§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Stansfeld.)
§ MR. FIELDEN
, who had placed an Amendment on the Paper to move, That the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, that he was induced to give that Notice in order to prevent the Government taking up the Bill, which was one of a most important character, at an advanced hour of the night, when it would be impossible to discuss its provisions. He, therefore, trusted that the Government would not exert the power at their back by taking advantage of a thin House, at a late hour of the night, for the mere purpose of advancing the progress of important Bills like the one under notice. Full time and opportunity ought to be given to the House for the discussion of all such questions. With regard to this Particular measure, another reason why it ought to be discussed in a full House was because the country had not realized fully its provisions. The Bill had been recently discussed at meetings at Ashton-under-Lyne, Leeds, and other places, and much fault found with its provisions. Although it was not his intention to take he sense of the House on that stage of the Bill as to its rejection, he wished to call attention to several points of it to which he would offer every resistance in Committee. His first complaint was, the great power which it proposed to give to the Local Government Board to deal with matters of a local character. It appeared to him that unless the interest 851 of the local authorities was enlisted in the affairs of their own locality, they would never be found willing properly to discharge the duties imposed upon them. It might be said that local authorities were not always efficient; but if there was one means more likely than another to reduce their efficiency, it was the continual interference of a strict central authority. Such control would inevitably create dissatisfaction, and drive the most influential and most competent men from local boards. He also contended—considering the social habits and varied interests of the people in different parts of the country—that it would be impossible to carry out one unform system for all localities. What would work well in Devonshire might altogether fail in Lancashire. Again, what would be applicable to Sussex would, in all probability, fail to work well in Yorkshire. The endeavour of the central authority should be to lay down sound general principles and leave details to the local authority, although the local authority might not do the work as well as could be desired. If the local authority failed to act in accordance with the general principles laid down, and refused to do its duty, let it be summoned before the judicial authority and made to carry out the law; let the local authority be encouraged to cultivate an independent spirit, and to bear itself as if it were an authority, and not the mere instrument of a central department. He cordially concurred in the object of the measure. The public health of the masses of the people was of the most vital importance to the nation; and if they could secure that health by any means recognizing local authority, and without destroying local effort, no price would be too dear to pay for such a result, because sickness among the labouring classes not only threw a burden on others, but reduced the fund of wealth-producing power in the country. He was, therefore, as earnest as his right hon. Friend to promote or preserve the public health of this country, and it was in no spirit of opposition to the aim the Government had in view that he made those criticisms on the measure. He must repeat that he objected to the centralizing clauses, which seemed to him to override the authority of the district boards; for the 24th clause forbade the adoption of the Act without the 852 authority of the Local Government Board, and the 31st clause gave the Board power to repeal, alter, or amend any local Acts. Surely that was too large a power to give to any department.
§ MR. STANSFELD
pointed out that that would be done by Provisional Order, which would require the confirmation of Parliament before it could operate.
§ MR. FIELDEN
said, that was very true; but everyone knew that Provisional Order Confirmation Bills were generally passed at 2 in the morning, and that when they were questioned, opposition was not received with very good grace by the Treasury bench. An instance of that had occurred in the case of the Provisional Orders relating to tramways last year. Some amendment was needed, too, in the definition of "pollution of streams and rivers," for the clause as it stood at present would need a whole army of Inspectors to carry it out; while, as far as Lancashire and Yorkshire were concerned, he believed that such a clause, if enacted, would have the effect of shutting up and stopping all the manufactories, and he was satisfied that that clause must be swept out of the Bill altogether. It must not be forgotten that manufactories were the great source of the country's wealth, and that when the question of pollution was considered, the evils of pollution should be weighed against the value of our manufactories. But the Local Government Board did not appear to be satisfied with the definition of pollution contained in the Bill, stringent as it was. It asked for powers to increase the stringency of the definition as to what constituted pollution, and proposed to do this on the advice of an Inspector, who, perhaps, had gained his experience in another part of the country. That was an arbitrary power which should not be given; nor should the Board have power to delegate its authority, as proposed by another clause, to individuals in the locality, who would probably be busy-bodies more often than not. The Bill also dealt with the water supply, and drainage, and the sewage pollution of rivers; matters which were very little understood, and upon which the country was not yet prepared for legislation. The clauses of the Bill which dealt with the question of the sewage pollution of rivers ran counter to the whole spirit of the local authorities of the country, who 853 were not satisfied that any measure had yet been proposed which contained within itself a solution of the difficulty. As to the clauses relating to ashes being thrown into the rivers, there was no doubt that ashes did, by their deodorizing power, purify the water into which they were cast; but he questioned whether their influence for good in that direction was not more than counterbalanced by the evil they accomplished in filling up the beds of rivers. The uniform character of the Bill was, in his opinion, another point likely to prove fatal to its usefulness. In some valley districts of the West Riding of Yorkshire it would be found absolutely impossible to carry such a measure into practice. They were told that they must throw their sewage matter on the land, and must permit it to filter through the soil before allowing the liquid to flow into the river. But the valleys to which he had referred were almost gorges; the mills being in some cases built right in by the side of the rocks, and there were no means of carrying out any such system of sewage as that in vogue at Croydon and other places. He had, without being moved by any feeling of general hostility to the Bill, endeavoured to lay before the House the views which he had arrived at by practical experience, and by a consideration of the question extending over many years. While he should be glad to render all the assistance in his power in the consideration of the important clauses for the supply of water and of gas, and for the cleansing of cottages, with a view to the passage of a measure which in these respects was calculated to promote the welfare of the community, he thought that if the right hon. Gentleman did not remove from his Bill the clauses relating to the pollution of rivers, there was a great risk of the measure being stopped in its progress through Parliament; and if it escaped the danger which thus threatened it, and became law, it would prove a dead letter in its application to many districts of the country.
