HC Deb 08 May 1874 vol 218 cc1943-87

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the urgent importance of the problems connected with the present condition and future improvement of the dwellings of working people in London, and to the memorials on this subject lately presented to Her Majesty's Government by the Royal College of Physicians and by the Council and Dwellings Committee of the Charity Organization Society (Sessional Paper, Nos. 118 and 127); and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, a necessity exists for some measure that will provide for the improvement of the poorest classes of dwellings in London, and that this question demands the early attention of Her Majesty's Government, said: * I can say with perfect sincerity and earnestness that I regret that such an important subject has not fallen into abler hands than mine, and I must explain to the House briefly how it comes to pass that this subject is in my charge. Some time ago, in the late Parliament, I drew the attention of the House on more than one occasion to the state of our system of water supply in London; and I became conscious from the study of that subject of the great difficulties which stood in the way of any reform on account of the very defective condition of a large proportion of the poorer habitations. Last year, at the commencement of the Session, in common with many other Members of both Houses of Parliament, I received an invitation from the Charity Organization Society to serve on a Committee appointed to inquire into the state of the dwellings of the poor. It was in the course of the deliberations of that Committee, and in consequence of the evidence which was laid before us, that I became aware of the real magnitude and national importance of this question. And, after waiting to see whether any other Member of the House would bring it forward, I determined with the concurrence of that Committee, to give Notice of the Resolution which I am now about to move. Moreover, the two memorials to which I call attention have been prepared and presented to the Government—one by the Royal College of Physicians, the other by the Charity Organization Society; and these have been followed by a correspondence in some of the public journals, which appeared to me to bring the subject into so ripe a condition that it might be promptly dealt with by Parliament. If I needed any justification of the course I am now pursuing, in asking the attention of the House to this question, I should find it in the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Cross), in introducing his Licensing Bill the other day, dwelt earnestly on the necessity which existed for improved habitations for working people. Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Northcote), in explaining his Budget, used language on this subject which led one to hope that he was about to sketch out some measure by which the long-wished-for result of improving the dwellings of the working classes might be achieved. To go back a very little further, Lord Derby, in his speeches in the North of England, has repeatedly called attention to these sanitary questions. And the right hon. Gentleman who is now at the head of Her Majesty's Government, in laying down his programme at Manchester, adopted as his motto—"Sanitas Sanitation, omnia Sanitas." However, the right hon. Gentleman confined himself to words, and the country is now in expectation of the acts which ought to follow on those words. Sir, if it should be the good fortune of the Government who now occupy those benches to legislate wisely on sanitary matters, especially as regards the habitations of the working classes in London, they will not only confer enduring benefit on the metropolis, but will surround their names with lustre, and the history of their Administration with credit. If hon. Members wish to have an authoritative statement with regard to the special needs of London for improvement of the dwellings of the working classes, I will refer them to a Report prepared and presented in 1865, by Mr. Simon, then the Medical Officer to the Privy Council and now to the Local Government Board, in which he named numerous towns in which the poorer houses were practically unfit for human habitation, but said that they were worst of all in London and five other towns—Bristol, Merthyr, Newcastle, Plymouth, and Sunderland. To step down from that very high authority to the very humble authority of the Member who is now addressing the House, I have made it my business during the past few weeks to visit various parts of London and to see for myself to what extent the evil existed. Amongst other parts, I have been to courts in the neighbourhood of Holborn, pretty nearly all over the parish of St. Giles, through the neighbourhood of Drury Lane, and also through one of the very worst portions of London—the district called Bedford-bury—but which I hope hon. Members will not connect with the name of the Duke of Bedford, whose property is of a very different character. I could not describe to the House the full details of what I saw in the course of my visit to those localities. Hon. Members in taking short cuts through the town, as, for instance, in the neighbourhood of Lincoln's Inn, may, perhaps, see places in which they would be very sorry to have to reside; but I do not think that they have any real idea of the character of large masses of the dwellings which exist in our immediate neighbourhood, nor is any such idea possessed by 99 out of every 100 of the wealthy inmates of luxurious West End houses. Sir, I my-self had no better knowledge of the true state of the homes of thousands of the people who live around us until I visited some of them recently. I will just toll the House two or three of the things which I saw during my excursions into these comparatively unknown regions. In the first place, there are a great many courts which are not only extremely narrow in themselves, but are approached by tunnels passing under other houses. These houses close one end of the court, and the other end is also completely closed up, so that it is impossible that the houses in the court should have any ventilation. There are other houses which are built back to back, so that no air can pass between them. There are other houses which are, perhaps, even worse than these, because, though a very narrow space is left between their backs, this space is almost dark, and at its base is filled with everything that is filthy and abominable; consequently the air that enters these dwellings from the rear is anything but pure, and is constantly liable to be laden with the most offensive odours, and with the germs of disorder and disease. There are some houses the fronts of which look closely upon the backs of the opposite houses, and hon. Members can easily imagine what must be the consequence of that arrangement, because, of course, the sanitary offices—if the term "sanitary" can be properly applied to them—of all the opposite houses are immediately under their windows. The construction of these houses is antiquated and utterly bad. Possibly some hon. Members would be surprised to learn that among the mischiefs of which complaint has to be made are the following:—I saw a row in Bedfordbury that is entirely built of wood; and many of the houses in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane are built of mere lath and plaster. Not only must such dwellings he dirty and unfit for human habitation, but in the event of a fire breaking out during a strong wind, it is quite impossible to say where the consequences might end. Many of the houses I have described, and probably all of them, were built before any Building Act existed for London. We have now a Building Act for the Metropolis, the defects in which I am glad to see we are to attempt to remedy by the Bill which the hon. and gallant Member who represents the Metropolitan Board of Works (Colonel Hogg) has brought in. When the houses to which I refer were built, no sanitary arrangements of any kind were enforced. The dwellings were often erected in back yards and in gardens; and, consequently, the means of approach to them were most inconvenient and most inadequate. [The hon. Member having read a vivid description of the condition of some districts of the metropolis—"places unfit for human habitation—places in which by common consent even moderately healthy life is impossible to human dwellers,"—from the 8th Report of the Medical Officer of Privy Council, 1865, page 13; and similar testimony to the state of things existing in 1874 by the Medical Officer of Health of the Whitechapel District Board of Work's and the Medical Officer of Health of St. Marylebone proceeded to say]—Now, with respect to these poorest houses in London—they fall under two heads—they are either improvable or they are unimprovable. The houses which fall under the following category may be considered past all improvement. First of all, those which stand back to back, or in so confined a space as to be incapable of free ventilation; secondly, those old tumble-down houses which are not worth spending money upon; thirdly, those that are built of wood or of lath and plaster; and fourthly, such as are incapable of having proper sanitary arrangements provided for them, one for every family, or at least one for every two or three families. Well, in what I have been describing to the House, I have been describing large areas available as sites for building improved dwellings for the working classes; for all those great spaces which are now covered by those bad dwellings could shortly be made use of if they were cleared, and would be made use of, if Parliament said clearly that they should be used for proper habitations for the poor. But there is another class of sites which exists in London, and in referring to them I shall appeal to the authority of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), the late Lord Mayor of London, who has identified himself so honourably with the movement for providing better habitations for the poor, and who can tell the House more than I can with respect to this subject. In April, 1872, in a letter which he wrote to The Daily News, he described the existence in London of large waste places, and explained what a mistake it was that they should exist, for the sake not only of the people who live in them, but of the owners of the adjoining property. This is what he describes in April, 1872. Commercial Street—Shoreditch to White-chapel—wax opened in 1852; Southwark Street in 1862; and in both streets large plots of land still remain uncovered. The new Farringdon Road is another case in point. It was opened in 1858, and very little of the surplus land has yet been built upon. The frontages are from one end to the other almost a dreary waste; the loss in the interest of the money alone amounts to nearly the whole of the principal; so that even were the land to he now sold for double what it would have fetched in 1858, the Corporation would only just recoup the loss sustained by this 14 years waiting. Meanwhile other and more serious losses have been going on. The district has lost the whole value of the parochial rates and taxes which would have been paid on inhabited houses; it has lost the increased value on the surrounding property which increased trade would have brought. Now, if any hon. Member will walk through Farringdon Street and near the Holborn Viaduct, he will still see large spaces of this kind surrounded by buildings; these spaces lying waste, to the injury not only of the Corporation or other persons who may own the land, but of the occupiers of surrounding property, the shopkeepers, the ratepayers, and above all, of the working classes, who are living over-crowded in the neighbouring parts of London. I have a letter which was kindly addressed to me by the Surveyor of the Trustees of Mr. Peabody, which shows that there also exist other sites, some of the class I first mentioned, some of the class I last mentioned, and some partly of the one class and partly of the other, which though they exist cannot be obtained by those anxious to build for the working classes. I think I am justified in reading this statement to the House, coming as it does with all the authority of the Peabody Trustees. The letter says— There are many large sites in and around London, suitable; for dwellings for working men, and such sites have been in the market for years unsold, simply because the price asked is far above the value. I know of one in Lambeth for sale since 1868, in which year I offered a fair price for the Peabody Trust. There are now unsold several suitable sites in Westminster, one in Goswell Street, one in Whitechapel, one in City Road: land in Westminster little used belonging to trustees who cannot sell without compulsory powers: laud in Paddington kept in a useless state by an old man quite incapable of dealing with his property, and this land is in a situation much wanting help with clean houses: a property in Westminster consisting of two plots of land, both too small to be dealt with separately, but having some of the worst houses in Westminster between the plots. These houses cannot be purchased without compulsory powers. The statement which I have quoted shows the existence of sites to a large extent which might be used for the purpose of building proper dwellings for the poor. There are other spaces also which might be made available, where, under the Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings Act, 1868, passed by my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens), the Medical Officers of Health have stopped in and have moved the vestries to demolish buildings unfit for habitation. In some of these places sites have been cleared, and still remain cleared, without being made useful or productive for any purpose. I saw one of these properties, belonging to the Foundling Hospital, in Bloomsbury, near Russell Square, which scarcely can be utilized, partly because there are not proper approaches, and partly because, though tolerably large, it is not sufficiently extensive to be made use of by the Peabody Trustees or others, unless compulsory powers could be obtained over the adjoining property. In this space, when I saw it the other day, there were heaps of offensive refuse thrown from the neighbouring houses, and the vestry were employing several men—naturally not without expense to the ratepayers—to clear the rubbish away. I think, then, I have shown the House that there exists in London a plentiful supply of sites which might be used for the purpose of erecting good dwellings; sites at present occupied by houses unfit for habitation; sites which cannot be turned to account in consequence of the too high prices asked for them by their owners, and sites too small to be made available themselves, because there are no compulsory powers of dealing with adjacent property. I purpose now to show that there exists in London a large demand for such sites. The trustees of Mr. Peabody, whose name—although he was not a native of this country—must always be mentioned as that of one of the greatest benefactors that our metropolis has ever had, not only inform me, in the letter I have quoted to the House, that they have been endeavouring, without success, to get the sites I have mentioned; but they state in their last report that, out of a total fund of £578,000—including all the bequests of Mr. Peabody, and such profits as have already been received from the dwellings they have built, while they have spent on land £102,000, and £198,000 on buildings, making £300,000 in all—they have still left about £278,000 available for the purposes of the trust. There can be no doubt that the trustees of Mr. Peabody would lose no time in employing that money, if they could only meet with the sites which they want, and yet I have shown to the House that such sites exist in great quantity. Then, I am told by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, who will second my Motion, that his company have refused money which they would be glad to put to use if they could only get sites. The great difficulty is to obtain sites, and if my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Cross) sees his way to get over that difficulty, I have no doubt the demands on the part of philanthropists, semi-philanthropists, and those who desire to build for their own private gain, will do the rest. If my right hon. Friend would only bring the supply to the demand, he would do a great and most useful work. I am told by the secretaries of other societies and companies that their hands are tied behind them, that they are crippled for want of land. Well, then, here we have this plentiful supply of sites, and this demand for sites, and the question is how to bring this demand to touch the supply. It reminds me of cases which used to interest me very much when I was a student of chemistry. When you have apparently in close contact two substances which have a strong affinity for each other, they may remain in contact for years and years without any union taking place; but once apply heat or the electric spark, or some other power which will bring them into more than mere mechanical contact, and you set up an action of an interesting and important character. That electric force can only be applied in this case by the action of Parliament. [The hon. Member having referred to the various Acts connected with the Public Health passed since the outbreak of cholera in 1831 said]: I now come to the Act which is of most importance in reference to this discussion—I mean the Act passed by my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) in 1868, and called the Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Act. The Bill, as passed by the House of Commons, contained provisions for four purposes—compulsory repair, demolilition, compensation, and rebuilding. In the House of Lords, the last two provisions were struck out, and consequently the Act provides only for compulsory repair, and for the demolition of dwellings unfit for human habitation. Yet this Act has been of great value. Indeed, I did not fully realize its