§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Secretary Cross.)
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, that in the last Session of Parliament the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttle-worth) brought forward a Resolution which had for its object the improvement of the dwellings of the working classes in the metropolis; but it was withdrawn in consequence of the satisfactory statement made in reference to it by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and by the Bill now before the House the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be redeeming the promise he made on the occasion referred to. In introducing the measure the right hon. Gentleman anticipated the willing acceptance by the House of what he called the principle of the measure, and he (Mr. Stansfeld) thought the right hon. Gentleman was justified in his anticipation, that the House would receive favourably the objects of the Bill, and that hon. Members on both sides would lend what assistance they could to the Government in putting it into a practical shape. For himself, he could truly say that it was his earnest desire to assist the Government in carrying the Bill, and to put it into such a shape as would insure its efficient working. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in addressing the House the other day on the subject, had indicated the principles which had guided and, in a certain degree, restricted him in drawing the measure. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was no part of the function or duty of a Government to provide any of the necessaries of life for any class of the population—and among those 336 necessaries the right hon. Gentleman included healthy and decent dwellings for the poor—nor to bring to bear any influences calculated to pauperize our poorer classes. He (Mr. Stansfeld) held that to be a very sound principle; they had a law of general application which was not based on a principle of that kind, and that was the Poor Law, which was the very reverse, because it recognized the right of every inhabitant of the country in want of the necessaries of life to be provided by the guardians. Beyond that, he further thought the enunciation of the principle was very timely made, inasmuch as if the measure were successful, it must prove very expensive in its working, and would result in no slight addition being made to the burdens of the ratepayers. But precisely because of the existence of the Poor Law and because it was necessary that a law of that description should be very stringently administered if they desired not to pauperize in thought and in habits of life the people of the country, they ought to be extremely careful not to bring to bear influences of a similar description upon those who were outside that law. Although that was true, the right hon. Gentleman had proceeded to show that much might be done consistently with sound principles of political economy to raise the standard of healthiness, comfort, and decency of the whole of the working classes and of the poorer classes of the community by the removal of unsuitable and insanitary dwellings and by the substitution of others of a superior character. By raising the character of the average number of dwellings the character of the minimum would also necessarily be raised and the poorer classes would by degrees be led to look for comfort, decency, and healthiness in their homes, and owing to the beneficial effect of such a change and of increased educational influences on their minds, we might eventually be able to leave the result to the natural operation of the law of demand and supply. A certain number of unwholesome houses being razed to the ground and a number of healthy houses being erected in their stead would operate in two ways. In the first place, there would be a number of fit in place of a number of unfit dwellings for the poor, and secondly the character of all similar dwellings in the area would be raised. The machinery 337 of the Government Bill was of a nature familiar to the Local Government Board and to the Home Office, and the object, as he understood it, was to facilitate such large improvements as had taken place under public Acts of Parliament in cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Liverpool, and to advance such operations by substituting for the expensive method of a Private Bill the method of local inquiry, provisional order, and confirming Bills, undertaken by the Home Office or by the Local Government Board as the case might be. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the enormous saving of expense which the adoption of this plan would result in to the cities and boroughs which might avail themselves of the provisions of this Bill. For his own part, he (Mr. Stansfeld) was not certain that that sanguine view of the right hon. Gentleman would be borne out; but he freely admitted that the Schedule of the Bill seemed to be a distinct improvement upon the powers of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act. Independently of the question of expense, however, he saw facilities for, and inducements to, action in the fact that under this Bill the Home Office and the Local Government Board would be associated with the local bodies throughout the country in all works of this description. Having expressed a general approval of the objects of the measure, and of the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, he would now deal with the evils to be remedied, and the nature of the legislation that was required to cure them. The extent of those evils might be ascertained from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and from the Preamble of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech referred to two classes of evils—the first being the existence of "crowded districts" and the second being the existence of "groups of houses" or even of single houses existing under conditions making them unsuitable for human habitation, calculated to promote unhealthiness, if not actual disease. In both cases no expenditure of money would make many of such "districts" and "groups" habitable. The ground was in many instances so saturated with everything abominable that nothing could be done unless a clean sweep was made. In corroboration of that statement, the right hon. Gentleman further 338 said that there were not only houses but districts over-crowded; that in some cases the houses were so engrained with disease, that no expenditure of money upon them could make them healthy; and that the only practical way of dealing with them was to take them down. The Preamble of the Bill was equally explicit. It stated that there were in cities and boroughs a great number of houses, courts, and alleys which, by reason of the want of light, air, ventilation, proper convenience, or other causes, were unfit for human habitation and fostered disease and death, not only in those houses, courts, and alleys, but in the neighbourhoods in which they were situated. Those evils the right hon. Gentleman proposed to deal with; but when he passed from the speech of the Home Secretary and the Preamble to the enacting clauses—and he referred specially to the 3rd clause—he was struck by the strange falling-off in the phraseology. So great was the difference that he could not help feeling there must have been some change or uncertainty of purpose when the enacting clauses were being drawn. If hon. Members would compare the wording of the 3rd clause with the intention of the Government as expressed in the Preamble, they would find that while the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and the Preamble contemplated dealing not only with large areas, but also with groups of houses and single houses, whenever the conditions affecting them were injurious to the inhabitants or to the neighbourhood, the 3rd clause was entirely confined to this case—namely, that it was necessary to discover "a certain area" whose condition and character was such that it became advisable and necessary that the whole of the area should be taken by compulsory powers and covered by new streets and buildings. He had been unable to see what advantage could be gained by this clause, which would not deal with groups of houses or isolated houses. If this clause should not be amended, the right hon. Gentleman would, after all, be conferring hardly any additional powers on the urban sanitary authorities of the country, because under the Public Health Act of 1848, the Local Government Act of 1858, and the Act of 1866, streets could be widened and new streets made through 339 any part of the areas within the jurisdiction of those authorities, and the judicial interpretation put upon the word "street" was "a roadway with houses on both sides." He had, however, so much faith in the statement of the wishes and objects of the right hon. Gentleman that he was full of hope that if the criticisms he had ventured to offer were found to be sound, the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to amending that clause so as to make it more in accordance with the objects set forth in the Preamble of the Bill. There were other Amendments of perhaps less importance to which he might point, but which he would defer alluding to until the Committee stage was reached. One observation, however, he thought it right to make. The success of the measure must very largely depend on the cost of carrying it into operation, and therefore he had looked at the Compensation Clause with considerable anxiety and interest. The right hon. Gentleman had taken a sound view in saying that no more than the fair market value should be given to the owners of property to be levelled under the provisions of the Act. But he would suggest for consideration that if the principle were applied without any further precautions than those expressed in the Bill, the Government might find that it would not operate as they wished—it would operate rather to give more than justice to the owners of certain properties, and less than justice to the ratepayers of the localities. They must remember that in many cases the houses to be dealt with would be property in a condition which the existing law condemned. They all knew that the return of capital invested in this poor class of tenements was very much larger than that invested in better houses. He therefore trusted that the Government would not allow owners of property who were not sufficiently conscious of their duties to profit by their own wrong. If houses were in a condition which the existing Sanitary Acts condemned, he thought provision should be made in the Compensation Clause to make a reduction from the primâ facie market value of such property, on the hypothesis that it was fairly chargeable for the amount necessary to put it in a state which the existing sanitary law of the country demanded. If that were done he thought the Bill would leave 340 them with very general assent, and would be a piece of legislative sanitary work creditable to the Government and satisfactory to the House.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, that all those who took an interest in the permanent welfare of the working classes and desired to see them raised and elevated in the social scale would, he thought, rejoice to find that the Government had given the House such an early opportunity of criticizing the measure by which they proposed to deal with the important question with which the Bill dealt practically and effectually—namely, that of removing the evils of overcrowding not only in the metropolis, but also in the various large towns of the country. The opportunity afforded during the last few days of a careful examination of its clauses had satisfied him that if it was to have any real effect in removing those terrible evils which arose from overcrowding in badly-constructed, ill-ventilated houses, many of the clauses would require considerable alteration. The Bill was, unfortunately, to too great extent a Permissive Bill. The district medical officer might report to the vestry that a certain area was unhealthy; then the local authority might or might not determine that the prevalence of disease in the district was reasonably to be attributed to the closeness of the houses, and the confirming authority was to inquire as to the correctness of the official representation; and, finally, Parliament must determine whether the Provisional Order ought, or ought not, to be confirmed. As the Bill stood, therefore, it depended entirely on the discretion and will of the district medical officer whether it was operative or inoperative. He was quite aware that there was a clause permitting the Board of Works, with the consent of a Secretary of State, to appoint a duly qualified officer to make a special inquiry; but that placed the Board in a very invidious position. Its members were elected by the vestries, and it would not be a pleasant task for them to initiate an inquiry for the purpose of reviewing the decisions of those whom they represented. If the Bill was to work, time to be saved, and the Metropolitan Board to be free to act whenever and wherever required, their own officer should be appointed to make the necessary official representation in the first instance. The vestries could not 341 complain of that, as the Metropolitan Board were to find the money, and they might he safely trusted to initiate the improvement schemes and to determine the unhealthy districts in which the improvements were to be carried out. If this course were taken the district medical officers would he relieved from what would frequently he a very embarrassing position. The vestrymen constantly endeavoured to exercise considerable control over those officers, and were frequently the owners of, or largely interested in, small house property in their own districts, and strongly objected to have it interfered with. Again, he could not see why it should be necessary to have 20 persons to complain of the unhealthy condition of any particular area. In many cases it would be difficult to get so many persons to act together, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would have no objection to make a reduction in the number. If it were necessary to remove a disorderly house in any court or street, it was sufficient for two persons to complain, and five persons would be amply sufficient in the case of an unhealthy district, instead of 20. Under Clause 5, the scheme of a local authority was to provide for the accommodation of as many persons as should be displaced. He presumed that meant that sites should he provided for the erection of dwellings for as many persons; but he trusted that in Committee the House would consent to insert the words "at least" as many persons. Schemes of the kind proposed must be prepared and carried out with a view to the future, even more than the present, condition of the metropolis. The population was rapidly increasing, the accommodation to be now provided might be found insufficient 25 years hence, and if the new buildings were properly designed it was easy enough to arrange for the accommodation of twice or thrice as many persons to the statute acre as there were at present, and to secure at the same time the best possible sanitary arrangements. He could point out several blocks of workmen's dwellings in London, six or seven stories high, where there were more than 1,600 persons to the statute acre and perfect through ventilation in every room. Perhaps the most important clause in the Bill was the one which directed the manner in which the scheme was to be carried out 342 after the properties had been acquired; and here again the permissive principle was introduced. The local authority might sell or let all or any part of the property for the purposes intended; but the whole object of the Bill was that they should sell or let subject to the conditions laid down. If they only sold or let a part there seemed no provision for dealing