HC Deb 09 March 1866 vol 181 cc1810-28

I trust, Sir, this may be considered a question of sufficient importance to justify me in bringing it under the notice of the House. I shall endeavour to detail, as concisely as I can, some of the evils arising from smoke furnaces in the towns and country districts of England, with the view of inducing the Government, if possible, to legislate on the question during the present Session. The question is one which affects the sanitary condition, the health, the comfort, and the happiness of almost every class in the community, but more especially of the operative classes in the great centres of industry in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the Midland Counties. The evils of which I complain, and which might be entirely abated, rise from the smoke of coal, a mineral our resources in which it is impossible to overestimate. But the greater the value of this article the more careful, I contend, ought we to be to observe due economy in the use of it. It is probably the most precious article in this country—perhaps more valuable than the precious metals of the mines of Mexico, because it is applicable to all the purposes of human labour. Considering the number of hands employed in this branch of industry, the capital invested, the tonnage of the vessels employed in carrying the coal, and the value of the article when extracted from the soil, I believe there is no Gentleman who will not agree with me that the subject I am bringing before the House is one of the deepest importance, and that if coal be so valuable a material we ought in the same degree to be most careful in its economic use. But the fact is that, instead of this most valuable mineral being economized, the most reckless waste of it prevails in the Midland Counties—and in Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Durham. I have been informed by an eminent analytical chemist at Manchester, that 40 per cent less heat is produced than might be obtained by proper combustion, and that gentleman believes that 10 per cent and, perhaps, in some cases, 20 per cent of the coal passed up through the tall chimneys, and was absolutely lost as far as regards the purpose for which it was used, that of heating the furnaces. That was a most important statement. A person of great eminence, Mr. M'Culloch, said, about twenty years ago, that if the coal trade of England continued at the same rate as in 1845, there was a sufficient supply of coal in the coalfields and seams of this country to last for 2,000 years. But what is the case now? The consumption, including waste, in the United Kingdom amounts to three times the quantity expended in 1845. So that already Mr. M'Culloch's estimate has diminished by two-thirds; and if it goes on in the same way for the next twenty years, we might find ourselves in a position that there would not be enough coal left in our seams to supply us for 200 or 300 years, or perhaps a less period. In the year 1845 the consumption in Great Britain for domestic and all manufacturing purposes was 31,800,000 tons, and there were exported in the same year, 1,800,000 tons. In 1865, however, the amount of coal raised in Great Britain was 96,000,000, tons, of which there were consumed for domestic and all purposes of manufacture 87,000,000 tons, 9,000,000 tons being exported. In twenty years the home consumption increased from 31,000,000 to 87,000,000 tons, and the exports increased from 1,800,000 to 9,000,000 tons. This clearly shows the immense importance of this question. There are laid on the table of the House every year most instructive Returns as to the consumption of coal and cinders. I find that in 1850 there were exported from the several ports of the United Kingdom 3,350,000 tons of coal and cinders, the de- clared value of which was £1,282,000. In 1864 the quantity exported was 8,800,000 tons, and the declared value £4,160,000. I recollect being struck by an observation made by the hon. Member for Glasgow in his able speech on seconding the Address at the opening of Parliament. The hon. Member, in referring to the general condition of trade and the rapid rate at which the manufacturers of the country were progressing, warned the manufacturers that what Mr. M'Culloch had stated in 1845 was no longer correct—that they were not to forget that the supply of coal in England was not inexhaustible, and that they should, by the closest economy in its use, do all in their power to prevent what would be a great national calamity—namely, an increased difficulty in obtaining coal, and a consequent increase of its price. Those observations are sufficient to induce the House to consider whether something may not be done on this subject, and I would ask the Home Secretary to give a pledge that, in the course of the present Session, he will undertake to legislate on it. I know he is occupied with many questions, perhaps no Member of the House more so; but I believe that, if he should be able to lay on the table a Bill with regard to this subject, it might before the close of the Session become law. I would ask, whether there is not in the Home Office an analysis of patents for smoke-burning made by Mr. Holland some years ago by order of the Home Office?