value until the other clay, when I went through the parish of St. Giles, where Dr. Ross, the Medical Officer of the Vestry, has put the Act into force with considerable vigour and courage. About 100 houses have been improved or demolished in his district. The Act has been also employed with effect in Marylebone, Clerkenwell, Islington, Holborn, St. Luke's, Whitechapel, Mile End Old Town, and other parishes. It may be worth while to point out how the Act may be considerably improved. Not only should the powers of rebuilding, which the House of Lords unfortunately expunged, be restored in some form by new legislation, but the experience of Dr. Ross in enforcing the Act induces him to offer these practical suggestions:—First, the Medical Officer, in addition to the Re-port required by the Act, should be directed to detail the grounds upon which his opinion is based; and, secondly, the report of the Medical Officer of Health, condemning certain houses as unfit for human habitation, should be forwarded to the Local Government Board, in order that a Medical Inspec- tor may examine the premises, and report thereon, previous to the reference to the Surveyor of the local authority. The medical officers of health are in the service of the vestries, and the members of the vestries are, to a large extent, property owners; and yet it is to these vestries that the medical officer of health has to make his report that property is unfit for human habitation, and ought to be demolished. The effect of adopting the suggestion would be that the report of the medical officer would be made with much greater confidence. At present, he sometimes shrinks from condemning places which are unfit for human habitation because he knows his report will be unsupported when it comes before a body who, naturally enough, will be somewhat prejudiced in favour of the supposed rights of their own property. If he were supported by an Inspector of the Local Government Board, he would have more confidence in recommending the resort to the measures now authorized by what is known as Torrens's Act. There are other respects in which the Act will not work efficiently. A medical officer of health shrinks from condemning property because, in the first place, he knows there is no power to re-construct. That is a fault which might have been avoided by passing the provisions of the Act that were rejected by the House of Lords. Further, the medical officer knows that the site of the property, if it were condemned, could not be utilized for any purpose unless adjoining property could be dealt with as well; but that may not be unfit for human habitation, and therefore he is not able to condemn it. He knows that if the houses to be condemned are demolished, the site will remain vacant and no property will be erected. This points to the necessity of some powers for obtaining neighbouring property, even though it be not of a character to render it unfit for human habitation. We have now seen sufficiently what Acts have been passed by the Legislature in recent years, and I pass on to show what precedents exist to guide us in the future, and what circumstances there are to encourage us. To go at once to the root of the matter, I point to the examples of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and what has been clone in those places. When I was a member of the Committee of the Charity Organization Society, one of the most interesting meetings was that at which the Lord Provost of Glasgow, the City Architect, and the Town Clerk attended to give evidence of what they had been able to do in Glasgow. They obtained, in 1866, an Act called the City Improvement Act. Before the passing of that Act, the Lord Provost told us the City of Glasgow was even more crowded than London was. There were 50,000 people huddled together on 80 acres, which made 600 to the acre, while in Westminster, a very crowded part of London, the population is 235 to the acre. How did the Corporation propose to deal with this evil, and how did Parliament enable them to deal with it? The Corporation deposited plans of the parts of the town they desired to improve, and they obtained power to borrow a million and a-quarter of money. They were empowered to pull down all the places which were shown in these deposited plans, and to rebuild upon the sites thus obtained, or sell them for the purpose of being built upon. They were also empowered to levy a 6d. rate. They did not find this necessary for more than a year; they had a 4d. rate for two years, then a 3d. one, and now, I think, it is reduced to 2d. The Corporation did not use their power to rebuild except to a very limited extent. In order not to discourage speculators and prevent their stepping in to do what was necessary, the Corporation exercised their powers of re-constructing in only two cases; they built two lodging-houses for 500 people, which are quite models of their kind, and which have paid 10 per cent. The rest of the building operations have been conducted throughout by private agencies which came at once to the aid of the trustees, and acted readily under certain prescribed restrictions of sanitary construction. One provision in the Glasgow Act prevented the removal of more than 500 persons at once without a certificate from the Sheriff that accommodation for the number removed was obtainable in the neighbourhood. Following the example of Glasgow, the people of Edinburgh were induced, in 1867, by Dr. William Chambers, to obtain an Act which enabled the Corporation to borrow £350,000, restricted them to removing 500 people at a time, and gave power to spend £10,000 in rebuilding. They exercised this power by building a block of 36 houses, con- sisting of flats, which were eagerly purchased by working men, at prices varying from £170 to £185. Liverpool, in 1864, obtained a special Act, called the Sanitary Amendment Act, which was on the same basis as Torrens's Act—subsequently passed for London and other towns—but the Liverpool Bill contained the principle of compensation, which was struck out of the hon. Member for Finsbury's Bill in the House of Lords, so that Liverpool possesses a power of which the authorities of London are deprived. Let me state very briefly what have been some of the results of this legislation. I will restrict what I have to say to the Glasgow case. The results in Glasgow have been very remarkable with reference to crime. The total number of crimes have singularly diminished. According to the Report of Captain McCall, Chief Constable of the City, for the year 1871, the number of houses of an immoral kind have been reduced from 204 to 50. Captain McCall adds— I should consider that I fell short of my duty were I not to acknowledge that the operations of the City Improvement Trustees and the Directors of the City Union Railway Company, have contributed to the results. Through these operations the city has been cleared of the foulest dens of vice and profligacy, and their occupants have been scattered among a population breathing a purer moral atmosphere. I have also got the statistics of what has been done with regard to the number of dwellings which have been removed in a return by Mr. Nichol, Secretary to the Improvement Trustees. The return is dated the 14th April, 1874, and states that— The number of dwellings in the central district of Glasgow removed by the Improvement Trustees within the last six years was 3,085 (allowing five to a family, 15,425 persons). The number in the same district removed by the City Union Railway Company represents 8,000 inmates, giving a total of 28,425. I take it, therefore, that what has been done in Glasgow may be pointed to as, at least, a hopeful precedent, when we come to consider the way in which we are proposing to deal with the evils that exist in London. I know it will be said, and I admit, that the cases of Glasgow and London are very different. The case of London is, in many respects, totally different from that of any other town in the Kingdom. No doubt, very greatly improved legislation is required with reference to the dwellings of the labour- ing classes in every town of the Kingdom; but with respect to London it is particularly so, and I admit that here in London we cannot follow altogether the example of Glasgow in one particular. We cannot meet the necessities of the case by erecting dwellings in the suburbs in the stead of those demolished in the City. The suburbs of London are so much farther removed from the centre than those of other towns, that at least those people whose work is not at regular times cannot live in the suburbs and follow their occupations too. Those, for instance, who have regular work between fixed hours in the morning and the evening, who do not work extra hours and who have sufficient means to enable them to go to and fro by railway, and to bear the increased expense of taking their mid-day meal apart from their wives and families, these may benefit by living in the suburbs. But a large class who must take their work to their employers at various uncertain hours—I might mention the case of tailors, for instance—and those who depend on having their mid-day meal with their families, and those whose wives or children earn money in town occupations, cannot go to dwellings in the suburbs. I may say parenthetically that it would be a misfortune in my estimation to have the large mass of working men toiling far from their homes all day while their families reside in the suburbs. Men would lead a working life quite distinct and apart from their home life. It is a happy thing for them to be able to return to their families for their mid-day meal; and, where they cannot do that, to have the wife or child taking the dinner to the father, and sharing it with him. That would be materially affected by obliging the working classes to any great extent to avail themselves of railways to travel to and from their work. I say, therefore, the case of Glasgow is very different in that respect from London, where the centre of the town is so far distant from the suburbs. But there is this similarity, that there existed in Glasgow large districts where the buildings were overcrowded, where the sanitary arrangments were bad, which were perfect rookeries of crime, disease, and every kind of disorder, and which could only be got rid of by demolition. And we have the same, evil to deal with in London as in Glasgow. It may, there- fore, be profitable, and it is not uninteresting to examine what has been done. What is it that we propose to do in London? What is it that the memorials which have been presented to the Government by the College of Physicians and the Charity Organization Society point to? They both point to compulsory powers being obtained by local authorities for acquiring building sites for working people by the demolition of dwellings unfit for human habitation. And though I should not presume to sketch in detail a plan by which this course may be adopted, I think I need only point to one or two facts to show that we are, in some respects, in a better position than Glasgow for giving such compulsory powers. The first respect in which I think we stand in a better position is, that we have in our employment medical officers who are ready and competent to report, in accordance with the hon. Member for Finsbury's Act, that the houses to be removed are unfit for human habitation. That smooths away a great many difficulties; their powers being applied only to the class of houses unfit for human habitation. Sites would thus be obtained, not at an unfair, but at their real value. People who had allowed their property to get into a bad condition, and who kept it in a bad condition, would not be able to extort the altogether improperly high prices they now obtain for such property. In another respect I think we should stand better than in Glasgow for the exercise of those powers; the Metropolitan Board of Works, if entrusted with such functions, can issue stock at the moderate rate of 3½ per cent. and are thus enabled to obtain money much more cheaply than the Glasgow authorities could find their £1,250,000. But I must come to the main difficulty in that part of the proposal which seeks to confer these powers on certain authorities in London. It is objected that we have not got in London a great active reforming Municipal Corporation like that of Glasgow, with powers extending to the whole of the town, and directly representing its inhabitants; and that, no doubt, is true. I say, without disguise, in presence of my hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board, that I am one of those who call themselves municipal reformers, and who look forward to having some day a real municipal government for London. I am not satisfied with the Metropolitan Board of Works; and I hope the time will come when we shall have a directly representative Corporation governing the whole of the metropolis, and replacing existing bodies. But I do not think we ought to delay improving the dwellings of the poor till this reform takes place; and I do not shrink at all from saying that I think the proper course for the Government and Parliament to pursue is to invest the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the noble Corporation which presides over the City, with compulsory powers for this purpose, similar to those given to the Corporation of Glasgow. Let me say to anyone who distrusts the Metropolitan Board of Works at once—Suppose they do not exercise these powers wisely, or if they do not exercise them at all—at the worst, what will be the result? The powers will be ready at hand for those who must be appointed their successors, if they neglect their duties. If the Metropolitan Board of Works, possessing these powers of dealing with this great mischief, do not avail themselves of them, so much the worse for the Board. If they do avail themselves of them, proving in that respect a reforming body so far as their powers extend, I shall be ready to reconsider my distrust of a body, elected as the Board of Works is, and to give them credit for what they have done. It will be a great opportunity for them. If they avail themselves of it, so much the better for them; if they do not, so much stronger will the argument be for that of which I am an advocate—the formation of a real municipal government for London. If we give these powers to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and if they do not properly exercise them, we shall be enabling those who may hereafter take their place, if it be necessary some other body should supersede them, we shall be enabling their successors as soon as they come into office to avail themselves of these facilities, and do in earnest the good work we wish them to do. With respect to the necessity of those compulsory powers, I think I have yet one point to show. The Peabody Trustees and the Building Companies and Societies, when they succeed in obtaining land on which to build, are frequently very much hampered for want of power to deal with some buildings ad- joining what they acquire. A remarkable example of the damage done from want of compulsory powers occurred on the southern side of the river. The trustees of Mr. Peabody acquired from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, at a fair price, a large and convenient site, and they erected lofty buildings upon it. There was, however, a strip of miserable property held by several owners, and overlooking the trustees' land, which they took steps to acquire. This property contained a public-house. When the owners found out who wanted their property, they asked prices so outrageous that the trustees, after considerable delay, were obliged to give up their proposal to purchase, and thus to a great extent neutralize the good they proposed to do. When it was found that the trustees did not feel themselves justified in giving the sums demanded, and after the new buildings were begun, several of the owners of this adjoining property commenced proceedings in Chancery. In the case of the public-house, which was a leasehold for about 18 years, at a rent of £60, it was stated by the lessee in Court that it cost £1,600 some years before. Yet before any proceedings were taken the trustees were asked to give £4,000 for this lease. The owner of this property was so anxious to press the trustees to buy his property that he brought an action against them for loss of light, and it was unfortunately decided in his favour. The Court gave judgment for £200, and this, with costs, inflieted a loss upon the trustees of probably £400. Much worse than this was the lasting loss inflicted upon the trustees by the proximity of this low and miserable property. It will remain there a nest of disease and probably of crime, interfering with the comfort and usefulness of the new and excellent buildings, because the trustees were unable to acquire it on anything like fair and reasonable terms. It may be said that what I am recommending is virtually a proposal to rebuild London out of the rates. I beg to say, however, that I propose nothing of the kind. I do not propose to rebuild London, or any part of London, out of the rates, nor should I think of offering any arguments in favour of such a scheme. All that I should propose would be that land should be bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works under powers similar to those conferred upon the Corporation of Glasgow. The land thus bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works would be again sold or leased by them at little or no loss. The loss—if any—would alone come out of the rates. It might be desirable to give powers to the Metropolitan Board of Works, as was done in the Edinburgh Act, to rebuild to a certain extent. The greater part of the building, however, would be effected by private enterprise. All that is wanted is to enable private builders and philanthropic persons to meet the demand that exists for a better description of dwellings. If suitable sites were provided, private enterprise would do the rest. The Memorial of the Charity Organization Society suggests that— To provide against contingencies it would be expedient that these bodies