HC Deb 19 April 1875 vol 223 cc1245-63

Order for Second Reading read.

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


The Bill now before us is perhaps the most important measure with which we have to deal this Session. I do not refer to its bulk alone, though that is great enough, with its 333 clauses and 28 pages of Schedules. I view it as of great importance in both its aspect, as a Bill for consolidating and a Bill for amending sanitary law; because both these purposes may produce results for good or for evil of great consequence to the general welfare of the community. In discussing this measure as shortly as I can, I crave the indulgence of the House, because I was one of the Health of Towns Commissioners of 1846, from whose labours have arisen most of the existing legislation for the promotion of public health. Unquestionably, the law is now cumbrous and complex. It is scattered in 29 statutes, so that even a lawyer has difficulty in knowing the powers conferred by the law. The concentration and simplification of this law form a subject worthy of the attention of the House. If the object of the consolidation of the 29 separate statutes is to prepare the way for the future amendment of sanitary law, which is at present highly unsatisfactory, this Bill would be welcomed by all sanitary reformers, and I am sure the House would respond to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, which he made to us in introducing this measure, that we should not view its clauses in the critical spirit which we are accustomed to apply to new legislation. But this Bill is not simply one of consolidation; it is also one of amendment. This combination of two purposes induces us to inquire whether it is not intended as the fulfilment of the promise given by the present Government when it came into power—that it would devote itself to the amelioration of the health of the people. If that is so, the Bill is not a mere preparation for future legislation, but is the promised legislation itself. This view of the matter is much more serious, and is rendered probable by the words used by the right hon. Gentleman when he introduced the Bill. In fact, his speech, if it did not describe the measure as one of finality, at least, indicated it as one of long permanence. His words were, "As far as the Government could see, there was no further need for fresh legislation upon the subject;" and again, in describing his Amendments, he said— It is necessary to introduce them now, because it would obviously be inconvenient to touch the law on the subject for a considerable time. Viewed in that light of permanent sanitary legislation, I do not think this Bill in any sense fulfils its purpose. If we are to spend week after week in considering its 333 clauses, in order to render sanitary legislation efficient and permanent, the Government must be prepared to discuss and consider Amendments of a far more serious character than the few and inadequate Amendments which they have introduced into this measure. For it is a matter of great difficulty to settle law upon unsettled foundations, and the foundations on which this Bill are built are altogether unsettled. By far the largest part of it is devoted to the laws relating to the constitution of local authorities, their areas of administration, their powers, and their methods of procedure. Is this settled law? Is it not one of the most solemn promises of the present Ministry that they are to reorganize local government? At present the areas of local authorities are fragmentary, bounded neither by counties, parishes, nor natural watersheds, while their duties as to local government are divided without meaning between diverse authorities in the same district. Are we to understand by this Bill either that the promises as to the reform of local government are altogether illusory, or that we are to devote a large portion of this Session to the consolidation of law which is likely to be wholly upset next year, if a large measure of local government be really brought forward? In either point of view, the prospect before us is unsatisfactory. As to the amendment of sanitary law proposed in the present Bill, I see nothing in it worthy of our attention. For if the law regarding local government which constitutes the bulk of the Bill cannot be deemed settled law, undoubtedly the law relating to sanitary powers contained in the third division of the Bill must be considered as unsettled in the highest degree. In the first place, it deals with a subject-matter in which our experience is growing from day to day; and, in the second place, the law as it stands has been found in the working to be inoperative and illusory. Consolidation of such unsettled law in any measure aiming either at finality or permanence is positively prejudicial, because it tends to stunt the natural growth of a growing subject. Bacon has pointed out this evil when he says— When knowledge is once comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrated and accommodated for use and practice, but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance. This is what I fear if we pass the Bill. Our public health in England is so low that we suffer annually 125,000 preventive deaths, and have 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 of serious cases of preventible sickness, weakening the industrial powers of the survivors. Existing law has proved powerless to mitigate these evils, either from deficient administration or from ineffective powers. Allow me hastily to show how unsettled and inefficient are the sanitary provisions which we are now asked to stereotype into permanent law. The 1st section of Division III. relates to sewerage. But the future of our proceedings in regard to sewerage must depend upon the nature of the measure promised in the Queen's Speech upon the pollution of rivers. If that measure prohibit, as it