HC Deb 09 March 1868 vol 190 cc1278-80

Order for Second Reading read.

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


explained that the Bill was a reprint of the measure that was before the Committee last Session. The provisions being in accordance with the Amendments made by the Committee, he was not, as a Member of the Committee, in a position to move its rejection, but he knew it was not acceptable to those whose interests it affected—namely, the gas and water companies. Therefore, if the Bill was now allowed to be read the second time without objection, that should be done without prejudice to the claim of the companies to have it sent before a Select Committee, if that course were deemed necessary, for the protection of their interests. The metropolitan water and gas companies opposed the measure on the ground that they were already in posssession of powers which enabled them to lay their pipes in the public ways without cost. They also felt a sense of security in having the pipes underground, because, if an escape of gas took place, it would be lost in the ground, and an explosion could not occur. They therefore said they should not be asked to occupy subways in which explosions might occur, and to pay rent for accommodation they did not wish for. The Committee felt there was a great force in that argument, but Parliament gave power to the Board of Works to construct a subway three-quarters of a mile in the new street in Southwark. It was proposed to give protection to the companies, and to allow a fair experiment to be made; and a condition was introduced into the Bill that the companies should not be called upon for rent, or to pay for the transfer of their pipes from the ground which they occupied. If new pipes were to be laid down, it was to be a subject for arbitration, what proportions the companies and Board of Works should pay. The Committee sought to introduce such provisions as would ensure adequate ventilation and supervision. The subway in the new street in Southwark was the model subway, but he understood it had been flooded more than once during the late winter. The gratings in the street had to be taken up before the deposit left was cleared out, evidently showing that it was not so easy a matter as represented to keep these subways clear from water and mud. He had passed over the gratings, and found that the spaces between them were entirely filled up with mud, through which he could poke holes with his stick, and from the spaces being so filled up it was clear that ventilation could not be secured. He had visited the subway in Paris, ten or twelve feet from the base to the crown, and ten or twelve feet wide. Its area was seven times as great as that of the model subway in the new street in Southwark. It was lighted by moderator lamps, and the only pipes in the subway were water pipes and some telegraph pipes; but in spite of all the precautions, and though the masonry was of the best description, there was an accumulation of gas, which exploded when a workman was painting a water pipe, and the man was seriously injured. The House ought, therefore, to pause before throwing on the companies the responsibility which would attach to them if they were forced to make use of subways over which they could have no control.


said, as he understood his hon. Friend did not intend to oppose the second reading of the Bill, he saw no advantage in re-opening the question, which was discussed before the Select Committee. The whole Committee differed from his hon. Friend, and decided that in the interests of the public these subways were very desirable. His hon. Friend had made the discovery that in the French subways an explosion of gas took place in consequence of want of ventilation. In the London subways, however, precautions would be taken to prevent any explosion.


, as a Member of the Subways Committee, expressed his opinion that the improvement proposed was an extremely desirable one. Experiments had been made which showed that an explosion was almost impossible; and no argument upon this matter could be drawn from the French subways, which were ventilated upon an entirely different principle to our own.


, though a member of the Board of Works, had never heard of any report as to the flooding of the new subway, and therefore he supposed that the affair must have been an unimportant one. He agreed that there was no analogy to be drawn from the French subways as bearing upon our own. Our subways were thoroughly well ventilated, and were thus secure against explosion.


thought that the companies should be guaranteed against loss if they were forced against their will to lay their pipes in these subways.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday, 22nd April.