§ DR. LYON PLAYFAIR
The new Conservative motto which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) has given to his party—Sanitas sanitatum, omnia sanitas—does not appear to be a very stimulating cry, if we are to judge by the state of the Opposition benches. I agree, 854 however, with the right hon. Gentleman that the health of the population ought to be one of the most serious questions which can engage the attention of the Legislature. If any hon. Member, by way of preparation for this debate, has seriously attacked the 15 main Acts and 10 subsidiary Acts which form our sanitary legislation since 1848, he will appreciate the labours of the two right hon. Gentlemen (Mr. Stansfeld and Sir Charles Adderley), whose Bills are before us this evening. The Government Bill deals mainly with administrative construction of authorities; while that of the President of the Royal Sanitary Commission chiefly relates to the consolidation of sanitary law. Undoubtedly sanitary legislation cannot be satisfactory until the disjointed members of its past enactments are brought together by a consolidating law. But as last year we established a central sanitary administration, it will be some advance if this year we organize a provincial administration of health. The country may not be conquered by such a proceeding; but if after having built the citadel, we surround it with outworks, we certainly add to the strength of our position. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley) has force in his objection, when he says that the Government Bill only adds another law to laws already too numerous. But the proposed law is devoted to the formation of local administrative structures, which either do not exist at all or have fallen into a ruinous condition. So if we pass with Amendments the 90 clauses of the Bill of the President of the Local Government Board this Session, we shall do a good work, and can come with increased zest next year to the 437 clauses of the Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire. Last Session we united into one Board the central administration for Poor Law and Health Law. There was ample justification for our doing so; because Franklin's celebrated aphorism—"Public health is public wealth" has a deep meaning. Health and poverty, in their public relations, are connected by an inverse ratio, for as the one augments, the other diminishes. This Bill, like the Act of last year, maintains the association, though not always consistently. Thus, though the Guardians of the Poor in the country districts become 855 the sanitary authorities, the ordinary civic authorities in towns assume the health functions. Outside this House the President of the Local Government Board has been much censured for this difference; but, though it lacks uniformity, it is practically necessary and convenient. Large towns are the characteristic features of this country, and form the urgent motive for speedy sanitary legislation. At the beginning of the century only about 50 towns exceeded a population of 10,000; now 192 do so. Then there was no town in England and Wales, except London, which had upwards of 100,000 inhabitants; now there are 17 of these teeming cities. You cannot treat such large towns as these, except through their own civic authorities, for they have outgrown management by parishes. Those towns increase by 18 per cent in population every 10 years, and require vigorous sanitary administration to keep them in order. Take the case of London as an illustration. We have spent enormous sums in metropolitan sewerage, and yet a ring of houses has grown round and external to it, with a population of 630,000, and which has increased 50 per cent in 10 years; and the whole of this outside ring has no sanitary purification for its extended area. You cannot deal with such concentrated accretions of population by a mere parochial system adequate enough for rural districts. No doubt the creation of separate urban authorities lands us in some singular anomalies. The "local Board districts" are to be made urban, and yet nearly 200 of them have populations under 3,000. But then, if they do not perform urban duties with efficiency, they may be dissolved and merged by the 76th clause of the Bill. The rural Boards which are created by this Bill have less power than the urban Boards. But they have to combat evils of less magnitude. Rural districts have, on the average, a death-rate of 15 in 1,000; while towns have one of 24 in 1,000. Though rural districts increase in population absolutely more slowly than towns, still they do so at a greater ratio. For while the towns between 1851 and 1861 increased 19 per cent in population, between 1861 and 1871 they augmented only 18 per cent; in other words, the ratio of increase had rather diminished. But in the first period country districts had increased 4 per 856 cent in population, while in the second period it had augmented by 7 per cent. That rapid rate of increase shows that some transforming causes must be in operation, and these clearly are, that hamlets become villages, and villages are transformed into towns. I now turn to the Bill of my right hon. Friend at the head of the Local Government Board, to see whether he has grasped this fact, and I find that his 25th clause amply provides for rural Boards being changed into urban Boards. So, after testing in various ways whether the Bill has been well considered, I come to the conclusion that it has, and deserves from us a general support. My right hon. Friend may be surprised to hear this from me, for it has been my duty to introduce to him various influential deputations from important associations, which have not expressed unmixed satisfaction with his labours; and I reserve to myself the right of moving or supporting certain Amendments in Committee. The influential sanitary associations to which I have alluded have especially urged on my right hon. Friend the desirability of having an intermediate county authority between the central administration and the local Boards. I admit at once that a county is not a natural area either for sanitary or Poor Law administration. As a fact, out of 650 Unions 200 overlap county boundaries. Nor are drainage areas coincident with them. Nevertheless, counties are popular divisions, and were recognized as such in the Bill formerly introduced by the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Goschen), when he was at the head of the Poor Law Department. The main advantage of such a large area as a county for local administration is, that by it we could secure a much higher class of medical officers of health and of engineers than we can attain by small areas. The appointment of medical officers of health is one of the most important parts of the measure. It provides that they are to be appointed both by urban and rural Boards, and it suggests that the supply may most readily be had from the class of Poor Law medical officers. They are to be appointed and wholly paid by urban Boards, who may dismiss them at pleasure; but rural Boards, being aided in payment by the Government, can only dismiss them with its consent. These medical officers have most important 857 duties to perform—duties which require much special knowledge, much firmness, and thorough independence. They have to inspect the sanitary conditions of factories and schools, of streets and thoroughfares, and of the dwellings or lodging-houses of the labouring classes. They have to keep a watchful eye on the working of the main and house sewerage. They are to look after all nuisances likely to affect public health. They must attack the wealthy manufacturer when he pollutes the river with the refuse of his works; and they must equally remonstrate with their own masters—the civic authorities—when they pour the sewage of the town into the stream, regardless of those who live lower down in its course. They have to search out nuisances in dwellings—from the defective drain in the palace, which breeds fever, to the accumulations in the dust-bins of the cottage, which poisons the air around it. They have to watch the markets, from the shambles of the wealthy butcher to the stall or barrow of the poor costermonger. In fact, they have everywhere to track out disease, associate it with its causes, and watch not only the death-rates, but the variations of sickness among the population. The medical officer is, in fact, a public inquisitor, requiring much knowledge and tact in the execution of his duties. Who are the sinners to be delivered over to this public inquisitor? The vestryman butcher who sells diseased meat at his shambles; the vestryman cottage-owner who has ill-constructed cottages for the poor; the town councillor who has his mills on the streams; these are the men who sin against health, and they are the people who appoint, pay, and dismiss the inquisitor of their sins. And to what class of medical men does the Bill look to for so much knowledge and independence? To the Poor Law medical officers. That is a meritorious, hard-worked, and poorly-paid class of medical men; but they are already borne down by the extent of their curative duties. If you add extensive preventive duties to these, and even pay them well for the new work—though the Bill is by no means explicit as to payment—what chance is there that both the curative and the preventive functions will be efficiently executed? It would have been possible, by uniting local districts into a county area, to have secured the services 858 of a medical man who relinquished the cure of disease in order to have no conflict between the interests of his patients and those of the public; for a medical man must be well paid to secure independence of action when he devotes his whole time to the health of communities instead of to the health of individuals. But the Bill does not offer us such independent officers of health. Still I hope that the President of the Local Government Board will admit that our reasons for wishing them are strong, and that in Committee he will introduce Amendments, in order to assure us that the officers appointed will possess, or will soon acquire, knowledge of the health of communities, because that is a very different thing from the health of individuals. For though it is true that the health of a community depends upon all the moments of health of the individuals constituting it, still no single individual has within his own power the regulation of his own health, irrespective of the co-operation of the public; and the knowledge requisite to elicit the action of individuals upon communities, and the reflex action of communities on individuals, forms the subject of hygeine, which requires long and patient study, as it is altogether outside, and is rarely embraced in the training of a medical man for the curative art. If I have made myself intelligible, it follows that three conditions are required for the efficient performance of the duty of a medical officer of health. First, knowledge of public health; second, experience in the application of that knowledge; and, third, independence of all local vested interests. Now, I regret to say