§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
, rose to move—That, while fully admitting the urgent necessity for Sanitary Legislation, this House is of opinion that the power proposed by this Bill to be given to the central authority over local expenditure should be accompanied by some provision for contributions from Imperial resources in aid of burdens which being imposed for the benefit of the community at large, ought not to be charged on one description of property only.The hon. Baronet said, he had listened with great interest and attention to the statement which had been made on the subject by his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board on Friday last. That statement affected very materially the Motion which stood on the Paper in his name, and removed almost altogether the grounds on which his opposition to the Bill was based. For himself, he must state most emphatically that he never was adverse to sanitary reform; he was, on the contrary, most anxious to aid the Government in passing a good and just measure dealing with the question. Though a strong advocate for an equitable readjustment of local burdens—and here he felt he might speak for others as well as himself—he was not only unwilling to obstruct, but was most desirous to aid and assist all social improvements; and provided the mode of levying the necessary expenditure was just and equitable, he cared not how far we advanced in that direction, but he was strongly op- 1245 posed to having an outlay which was intended for the general benefit of the community raised from one class and upon one description of property. The Government had practically accepted the principle embodied in his Motion, and the Amendments that stood in his name. He thanked his right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld), more especially, for having conceded the moderate and reasonable proposition that he had made—namely, that half the expenses of the Medical Officers and Inspectors of Nuisances should be paid by the State; he further thanked him for having adopted the suggestion that he had privately made to him, that facilities should be given to the local authorities of obtaining loans from the Public Loan Commissioners for carrying out sanitary improvements. Complaints had, he might add, been made, and he thought very properly, of the very inadequate discussion which the Bill had received. There might be a reason for that, in the fact that the Royal Commissioners had exhausted the subject; but Blue Books did not make their way down into the country, and it was only by discussion in that House that the public generally could get information about the present measure. The Bill professed to be founded on the Report of the Royal Commissioners, and therefore it was desirable to ascertain what really were the recommendations of those Commissioners In the first place, they recommended that all existing provisions relating to the subject should be repealed and consolidated into one comprehensive measure; secondly, that all sanitary Acts, which were practically permissive, should be made compulsory; thirdly, that there should be a fresh and improved organization of the parochial authorities, and that the central government should exercise a control over them; and lastly, they emphatically stated that, as the public health was of national importance, the Government ought to aid in providing the necessary expenditure, which should not be met by rates placed on one particular description of property alone. Now, how far had those recommendations been carried into effect in the present Bill? The Bill altogether ignored the first and most material recommendation of the Commissioners—namely, the simplification and consolidation of the existing statutes. They were 25 in number, 15 1246 being general and 10 special. Those statutes were most conflicting and contradictory, and he defied anyone to understand them. All those statutes would still remain in force. The right hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley), who had given great attention to this subject, was of opinion that the consolidation of those statutes was more important than any amendment of them, and that the addition of another statute would render confusion worse confounded. The President of the Local Government Board admitted that it would be just to give the local authorities a digest or code of those statutes, and on being asked to give the House that information of which they were very much in want, stated that it might be found in the Sanitary Report, but that was a document extending over 170 pages. With reference to the second and third recommendations of the Commissioners—that all sanitary provisions should be henceforth compulsory, and that the local authorities should be reorganized and placed under the control of the central authority—this Bill went a long way to carry out those objects, and might be considered by sanitary reformers a step in the right direction. With reference to these recommendations of the Royal Commissioners, the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Bill would not give any new powers to the Local Government Board; but that statement was not exactly correct. If it was, it would be the gravest condemnation of the Bill, because something was necessary to be done which was not done at present, and the Bill undoubtedly took powers to effect this; he could quite understand that the object of the right hon. Gentleman in making this statement was to minimize any claims for Imperial assistance. The 7th and 8th clauses of the Bill contemplated the making of the 25 permissive statutes to which he had referred compulsory, and the 10th clause made the provision of proper machinery and the staff compulsory. As soon as the Bill passed, the country would be divided into districts, and the appointment of Government Inspectors must take place; and this was taking a vastly increased power, for then all complaints would originate with the Inspectors and not, as at present, with the ratepayers. Whilst a measure was permissive the ratepayers could do anything or nothing; 1247 but the Inspectors would have the power of ordering certain things to be done. The machinery that was optional before would be compulsory; power would be virtually taken from the ratepayers who found the money, and conferred on the central authority, who, except for these concessions, would have contributed nothing. Now it was optional with the rural district whether it would tax itself; hereafter it would be compulsory upon it to provide staff and machinery; the Government Inspectors would direct and control both, and the local authorities would be obliged to carry out all regulations and orders at the bidding and to the satisfaction of the central authority. He admitted that very many of the objectionable powers proposed to be conferred on the central authority had been omitted in the amended edition of this Bill. The powers now taken were not so patent or prominent, they were kept more dark and were not particularized; but they were contained in these numerous statutes which would all now be brought into action—they were implied, and would be exercised. With reference to the expense of carrying out sanitary legislation, the Royal Commissioners expressed very strong and decided opinions, and as their recommendations would carry more weight than any arguments of his, he would quote them. They said—It seems desirable that the State should aid the local interests in securing efficient sanitary administration. It is a matter of Imperial importance. Admitted, with regard to some of the principal purposes for which a rate will be imposed, its incidence on real property will be peculiarly fitting; but, as regards others of those purposes, it may fairly be questioned why the expenses of benefits so general should be borne exclusively by the taxation of real property. Local expenditure should be relieved by grants from the Imperial Exchequer. In any degree in which an amended health law may lead to greater expenditure by an improved system of inspection, and imposing greater medical supervision and securing further medical aid, or by any other measure not purely or necessarily local in its