should themselves have the power of rebuilding in certain exceptional cases and under proper limitations, the limitations referred to being those of the Edinburgh Act—restricting the right to rebuild within a definite outlay. It might be useful, as at Glasgow, to build some satisfactory common lodging-houses as models, and there can be little doubt that they would pay, as those at Glasgow give a return of 10 per cent. My proposal then is not to rebuild London out of the rates, but only to enable private enterprise to have scope for action—namely, to acquire at fair prices ground now inaccessible because of the protection given by law to powerless, indifferent, or unscrupulous owners or leaseholders. These compulsory powers are necessarily conferred both upon railway companies, and, in order to carry out-street improvements, upon the Metropolitan Board of Works. Not a Session passes without powers being given to railway companies and various public bodies for this class of improvements; and I shall be glad if any hon. Member will tell me why these powers should not be given for a matter of much greater national concern even than the construction of railways and the opening of more convenient thoroughfares—namely, for an object deeply affecting the welfare of the working classes. It will be necessary to meet the case of improvable; buildings—of those dwellings which are not so bad as to require to be taken down, but which are packed so closely together to be unwholesome. Much has been done towards improving this class of buildings, although there is often, I fear, a good deal of waste of money in improving dwellings which it would be better to take down altogether and rebuild. Many of these cannot be improved, and are not worth the large sums which have been expended on them. If you attempt to improve unimprovable dwellings—in the first place the result is not satisfactory as far as the dwelling is concerned, and in the next place it does not pay. The Association inaugurated in 1844 by Lord Shaftesbury, to his great honour—the "Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes"—has done an excellent work, of which I desire to speak with great respect. Another society, the London Labourers' Dwellings Society, of which a constituent of my own, Dr. Greenhill, is the indefatigable and excellent Secretary, has done much to improve the dwellings of the working classes in London; whilst a sister Society of older date at Hastings (1857) has done similar work there under the guidance of the same Secretary. I have seen a large number of these dwellings which have been improved, but I am aware that one cannot fairly judge of the work that these associations have accomplished unless one had seen these places before they were improved. I am afraid that a great many of the London improved dwellings, after all that has been done, are in an unsatisfactory condition. But others have been converted into fit dwellings for working men and their families; for example, in some cases chambers which were formerly occupied by barristers and persons of the higher classes, and which have been allowed to fall into a state of dilapidation, whilst occupied by a poorer class, have been repaired and drained, and again put into a fair sanitary condition. This is some of the good work that has been done by these associations. But that good work ought to be extended. It has been effected for the most part by benevolent societies; and, although I do not ask the Government itself to undertake the repair and improvement of such better dwellings, I appeal to hon. Members and to the public to give to this movement the aid and encouragement it requires and deserves. Such an Act as that passed for Glasgow would enable us to deal with the worst parts of London, and with dwellings that are unimprovable—and these I fear constitute the larger class—but it would leave much to be done in those parts of London which are capable of being improved. I must next speak of the work which is being done—in building improved habitations—by various societies and companies, some of a philanthropic character, others half philanthropic and half commercial, some of a purely commercial character, many of which were set on foot and are carried on by private individuals who have shown an example for others to follow. The oldest association that attempted the erection of model dwelling-houses was the Metropolitan Association, formed in 1841 for improving the dwellings of the industrious classes. I have seen many of the dwellings of this association, which provides already for about 4,000 inhabitants, and which, when its Farringdon Road buildings are complete, will have 1,049 tenements or separate dwellings, of which only 20 are in old converted buildings. The dwellings of this association are most excellent models to be followed by those individuals who may avail themselves of the sites which we may hope will be set free by the powers proposed to be given to the Corporation of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works. The trustees of Mr. Peabody have built several blocks of buildings of the most interesting and useful character, and which are largely in demand by the more provident of the working classes. The Company of which my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow) is the Chairman, has provided accommodation for no less than 6,340 persons in its buildings. I must also refer to the Baroness Burdett Coutts, whose name should be mentioned with special honour in connection with her Columbia Square Buildings for working men and their families. Mr. Gibbs, in Rochester Buildings, near this House, has erected model dwellings for working men which are well worthy of imitation. The Corporation of the City of London have done something in this direction, and the benevolent persons represented by Miss Octavia Hill have provided accommodation for 1,500 persons in their dwellings. The right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of London (Mr. Russell Gurncy) should also be named among those who have been foremost in this good work. I must now mention one or two facts relative to the experience of those who have attempted to provide better accommodation for working men. One fact bears very much upon the necessity for compulsory powers, and it is that the associations I have referred to have to pay such varying sums, such large sums in most cases, and such extortionate sums in other instances for the sites on which to erect their dwellings. I will mention some figures to show the varying amount of ground-rent which the companies find it necessary to levy per family per week in order to recoup themselves for the ground-rent under which they sit as owners of these buildings. In one of these buildings it is necessary to charge a ground-rent of 1s. 1d. per family per week; in another, 1s. 6d. In one case this payment is as low as a 1¼d.; in another it is 3¾d. The House will, I hope, realize that heavy ground-rents are the result of leaving these associations to obtain their sites at fancy prices; and that the consequence is that a working man with a family cannot in some blocks obtain the accommodation which these associations provide for him without beginning by paying 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week for ground-rent, to which, of course, the rent of the rooms must be added. When the House duly considers this state of things, it will, I hope, see how very important it is that Associations formed for these benevolent purposes should obtain sites at such reasonable prices as arbitrators would fix. There is also another point in the experience of these philanthropic pioneers which is instructive; and that is, that on the sites that are cleared, where people have been living in an over-crowded state and in great misery, these associations are able to house many more people than before, without any of the drawbacks of the former crowding. I have already stated that the population in Westminster numbers 235 to the acre. In the Farringdon Road Buildings the population will be about 1,600 to the acre, though nearly half the site is left uncovered for the purposes of recreation and ventilation. Whilst the Metropolitan Association will have provided for the unprecedented number of 1,600 people to the acre, several associtions and companies are building blocks which will accommodate 1,000 to the acre. I ought also to mention the fact that there is a great demand for these buildings. People have sometimes said that the working classes do not care to go and live in this new kind of habitation; that they do not like to go upstairs and to live in flats. On the contrary, I find that, as soon as one of these blocks is constructed, there is immediately a great demand for tenements. In the Farringdon Road Buildings, for instance, although it will be four or five months before they will be completely ready for habitation, and although there will be accommodation for 253 families only, yet for this accommodation already no less than 275 applications have been received. And with respect to the Pea-body buildings, the number of applications is still more largely in excess of the accommodation supplied, although that is, no doubt, partly due to the fact that in this case the tenements are let below their value. There is another fact to which I must allude, and that is the remarkably small loss that arises from the non-payment of rent. One would imagine that, owing to various causes, there would be frequent instances in which the rent would not be paid. But, in reality, the loss from this cause is very small. In the case of the Metropolitan Association, the gross rent receivable amounted to £12,257 5s., and the rent actually received was £12,082 11s. And that difference of £174 includes the loss arising from rooms empty during repairs or removals. These are very remarkable facts. And now I come to an important point, and it is one which can be spoken to with special authority by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone. The question is, whether the erection of these buildings is so profitable an investment as to tempt builders to step in? Will these sites be taken up by people who desire to make profit on buildings for the working classes or not? I say most confidently they will, because my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, and others have set the example, and have shown that it is profitable to build these classes of dwellings. Let me state what the dividends are. In the case of the Metropolitan Association, the dividends have been kept down. They were pioneers in the work, and all honour to them. But, owing to this circumstance, experiments were tried and mistakes made which naturally affected the dividends. But in spite of these experiments and the losses which were incurred, they are now paying 4½ per cent. They hope very soon to be able to pay 5 per cent. The Strand Buildings Company pays 5 per cent. and the London Labourers' Dwellings Society 5 per cent. I am told that one or two of the blocks erected by the Peabody Trustees pay 4 per cent. The Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, the Company presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, pays 5 per cent. and has done so from the very commencement. The dwellings built by the Corporation of the City of London pay 4 per cent. and those erected or improved by Mr. Ruskin, Lady Ducie, and the other persons whose good work is managed by Miss Octavia Hill, pay 5 per cent. Some companies, it must be admitted, have been failures; others have paid very little; but when wisely managed they have set an example which private individuals and speculators may follow, for they show that dividends at the rate of 5 per cent can be obtained. It would be unpardonable if I did not say a word or two on the demolitions which have been effected under powers obtained by Railway Bills and Bills for other public improvements, and with respect to the duty that devolves upon Parliament of seeing to these matters, and of insuring that the injustice and misery which have been inflicted in the past are not repeated in the future. I need not dwell at any length upon this subject, because it is so familiar to hon. Members, and because they know that railway after railway taken through London has displaced a very large number of working people, who have thus had to find other habitations, and to over-crowd places already too full. Let me direct the attention of the House to the precedent laid down by the Metropolitan Street Improvement Act of 1872. When that Act was passed, there were Bills before Parliament which would demolish 1,152 houses and displace 3,870 persons, nearly all of whom were working people. A clause was then introduced into it—very much, I believe, at the instance of the hon. Member for Maidstone—which obliged the Board of Works to set aside certain plots for dwellings of the poor, in connection with the clearances they made for streets. Now, I hope we shall insist in this House that similar clauses are inserted in Bills which are attended by this mischief. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has taken one step in that direction in the ease of the Midland Railway Bill of the present Session, and I hope he will take others. This is a matter that we ought not to leave to be dealt with in "another place." The House of Lords' Standing Order on the subject provides that before the second reading of any of these Bills takes place, a Return shall be furnished of the number of houses it is proposed to pull down, and the number of persons it is proposed to remove under the compulsory powers to be given. This Standing Order has, no doubt, acted beneficially, but it is not enough; and we ought not to leave a matter of this kind to be dealt with in "another place." We ought to deal with it ourselves. And not only ought we to know how many people are going to be displaced, but in passing such Bills we ought to see clauses inserted, which would compel the companies to provide space for accommodating an equivalent number of people to the number removed. But the evil does not arise solely from the conduct of the railway companies, and from the neglect of Parliament to require due provision of sites for dwellings in their private Bills. I am sorry to say that we, or the Government, in times past, have been guilty of similar mischief. I refer particularly to the clearance of the space for the new Law Courts. The space cleared was very large—it still lies void and vacant—and about 4,000 people were turned out, causing very great misery. I need only allude to that to show how careless we have been of the comfort and interests of the working classes. I regret to be informed, too, that some of the measures taken by the School Board of London have more recently inflicted similar misfortune on working people by dismissing them from their homes. In all these cases provision should be made for those who are displaced. I was going to fortify myself upon this point by some high authorities who refer to the results of Railway and Improvement Bills. But, Sir, I think the House is awakened to the necessity of doing its duty in these cases, and I do not think I need say any more on the subject. I shall, therefore, close what I have to say by moving the Resolution which stands in my name. But, before I do so, I must not omit to draw the special attention of the House to the words of the memorial which has come before it with the high authority of the College of Physicians. It was presented to the First Lord of the Treasury, and ordered to be laid upon the Table of the House. They make this statement— That it is well known to your Memorialists that overcrowding, especially in unwholesome and ill-constructed habitations, originates disease, leads to drunkenness and immorality, and is likely to produce discontent among the poorer portion of the population. That it is within the Knowledge of your Memorialists that the wholesale demolition of the houses inhabited by the poor which has been carried on of late years under various railway and improvement Acts, while it has been serviceable in removing many very bad streets and dwellings, has incidentally caused much distress to the persons displaced, and has almost uniformly driven them to crowd into neighbouring quarters, which were already as full as, or fuller than, was consistent with healthiness. That private enterprise is powerless to provide the fresh and improved house accommodation which is required for those who have been expelled from their former habitations, in addition to that which is called for by the constant increase of the population, by reason of the impossibility of securing suitable sites for building. Even so rich and powerful a body as the Trustees of the Peabody Fond has been repeatedly foiled in particular attempts to obtain land to build upon. They conclude thus— That your Memorialists believe that the mere enabling powers which are at present entrusted to various authorities have proved, and must prove, insufficient to effect the desired object. That in the opinion of your Memorialists a remedy for these evils is urgently required. Sir, I need not again refer to the great dangers to the community at large from crime, from epidemic, from fire, arising out of the neglect of a great evil, nor to the far worse misery and degradation inflicted upon the poorest classes of the people by the existence of these wretched houses which, whilst they exist, are sure to be inhabited. I appeal to the Home Secretary not to confine himself to mere words in any reply he may make to what, at too great length and with insufficient ability, I have ventured to bring forward, but to tell us what will be his acts; to tell us that he intends to take the subject in hand and to carry through such a measure or such measures as the national urgency and importance of the subject imperatively demand. The time is past for admitting the evil and for declaring that something must be done. Let the right hon. Gentleman tell us what, in his opinion, ought to be done, and let him say that he intends to do it. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