that not one of these conditions is to be found in the scheme of this Bill. I hope, at least, that the Amendments of the Bill will offer a better position and pay to such Poor Law medical officers as study and pass examinations in the subject of hygeine. Unless that is done, it does not require a prophet to foretell the failure of this important section of the Bill. The fact that there is no security for knowledge and experience of public health in the local officers to be appointed renders it doubly necessary that we should scan the relations which are to subsist between the local and central administrative powers. When we passed the Local Government Act last Session, at early hours in the morning, there 859 were not wanting warnings, among our unreported debates, that these relations must be closely watched. As the principle of this Bill is to discard the intermediate county authority, and to bring the local Boards in immediate and direct relations with the central Board, we ought to know how that is to be effected. The Bill gives us no explanation, possibly for the reason that the Act of last year gave powers for the appointment of Inspectors and other officers required by the central Board. These, in fact, become an absolute necessity, because as local medical officers need not under this Bill possess knowledge of public health, and certainly cannot have independence of action, they must be used chiefly as collectors of information, which must be digested and made useful to the public through central agencies. This centralization of local duties is a misfortune. It crops up in various parts of the Bill. Thus, in the 64th clause, the Local Government Board offers, and sometimes enjoins itself, to be analytical chemist for the whole of England. They invite "purchasers of any article of food or drink" in the provinces to send their articles for examination to London. They insist that potable waters and the waters of polluted streams shall be analysed as the central Board directs. This is a serious matter, for it not only affects the responsibilities of local Boards, but also the interests of science. There are few towns in the kingdom in which well-qualified analysts do not exist. Take, for example, Manchester and Newcastle. Surely an analysis executed in the laboratory of Owen's College in Manchester, or in that of the Newcastle School of Science, will be as good as one made in a London laboratory. Why should Manchester men and Newcastle men be invited to distrust their local science, when it is sufficient? Take what securities you choose for analytical efficiency in localities, but encourage rather than discourage local laboratories for local purposes. Over-centralization is always injurious, for it weakens local administration; and centralization of science is pernicious, because it prevents the diffusion and stunts the development of science in the provinces. When we see such a marked confusion in this mixture of central and local administration, you will not be surprised that we desire to know in what way the central and local 860 functions are to be correlated in regard to medical officers of health. The rule is plain enough that national objects should be treated nationally, and that local objects should be treated locally. The diffusion throughout the provinces of all science bearing on the health of the people should be the object of the central Board, not its concentration into a metropolitan focus. I have been obliged to give some criticisms in detail on this important Bill, but I now gladly turn from them to other parts of the measure with which I am in hearty accord. I am glad to find that it deals with the pollution of rivers, for that subject is ripe for legislation in consequence of the labours of the Rivers Pollution Commission. One of the fundamental commandments of the ancient Egyptians was—"Thou shalt not pollute rivers;" and now I trust we are about to make this a new commandment for the modern English, for the want of it has produced intolerable evils. Even in the case of the large river which washes the metropolis, and which supplies us with quasi-potable, and often with unpotable water, 660,000 human beings pour into it their daily excretœ and household garbage, before the Londoners draw it off for water supply. And yet the dirty, foul water of the Thames is purity itself to that of rivers which flow through manufacturing towns. The fact is, that individuals and communities have exercised unmitigated selfishness in regard to all our river courses; for they use them entirely with reference to their own interests, as if those below them in the stream had nothing to do with the flow of water which the bounty of nature has supplied for the use of all. And they profess to believe that the complaints of those lower than themselves in the stream are utterly unreasonable. They are the wolves who foul and muddy the stream, and who growl at the innocent lambs below, if they raise their meek eyes in complaint of their misdoings. I trust that my right hon. Friend will be firm with this part of the Bill, though its chemical language and scientific terms may appear pedantic to Members who may not have studied the Report of the Royal Commission on the Pollution of Rivers. The merit in this, as in all other parts of the Bill, is that it involves positive instead of a laissez faire legislation. 861 Formerly, our sanitary legislation was permissive. A local authority might adopt this or that Act if it were willing; and often it was most unwilling. Now, this Bill recognizes the right of every inhabitant of the kingdom to have pure air, pure water, and pure soil. I have said that the ancient Egyptians inculcated as a religious duty the protection of rivers from pollution; and Moses, who was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, extended his sanitary laws to the air and to the soil as well as to water. Hippocrates also made these three subjects the foundation of one of his chief works. And yet here we are, with the world some thousand years older, about to enact, for the first time, compulsorily, instead of permissively, these ancient laws for the protection of our teeming populations. It would be a most unwise and responsible action for any of us, because we differ in some points of detail, to refuse our support to a measure which is based on the Report of a Royal Commission, and has received careful and honest consideration from the Government. The main requirements of sanitary law are comprehended in two words—cleanliness and ventilation. If this Bill obtain these, it accomplishes its end. The attainment is not an impossibility. If we could only secure to the homes of the working classes the same conditions of cleanliness and ventilation that we now give to the felon in the cell of his prison, at least eight years of working life and enjoyment would be added to the lives of our industrial population. The great evil with which they have to contend is not the increased risk of dying, but the certainty of living under the influence of depressing agencies, which often make labour pain and life a burden. Yet these agencies are all removable; and as this Bill will certainly remove many of them, I hope soon to see it become law.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that on that occasion, he regretted not only the deficient attendance on his own side of the House, but the general deficiency of attendance on one of the most important subjects which could come before Parliament. He had long been convinced that some legislation of the kind was an absolute necessity in the rural districts, and he was glad that the Government were determined to deal 862 with the question in a bona fide manner; and, further, he had himself attempted to procure the passing of a measure which would give some vitality to local bodies, and enable them to carry out Acts which, in consequence of their being only permissive in their nature, they had hitherto never enforced. The Bill of his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board proposed to make the Poor Law Guardians the sanitary authority; but he feared that they were already overburdened with the relief of the poor and the assessment of property, and that their energies would be overtaxed if they had to deal with drainage, water, hospital arrangements, and the purification of villages. Boards of Guardians would be looked on with greater jealousy than a more strictly local body, and the Bill would be improved if committees to take the initiatory steps in the various parishes were engrafted on it. Persons elected by the ratepayers might act on the committees in undertaking the initiatory work of inspection and registration, leaving further steps to the legal or medical officers of the Board of Guardians. Local knowledge would thus be secured, and local jealousy avoided. He should, therefore, at the proper time, propose Amendments in this sense. As to sewer, and other appeals, the Bill proposed that they should be treated like assessment appeals. He could not see how that would work, for sewer rates were made on a different system to poor rates and did not come before the assessment committees. He hoped the Bill would make compulsory the appointment of a public analyst in each district, for such an officer would not only be useful with regard to existing, but to prospective, legislation. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would inform him how under this Bill village hospitals would be treated? His own opinion was, that they would be very much interfered with by clauses of the Bill.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he was of opinion that this measure would be warmly welcomed in the rural districts, especially in the North of England; and he hoped that while care was taken to purify the waters of the rivers, some attention would also be given to our lakes, which were much more polluted than they ought to be; otherwise they might find that manufacturers, driven 863 from the banks of the streams, might fix themselves on the borders of the lakes and pour their refuse into them. At the same time, he did not wish to see the manufacturers too hardly pushed, and would point out that it was not in all cases in which acids were mixed with water that it rendered them noxious, as evinced by the fact that, in some recent experiments, a medical gentleman drank without hesitation water which contained a much larger infusion of muriatic acid than was sent into streams by factories, and which was proscribed by the 33rd clause, and yet he declared it not only perfectly healthy, but pleasant. He would also point out the fact that it was impossible to raise iron and other metals from mines without pumping out the water and tinging the various streams in the neighbourhood of mines—red hematite ore, for instance, which in rainy weather tinged all the streams. They must be careful that they did not attempt to accomplish too much, for if they did most assuredly the measure would fail. He was also of opinion that the clause conferring powers to close houses as unfit for human habitation might be usefully extended to Ireland.