with the remainder. Probably the Home Secretary would consent in Committee to the modification of this clause, with the view of bringing it more into accord with existing legislation—namely, Clause 49 of the Metropolitan Streets Improvement Act, 1872. One part of the subject did not appear to be definitely dealt with in the Bill. The medical officer was to report that a certain area was unhealthy owing to the closeness, narrowness, and bad arrangement of the streets and houses. That state of things would generally be found in the courts and alleys at the back of some of our leading thoroughfares. The public outside saw the glittering lights of the gin-palaces, and the beautiful plate-glass windows of the tradesmen's shops, but they knew but little of the overcrowding, the misery, and the wretchedness in the old and worn-out lodging-houses in the rear. If these were to be removed and the area improved and properly ventilated, a new thoroughfare must be driven from the main street. That would necessitate the removal of some valuable property, the sites of which should be let or sold for commercial purposes, if the improvement were to he carried out at the minimum cost. Some provision should be inserted in the Bill for dealing with this kind of property, and a question must arise whether the owners of such property were not entitled to the usual 10 per cent for compulsory sale, as compared with the owners of houses unfit for occupation and increasing the death-rate and disease-rate of the locality. A tradesman selling adulterated food might be fined and the food seized, but the man who let a house, spreading disease among the inhabitants, should be satisfied with the provision in the Bill which gave him the market price of his property. Clause 16 permitted the local authority to borrow on the security of the lands acquired. That, he thought, would very much interfere with the prompt execution of the 343 scheme. It would certainly be cheaper and more simple to borrow on the rates, for if the land were mortgaged no one would build until the mortgage was released. A further difficulty arose from the fact that it would prevent persons who were desirous of borrowing money from the Public Works Loan Commissioners, for the purpose of building improved dwellings on the land in question, from doing so, for the Commissioners would not lend money on mortgaged land. It was gratifying to find that the Bill proposed to give authority to the Public Works Loan Commissioners to advance money for the purchase of the lands at 3½ per cent interest, the capital to be repaid over a period of 40 years. The Commissioners now charged the companies erecting workmen's dwellings 4 per cent. redeemable in 40 years, necessitating a not return of £5 1s. per cent. The lower rate would be a great advantage. It was almost impossible to build tenements for the lowest class, and secure a return of £5 1s. per cent. The reduction of the rate and increase of the time for repayment would enable building companies to make a corresponding reduction in the rents—say, from 2s. per room per week to 1s. 9d. or 1s. 10d. When the Bill was before the House last week, a strong opinion was expressed that the lowest class of day-labourers were not benefited by the erection of the new dwellings, and that only a small percentage of them were able to secure the new and improved accommodation. No doubt, that statement was to a great extent correct; but he ventured to say, from some years' practical experience, that the lowest and poorest class were benefited in the only way in which, with a duo regard to the future, they could be benefited. The steady labourer, the hardworking artizan—in fact, the respectable portion of the poorest, were only too glad to remove at once into the new tenements, leaving their neighbours more room, more breathing space, and lower rates, consequent on the increased demand. The House must look hopefully to the future of the working classes, believing that before another 50 years had passed away every family might be able to secure what was regarded as a first-class tenement, and that the back slums of to-day might be matters of history only. He hoped after the second reading had passed some time would be 344 allowed to elapse before the Bill went into Committee, in order that hon. Members might discuss the various clauses with persons interested, and see how they would affect them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he rose to congratulate the Government upon having at the earliest possible moment redeemed the pledge given last Session. He was glad that that should be the first of the Government measures which came on for a second reading, and he believed that the Home Secretary had only endorsed the feeling of the country, which had been strongly impressed with the urgent necessity for such a measure. If the young were to grow up in moral and physical strength, the courts and alleys which bred disease and death in so many towns must be rooted out. The 1st clause confined the operation of the Bill to large towns and cities; but he saw no reason why, if it were of any good at all, it should not be equally good for small towns and villages. He had been in small towns where there was just as much necessity for the Bill as there was in London; and he had been in some country districts, where the dwellings of some of the labouring classes were to the full as bad as anything of the kind which he had seen in any town in England. In one village with which he was acquainted there was a row of houses in the main road loading from the railway station to a village which was a nest of disease and infamy. Attempts had been made to buy these houses; but they brought such large rentals, and the price demanded for them was so high, that it had been as yet impossible to remove the nuisance. Under Clause 3 the medical officer must be satisfied of the existence of the evil, and then the local authority must be convinced, first, of the truth of his representations; secondly, the practicability of the remedy; thirdly, the sufficiency of their resources; and, lastly, the advantage to be derived to the district. But what appeal or remedy was left to the ratepayers, supposing that the medical officer was not satisfied of the existence of the evil, or if the local authorities were not convinced in regard to the four conditions necessary to action? He would suggest that, if the decision of the medical officer and of the local authority were against anything being done in a particular case, it should be open to a certain number of ratepayers 345 to appeal to the Secretary of State; and further, that when it was proposed to remove more than 500 persons, a certificate should be given that suitable accommodation existed for them in the immediate neighbourhood. He failed to see in the Bill any provision for the housing of the people who were to be turned out of their homes in the first instance; but the Glasgow Act did not contain a provision to meet the case and to prevent people being turned out into the streets. It would be expedient to enable local authorities to do what had been done in Glasgow for the migratory class. Common lodging houses were often indecently overcrowded and unhealthy; the Corporation of Glasgow had provided suitable accommodation for 300 males and 100 females, at a charge, first of 3d. and now 3½d. each per night; and that had been done without any cost to the ratepayers, for the income produced a return of 5 per cent on the outlay. Satisfactory as that result was, it was equally satisfactory as regarded the health and cleanliness of the lodgers, and he therefore trusted the Home Secretary would find himself able to adopt something calculated to work in the way he proposed.
§ MR. WADDY
said, that when the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary introduced his Bill the other evening, he had no reason to complain of the welcome accorded to it on both sides of the House, and he (Mr. Waddy) believed that the same cheerful acclaim would be given to it during the several stages which it was destined to pass. If, therefore, he found fault with it now, it was not for the purpose of opposing the second reading, but because he thought examination showed that there were many deficiencies that would have to be supplied, and it would facilitate the progress of the Bill if the right hon. Gentleman would adopt some of the suggestions that were made to him, so as to obviate the necessity of their being moved by way of Amendment. There appeared to be a wide difference between the apparent intention of the Preamble and the Bill itself. He maintained that provision was not made in the Bill for the class of persons referred to in the Preamble. The description which was given was not applicable to the ordinary run of the working classes. It was very 346 true that there were in many cities and boroughs places unfit for human habitation, but many of the people who lived in them were not able to pay higher rents if a better class of dwellings were substituted. He called attention to the 3rd section to show how vain it was to expect the local authorities would move. The medical officers might be prepared to do their duty with earnestness and loyalty to their office. They would report to the local authorities, who would take the representations into consideration. If they were satisfied of the truth of the representations and the practicability of applying a remedy, and if they were satisfied of the efficiency of the resources—which they never would be so long as the money had to be got from the ratepayers—and if they were further satisfied of the advantage to be derived in the district within their jurisdiction, then they were to do this, that, and the other. The difficulty would be in driving the unwilling horse to the water and getting him to drink. There were remedies already existing for many of the objects sought to be attained by the Bill. There was a remedy for overcrowding, and if that were not properly applied, for the very same reason the local authorities would not be driven to carry out the provisions of this Bill. The people of Glasgow had carried out their scheme loyally, honourably, and well, no doubt, but the result of their evictions, and the substitution of new dwellings, was this—that the rent paid in the old houses was 9s. 7d. as against 11s. 6d., and 11s. 5d. as against 18s. 1d. in the new buildings. There was an increase of 20 per cent in the rent of one apartment, of 20 per cent in two apartments, of—if it were not a misprint—58 per cent on a dwelling of three apartments, and of 28 per cent on one of four apartments. The same result was apparent in the case of the Watelow and Peabody Buildings in the City of London, whore the charges ranged from 5s.6d. to 8s. 6d.; whereas, from inquiries made within the last few days, he had found in the City many houses with four rooms, and one family in each, paying rents in the front of 2s. 6d. and 2s., and at the back of 1s. 9d. and 1s. 6d. per week. The fact was, the Bill did not go the full length that he wished. It did not substitute other places for those that were pulled down, but gave dwellings of quite 347 a superior character. Of what use was it to tell the poor people who were evicted that they should have a handsomer lodging, if they paid more than they could afford to pay? It was Tantalus improved. They could not scrape together the money which was wanted for this extra rent. In some respects the remedy might be worse than the disease. The Waterloo Buildings and the Peabody Buildings were altogether out of the reach of many of those people who were evicted. Nor could persons who were not of a certain respectability have apartments in those buildings, even at an increased rent; for an inspector was sent to their former lodgings to report upon the state of their furniture. He, therefore, said they were not dealing with the stratum of society which they ought to provide for. He did not mean to obstruct the Bill. So far as it went, it was an admirable Bill; but they must take care that they were addressing themselves to the necessity which really existed. In the case of the Peabody Buildings, they had had a glorious sum of money to handle, and the matter had been dealt with on principles of philanthropy, so that a large income for the capital was not required. If the Home Secretary was prepared to do something of that kind, he might tempt people to build houses under the Bill which would answer somewhat the objects they had in view. Practically the Waterloo and Peabody Buildings swallowed up the rents of the ground and first floors with the expenses of the ground rent, rates, and taxes, and for the repayment of capital and other outgoings the proprietors were obliged to rely on the floors above. Moreover, what were they doing with these new buildings? They were carrying them to heights far beyond safe and healthy proportions. It was held that the height of houses should not be greater than the width of the street by their side, but these model buildings far overtopped that proportion; and in the course of not many years we should be astonished at ourselves for allowing these buildings to be built, and for being rather proud of them than otherwise. If a fever or an epidemic were to break out in one of these blocks, it would run like fire from end to end, and the catastrophe would be all the greater from the means taken in building them to feed the disease. He 348 protested against the application of the Bill being confined merely to London and large towns. That would undoubtedly prove a drawback to its usefulness. His earnest advice was that the Government should give the same facilities and privileges to the country as were proposed to be given to towns. There was quite as great need for active measures being taken in the country as elsewhere. It was absurd to try and cleanse the urban districts be means of such a measure, and leave the rural districts to fester and breed fever and all manner of complaints. It might be said that if it were extended to country districts, they would have to fall back on Imperial taxation. Well, he was prepared to justify that course. Pears were in certain quarters entertained that if the principle of the measure were extended as far as he advocated, the people would be pauperised. That was a mere apprehension, and had no foundation in fact. They were paupers already. ["No!"] They were not paupers in the strict legal sense, that he was willing to admit, but for all purposes of paying their way, and living in the manner proposed, they were paupers. Parliament, therefore, must be prepared to deal with the question in a great measure on principles of philanthropy. There were many places in the country, where there ought to be sweet air, which were quite as insanitary as any in London; and now, while they were preparing to improve one place here and another there in the large towns, there were 10 bad places for every one of these springing up every day in the rural districts. When it was remembered that London was not inhabited by Londoners only, but also by people from the country, and that there was a constant influx into the metropolis of persons from all portions of the Kingdom, it would appear perfectly fair that this should be made a matter, not of local, but Imperial taxation. This he said, not because he was opposed to the Bill, or to the great improvement it sought to carry out. He was actuated in his objections simply by the fact that he desired to see a complete, and not a skeleton, measure passed. He desired by every means in his power to help the Government to sweep away a gigantic evil, but he desired it to be done thoroughly. The Bill was a well-meant effort for the suppression of disease, for 349 the abatement of immorality, and for the general alleviation of the health, comfort, and well-being of the people, and as such he supported it, though it was incomplete, and much too limited in its application.
