HC Deb 08 June 1876 vol 229 cc1599-601

in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to make further provision for the better prevention of the Pollution of Rivers, said, that he would not at so late an hour detain the House by a lengthened statement. He wished, however, to remind the House that the subject was entirely removed from anything like a Party character. A Royal Commission on the Pollution of Rivers had been sitting for many years, and last year the final volume of their Report was published. The time had therefore arrived when something ought to be done. Three or four Bills had been presented to Parliament, and, although they had from various causes failed to pass into law, there had never been any dispute as to the necessity for legislation on this subject. The obstacles were, however, very great, and the alarm of the manufacturers had been so difficult to deal with that successive Bills had been brought in and withdrawn. Last year there was a reasonable opportunity of passing the Bill brought into the other House by the Marquess of Salisbury, if it had not been for the late period of the Session at which the measure came down to that House and the necessity of proceeding with other measures, A Bill for preventing the pollution of rivers, however, formed no part of the Government programme of the Session, and advisedly so. But several hon. Members had within the last few months urged him to bring forward a measure on the subject, and he had reason to believe that a Bill somewhat of the character of that which had passed the House of Lords last year would be generally acceptable. The present Bill, he might add, proposed to enact generally that rivers were to be kept free from pollution, and that their pollution in various ways was to be a stat table offence. In the first place, it was intended to prohibit the casting of noxious refuse, whether manufacturing or mining, into rivers so as to pollute the stream or to impede navigation. The second part of the Bill related to the mode of dealing with the sewage of towns, and it was proposed that the pollution of rivers by that means should also be made a stat table offence, but that ample time should be given within which proceedings should be instituted, as well as ample time to the authorities within which to construct necessary works. There was nothing in that portion of the Bill more stringent than had for many years been the law with reference to the streams which flowed into the Thames and the Lea, in both of which cases the arbitrary power of preventing the throwing of noxious sewage into those streams had been prohibited. The manufacturing and mineral pollution of rivers stood in a very different position; but it was not deemed expedient in such a Bill as the present to make any exceptions from the general obligations of the law, but it was proposed in the case of manufacturing and mineral pollution not only that ample time should be given, but that industrial interests should be duly considered, and that no prosecution should be instituted except by the public sanitary authority with the sanction of the Local Government Board. Up to that point the Bill stood very much in the position of that which had passed through the House of Lords last year, but there were two or three important additional provisions. It was proposed to constitute a Conservancy Board which would take in hand the function of carrying out the necessary works, and that the sanitary authorities might be permitted to pass bye-laws and regulations and give facilities for the use of their sewers. The prosecutions under the Bill were, he might add, to be carried on before the County Court Judges, as under the Bill of last year. Other points of importance would remain which might be dealt with in future measures; but he hoped the present Bill, as an initiative measure, would in future secure our rivers from pollution. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.


supported the Motion. There was a general consensus of opinion in favour of Watershed Boards.


said, the people of Scotland would experience a great disappointment if the Bill did not pass, and he urged hon. Members on both sides of the House to do their best to help the President of the Local Government Board on with his scheme. He did not believe there would be much difficulty experienced in preventing the pollution of rivers by sewage, as there were now so many plans for the utilization of liquid manure. He felt convinced that the measure would prove of the utmost utility and benefit to the country.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to make further provision for the better prevention of the Pollution of Rivers, ordered to be brought in by Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH and Mr. SALT.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 186.]