ought to do, the use of rivers as means of getting rid of sewage, the whole law and practice of sewerage will be profoundly altered, and the consolidation of the complex law on this subject will have been useless. I pass rapidly on. The law relating to water supply is amended by the Bill in Clauses 57 and 59. But the powers for water supply in rural districts are wholly insufficient, and rural authorities are continually making representations on this head; yet the old law is to be stereotyped in a measure which leaves rural districts out in the cold. As regards the law of nuisances I would remark that the Bill exempts from its operation some of the most important industries, as the factories, obviously because they are under distinct administration, which, however, is not a sanitary one. Whether this is wise I will not stop to inquire; but I am quite sure it is not wise to exempt, as this Bill does, some of the most offensive accumulations of manufactures from the operation of the law. I would also say in passing, that I regret that no improved definition of a nuisance has been given in this Bill. The Legislature intended that anything should be deemed a nuisance which was offensive to the community or injurious to health. But a recent decision of the Court of Queen's Bench requires the injury to health to be established; and as this is often difficult of proof, the law is scarcely workable in its present form. I pass rapidly to the section on infectious diseases. No section of a Health Bill could be more important. The law as it stands is consolidated with scarcely any attempt at amendment. But is the existing law operative? In answer to that I will quote a passage from the Report of Dr. Child, the intelligent Medical Officer of Health in Oxfordshire. He says— As to the powers at present possessed by sanitary authorities and their officers of dealing with infectious disease.…. it is not possible to imagine anything more illusory than the supposed powers now possessed by them. Well, we are called upon to re-enact these illusory powers without amendment. I am wrong: there is an Amendment in regard to the provision of mortuaries, and the removal of dead bodies to them. But if my right hon. Friend, who has shown such courage in regard to the dead, had shown like courage in respect to the living, we might have welcomed his stereotyping of efficient laws for the prevention of infectious disease. But to stereotype ineffective and illusory law is absolutely mischievous. The Bill of 1872 introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) went much further for the protection of the living than this Bill, which simply re-enacts illusory powers. Within the last few years our knowledge regarding the modes of propagation of infectious diseases has largely increased. Let me quote a couple of cases, both of which came under my own observation. A woman in a dairy, recovering from scarlet fever, milked the cows, and introduced scarlet fever into forty families which she supplied with milk. One of these houses was a school, and it broke up in consequence of the disease, sending its scholars, without any attempt at disinfection, to different parts of Scotland. New foci of disease were established by the seed thus sown broadcast, and scarlet fever became general. "Would it have been an improper use of law, if the dairy woman, in the first instance, had been restrained from spreading the infectious disease under which she suffered? Would it have been an unwise sanitary provision, if simple and well-known methods of disinfection had been applied, under a skilled officer of health, to the persons and clothes of the scholars, before they were sent as infectious centres throughout the country? That instance of the distribution of infectious disease occurred in Scotland; but another example in which there were several hundred cases of attack, chiefly in Marylebone, occurred in the metropolis less than two years ago, and will be in the memory of the House. A dairy company received milk from a country farm in which a man had died from typhoid fever. The drainage of the house found its way into a well, and the water of this well became mixed with the milk. Many of the houses furnished with this milk were also supplied with typhoid poison, which suddenly appeared apparently as an epidemic in the best parts of London. Both these cases are instances on a large scale of the distribution of contagium from a single source which ought easily to have been prevented. But the law as it stands provides no remedy against such wholesale cases of infectious poisoning, either through food or water, and the latter is a most common source of spreading disease. It is quite true that the foundation of such legislation is scarcely laid in this country, and yet methods for isolating the sick and for preventing the spread of contagium are to be found in the Mosaic records. Still we are now only groping our way to legislation on this subject. The country should not believe that the consolidation in this Bill, of inefficient and illusory powers scattered throughout various statutes, will put us in possession of a code of value. There are the usual clauses for the prevention of epidemics; but they are founded on the existence and general prevalence of disease, and they aim rather at their wider extension than at their prevention. In the administration of the Poor Law, it is not necessary that there should be many eases of starvation before relief is given to the poor. But in the prevention of disease it is assumed that there ought to be many deaths before you presume to stop the ravages of disease upon the living. The Local Government Board acts well as a central audit for the accounts of the Boards of Guardians in the relief of the poor, but it neglects its duties as a central audit of death accounts throughout the country. It does not dream of inquiring why one