—for, if so, I think it would be desirable to have that paper produced; and I also suggest to my right hon. Friend not to attempt to propose a Committee or Commission of Inquiry, for we have had enough of them. Let us deal with the question in this House, and I believe that if my right hon. Friend were to consult some gentleman in London or Manchester who had given attention to the matter, he might be able in a week to frame a Bill which would be satisfactory and efficient. If he would only consult Dr. Joule, who has written on heat, Dr. Angus Smith, Mr. Hunt, of the Museum of Practical Geology, Professor Tyndall, Professor Thomson, of Glasgow University, Dr. Roscoe, of Manchester, Dr. Franklin and Professors of the Royal Institution, he would in a short time inform himself of the importance of this question, and would be able to say what smoke really is. Perhaps some hon. Gentlemen do not know what smoke is, though they feel it, and live in the pestilential atmosphere which surrounds them, and which is ruining the health of the labouring classes. That offensive vapour, so ruinous to the health of the working classes, results from the carbon which, with oxygen, forms the ingredients of coal. Unless perfect combustion take place when the furnace is lighted, smoke rises, and, without an adequate supply of air, the evil which so much distresses the country cannot be overcome. I have a letter from a well-known gentleman in Manchester, addressed to a Member of this House, which forcibly shows what can be done in this matter. The letter is dated March 1, 1866, and the writer states— In regard to the practicability of smoke prevention there is no longer any question; and, further, it has been proved by the most careful experiments that its prevention increases the economic value of the fuel. Two conditions only are requisite—1, admission of atmospheric air above the fuel to mix with the gases evolved in order to supply sufficient oxygen for their perfect combustion, and a high temperature in the furnace; and as neither of these conditions can be obtained where there is deficient draught, this deficiency may be said to be the chief cause of smoke. In Glasgow and Dundee measures have been taken of late years to abate the smoke nuisance, and several prosecutions have ensued, but although some good has undoubtedly been done, the results cannot be said to have been altogether successful. It is not the manufacturers who oppose legislation on the point—they say, "Give us some law that we can carry out, but the local authorities we cannot deal with." I have been informed by the hon. Member for North Durham that an agitation is getting up in his division of the county—for it is not the manufacturers who oppose measures of prevention—to put an end, if possible, to a state of things which causes a gross destruction of property. Some ignorant people speak of the cost of the necessary apparatus for smoke prevention, but there could not be a greater fallacy; for the saving of fuel will be so considerable that in a short time it will cost nothing, but, on the contrary, insure a saving. With reference to legislation on this important subject in past years, it will be found in the Journals of this House, that actually as far back as the reign of Edward I., in the year 1316, the question was agitated in Parliament, that on account of the intolerable nuisance of smoke the use of coal must be prohibited altogether, as injurious to the public health. I do not want to go so far as that. In later times the first person who agitated this question in Parliament was Lord Redesdale, in the other House; but the first person who passed a Bill on the subject was Lord Palmerston, when he was Home Secretary. His Bill was called the Metropolis Smoke Nuisance Abatement Bill, and it is really interesting to refer to the remarks that fell from that lamented statesman in bringing forward that measure. No opposition was offered to it. The metropolitan Members supported it. There was only one hon. Member who thought it too late to proceed with it. The hon. Member who has just entered the House (Sir Morton Peto) has assured me in the most cordial manner that he will support such a measure as I have described. Lord Palmerston said—and I should wish the House to be impressed with the words that fell from that lamented statesman— It was no argument to urge, because the nuisance had been borne so long, that therefore it could be borne a little longer. Manufacturers might say they could not consume their own smoke, but if Parliament would only say,' You must do so,' the smoke would be consumed, and the public would be relieved from this nuisance."—[See 3 Hansard, cxxix. 1496.] An hon. Member before me (Mr. Dunlop) informs me that a Bill for Scotland passed some years ago, which was in operation only a few weeks, during which the whole smoke in Scotland had well nigh disappeared; but some flaw was discovered in the Bill, and immediately the smoke nuisance re-commenced, and was continued because the Bill was valueless. Lord Palmerston went on to say— If ever there was a case in which he would not say the interests, but the prejudices of the few were opposed to the interests of the many, this was such a case. Here were a few, perhaps one hundred Gentlemen, connected with these different furnaces in London, who wished to make 2,000,000 of their fellow inhabitants swallow the smoke, and who thereby helped to deface all our architectural monuments, and to impose the greatest inconvenience and injury upon the lower class. Here were the prejudices and ignorance—the affected ignorance—of a small combination of men set up against the material interest, the physical enjoyment, the health, the comfort of upwards of 2,000,000 of their fellow men. He would not believe that Parliament would back these smoke-producing monopolists."