MR. ASSHETON CROSS
, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill for facilitating the improvement of the Dwellings of the Working Classes in large towns, said: In the course of the last Session of Parliament I think the Government, at all events, gave an earnest of their interest 98 in the question relating to the dwellings of the working classes in this country—first of all by interfering with the action of one of the great railway companies in the metropolis; and, secondly, by presenting to this House a Standing Order, which was afterwards adopted, for the purpose of taking pre-cautions in the case of other Bills of a similar kind from time to time brought before us. This is a matter which, as far as I am individually concerned, has engaged much of my attention. But the attention of the Government was formally called to it early in the Spring of last year by two memorials presented to the Prime Minister as well as to myself by two classes of persons, both deserving great attention. One of those memorials was from the Council of the Charity Organization Society, who have given a great deal of attention to the state of the dwellings of the poor. They issued a very able Report, which has been presented to the Government, and which certainly deserves their attention. They state—That the dwellings of the poorer classes in various parts of the metropolis are in such a condition, from age, defects of construction, and misuse, as to he deeply injurious to the physical and moral welfare of the inhabitants, and to the well-being of the community at large.The other body which addressed the Government was one of great eminence, which seldom interferes with public business or presents Petitions of this kind—I mean the Royal College of Physicians. So deeply did this eminent body feel that the condition of the dwellings of the poor in the metropolis deserved the special attention and interference of the Government, that they stepped out of their way last year to present this memorial to the Prime Minister, which I hold in my hand. They said—That it is well known to your memorialists that over-crowding, 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.So that when the subject was brought before the notice of the House of Commons last year by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth), in a very elaborate and, he will allow me to add, a very able speech, and when he was well seconded by the hon. Baronet 99 near him (Sir Sydney Waterlow), I was able, on the part of the Government, to give an assurance that this matter had received their attention, and should continue to do so; and the pledge I then gave I shall now endeavour to redeem by asking leave to introduce a Bill on the subject. We may take it as an axiom that what the homes of the people are the people themselves will be found to be. That is a maxim upon which the House in a great deal of its legislation has acted. Much has been done on this subject, not simply by legislation, but by individual effort. In legislation we have endeavoured to pass Acts preventing overcrowding in dwelling-houses—Acts which we have not been able to carry out for reasons to which I will hereafter advert. "We have passed Acts enabling Corporations to give up their land and borrow money in order to erect dwelling-houses for the working classes. We have also passed an Act, introduced by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens), although, I am afraid, somewhat shorn of its proportions, enabling the local authorities to pull down such houses as are absolutely unfit for human habitation. Much has also been done by the action of individuals, by trustees, and by public bodies. I need hardly mention the capital of £600,000 belonging to the Peabody Trustees, or the two societies—one presided over by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Sydney Waterlow) and the other by Lord Claud Hamilton, who is no longer a Member of this House. Each of these associations has, I believe, expended a capital of £300,000 for these objects. Other bodies of a similar kind have dene much for improving the dwellings of the labouring classes of this metropolis, but much still remains to be dene. All the houses that have been constructed by these individuals and associations only provide accommodation for about 30,000 of the population; and when we remember that the growth of London has advanced during the last 10 years at the rate of 40,000 each year, it is clear that much more must be done if we wish to reach the root of the evil to be remedied. So far as legislation goes, the evil is pointed out by one of the memorials before me—that of the Charity Organization Society—In the opinion of your memorialists, the evil can only be adequately dealt with by making 100 it the duty of some public body, possessing a wider sphere of action and in a more independent position than the local Boards and Vestries, and invested when necessary with powers of compulsory purchase, to initiate comprehensive improvements in the interest of the poorer classes, as has been done with good effect in Glasgow and Edinburgh and other cities, and, in a somewhat different form, in Liverpool.I take it as a starting-point that it is not the duty of the Government to provide any class of citizens with any of the necessaries of life, and among the necessaries of life we must include that which is one of the chief necessaries—good and habitable dwellings. That is not the duty of the State, because if it did so, it would inevitably tend to make that class depend, not on themselves, but upon what was done for them elsewhere, and it would not be possible to teach a worse lesson than this—that "If you do not take care of yourselves, the