SIR JAMES HOGG
said, that the short time which had elapsed since the Bill was printed made it quite impossible for him to give the opinions on this subject of the local authorities who would be charged with carrying out its provisions. He could assure the House, however, that they would be most happy to aid in carrying into effect any measure which had for its object the improvement of the dwellings of the poorer classes. Speaking for himself, he would say he thought the great question was how to make the matter pay. The question of cost seemed the most important part of the Bill. The machinery to effect an eviction appeared somewhat cumbrous, and the Bill was deficient in this—that it contained no provisions for taking away buildings which were not in an insanitary condition. If they wanted really to improve, they must have power to take property which was not insanitary, if only for the purpose of making better approaches to the improvements proposed by the Bill. He maintained, in opposition to the view of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that it was no part of the business of Parliament to do anything towards providing the necessaries of life for the people, and that the works effected under the measure should be of a purely commercial character. He approved the provision which would secure a standing arbiter, for anyone who had had to do with compensations must be aware how useful such a provision would be. The Bill had been only a short time before them for consideration; but he believed that the Board over which he presided did not object to the second reading.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy) had assumed that people lived in the fever nests which it was the object of the Bill to get rid of, because they were unable to pay for better habitations. He (Mr. Rathbone) believed, on the contrary, that a large number of those persons chose to remain in these wretched dens from carelessness, or because they made, in a great measure, the public-house their home. Nor could he agree with 350 the hon. and learned Member in thinking that there would be no disposition on the part of the municipalities to use the powers which this Bill would conferupon them. He was grateful to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman for having undertaken to deal with a great evil. The Bill was a declaration by the Government, which he hoped would be backed by the still higher authority of Parliament, that it was the duty of the great towns to undertake in earnest the abatement of that evil of overcrowding from which so much of the disease and so much of the immorality of our population arose. It called attention also to the powers that now existed for dealing with these evils, and strengthened those powers, and, moreover, it removed out of the way that which in Liverpool had been found to be practically the great difficulty in carrying out these improvements—the enormous cost of obtaining the necessary land. To his mind the Schedule which did that was the most valuable part of the Bill. On the 19th of last month the Association of Municipal Bodies came to a resolution to memorialize Government in regard to "the present cumbrous, dilatory, and costly mode of proceeding to acquire property required by sanitary authorities for street improvements." He had seen a draft of their memorial, and it would, no doubt, be satisfactory to the Home Secretary to know that his Bill, with some modifications in detail, anticipated to a very large extent what the united municipalities of this country were going to ask for. At the same time, he thought it would be no little encouragement to the House to grant such increased powers, if it looked to the effect which had been produced even by the imperfect and very expensive powers already given. He found from the report of the admirable medical officer of Liverpool, Dr. Trench, that although Liverpool had a larger number of inhabitants to the acre than any other large town, its population having been 98.9 to the acre in 1873, yet there were five towns, some of them with nothing like the same density of population, in which the death-rate was higher in the year to which the report referred (1872) than in Liverpool. He could not help attributing this, in part at least; to the very active measures which had been taken in Liverpool to improve the 351 dwellings. While thanking the Home Secretary heartily for the present Bill, he ventured to suggest that alterations might be made in some of the clauses which would remove practical difficulties that would arise from working the measure in its present shape. Clause 5 had struck him as unworkable, and he had asked the opinion of the Liverpool Town Clerk, who had written to him as follows:—It would be impracticable in the worst class of cases to carry out any scheme to comply with this clause. A proportion of the population must necessarily he 'displaced;' and it would be very injudicious, even with the help of block dwellings, to replace the whole population within the area, or in the vicinity the clause is also not consistent with another provision prohibiting the sanitary authority from erecting buildings without the sanction of the Local Government Board. The provision should be—'And shall show how such a proportion of the working-classes displaced as shall be satisfactory, &c.'He would, for the present, allude to only two other suggestions. The most overcrowded places and the foulest fever nests in our large towns were often in the immediate vicinity of docks, warehouses, offices, manufactories, and shops. Ultimately a considerable part of the land on which the dwellings in question were built would be taken for business purposes, and its owners too often cared little as to its state so long as it paid a moderate interest until it was so wanted. Now, if the provision in the last paragraph of Clause 7 was retained, it would be rendered practically impossible, because too expensive, to carry the provisions of this Bill into operation as regarded that land. By insisting on the continued appropriation, without limit, of such land for working-class dwellings, the prospective value of the land would be destroyed, and it would become too expensive to use it for artizans' dwellings at all. Besides such a provision was quite unnecessary. The other suggestion he would make was, that the Bill should take wider powers to remove all impediments in the way of the flow of capital in the direction of this work of erecting and improving the dwellings of the working-classes. It was not merely in the way of demolishing existing dwellings and building new ones in their stead, but in the way of improving those which existed and the conditions under which they were inhabited that something ought to be done, That was a 352 process which would be more rapid in its effects, and experiments had shown that it might be done to a considerable extent and with considerable profit. It had, for instance, been carried out in London, where Miss Hill, who now had no less than 3,000 tenants, having bought property which was overcrowded or mismanaged and placed it under better management and under restrictions as to the number of people who should occupy a certain given area, and that had been found most successful. These efforts would be much facilitated, if a great deal of capital which was now prevented from finding such occupation could be set at liberty to do so. He alluded to the large funds in the hands of trustees for charitable purposes, and which by the existing law, were obliged to be invested in Consols. Now, if such funds could be invested in this sort of property, as well as in the public stocks, on such conditions and with such guarantees as would insure to the trustees an income equal to that which they were now deriving, great good might be done. He ventured to say it was possible, and he would suggest that power should be given to the Court of Chancery to sanction such investments.
§ MR. SALT
said, he wished to thank the Home Secretary for having introduced the measure. In considering it, the first question they had to ask themselves was, whether the Bill would really be as operative and practical as was intended; or whether, by some accident, much of its power might not be destroyed. He should be inclined to say that the Bill was deficient in working power. He did not quite see where the strength lay which was to bring it into practical operation. He alluded to the 4th clause, by which the initiative was given to the medical officer. Considering the circumstances connected with the position of that functionary, and also how different his views might be in different localities, it was very doubtful whether that was the machinery which would give the best impulse to the Bill at its starting. He would suggest whether, in the first instance, all the local authorities might not be required to present a report as to the condition of the particular area over which they had the control, and the way in which they proposed to meet the necessities of that area. They would 353 have, by that means, a definite commencement of the work, and in the course of 12 or 18 months they might collect from reliable and responsible authorities, in all the towns to which the measure applied, a mass of suggestions and information of the greatest interest and value in regard to future operations. Again, it was impossible to form any idea as to what amount of expense would be incurred under the Bill—a very serious matter indeed in connection with the most difficult and troublesome questions of local taxation. As the measure now stood, they might in some places have a medical officer with curious or extravagant notions about health, together with a weak local authority, and the result might be that the ratepayers would be put to enormous expense in building palaces where nothing of the sort was required. It might very often be better not to pull down and rebuild at immense cost, but to repair and improve existing buildings. If they had before them the reports from all the local authorities of the country to which he had referred, they might be able to ascertain with some degree of accuracy what outlay it would be necessary to make, how much would be raised by private enterprize, and what amount would be thrown on the rates. But at present they would be taking a leap altogether in the dark; and after all their talk for years past about local taxation and the difficulties of the ratepayers, they should be careful how they plunged into an expenditure which absolutely knew no bounds. In entering on an enterprize of that kind, it was a wise rule to look around and see who had been working in that direction already, and working most successfully. He did not know that those who had been most successful in that way were the local bodies mentioned in the 1st and 2nd clauses of the Bill. If those bodies had had any building to do, they had generally been engaged in effecting large street improvements, rather than in providing more convenient dwellings for the poor. Those who had had most practical experience, and who had been most successful in the latter class of operations in the metropolis, were the men so well represented by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow) and the Trustees of the Peabody Fund. Therefore it had occurred to him whether it 354 might not be possible to bring the efforts of those societies into far more definite and immediate play than was done by that Bill. If those societies wanted to work under the Bill, they had various local bodies to go to, and various impediments to overcome, which it was desirable to reduce as much as possible in order to attract a nymph so coy as capital was. The difficulty at present experienced by those societies was, not to get money, but to got sites for building purposes; and if facilities were given for obtaining sites, they would easily obtain the capital they wanted. He would therefore suggest—though he did it with some trepidation, because it might be impracticable—that one or two of the strongest and best managed of those societies should be incorporated, with powers to take land compulsorily. Those powers might easily be regulated and controlled, and then they would secure a machinery to do their work which had been tested by practical experience, rather than local boards, which possibly did not care a straw about the matter. He agreed, to a certain extent, with the theory of the Bill, that no extraordinary and special compensation should be given to the owners of unwholesome dwellings when compelled to sell them; but he did not like to see it so directly expressed in the Bill, seeing that it was inconsistent with the general practice as regarded property which the owners had been compelled to give up. He had always thought it a very fair principle in their legislation, when land was taken for public purposes by compulsion, that the private owner should receive compensation for that compulsion. However, he acknowledged that in nearly every case in which land would be taken compulsorily under the Bill he would be indisposed to award any extra price at all. But that was a very different thing from stereotyping a new idea into an Act of Parliament. He believed that few arbitrators would think of giving more than the market value for houses that were in a bad condition; but it was difficult to ascertain what was the market value of such property, which differed from day to day; and injustice might be done, if the arbitrator took the market value at the particular moment when it was exceptionally low, or exceptionally high. Every one would 355 agree that those who infringed the law by not keeping their houses in a proper state ought not to have a premium on the value of their property, but his answer to that was—"Let the law be enforced against those persons, and compel them to remove nuisances." He doubted whether it was wise to import by Act of Parliament a little bit of charity into a business transaction. Another question was, whether the Bill ought not to be applicable to places somewhat smaller than those now included in it, and where there were houses in a very unhealthy condition. It was of the greatest importance that the local authority should be able to grapple with the evil with which the Bill dealt as soon as possible, so that it might be eradicated at the earliest stage, before excessive overcrowding had occurred, and when it was possible to obtain sites for building at a reasonable cost.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