, in seconding the Motion, said, I am glad to have an opportunity of saying a few words in support of the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Hastings. The subject is one in which I have taken the greatest interest for many years past. It has never been treated as a party question, and I trust never will be. On the contrary, from my own experience, I have found that right hon. and hon. Members of this House, whether sitting on the right or the left of the Chair, have rather vied with each other in their expression of sympathy with the object of the Resolution, and I trust that we may hope from this that it may be found acceptable to those who are present here to-night. I do not purpose to take up the time of the House by dwelling upon the evils of overcrowding, or drawing a picture of the wretched habitations in the narrow courts and alleys of our metropolis, in which so many of our labouring population are compelled to reside. I say compelled to reside, because it is as important to the mechanic, the costormonger, and the huckster to reside near to the place of his employment and to the markets for his trade, as it is to the merchant, and perhaps more so, since the poor man cannot afford the daily cost of transit. The proof of this is found in the high prices paid for rooms near the centres of labour. I once asked a poor woman who proposed to remove from the outskirts into London, how she could afford the extra 1s. or 1s. 6d. per week for their two rooms? She replied that she should save much more than 1s. 6d. per week when her husband could come home to his breakfast and dinner instead of taking it in a public-house. There can be no doubt that it is absolutely essential to the well-being of the community that the labouring population of our great metropolis should continue to reside near to their work. The cheap workmen's trains and the tramway cars are, no doubt a great convenience, but only available where the head of the family is the sole bread-winner. If the earnings of the wife and the children form part of the weekly wages, the family must re- side near their work. During the last quarter of a century efforts have been made by several philanthropic societies, public companies, and private individuals to lessen the evils of overcrowding and to improve the dwellings of the labouring class. Much good has, no doubt, been done by these means, and the rents of working-men's houses would, but for these efforts have risen much higher even than they have done. But these efforts do not reach the real evil. In very few cases have the building companies been able to purchase and remove the houses unfit for human habitation. As a rule there are such a variety of interests in this kind of property that it is impossible to clear any large site without compulsory powers, which ought, I think, to be exercised only by a public authority. The philanthropic societies have, in fact, been working with their hands tied, and wretched houses unfit for human habitation remain as nests of fever and pestilence, foul blots on the face of our fair metropolis, doubling the rate of sickness and death among the occupants and spreading contagion throughout the immediate neighbourhood. I feel sure that we shall all agree that this state of things ought to be remedied, that this great and crying evil ought to be abated; the only question that I apprehend can be asked is, in what way can Parliament alleviate this evil without throwing too great a burden on the ratepayers, or dealing unfairly with the rights of private property? In what way can Parliament assist in this work, which has hitherto been left so entirely to private philanthropy? What we ask is that this House, recognizing the local authority which the Metropolitan Board of Works and the City of London exercise over the districts under their control, should impose upon these two public bodies the responsibility and the duty of submitting to Parliament, from time to time, schemes for public improvements involving the destruction of houses unfit for occupation, and the appropriation of the sites when cleared for the reconstruction of tenement-houses suitable for the labouring population, upon plans to be approved by the local authority, in the manner provided by the Metropolitan Improvement Act of 1872. Notices would be given, and the various interests in the property would of course be dealt with in the same way as if it were taken for a street improvement. I am quite prepared to admit that these improvements would throw some temporary burden on the ratepayers, a small annual charge which would, I think, be more than compensated by immediate and future advantages. The principle upon which such improvements would be carried out has been constantly recognized by Parliament. The Metropolitan Board of Works have frequently applied to the House, and have obtained compulsory powers to make new streets in order to facilitate the circulation of the pedestrian and vehicular traffic of the metropolis, charging the cost on the ratepayers. If this charge is cheerfully borne, it can scarcely be doubted that an improvement calculated to ensure the better circulation of fresh air in the most crowded parts of our City, and the consequent reduction of the death and disease rate, could not be objected to. If we consider the figures for a few moments, we shall readily see that the annual charge will be very small. The present rateable value of property in the metropolis is nearly £21,000,000. A rate of 1d, in the pound will produce nearly £90,000, or sufficient to pay the interest on £2,000,000 and redeem the principal in 40 years. If the money was raised by issuing Metropolitan Consols at 3½ per cent £2,000,000 would go a long way in paying simply the difference between the purchase money of the land and the sum recovered on its resale, or the sale of the ground-rents. I venture to say, from many years' experience of the subject, that £2,000,000, or a rate of 1d. in the pound for 40 years, applied in the mode suggested, would remove to a very large extent the houses in the metropolis at the present time unfit for human habitation. Having glanced at the probable cost, let us look at the return to be derived from the outlay. The leading physicians of the metropolis, in the Memorial recently presented to the Prime Minister, expressed an unanimous opinion that the disease and death-rate among the labouring population were very largely increased by the unhealthy condition of their houses. This statement has been constantly confirmed by the reports of the sanitary officers of the large metropolitan parishes, and is fully proved by the Registrar General's Returns. These Returns show that in 1872 the rate of mortality throughout the me- tropolis was 21.5 in the 1,000, while the mortality in the improved dwellings for the working classes was only 15.8 in the 1,000. If we take the average over a longer period, we find that, in the eight years ending 1872, the death-rate in the metropolis was 24 in the 1,000, against 16 in the 1,000 in the improved dwellings. The disease rate has been calculated to be about double the death rate, that is to say, for every person dying there are two persons afflicted with acute disease, preventing them following then-ordinary work. Now those who know anything of the causes of the increase of late years in the local taxation are well aware that it arises to some extent from the constantly increasing cost of the construction and maintenance of the asylums for the care of the sick poor under the control of the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the Central London Asylums Board. A reduction of the disease-rate to anything like the extent shown by the figures I have just given would soon recoup the proposed addition of 1d. in the pound. Should it, however, appear on a closer examination of the subject that rather more than 1d. in the pound was required to carry out the proposed improvements, I venture to think that no better time could be selected than the present, when local taxation is proposed to be so largely relieved by the Budget: of the present Session. Passing away from the mere pecuniary view of the question, I could appeal to the House to support this Motion upon higher and more forcible grounds. The people of this country are never tired of subscribing money for the religious education of the poor. The whole country has recently been very properly taxed to provide secular education for every child. I venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that if the labours of the ministers of religion are to produce the hoped-for result, if the work of the schoolmasters and the school boards is to bring forth good fruit, the homes in which the working population in over-crowded cities are compelled to live must be improved. We, I fear, as a nation are too prone to consider our own civilization as far in advance of the civilization of other countries, and when we read of the indifference with which the lives of human beings are sacrificed among barbarous nations, of the ruthless manner in which infants are placed in the baby towers of the East, we are too apt to cry—"Thank God! we are not as Wicked as other nations;" but if the statements of our leading physicians, if the Returns of the Registrar General, are to be relied on, who can doubt that thousands of persons, and especially children under two years of age, die annually front preventable causes? If this be true, I would ask the House to support the Resolution, with the hope that some suitable solution may be found for this great and important problem. If in the dealing with this question I have spoken too warmly or too strongly. I trust House will excuse me, and will attribute it to my great interest in the subject rather than to any want of respect for the House itself.