origin or effect, it seems expedient and just that the localities should receive assistance from the State. That local health taxation was inseparable from the larger question of local taxation generally.It would be impossible to estimate the increase of local burdens or the expense to which the local boards would be put in carrying out this measure. He was sorry the hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland) was not in his 1248 place, because he might have appealed to him on this point, on which he had written an able article. That hon. Gentleman had constructed a new village, and had brought into operation some of the most improved sanitary reforms. He had expended £700 on sewage alone, which was equivalent to a rate of 1s. in the pound, and had provided a water supply at a cost of £300—making together a rate of more than 1s. 6d. in the pound. Those expenses were heavier in rural than in urban districts. In urban districts there were local bodies and a staff of officers, and a more central and economical administration could be carried out, and only one medical officer and one Inspector were required; but in rural districts officers and Inspectors would be required, and the machinery must therefore be more expensive. The duties of those officers could be spread over a wider district, and they must be provided with some means of locomotion. The late President of the Poor Law Board, in the Local Taxation Returns which he had laid before the House, had stated that in the urban districts the payment was 4s. in the pound, whilst in the rural it was only 2s. 9d. It was true that the Poor Law proper charges were 1¾d. less than in the urban districts; but the improvement rates, which were for sanitary purposes, had made the difference, and there was no security that in the country those rates would not run up to the same amount. Then what was the boon offered both to urban and rural districts by this Bill? The only boon offered was in the shape of loans. He had himself suggested this scheme to the right hon. Gentleman, and was very glad that his suggestion had been accepted. No doubt, the granting of loans was a great boon. In towns large works might be carried on, and a large expenditure incurred, in such cases loans would be most valuable; but in rural districts the works would have to be spread over large spaces, and although the granting of loans was a great concession, they would not do so much good in the country as in the case of large towns. There were cogent and unanswerable reasons why some State assistance should be given to local authorities in consideration of the vast expenditure contemplated by this Bill—first, because public health was a matter of Imperial importance and for 1249 the benefit of the community at large; and, secondly, in consideration of the power and control which would be practically taken from the local authorities and conferred on the central. He would ask, would sanitary reform benefit only one portion of the community? Would its advantage be national, or purely local? Why was it called a "Public" Health Bill? They were told "public health was public wealth." Surely, then, public wealth ought in some measure to guard, protect, and provide for it. Were sanitary precautions taken to protect persons or property? If persons, why should only one class contribute towards it? Dr. Simon told them that, in consequence of deficient sanitary administration, the rate of mortality was higher, and that so many thousand persons died prematurely. Was that a national loss or not? If cholera or any other epidemic visited them, would those diseases confine themselves to the owners or occupiers of real property? Surely they were no respecter of persons. The fund-holder and the capitalist was equally liable to them. Lastly, he would ask if public health was not a matter of public interest, how could they justify this State control and interference? He admitted that they had no right to ask the Government for assistance in respect to sewerage and water, for those were local matters and special expenses. But with respect to common charges or general expenses they had a fair claim for assistance. A precedent had been set in the payment to Poor Law medical officers, and he did not see why it should not be followed in the case of sanitary officers. Independent of this material relief to ratepayers, he thought this principle of State contribution—of dividing the expenses—where the objects were both local and national, was a most sound and salutary one. It was a great check and safeguard against wanton and reckless expenditure on the part of both the State and ratepayers—neither party would advocate any questionable outlay. What was the chief reason that sanitary legislation had been hitherto neglected in the rural districts? There was a natural reluctance on the part of ratepayers to tax themselves permissively when the expense would fall entirely on the narrow and unfairly burdened area of real property, and would thus aggravate present injustice; and this feeling had retarded 1250 many social improvements. When all power of remonstrance in certain matters was taken from the ratepayers, and the Inspectors had the power of ordering whatever they thought proper without waiting for a requisition on the part of the inhabitants, he thought a portion of the expense ought to be borne by the public Exchequer. He had a strong opinion that they ought not to have gone into the Public Health Bill until the question of local taxation had been settled. He had remonstrated; but his remonstrances had been almost futile. He had protested against the education rate; but he was told by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to wait till they got to the question of local taxation. So also he had protested against the charge for vaccination when brought forward by the Vice President of the Council, and he was met with a similar reply. Early in the Session, when he brought forward the question of disallowances for criminal prosecutions, it was admitted that he had made out a strong case indeed; but again he was put off by being asked to wait until the question of public prosecutors was dealt with. If the Government had not conceded his proposition that a moiety of the salaries of medical officers and Inspectors to be appointed under this Bill should be paid by the State, they would have contravened the letter and the spirit of the Resolution which was passed by an overwhelming majority of this House on the 16th April last—namely—That it is expedient to remedy the injustice of imposing Taxation for National objects on one description of property only;and though it was true that this Resolution particularized three objects only, it was not confined to them, but was intended to be of general application; and that House would have stultified itself if it had allowed the whole of those charges to be imposed on real property only. He regretted that they were not able to survey this measure of sanitary reform as a whole, and that, to a certain extent, they were legislating in the dark—they ought to have been able to see at once what they were going to do, how they were going to do it, and how they were going to pay for it, instead of adding one more statute to the chaotic and incongruous mass that already existed. The Royal Commissioners had 1251 sat four years, they had not only recommended a policy, but had drafted a Bill to give effect to it. That policy was a comprehensive and intelligible one—it was a wise and just one—and if their recommendations were adopted as a whole, he thought there were few Members in that House who would not be prepared to endorse them; but if they were going to deal with this vast subject by piecemeal legislation, he was afraid that they would pass a measure that would not reflect the same credit on the Government or fulfill the just expectations of the people. On the principle, however, that half a loaf was better than no bread, and in consideration of the concessions which the Government had made to his proposals, he should be unwilling to take upon himself the responsibilities of obstructing sanitary legislation, and therefore would beg leave to withdraw the Motion that stood in his name.