said, that as one of those who in the last Session had called attention to the subject, he would take that opportunity of expressing his satisfaction that Her Majesty's Government had taken up the question, and had brought in the present measure. The essential feature of the Bill—that of giving power to local bodies for the taking of land compulsorily—formed part of the Bill of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) in 1868, and he thought the hon. Gentleman must look with satisfaction to the recognition of the principle of his measure. That Bill, though passed unanimously by the House of Commons, was deprived of the principle in question in its passage through the House of Lords, and, although in its maimed condition, it had not produced all that was expected of it, he could not but think it contained a very valuable principle—namely, that owners of house property should be compelled to keep dwellings belonging to them in proper order and in a habitable condition. It might be easy for the Government to pass the Bill; but, after all, the true measure of success would not be the carrying of a measure, but the extent to which it would afterwards be put into operation by the local authorities. The danger attending it was the fear of expense felt by the ratepayers of the large towns, who were quite as sensitive to the burden of local taxation as people living in 356 country districts, for whom hon. Members opposite had so much consideration. The observations, therefore, he would make would be directed to the possibility of reducing those expenses. The first point he had to deal with was the necessity, under the Bill, for the improvement schemes to come before Parliament for confirmation. He understood that when these schemes had been confirmed by the Local Government Board, or it might be the Home Office, the Government would take charge of them as Provisional Orders to the extent of supporting the second reading, after which they would go before a Committee in the usual manner. Now, there might be considerable danger of local boards having to submit to heavy costs before Parliamentary Committees. There was a time when Provisional Orders were almost sacred; but of late years, and especially since three Acts had come into operation which he had succeeded in passing when at the Board of Trade—namely, those relating to Tramways and Gas and Water schemes—he believed agents and lawyers had found that there was a good deal to be made out of schemes of that kind, and that, consequently, these Bills were not so free from opposition as they had formerly been. He thought that was a danger which was well worthy of consideration by his right hon. Friend opposite (the Home Secretary). It might, therefore, be well to provide that these schemes should be dealt with in the same way as schemes under the Endowed Schools Act, by being laid on the Table, and being thrown out only by a direct vote of the House, without going before a Select Committee at all; or a strict rule might be laid down with respect to the amount of costs before Committees. At present, he understood costs in the case of opposition could only be granted when the Members of the Committee were unanimously of opinion that the opposition had been frivolous. But inasmuch as schemes of this kind would come before Committees after having been investigated by a Government officer on the spot, any opposition that might be made before the Committee would be in the nature of an appeal; and it might be advisable, therefore, in the event of such opposition before a Committee being unsuccessful, to grant costs against the appellant. He threw 357 out these suggestions for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration. Another matter bearing upon the same point was the power of disposing of the unsanitary districts bought by the local authorities under the powers of the Bill. Might it not in some cases be advisable that some other dwellings than those intended for artizans should be erected upon the spaces thus secured? He threw out this suggestion, because it appeared to him that the schemes undertaken should, within reasonable bounds, be made as profitable as possible to local authorities, in order that the strongest objection to the working of the Bill—that of its cost to the ratepayers—might be removed or lessened. Under the Bill, as it at present stood, it was the local medical officer who practically determined what property should be included in the scheme, and the scheme itself was entirely confined to houses in an insanitary condition. No discretion was allowed to the local authority to include within its operations any houses or land that might be necessary to make the scheme workable; but it might be necessary to give proper access to the area dealt with, or to include certain other land in the immediate neighbourhood which was required to make the scheme a paying one, and he thought considerable discretion should be allowed to the local authority for that purpose. By driving new streets through the areas proposed to be dealt with, it was quite possible to raise considerably the value of the surrounding property, and if that was also acquired the local authorities would be able to some extent to recoup themselves for their outlay. This had been the experience of Glasgow, and similar results were met with in the United States. The Legislative Bodies of some of the States, such as those of Massachusetts and New York, had even gone so far as to declare that when an improvement scheme had augmented the value of property in the neighbourhood, an arbitrator should assess the additional value, which should then go to the credit of the Improvement Fund. He thought that was a sound principle, for inasmuch as an additional value would be given to adjoining properties, the owners of such properties should be subjected to a portion of the cost, and it was only fair and reasonable that the ratepayers should not have the whole of the burden of the improvements 358 cast upon them. As to the success of these measures, a friend in Boston had written to him to say that, although he had been much opposed to them at first as interfering unduly with the rights of property, he was obliged to admit that they had been productive of great benefit, and that by the adoption of the principle many schemes had been carried into effect which before would have been utterly hopeless. It was not probable that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to incorporate the principle in his Bill, but it was one well worthy of consideration as being calculated to effect, at little cost, great and much-needed improvements in the larger towns. As to the mode of assessing the value of property under the Bill, he quite agreed that where this unsanitary property was taken, there should not be the usual addition to the value on account of the property being taken compulsorily, and indeed he thought that there should be some further limitation as to the value to be given. If the property was in such bad condition as to come within the operation of the Bill, he thought that the owners were hardly entitled to receive the full value of it, and if the full market value were given them, in many cases too high an amount would be paid. He thought, therefore, it would be well to include in the present Bill a clause limiting the power of the arbitrators when determining upon the value of properties, and calling upon them to take into consideration the sanitary or unsanitary condition of the houses with which they were dealing. Further, he thought that as the Bill would, if passed, lay an entirely new charge upon the ratepayers, the Government would do well to consider the advisability of calling upon the ground landlords in the metropolis and the great towns of the country to bear a portion of the expense, more especially when they considered that their property would, by reason of the improvements, greatly increase in. value. He made these suggestions in no hostile or captious spirit, but in the hope that the Bill might be productive of all the good its promoters desired.
§ MR. GRIEVE
said, he had already placed a Notice on the Paper to the effect that this measure should be applicable to Scotland, and he had now to make an urgent appeal to the right hon. Gentleman that he would comply 359 with the request. In the borough he had the honour to represent there were localities he would not venture to describe to the House—it was sufficient for him to say there were confined spaces where fever, epidemic, and all sorts of filth and iniquity prevailed, and the inhabitants had long wished for such a measure as now brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman. He had already sent down the Bill to the local authority, and he ventured to say, no time would elapse before he should have urgent Petitions to that House in favour of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman was in Scotland during the Recess and he (Mr. Grieve) confidently appealed to him to say what he saw in Glasgow and Edinburgh as to the working of the local acts of those cities. He was quite sure the authorities of Glasgow and Edinburgh would hail with satisfaction the introduction of a general measure, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would favourably consider his proposal.
SIR SEYMOUR EITZGERALD
said, he agreed to a very great extent with what had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy). There were two ideas running through the Bill which seemed to jostle one another in the mind of the draftsman, but the two were altogether different. The first idea was implied in the title "The Artizans Dwellings Bill." That title showed that the draftsman rather had in view what arose where, for public improvements, large clearances were made, and many working people were dispossessed of their dwellings. Side by side with that there seemed to be the question, with which they were all desirous to deal, and that was the clearing away of fever nests. These two subjects, however, must be dealt with in very different ways. As to the first of them, he entirely agreed with what was said in the opening speech upon the introduction of the Bill, that it was no part of the duty of a Government to provide houses for other persons, and that any such transaction must be treated in a very great degree as a commercial question. The enter-prize into which the local authority was called upon to enter therefore should be self-supporting. That was the case when they were providing houses for those who were well able to pay for them. But in clearing unhealthy districts which 360 caused disease and crime, it was only just that the local ratepayers, who would be largely benefited by the process, should be called upon to bear a proportion of the expense, and that this branch of the question should not be regarded as a purely commercial matter. He thought the Bill would be totally inapplicable to those cases where it was requisite to provide habitations for men who were removed from old dwellings in consequence of improvement. It would be most absurd to give compulsory powers to a railway company, for instance, to take property and turn people out of their houses, and then immediately to give compulsory powers to the local authority to take possession of property in order to find habitations for those who had been already displaced by compulsory powers. Everyone who knew the condition of that metropolis was aware that portions of some of the larger estates were occupied by an inferior class of houses, that those houses were so circumstanced that the neighbourhood was unhealthy, and that consequently the property around was seriously deteriorated. Now this Bill proposed to give the local authority compulsory powers to take possession of those unhealthy areas; but why should not compulsory powers be given to the owners of property to remove plague spots from their estates? An owner of property where improvement was necessary ought to be enabled to call upon the local authority to contribute a certain portion of the expenses of the improvement if he expressed his readiness to carry out the improvement instead of requiring the local authority to do so. There need be no fear that the medical officers would not put in force the powers of the measure. He was quite sure that nobody who knew the spirit of the medical profession, and particularly of that class of it who were engaged as medical officers under various sanitary boards, would concur in the fear which had been expressed on that subject; in fact, his fear was that they might probably, in their zeal, be carried farther than was desirable. Moreover, the 4th clause provided that when 20 or more persons liable to be rated to any rate under this measure, complained to the medical officer of the unhealthiness of any area within his jurisdiction, it should then be the duty of the medical officer to inspect 361 such area, to make an official representation of the facts, and to state his opinion whether it was an unhealthy area or not. He believed that the Bill, when amended in Committee, would be found to be a most valuable one, and that it would work well, and the principal question which he hoped the Home Secretary would consider was, whether it was not fair that the measure should provide that some proportion of the expenses should be borne by the ratepayers, as they would benefit so much by the improvements made.