State will take care of you." Nor is it wise to encourage large bodies to provide the working classes with habitations at greatly lower rents than the market value paid elsewhere. Admitting these two principles of action, there is another point of view from which we may look, and another ground upon which we may proceed. No one will doubt the propriety and right of the State to interfere in matters relating to sanitary laws. Looking at this question as a matter of sanitary reform, there is much to be done by the Legislature, not to enable the working classes to have houses provided for thorn, but to take them out of that miserable condition in which they now find themselves—namely, that, even if they want to have decent homos, they cannot get them. The evil we have to grapple with is not one of modern growth, but arises from the neglect of past and former years. I would ask the political economist who may be disposed to scan this kind of legislation too closely, to remember that there is a maxim which is as true of nations as of individuals—that health is actually wealth. He must take into account the great waste of life oven among those who roach manhood, the great waste of physical condition after infancy is passed, and the waste of stamina in the present generation and the future generation that will spring from it. He might also take into account the waste in lunatic asylums and gaols, and particularly the waste of sickness and death in all these 101 wretched places. I am not going to enter upon any elaborate statement as to the question of death-rate, but will take it on an average of years. I know it makes a great difference whether you are speaking of a small area or a largo one, and whether, if you take a smaller area, there is a hospital or a workhouse in it. You have, therefore, to make a great many allowances and corrections before coming to the truth. I want, however, to put before the House a few plain, broad facts. If you consider that the death-rate is about 22½ per 1,000 throughout the whole country—that in London it is 24½ per 1,000, and that in Manchester it has been 30, in Liverpool during the last 10 years it has been 38, in Lancaster 30, and in Sunderland 37 per 1,000—there must be something wrong in those towns which makes the death-rate so different. Then, again, see the marked difference between one part of a town and another. In Liverpool, where the death-rate is 38 in 1,000, some parts of the town are just as healthy as some parts of London, and if you inquire into local areas, you will find that in certain courts the death-rate is very greatly in excess of other parts of the town, and swells the total average. For instance, in one district in London, having a population of from 2,000 to 2,100, there have been more people sick in five years than the whole population—not of ordinary diseases, but fevers, and that there is not one house in which there has not been a death annually. These are startling facts, and when you find that in Manchester, in some of the small enumerated districts, the death-rate was in one district 67 per 1,000, and that in another district—now happily swept away—the death-rate amounted to 70 per 1,000, it must be admitted that there is a great deal of preventable disease; and if by our legislation, and without any inroad upon the sound principles of political economy, we can prevent such a waste of life, power, energy, health, and everything that makes a nation healthy and wealthy, it is our duty to interfere and see whether we cannot do something to arrest this waste. If we inquire what is the death-rate among small and young children in particular parts of these towns, we shall arrive at the most terrible results. I have a Report of the Medical Officer of Health for 102 Manchester, which shows that in one particular district, out of 100 deaths of persons of all ages, the deaths of children under five years reached the extraordinary rate of 49.7. In Liverpool, matters are still worse. The Friendly Societies Commission went very deeply into the question of the death-rate of children; and they found that, while the annual rate of mortality of children under one year on the average of all England amounts to 18 to 100 persons living, in Liverpool it amounted to 30; and between the age of one and two, while the average for England is 6.9, in Liverpool it is 18½. Similar results are arrived at if we compare the number of children of the working classes who grow up to be strong and healthy adults with the number of children of the higher classes who do so. The Medical Officer of Health for Paddington has prepared tables, in which a comparison is instituted between such districts as Gloucester Square, Hyde Park, and Westbourne Terrace, and equal areas occupied by the working classes; and the result is that the loss-crowded district, with one-sixth of the population of the other district, produces twice the number of children who grow up to be healthy adults. We have to consider what a waste of human life this is, and ask ourselves whether we can give the children of the working classes an equal chance of growing up to healthy manhood and womanhood. The causes of the present loss of life are not far to seek. Some of the Acts for the prevention of overcrowding are under my own superintendence, and when I came into office orders were given that they were to be carried out as far as possible; but medical officers, the police, and the sanitary authorities said that the difficulty in the way of enforcing the Acts was that to apply them would be to turn the people out of their houses into the streets, without there being any place to which they could go. Then it is not simply that houses are overcrowded, but