—[3 Hansard, c xxix. 1496.] I want to see my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary speak and act in that bold and vigorous manner. The Bill passed the third reading unanimously. In the other House it was intrusted to Lord Lansdowne, who was equally bold and firm in the matter. The first and second reading having been passed without discussion in Committee, Lord Lansdowne referred to it as affecting the comfort of every class of society, and said such was the gradual encroachment of the enemy, that for years past they had been living not under the canopy of Heaven but under one of their own creation. It was an evil that called for the distinct interference of the Legislature. His Lordship continued that the experiments of the last seven years had abundantly proved that with perfect safety, without imposing any burdens upon individuals beyond some amount of attention and trouble, they might require the extinction and consumption of all smoke generated by manufacturing establishments. There was no housekeeper who was not able to vouch for the increased difficulty in maintaining the commonest cleanliness in consequence of the nuisance which the Bill would abate. The smoke so affected the clothing of the working classes that it was computed every mechanic paid at least five times the amount of the original cost of his shirt for the number of washings rendered necessary: and in parts of Whitechapel, where the provisions of a local Act enforced the consumption of smoke, the persons who had been compelled to consume their own smoke had found themselves benefited in point of economy by the change. Lord Redesdale congratulated the country upon this Bill, and expressed his obligations to the Government. A Bill in 1853 was passed for improvement of Newcastle-on-Tyne, where more glass was made than in any other place in England at that time, and no exemption was required in that instance. In the Metropolis Bill of 1853, however, there were two omissions—gas works and potteries were not affected by the provisions of the Act. It was found quite practicable to include them, however; and in 1856 the Smoke Nuisances Abatement Metropolitan Amendment Act was passed, including those two descriptions of manufactories. The effect has been most satisfactory in the metropolis. I have numerous letters from manufacturers in London, stating that, although they were opposed at first to the introduction of the measure, yet they now saw the value of it, and the economy of the alteration. One gentleman, a partner in a large firm in Westminster, said there was no difficulty in constructing furnaces which should consume their own smoke, and that since the Act had been in operation a decided improvement had taken place in the verdure of trees and the growth of plants in Loudon. Only last year a Bill was introduced into the other House of Parliament, respecting alkali works. Lord Derby made a most effective speech on the occasion, and the measure became law. Inspectors of alkali works were appointed throughout the country. I have lately seen the inspector of the alkali works in Manchester, who informed me that this had been the result of that Act—whereas 40 per cent of muriatic acid escaped before into the atmosphere of Manchester and the vicinity, at present little more than 1 per cent escaped into the atmosphere, although the Act permitted 5 per cent. Can anything be more satisfactory than that fact? And it is equally applicable to the detestable nuisance of smoke, which is so prejudicial to the health of everybody. I have two letters upon this subject, which are well worthy of being brought under the attention of the House. The first is from the town clerk of Blackburn, who says— I have not the slightest doubt that so far as our park is concerned the vegetation is much injured by the smoke, although it is situate on high ground and some distance from the factory chimneys. It is much to be regretted that there is not some compulsory law for the consumption of smoke. I attribute the present non-observance of the existing law to the fact that its enforcement rests with the local authorities, who are individually, as a rule, large manufacturers, and, as such, creators of the nuisance. The other letter is from a gentleman well known at Accrington. It is dated February 20, 1866. He says— Your letter refers to a subject on which I have had some considerable experience of a very disagreeable nature. To begin with, our township of Oswaldtwistle, and within 500 yards of my house, we have naphtha works, emitting a most offensive smell, and most destructive to vegetation. If they are continued all the trees within their influence will die. Then adjoining we have bone boiling works polluting the atmosphere in the most dreadful manner. Now, what is the general effect of these works upon the neighbourhood? Many a time my house is filled with nauseous effluvium, and my land as building land is ruined, for no one would choose to reside in such a locality. Mr. S. has suffered dreadfully in the health of his family, Mr. B. 