§ MR. DIMSDALE
, being exceedingly anxious that the Bill should pass into law that Session, said, he gave a general approval to the measure, and deprecated many Amendments being made in Committee. With that view, he therefore hoped that hon. Members who had objections to the clauses would state them at once, in order that the Minister might modify them where it was possible, previously to going into Committee. His own observations would be confined to three points—the improvement of labourers' dwellings, the pollution of rivers, and the constitution of the best conceivable moral authority. With regard to the first point, the 49th clause would, he thought, meet most of the difficulties connected with the improvement of labourers' cottages, seeing that it enabled two magistrates to close any house found to be unfit for human habitation. The Artizans and Labourers' Dwellings Act had done much good, in spite of the clause confining its operation to towns with a population of more than 10,000 persons, and some of its provisions might simply be transferred to this measure—especially the clause which enabled any four or more house-holders, 864 by laying an information in writing, to secure the inspection of any premises which they considered to be unfit for human habitation. Although he did not approve of all that had lately been said with regard to the agricultural labourers, or the character of the movement that was taking place among them, yet he was far from saying that as a class they had not some cause to complain; and if the dwellings of many of them could be raised from their present wretched state that would be a most beneficial improvement, and one for which they would have good reason to be thankful to the right hon. Gentleman. As regarded the pollution of rivers, about three weeks ago he had an opportunity of introducing to the notice of the House a special grievance of the villages and towns on the banks of the Lea, and he had the satisfaction of having been supported by every hon. Gentleman connected with the district. There were two suggestions made by them on that occasion, which were frankly and fairly met by the right hon. Gentleman, for which, on behalf of his constituents, he begged to tender his respectful thanks. In the first place, they asked for an appeal to the central authority, and that was given by the 31st clause of the Bill. The second suggestion was that there should be a fixed standard of purity. The first was an important point; but the second was still more important, for the difficulty was that they did not know to what expense they flight be put in their part of the country. Bearing upon it, the 89th clause of the Bill said that all powers given under it should be deemed to be in addition to, and not in derogation of, powers exercised under other Acts, thus making one great objection to the Bill, that it proposed new legislation before consolidating existing Acts; and until that was done people would not know to what legislation they were subjected. In this case, those who dwelt in the valley of the Lea would not know whether they would be under this new measure or under the old Lea Conservancy Act. Under the old Act there was no standard of purity, and they did not know to what to conform; he had, therefore, given Notice that at a future stage he should move the introduction of words which would bring them under the operation of this measure. It was curious enough 865 that two different standards of purity had been laid down by two different Commissions; the one was to be found in the Report on the Purification of Rivers, the other in that on the Water Supply; and the latter he, and those whom he represented, preferred. That standard was approved by Dr. Letheby, and other high authorities. He had received that morning a letter from Dr. Letheby, stating that the Public Health Bill of the Government was unworkable as regarded the standard of purity. At Stortford, situated on the borders of Hertfordshire and Essex, he was informed that, though the inhabitants had laid out £20,000 in dealing with their sewage by means of irrigation, it would be impossible to render the effluent return sufficiently pure to comply with the standard of purity contained in Clause 33 of the Bill. He proposed to raise the question in a definite shape when they should get into Committee, by proposing to substitute the standard laid down by the Water Supply Commission, which had been guaranteed as sufficient and efficient by the eminent chemists Dr. Letheby and Dr. Odling. Dr. Frankland had also said that if we wished to make the waters of all the rivers and streams throughout the country potable, he did not think this standard would be sufficient; but that it would, if our object was to make them safe as regarded the health of the people. He agreed with the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) that Boards of Guardians would not be proper persons to act as sanitary bodies, because they would be likely to look at matters from a purely economical point of view, and with little consideration for the health of the people. If a health committee, consisting of two or three persons, were elected by the ratepayers, it would be very much better. It would be also very desirable to have an intermediate authority in the shape of a county Board between the local Board and the central authority; and it was very important to establish union districts for drainage purposes and to prevent the pollution of rivers. Conservancy Boards, he thought, from the narrowness of their constituent parts generally worked badly, and it was desirable to give a fair representation to all the communities which were interested in the water-shed of particular rivers. The points he had mentioned were of 866 great importance, and if the right hon. Gentleman would turn his attention to them, he hoped that a most useful reform might be carried out, and a boon granted to the working classes, which would convince them that Parliament was not neglecting their interests.
§ DR. LUSH
agreed with those who desired that the Bill should become law during the present Session. His chief objections to the measure might be stated in Committee; but he could not help feeling that it threw a heavy responsibility on the members of his own profession, while it did not secure to them a position of adequate honour or emolument. As to Boards of Guardians, looking at their education and other requisites, he did not think they ought to be intrusted with the authority given to them by the Bill. He had been a medical officer of a Board of Guardians, and as such had represented the deficient sanitary condition of the district under his charge; but on no occasion whatever was any representation of his ever properly attended to. He did not believe that since that time Guardians had improved in their moral sense or their attention to the sanitary wants of their several districts; and, as a rule, they were rather elected for their power of refusing relief to the poor than for their fitness in carrying out sanitary improvements. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would consider whether these persons were the best representatives of the public he could find for the purpose of carrying out this Bill; and he spoke the voice of members of his own profession generally, when he said that medical men were entirely dissatisfied with that portion of the measure. Then, again, the nomination of the sanitary inspectors devolved upon the Guardians, who were also the authorities for paying these inspectors; and there was reason to believe that, instead of selecting persons outside the sphere of their own influence, they would nominate the medical officers of their several districts, and there was nothing in the Bill which required the Guardians to pay those officers for the new duties thus devolving on them. Moreover, they would be mere servants of the Boards, and would have no power to carry out the sanitary works they thought necessary. Again, he did not like the distinction between urban and 867 rural authorities. The two sets of authorities must frequently come into collision, especially in the outskirts of boroughs, and the Bill contained no provision by which their respective powers might be blended in such cases. In a city or borough under proper municipal control, the sanitary arrangements might be excellent; yet around it there might be a district built over, or partly built over, with hardly any sanitary provision. As to the proposed system of inspection by the central authority, he wished to know whether it would include experts specially nominated, or was to be carried on by Poor Law Inspectors with their medical associates. In the latter case the beneficial result attained would be very small. It was highly desirable that a proper spirit should be infused into the local authorities from above, and this could only be done by a system of thorough inspection.