districts are overcrowded, and the air is vitiated. I know of one place in St. Giles where there are 70 courts and alloys or small streets close together, without one single thoroughfare through which the residents can get a breath of pure air. The only way in which you can got into those districts is to cut a thoroughfare right through 103 them. Some of the houses are actually in such a condition that the walls are engrained with disease, no expenditure of money upon them can make them healthy, and the only practical way of dealing with them is to pull them down. Family after family goes into a house, and it is certain to catch the fever which has killed off the previous occupants; and unless you step in and interfere this will go on for ages. In many cases you find that houses are built upon ground that is saturated with everything that is abominable, miasma rises from the ground through the houses, and nothing can be done to cure this unless you make a clean sweep of the houses. I have thought it right to go to Liverpool, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, to see what has been done in those places. The Liverpool Act was passed in 1864, the Glasgow Act in 1866, and the Edinburgh Act about the same time. From the experience of these towns we may learn some lessons as to what we ought to avoid. I have endeavoured to find out what has been the actual working of this Act in each of those places, and I have collected certain information which I have laid on the Table of the House. I went not only to those who had proposed the schemes, and who might take a favourable view of what had been done, but to those who had taken opposite views; I was met with kindness by all the authorities, by the Medical Officers of Health, and by the police; and they have furnished the statements which I have laid on the Table to guide us in the formation of our opinions. In Liverpool five presentments have been made by grand juries as to the bad condition of certain houses; and the Corporation, finding they had to deal with crowded courts, pulled down three or four rows of cottages, demolished 503 houses, and improved 392 courts, at a cost of £86,000 or £87,600. The main defects of the Liverpool Act are, that all the claims for compensation payable under one presentment cannot be settled by one tribunal, and that the working of the Land Clauses Acts involves delay and expense; and it is said that if the defects of the law were remedied the processes could be expedited with equal satisfaction to the owners without the Corporation paying twice the value of the property, once to the owners and again to the lawyers. Edinburgh has 104 gone rather more vigorously to work, it has spent a large sum, and cleaned out some 1,400 houses; but it has acted upon a different principle, and in opening up thoroughfares, it has acquired some of the land improved in value by the operation, and has re-sold it, thereby reaping a considerable return, and considerably reducing the cost of the improvement to the ratepayers. But the Medical Officer of Health of Edinburgh says that it will require some years of experience to arrive at the practical results, and the lesson to be drawn from his warning is, that in anything we do we must not hope too hastily for the evidence of results. But from Edinburgh we learnt this—The Medical Officer, in one of his Reports, said—I can confidently assert that the poor have been put to no inconvenience by the pulling down of the old houses, for before they were forced to remove, careful inquiry was made as to the house accommodation for the class in question, and the Sheriff was satisfied in every case that there were houses to which they could betake themselves.This is a point that must be carefully guarded in future legislation. Many nests of crime have been broken down in Edinburgh, and the police report a falling off in the number of serious offences from 670 to 570 in the year. The brothels were reduced from 242 in 1859, to 125; and so with other matters dependent upon the character of the neighbourhood. The City of Glasgow has gone into the matter upon a much larger scale. They have incurred an expenditure which will ultimately amount to £1,750,000. While proceeding in much the same way as Edinburgh, the people of Glasgow have been wiser in their generation. They have not taken merely the bad houses. They found that their demolition greatly improved the property immediately adjoining, and thought they might just as well get the advantage as the owners of the property. In their scheme they bought, not only the bad houses, but the property in the neighbourhood. They will expend altogether about £2,000,000, and they hope to do it at a cost to the ratepayers of £300,000; and if you take into account the charges for hospitals, lunatic asylums, and gaols, I think you will find that this £300,000 is very much on the right side of the account. Of course, it would be necessary after houses have been built, that precautions should be 105 taken that they do not soon fall into the same state as those which had been pulled down. In all cases of this kind you must take care to look after the property for the future; you must take sanitary precautions that the property shall not fall into a bad condition. In Glasgow I asked where the people expelled were driven to. Special inquiries were made whether they went to other over-crowded places to over-crowd them still more, what kind of houses they went to, and whether the houses were built at rates which enabled them to pay the rents. In one case 351 houses were demolished; but, although 351 families were compelled by these operations to remove, attention was confined to 263, the remaining 88 