's occupation of his house is destroyed, and Mr. G. has experienced the same evils. It may be said, what are the local boards doing? I answer they are doing nothing, although the strongest representations have been made to them. But the fact is, the Acts of Parliament constituting these local boards are not sufficiently definite or stringent. I and my neighbours are joining together and preparing evidence for legal proceedings, but we think it very hard we should be put to a large expense for that which we think ought to be done by the local board. If Sir Robert Feel will take up the mat- ter I have no doubt he will accomplish his purpose and greatly benefit society. The town clerk of Blackburn, in his letter, says— It is much to be regretted that there is not some compulsory law for the consumption of smoke. I believe that the enforcement of the existing law rests on the local authorities, who, as a rule, are large manufacturers themselves, and, therefore, abettors of the nuisance. But I am informed by many most influential manufacturers that they are quite prepared to second any effort on the part of the Government by a statutory enactment to abate this nuisance. Many towns have attempted to legislate on this subject by Private Bills. In 1862 Salford came for a Bill to effect the improvement that was required; but it failed. Since then Newcastle-on-Tyne, Glasgow, Dundee, and many other places have made similar efforts; but what is required is that the Government should take the matter up and legislate for the whole country, by one uniform statutory enactment for the whole country as it did for the metropolis. Having said so much, I should wish, if I have not already detained the House too long, to allude for a moment to the case of Manchester, where I have just been to inform myself as to the real condition of things there. What is the coal consumption of Manchester? It is prodigious. At this moment the population of London, I believe, is about 3,000,000, and the annual consumption of coal amounts to about 5,300,000 tons; but in Manchester, with a population of certainly not more than 380,000, the coal consumption is estimated at 2,000,000 tons per annum, within a radius of three miles from the Exchange. There are many manufacturers in Manchester consuming more than 300 tons of coal a week. Now, just conceive what a saving would be effected if a proper system of combustion was introduced, and they were compelled to consume their own smoke. It is scientifically ascertained that 40 per cent less heat is produced now than would be by proper combustion. I visited Stockport. I could hardly see it for smoke. Salford has been suffering from the smoke nuisance to a degree it is hardly possible to describe. And so with regard to Burnley, Bury, and Rochdale, without exception the three dirtiest towns of Lancashire. They have no public parks, and the operatives who are labouring all day long in their industrious hives have no means of relaxation or opportunity of breathing a pure atmosphere. What is the sanitary condition of Manchester? The average annual mortality in England is twenty-two per 1,000, and in some rural villages it falls to seventeen per 1,000; but in the large coal burning towns of Manchester and Salford it rises to thirty-three and thirty-four per 1,000. This vast increase in the death rate is entirely owing to the smoke and the noxious exhalations from the burning coal. I saw the other day a letter in The Times from a gentleman at Birmingham, stating that smoke could not injuriously affect the health of the people, because the cholera had not severely attacked that town when it last visited this country. The writer forgot that Birmingham is built upon sandstone, and was, therefore, not so liable to be attacked by that disease. As a proof that smoke does not keep away the cholera I may instance the case of Bilston, which, although the most smoky town in England, suffered greatly from this terrible scourge on its last visitation. I hold in my hand a Report that was published in the Quarterly Returns of the Registrar General of Health, which gives a most interesting account of the sanitary state of Manchester, The Report is drawn up by Mr. John Leigh, Registrar of the Deansgate sub-district of Manchester, and it contains much that deserves attention now that there is a possibility of the cholera again visiting this country. It is the duty of Government to take time by the forelock in order to preserve us as far as possible from the attacks of this pestilence. Mr. Leigh says in his Report— I very carefully traced nearly every case of cholera during the last two invasions of this disease in Manchester, and invariably I found there had been direct communication with infected persons or an infected atmosphere. I entertain no more doubt of the infectious nature of cholera than that of smallpox or scarlatina. Its course can be accounted for in no other way. Under the threatening prospect of a fresh invasion it is best to look the disease fairly in the face, and not, under the fear of being considered alarmists, to ignore its nature and neglect the means of breaking the force of the attack. It is doubtful, too, whether in our time typhus does not absolutely originate in the ill conditions of our crowded towns. Be this as it may, nothing is more certain than that the ordinary unfavourable conditions of large towns, with their festering graveyards, decomposing offal, noisome exhalations of tallow-chandleries, and other manufactories of animal matters, stenches of sewers and drains, and stagnant atmosphere of courts and alleys, are the predisposing causes of diseases, especially infectious diseases. If they do not actually produce disease, they so reduce the tone and strength of the population, so vitiate their blood and exalt their susceptibility of deleterious influences that a constant tendency exists to take on diseased action, whether in the form of typhus, scarlatina, smallpox, or cholera. A state of chronic disorganization is always attracting the flying bands of the enemy. It is not a question of food and wages; the day-labourer in the country who earns his 10 *. or 12 *. a week, and tastes animal food but once in that week, is ruddy, strong, and healthy, compared with the highly-paid