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he was no opponent to the Bill; but, on the contrary, wished to give effectual assistance, as far as he could do so, not only in the passing of the Bill, but in working it afterwards; and he could not help regretting that a measure dealing with so serious a social question should meet with so inadequate a reception in that House. Urban and rural districts being already treated differently, he thought it would have been unwise had the Bill attempted to deal with them under one head. He remarked in the Bill the omission of any provision as to allowances from the Government. In almost all instances it was stated what amount the Government was prepared to advance, and he hoped to hear some explanation on that point. Then there would also be a difficulty on the question of the authority; for as to the sanitary authority in towns, there was no alternative but to make the best of a bad case; but the rural districts, however, presented almost a tabula rasa, and there was no reason for selecting an existing body, if a better could be devised. He had just attended a large conference of Poor Law Guardians of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, and he could assure the House that they strongly objected to functions being thrown on them for which they were not elected, and which, if faithfully performed, would bring them into collision with their neighbours. The requirements 868 necessary to be considered in constituting the authority were a sufficient area, that suitable duties should be imposed upon it, that there should be a uniform practice throughout the whole district, and that it should be an independent local authority that could be trusted. With regard to the first, the Poor Law Unions were an area of insufficient size, and the Guardians were not suitable persons to be charged with these duties. Next he might state that the Bill gave enormous powers to the central government; it broke down the independence of local authorities, and sapped the foundation of local government. Failure in the working of the Act was clearly contemplated, and in case of default the central government would be able to seize all the power, to make bye-laws, to take charge of the local moneys, to make rates, and to mortgage them in reference to executing new works; and all that would be done upon the authority of their own inspector. And as he understood the Bill, the orders of the central authority could be enforced by a rule of the Court of Queen's Bench, on a summary application, without giving the local authorities any room for showing cause against it. [Mr. STANSFELD: It is not the case.] He was glad to find that was not so. Still, he regarded that as an attempt on the part of the Government to seize powers which did not belong to them, and to place the powers of the local boards in the hands of an irresponsible authority, such as they had an instance of in the French Préfect, M. Janvier de la Motte. He was surprised that the Commission which sat for four years did not adopt the local authority which was before provided under the Cattle Diseases Act. That authority, which was composed of justices of the peace, must be at least as competent for the purposes of this Bill as it was for the purposes of the Cattle Diseases Act. Under that Act the local authorities were armed with all the necessary powers to carry out the law, and provision was also made which enabled them to delegate to committee or committees all or any of the powers conferred on the local authority themselves, except the power of making a rate; and he could bear personal testimony to the fact that, though the necessities of the case then were terrible, the Act worked with perfect smoothness from 869 beginning to end, and without a single hitch. His desire was, that the present Bill should go to a Select Committee, in order to ascertain what was the best possible form of rural sanitary authority that could be set up. He had no hostility to the Bill at all; but he did not wish to see the measure passed in a form which would give nothing but dissatisfaction, and, therefore, should not now oppose the present stage of the Bill, but when the proper time came, he should move that it be referred to a Select Committee.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, that while an advocate of the principle of local government, and an opponent of anything like centralization, he could not agree to the suggestion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, for the subject was of such vital importance that it ought to be discussed in Committee of the Whole House. The only fear he had in legislating on the subject was lest they should be too precipitate in any resolution they might come to. He remembered the lesson taught by the unfortunate Health of Towns Act, which was passed in 1847, and which required the people to carry out certain measures at a vast expense, which very measures they were now called upon to upset, and he hoped that in the legislation which the House was now called upon to undertake they would proceed more carefully, and be guided more by common sense than by impulse, for there was no doubt that great ignorance prevailed upon the subject, and that when one person proposed what he thought would effect a great improvement in sanitary affairs, there was not wanting others to jump up and say it was the greatest mistake conceivable. There were several clauses in the Bill as it stood which he thought would be impracticable, and many alterations would be required in them. With regard to vesting what he might call the suburban power in Boards of Guardians, he thought Boards of Guardians were very doubtful bodies to whom to intrust such authority, as they were principally composed of well-meaning but semi-educated men, many of whom were very narrow-minded. He would also suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should put into his Bill certain clauses for the purpose of guarding against the adulteration of articles of food, and thereby prevent the people 870 from being cheated by a number of nefarious rascals. The Bill would require careful consideration, which he trusted the House would give to it, so that it might become a lasting Act of the Legislature.
§ SIR CHARLES ADDERLEY
said, that as the Bill was based on the Report of the Committee over which he had presided, he naturally wished to promote the passage of the Bill through the second reading as speedily as possible, and he believed that nobody would be supported who attempted to call in question the main proposition of the Bill—that the sanitary laws stood urgently in need of reform. When one considered the needlessly excessive mortality shown to exist in the country, the debilitated condition of great numbers of workmen, and the discomfort and demoralization to which almost all were subjected by a grossly neglected sanitary condition, it was impossible for that House to oppose or impede, on its general principle, a proposition brought forward by the Government to ameliorate that state of things. Some might prefer one plan, some another; but all agreed something must be done. He would not impede the progress of the Bill, therefore, by referring any more to his own preference for the immediate consolidation of the sanitary laws; for he believed that consolidation to be inevitable, and not likely to be delayed more than another year. The Consolidation Bill, called the Public Health and Local Government Bill, which stood last on the Paper of Business for that night, had been called a rudis indigestaque moles, and so he admitted it to be, for it was only a collection in totidem verbis of the existing sanitary Acts; and the Commission of which he was a Member left the phraseology unchanged, because they were aware of the danger of altering words on which legal decisions had been given. That Bill formed a useful collection of the whole law on the subject, omitting repetitions, reconciling contradictions, and making a few amendments and additions. The Government draftsmen could simplify the language; and he trusted that when he moved the second reading, the House would assent. To return to the measure now under discussion. It was much simplified by having for its sole object the improvement of local administration. The object 871 of the Act of last year was to concentrate the central supervision, which up to that time had been scattered through several Departments of the State. It had thus disposed of all questions about centralization, and it had done this so as not to give the State any power to undertake the local administration of the country; but to stimulate local administration where it was stagnant, and to give assistance when assistance was needed. This Bill would cover the whole country with some responsible local administration, and nearly all the objections raised to it referred to matters of detail to be discussed on the clauses in Committee. Of the three parts into which the Bill might be divided, the first and most material made it uniformly imperative that there should be responsible local government everywhere; the second enabled the local authorities to combine for larger than merely district purposes; and the third improved and completed some of the particular provisions for local government, which the experience of the last few years had shown to be imperfect. The first point, however—the universal provision of responsible local government—was the main principle of the Bill which they were now called upon to pass through a second reading; and nobody would hesitate to affirm that they ought not to go on with our present partial provision for local government, leaving it to the option of every part of the country, whether it would undertake the responsibilities of local government; or that they ought not to leave local administration stagnant, while the health and comfort of the people were sacrificed. It would be better to go backward rather than not to go forward. It would be a weak but intelligible proposition to sweep away the ineffectual system which they had: to complete that which they had was an intelligible and intelligent proposition, while it was neither to propose to leave things as they were, and to do nothing. The main principle of the Bill was the utilizing of existing machinery, the immediate provision of it where none existed, and the consolidation of authority where confusion existed; and recognizing that principle, corporate towns and localities having local authority under Private Bills would retain the powers which they now possessed; but towns having no such machinery 872 would have to obtain it by electing local boards. With regard to country places where hitherto certain functions had been referred to the Vestries, and others to Boards of Guardians, it would be enacted that the Guardians should be the responsible bodies, and upon that last provision objections had been raised. These objections were, that the Boards of Guardians would not make good rural sanitary authorities, and that the rural and urban powers of government should not be distinct. What the Commissioners felt after taking much evidence was, that the Board of Guardians was everywhere in existence, and that if they wished to supersede such a Board by