Amendment proposed. To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, a necessity exists for some measure that will provide for the improvement of the poorest classes of dwellings in London, and that this question demands the early attention of Her Majesty's Grovernment,"—(Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he had pleasure in congratulating the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) on the able manner in which he had brought that subject before the House. He could assure his hon. Friend that the Metropolitan Board was as anxious as ever it had been to do everything in its power to benefit the metropolis at large, and he certainly thought that nothing was of more importance than to endeavour to improve the character of the dwellings of the poor. He had himself gone through some places so horrible that he did not know how human beings could dwell in them. His hon. Friend who had made the Motion wanted to bring sites to those who had a demand for them. There would, he should think, be no great difficulty in that. If people who wanted sites were willing to pay the money asked for them, they would get them. The Metropolitan Board had done something to procure sites, and he was now in communication with his hon. Friend (Sir Sidney Water-low) with a view to the occupation of these sites as soon as possible. He was exceedingly anxious that his hon. Friend's company, or some other, should build new houses on those sites, so that the poor should not be driven away from the places in which they had been accustomed to live; but he wished to point out that in the Metropolitan Streets Act of 1872 there was a special clause providing that whenever buildings were swept away from the poor neighbourhoods, the land should be reserved; but all public bodies, when they had land to let, were bound to get a fair and proper recoupment for the ratepayers' money. He was sorry his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings did not seem to have confidence in the Metropolitan Board; but, nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman was ready to invest them with considerable additional powers, so that it would appear that his hon. Friend's actions indicated greater confidence than his words. The powers which the hon. Gentleman would confer would require to be used with the greatest possible caution, because, while one man might think a house ought to be pulled down, the owner might be of a very different opinion. He had not been deputed by the Metropolitan Board of Works to say what their views might be; but he could promise that if the House chose to give them any further powers, the Board would exercise them to the best of their ability. With regard to the district surveyors, it was not intended in the Bill he was about to introduce to abolish them; but to make them more responsible to the Board in their respective districts, while, with respect to the question of money, if the House granted the Board the necessary powers there would be no difficulty at all, for a few weeks since they had asked a loan of £2,000,000, and in six hours had been offered £22,000,000.