and well-fed artizan, who works in a crowd of fellow-workmen, and sleeps in the narrow street or confined court where his house stands, and whose cadaverous looks tell the tale of his surroundings. How true that is any one must feel who has been in that town. He expressly states that their ill-looks are not to be traced to bad water, for he says— No town in England is better and more abundantly supplied with good and pure water than Manchester. He says the town is well scavengered, and the streets are kept constantly clean— What is it, then, "he asks," that makes Manchester so unhealthy a town? He replies to his question thus— Close to my town house, on the west side, is a large graveyard, in which interments are even yet made daily. On one side of the street, separated by a small interval, is a large tallow-melting work recently established; on the other side of the street an ancient and time-honoured tallow-chandlery, with its vested right of poisoning the neighbours. Add to the noxious products which load the atmosphere from these sources the black outpourings from innumerable chimneys, and a tolerable conception of the sanitary state of the neighbourhood will be obtained. The un-healthiness of Manchester is due to its vitiated atmosphere. Again, he says that no plant will live in the town unless it be washed two or three times a week. He proceeds— Let any one examine the lungs after death of a person who has been long resident in Manchester, and in the bronchial glands he will find a fluid substance, inhaled soot, as black and thick as ink. I do think I have made out a case that should induce Government to take up the subject. I ask, why should not the smoke he burnt? It is idle to attempt to establish public parks—such as that recently opened by a philanthropic gentleman at Halifax—in such districts. They are useless to counteract the pernicious effect of the smoke-saturated atmosphere on the working man. Besides, you cannot get trees to grow or plants to flourish. I am informed that the trees at the park at Salford are dying. I have received a letter from the curator of the Salford Park, stating that the trees are all being destroyed be- cause Parliament will not legislate upon the subject. That gentleman says— In respect to your inquiry as to the injury which this park suffers from the smoke of Manchester and Salford I may say that, in the opinion of members of the Park Committee, who have served from the opening in 1846, and my own opinion from watching its effects from 1851, the smoke is gradually destroying the many fine trees, elms, horsechestnuts, oaks, ash, and ornamental shrubs. Tear by year the damage gains in amount, and even the grass gets poorer, and requires to be renewed by sodding brought from a distance, for the seed will not grow in such a smoked and impure atmosphere. I think these are observations that require the attention of Government, coming as they do from different parts of the country. This morning I received a letter from a gentleman residing at a village near Birmingham, stating that the trees in that neighbourhood are dying in consequence of the smoky atmosphere. Any one who is fond of the country must feel pained at the sickly look of the little window gardens of the poor man in the large coal consuming towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is evident that they can have little share in an enjoyment of which persons in a higher station think so much. Lord Bacon says— I account that gardening is the purest of human pleasures, and the greatest refreshment to the spirit of man. It is that refreshment to the spirit of the working man which is intended to be supplied by public parks and gardens in the neighbourhood of large towns; but that intention without some legislation on the subject can never be attained. I am sorry that I have been compelled to detain the House so long in drawing attention to this subject, but my excuse must be the great desire I have to check the growing evils I have alluded to. There may be topics of a more exciting character in connection with the rights and privileges of the working classes to exercise a greater power than they now do in the government of the State; but in my humble judgment we can discuss no more benevolent, no more philanthropic, no nobler question than how to abate the noxious vapours which vitiate and poison the atmosphere of our great towns. The evil is of our own creation, and we can prevent it if we please. Let the Government, then, legislate on the subject. I have just seen the poverty, the wretchedness, and the squalor, generated by this state of things in towns in Lancashire, and I feel sure that every hon. Member will agree with me that there is good cause for legislation. The value of human life and the comfort, convenience, and happiness of all classes ought reasonably to have more weight than the prejudices of those who create the nuisance. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Depart-ment—than whom I am sure no man holding high office is more disposed to give a fair and careful consideration to all questions appertaining to public interest—to give us an assurance that Government will legislate upon this question during the present Session of Parliament, as by so doing he will confer a benefit, nay a blessing, upon the people of this country. A measure of the kind I wish to see introduced would in a great degree affect the health, the comfort, and the happiness of millions of working men whose daily toil in a vitiated atmosphere is the main support of our manufacturing interests. I do not move any Amendment.