some other body, such as a county Board—which must be representative, or it would not be tolerated—such a body had still to be created, and it might take years to create it; while the question would not wait. Even if it were created, it would probably, after all, not be so effective as a Board of Guardians. That Board had gradually become a good body for its own purposes; it in most places intelligently performed its present functions; and in his own county he did not know anything more remarkable than the way in which exercise had educated the Guardians for their duties, and raised them in the scale of effective citizenship. Moreover, at this very time the Guardians discharged many of the functions it was proposed to retain to them, and that was another reason for the proposed establishment of them as the rural sanitary authorities. It would involve the least alteration to adopt them, and the greatest to create a new body. Could it be expected that a county Board would bring its power to bear upon the abatement of a nuisance in a village 30 or 40 miles away from the county town where it would meet? As for its having an executive distributed into district committees, that would involve the multiplication of districts, the number of which was one of the chief objects of the Bill to reduce, for it was desirable not only to utilize, but to economize existing machinery. There was economy, as well as convenience, in taking the union area, and employing the Poor Law officials, instead of creating a new district and new officials. It would be a great point gained in efficient rural administration if all its areas 873 —petty sessional, highway, Poor Law, and sanitary—were made identical. The authorities might act by committees of their own body, or combine for larger purposes; but the unit should be the same for all purposes. As to having the same code of powers for rural and urban authorities, it seemed absurd they should give every village in the country all the powers necessary for managing the streets and houses of a large town, or even of smaller towns. The best way of meeting the difficulty of apportioning powers to requirement was that indicated by the Bill—namely, that when a country district became urban, it should have every facility for assuming urban powers; and, on the contrary, when a place dwindled, as some did by the removal or decline of manufactures, and became a deserted village, it might get rid of its urban powers and responsibilities, and resume those which befitted rural places. The 25th clause opened the second portion of the Bill, and provided that local Boards might unite for larger than district purposes—such as the conservancy of rivers and arterial drainage. To that provision for effective river conservancy, opposition was offered by some of the large towns in Yorkshire, which feared the prevention of polluting rivers would stop their trade. But all that manufacturers were or would be called upon to do was to take all practicable means not to poison air or water; the law did not and would not say that they should do that which was impossible, but that they should not needlessly injure their neighbours; and, as had been truly said, the more Parliament forced them to try all means, the more men had found out that there was a use for almost all supposed refuse, and that in removing an injury to their neighbours, they were actually profiting themselves. Such an objection ought not to stand in the way of a Bill like the one under notice. For many years, he had served in Committees on the subject, and he remembered many manufacturers giving evidence of the impossibility of consuming smoke in their particular case, who were now economizing the fuel they used to poison their neighbours with; and he could tell of Birmingham at this moment rendering doubly noxious its sewage by discharging into it as refuse what was chemically identical with what they were importing from Wales at £5 a ton. He 874 wished the House to observe that the third portion of the Bill—namely, that increasing the powers given to local authorities—was the portion of the Bill to which most particular objection had been made; and though he intended to vote for the second reading of the Bill, he did not say that he was not prepared to attempt Amendments to this part of it in Committee. Some of the objections were good and valid, and he thought Government would have to omit more than one whole clause from the Bill; but then it must be observed that, even if the whole of the third portion were omitted, it would not affect the main principle of the Bill, which in the passage of the rest might remain intact. The new powers, for instance, which were proposed to be conferred on local authorities to prevent adulteration of food, were necessary; but they were not essential to the Bill, and some of the proposed increased powers would bear modification. If, however, every hon. Member expected to be satisfied on every particular point respecting which he felt doubt before the second reading of the Bill, no progress would be made, and we should continue as to sanitary administration, in a state disreputable to a civilized country. He had presented a Petition the other day from the clerks and other officers of the local boards throughout the North of England, stating that there was no clause in the Bill making their appointments permanent, and praying the House, therefore, to reject the Bill, while the medical officers were equally ready to sacrifice the whole object in view if they could get their particular wishes satisfied. They magnified their just complaint of medical inefficiency to such an extent that they would sacrifice all other provisions for the purpose of creating a new staff of medical officers throughout the kingdom. The medical officers of the Poor Law Unions might possibly be improved so as in ordinary cases to suffice as the new officers of health. They would be raised to a higher level, and would probably have larger pay, and become the very body these medical gentlemen sought for in a needless creation of many thousands of new officials. The hon. Member (Mr. Corrance) had on the Paper a Motion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. The spécialité of his hon. Friend was a love of inquiry; he seemed to be "ever 875 learning and never coming to the truth;" but if he was not satisfied after the exhaustive inquiry which had been made in this question, when would he be? When hon. Members, however, took up a subject newly, they were sometimes too apt to disregard all that had been done before, and to create more reams of blue books, and choke the Library only with reiterated inquiries. There was the financial difficulty, with regard to which it was said that the Bill would throw greater charges upon the local rates. Now he, for one, felt quite convinced that the present incidence of local rates was partial and unsatisfactory, and he sympathized with the objections to increase local rates in their present unsatisfactory arrangement. But that was not a valid objection to the present Bill. In the first place, he denied that there would be any increased charge upon the local rates in consequence of the Bill; for the probability was exactly the other way—that the Bill would result in a considerable economy, by a consolidation and utilization of machinery, and still more by improving the public health, the neglect of which was the chief cause of burdens on the rates. Generally, it was found that parishes most heavily burdened with rates were those in which disease was most rife through the neglect of sanitary arrangements. If, however, there was to be any increased outlay under the Bill, it must be voluntarily incurred, and the advantage of the outlay would be thus confessed by those who incurred it. No doubt some charges were to be made imperative; but they were new charges upon points on which the existing law was found defective and injurious, by deficient provision, to the public health, and the outlay in such cases would be a remunerative outlay. The question of incidence of rates was swallowed up in the prospect of great remuneration. All points of detail must be discussed in Committee, and must receive very careful attention. The details of the Bill might be materially improved; but of all objections which had been brought against Government, he did not think that blame could be one for hastiness in bringing forward the measure. If they were to be blamed, it was rather for the long delay, and lukewarm pressure by which they had allowed measures of very inferior importance to stand in the 876 way of reform of the present condition of our sanitary laws.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, he must admit that the Government were acting wisely in following the suggestions of the Commission, and in adopting the Boards of Guardians as the local authority to carry out the Bill. As to the Commission, he believed no body of men who ever sat had devoted more precious time to their work, or had laboured more indefatigably in the public service. The services rendered by the medical Members of the Commission were beyond all praise. As a Member of that Commission, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Adderley) had devoted himself to the work with great self-sacrifice, and that work would not be forgotten. While he believed that the Government had acted wisely in selecting Boards of Guardians to carry out the Bill, the House must in no degree lose sight of the serious imperfections of those Boards. In the first place, ex officio members, who at first used to apply themselves zealously in helping to administer the Poor Law, now, as a rule, were lax in their attendance, because they were not direct representatives of the ratepayers, and felt themselves to be in a false position. In the next place, the Boards were far too numerous. When they consisted of 60 or 80 farmers or small tradesmen, the attendance was generally very slack and irregular; and not only that, but upon a critical occasion, instead of being influenced by the best minds at the Board, they followed like sheep the lead of some bell-wether. In conclusion, he recommended the adoption of some system such as existed in Ireland, of the formation of electoral districts of a reasonable size, so that one farmer who happened to farm a whole district, or the clergyman of the parish, should not be the only men capable of serving the office.