HC Deb 02 May 1867 vol 186 cc1925-7

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Graham Montgomery.)


The Bill now before the House is one of considerable importance to the people of Scotland, and there has not yet been sufficient time to consider the whole of its provisions. At the same time, looking at the opportunity which exists to-night of reading the Bill a second time, I am unwilling to divide the House on the subject. I think it right to state that there are very serious objections to the principle of the Bill, in two points in particular. The first is the clauses which refer to the powers to be given to the General Board of Supervision in Scotland to rule over all the towns and parishes in a manner altogether beyond its province. If the Bill passes in its present form, there is not a large town in Scotland which will not be regulated by this Board. From Edinburgh they can send down one of their own number, or they may send one, two, or three professional gentlemen, including advocates, engineers, physicians, and architects, all at the expense of the Treasury, to examine and report respecting the sanitary condition of any town or parish in Scotland. I should like to know from the Secretary of the Treasury, before this Bill is finally disposed of, whether any estimate has been made of the probable expense which this will entail on the Treasury. Great power is also given to the Board to appoint officers of all kinds, not being members of the Board, such as members of the Faculty of Advocates, medical men, surveyors, engineers, or architects, to act as Commissioners. They can send these gentlemen down into the country for a period not exceeding forty days, and at the expiration of this period these gentlemen go to the Treasury in London, where they are paid as the Treasury may determine. It is a system contrary to the legislation of the last twenty years, to place all the towns and parishes of Scotland under this Board in Edinburgh. The Board is also an irresponsible one, not liable to be called to account in Parliament for any of its acts. It will have far more power in Scotland than the Secretary of State for the Home Department has in analogous cases in England. I have grave doubts whether it would be right to sanction such a proposal. The whole scheme will involve a large expenditure of the public funds for purposes which are not at all necessary. Then, I object to the principle of the assessment. An assessment is to be made for works of drainage and a variety of other things; and it is provided that, wherever manufactories and farmhouses are assessed under this Act, they shall only be assessed at a quarter of their actual rent, while all other houses, shops, and buildings are to be assessed at their full rent. It comes to this, that, supposing an assessment of 2s. in the pound made for the proposed carrying out of certain drainage works, farmhouses and manufactories will be assessed at the rate of 6d. in the pound, while all other buildings and houses will have to pay at the rate of 2s. This is a principle altogether unjust, and should not receive the sanction of this House. It is a well-known fact that certain manufactories, such as distilleries and dye-works, are in many cases the cause of nuisances, and expensive drainage works have to be constructed to free houses from the effects of their evil doings. For these reasons, I wish to be held as not committing myself to an approval of the principle of the Bill, and to be at liberty in Committee to move the rejection of any of the objectionable clauses.


I should be glad if the Government would postpone the second reading of this Bill. I have not yet had an opportunity of fully communicating with my constituents, who, I believe, will be affected considerably by it.


I hope that the House will allow the Bill to be read a second time to-night, because the points which have been touched upon can fairly be dealt with when we get into Committee upon it. As to the question of expense, it is a common thing for the Treasury to have the regulation of the expenses to be incurred by Boards, and the only actual sum this Bill will create will be salaries of three sheriffs, at £50 a year.


I hope the hon. Baronet will give us an as- surance, when this Bill is again brought forward, that ample notice of the fact will be conveyed to the Scotch Members beforehand. There is a great desire to give certain powers to this Board; but it is a question whether they ought to have those powers extended so far as at present proposed. It would be premature to enter into a discussion now, and I shall not object to the second reading to-night, on the understanding that the full discussion is taken on a future occasion.


I have no wish to oppose the second reading of the Bill, as, no doubt, it will be of valuable service to the smaller communities of Scotland. But, at the same time, on behalf of the large communities, I think the powers which are asked for on behalf of the Board are too large. There will be an irresponsible expenditure, and in Committee this and other matters will have to be altered.


Ample notice shall be given prior to the next stage of the Bill.


I am in favour of the Bill, though, at the same time, I am aware that, as regards the large Scotch towns, there is an opposition to it. In fact, only this afternoon I received a telegram from Aberdeen, asking me to co-operate with the hon. and gallant Member for that city in regard to some of the provisions of the Bill.

Motion agreed to.