being accounted for in various ways. In regard to 20 of the 263 they were also otherwise accounted for. But, having excluded these, the remaining 243 wore, on the whole, fair examples of the utterly insanitary house and their inhabitants, of the miserable population who contribute to the high mortality and furnish the most difficult problems in the improvement of the city. The exact number of persons living in these houses was 990, and they were compelled to seek houses elsewhere. Before the operations, of the 243 families whoso history had boon traced, 118 lived in houses of one apartment, 96 in houses of two apartments, 23 in houses of three apartments, and six in houses of four apartments. After the operations those 243 families were housed as follows:—96 in houses of one apartment, 116 in houses of two apartments, 16 in houses of three apartments, and three in houses of four apartments; five went to the suburbs, two to the country, three to lodgings, and two to Ireland. The same facts might be stated in another way—Of 118 families living in houses of one apartment when expelled by the Improvement Trustees, 76 removed to houses of the same size, 39 to larger houses, two to lodgings, and one to the country in Scotland; of 96 families living in houses of two apartments, 66 removed to houses of the same size, 10 to larger houses, 17 to smaller houses, one to the country, and two to Ireland; of 23 families living in houses of throe apartments, four removed to houses of the same size, 18 to smaller houses, and one to lodgings; of six families living in houses of four apartments, all removed to smaller 106 houses. Then, as to the rent of the new houses, it might be stated that the increase amounted to 20 per cent on the rental of a house of one apartment, to 20 per cent on a house of two apartments, to 58 per cent on a house of three apartments, and to 28 per cent on a house of four apartments. Then, as to the number of inmates per apartment, it was found that in the old houses 990 individuals were accommodated in 403 apartments, giving an average of 2.4 inmates for each apartment; and that in the new houses 949 individuals were accommodated in 388 apartments, giving still the same average of 2.4 for each apartment. But it was quite certain that the same number of inmates per house or apartment in the old and new houses really meant an increased cubic space in the now houses. This was especially true of the houses of three and four apartments. In the old houses those apartments were merely nominal, in the now they were real. Let me call your attention in this case, as in the case of Edinburgh, to the falling off of crime and the lessening of the number of brothels in the city—namely, a decrease of from 204 to 20, and this in the space of three years, from 1870 to 1873. Having stated what has been done in these three towns, I should like now to lay before the House the provisions contained in the Bill which I am now asking leave to introduce. I will do so very shortly. In the first place, we think this Bill—at present at all events—should be confined to the City of London, to the metropolis, and to large towns. No doubt there are places in the country which are very bad; no doubt there are places in small towns which are very bad; but the evil in those cases may be much more easily remedied than in largo towns. Again, to apply the Bill to small towns would produce too much pressure on the ratepayers. At all events, we think it best, as I have said, for the present to confine the measure to large towns. Then, who are to have the duty of carrying it out? Clearly not private individuals. We think that the body in London should be that which is shadowed forth in the memorial of the Charity Organization Society. There cannot be a better body for the City of London, and the Metropolitan Board of Works should be the authority for the rest of the me- 107 tropolis; and in other largo towns the town councils, which are practically the sanitary authority. Who, then, shall put the Act in motion? We proceed entirely on sanitary grounds. We do not wish them to make great street improvements for their own glorification. It is only sanitary purposes that we have in view—therefore we think the Act should he put in motion by the medical officer of health, who, by his own view, or called upon by a certain number of ratepayers, would be bound to report and certify whether in his opinion the place was an unhealthy district—whether disease prevailed there, and whether that was attributable to the badness of the houses. If he found it so, he would have to state that, in his opinion, it was an unhealthy district, and that an improvement scheme ought to be framed for it. That report would be forwarded to the local authority—being in London the Corporation, in the rest of the metropolis the Metropolitan Board of Works, and in largo towns the town council. The local authorities would then take the matter into their consideration, and if satisfied of the truth of the report, and the practicability of applying a remedy and of the sufficiency of their resources—because we do not call on the town councils to ruin themselves—they would pass a resolution that the district was an unhealthy area, for which an improvement scheme ought to be provided. The improvement scheme would be accompanied by maps, particulars, and estimates, defining the lands it was proposed to take with compulsory powers, and providing for as many of the working; classes as might be displaced in that area, either within the limits of the area or the vicinity thereof. In London that is a very essential matter. You cannot pull down a street in St. Giles's and send the people over to Battersea. If you displace