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he wished to call attention to some points in reference to the Bill. He believed that the present deficiency of energy in carrying into effect sanitary legislation in the country was owing, in a great degree, to the ignorance which prevailed in regard to it—that was, that the authorities intrusted with sanitary regulations were not conscious of the powers that they possessed or of the means of using them. In fact, he must repeat, that although many of them possessed 877 adequate power, and although in towns they had a Press which watched over the interests of the townspeople, yet in the country districts the authorities were not aware of the nature or extent of the authority they possessed. Under these circumstances, he had suggested to the President of the Local Government Board to make a code or digest of existing laws, and circulate that code among the sanitary authorities throughout the country, and unless the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill could see his way to the adoption of that suggestion, he (Mr. G. Hardy) should in Committee feel it to be his duty to propose a clause making it imperative upon the Local Government Board to effect that object. Were that done, not only would the sanitary authorities be educated in a proper manner, but the Way would be paved for introducing a measure which would reconcile conflicting decisions, define the powers of authorities who at present clashed, and bring about the consolidation all persons interested desired. He had reason to believe that such a work was in progress, and he hoped that it would be laid on the Table of the House as soon as possible. He thought there was no doubt that Boards of Guardians as sanitary authorities were in some respects open to the objections raised against them; but the Government was not yet in a position to institute any new authority, and indeed they did not yet pretend to present a complete system of local government, for the highways were not, but should, in his opinion, be under the same authority as dealt with the other matters, as there were a number of nuisances affecting highways that should be under the same authority that dealt with other sanitary affairs. The House, however, should not be in too great a hurry upon this matter, but they should rather educate the Boards of Guardians for sanitary purposes, for any one who had undertaken the introduction of improvements in sanitary matters must have been struck with the ignorance which generally prevailed upon the subject, and struck even with his own ignorance. As had been said by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), immediately one had entered upon a sanitary improvement some one assured him it was the greatest mistake in the world. The 878 form of ventilation which one regarded as perfection was declared by another to be nothing short of suffocation, and an elaborate scheme for the disposal of sewage, which its author thought perfection, would be denounced by a competent critic as a grave mistake; and therefore he must press upon the Government that, for the present, at least, what they were doing must be, to a certain extent, tentative. His right hon. Friend had said the Poor Law Inspectors were competent to carry out this sanitary law. Now, those gentlemen at present had very hard work, especially in the metropolis, not only in reference to workhouses and outdoor relief, but there had been added to their duties the asylums, which required to be looked after with the greatest care. If it were said that they should inspect nuisances as well, it would be impossible that they should discharge all their duties. If, on the other hand, they looked to local authorities to discover local nuisances, they would never get the work done at all, for it would generally be to the interest of those local authorities to be on good terms with their neighbours who were the authors of nuisances; and in most cases the local officers would be disposed not to be too strict with their townsmen. What was wanted, therefore, was some extraneous authority, some Inspector, who would go to the local authority and say—"Here is a case in which you must interfere." The authority inspecting, therefore, he thought, must be an independent authority, having no other object than to secure the public health; and an efficient Inspector of that kind would tend to prevent expense; while an inefficient one would tend to litigation. If the local authority, who might be the guardians, dealt with the case, there would be an end of it; if not, the Local Government Board should be apprised of the fact and step in. He regretted this discussion had occurred in such a small House, but was not surprised to find it so. When the House met on a Thursday and Friday after an adjournment, it was not surprising that the temptation of an additional Saturday and Sunday in the country was sufficient to prevent the most devoted Liberal and the most ardent philanthropist from coming to town in the middle of Easter week. Had this debate arisen before the Vacation, 879 or a week after, it might have been more instructive; but, after all, there was no dispute on the main points at issue. All were convinced that sanitary improvement was required; all were convinced that the Commission which had devoted itself so completely to the task of inquiring into the matter under his right hon. Friend (Sir Charles Adderley) were, in the main, right in their recommendations; all were convinced that there was no possibility of finding any authority in towns other than that provided by the Bill; and as regarded the country districts, those having experience on the subject had freely expressed the conclusions their experience had led them to form upon it. No doubt could exist that the right hon. Gentleman who had introduced the measure would give due weight to the opinions expressed, and be ready in Committee to bring the clauses more into uniformity with each other.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he heartily supported the measure; but in doing so, could not refrain from expressing his regret that no provision had been made for including the metropolis in the operation of the Bill; whereas many of its enactments were even more needed in London than in the provinces. Thus, penalties were imposed by it upon those who offered food for sale unfit for human consumption, and if the people of Birmingham were to be so protected, why not the people of London? Then, again, sanitary authorities in the country were to be compelled to provide ambulances for fever patients; but, in London, this course was still to be optional, although he believed the authorities in the metropolis would much prefer to have this option taken away from them. Hospital authorities, also, were empowered by the Bill to make arrangements with the sanitary authorities for the reception of fever patients; but no such provision was to be found in any Act applicable to the metropolis. Another point of which he desired to remind the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was, that very many persons able to pay for treatment had been treated gratuitously in hospitals erected under the Act passed by the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy), and that there had been no means of compelling such persons to repay the 880 cost of their treatment. It was very advisable that this should be remedied; but no power was to be found in the Bill for this purpose, as far as London was concerned. He trusted those points would be duly considered by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he wished to express his deep sense of obligation to the House for the way they had received the Bill, and he more especially recorded his thanks to the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley) for the generous assistance which, as President of the Sanitary Commission, he had rendered him in reference to this subject. He also felt obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) for the valuable suggestions which he had just made to him. He wished to enter his friendly protest against the remarks which had been made by certain hon. Gentlemen concerning the efficiency of the Boards of Guardians. Now, judged as a whole—as the Local Government Board had an opportunity of judging them—those charges seemed to be the result of a too rapid generalization; and he agreed with much which had fallen from the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Fielden), who had opened this discussion, that Boards of Guardians were to be judged first in reference to their own composition, and that the great object was to secure upon those Boards independent men and men of education, who would take an interest in the affairs which they were called upon to administer. In dealing with them, he (Mr. Bruce) had found almost everything to depend upon the judgment of the Inspector. He had, moreover, always professed himself a believer in local government, and had always insisted that the chief duty of the central authority was to lead, and not to drive, and he had borne that in view when drafting the Bill. The hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair), in his very able and lucid speech, referred to the very large question of organization, which after all was the subject-matter of the Bill. That question might be looked upon from various points of view. They had first to deal with the organization of local sanitary areas, and local sanitary authorities; next, with the organization of the sanitary officers of those authorities; and, 881 lastly, with the connection between the local authorities and their officers and the central authority. In endeavouring to deal with those