said, he had given some attention to this subject, and thought it was very desirable that in all large manufactories the smoke should be consumed. It would be a great boon to the working classes if they were permitted to see a little daylight. An eminent example of what could be done in the way of controlling this smoke nuisance could be seen by any hon. Member who might choose to note the different manufacturing establishments between Battersea and Blackwall from the deck of one of the river steamers. It was not, however, in places like the metropolis that nuisances of this kind prevailed to any extent. They were chiefly found in districts where coal was cheap, and where there was a great unwillingness to incur the expense of the apparatus necessary to get rid of the nuisance. There were men who were always opposed to change, and who persisted in walking in the old beaten track, refusing to concur in any alteration as being nothing short of innovation, and whose opposition would be enhanced if the change were necessitated by anything which could be regarded in the light of compulsion; whilst others were willing to adopt that which offered a prospect of saving and improvement. When, however, it could be shown that by their adherence to the present system these people Were causing injury to the health and to the property of their neighbours the Legislature might, he thought, be very fairly called upon to interfere. It could not be doubted that an atmosphere charged with smoke was prejudicial both to health and property. In some districts it was found impossible to open a window, for the purpose of ventilation, without having the room and its contents covered with "blacks." The volumes of smoke that issued from many large establishments were left at the mercy of the wind and the atmosphere, and frequently caused great discomfort and annoyance to those who lived within several miles. In gardens particularly, situated at a distance of three miles from these offenders, it was impossible to touch a leaf or a flower without having the fingers soiled by these sooty deposits. He should be about the last person to place any impediment in the way of carrying on manufactures, as with the manufacturers his interests and sympathies were bound up; but when it could be shown that this nuisance could not only be avoided, but absolutely abolished, and that, too, advantageously to the offenders, he thought it would require little further argument to induce the House to legislate upon the subject. The nuisance, and the evils arising from it, were acknowledged; what, then, was the remedy, and what the expense? He was prepared to state, and to prove his assertion that by Jukes' apparatus (which was in use in many places in the metropolis) the smoke could be completely and profitably consumed. He would take the case of steam-engines, and where that apparatus was in use steam was generated with the most perfect regularity, and there was a saving of from 20 to 30 per cent in the cost of fuel, and of from 40 to 50 per cent in labour. No more smoke was evolved than from an ordinary kitchen chimney. Coke ovens, worked on the usual plan, were an intolerable nuisance; but by a simple arrangement, by which the flue was passed along the back of the ovens and afterwards taken to a chimney, the smoke was entirely got rid of. He knew a case in which this had been done, and if that were so there was no reason why all coke-burners should not be compelled to adopt a similar plan. In the matter of blast furnaces and ironworks he feared that at present there would be difficulty; but if the Legislature determined that it should be done, he had full confidence in the science and ingenuity of his countrymen to believe that a satisfactory method would be discovered. He was of opinion, derived from the information he obtained as Chairman of the Steam Coal Association in the north of England, that the coal beds were disappearing with wonderful rapidity. Anything, therefore, which tended to economize fuel was of the utmost importance as regarded this great source of our national wealth.


said, that the firm to which he belonged had tried many experiments without success, when the subject was before Parliament on a former occasion, with a view to benefit the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where their brewery was situated. They then adopted Jukes' patent, which proved almost entirely successful. There was a good deal of smoke generated the first thing in the morning, and some then no doubt escaped; but during the rest of the day there was no more smoke than from a house chimney. The apparatus was expensive at first, but during the first year the firm saved £2,000 in the cost of fuel, as they were able to consume, instead of large coal, the very smallest. The great advantages derived from getting rid of the smoke were now beginning to be apparent, and the silk weavers could open their windows and enjoy the fresh air, which it was impossible for them to do before this process was adopted at the brewery. Where before a plant or flower was never seen, plants and flowers were in full bloom. So satisfactory had been the result of an effort towards the consumption of smoke in his own case that he trusted the Government would take some measures for making the thing more general.