said, that the object of the Motion which his hon. Friend (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) had supported with so much ability was to call upon Government to give their attention to that very important question, and to see whether they could not devise some means for remedying a great and admitted evil. He thought his hon. Friend had made out a case for legislative action. The hon. Gentleman had prudently not sketched out any plan, it being clear that the Members of the Go- vernment, no doubt, would be anxious to give their attention to the subject; and with the power which they had both in that House and in "another place," they were in a position to do so with effect. And then there was a better opportunity now than in former years for taking up the matter, which was clearly one that must be dealt with by the administrative Government. The evil must be a great one before a case could be made out for Government interference, and one would be glad that the matter could be left to the action of supply and demand. But, it must be admitted, such was the condition of the population that we could not expect them to be well housed unless something more was done. There could be no doubt about the existence of the evil, and the danger in which it put almost all the inhabitants of the metropolis, from the disease engendered by these miserable dwellings. His hon. Friend was quite right in stating that the time had come when compulsory powers must be given to some authority in the metropolis to pull down, and if obliged to do so, to build up again; although he shared in the belief that private benevolence and enterprize would step forward and build up that which was pulled down. They must all be grateful to the hon. Member for bringing this matter forward, for, as he said before, a strong case had been made out for legislation, and, with the present local government of London, any additional administrative responsibility must be cast upon the Corporation in the City, and outside it on the Metropolitan Board. The Government, with its present majority, was in a position to carry a measure, and perhaps the Lords might be induced to reconsider their former decision, and to pass provisions for compulsory reconstruction, as well as demolition.


said, there was one subject which the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) had not touched upon—namely, the influence of what he would term "vicious legislation" with respect to the dwellings of the working classes. At the time when the window tax was imposed, the effect of the tax was to cause a very large number of windows to be closed up in order to lighten the burden of taxation in houses inhabited by poor families, and before its abolition he had visited houses where the staircases were in perfect darkness, not a ray of light being lot in upon them, the consequence being that the means taken to shut out the light also shut out the air, and disease and misery were the result. He rejoiced when that tax was repealed; but, unfortunately, another tax had been imposed which affected injuriously the dwellings of the poor, and had been the main cause of large spaces not being built upon. He referred to the house duty, which did not affect places where land was cheap, and where small houses could be built, but spaces in large towns, where land was dear for the grouping of houses. Although it was only 9d. in the pound to owners, it fell with the weight of 1s. or 1s. 6d. in the pound upon the occupier. To avoid that the Industrial Dwellings Company, in building their flats, made the approach by an open staircase, for each set of tenements was then valued separately, and being under £20 escaped the duty, whereas were there an outside door for each building—that was, a group of flats—would be valued, and the value being over £20, it would be taxed accordingly. It seemed a monstrous anomaly that if anyone erected a dwelling to be laid out in flats, and if there were a front door, that structure would be liable to duty; whereas, if a front door were omitted, it would not be subjected to the duty. Besides that, the open staircase created a great deal of annoyance to the police, who stated that it was a refuge to vagrants and to persons of loose character. As an easy method of dealing with a portion of this question, he would suggest that the Government should direct their assessors to assess each range of tenements separately, and thus all tenements under £20 a-year would be free from the house duty. The loss to the revenue would be very slight, but it would give a great impetus to those persons who wished to build on large vacant spaces.


said, he wished to confirm, from his own observation, what had been said of the dwellings of the London poor. The supply of dwellings for the working classes in London was utterly inadequate. The removal of a large number of houses to make way for the railways had driven the people into other localities, and houses which had been built for one family were now occupied by six or seven, every room, even the cellar, being occupied by a family; not only that, but in too many instances, they were deficient in air, light, space, and water, and in everything that made life tolerable. That was mainly because the houses were owned by small proprietors who had invested their savings in the purchase, and who wished to get as much return for their money as they could, and who would make no repairs but such as were absolutely necessary to prevent the property tumbling down. For the rent paid for a single room by the poor in London a labourer in the country would get a cottage, a garden, and other conveniences. The advantages of providing improved dwellings for the artizan class in London would be very great. The public health would be improved and the poor rates reduced. Beyond that, the evil to be remedied was growing fast in consequence of the demolition of houses occupied by the working class for the extension of railways, and in consequence of the wonderful increase of our town population. That increase had been something like 17 per cent on the number in 1861. He hoped, as this question had been so prominently brought forward, something practical would come of it, for it was well always to strike while the iron was hot. He was sure the success of the movement would tend very much to promote sobriety and self-respect among the artizan population, and would do more to beget a good understanding and kindly feeling between the upper and lower classes of society than anything else that could be done. In that view, then, the immediate necessity of some great scheme for improving the dwellings of the poor could not be too much pressed on the attention of the House, and he hoped the matter would receive the careful attention of the Government.