the working class, you must lodge them in the vicinity of the locality, otherwise you make them paupers and deprive them of the means of subsistence. In Glasgow that difficulty was easily met. Happily, even in the most crowded sites of London the actual density of the population per acre is not very great; in some places it may be 300 or more; but although only 300 per acre, they may be living in the worst sanitary condition and dying almost daily. On the other hand, I could 108 mention a space built on by the society over which the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Sydney Waterlow) presides, where the death rate has never yet exceeded 15 per 1,000, and where no less than 1,600 are housed per acre with perfect safety. As I have intimated, you are to provide that the people turned out shall be accommodated in the district, or be provided for in the immediate vicinity of it. I do not suppose that any hon. Member will think that town councils should have the power of taking-other people's property without compensation; but hero comes a question to which I would seriously invite attention. Every farthing spent in law expenses will undoubtedly raise materially the cost of the room which is eventually to be occupied by the poor workmen. The difference of 1s. a-week in the rent may easily be made; therefore, you must take care that no unnecessary cost in law expenses shall be incurred. The action of town councils in bringing Bills in this House is of a very curtailed character. They must have the consent of their ratepayers. We propose that, except as to certain consent on the part of the Government, the present restriction should be swept away. Nor do we wish to put them to the great expense of going themselves for a Private Bill. We wish to relieve them entirely of that expense; and, therefore, when it has been determined that an area is unhealthy and that there shall be an improvement scheme in the metropolis, it shall be referred to the Secretary of State for sanction. The Secretary of State will make inquiry, and if he be satisfied with the scheme, he will take upon himself the responsibility of passing the Provisional Order through this House, and so save enormous expense to the parties themselves. With respect to boroughs, the Secretary of State has no local officer that he can employ, and we propose that they shall be relieved of Parliamentary expenses, and that the Local Government Board shall pass an improvement scheme. When that is done we have not the smallest intention of interfering with the execution of the scheme. The intervention of the Government is simply to give Parliamentary power and save expense. Everything else is left to local government. The next question is—"How can the value of the lands thus compulsorily 109 taken be best arrived at?" I have already alluded to the circumstance that the working of schemes under the English Lands Clauses Act was found to be very expensive in Ireland, owing to the sub-divisions of tenures, to which it had to be applied. Therefore, 10 years ago an Act was passed, known as the Irish Lands Transfer Act, which provides a much simpler mode of ascertaining the value of land. Of course the English Act is incorporated in the present measure for all purposes except one, the provisions respecting valuation being adopted from the Irish Act. Accordingly, an arbitrator will be appointed who will go down to the locality and inquire into all the circumstances. If, however, the owner of any property proposed to be compulsorily taken wishes to appeal to a jury against the decision of the arbitrator, he will have the same right of doing so as he would have possessed under the English Act. The only question then for us to consider is what shall be the basis of the valuation on which the arbitrator shall act. The House will doubtless remember that under the English Lands Clauses Act there were no words specifying what the valuation should be. However, a custom has grown up in England to value the property at its proper value; but when a railway company wants it, 10 or 20 per cent is usually added as a sort of bonus to the owner. Now, we think such a bonus should not be given in regard to property of this kind. We think that a man ought to receive the fair market value of his land, and that of course the goodwill ought to be taken into consideration. Well, when the property has been obtained, the next question is, what is to be done with it? We have arrived at the opinion expressed in the Bill, that the corporations themselves should not be the builders of the houses; that they ought not to be building speculators. We believe there is a vast amount of floating capital which people would be willing to apply to this purpose, but which they do not so employ at the present moment, simply because they cannot get the land. We think that when the corporations have procured the land by these compulsory powers the time will have arrived when such available capital will be made use of; and, therefore, we give most ample power to the local authority to lot or sell 110 the property, on the express condition that there shall be accommodation for the labouring classes. Of course, it is possible that the land might be left waste, if no power of building were conferred on the local authority, and for this reason we reserve to the local authority the power to build in special cases, with the consent of the Secretary of State, or of the President of the Local Government Board. Such is the sum and substance of the Bill. Powers are given for borrowing and lending to the local authority by the Public Works Commissioners at a certain rate of interest. One thing we are bound to insist upon is that the monies