population has double the mortality of another, and does not draw the attention of local authorities to their reckless extravagance in permitting their death accounts to rise so fearfully. That would be a central audit worth having, and there is a medical officer attached to the Central Board eminently qualified to perform it; but the notion of such duties does not fall within the conception of a Board administered according to its official notions. Yet, after all, deaths form but a crude index of the disease which has been at work. As a mariner does not delay to trim his vessel until the storm has done its work, and cast its wrecks upon the shore, but forecasts the storm, and prepares himself for it, so should a Department of State medicine, by watching the risings of disease in districts, give the local authorities timely warning of the coming storms. The measures to enable them to ride through these storms are neither occult nor difficult; but the law does not enable them to be applied. For this purpose a knowledge of the existence of disease in a locality is required. But existing law does not provide that the medical officer shall necessarily be informed in regard to disease, even when treated at the public expense, and far less in that occurring in private families. So that by the time his attention is wakened to the existence of a preventible disease, its diffusion has become so general as to be beyond the powers of restraint. The Bill is not improved on this point, for it simply proposes to re-enact powers which experience has shown to be illusory. I have only one other subject on which I propose to touch, and that is the law relating to medical officers of health. The clauses relating to them are numbered 184 and 278. The medical officers of health are more and more becoming the motive powers of sanitary legislation. In the Artizans Dwellings Bill of this year, they form the primary motive power. Hence the regulations regarding them in any general Health Bill are of paramount importance. Now, is the present law, in its relations to medical officers of health, satisfactory to any one—to the local authorities, to the public, or to the officers themselves; or does the Bill introduce Amendments calculated to render the law more comprehensible and more operative for good than it now is? See how the case stands. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) passed his great measure of sanitary reform, he had to deal with difficulties which can now easily be depreciated, but which then were formidable. He found sanitary laws in chaos, and executed a great work in reducing them to some sort of form. The whole country was organized into sanitary districts, of which there are now 1,500, each with its appointed medical officer of health as the agent for disease prevention. All these districts were brought into relations with the central authority, and had to be instructed in their duties. Hence it was inevitable that considerable friction and even confusion should exist in organization. The local authorities had very varying ideas of their duties and responsibilities. Some were highly intelligent, and combined with neighbouring authorities to appoint a joint medical officer of skilled qualifications for his work. Others tried to defeat the law, and to this day a certain number of the local authorities decline to obey the law, and have refused to appoint medical officers of health. Other local authorities evaded the law by mock appointments, giving the medical officer £5 or £10 a-year, while the combined districts were giving £800 per annum. Some profess to pay by piece-work—that is, by guinea fees, and take care that no demand for work arises. In fact, in the administration of the law there is no uniformity, and complaints are made that the form of the law makes good administration impossible. The Sanitary Commission, presided over by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Charles Adderley), had recommended that the Poor-Law medical officers should be made health officers, and looked to some 4,000 appointments. But they forgot that the knowledge of the prevention of disease requires a special training, and is rarely communicated to those studying for the cure of disease. Hence, to get 4,000 medical officers of health was a medical rhapsody. I am not complaining because this law did not fix salaries. The local authority—that is, the purchaser of the commodity, may safely be left to fix the salary of the medical officer, provided the Local Government Board had fixed his duties and qualifications. In such a case, the market value of a medical officer's services would soon have adjusted itself by the law of supply and demand. But the law neither insists nor provides for qualifications in the officers to whom such important duties are entrusted. In minor matters the law is very careful as to qualifications. The Local Government Board insists that a public vaccinator must be qualified, so must a public analyst under the Adulteration Act. But in the great subject of State medicine, applied to the preservation of our lives, when our health and the expenditure of heavy rates is involved, the moving power—the medical officer of health—may be entirely ignorant of his public duties, for the law requires no qualifications. Before the compulsory appointment of medical officers of health there were few indeed in the country, but their names had a meaning. They were persons of skilled technical knowledge of State medicine, like Dr. Letheby of London, Dr. Trench of Liverpool, Dr. Littlejohn of Edinburgh, and the like—men who knew their work, and did it. But the compulsory law destroyed this meaning; for it neither made mention of distinctive qualifications or duties, nor did it give power to the Local Government Board to fix them. It was as if the law had said to the local authorities—You are to appoint an algebraic X as