§ MR. PELL
said, there was one point which the hon. Baronet had omitted to mention, and that was that instead of one Bill the House had really had three Bills before them on this subject this Session; first, the original Government Bill; then, the Bill of the right hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley); and now, the Bill of the Government in an amended and shorter form; and yet there had not been any general debate on so large and important a question. The present Bill, though it was considerably shorter than the original Bill of the Government, was one of vast importance, and would require study to master its details, which embraced no fewer than 20 subjects, and contained provisions of which the country knew very little indeed. He was glad to hear that the Amendment would not be pressed to a division, and he joined with the hon. Baronet in thanking the Government for the concession they had made on the subject of expenses; but still he did not think that the concession went quite far enough. But after all the Bill might prove to be only a provisional one.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
wished to say a word with reference to the aspect of the question as it affected borough populations. The view which the boroughs took of the question was some what different from that which was stated by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir 1252 Massey Lopes), who had emaciated the doctrine—"You may govern us as much as you please, provided you will only pay for it," and who spoke of placing the management of sanitary affairs in the hands of a central department. Now, if that were the object or the result of the Bill—which he did not believe it to be—it would meet with very great opposition from the borough populations, because those boroughs which possessed well-constituted local authorities, desired that their independence should be respected, and their responsibility maintained, and the more they were interfered with the more their efficiency would be weakened. He hoped there was no intention to invade the independence of the existing local authorities in boroughs, but that they would be left free and unfettered in the exercise of their discretion, and armed with such additional powers to be exercised on their own responsibility as might be thought necessary. As to the question of expenses, a communication from his own constituents told him that they would prefer paying all their officers, and to have full control over them. If the local authorities in boroughs were willing to bear the cost of their own staff they should be left as much as possible to their own responsibility, and be free from the interference of any central authority. In most boroughs the authorities already constituted were perfectly able and willing to do their own work.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) had informed the House that, owing to the lateness of the Session and stress of weather, he had had to lighten his ship in order to bring it into port; but in lightening his Bill he had thrown overboard the valuable cargo and left only the refuse and the ballast. The Bill had been a long time before the House, but the second reading was taken at a time when few Members had returned from their Easter holidays, so that there had been very little discussion upon it. The faults found with the Bill throughout the country, however, were that it failed to establish one single authority for sanitary matters throughout the country, and that the various sanitary authorities which it proposed to establish were of a bad description, and would be found in practice to be useless unless governed by an intermediate sani- 1253 tary authority between them and the central Government. It would be acknowledged when the subject came to be duly considered that the only sanitary authority which would be efficient would be an authority which was of the same description in every part of the country—an authority of a high class over the various local authorities, but not so central as Parliament—that was to say, having more local knowledge than Parliament—an authority whose area should in every case be co-extensive with the evils which had to be remedied. It was on this point that he had dissented from the Report of his brother Commissioners. The Report of his Committee in 1864 had, nevertheless, been unanimous on the point; and he had brought in a Bill in 1865 to carry it out. The question as to the sanitary authority was a question as to area. If the parish were to be the unit, then the union must be the larger area, and the Guardians would be the authority; but if the unit were the Petty Sessions district or the Highway district, then the county would be the larger area, and the Quarter Sessions, or a County Board, would be the authority. But if the Guardians were to be the sanitary authority, then the county could not be the area of the intermediate authority; because the two were incommensurate, and their areas could not be made to coincide. There was, moreover, no ground in reason, as he would presently show, for intrusting the management of a river to a county authority. The Bill before the House did not provide for an intermediate authority, and the local authorities which it constituted were as follows:—For the urban districts, Town Councils, or Improvement Commissioners, or a Local Government Board; for rural districts, Boards of Guardians. Now, the urban authorities were the worst possible, for Town Councils were themselves the greatest offenders, as they polluted all the rivers with sewage, while the manufacturers who sat in those councils ran all their manufacturing refuse into the rivers. As for the Boards of Guardians, the Royal Sanitary Commissioners were unanimous in not recommending them as the sanitary authority in rural districts. The Commissioners proposed that only Guardians who should be elected for three years, instead of for one year, should be the sanitary authority; but the weight 1254 of evidence was against even that recommendation, except on the condition that an intermediate authority should be placed over them. It had been amply proved that the Guardians failed to do their duty, and only cared to reduce the rates. Moreover, no one had ever succeeded in making them do their duty. The case of the St. Pancras Guardians was a historic monument in support of that proposition. The Government was, in fact, impotent against both Town Councils and Boards of Guardians, because the Government feared the odium of a collision, which might, indeed, prove dangerous to the State. It was on that ground that Mr. Tom Taylor, the Secretary of the Local Government Board, and one of the highest authorities on these subjects, favored the proposal of an intermediate authority, which he termed a "buffer," between the central and the local Governments. This word "buffer" designated a large, independent, and influential body, which would be able to compel the local authorities, and which would cause no danger to the State if it should come into collision with the local authorities. It designated a body not as central as Parliament, and, therefore, possessing more local knowledge than Parliament, but yet with less prejudice and less narrowness than Town Councils or Boards of Guardians. Local knowledge was very necessary, because localities differed so much that Acts of Parliament had to be made very general; and then if there were not a legislative body to apply them to the localities, the Acts of Parliament must remain inoperative. There were two maxims which he thought ought to govern all such questions. The first was, that the affairs of a body of people must not be left to the enterprise of a few persons, whether corporations, or companies, or individuals, but must be managed by general action—namely, by agents responsible to the whole body; for persons sought only their own good and not the general advantage. In other words, the area of the ruling authority must be as large as the extent of the evils to be remedied. The second maxim was that those agents should be responsible only to the persons concerned—that was to say, the area of the ruling authority must not be larger than the extent of the evils to be remedied. If the authority were too high, or, in 1255 other words, if the area were too large, it would have too little local knowledge and interest; while if, on the other hand, it were too low, as in the case of Town Councils, it would be subject to local prejudices and selfish interests. Moreover, when the authority was too high, the responsibility would be diluted by a multiplicity of questions coming before it which concerned only some of the people and not others; or, to put it differently, the interest of the whole body of people in the acts of the ruling authority, would be too slight. Whenever bodies were far asunder—as Parliament was from Town Councils—there was always a want of community of interest and co-operation between them; and then if the initiative rested with the towns the effect would be sporadic—some towns would take action, and not others; while if the initiative rested with the central government—that was to say, if there were a supervising government—the towns would be quite apathetic. These maxims had been forced upon his attention when he had to deal with the cattle plague; and the results of his efforts, in various directions, to stay that plague, had left no doubt on his mind of the truth of those maxims. The result of this reasoning was that all the affairs of the watershed or river basin should be left to a Watershed Board, thus relieving Parliament of all special legislation; and that the English Parliament should attend only to those affairs which related to the whole of England. There were many persons, who desired to put a County Board in the place of a Watershed Board, but this would not do; it was impossible that it should work. Two examples would be sufficient to prove that. Take, for example, the pollution of rivers by sewage. London had spent £6,000,000 to carry away its sewage, and yet it had to endure the pollution of the river by the towns higher up. The town of Salford offered to expend £80,000 to defecate the River Irwell, if Manchester and the towns higher up would do the same, but they refused. There was evidently a want of unity of action