said, he must compliment the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) on the ability of his speech, but could not agree with one part of it. The right hon. Baronet in saying that the health of Manchester was affected by the smoke rather overstated the case. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: I quoted the Returns of mortality.] That was true; but although the Returns of mortality were high it did not follow that that was owing to the smoke. It was quite possible to explain the high rate of mortality on other grounds; as, for instance, the closeness of the streets, the crowding together of the population, and all the cognate evils which affected the health of a great town; but he had doubts whether an overhanging canopy of smoke did not purify the air. He lived seven miles from Manchester, in a smoky, but not a crowded neighbourhood, and he did not observe that the health of the working man was affected. Besides, the suburbs of Manchester were healthful. With this exception, he agreed fully with the speech of the right hon. Baronet. Smoke had been done away with in all steamers on the Thames and the Mersey, and it was an established fact, as far as factories were concerned, that by the consumption of smoke there was a considerable saving of fuel. With regard to collieries there were practical difficulties which rendered it doubtful, in his opinion, whether the consumption of smoke would ever be entirely possible. They had endeavoured in Lancashire; to employsmoke-con8uming apparatus, and although those attempts had been attended with great success, unless attention was paid to the matter by the stokers, smoke would, at certain times, escape and blacken the atmosphere. He trusted that some efficient means might be devised for that purpose; but the whole subject was one of such vast importance that he trusted the Home Secretary would take it at once into his most serious consideration, and that they would soon have, instead of numerous local Acts, some Act with respect to it which would extend over the whole country.


said, he would not have troubled the House with any remarks upon the subject under discussion had it not been for the fact that Lord Palmerston had asked him, when the subject was before dealt with, to make a series of experiments with a view to ascertain whether the evil complained of could be met in a practical manner. The late Member for Lymington (Mr. Mackinnon) introduced this subject Session after Session, but it was not until Lord Palmerston took up the subject that anything was done with it. When the late Premier was assured that the consumption of smoke would result in a great saving to the manufacturer, it was one among the great services that he had conferred upon his country that he took action in the matter. The result had shown that many instances could be cited similar to that mentioned by the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Hanbury), who had mentioned the fact that his firm had saved upwards of £2,000 a year by the adoption of a process which had always before been looked on as objectionable. He saw no reason for believing that the same result would not attend the general adoption of the London plan throughout the country. If an example was wanted, he would point to Leicester, which had as many manufactories in and around it as any town in the kingdom, yet in the very centre of Leicester flowers would be found blooming as fresh as in a country village. This had been done by the manufacturers, who had voluntarily made themselves subject to a law of their own. The right hon. Baronet had not overstated the case. It must be remembered, however, that manufactories often gave off vapours far more deleterious to the public health than the smoke itself, and unless some means were taken of stopping all exhalations the mischief would not be put an end to. He remembered that soon after the last Smoke Act was passed several hon. Gentlemen found, as they walked on the terrace skirting the river, that they were greeted with the odours of certain bone-boiling establishments, and other objectionable works of Lambeth; they were accordingly not long j in extending the operation of the Smoke Act to works of that description. He trusted the Act which had done so much good to the metropolis would be extended by the Government to the country; he was sure the result would be equally satisfactory. There could be no doubt that both health and economy would be promoted by the universal application of the principle. He thought the House had reason to feel obliged to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth for having directed their attention to that question; and he hoped the Government would most vigorously prosecute the work which had been so beneficially begun by their late lamented chief.