your medical officer of health. His functions are unknown to you; they are equally unknown to us. Nevertheless, the law says you shall appoint your X as you best can. Is it surprising, under such circumstances, that the existing law has produced dissatisfaction to every one—to the local authorities, to the public, to the officers of health? The late President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Stansfeld) hoped to induce the local authorities to appoint efficient men by offering to pay half the salaries from Imperial funds. This was a good conception; but none of us calculated on the apathy of the local authorities, who found it cheaper and pleasanter to pay a doctor £5 to do nothing, than to pay the moiety of £100 to an active reformer of local abuses. The Local Government Board then tried to get better men by combining districts to appoint medical officers. They were, indeed, appointed by combined authorities; but the law gave no powers of management to these authorities after combination; so the medical officers were under the management of inconsistent and uncombined authorities—that is, practically they were under no management at all. If they were able and energetic men, they made abundant work for themselves, in spite of the defective provisions of law. Some of them have as much as 1,000 square miles to supervise; others have a single parish. In the first instance, the medical officer is an inspector general of health, with no definite relation to any sub-inspectors. The Poor Law medical officers might usefully be employed in such a relation, but the law does not allow it. Now, Clause 278 of this Bill tries to remedy this defect. Its purpose is to bring the local officers of health to the aid of such a general inspector. But this proposal is either too much or too little. It is too much in its present form, for it gives the Local Government Board the power to require two medical officers in each district, when the old law gave powers only to appoint one. It is too little in the interests of either efficiency or economy, for it does not define the extent of districts and does not give powers for united management when they are formed. Why not appoint such general officers of health for the county, as in the case of county analysts? Or, if you are not prepared for that, make the officer of health purely local, while the medical inspector over a large area might be an officer paid by, and responsible to, Government. But the new Amendments do not remove the confusion from the present law, and do not help us one step forward in more efficient local government. I have now done. My object has been to show that sanitary law, in its existing state, is not adapted for consolidation, if that consolidation has any pretension either to finality or permanence. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board may be in the confidence of the Cabinet, and know that the re-organization of local government is so distant that it would be useless to wait for it before he consolidates the laws which now relate to local authorities. If the reform of local government be beyond the powers of the Administration, then the laws relating to existing areas and procedure, which form the bulk of this Bill, may be consolidated with advantage. But do not let us stamp into permanent consolidated law the agglomeration of confused and illusory powers which relate to the prevention of disease, without making a serious effort to amend them. The present Government are especially pledged to the amendment of sanitary law. The Prime Minister used these remarkable words in his speech at Manchester— I think public attention ought to be concentrated on sanitary legislation. I cannot impress upon you too strongly my conviction of the importance of the Legislature and society uniting together in favour of these important results. After all, the first consideration of a Minister should be the health of the people. It is no fulfilment of this important pledge to ask us to consolidate law which is confused and inoperative, without Amendments of a serious character. The country has spent much money for the improvement of its sanitary condition. What are the results? They are not apparent to us. Some attribute failure to defective administration; others to defective law. Which is true? What the country desires is that preventable disease should be prevented. There are no Reports from the Local Government Board to show that this result is in any way achieved or in course of achievement, and for no less object ought local authorities to be harassed by a central government, and be made to expend Imperial taxes and local rates for objects which we have no evidence are attained. If administration is at fault, let it be improved. If law is defective, ask Parliament to make it effective and operative. But do not let us delude the country with the hope that we are about to improve the state of public health, because we are called upon to consider a mass of crude and undigested law, brought together into one Bill of Consolidation without attempt at serious amendment. Such a Bill may save local authorities as well as the Central Board some trouble; but it is not likely in any way to ameliorate disease or to save the community from any notable portion of its annual loss of 125,000 preventible deaths. If, however, the Bill, notwithstanding the finality speech of the right hon. Gentleman, be brought forward simply for the purpose of broadening the foundation on which future sanitary law is to be built, then with every sanitary reformer I will welcome consolidation. But I conceive it would be wasting the time of this House to ask us to go to the serious consideration of this Bill in Committee as any settlement of the demands for sanitary reform, when it simply repeats law which has been found so inoperative, without amending it in any important points.


said, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member the University of Edinburgh, in thinking that the present Bill would be useful as a consolidating measure, but that it could not be regarded as offering a settlement of the laws relating to the health of the people. He trusted that both parties would allow it to pass as a Consolidation Bill, without much discussion, and that the opportunity would shortly be given to the House to consider other Amendments of a more important character with reference to the subject, which might have a more important effect on the sanitary condition of the country. In his opinion, there was a decided objection to the omission, as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board proposed, of the 3rd clause of the Bill.


said, he was not at all disposed to quarrel with his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Lyon Playfair) in respect of the observations he had made upon the details of the Bill, or to shrink from accepting the challenge which he had thrown out. The right hon. Gentleman had, however, quite misunderstood the remarks which he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had made in introducing the Bill. He would not, at that time, discuss the general question in its details; but he might say at once that the Bill was not intended to stereotype the existing law, and that it was not taken up in fulfilment of any engagement made by the Prime Minister. Nor had it been introduced with the slightest idea of interfering with those measures of local taxation which the Government expected to deal with by-and-by. It was primarily a Consolidation Bill and, as such, would no doubt clear the way for the adoption of those reforms in the existing law which the right hon. Gentleman had indicated. The Government did not intend, at the present moment, to propose any violent changes in the sanitary legislation which had been so recently adopted, because they saw no prospect of carrying them into effect either this or, it might be, the next Session, and the best policy, in their opinion, was to put forward in a presentable point of view, equally comprehensive and intelligible, the whole of the existing sanitary laws. In performing this task, however, they very soon found that it was absolutely necessary to insert Amendments, in order to reconcile the conflicting and sometimes unintelligible provisions of the various Acts passed since 1848, and thus the Bill assumed its present form. He believed it would be found a good starting point from which to survey past sanitary legislation and a good foundation for future improvements. In framing it he had had in his mind the results of consolidation as affecting the Acts relating to discipline in the Navy. A Bill was passed in 1861 which brought into one focus, so to speak, the provisions of eight or ten previously existing Acts on that subject; but it was not until 1866, after undergoing various changes, that the Naval Discipline Act assumed its complete shape. If the present Bill, therefore, was passed, he would not shrink from proposing such further Amendments as might be shown to be necessary. He ventured to submit to the right hon. Gentleman that that course was the best which could be pursued under the circumstances. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the unsatisfactory state of sanitary law, he might say that, in his opinion, a great deal had been done of late years. Instead of the general apathy which formerly prevailed with regard to sanitary measures, they found local authorities everywhere bestirring themselves for the public good. That was a fact upon which he thought they had good reason to congratulate themselves. His right hon. Friend was very anxious to have a set of competent medical authorities throughout the Kingdom. In that direction, too, very considerable strides had been and were being made, excellent Reports being issued under the direction of the Local Government Board for the instruction of medical officers throughout the country. With regard to the prevention of disease, he believed a good deal would be done by the local authorities, when they were once alive to the necessities of the case; but he thought his right hon. Friend a little forestalled the opinion of the country in the matter, and was in too great a hurry to believe that private individuals were anxious to be controlled and directed to the extent he suggested. The public, however, was being rapidly educated in these matters, and there was great reason to be satisfied with the progress that had been made. The Public Health Act, which constituted the local sanitary authorities, was only four years old; but a very gratifying amount of work had already been done under it. The great difficulty in administering from a central office powers which interfered to some extent with local self-government must be familiar to every hon. Gentleman; and they must all feel that although the Local Government Department possessed a great deal of persuasive power, and no small amount of compulsory power, it was unable, and would, he believed, always be unable to direct in detail the action of the local authorities. With regard to the substantial Amendments of which he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had given an indication, one-half were directed to that particular portion of the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had referred. He certainly looked forward to a Consolidation Bill passing, as it were, through several successive editions before it reached its final shape. Amendments which practical experience showed to be required, not going to the foundation of the measure, but rather intended to make it work more smoothly, might be dealt with in the Bill as a whole; and if it should pass with those Amendments, he thought the House would have done a considerable work, and one which would be sufficient for the present Session. The Amendments he would propose were explained in a memorandum which would be circulated among hon. Members. They were of a supplementary character merely, and he would deprecate any proposals to make radical changes in the existing machinery of the law. As to the manner in which the Bill had been drawn up, it was only right he should say that in the numerous communications he had received from all parts of the country, offering an endless variety of suggestions, the opinion was nowhere expressed that the existing law was not set forth by the Bill in a clear and proper manner. It was natural for Governments to view Consolidation Bills with some horror, for there was a danger of every clause being discussed at a length which would make progress impossible. He hoped the House would agree with him in thinking it was desirable to confine themselves to moderate Amendments in the present instance. He should, however, be happy to give his best attention to the suggestions thrown out from all quarters, and would take every opportunity of making such improvements and additions as might be thought of a reasonable character. He agreed with the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) that the experiment that they were now trying with regard to the consolidation of the law was of an important character, in this respect, that it might afford a precedent for future legislation of a similar kind. If the House should be of opinion that this plan of consolidating the law was a plan worth trying, no great harm could come of it; but, on the contrary, the amendment of the law might be enormously facilitated, and on so interesting and important a subject as the sanitary legislation of the country they might lay a foundation for dealing with the Poor Law Acts and others of a similar character which had hitherto been brought before Parliament in a piecemeal manner. He believed the result of such legislation would be of great benefit to the country.