over the whole river basin. Every town and every person felt the injury, and yet assisted the evil, and the one that desisted from committing the injury received no reward. The landowner who obtained an injunction against a city for running its sewage into the river 1256 himself ran the sewage of his own house into the same river or its tributary. Every manufacturer desired to obtain pure water—one calico printer had given evidence that he would save £3,000 a-year if the river were pure. Yet every manufacturer polluted the stream for those below him. Every village and every house polluted the river or its tributaries; and yet they all cried "Shame!" and demanded pure water. What was wanted, then, was unity of action. What was required was that the towns higher up should undertake expensive works for those lower down. The question was indivisible for the whole river basin; for the water of the tributaries was the water of the river. Every town, therefore, must have an authority to protect it from the towns higher up, and to compel it not to injure the towns below. Look at another example—solid refuse. Every manufacturer, every gardener, shot his rubbish into the stream Every flood carried it a little lower down the river. The bed of the river was thus raised. Indeed, it was given in evidence before the Commission on the Pollution of Rivers, and before the Committee of 1864, that the beds of the rivers in Lancashire and Yorkshire were raised on the average two inches a-year. Thus the water level in the surrounding plains was raised, the drains ceased to run, the land became water-logged, evaporation, fogs, and miasmata were increased, and the soil became cold and unproductive. This was a great sanitary question, for, as the medical officer of the Privy Council had shown in his ninth and tenth Reports, consumption varied with the sodden condition of the soil. In order to stop evaporation, the water level in the surrounding plains should be four feet below the surface. To obtain that result there must be arterial drainage—the drains of one district being carried into the district lower down, in order to obtain a fall. Thus the river basin must be dealt with as a whole. Arterial drainage was watershed drainage, and it was necessary for health. Thus unity of action over the whole watershed or river basin was absolutely requisite to obtain sanitary amelioration. Then they might have such sanitary authorities as Town Councils, Improvement Commissioners, Local Government Boards, and Boards of Guardians; but without such an au- 1257 thority these local authorities would not do their duty; and who would compel them to act? The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) said the central Government would do so; but the exigencies of party Government prevented any such proceeding? Were the Courts of Law to do so? The rapid growth of these evils proved the inadequacy of the Courts of Law to deal with the question. Town Councils would not prosecute each other, because none of them could go into court with clean hands; and manufacturers would not prosecute, because they, too, were all sinners in this respect, and could not throw the first stone. The central Parliament had proved itself powerless to use compulsion. When the Mersey and Irwell Purification Act was passed, in 1863 or 1864, everybody said it was a most stringent and despotic measure; but it had not been enforced—it had remained a dead letter, because there was no one to compel its enforcement. He believed there had not been a single conviction under that Act. [Mr. HIBBERT said, there had been several convictions.] They must have been very small ones, for they were never mentioned to the Commissioners. In order to compel the local authorities, there must be a Court having jurisdiction over the whole area of the river basin, whose interest it would be to stop the existing evils. A Watershed Board, by its very nature and constitution, was calculated to do this. The representatives of the towns lower down would combine to prevent a town higher up from running its sewage into the river; and the towns higher up would combine to compel the authorities at a lower level to carry out arterial drainage. He believed they would never have sanitary amelioration except by a provincial institution of that kind; and he also believed that this Bill, so far from promoting sanitary amelioration, would, without provincial Parliaments, stand in the way of it. He had given notice of some Amendments; but a private Member could not do much, and the matter should, therefore, be left in the hands of the Government. He would not now enlarge on the effect which these provincial Parliaments would have on the country, by educating it for self-government, and marking out those who were qualified for higher posts of rule. Still less would he allude to the puri- 1258 fying effect which it would have on the House of Commons if all local jobs were delegated to local Parliaments. He would only say this—That which he had suggested was the only policy of Sanitatis sanitatum which was worthy of adoption, and which would cause any sanitary amelioration. It would induce towns to desist from doing that which was injurious to health; and thus, while it benefited the country at large, by affording a means of education in self-government, and by raising the House of Commons to the dignity of the ancient Privy Council;—it would also benefit individuals by purifying the rivers, by decreasing consumption, and by a general sanitary improvement.
§ MR. GOURLEY
protested against the statement of the noble Lord that Town Councils had neglected their duty with reference to the cattle plague, and argued that if representatives of the people, like members of Town Councils and Boards of Guardians, were to be accused of pursuing a selfish policy, the same imputation might be cast upon Members of that House. He, however, should be sorry to sit there as representing private or selfish interests, because he believed hon. Members were sent to that House to promote the public good. He trusted his right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) would not be deterred by adverse criticism or objections as to financial policy from proceeding with the Bill, which he considered to be far more important to the people of this country than any principle of either Imperial or local taxation. If Parliament delayed the passing of this Bill, it would have to bear the whole responsibility of any future epidemic. The evils of defective sanitary arrangements had been experienced last autumn in Scarborough and Sheffield and other places. This Bill sought merely to impose upon the local authorities the duty of carrying into effect existing sanitary Acts, and when once responsible authorities had been established in ports, towns, and rural districts much of the present danger would be avoided. To defer legislation upon this subject would be disgraceful to their common Christianity and the civilization of the country.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
regretted that his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) had accepted the offer made to him by the 1259 Government, because he believed those who had to bear the burden of this Act would have reason hereafter to deplore, as county Members had deplored before, that they had ever entered into partnership with the Government. He wished to point out that with respect to rural districts this Bill would require Boards not qualified for the work to construe numerous difficult Acts of Parliament, and also to find the means of putting them into execution. One of those Acts was the Labourers' Dwellings Act, and by that and other measures the local authorities would have power of shutting up any house that might be deemed unfit for human habitation. So far as he was aware, there were few of the labourers' cottages in this country which would bear the examination of sanitary Inspectors, and it was a well-known fact that there was a great want of accommodation for the rural labouring population.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, the hon. Baronet was under a misapprehension, as the powers of the Artisans and Labourers Act were handed over to the urban authorities.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
observed, that at any rate if the Bill was free from that act of commission, it was still most objectionable for its faults of omission. Year after year they had been promised Bills which should decide the great question of the outfall of sewage, consolidate existing Acts in such a manner as to make their operation more simple, and deal with the sanitary state of the rural as well as the urban population. Yet this Bill did not even recognize the great want of means for improving the dwellings of the labouring class. He, for one, should have been glad if this Bill had given power to shut up such houses as were unfit for labourers' habitations, and also provided facilities for landed proprietors to participate in the benefits which this Bill proposed to confer upon the urban population. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would bear these points in mind next year. He could not but regret that this mutilated portion of the Bill was the only part of the measure they were permitted to discuss. So far as the rural districts were concerned, the machinery provided by the Bill was cumbrous, heavy, and expensive. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Hunting- 1260 donshire (Lord Robert Montagu) in thinking it necessary that more power should be given to local authorities, and less to the central Board in London. He was convinced that before many years had passed the Board in London would put their hands deeply into the pockets of the ratepayers in rural districts, and compel them to carry out fancy regulations quite unsuitable to the circumstances of the labouring classes. With regard to the urban population, the Bill was meagre, disappointing, and insufficient. Altogether it was hardly desirable, at this late period of the Session, to discuss the Bill in the manner in which it would be discussed if it was proceeded with. He regarded the Bill with the greatest possible suspicion, and thought the country would lose nothing if it was postponed until next year, when a more perfect measure might be introduced.