subjects, his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had introduced a Bill, one object of which was to create parochial councils for the initiation of sanitary business in parishes. On the other hand, there were some hon. Members of the House, and many people out of it—especially those who took a professional view of the matter—who were so anxious that the authorities should have sufficient means to employ and pay the most able administrative officers, that, so far from wishing to go back to the parish, they were not content with the Union, but would adopt the county. Others, again, were of opinion that we ought to have the county as an intermediate body between the local and the central authority. If by an intermediate county authority was meant an authority which should not be an executive body, but should superintend the administration of the Union and stand between it and the Local Government Board, he would not be in favour of the creation of such a body, for it would be merely a multiplication of authorities and a dissipation of centralization. If, on the other hand, what was meant was an executive authority which should take to itself certain functions, which should have certain powers conferred upon it which would be better performed by an authority whose jurisdiction extended over a larger area than the sanitary unit, he, as he had stated on introducing the Bill, was in favour of such an authority. He stated then that the reason why he did not propose to create county Boards was because the boundaries of parishes and Unions did not coincide with the boundaries of counties, and if there was to be such an authority, it would be desirable that the boundaries of the smaller authority should coincide with the boundaries of the greater. But he indicated that when county Boards came to be constituted it appeared to him advisable to confer upon them county functions, such as attention to highways, the conservancy of rivers, and their preservation from pollution. He found in the country that the parish, as a rule, had not performed its duties, for any person acquainted with the sanitary history of the country must be aware that there 882 were great laches on the part of the vestry—that is, of the inhabitants of the parish in vestry assembled. Another objection to the parish as a unit was, that there would be too many units, that the areas would be too small, and that it would be impossible to employ efficient officers. He felt it necessary, therefore, to take a step in advance, and to select the Union; and the reason was, because the Union was an existing and recognized area, an existing and workable authority. He, moreover, agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford that it would be unwise to create a new authority where our object was to simplify authorities. However, by the 25th clause it would be in the power of the Local Government Board to create, as nearly as the difference between the boundaries of Unions and counties would permit, county Boards for any purposes that might be desired, the duties of these Boards being the performance of functions and not merely superintendence. He came now to the organization of their officers, and he must refer here especially to the medical officers. The Bill provided that medical officers of health should be appointed, and it said that the Poor Law medical officers might be the persons. It was objected that the Bill did not carry on the face of it a statement of the organization which it proposed. The answer to that objection was twofold—first, that it was quite unnecessary in a Bill of the kind; all he needed was to take powers; and the second was, that he did not wish absolutely to conclude the question. It was his desire to keep the question as far as possible open until this measure had made some progress in the House, and until he had been enabled to gather the opinions of hon. Gentlemen generally, before he committed himself to an administrative scheme, which must necessarily be one of a tentative character. It would probably have been observed that in the Civil Service Estimates which had been presented he had taken no Vote on Account of augmentations of the staff of sanitary officers. But he would be deceiving the House if he did not state that as the Bill proceeded, as he gained confidence that it would pass, and as he became assured of the precise form in which it would issue from Parliament, it would 883 be his duty to present Supplementary Estimates with the view of providing assistance for the existing staff; and the object of that demand for additional funds would he to start the local sanitary authorities with an efficient and complete staff of central Inspectors. The cost might possibly be greater at the outset than in continuance; but it was absolutely necessary in the interests of the measure that the local authorities should be fairly started. He did not feel called upon at that time to define the precise difference between the several classes of Inspectors. That would be a matter of detail, and to some extent of experiment, and it had better, he thought, be left untouched in the present stage of the Bill. His attention had been called to one or two clauses which he would just touch upon. First, there was the clause which dealt with the question of river pollution, and he would tell the House why that clause appeared precisely in the shape in which it was presented to them, and why it now appeared to him desirable to introduce some modification in it. When he first addressed himself to the consideration of this subject he found nothing more difficult than the clause which dealt with the pollution of rivers. There was, first of all, the question whether it were possible to lay down any table of chemical tests; and then the question, what that test should be. He found that chemists, as well as doctors, differed; and, after due consideration, he had arrived at the conclusion that he had better not attempt to draw up a clause binding in all places and under all circumstances, and that he would act most wisely in so shaping the clause that the matter would be left open to the consideration of the House in Committee. With respect to the criticisms offered by the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair) upon the 64th clause, he confessed that he approached the subject with a strong disinclination to avail himself of powers of compulsion. It appeared to him that he might well content himself with the power already lodged in the hands of local authorities in large towns to appoint analysts and to make a fair charge for their services. Deputations had, however, waited on him, not only of scientific men, but of persons interested in trades affected by the Bill; and, after carefully considering the recommendations 884 they had made, he intended to lay before the House a proposition when the Bill went into Committee which he hoped would meet with acceptance. His hon. Friend the Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) had referred to the 74th clause, but he did not appear from his remarks to be conscious of the bearing of the 49th section of the Sanitary Act of 1866. That section conferred upon the Secretary of State the power, in case of default by the local authorities in the performance of their duty as guardians of the health of their district, to call upon them to perform it. If they still failed, then the Secretary of State might appoint some other person to carry out the necessary work, and levy a rate upon the district to cover the expense. His hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) had drawn the attention of the House to the fact that London was not included in the Bill. The omission was made purposely, for the sufficient reason that he thought it was for the advantage of London that it should be left to suggest its own place; and, if it desired the benefits to be obtained by such a measure, it should itself propose to be brought under the operation of the Bill. He had been asked by an hon. Member what contributions the Government proposed to make in aid of the local authorities. That was a very serious question, and he thought it would best be dealt with in Committee. He had made some rough calculations; but all that he could say then was, that upon the first occasion that the question was raised in Committee he would be prepared to make a statement upon the subject. Upon the question of consolidation, he ventured to say that the introduction of a measure was not primâ facie the best time to consolidate. The mind of the House would be apt to become confused if he were to attempt to lay before it a Bill containing a number of clauses upon every one of which the question of consolidation or of new law would arise. The prospect of getting through with such a Bill was so distant that he did not think it desirable to propose it. With reference to the suggestion, as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Hardy), that if he did not consolidate the law this year, he should prepare some kind of digest for the use of local authorities—he believed that, as far as they were concerned, 885 even as regarded urban authorities, when they elected a lawyer as clerk, a very little time and experience would enable him to understand the Acts as they were for all administrative purposes. He admitted, however, that for such purposes, and still more for the use of members of sanitary Boards and the general public, it would be extremely desirable that a digest, or sort of popular vade mecum, should be prepared, published, and circulated, to enable persons to see the salient points of sanitary legislation. The right hon. Member said he intended to propose a clause to effect this object; but it would not be necessary, because he (Mr. Stansfeld) had himself already put the work in hand. With that explanation, he trusted the House would be willing to read the Bill a second time.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, that after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, he would not press his Amendment to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday 26th April.