board. It gave great offence to the country, and had not the effect of removing any of the nuisances. In 1855 a Committee was appointed to inquire into the subject, over which Sir Benjamin Hall presided. Subsequently that right hon. Baronet, now Lord Llanover, brought in a Bill which proved most effective for its purposes. Every parish was bound to appoint a Nuisances Removal Committee, with the necessary powers. He hoped that this Bill would not be pressed forward, and he would suggest that the Measure should be postponed for a month at least, to give the public full opportunity of studying its provisions.


said, they had a statement from the hon. Gentleman which they should have had on the second reading. At that hour (twenty minutes to one o'clock) they could not go into the general question, and he should move that the Chairman report progress.


said, he would not oppose the Motion for reporting progress; but the admission made by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last but one showed that in a majority of instances the present machinery was defective.

House resumed; Committee report Progress; to sit again on Thursday.