§ MR. HIBBERT
remarked that it was difficult to satisfy hon. Members when some of them thought the Bill went too far and others considered that it did not go far enough; but he was sure that if a measure containing 100 or 200 clauses for the consolidation of existing Acts had been laid upon the Table, all would have agreed in saying that it was impossible to consider such a Bill at this time of the year. The Bill had been cut down to provisions establishing machinery for carrying out sanitary laws in urban and rural districts, and it did not impose, as the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) seemed to imagine, any new duties, with the single exception of compelling urban and rural authorities to appoint an officer of health, as recommended by the Sanitary Commission. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) had made a concession with respect to the payment of one-half of the expenses of that officer; but he (Mr. Hibbert) trusted the central authority would never undertake to pay the whole of those expenses, because by so doing it would undermine the whole system of local self-government. The existing sanitary laws were four in number—the Local Government Act—under which the local boards throughout the country were formed—the Nuisances Prevention and Removal Act, the Act for the Creation of Improvement Commissioners, and the Utilization of Sewage Act. At present there was one authority to carry 1261 out the Utilization of Sewage Act, and another—the Board of Guardians—to carry out the Nuisances Removal Act; and the Bill would remedy that defect by vesting the whole authority in one local board—a change which would, he thought, be very advantageous. The right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) said the other day that this Bill was "nothing but a muddle;" but he (Mr. Hibbert) thought that if things had been left as they were, they would still be in a state of muddle. When this Bill became law he believed it would operate beneficially, and would be received with satisfaction by all classes in the country. It was said that this Bill would impose fresh expense; but how was it possible to frame a sanitary organization without that? Increased rates had been laid upon towns to secure sanitary arrangements, and when these had been carried out their property would be found to be of the highest value. He believed that by passing this measure into law they would be taking a great step in advance, and this might lead to a further consolidation of the law in the future.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
despaired that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would ever know how to manage that House, for it was absurd, when he knew the importance of such a Bill, that they should be discussing the measure, on this stage of it, at such a time, instead of its having been taken at a period when those most interested were enabled to be present and assist at the discussion, and when the various clauses might then have received proper attention. Yet they were now called upon to pass this most important measure, affecting the health of the people, in the middle of July, when it was impossible to discuss the question properly before a weary House. He supposed the right hon. Gentleman thought he must endeavour to carry out the whole of the measures which were named in the Queen's Speech. If it could be shown—and he should appeal to his right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) on this question—that this measure would benefit the people of this country even in a small degree, he should be glad to help in producing such a result. The maxim Sanitas sanitatum, omnia sanitas had been placed before them; but they had not 1262 even now the first measure of the Government upon this subject complete. No doubt it contained many well-drawn clauses, which would have met with hostility from Gentlemen below the gangway; but he must say, with all respect, that when these provisions touched the great moneyed interests, those Gentlemen were not prepared to sacrifice their rights and privileges to what would be conducive to the welfare of the people. He appealed to the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne), who was for equal legislation for England, Scotland, and Ireland, what he thought of the exclusion of the two last-named countries from the benefits of this legislation? He had considered this matter very carefully, and had made many inquiries on the subject. Whenever he had asked Boards of Guardians if they would have the management of the Public Health Bill, the answer was, that they would rather have nothing whatever to do with it; but when he had asked if another body was to administer the funds, the case was very much altered, and they seemed to prefer to retain in their own hands the administration of the funds. He protested against the Local Government Boards interfering in matters beyond their province. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would be prepared hereafter to consider the question in a wider spirit. He wished to state distinctly and clearly that he did not want to be handed over by this Bill to the hands of the doctors, who in other respects, he admitted, performed great services. He did not want to see a great Medical Board established, composed of men with high salaries, acting without regard to law when sanitary matters were involved, and also without regard to expense. He ventured to hope that, when they went into Committee on the Bill, care would be taken to establish proper control over the local medical inspectors, and that they should not be appointed for life, but for a term of three, four, or five years, and that the appointments of medical officers should be similarly regulated. A great meeting had been held at Reading on this subject, and the feeling was unanimous upon this question of a controlling power. By the course he proposed no injustice would be inflicted on any of these gentlemen. He had recently had placed in his hands a 1263 notice from Plymouth, conveying the wish that the word "may" should be substituted for "shall," and thence also came the expression of opinion that they had not the control which they ought to possess. If there was one grain of good in the Bill, it was right it should proceed. If it passed, he hoped it would do good. If the Bill did not pass, he hoped it would be clearly understood it was not because they in any way objected to sanitary reform or improvement; but because the Government had not chosen to bring that important subject at a sufficiently early period before the House to enable them effectually to deal with it.