said, he wished to compliment his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) on the very able speech in which he had introduced the subject to the notice of the House, who, although he thought he had wisely abstained from giving the details of any measure to remedy the evils to which he had called attention, had indicated some of the re- medies it would be desirable to adopt. If six years since the Bill which had been brought in by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) had passed in the complete shape in which it had left that House, there could be no doubt that many of those evils would by this time have been removed, He could not, he might add, understand why the powers which had been conceded to Glasgow and other towns should not be extended to the metropopolis, while he quite concurred in the opinion, that the question was one which affected not only London, but other important places. What had occurred in Liverpool and Glasgow ought, he believed, to encourage great confidence in local Government, for much had been done in those towns without infringing the rights of property. He did not think the proposal now before the House involved any large building speculations. All that seemed necessary was, that compulsory powers to take certain properties should be given, and there would be no difficulty in disposing of them for the erection of proper dwellings for the working classes. The cost likely to be incurred had, he could not help thinking, been greatly exaggerated by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), and there was much reason to hope that the Metropolitan Board of Works might be able to obtain the properties required for sums which would be the real measure of their true value, and having obtained them, to dispose of them to companies for building purposes. He trusted the Government would deal with the question. They possessed great facilities for doing so, for they were under no suspicion of being disposed to act in a spirit adverse to vested interests; while the support which they commanded in the other House would enable them to carry a more complete measure than had hitherto been passed.


sympathized with the object of the Resolution and was willing to support it, although he hardly knew what it was that he was to support. He was sure it was a very amiable Motion, but not one that was likely to lead to any great practical result, unless the House was prepared to assent to very strong measures indeed. He thought it must ultimately resolve itself into a question of rates, and he had a suspicion of its sounding something like an indirect proposition to dispense with the house tax. However, if any practical measure on the subject could be devised, which would not throw unfair burdens on the ratepayers, and would not involve any violent and unnecessary interference with property, he would be very glad to sec it adopted.


said, he regarded the Motion of the hon. Member for Hastings as one of an exceedingly modest character, and one well deserving the best consideration of the House and the Government; but the great obstacle he saw in the way of giving practical effect to any measure in the desired direction was the multiplicity of governing bodies which existed in and about the metropolis. In answer to a remark of the hon. Member in reference to the borough which he (Mr. Gourley) represented (Sunderland), he wished to point out that whatever might have been the unhealthy condition of that town before 1865, since that year its local authorities had expended over £100,000 in sanitary improvements, the effect of which was that the death-rate in Sunderland had been greatly reduced, and would now bear favourable comparison with that of any other town in the Kingdom.


, in explanation, said, that he had quoted from Mr. Simon, Medical Officer of Health, who in 1865 described Sunderland as one of the worst places in regard to the dwellings of the poor. He had not alluded to what had been done in that town since 1865.


called attention to the difficulty of obtaining land for the purposes contemplated by the Rosolution. The town he represented (Newark on Trent) was surrounded by entailed estates, and it was impossible to extend it in any direction. He would suggest that when the Home Secretary brought in the measure on this subject promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer it would be well to insert a provision in it for obtaining possession of land and extending the boundaries of towns. Without some such provision, the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) would be futile. It was time that the Government should deal with this important question, and once for all make some decent provision for the accommodation of the labouring classes, not merely in London, but throughout the country.


said, the question of providing suitable and healthy dwellings for the poor was in certain respects even more important than the question of providing them with education. Education, properly speaking, began at home; but it was utterly hopeless to expect anything good being achieved in such a direction as long as the poorer classes were so wretchedly and inadequately housed. All the instruction that could be given in the most palatially built schools would be utterly valueless, as far as raising the morals of the people was concerned, as long as they were crowded into close and incommodious dwellings, where even the sense of decency could not be preserved; and he felt sure the Government would give a favourable consideration to the matter. To procure sites for proper dwellings it was necessary to destroy nests of disease and immorality: but the more dilapidated and wretched those buildings were the greater was the difficulty of acquiring them on reasonable terms. The reason for this was that the landlord crammed human beings into them in a way impracticable in decent houses and intolerable with decent people, and if, as in the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth), the number of occupants was five times the proper number, the rent was also five to one, so that though the sum per head was very small the total was large. As to leaving the necessary provision of dwellings for the poor to the competition of capital, they must first remove the obstacles which precluded the action of competition and the application of capital. They must provide a legal power of acquiring sites whereon to build. When the State removed the obstacles, competition and capital would easily profit by the opportunity then open to them. Nothing short of a severe despotism would meet these cases; and instead of allowing men to profit by the misery, disease, and numbers of their unfortunate fellow creatures, and to found claims on the experience of their past misdeeds, he would allow them only compensation proportionate to the nature of the property. He trusted that the discussion would induce the Government to take up the subject introduced with so much ability by the hon. Member for Hastings, and that they would prepare some measure calculated to remedy the evils which had been exposed.


said, he took great interest in the matter under discussion, He was surprised that seeing the action that had been taken in some large provincial towns for carrying out public improvements, no compulsory powers had been adopted in London. In other towns this evil had been remedied, and that in a practical way. But the difficulty pointed out in London was this—that it was the duty of those who displaced the people from their houses to provide other dwellings as a substitute, He was convinced no private association, whether its object was profit or philanthropy, could effectively deal with the evil; for there were so many provisions connected with property that although they might be able to arrange for the purchase of a number of houses, there might be so many rights and servitudes in connection with a single house in this or that narrow lane as to put a stop to all improvements. It was quite impossible for private enterprise to carry out any great improvements, and he thought they must fall back on compulsory powers—powers which might be acted on without inflicting any great hardship on the working classes who inhabited these houses. His own opinion was that a Bill might be passed giving compulsory power to the Metropolitan Board of Works to remove the houses in crowded parts of the City, to purchase large blocks of houses suited for conversion into dwellings, and pieces of land on which to build. There need be no great hardship inflicted in these operations. The number of inhabitants to be removed by any one operation might be limited to 1,000 and according to the accommodation that could be provided for the families turned out. That was the one practical way of getting over the difficulty. They had in the town of Dundee powers just now to expend £130,000 in widening and improving their streets, and in rooting out the places which had been described as the houses of disease and crime. He believed that anywhere where they carried out such improvements, if they did it economically and on a good plan, the money expended would be nearly recouped in the prices realized for the properties when they were sold. If there was any loss it could not be very much, spread over the whole of London. But it was necessary to borrow money and to give security for it, and therefore the imposition of a rate was indispensable.


trusted that if any measure was introduced in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for Hastings, the state of the country towns would not be forgotten, for there were in the small country towns as crowded and as filthy habitations as there were in the metropolis. They had no Peabody trusts and no largo benevolent societies to help them; and, indeed, he had still greater reliance upon self-help than upon such organizations, for he could not help observing that the labouring population had greatly improved their dwellings by means of their own savings, and by building societies established and carried on by themselves.


stated that £1,300,000 had been expended by the City of Glasgow in the purchase of property extending over 85 acres out of 6,000, and 23,000 out of a population of 500,000 had been displaced. The financial results would be satisfactory; and in any large town large operations in real estate must, owing to the enhancement of the value of the property, have a successful financial result. The great question, however, was the social one—namely, what became of the vast population that was displaced? Was the effect a good or bad one? Was it really to improve the lowest class of society, or was it to corrupt the classes immediately above by spreading among them the lowest classes. Now, on that point he did not think they had sufficient evidence in Glasgow or in any other place. A good deal might be said bearing in both directions. He had endeavoured to ascertain what became of this population which was displaced, and he found that it was almost necessarily raised to the classes above it, and to a certain extent carried a corrupt influence with it. On the other hand, these other classes, being better, would to a certain extent, improve those who came among them. That there was a balance of good in the result he was satisfied; but that it was a large balance had yet to be proved.


expressed his satisfaction that a subject in which he had long taken a deep interest had been treated by both sides of the House in the spirit evinced during the debate. It was now some years since his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), his hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird), in conjunction with himself, had brought in a 15ill having for its object the improvement of the dwellings of the poor, and he believed that their efforts to carry that Bill would have been fruitless had it not been for the unsleeping sympathy, the untiring aid, and the true succour rendered them from first to last by the right hon. Gentleman who was now at the head of the Government. When others stood aloof, and were indifferent, they never found the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire wanting in sympathy; and when he filled the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had felt it his duty to communicate with the promoters of the Bill to inquire what portion of the charge would require to be advanced on loan by the Treasury if the Bill were carried in its integrity. He heartily thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the great interest he had taken in the subject in the name of those who, without such interest, were indeed helpless and hopeless. Now, that the right hon. Gentleman was in power, he adjured him by all that he valued in his great fame to take up and carry to maturity the work that he (Mr. Torrens) and his hon. Friends had, in 1866, induced that House unanimously to sanction. So lucrative was the property in the worst slums of London, that it could only be dealt with by the power of the Government. He was bound to say a word on behalf of a class who had, he thought, been somewhat harshly spoken of—he meant the middle-class holders of tumble-down property in large towns. It was not owing to their combination that the best clauses of the Bill had been lost. It was by that of noble and wealthy slum owners, who ought to be ashamed of the course which they adopted in preventing the improvements which were so much needed. There happened to be at the time in the other House of Parliament a man of matchless adroitness in the use of words and in legislative artifice, a man possessed of cu- rious audacity, combined with legal and political subtlety—the late Lord West-bury—and he, when the Bill went to the House of Lords, said he did not understand the theory on which its promoters proceeded, and that half the measure must be struck out. Two parts out of four were accordingly got rid of, and hon. Members knew what was the condition of the Bill when it left the House of Lords. Much praise had been bestowed upon the two first propositions, but he, for one, was prepared to admit that it would not be right to take away any man's property without giving him adequate compensation; yet the House of Lords said that no compensation should be given, and the result was that while a good deal had been accomplished under the Bill, he knew of case after case in his own borough in which he had hesitated to ask the Board of Works to destroy where they had no power to rebuild. Anxious as he was to see proper dwellings provided for the working-classes, he had not the heart or the heartlessness to uuhouse numbers of poor people, and to throw them on the street, or into the workhouse, or what was far worse, on the decent portion of the population around them. He had heard a good many debates in the House on temperance; but, in his opinion, the true Temperance Bill would be one which would give working men when they came home tired a habitable dwelling. They did not give a working man a chance of being sober. They were playing the hypocrite in tolling him to read philosophic magazines in the midst of squalor and stench, and to go home sober to a wretched hovel, when for 2d. he could find brightness and comfort round the corner. He hoped the Government would deal with this question with a firm hand; and if they did, he did not think they would have any great financial difficulty to encounter. Seeing the course he had always taken on the question in that House, he could scarcely be accused of a desire to raise the rates; but in the case of the Bill of 1868, its promoters did not ask that the rates should be pledged for useless asylums or workhouses, or on any unproductive scheme, but for the purpose of creating rateable property, of getting rid of poverty, and therefore doing the very opposite of that which was apprehended by some hon. Members. In conclusion, he would ap- peal to the Government to take up the subject, and he could assure them that if they dealt with it efficiently, they would entitle themselves to the lasting gratitude of the country.