said, he imagined that in the abstract there could be but one opinion of the question of the domiciliary condition of the poor in our large towns. It was admirably expressed by the Prime Minister in opening the Shaftesbury Park estate, that the best security for the well-being of the artizans was to be found in their dwellings. This was apparent in all our large towns, and the matter hardly came within the limits of ordinary party feeling. If the Home Secretary was able to accomplish even a small portion of what he desired to achieve, he would not only deserve, but receive the thanks of the working-classes, and those who took an interest in the health of the poor. Whether or not the Bill was productive of great or small results, the discussion of its provisions in this House would bring prominently before the public mind a fact now too frequently overlooked, that was how much the dwellings of the rich and poor were put down in localities which were so distinct. If any one went out into the metropolis, or any of our large towns, they must have observed how social distinctions of this kind were maintained; the poor were kept out of sight and so out of mind; and when one thought of the old aphorism that one half of the world hardly knew how the other half lived, one was obliged to acknowledge the large amount of truth it unfortunately contained. In this Bill there was a very great deal of good, but it proceeded partly on a wrong principle. He must confess to a feeling of surprise that a Conservative Government, which raised an outcry, not long since, about over-legislation on. social questions, should have put forward this measure under rather exceptional circumstances, as hitherto it had generally been left to individual enterprize to provide accommodation 362 in the matter of dwellings. No doubt, the difficulty of uniting philanthropy and business in these matters was a great one. He had faith in commercial principles, and could not help thinking that interferences with the laws of supply and demand might lead to results the very opposite to those which their promoters supposed. They wanted to see how far the Bill would proceed on sanitary grounds rather than in the matter of providing dwellings for artizans. Ought not the erection of houses for this purpose to proceed solely on commercial grounds. He was informed on authority, which no one could dispute, that plenty of money was to be secured for this object at 4 per cent. and he could not help thinking that building societies—which had done so large an amount of good—combined with the enforcement of the sanitary laws, would meet the exigencies of the case. He agreed with the criticism that this was legislation of a partial kind. He had spent some time in investigating the matter, and he was sorry to say he had seen homes of the poor which were absolutely unfit for human beings to live in. He had seen some in such a state that any master of foxhounds in that House would be ashamed to kennel his dogs in them. But legislation of the character proposed would defeat its own ends. In our large towns the demands of the labour market had been so great that almost every hole and corner had been ransacked to make house-room for the workmen. If, under this scheme, the houses were let for philanthropic purposes, it would raise the rates, although not perhaps in the particular locality in which the scheme was being carried out, for the question arose, how were they to assist those whom they had displaced. He was afraid that in some instances they would drive them from bad to worse. Mr. Chambers, in his Report on Edinburgh, stated that 410 families were dispossessed by certain improvements, and found dwellings elsewhere. In the Report from Glasgow, it was said that attempts were made on one occasion to trace the population thus dispossessed to their new homes, but without success. It would be a great evil if they drove them back to some poorer district, whore they would be unable to obtain work and the necessaries of life. There was, besides, no 363 doubt that many of the local burdens in large towns were so great, that the local bodies would resent any further incubus on the rates. He regretted that the House had not some clear and accurate facts which would give them an exact statement as to how far the rateable property in the 64 towns of upwards of 25,000 inhabitants, had increased, and what was the present burden of the rates. They would then be better able to understand what they were about. He remembered that last year, in introducing the Licensing Bill, the Home Secretary alluded to the necessity of the working classes having happy homes. If so, let them hope they would be surrounded by the comforts which made home happy. He was anxious to know whether the Licensing Bill of last Session had proved a boon to our working-class population; he should be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what effect that measure had had on drunkenness in Liverpool? Nothing would give him greater pleasure than to hear that its results were contributing to the diminution of that great evil. He then alluded to the remarks of the Home Secretary, who, in introducing the present Bill had said, it was based on three assumptions,—first, that it was no duty of the State to provide its citizens with the necessities of life; secondly, that if you do not take care of yourself the State will take care of you, was one of those axioms that no Government should endeavour to have enforced; and thirdly, that it was our duty to do everything we could on sanitary grounds. On the latter point, they were all agreed; but with reference to the other two assumptions, he did not know whether the Home Secretary was thinking of an ideal state in which the Poor Law could not exist. To provide the poor with the necessaries of life was the very object and purport of the Poor Law Board of this country, and he believed that we always would make provision for the destitute poor. If, sometimes, the administration of the Poor Law was severe, it was in order that the spirit of independence among the poor might be sustained. As to the Government encouraging local bodies to erect buildings for artizans and others who might thus be stigmatized as paupers, the Poor Law might be greatly enlarged. A good deal of action had been taken in 364 this matter by voluntary societies, such as the Charity Organization Society, than which, he believed, few charitable bodies had done more good in the metropolis and through the country; but he was sometimes led to fear that from the manner in which gentlemen brought together at such societies expressed their views, they might do harm sometimes to the very parties to whom they were so eager to do good. The Home Secretary had laid upon the Table an account of what had been done in some of our large towns, and in some, it appeared there had been a very large increase of public expense. In Glasgow it amounted to £300,000, and in Edinburgh to £265,000. That was a large expenditure indeed, and rather ominous to public bodies. He hoped that from the few criticisms he had passed in reference to this Bill, it might not be thought he was indifferent to the great question of welfare and the homes of the poor. He knew enough of the condition of such homes, and how much of happiness or misery must depend on such conditions, but he was also aware that the greatest happiness lay in the feeling of independence which the occupier of a home possessed. He did not think this Bill was likely to do a great deal of good. He could not help thinking that local bodies would suspect the central authority of a desire to assume the duties of local administration. The tendency of this debate had been to find fault with the local bodies in the discharge of other duties, and no doubt they were often slow and tardy in their operations; but they would find in such bodies the surest representatives of sanitary principles, who would be opposed to putting the Bill into operation on economical grounds, on which, not only the wealth of the country, but the independence of its citizens must depend.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, that notwithstanding the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), he utterly denied that the existence of the Poor Law was any argument in favour of the Socialistic doctrine, that the State was bound to provide anything for the necessities of the poor. The establishment of the Poor Law was in itself but an after attempt to do justice for a great wrong. Formerly one-fifth of the revenues of the landed property of the Kingdom was devoted to 365 the poor, and it was not until they had been robbed of that, that they got the small pittance accorded to them by the Poor Law. The law of supply and demand did not apply to the present case, inasmuch as the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy) had shown that in every case where overcrowded portions of cities had been cleared away, the rents of the houses subsequently erected had been raised; and if that were a true argument it was fatal to the Bill. Beyond that the experience of the Peabody Trustees showed that oven when persons had large sums of money to spend they could not, in the absence of some legal provision, secure sites on which to erect buildings for the working classes. That pointed to this necessity—that they must somehow or another seek for a site where the ground was not so expensive. Now, under the Bill, powers of compulsory purchase only extended to the area which was found unhealthy and overcrowded; and as the Home Secretary did not contemplate that the families who were dispossessed should go into the adjoining neighbourhood, which then would become overcrowded in like manner, the result would be that large barrack-like houses must rise, tier upon tier, on the site which was cleared. Such lofty buildings, however—as pointed out in the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners on the sanitary condition of the labouring classes in 1842, and in the Report on the Health of Towns in 1846—stopped the free circulation of air in a town. Insufficient air entered into these dwellings, and they also acted as screens to other parts of a town. Thus they were not only unhealthy in themselves, but were the cause of ill-health to others, whilst the sewer which served them had to carry off such an accumulation of excreta, that unless it was very well constructed it would be the means of propagating disease, and when a fever once found its way into such a stack of houses it was most difficult to get rid of it. The necessity for these barracks could only be avoided by empowering local authorities to take sites compulsorily outside a town. There was no such power, however, in the Bill. No doubt a Cabinet composed of landed gentry might find some difficulty in making up their minds to interfere with the rights of landlords; but those rights had already been interfered with by the 366 railway companies, and certainly there was a stronger case to be made in favour of the health of the people than of the railway companies. If powers of compulsory purchase were extended in this way to the country, rents would be lowered, dwellings would be more healthy, towns would be less crowded, and many of the working-classes would have gardens and the sight of green fields. In London hundreds and thousands of workmen came into town from their homos in the country, and they would do the same in the large provincial towns if they had the opportunity, especially if the same franchise existed outside the municipality as inside it. He hoped that a grievous want in a very good Bill would be supplied by the extension of the compulsory powers in the way he had suggested. Again, the Preamble of the Bill did not correspond with the clauses. The Preamble spoke generally of overcrowding in towns; and the clauses limited the Bill to towns containing over 25,000 inhabitants. Now, he could not see any reason why the Home Secretary had not extended the provisions of the Bill with regard to overcrowding and unhealthiness of dwellings to all towns of 5,000 inhabitants and upwards, for there were quite as many of the smaller towns which required as much attention as the larger. He knew of small towns where the higher classes occupied the best sites for their houses, while the humbler people had to live in the lower parts of the town, in houses so close together and in such unhealthy conditions that they ought properly to be called holes and dens. He suspected that a Committee of the Cabinet had been at work upon the Bill, and he know from experience what happened then. One Member of the Government took immense pains to get up a subject; and then his measure was referred to men who knew nothing about it. In this case the Preamble had been left in by the Committee, while the operation of the Bill itself had been restricted. He thought this a very serious defect in the measure, for it often happened that overcrowding, filth, and disease were as rife in small as in large towns. The Home Secretary contemplated getting rid of the bad parts of a town under the provisions of this Bill; but he made no regulations to insure that the buildings to be erected on the sites of those destroyed should be 367 healthy, decent, or comfortable, and, therefore, the new buildings might be worse than the old ones. Neither was there anything in the Bill to insure the new houses being put to a proper use or to prevent overcrowding. A valuable Paper which had been laid before the House showed that rooms in some of the new buildings in Edinburgh and Glasgow were occupied at night by market gardeners who rose at 3 o'clock in the morning, and in the day-time by actors who were up all night—it was a regular case of Box and Cox over again. Could anything be more deteriorating to the air of the rooms than such a practice? and yet there was nothing in the Bill that would prevent it being followed in the new buildings which were to be erected under its provisions. The Medical Officers of Health of Edinburgh had reported that unfortunately the new houses erected in that city had been constructed more with the view to secure a handsome elevation than healthy arrangements, and that the consequence was that dirt and other evils reigned supreme. He hoped that the facts stated in this Report would be a warning to the right hon. Gentleman to take the necessary steps to prevent similar abuses resulting from the operation of this Bill. It was true that considerable power was to be given to the town councils by this measure; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the worst houses in England belonged to town councils, who were the most hard-hearted persons in the world towards the poor. How dare the sanitary officer send in a report adverse to the wishes of his town council? Even if he did, what was there in the Bill to prevent them from disregarding it? He should doubtless be told that the Bill gave any 20 of the ratepayers power to move in the matter; but it was almost impossible to get that number of persons to combine for such a purpose. Even assuming that the town councils were willing to act, it would be very difficult for them to do so, seeing that that enlightened body the Metropolitan Board of Works, notwithstanding their ample powers, had been unable to clear a single spot in the metropolis on which to erect dwellings for the poor. On the whole, however, he thought the measure a good one, and he should be very sorry if, when properly amended, it did not become law. He trusted the 368 Home Secretary would meet all his objections himself and personally prepare the Amendments, and in conclusion he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for bringing in the Bill.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he simply rose to express a strong hope that the Home Secretary, in his reply, would tell them distinctly what he proposed to do as regarded Scotland. There was a very strong desire indeed that the provisions should be extended to Scotland, and the Lord Provost of Glasgow had come up to London that day, expressly with a view to urge this point on the right hon. Gentleman. It might be thought that because Glasgow had an Act of its own, they did not want anything more. That Act was certainly a very large one, involving an expenditure of something near £2,000,000; but still it must be remembered that it embraced only a small part of the City of Glasgow, and that they wanted something which would enable them to attack other parts of the city which were not reached by that Act. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the feeling in favour of the Bill being extended to Scotland was very strong, and he hoped that he, together with the Lord Advocate, would make arrangements for causing its provisions to be applicable to that country.