I am sure, Sir, I only give utterance to the general sentiment of the House when I say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) has done good service in bringing this matter before us. The time of the House cannot be employed to more advantage than in endeavouring to devise some practical means by which we may contribute to the health and enjoyment of the great body of the people. But, Sir, I would observe that, agreeing as I do in much that my right hon. Friend has said, he seems scarcely to have informed himself as to how far the laws at present in existence give the power to do what he desires—namely, to enforce the consumption of smoke in furnaces and manufactories. It is not generally known that the evil complained of would be very much I decreased if the means at present in our hands were made full use of; and, although it may be desirable that some such Act as that suggested by my right hon. Friend to apply to the whole country should be passed, it is far more desirable that we should endeavour to insure that the law when passed should be strictly carried out. As regards London, I may mention that the Act under which the smoke from furnaces and fireplaces connected with steam-engines and manufactories is now consumed was passed with some doubt and hesitation. Exceptions were made to certain manufactories, in order to avoid compelling their owners to incur expense unnecessarily; but it was not long before it was found that the change would be an economical rather than an expensive change, after the first outlay had been made for the purpose of providing the machinery necessary to secure the proper consumption of the smoke. The exceptions were, therefore, abolished, and the proprietors of those manufactories before excepted found themselves gainers instead of losers by coming under the operation of the Act. It is desirable that the owners and managers of works should know that their outlay in the first instance, though, perhaps, considerable in amount, will be repaid in the long run, by which their interests are consistent with consideration for the public health and comfort. My right hon. Friend has alluded to the probable exhaustion of the coal-fields. Great doubt exists in the minds of scientific men upon that subject, and I will not now enter into it further than to say that, as we cannot look upon our coal-fields as inexhaustible, we should use our fuel with care, and take every precaution against waste, in order that the supply may last as long as possible. But what, Sir, is the state of the law at present? A clause was inserted in the Towns Improvement Act of 1847, requiring that every fireplace or furnace used in working engines by steam, or in any manufactory, should be so constructed as to consume the smoke arising from it; and the penalties attached to the Act are ordered to be enforced if these regulations are broken. This was a general Act, and it was required that its provisions should be incorporated in a special Act, in order to apply it to any large towns or districts. This has been done to a very large extent; and I may remark that the provisions of the general Act are as strict as the law relating to the metropolis. Then there is the Local Government Act which many hundreds of towns have adopted. This also provides for the nuisance. So that the evil complained of exists to its present extent only because the local authorities do not, from some reason or other, enforce the provisions of the law. I am afraid that local self-government is permitting itself to be placed upon its trial. Our proceedings here to-night almost amount to preferring an indictment against the local authorities throughout the country, because, having the law in their hands, they refrain from enforcing it. I wish my right hon. Friend would induce some of his correspondents, such as the gentleman who wrote from Blackburn and other populous places, to take proceedings to enforce the laws they have before they come to the Government for more stringent enactments. From the experience we have had in London, I should be very glad if the same system could be applicable to the whole country. What is the difference between the practice in London and in the country in reference to these Acts? The metropolis is subject to the action of the police, who act under the Chief Commissioner of Police, and he in his turn is subject to the direction of the Secretary of State, who authorizes prosecutions when cases of infringement of the law have been reported to him. Prosecutions are not frequent now because the nuisance has been greatly abated, owing, I believe, to the action of the police, and to the judicious manner in which the law has been enforced by the magistrates, who have refrained from dealing harshly, in the first instance, with persons charged with a breach of the law, and have allowed time for the adoption of proper means for complying with the Act. Why do not the local authorities of other places require their police to perform the same duties? My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer reminds me that in cases where the police have neglected their duty in the way I have described, the local authorities might be deprived of the contributions made by the Treasury to the Local Police Fund. I believe, Sir, we should have no difficulty in passing a general law. It is desirable that it should be done, but I would again remind the House that we must endeavour at the same time to insure that the law will be enforced. That is the practical difficulty. We all know how jealous local authorities are of the interference of Government, and how objectionable it is to send an army of inspectors through the country to enforce any law. We must hope that the local bodies, and those whom they represent, will feel it to be their interest to have such a law; and that their own interest or higher considerations will induce them to enforce it. I have directed an inquiry to be made in many of our principal towns as to the operation of the law and the means taken to enforce it, and the result will, I hope, throw some light upon the matter and assist us in finding a remedy for the evil we have to deal with. The hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol (Sir Morton Peto) told us that effectual measures had been taken in Leicester for the consumption of smoke in manufactories. The same statement would apply to Liverpool and some other towns; while there are many others in which that good example has not been followed. I have only to add that I will be very happy to contribute to the utmost of my power to secure the important object to which my right hon. Friend has directed our attention.


said, he would suggest the desirability of setting informers to work. He was of opinion that if informers were pitted against the smoke, the one nuisance would soon destroy the other. What was wanted was the infliction and enforcement of heavy penalties.