§ MR. C. S. READ
said, he thought it would have been ungracious in his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) if he had persisted in his Amendment and divided the House on the present occasion. The hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Lawrence Palk) said he had entered into partnership with the Government; but he rather thought the Government had, on the other hand, gone into partnership with him and other local taxation reformers; for they had assented to the Amendments of his hon. Friend, which, however, they could not well avoid without stultifying the vote given in last April by the House. He desired that this should in no sense be made a party question, which it could not be unless it was stretched to the utmost. But in accepting this measure it must be remembered that all the concessions made applied to something entirely novel, and not to that great amount of arrears which, as local taxation reformers, they were entitled to. One of the best provisions in the Bill was that by which the local authorities would be allowed to borrow money at 3½ per cent for their improvements. He was glad that was to be retrospective. In sewerage works already £10,000,000 had been expended by the urban authorities of this kingdom, and last year something like £1,200,000 had been so spent. He hoped the Government would extend the power of borrowing money at 3½ per cent to lunatic asylums, for which he and his hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. Colman) had so earnestly contended. He entirely agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) as to the payment and control of officers; for he was 1264 sorry to say that every measure passed gave greater power to the central Government in London; but he did not dread a board of doctors half so much as he did an army of sanitary engineers.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he had every reason to thank the House for the favourable and friendly consideration they had shown in consenting to go into Committee on this Bill. There were one or two points on which he might be expected to say a few words; and the first was as to consolidation. He had always stated distinctly that it would be a great and important work to consolidate the various Acts; but it did not follow that the moment when they took new powers and constructed new machinery was necessarily the best time for consolidation. He knew it would be folly—a "vaulting ambition" that would "o'erleapitself," if he pretended to introduce a consolidating measure. Events had justified the exercise of prudence and moderation on his part. He had also come to the conclusion that it would be unreasonable at this period of the Session to ask the House to give their assent to this measure in the shape in which it was originally introduced. He, therefore, thought if he reduced the Bill he should make a clean job of it, and relinquish the idea of obtaining new powers and confine himself to that part of the Bill—a highly important part—which constituted new local machinery and distributed the powers and responsibilities under existing statutes among those authorities. That was really the purport of the Bill; it was very simple. It contained 17 or 18 clauses which consolidated the local authorities; and there were other clauses for the conferment of special authority for special objects, such as to alter and unite districts. He had asked the noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu), who had now left the House, whether he had not overlooked Clause 23, and the noble Lord candidly admitted that he had. Power was given them to unite districts by provisional orders. He had already stated to the House that he had in preparation a Digest which would enable the local authorities to do their work without difficulty, and when this Bill was passed he should soon take the opportunity of making it public. It was hardly correct to speak of new powers conferred by this Bill; the only new power conferred was 1265 that of compelling local authorities to appoint medical officers of health. It was true the Bill gave urban authorities powers and duties prescribed by the Local Government Act, and dealt similarly with Boards of Guardians in reference to powers and duties under the Nuisances Removal and Sewage Utilization Acts; but it was a mistake to suppose that in the Bill as it stood the word "may" was in any case changed into "shall." It was true that some simplification of the local authorities, and the distribution of existing legislation among the sanitary authorities, would amount to an increased pressure upon them to discharge the duties which legislation laid upon them. And it was right in itself that increased pressure should be brought to bear. As to the construction of the authorities, he would show very shortly the methods by which he had arrived at the propositions which had been placed in this Bill. The House knew that his propositions were the propositions of the Sanitary Commission, and when considering the construction of local authorities it had always to bear in mind that the first question to be asked was—what was the proper unit of administration? Now, he had approached the question in this way—As far as the urban authorities were concerned, although some men might hold the opinion that local government in urban districts was liable to abuse—but all institutions were liable to abuse—yet he did not think that anyone could ask the adoption of a different unit in the urban populations from those natural units of the existing urban local governments. He did not see how it could be argued that a population which had arived at municipal government was unfit for the exercise of sanitary powers. He did not see how anyone could suggest the abolition of those local boards which had been created upon the motion of the urban populations themselves. With reference to rural authorities what Government had done was this—They had found two administrative units, and much confusion from the existence of these two rural authorities. They had found vestries which meant simply the inhabitants of each parish, and they had found an authority under the Sewage Utilization Acts and an authority under the Nuisances Removal Acts. What the Bill did was neither more nor less 1266 than this—to say that the parish was too small a unit, and to transfer from the parish to the Board of Guardians the powers and duties conferred and imposed by the Sewage Utilization Act. Then, the parish being too small, they came to the union, and the more he looked into it the more he had become convinced that it would be unwise to disregard existing burdens and local institutions in the hope of finding some ideal theory as to the distribution of areas into which the country might be ideally divided for sanitary purposes. They had to think not only of the area but also of the machinery, and they adopted the Board of Guardians as the existing authority, and the union as the unit of area, because it was a larger area than the parish. He had also addressed himself to the question whether a larger unit would not be advisable. He was satisfied that the union was the largest practicable unit for sanitary administration. For instance, they were in the habit of talking about sanitary administration as if it depended on the construction of large works—works of sewage and works of water supply. He denied that that was an accurate understanding of the work of sanitary administration in the country. What appeared to him to be an ampler and much more important work was the selection of the sanitary officers, and supervision and inspection for the prevention of sanitary nuisances in every village and hamlet in this country. For this work the Board of Guardians by its constitution was eminently fitted. The work was not work for a county Board, even if a county Board could be constituted immediately, nor was the county a fit unit. He had provided in the Bill for the extension of districts and for the union of districts, so that there were powers under the Bill to constitute watershed authorities, or to constitute for sanitary purposes county Boards. The boundaries of unions and parishes did not absolutely coincide with the boundaries of counties. Before they could create a system of county Boards for sanitary purposes, for other administrative and for other financial purposes—which was a measure for the future, and one that he would be delighted to undertake—it was necessary by some means to harmonise those boundaries, because the smaller authority of the parish or the 1267 union, or any portion of its work, could not possibly be put under the control and under the management of a larger authority, which did not take in the whole of the smaller authority which it had to control and assist. He had looked at that question with every desire to deal with it this Session if possible; and he had come to the conclusion that he could only deal with it by the method in the Bill, by a provisional order relating to each case as it arose, awaiting in the meantime the possibility of a general scheme. He wished to say a word also about the expense. His view of the increase of expenditure which might follow from this measure was this—The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) had stated very candidly, as to sewage works, water works, and he might have added gas works, that they were matters of local interest, and furnished no sort of claim on the Imperial Revenue. But he omitted to remark—and the same omission had occurred in the speech of everyone who had followed him in this debate—that after all these were the heavy items of expenditure which had caused the rate per inhabitant in the towns to exceed the rate per inhabitant in the country. When they came to the expenditure common to the towns and country they would find that so far as this Bill was concerned it did not, and would not, impose any additional burdens, except so far as it brought increased moral pressure to bear upon the enforcement and administration of sanitary laws. The expense incurred under the Bill would consist mainly in charges for the salaries of medical officers, inspectors of nuisances, and other officers. As to the power of borrowing from the Public Works Loan Commissioners, this must be accepted as clear—either that this Bill would not impose any considerable additional burden upon the rural districts, or that if it did, or where it did, the rural districts would have precisely the same privilege of borrowing as would fall to the lot of local government boards in towns. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) had made an appeal to him with reference to local government boards in boroughs. His hon. and learned Friend had assumed quite truly that the theory of the Bill was not one of centralization; but its object was to leave, as far as possible, 1268 all the action in the power of the country. The same hon. and learned Gentleman had also referred especially to the clause relating to the appointment of medical officers of health, and had suggested that if local bodies were prepared to pay the salaries of their own officers, they should have the independent power of appointing and dismissing them. He wished to point out to his hon. and learned Friend that the view he advocated was entirely met by the addition he should propose to make to Clause 10. This addition was to the effect that the Local Government Board should have Poor Law powers in the case of officers of the sanitary authority, any portion of whose salaries was paid out of money voted by Parliament. Therefore, when the Committee accepted the addition, the Local Government Board would be empowered to act in partnership, so to speak, with the local authority when the local authority chose to accept Imperial funds, but not in any other case. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) had appealed to him also in reference to that clause. He objected to the construction of a great hierarchy throughout the country to whom all sanitary considerations should be handed over, and who, in his opinion, would not be likely to take a common-sense view of affairs. Now, he had no such intention, and it was well known that he had no such intention, for he had had many discussions with medical men on the subject, and had not always agreed with them. He had no intention of committing the whole sanitary administration of this country to medical men. It would not be acceptable to the country, and it would not be acceptable to himself. After all, what were all those matters of sanitary protection and administration which he hoped would be taken advantage of? They were cleanliness and purity; and they did not want medical men to effect that, or to determine the conditions of buildings which every man of common sense knew to be necessary for the health of himself or anybody else. But there were many matters in regard to which we required professional advice. For example, if fever broke out in a village it might be necessary to convince the inhabitants that it was the result of certain causes which they had not before clearly understood. Therefore, there 1269 were abundant reasons why there should be some organization for the appointment of medical officers of health. The hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to imagine that the medical officers would be appointed for life; but he could assure him this would not be so, for it was most desirable that in the initiatory proceedings under this Bill we should advance tentatively, and not commit the House or the country to life appointments. This measure had been carefully prepared and closely studied by himself and his hon. Friend beside him (Mr. Hibbert), and when it was in Committee he should be quite ready to answer any objections which might be raised against the various clauses.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, before the House proceeds to a division I wish to express my hope that it will consent to go into Committee on this Bill. The merits of this measure are not to be estimated by comparing it with any large and adequate measure of sanitary legislation, consolidating all the existing powers and constructing new ones, which at the commencement of the Session, if the Government had made up their mind to direct their principal energy to the treatment of such a measure, no doubt might have been carried. But the question we have to ask ourselves is this, whether the sanitary legislation of this country will, if this Bill passes, be more efficient than it is at present? That really is the practical question; and I cannot but believe that every candid man—whatever may be his expectations as to the future treatment of the question, or whatever were the hopes in which he may have previously indulged on the subject—must admit that the sanitary condition of this country will be more satisfactory than it is at present if this Bill passes. Now, I think, considering the public requirement of the country on this matter, and the strong convictions of those most competent to guide public opinion on this important question, we should undertake a grave responsibility if, under such circumstances, we did not agree to the passing of this measure. I confess there was one great obstacle to it in the way in which it was introduced. Whatever may have been the remarks made in another sense, I think all must now agree that the measure, as originally proposed, would certainly have led to a further and, perhaps, not an 1270 inconsiderable increase in the local taxation of the country; and after the vote at which the House had arrived in the earlier part of the Session on that subject, there would have been such a glaring inconsistency in acceding to a measure which would increase the local taxation without any arrangement on the part of the Government tending to alleviate that increase, that I myself, strong as are my views as to the absolute importance of this House proceeding with sanitary legislation, should have felt the greatest difficulty in giving my support to the measure of the Government. But the Government have made a proposition which has been considered by those who take a very great interest in the subject—and especially by my hon. Friend the Member for South. Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), who I may say has always in dealing with it shown as much discretion as ability—as being, on the whole, a fair and reasonable proposition. It has removed the great difficulty I just referred to, and therefore I trust the House will assent to the passing of this measure. I have no doubt that, in considering the machinery which we are about to institute, many details will be found fairly liable to criticism, and many suggestions may be made which may improve the proposition of the Government, or which may even remove such of their proposals as the House may deem objectionable; but the present is not an occasion on which we need enter into these details. What the House has now to do is to declare that it will support the sanitary policy of the Government in passing this measure. It is one which is not, in my mind—nor, indeed, is it in the opinion of the Government—adequate to the great subject we shall have ultimately to deal with; but it meets many difficulties that are now encountered; it renders more efficient existing legislation; and it is a preparatory and beneficial step to the large measure which the Government have announced that they will, on the first opportunity, introduce.