employed in carrying out these schemes shall not be mixed up with the general borough rate, but that there shall be a separate account kept of all monies expended under the provisions of the Act. This is, in fact, a sanitary matter, and the accounts, as in other sanitary matters, ought to be kept quite distinct from all other rates and payments. Under the provisions of this Bill, a great deal may be effected; but I should be wrong if I did not once more caution the House not to imagine we are doing a magnificent and a showy work. It is a measure that will do the work silently, but surely. Those who desire to see the results of the Bill must go and look for them, and in a few years they will perceive thorn. Again, I must remark that we do not anticipate any sudden effect. The evil we desire to root out has been the work of generations; and though I believe the ratepayers will be more than fully recouped in the long run, yet for a time, at least, the measure must be worked at some expense. Nevertheless, considering the state of the people at the present time, considering how little has been done for them, and considering also the absolute necessity of raising this almost degraded class, who have been brought up in sickness, and who will perpetuate disease, if we do not afford them the means of improving their conditions, I ask you on those dens of wretchedness and misery to cast one ray of hope and happiness; I ask you on those haunts of sickness and of death to breathe, at all events, one breath of health and life; and on those courts and alleys where all is dark with a darkness which not only may be, but is felt—a darkness of mind, body, and soul—I ask you to assist in 111 carrying out one of God's best and earliest laws—"Let there be light."
asked when the Bill would be in the hands of hon. Members, and expressed a hope that it would be delivered to-morrow. He also asked when it was proposed to take the second reading, and considered that as many largo towns would be affected it would be well to allow some time to elapse before proceeding with that stage of the Bill. The whole measure seemed to hinge on the action of the medical officers of vestries, and he must therefore express a hope that they would be placed in a position of greater independence than they at present occupied, especially in London, where they were at the mercy of vestries composed to a great extent of the owners of small properties which were too frequently in a bad condition. With respect to the action of the local authorities, the right hon. Gentleman had not informed the Housey what restrictions they would have the power to impose on those who might wish to build upon the sites that were provided. It was evident, however, from an incidental remark, that the right hon. Gentleman saw the necessity of taking precautions against the "same evils arising which now called for legislation. He could not conclude those few remarks without saying that the whole credit of the movement belonged to certain people who had boon working for a very long time in this direction. In particular he might refer to the Metropolitan Association, over which Lord Claud Hamilton presided; to Lord Shaftesbury and to the associations with which he had been connected; to the Act passed by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens), and under which Act much more good would have boon done but for the alterations made in it by the House of Lords; and more especially to the Committee appointed by the Charity Organization Society, which with the Royal College of Physicians had paved the way for the present measure. He must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the prompt manner in which he had acted upon the representations which had been made to him, and he hoped that the Bill would result in a great improvement in the condition of the working people.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, that having devoted many years of his 112 life to this subject, and having been for some time Chairman of a Company which had erected many improved workmen's dwellings, he bogged to offer a few words of congratulation to the Home Secretary for the manner in which he had dealt with the whole question. The way in which he had referred to the evidence in the Reports as to Edinburgh and Glasgow showed that he had boon most anxious to grapple with the whole of the difficulties involved in an important and complicated question. The right bon. Gentleman had referred to the death-rate and the difficulty of making accurate calculations in reference to it; but he did not mention the fact that the houses built for the industrial classes by the societies were mainly occupied by families in which there were a largo number of children, so that the death-rate in the other houses were much higher than would appear even from the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman. He feared that if the initiation was to depend upon the medical officers there must be some external power to stimulate them to action. He know that in many large vestries and local bodies the members were frequently owners of small property, and that they would exercise their power over the medical officers to prevent proceedings which would affect their own pockets.
§ MR. WADDY