MR. KAY-SHUTTLE WORTH
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman the Homo Secretary on the manner in which his Bill had been received by the House. The criticisms had been entirely directed to its details, and the principal outlines of the Bill seemed to meet with general approval. The right hon. Gentleman might therefore look forward to passing the measure without serious difficulty; but he would be wise if he were ready to assent to its being materially amended in Committee. His right hon. Friend had shown so much earnestness on the subject, not only in this, but in the last Session of Parliament, that he had every confidence that he would be ready to consider Amendments in the spirit in which they were offered; and that it would be his own aim to make the Bill as good and as complete as possible. The first earnest he had given of his interest in the subject was during the progress of the Midland Railway Bill last Session, which would have removed a large number of poor people, without providing for them any new accommodation. 369 By the firm course his right hon. Friend had adopted, he had happily averted that evil; and not only so, but by the now Standing Orders which he had carried in the House of Commons, he had rendered it impossible for railway companies, or any other bodies, obtaining Private Acts of Parliament in future, to disturb large numbers of working people without making suitable provision for them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Sir Seymour Fitzgerald) seemed to imagine that this Bill was intended to deal with these cases of railway improvements; he seemed to be unaware of the manner in which those cases had been dealt with by the new Standing Orders; so that this Bill had nothing to do with that subject. In his speech in introducing the Bill, the Home Secretary showed some anxiety that local authorities should not be enabled under this measure to make great street improvements, as he said, for their own glorification. Now, he (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) did not share this anxiety. In the case of Glasgow, the Corporation obtained powers by their Improvement Act over a very large area; and it was owing to the large scale on which their operations had been effected that the benefits to all classes in the town had been so great. But he spoke with a knowledge of the opinions of those who had boon foremost in the work in Glasgow, when he stated that they much regretted that they had not obtained powers over a yet larger area, as the benefits derived seemed to be directly proportionate to the scale on which the improvements were made. He quite concurred with his right hon. Friend that the main object to be kept in view was sanitary improvement; and, therefore, he thought it was wise to propose that the Medical Officer of Health should be the first person to put the measure in operation; but if the sanitary result would be greater, he saw no objection to street improvements and to the "glorification" which the Metropolitan Board of Works or the town councils might thus obtain. The House had listened with pleasure to the earlier part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy), who had brought forward a number of statements which seemed likely to lead up to a conclusion highly consistent with the laws of political 370 economy; but suddenly, and as it were in a corner of his speech, he had announced as his conclusion that public money should be given for the charitable purpose of cheapening house rents, and that this plan would not result in the pauperizing of the people. He (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) did not think that he need waste words in combating such a doctrine. But the statements in the part of the hon. Member's speech to which he had first referred seemed to be founded on some fallacies. He had expressed an apprehension that by this Bill, his right hon. Friend would benefit one class only, and that the wrong class. That view had been partly answered by his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), who showed that large numbers of the artizan class did live in those miserable dwellings which it was the object of the Bill to remove; and those artizans would be glad to move into the better houses which will be provided in their place. Even amongst thieves and others of the most debased classes of the community—to their great misfortune and injury—considerable numbers of the industrious classes were to be found; and they would undoubtedly be benefited by the operation of this Bill. As his right hon. Friend had said the other night, his object should not be to provide new rookeries. In the place of the rookeries good dwellings should be provided, and the working classes would be ready to pay increased rents for them. What had happened with respect to the worst classes in Glasgow? In that city many of the wynds and closes where the lowest classes dwelt had been demolished. Their former inhabitants had not of course gone to live in the excellent dwellings provided by the corporation in the suburbs, but every class had got a step up. The people who went to the new buildings vacated their former dwellings, and these were inhabited by those who had lived in the demolished wynds and closes. In an admirable paper in Macmillan's Magazine last June, Miss Octavia Hill, who had lately visited Glasgow, and had judged the work done under the Improvement Act by the light of her great experience in London, gave the following account of what had happened in Glasgow. She said—I found that the now dwellings for the poor, which the demolition of their old quarters had 371 rendered necessary, had for the most part been built, not on the old sites, but in the suburbs, upon land bought for that purpose by the trustees of the Act, and by them leased to builders who were bound to erect workmen's tenements. These new dwelling's were of a type superior to those previously inhabited by artizans in the city, and they have accordingly largely resorted there, leaving their old abodes to be occupied by those displaced from the demolished wynds and courts.She remarked also—Merely to break in upon those nests of thieves cannot but be a great good; some kind of wrong is not decreased by scattering it, but dishonesty thrives most when fostered in such dens. The near presence of honest, respectable neighbours makes habitual thieving impossible; just as dirty people are shamed into cleanliness when scattered among ordinary, decent folk, and brought into the presence of the light.The hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow) had, as he might say, answered the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple, before he had advanced his objection that the wrong class would be benefited, by saying that the lowest class were benefited by such legislation and benefited in the only way possible. The greatest gain to be derived from this Act would be found to be in the absolute demolition of the worst parts—the fever spots—of our towns. The provisions for rebuilding were necessary on the same principles as the Standing Orders of last year, to prevent a measure for the advantage of the whole community from injuring the working class by depriving them of habitations. He could not resist from making one more quotation from Miss Octavia Hill's paper, which might stimulate an ambition to follow the noble example of Glasgow. She said—As I looked over the official photographs of these wynds, dark, and dirty, and in every way degraded, and the Chairman and Secretary of the Trust, which has had the working of the Act, kept saying, 'This is still standing, but that is gone,' and 'That is taken away, and that and that comes down next month,' I could not help feeling how proud and glad these men must be to have achieved such reforms; and the longing rose strong in me that someone some day in London might be able thus to point to the sites of the old fever dens and say, 'They are gone.'There was, he thought, some prejudice in the mind of the hon. Member for Barnstaple against the tall model dwellings erected by various associations in London. His remarks respecting the dangers to health were answered by the diminished death-rate in those buildings, and the comparative absence of 372 disease. The dangers had been exaggerated by the hon. Member, and the blocks which he (Mr. Kay-Shuttle worth) had seen were not generally built, in the manner described, round a square court, forming a deep central well; but the architects had now devised moans for surrounding such buildings on all sides with air-spaces, and with thorough ventilation. Moreover, if lofty buildings should be objected to, it would not be necessary to build to any great height in order to house a larger number properly on a given area than were at present badly accommodated there, and even overcrowded. The most densely inhabited district of which he was aware in London was the Berwick Street sub-district of Westminster, where it was roughly calculated that there were 428 inhabitants to the acre. The Metropolitan Association had shown in their new buildings in Farringdon Road that 1,600 persons could be well accommodated on an acre of land, nearly half of which was devoted to open air-spaces and play-grounds. A report to the Marylebone vestry from their medical officer, in March last, described "a number of old dilapidated tenements," Beaumont's Buildings, near Edgware Road—These consist of 20 cottages, placed in four parallel rows: the two inner rows, being attached at their backs, have no thorough ventilation. …. None of these cottages have rooms above the ground-floor. …. From the floor to the ceiling is only seven feet; but, inasmuch as the flooring is some six inches below the level of the forecourt, the height of the eaves of the roof from the ground is but little more than six foot. These cottages are all, without exception, damp, some of them exceedingly so. The number of families occupying these cottages is 17, comprising 85 persons. …. Rheumatism and bronchitis are very prevalent amongst the aged occupants in winter.Could any hon. Member doubt that a larger number of people could be properly housed on this area in new buildings without their being carried to any excessive height? The hon. Member for Barnstaple had drawn a striking contrast between the rents which the poorer classes were in the habit of paying in London and those which prevailed in the improved dwellings. But there was this fallacy in his argument—that he contrasted rents paid for single rooms with those asked for tenements of two, three, or more rooms. If they were to be content with providing single-room 373 tenements in the new buildings, there need be little or no increase in rent. But it was only fair, in comparing rents, to divide the rent by the number of the rooms. A common rent for old one-room tenements in London was 1s. 6d. a-week, and the following were examples of the rents in improved dwellings:—The Metropolitan Association had 233 tenements, with two rooms in each; the rents varied from 4s. to 6s. 6d. They had 242 with throe rooms in each, and rents from 4s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. The Mary-lebone Association had 159 single-room tenements, with rents from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d.; whilst the rents in the buildings erected by the trustees of Mr. Peabody were, in the case of 111 single rooms, 2s. to 3s.; in 569 tenements of two rooms, 3s. to 4s. 6d.; in 215 tenements of three rooms, 4s. to 5s. 6d. But the fact was, that many of the people who were paying 1s. 6d. for a most miserable room were well able to pay more rent; and he was assured, by persons who had large experience, that no difficulty was found in getting increased rents from them as soon as they removed into better houses. He would now offer a few suggestions upon the provisions of the Bill. He concurred with his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) that the 3rd clause required to be expanded, so as to apply to the unhealthy houses and those unfit for human habitation mentioned in the Preamble. At present, the only streets and houses that could be condemned under the Bill were those whose closeness, narrowness, or bad arrangement was the cause of disease. The words in the Preamble respecting the want of light, air, ventilation, or of proper conveniences should be introduced. Further, they had to guard against the danger that the Bill would be inoperative: hence the importance of getting the Bill set in motion; and although in his opinion it was right to entrust the medical officer of health with the initiative, as he was the fittest judge of the healthiness or unhealthiness of the various parts of his district, yet some alternative machinery should be provided to start the improvement in the event of inaction on the part of the local medical officer, who did not always enjoy all the independence that could be desired. In any place where it might happen that he would not report, and that the 20 374 ratepayers mentioned in Clause 4 could not be found, the Bill would not work. In London it would be necessary that the Metropolitan Board of Works should appoint a permanent medical officer, who should report in what districts improvement schemes were most needed. A special inquiry, like that contemplated in the Bill, into a particular district would always convey more or less of a reflection on the district officer; but if the Metropolitan Board had a permanent medical officer, then in directing him to visit one district among others, the Board would not do anything invidious to the medical officer or the vestry of that district. To guard against the danger that the inaction of a medical officer might render the Bill inoperative in any town, power should be reserved to the Local Government Board to send down one of their own medical officers in such cases, whose report should be sent to the town council and should have the same consequences as a representation from their local officer. In another point there must have been an oversight. The Bill gave the local authorities the power of taking streets and houses for an improvement scheme; but there was no power to take waste or open spaces, such as those which have been cleared of houses unfit for human habitation, under the Act of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens). An illustration of what he meant was furnished by a large space of ground near Russell Square, belonging to the Foundling Hospital, where a number of dwellings had been condemned by the medical officer of the district, and taken down, and then nothing more could be clone, partly because there was no sufficient approach to the ground, and partly because the Peabody Trustees, who had been in treaty for it, could not obtain it without compulsory powers. A yet larger defect in the Bill was, that the local authority would only have power to take such property as was condemned for its unhealthiness by the medical officer; the area declared by him in Clause 3 to be unhealthy, was the area throughout