said, his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) need have made no apology either to the House or to the Government for having brought the subject under discussion before them that evening. Speaking for himself, he would say that no one question out of the whole range of those which were likely to come before the House was nearer or dearer to his own heart. He ventured to observe a few months ago—and he was glad to hear the statement reiterated by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken—that when they were talking about vice, intemperance, and drunkenness, and trying to keep those evils down, nothing would do that more effectually than by improving the homes where the poor people themselves lived, by making those homes happy ones, and so presenting an inducement to hardworking men to come there as the greatest possible recreation they could have. Many of the present dwellings of the poor were in such a state that no hon. Member would ever set his foot in them on any consideration if he could help it, and yet in these dens, children and families were reared without any chance of getting fresh air, and without, in fact, knowing scarcely what it was to exist properly. What wonder was it that a man with money in his pockets should steal away from his home to the public-house, and spend it there, leaving his wife and children in misery and poverty. The subject had recently been very forcibly pressed upon his attention by important deputations which he had received, and by memorials which had been presented to him by the Royal College of Physicians and the Charity Organization Society. In those memorials the state of the case was very fairly put, and the condition of London was adverted to in terms which were, perhaps, rather within than beyond the bounds of truth. The houses spoken of were represented as being over-crowded, the ventilation and the drainage as being exceedingly bad, and all the sanitary arrangements as being of the worst possible description. And it should be borne in mind that it was not only adults, but children who were obliged to live in those wretched dens, who had no means of getting fresh air, and who so long as they remained there could never have any proper sense of morality, nor fail to be familiarized with scenes of vice. Under these circumstances, it was due to the House to step in without delay and see what could be done to remedy such terrible evils. A good deal had already been done by those who had the subject at heart. Large numbers of people had succeeded in getting places where habitations could be and had been built for the poor, and he believed that as fast as they were built they were filled, if well regulated. No trust had been more faithfully carried out than the Peabody Trust, nor had any money ever left produced in the short time it had practically been in use such benefit. The hon. Member for Hastings had observed that the trust had experienced considerable difficulties in finding sites on which to put their buildings. No doubt there were difficulties, as there always would be, while the law remained as it was; but the Peabody Trustees had already provided buildings accommodating 882 families, occupying 1,875 rooms, and, though this was a mere drop in the ocean it was an example which others, like the hon. Baronet (Sir Sydney Waterlow) had done much to second. One difficulty the Peabody Trustees had to encounter was severely felt. Although they had been enabled to get a considerable amount of property, it not infrequently happened that there was some small piece of land jutting on to the part they had acquired that they could not obtain without having to pay a large sum of money. Although, too, it was often possible to get the freehold, and perhaps the leasehold, the complicated and subdivided tenures under which so much property in London was held had been an obstacle, some small leaseholder, sub-leaseholder, or, perhaps, sub-sub-leaseholder obstructing the accomplishment of a great improvement. Nevertheless, he thought the hon. Member was not quite aware of the great amount of land which the Peabody Trustees already possessed without any such interference. At Chelsea they had about an acre, in Southward Bridge Road about 1½ acre, and elsewhere about 4½ acres absolutely free and ready to be built upon, and on which immediate proceedings would be taken. The difficulties had not, therefore, been so insuperable as might have been anticipated. Another evil mentioned by the hon. Member was one which had been greatly felt in the City of London—namely, where persons who had bought property for the purpose of some great undertaking were allowed to turn out all the persons living upon that property, without being called upon to find other places where they might secure proper homes to live in. Certainly, he thought Parliament was, to a certain extent, responsible for what had happened in those cases. They must bear some share of the blame for having turned a largo number of persons out of their houses to make room for the site of the new Law Courts, without finding another place for them to live in. His attention had been called this Session by a deputation to a Bill promoted by the directors of the Midland Railway Company. It was proposed by that company to turn out some thousands of poor persons in order to take possession of their houses and pull them down. They had made certain arrangements with the owners of the property to escape the action of the Standing Order of the House of Lords, by which they would have been compelled, if they had come under its operation, to provide buildings for the persons they turned out of their homes. When he came to consider what power he had to interfere, he found that power to be very slight. However, he had a certain amount which he felt he could use; and, on behalf of the Government, he determined, if the objectionable clause remained in the Bill, he would offer all the opposition in his power to the Bill passing, so long as the clause stayed in it; and those in charge at once, and in the handsomest and most straightforward manner, withdrew the clause, promising that they would take care any future Bill came within the operation of the Standing Order. He believed the proceedings taken in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Liverpool—about which last he knew a good deal—had been productive of the greatest benefit, having been conducted with great care; and, if any measure were introduced by the Government, it should be very carefully drawn, so as to facilitate other measures of the same kind. It was easy in those towns to provide other buildings for the persons displaced, because they removed to the suburbs, without being too far from their work; but this would not be the ease in London, and it was impossible to provide ample accommodation within a reasonable distance for the people turned out. The difficulty was not so serious as some persons imagined, when the wretched hovels that poor people lived in were pulled down, because, by obtaining a large area on which to build a block of good houses, larger and better accommodation could be provided. Then came the question, to what authority should be given the power to pull down houses of that description? The Corporation of the City of Loudon and the Metropolitan Board of Works had both been named. On that point, however, the Government would for the present reserve their judgment. There were also plans which deserved the greatest consideration on their part. With reference to the question of rates, and the Metropolitan Board of Works having power to impose additional rates, it must be remembered that rates were imposed for different objects. There might be a small rate put on for the purpose of raising these better dwellings; but a much larger amount might be saved in the ease of gaols, lunatic asylums, and hospitals, for any large operation of this kind would so materially improve the condition of the people that, in the long run, he did not say immediately, the rates ought to be reduced rather than increased. In speaking of rates, moreover, the sick and death rate of the Metropolis must be remembered, and the facts which had been stated were so strong that they must have great weight with any Government which considered the question. It had been stated that the average death rate per 1,000 was 21.5; whereas in the improved dwellings it was only 15.8—a very striking fact; and the sick rate being always about double the death rate, the comparison between the improved dwellings and the present houses became still more striking. The hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. Scourfield) objected to the indefinite word "something" in the Resolution before the House, because he did not know what the Government would really do, if they were to agree to the proposal. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that if the Government took up this question he might rest as- sured that any measure they brought before the House would be a practical one, something feasible, and perfectly easy to carry out. It would be a measure that would cause no uneasiness in those quarters where uneasiness had hitherto been created. It would be free from those difficulties which had been shadowed forth by hon. Members who had spoken. The Government had given two pledges of its disposition to act in the matter without further delay than necessarily attended the treatment of such a question, for it had frustrated the attempt of the Midland Railway to escape the Lords' Standing Order, and it had determined to consider what Standing Order should be submitted to the House to prevent a recurrence of such attempts. He hoped, therefore, the House would be satisfied that it was the earnest desire of the Government, the moment they could settle not only the principles, but the details, of the measure, to carry out the spirit of the Motion. The subject was engaging their serious attention, and the moment they could do so, they would introduce a measure with the full intention of carrying it with the view of securing to the people of the Metropolis dwellings equal to those in other parts of the country, in which they could grow up, not slaves, but really men and women, in the enjoyment of happiness and comfort.


said, that he regarded the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, not only as an extremely hopeful one, but as one which he trusted he might, without presumption, describe as reflecting the greatest possible credit and lasting honour upon himself and upon the Government. He would now withdraw his. Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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