said, that among all the measures shadowed forth in Her Majesty's Speech there was not one of more importance than that now brought forward, and he would venture to add his congratulations to those which had been already offered to the right hon. Gentleman for the earnest and felicitous manner in which he had brought the subject before the House. But, assuming that the Bill was to apply to the whole country, he feared there would be very serious difficulty in carrying out its provisions to any great extent, in consequence of the great power of origination and management given to the local authorities. In the first place, much expense would have to be incurred, and local authorities did not like to give it to their constituents to say that they had thrown heavy burdens upon them. He thought therefore there would be great danger of the measure failing, unless the Government reserved power to interfere in certain cases. In the next place, unless something were done to take the 113 matter out of the hands of persons who would look mainly to dividends, there would he great danger that what was called economy would interfere with the public good. The experience of Glasgow, which was very nearly the same as that of Paris under M. Haussmann, would show that in the most favourable circumstances there must be great loss. He believed the loss in Paris was 32 per cent upon the amount actually invested in the operations; and that would be something like the probable loss in London and elsewhere. If, therefore, the medical officer was to start the improvement, as he was the creature of the vestry, and the vestry the creature of the people who had to pay the rates, very little good would be done. If the work was to be done by private, rather than public effort, there would be another source of danger. Once you got within the ambit of private effort, you got within the ambit of private gain; and where good dividends were looked for, it was not the class which Parliament wanted to benefit most that would derive the advantage, but the class above them. Any one who had gone through the low dens described by the Homo Secretary, and had then visited the Pea-body Buildings, must know that the two were inhabited by a very different class. The fact was, unless care were taken, they would be sweeping away one class of people to provide residences for another. In the Peabody and other buildings many people were charged 7s. 6d. a-week rent. That was very nearly £20 a-year, and to talk of people—who lived in such dens as the Home Secretary had described, and which the present measure was intended to abolish—paying £20 a-year—was simply absurd. If, therefore, Parliament wished to succeed in the object it had in view, they must deal with the matter on principles of philanthropy rather than of dividend. He would suggest therefore that they should not confine themselves to sweeping away the dwellings complained of, but take powers to alter and improve them if possible. He would at the same time offer another suggestion with respect to dwellings not structurally altered. Not long since a very interesting correspondence had appeared in The Lancet, in which revelations of a most painful character had been made. It had been found by commissioner appointed by 114 that paper, that in many cases dwellings of five or six stories, with several rooms in each story and separate families living in each room, were supplied with water only at the lowest story. One instance was given of a poor woman in a wretched state of debility who had to bring every drop of water she required for her family up five flights of stairs in one small vessel. The consequence was that the water necessary for health could not be brought up at all. Assuredly something should be done to compel every landlord who let his houses in separate tenancies to provide separate water accommodation for each. He bogged to thank the Home Secretary for making a brave, loyal, and earnest attempt to deal with one of the most pernicious misehiefs of our country at the present time.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that the Bill was now in print, but there were some typical errors to be amended, and therefore whether it could be delivered to-morrow, or not until the day after, it was not in his power to say. He was in hopes, if the principle of the Bill was accepted, that the House would allow him to proceed to the second reading on Monday, on the understanding that some time would elapse before the Committee would be taken. The hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy) had talked of the medical officers being influenced by the vestries and local boards. But, if he (Mr. Cross) was to judge from the reports which had been presented to him by the medical officers, he felt sure they would be willing to grapple with any authority in this matter. If such reports as had been presented to him were sent in to the local authorities, the latter would have plenty to do for several years in working the measure, and erecting suitable buildings. It was essential to the scheme that suitable dwellings should be built; for surely the hon. and learned Member opposite did not mean that when a number of rookeries were pulled down, other rookeries should be put up in their place. Precautions, however, were taken that when the local authorities let the land, certain provisions of a stringent nature should be carried out. Beyond that, hon. Members would find that the Government had inserted special powers in reference to the metropolis, and the appointment of per- 115 sons to carry out the provisions of the Bill.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that, as it stood at present, the Bill applied to England only, but that the Government intended to leave it to the Committee to decide whether its operation should be extended to Scotland and Ireland also.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill for facilitating the improvement of the Dwellings of the Working Classes in largo towns, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary GROSS, Mr. SCLATER-BOOTII, and Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 1.]