the Bill, in the improvement scheme and in the provisional order. There was no power at any stage to enlarge it. Whilst the medical officer should point out the unhealthy spots, power should be left to the local authority to say how much adjoining property was necessary 375 for each improvement scheme; and there should be compulsory power of taking such property in however good a state it might be. Respecting Clause 5, he would suggest that at that stage the scheme should not too strictly prescribe what exact form an improvement should ultimately take; plans of buildings should not be stereotyped in the Provisional Order. When the local authority came to sell or let the land under Clause 7, the builders—for instance, the Peabody Trustees or the hon. Member for Maidstone's Company—might be able to suggest better plans than any originally contemplated. But before selling or letting, such plans of new buildings should be submitted by the local authority to the Home Office or the Local Government Board, lest buildings of a wrong description—for too high a class, for example—should be erected. According to Clause 5, the new dwellings must be provided within the limits of the area, or in the vicinity thereof. This limitation was quite necessary in regard to London, where much injury would be done to working people if they were driven to a distance. But the same necessity did not exist in smaller towns, indeed, it had not been recognized in Glasgow. The area of the demolition might not be a proper one on which to rebuild dwellings; it might be too low, or too near a river; or it might be in such a position that it would sell to advantage for business purposes, whilst working people might be equally well, and much more cheaply housed, at a distance of a half or a quarter of a mile; and in such a case, there should be power to provide the new dwellings on a site outside the area of demolition. He was happy to inform his right hon. Friend that he heard from Dr. Greenhill, the Secretary of the Hastings Cottage Improvement Society, that the Bill seemed likely to facilitate improvements at Hastings; but he (Mr. Kay-Shuttle-worth) thought it very likely that better houses could be less expensively provided there on new sites, than on the valuable areas near the sea, which might be cleared when the old cottages were removed. In conclusion, he hoped that it would be possible greatly to simplify the Bill, for he feared that local authorities would shrink from putting its complicated machinery into operation, lest the expense of acquiring land should prove 376 more than they could afford to pay, seeing that they could be opposed by landowners at no less than five stages—once before the local inquiry, then in Parliament, twice before the arbitrator, and then by appeal to a jury. For this appeal to the jury he could see no need. And he wished they could dispense with the opportunity afforded for opposition in Parliamentary Committees; but, at least, the question raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) as to the apportionment of costs, might receive consideration. The statement of his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works (Sir James Hogg), that his Board would work the new Act of Parliament in a loyal spirit was most encouraging, and his suggestion that a permanent arbitrator should be appointed for the Metropolis was well worthy of attention. He (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) should think it his duty to give Notice of certain Amendments for Committee; and if the Bill were simplified and made more elastic, he confidently hoped that it would produce great and permanent good.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, he should never wish to multiply the occasions upon which it was necessary that Scotch Members should as such address the House; but if, by possibility, it could be of service that any one representing a Scotch constituency on that side of the House should join in the appeal to the Home Secretary to extend that Bill to Scotland, he, at all events, desired to secure that Scotland should have the benefit of the provisions of the Bill. The hon. Members for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) and Greenock (Mr. Grieve), speaking from the other side, had spoken for populations of enormous importance, and his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Whitelaw), on that side of the House, who perhaps more than any other man in that House was entitled to speak on behalf of large centres of labour and of the city with which he was connected, in seconding the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne, referred to the subject, and he (Mr. Whitelaw) might very well join in the appeal now made. He could assure the Home Secretary that, so far as hon. Members on that side of the House were concerned, they would be very glad to 377 help him in adapting the clauses to the cities and case of Scotland. In one town, at least, of Scotland there was a higher death-rate than almost anywhere in the United Kingdom; and it would be a grievous misfortune if the present opportunity was lost of doing something in regard to that important subject of the dwellings of the poor. Let Scotland profit by the measure. It was matter of regret that on many occasions there should be separate legislation for the two countries. He particularly disliked the notion, and as far as possible it ought to be avoided. Sometimes it was unavoidable; but nothing could be more obvious to any one who had had the honour of a seat in that House for a few years than that it abhorred Scotch legislation. It was therefore most important that separate legislation should be avoided on all practical occasions. He knew perfectly well what would happen on another occasion, if that Bill passed without its provisions being extended to Scotland. The subject would not be considered with that careful attention which it was likely to receive at present. He agreed with his hon. Friend who had just sat down (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth), who, replying to the somewhat wild statements made earlier in the evening by the hon. Member for Barnstaple, had said that there was no fear that artizans would not be able to pay rent for better houses. The desire of Parliament was, that the dwellings of the wage-earning classes should be improved, and there was nothing truer than to say that much might be done to induce them to live in better houses. He could not agree with his hon. Friend in his disapproval of the title of the Bill, for he liked the title of it, inasmuch as it was short and simple, and, as a matter of fact, it described the principle of the measure, for what the House intended was to deal with artizans' dwellings, and not with the dwellings of paupers. He believed that the Bill, if carried, would educate these people to live in better dwellings, and to set apart more of their wages towards the payment of rent. He also agreed in the recommendation that the Bill should be applied to towns with a less population than 25,000. He would, in conclusion, again express the hope that the measure might be made to apply to Scotland, and he believed that this could be done without much difficulty.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
After the admirable speech made by the Home Secretary, on the introduction of this Bill, it is unnecessary for any of us to enforce the urgency of the object which it proposes to attain. But that very circumstance deprives him of justification for its restricted character. If the Bill be urgent in the interests of the urban populations in England, it can easily be shown that its urgency is greater for the urban populations in Scotland; for it is a fact that the sanitary measures in England during the last 20 years have sufficed to prevent any augmentation in the death-rates over the whole country, while in Scotland the causes of deterioration have been greater than the means of improvement. In Scotland, the urban death-rates in the chief towns were 26.9 from 1855 to 1859, but they were 28.2 from 1861 to 1870. In the large towns they were 23.9 in the first period, and 24.6 in the second. Hence, it is not justifiable to deprive that section of the kingdom, which is in a deteriorating condition, of those powers of improvement that are to be bestowed upon another section requiring them in a less degree. If the Bill be urgent for England, it is surely more urgent for Scotland. The Home Secretary cannot reply that the Scotch towns possess local Acts which render it unnecessary. Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee truly have local Acts, but Aberdeen, Paisley, Greenock, and other insalubrious towns do not possess them, and would, no doubt, be glad to have improving powers. Besides, in such towns as Glasgow, which have effected large improvements, there still are districts quite as bad as those which have been rooted out, but they are not scheduled in their local Acts. The towns would continue to act on general powers, especially if they could obtain money from the Loan Commissioners at 3½ per cent under this Bill. I trust, then, that the Home Secretary will consult the Lord Advocate how the Bill may be extended to Scotland. The Irish Members will express their own views in regard to Ireland; but as it is obviously a doubtful principle of policy to deal with large subjects of Imperial interest connected with the health of the people in a fragmentary way, I hope they will join with us in trying to get this measure extended to the whole of the United Kingdom, I now turn to the provisions 379 of the Bill. Its first principle is a sound one—that it should only be brought into operation as a measure of public health, and not as a means of ordinary civic improvement. It is a machine which can only be set in motion to improve the health of urban populations. But what is the power which is to set the machine into activity? That we find in the 4th clause of the Bill. The Reports of the medical officers form the motive power. In all Bills which now come before the House, it is possible to see survivals of other editions of the Bill as they passed through the Cabinet. The 4th clause gives to the general reports of the medical officer nearly as wide an action as the Preamble of the Bill, for it allows him to pronounce an area as generally unhealthy; but when he begins to put the machine into motion by the 3rd clause, it becomes singularly restricted in its action, and the "want of air, light, ventilation, and proper conveniences" of the Preamble have become restricted to "the closeness, narrowness, and bad arrangement of houses." That is a matter which we may deal with in Committee. It is essential now to inquire whether the primary medical motive power of the Bill is likely to be effective? As representing a large medical constituency, I ask permission to say a few words on this head. Medical men are animated by a strong sense of professional feeling, and will, no doubt, be anxious to co-operate with the authorities in the promotion of sanitary reforms. But suppose that there is no co-operation or desire of the authorities to put the Bill into operation—that is not only conceivable, but highly probable. Take such a case as we have recently seen in Over Darwen. There the ratepayers purposely returned a local board pledged to inaction. Under such circumstances, the medical officer would be absolutely powerless. He is the servant of the local authority, and he would know that his representations would be unwelcome and fruitless. What has forced Over Darwen into action? Partly its scourge of fever, but much more the publicity which was given to its scandalous neglect of sanitary arrangements. Unless you give to the reports of the local medical officer some support by publicity and further inquiry, where the local authority is supine, the Bill will go to sleep in a large proportion of the provincial 380 towns. I do not suggest that either the Home Secretary or the President of the Local Government Board should force the authorities into action; but I think they should inquire into eases of negligence, and bring public opinion to bear upon it. With this view, it would be well that when no action takes place after the report of the medical officer has been made, a copy of his report should be sent to the confirming authority. Then, in a case of urgency, special medical inquiries might be made in the metropolis by the medical inspectors provided under Clauses 6 and 9, or in the provinces by the medical inspectors under the Local Government Board. If the medical officers knew that their representations were brought under the attention of the central sanitary authority, and that in case of urgency they might receive support through an independent inquiry, I believe that their professional zeal and their proved desire to labour for the health of the community, in spite of much discouragement from the indifference or hostility of local authorities, will ultimately suffice to ameliorate the wretched dwellings in their districts. I think the Home Secretary is wise in not attempting to force his measure in advance of public opinion in a locality; but unless he is content to see it go to sleep in most of the large towns which should come under its operation, he must by some such means as I have indicated, help the medical officer to awaken public opinion in his locality. The evils which we are now trying to remedy are not new, nor are they now brought to light for the first time. Queen Elizabeth did her best, when the density of the population was only one-fifth of what it is now, to legislate for them, and in a fashion more arbitrary than the Home Secretary does now, for, as she said, she did not like to see "poor people heaped together, and in a sort smothered." The present Bill teaches us nothing new, but it enables public opinion, when it is formed, to act under its provisions. We know, however, that public opinion forms slowly when rates are demanded for an object which is somewhat remote, and the ultimate advantages of which to the ratepayers, are only apparent to an enlightened intelligence. A medical officer could only get over the vis inertia of this new machine by the central medical 381 authorities giving him the support of independent inquiries when his own representations prove unavailing. Such confirmations of well-considered sanitary-inquiries would throw a heavy responsibility on the local authorities, and would create a public opinion which would enforce action. I propose to place an Amendment on the Paper in the sense which I have indicated. The hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy) has indulged in sentiments which are very nearly Communistic, for he asks us to extend money help to the poor people who are dispossessed from the rookeries. He talks of them as most virtuous inhabitants, who ought to be aided from Imperial funds. Generally, they are not working men at all, but are thieves, prostitutes, and out-door paupers. It would be a strange distribution of public money to aid these