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Since the Leader of the Opposition has become the supporter of Her Majesty's Government, and tells us that sanitary legislation is almost the only proper function of the House of Commons, I will not attempt to enter at any length into this matter. At the same time, it is due to the exist- 1271 ing authorities who are assumed to have utterly failed in the performance of their duties to state that, as a matter of fact—so far as the Midland Counties, at all events, with which I am connected—there never was a period when greater activity in sanitary improvement prevailed. There is no pest in this country at present—no real occasion of urgency for legislation; and I must be allowed to express my regret that, by a preliminary measure, which we are told this is, these existing local authorities are to be swept completely out of the sphere of their present activity and usefulness. I have not the same feeling against parochial authorities which seems to prevail among modern reformers. My belief is that the parishes are, on the whole, well governed; and I own that I am afflicted with the ancient prejudice—a prejudice which many generations of Englishmen have entertained—that public freedom is best secured by local authority, so subdivided and limited as to area of population and locality that it shall be brought within the command of such a number of the population as can consult with each other and thus effectively act upon the mind of the authority. This seems now to be held to be an ancient prejudice, when we have a proposal made to sweep away the unit of self-government formed by the parish. I do not regard this as so light a matter as some ardent modern reformers appear to think it. It seems to me, then, that this measure arms the Government with a discretionary authority to disturb every limit of existing administration, whilst it really settles nothing. The parish administration, in connection with the public health, is to be no more. The Union authority is to be recognized; but it is to remain in the breast of the central authority, whether even that authority shall continue in force, or some other authority shall not supersede or overflow it. For there is contained in this Bill discretionary power which is to be vested in the central authority further to invade the Union authority, to overflow and to supersede it by what is termed a watershed authority; which again the Bill would establish only provisionally. Therefore, the whole tendency of the Bill is to arm the central authority with power to create local authorities, but only provisionally—although with the dim prospect that here- 1272 after Parliament may, or may not, be asked to define the limits of the discretion to be vested in the central authority, by some other measure than the present. Then comes the proposal with regard to borrowing powers; and how will that work? Let the House suppose that in a Union, in several of the parishes of which some of the parochial authorities had efficiently set in motion the existing machinery, and had met the sanitary wants and requirements of the parish or district. Well, under this Bill, these parishes, which have provided for the necessities of the population within them, will be taxed for the purpose not of improving their own sanitary condition, but of improving the condition of the other parishes in the Union, the inhabitants of which may have neglected their duty. Because, although the Government have been good enough to offer to lend money to the Unions for the purpose of carrying out their sanitary arrangements, the interest upon that money will have to be paid by the whole Union, and the taxation will be levied without the slightest reference to the work which has heretofore been done in individual parishes. As I have said—finding that the Leader of the Opposition is an ardent supporter of the Government in respect of this measure, and of the principles I have endeavoured to describe, if the House divides I shall go through that door, because I do not believe that this hasty and provisional system of dealing with a great question of this kind is necessary, but that it has been entailed by the fact that the Government were determined to effect a vast political change during this Session, and to wear Parliament down to its acceptance. They have thus used up the time of the House; and now, when we have come to the close of the Session, the House is asked to invest the Government with vast discretionary powers, which, according to the showing of their own organ, would not have been necessary if the attention of Parliament had been earlier directed to the consolidation of the law and the division of the country into such districts as might have become permanent for the purposes of sanitary arrangements.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he almost rose under a sense of self-reproach for delaying the progress of the Bill after so long a debate; but he felt that until he had heard the statement of the right hon. Gentle- 1273 man the President of the Local Government Board he should not have been justified in making any remarks. What had he said? That the Bill was a small Bill; that it did nothing which had not been done before; nothing new, and in this humble guise it now came before the House. He had almost apologized for bringing it forth; and, like a certain lady in one of Captain Marriott's novels, said—"It was only such a little one," by way of excuse. But what had the Bill done to be treated like this? If it really did nothing, it was his opinion that it ought not to pass. But what if it did something most important and material, and that in the worst possible way, and left out all the rest; things that they had been promised upon the faith of the Government this Bill should carry out. He spoke with the greatest possible regret. Well, his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) had said that this Bill was a Bill simply to effect one point—organization; the whole thing turned upon this, and in this respect the Bill was good or bad. Now, no one pretended to be satisfied with the present organization of the borough authorities; but they took them because it would be difficult to put anything in their place. With respect to the counties it was different, for there they had a fair scope. Now, with respect to the Board of Guardians as an authority over these matters, just see what had been said. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex told them that he had put the question to nearly all the Boards of Guardians he knew, whether they wished to accept such a task, and not one had given consent; but that when it was put to them whether they would like anyone else to expend the rate, they with equal unanimity declared that they would not. Now, he had never heard a more suggestive statement made than that. They did not wish to administer, but simply to control expense; that was precisely the case, and he thought that by an Amendment he should propose in Committee that arrangement could be carried out. He did not wish to enter further into that question yet. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had told them that no candid mind could refuse to accept the Bill as it stood, as an improvement upon that which did exist. He 1274 wished the right hon. Gentleman would inform himself more especially upon that point, for he would find that many men of high attainments, of especial knowledge, and who had devoted their lives to this subject, had come to very different conclusions about this. They did not regard this measure in its present form as an advance, but rather the reverse, and he thought that they ought to be heard with respect. He would not say more at that time; but he was glad his hon. Friend (Sir Massey Lopes) was more satisfied than he had been with the financial provision of the Act.
feared that the ratepayers would find little satisfaction in what was about to be done. In the first place, a good many persons would be dismissed from their employment and pensioned, by which means a good deal of money would be swallowed up. As to appointments, he had not much doubt that the local authorities were better judges of the fitness of gentlemen to be appointed to offices than any persons who were in London could be, and he hoped that the local authorities would have a fair share of the patronage, such as it was. The Bill also would buy up and put a stop to all that was being done in connection with certain works. That must be the natural and immediate effect. They were told that certain things were to be done next year, and the consequence would be that all persons who tad to lay out other people's money would pause in order to see what powers would be given to them in the following year. Two of the most important kinds of work in reference to sanitary matters were sewerage and drainage; but the areas for such works would be completely changed, and it would become an immediate matter for consideration whether, instead of these matters being carried out upon a scale upon which they had before been done, the local authorities should not wait and see what powers were to be given by Government. This would be the natural consequence of this measure; because, unless such a course were taken, next year the works carried out might be found worse than useless. As to the Government giving means to obtain money at a low rate, that would, probably, tend to increase the expenditure, and one species of property ought not alone to be saddled with so many bur- 1275 dens as were imposed upon it. It was very difficult to say to what in time these burdens might amount; and in reference to this ground specially he had hoped that Government would have given them something more satisfactory than this measure.
§ MR. BOURKE
wished to call attention to the fact that there was one principle in the Bill that was peculiar and unprecedented, and in reference to which he hoped that there would be some explanation. Power was given to the local boards by provisional orders to repeal local Acts with which they might come in contact. He did not know that ever before power had been given to repeal local Acts in so sweeping a manner. Further, it was a power which he did not think the boards could exercise with safety. In addition, there was authority given to the Board in London to saddle the ratepayers with the payment of any compensation which they chose to bestow in the event of any office being abolished which had existed under these repealed Acts of Parliament.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.