trusted that the House would not only read the Bill a second time, but would aid the right hon. Gentleman in Committee in making it as perfect as circumstances would allow. His experience of sanitary matters led him to believe that the country was not yet ripe for any large measure of compulsory sanitary legislation. The consolidating portion of the measure was very important, and the amending portion contained some points which might prove of great benefit to the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh University (Mr. Lyon Playfair), complained that the Bill was not strong enough or coercive enough. He was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman could be for strong and coercive legislation; but he held that any attempt by means of harsh legislation to force on the country provisions for which it was not ripe would not be attended with success.


desired to know whether or not his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board was to be understood, speaking not of this Session, but of the next, to intimate that no further action would be taken by Her Majesty's Government with reference either to sanitary questions or questions of local government.


explained that what he meant was that the Government, in introducing this Bill, had no special object in view which would interfere with any measure of local reform which they might think fit to bring forward this Session or the next.


said, he was quite satisfied with the explanation. There were some points in the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair) which he felt bound to notice, owing to his former connection with the Local Government Department, and to the fact that he had introduced the Public Health Act of 1870. His right hon. Friend had said that the sanitary authorities were scattered and the areas indefinite. He (Mr. Stansfeld) entirely differed from his right hon. Friend. The sanitary authorities were not scattered, and the areas were definite. The whole country was covered by sanitary areas, none of them overlapping; and there was one sanitary authority and no more for every sanitary area. His right hon. Friend had taken some exception to the appointment by joint authorities of medical officers of health over large areas, and seemed to prefer that each of the 1,400 or 1,500 sanitary districts of the country should appoint its own medical officers of health, who should be superintended over larger areas by officers appointed by the central authority. He was bound to take issue on that point with his right hon. Friend. When he introduced the Public Health Act of 1870 he pledged himself to the principle of local government, and he remained true to that principle in the administration of the Act. His right hon. Friend who spoke last (Mr. Sclater-Booth) very wisely said that all these measures ought to be considered as educational measures. That was essentially his (Mr. Stansfeld's) view. He did not believe that we could make people healthy, either in their houses or their lives, by Acts of Parliament or by centralized authority. He believed in educating and training the local authorities to take care of their citizens, and he was content, whatever pains and labour might be necessary in order to accomplish that object, that Parliament, the law, and the State should educate the localities to fulfil that function. Had the lines of the Public Health Bill of 1870 been drawn upon a purely scientific conception, as to the instrumentality which might be considered the most potent for giving effect to the measure in the short period of four years during which it had been in operation, we should have had a reaction over the whole country against the progress of sanitary legislation; whereas, he would refer with confidence to the Reports of the Inspectors of the Local Government Board to show that very great practical progress in sanitary operations had been effected, and still greater progress in that educational sense in which he had spoken of training localities and their local administrators in the administration of the law. He was quite conscious of the variety that would exist when he passed the Bill. He accepted that variety as part of the educational character of the work. Without such variety, we should have no sanitary education in the administration of the law. But though he had foreseen and accepted that variety, he was not without definite hope of what it would bring forth. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh had expressed his belief that the appointment of medical officers of health on the half-pay system had, generally speaking, been a failure; but he (Mr. Stansfeld) did not admit that, and he did not think the President of the Local Government Board would confirm it. He did not rely upon it as a temptation or bait, and he never attempted to exercise any pressure on the local authorities, who were left perfectly free to take their own way in the appointment of medical officers of health under the obligation imposed upon them by statute; but it was only fair that if the central authority—the Government of this country—was to pay half the salaries of these officers, it should have some share, not in the individual appointments, but in the indication of the area for which the appointment should be made, the terms of each appointment, and the salaries to be paid to the medical officers appointed. He would now say a word or two on the Consolidation Bill of his right hon. Friend. He persisted in calling it a Consolidation Bill. His right hon. Friend called it an amending Bill as well; but, in his (Mr. Stansfeld's) opinion, there could not be a Consolidation Bill which was not also an amending Bill. He understood that his right hon. Friend would, without loss of time, put them in possession of the Amendments, so as to enable them to know what was purely consolidation and what was amendment of the law. But the Amendments he said were slight, and he asked the House to accept the Bill as a Consolidation Bill. The Bill consisted of 333 sections, and if it was not essentially consolidation, and accepted as such, if they were to discuss it clause by clause there could not be the slightest chance of passing it this Session. Treating it as a Consolidation Bill, he had examined it with sufficient care to be enabled, and he felt called on, to say that it was an accurate and reputable piece of work and would be an extremely useful measure. His right hon. Friend had not spoken of it as a finality Bill; but by the consolidation of the law it would accomplish two great practical objects of the greatest importance—making, in the first place, the law more intelligible in administration, and, secondly, what was of still more importance, would facilitate its future progress and amendment; and for these reasons he heartily approved of it, and hoped the House would advance it with rapidity so as to pass it this Session.


said, that in dealing with the question they would have to take the rateable area. The railways might first of all be assessed, and then the amount for each parish might be taken.


approved the Bill, but it being a very large and important one, he hoped hon. Members would have the promised explanations and Amendments placed in their hands as soon as possible.


said, he thought it was rather a difficult thing to say whether they approved or disapproved of a Bill containing 333 clauses. He wished to know whether he was correct in saying that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had stated that he was anxious that Government Medical Inspectors should supervise all the local medical officers? If that was the desire of the right hon. Gentleman, it was not shared by the country. The local authorities were perfectly willing, in cases of difficulty, to appeal to the central sanitary authority. If it was the intention of the Local Government Board to insist on having a central authority of medical officers, he felt certain that it would be the most unpopular thing ever attempted throughout the length and breadth of this country. He wished also to know whether his right hon. Friend had attempted to amend that which was known to be an evil in the last Bill—namely, the power of a small town to call upon agricultural districts outside to make a sanitary improvement for the benefit simply of that small town? Was there any provision in this Bill which would compel small towns, say such as contained not more than 2,000 inhabitants, to pay the whole of the expense of any sanitary improvements that might be made in them? It was manifestly unfair that they should be able to call upon outlying districts to pay for such improvements. He wished his right hon. Friend, further, to state which portion of this Bill was new matter, which part was contained in the old Bill, and which was the consolidating part of this Bill. Before they consolidated and amended the present law, they should ascertain whether or not they were going, by too rapid strides, towards that sanitary improvement which so many people thought desirable for this country. No doubt, it was desirable; but the people of the country were not prepared to advance in the matter with these rapid strides which some persons thought absolutely necessary. We ought not to advance at a pace which would involve the enormous expenses which some places had been called upon to pay under the existing Acts.


in reply, said, there was power in this Bill to rate separately any district which would benefit by an improvement. His right hon. Friend had, in answer to observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh and of the right hon. Member for Halifax, said there was no idea of constituting a great central authority of medicine. He believed the Amendments which were proposed by his right hon. Colleague would be in the hands of hon. Members on Wednesday morning.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.