classes. Their dispersion is one of the greatest advantages of such a measure. A muddy stream in a great volume is dangerous—when it is dispersed into trickling rivulets it ceases to be so; and so the rooting out of these rookeries has been the cause of much moral improvement. A good deal has already been said as to the non-heroic provisions of the Bill. It is not a strong measure; but I agree with the Home Secretary that it is judicious not to attempt too much interference with localities in the discharge of a duty which local government ought to be able to perform. I should like to make one protest against the confusion which we are asked to introduce into sanitary legislation. In this Bill there are two confirming authorities—the Home Office and the Local Government Board—two Ministers of the Crown, both discharging the same functions of confirmation of inquiry, one for the metropolis, the other for the provinces. There is already a staff of highly-trained medical Inspectors under the Local Government Board. Is another staff to be created in the Home Office? This piecemeal and disjointed legislation in matters relating to public health, following as it does the efforts of the late Government to bring its administration under one office, and preceding, as it does, by only a few days, a Bill for consolidating the sanitary Acts, perplexes the promoters of sanitary reforms, and weakens the agencies of administration, Of course, I know that 382 the difficulties of an uniform legislation arise from the divided state of local government in London, but that is only an argument for putting an end to this state of perplexity. I have only to say that, before concluding, I desire to strengthen the argument of the Home Secretary on a point to which he only made a slight allusion; for though at that stage of the Bill he received general support, when he came to the property clauses and the power of rating, it was by no means certain that they would be accepted without opposition. The point to which I allude is the great burden produced upon a community by cases of preventable sickness, as well as those of preventable deaths, for each of these deaths represents 30 cases of preventable sickness, lasting, on an average, 18 days. For deaths merely represent the wrecks that strew the shore, but do not show the suffering produced upon the survivors by the storms of sickness to which they are exposed. Take the case of Liverpool, upon which I reported to the House of Commons nearly 30 years ago, and which, notwithstanding much noble local effort, remains in a terrible condition of unhealthiness up to the present moment. If Liverpool were only as healthy as London, it would be annually spared 207,000 cases of sickness among its survivors. If these lose only 2s. a-day during their duration, the people of Liverpool suffer from their preventable and wholly unnecessary sickness an annual loss of £370,000. I put it in this way to show that for the living inhabitants who form the ratepayers, and upon whom the cost of improvement falls, the burden upon them of action is as nothing compared with the burden of inaction, because money spent in sanitary improvement is not merely invested for posterity, but is productive taxation even to themselves, for it is capital bearing abundant interest. The Home Secretary, in his opening speech, acted wisely in drawing a picture of the condition of the dwellings of the poorer class in our large towns, even though he had to enlarge on the most elementary principle of hygiene, that the condition of the houses determines the condition of the people. That principle has recently received important illustration by large experiences. One of these is very marked, in the case of our Army, which since the Crimean War 383 has lessened its mortality by one-half, chiefly owing to the improvements in the drainage and ventilation of barracks. Another important experience lately acquired is, that improvements in dwellings do not merely lessen the epidemics in a population, but also that they act largely in diminishing the scourge of this country—consumption, which in various towns, after improvements of this kind, has fallen more than 40 per cent. There is, then, ample encouragement for the House to support this Bill, and to try to render it as effective as is consistent with its modest and moderate pretensions.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he had no cause to complain of the manner in which the Bill had been received by the House. The very fact that they had been now sitting for so many hours discussing what, after all, were in a great measure matters of detail, amounted to the concession that the principle of the Bill had been accepted on both sides. He would say nothing at present about the question which had been dealt with earlier in the evening—namely, the philanthropic view of the case. He was quite sure that view did not meet with acceptance in the House, either on a former night or then. The object of the Bill had been very fairly described by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) who had paid so much attention to the subject—it was the demolition of the great fever and plague spots in London and the large towns. All the rest followed as a matter of course. Some remarks had been made by his right hon. Friend behind him (Sir Seymour Fitzgerald) as to the way in which the houses were to be built. But his right hon. Friend could hardly have been in the House last Session, when a Standing Order was passed, requiring that suitable provision should be made for those of the working classes who might be displaced by these improvements. The Bill would enable the local authorities to get rid of those pestilental spots; and when that was done, it would carry out the provisions of the measure of last year. He was not going into all the details which had been discussed. There was no intention on the part of the Government to fix the Committee for an early day; but he must ask hon. Members who wished to place Amendments on the Paper to think well 384 over them beforehand, because it seemed to him that if the clauses of the Bill had been carefully read, many of the remarks which had been heard in the course of the discussion would never have been made. Many of the objections which had been raised would be found, on reference to the words of the measure, to have been already met. Of course there were others which might require discussion. The burden of a great deal that had been said was, first—"You do not go far enough," and next—"You go much too far." He hoped hon. Members would bear in mind the object of the Bill as it was expressed in the title—namely, to improve the dwellings of the working classes in large towns. He did not say that in towns other than those to which the Bill referred there was not an equal call for a remedy of some kind or other, but he did say—and the difference of opinion which had been manifested in regard even to a large town like Liverpool confirmed the conviction—that the same remedy could not be applied to large towns as to small. The machinery required in the two cases would be altogether different. Therefore, he would say, do not hastily put down Amendments—although no doubt with the very best intentions—to extend the provisions of the Bill to places to which they were not at all applicable. A good deal had been said as to the manner in which it was proposed the machinery of the Bill should be set in motion. He had never put forward this measure as one the object of which was civic improvement. What he had had in view was the improvement of health, and starting with that principle, he had thought it right to introduce at the outset the medical officers. When he first came to consider the question, many of the observations which had been made in the course of the discussion were pressed forcibly upon his attention, and it did occur to him that there might, at all events, be a great inducement to the medical officers in many parts of the country to avoid taking the initiative, if they possibly could consistently with their duty. But he had had placed in his hands the printed reports of the medical officers of every district in London, and of almost all the large towns in the country, and he was bound to say that they had not shrunk from their duty. In all those reports they stated facts which he was quite sure 385 they would abide by, and which would justify the application of the present measure. Indeed, he did not think their professional standing would ever allow them to act otherwise than they had done. In connection with the subject of local taxation there was a great principle to be maintained. He was well aware that a large portion of the House would willingly entrust to Government much larger powers than he had asked for. But he thought it would be a great mistake. So far as was possible they must depend upon local action. But he quite agreed with the right hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Lyon Playfair), as to the desirability of stimulating local action by means of public opinion. If the medical officer made a report, and the local authority took no action upon it, he thought it ought to be forwarded to the Secretary of State, not with the object of having the measure put in force against the wish of the local authority, or of interfering in any way with the local jurisdiction, but simply for the purpose of bringing public opinion to bear strongly upon the matter. But he was inclined to believe that the town councils would be as little disposed as the medical officers to refuse to do their duty. Why should it be thought that the town councils of the large towns of England would refuse to do that which had been readily done by their neighbours in Scotland? Why should it be supposed that those local bodies would not in England act in the same patriotic way as Glasgow and Edinburgh? But if it should happen that any town council was governed in its action by the views of a narrow-minded class of ratepayers, it would be quite right that the public opinion of the country should be directed to that particular town council, in order that it might be forced to take action, not by means of any interference on the part of the central authority, but simply by the expression of public feeling. A great many remarks had been made on matters of detail connected with the provisions of the Bill. It had been said that the 3rd clause did not carry out to the full the intentions expressed in the Preamble. All he could say was, that it had been intended to do so, and that if it did not, he would take care that it did. With regard to the area to be dealt with in any particular case, it had been said that the Bill left it to be 386 fixed by the medical officer, who, it had been remarked, although the proper person to point out that a district was unhealthy, was not the best authority to decide how many houses should be removed. It had never been meant that that should be decided by him. The local authority, no doubt, was the body which ought to say what the particular area was for which the improvement scheme should be drawn up, for it might often be desirable to interfere with property outside the unhealthy district in order, for example, to open up a street. The hon. Member for Hastings would, no doubt, pardon him if he said that, although he had very great respect for everything that fell from him on the subject of dwelling-houses for the working classes, yet, when they came to questions as to the law clauses of the Bill, he felt bound to pay more attention to the opinions of other hon. Members who probably had a greater acquaintance with the matter. In regard to the Schedule on which the hon. Member for Hastings had made a few observations, he wished to say that it had been taken almost verbatim from what was known as the Irish Land Clauses Act. He had had special inquiries made in Ireland as to the working of that Act, and he had received the strongest expressions of opinion, to the effect that it had worked to the satisfaction of all who had come under its operation. As to the main provisions of the Bill, he did not think any fault had been found that night, except by the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu), who had said that he entirely approved the Bill, with the exception that in its 20 clauses he found five mistakes, and so saying had dismissed him with his blessing. There was much force in what the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) had said, as to the desirability of reducing the expenditure connected with proceedings in that House in carrying out the objects of the Bill. The House conld not allow the property of persons to be taken from them against their will without Parliamentary sanction, and, no doubt, the ordinary course of procedure would have to be followed, in so far as it was necessary to respect that principle. At the same time, he could agree with the hon. Member for Reading, in thinking that special precautions might be taken to prevent vexatious proceedings 387 before Parliamentary Committees. If there was not already power given in the Bill to the local authorities to extend the area proposed by the medical officer, he was quite prepared in that respect also to agree to an Amendment. There was another matter to which he wished to refer. Perhaps the greatest tribute which had been paid to the measure in the course of the discussion was, that an earnest wish had been expressed for its extension to Scotland. He had purposely left out Scotland, because he had thought the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh had enough to do with their own Improvement Bills to keep them going for some time. But he had had the pleasure of seeing the Lord Provost of Glasgow that day, and by him, as well as by many Scotch Members on both sides of the House, he had been strongly pressed to extend the Bill to Scotland. The only pledge he could give was, that he would consult the Lord Advocate upon the matter, and if he found it practicable to extend the Bill to Scotland, he would not have the slightest objection to that course. With these observations, he had to thank the House again for the manner in which the measure had been received. While he remained in the office which he had now the honour to hold, nothing would give him greater pleasure than to attend to the administration of the measure so far as London was concerned, and to see that it was put in force in the best possible way. But he must again implore the House not to seek, with however good an intention, to extend it to places and to classes of property to which it had not been intended to apply. He hoped the House would pass the Bill as it stood, and thus extend an invaluable boon to masses of people in the large towns throughout the country, who had hitherto undergone so much suffering and misery and degradation in consequence of the wretched character of their dwellings, and who had been condemned to see their children die like flies before them.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday, 4th March.