HC Deb 13 June 1879 vol 246 cc1813-32

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the great increase of the Local Taxation of the Metropolis, while the Vestries foiled to carry out any sufficient sanitary arrangements; and to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the powers of the Vestries and their administration of the funds at their disposal, said, that some of our most eminent statesmen had called attention to the government of the Metropolis. The noble Lord the present Prime Minister had made many eloquent speeches on the subject of the sanitary condition of the Metropolis; and the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had said, in 1858, that he anticipated the time when the principle of self-government would be applied in its fullest extent to the Metropolis. The question had, too, engaged the attention of Royal Commissions and Select Committees, and Bills had been introduced on the subject. As a matter for legislation it had engaged the attention of such men as Sir George Grey, Sir Cornewall Lewis, and Mr. Buxton. The last to direct attention to it with a view to legislation was the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), who urged the claims it had on the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. The necessity for a reform in the government of the Metropolis was increasing every year. The Registrar General informed the country that the population of the Metropolis was increasing at the rate of 75,000 per annum, and that, during the last seven years, 150,000; additional houses had been built within its boundaries. As Mr. Horton, in his valuable pamphlet, pointed out, the Metropolis was divided into 37 districts for the purpose of registration of births; into 56 districts for the duties of the Building Act; into 19 divisions for police purposes; into 13 County Court districts; into 15 Militia districts; and additional divisions for Inland Revenue, postal, and gas and water and Parliamentary purposes; so that a map of London must have 14 or 15 different boundaries to represent in each area the controlling powers. With this mere unorganized accretion of corporations, boards, vestries, commissioners, magistrates, and so forth, the administration of this Metropolis might very fitly be described in the words with which John Bunyan depicted the valley of the Shadow of Death. It was, he said, "Every whit dreadful, being utterly without order." Comparing the govern- ment of the parish of Marylebone with that of Westminster, it would he found that the population of each was about the same. Marylebone parish collected £194,036; Westminster City, £194,031. Marylebone parish was managed by one vestry, and its administrative expenses were under £8,000 per annum; while the five boards of local management in Westminster cost nearly £20,000. These five boards employed 21 clerks and vestry clerks, six surveyors, four solicitors, nine officers of health, six inspectors of nuisances—all these officers being employed for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the Metropolis Local Management Act. The gas and water supplies of the Metropolis were under the control of different Companies, who were hostile to each other. The result was that the water supply cost, according to the Registrar General, £1,283,000 a-year; whereas he asserted that it could be provided for £470,000 a-year. Moreover, each public gas lamp in London cost £4 10s. a-year, whilst in Manchester the cost was only £1 5s. Mr. Frith said the Gas Companies pretended that they had a right to a dividend of £10 per cent, and that in any scheme for purchase they must be paid at that rate, and that Londoners were precluded by legislation from supplying themselves. Now, the Gas Companies had funds which they called capital, which had never been investigated. And it seemed it was not capital at all; but on this the consumer was charged 10 per cent, and was even now paying 10 per cent, on the former ruinous competition. It was distinctly asserted that the Companies made £400,000 net profit on every £1,000,000 capital which Parliament permitted them to raise. The management of the Metropolitan Board of Works, he admitted, was admirable, and everything had improved since it was established in 1853, when there were 10,500 officials in London and over 150 vestries raising rates; but that was no reason why householders and ratepayers should be subjected to unnecessarily heavy burdens. He did not say that there was peculation; but, under the existing system, the ratepayers paid in some instances at least a third more than they ought to be called upon to do. It had been shown that, the delay in traffic occasioned by the accumulation of snow, mud, and dirt in our streets involved a loss of at least £500,000. The condition of the fire brigade also demanded investigation. Whilst in Paris, with a population of 2.000,000, and in New York, with a population of 1,300,000, there were respectively 1,500 and 2,350 firemen, London, with her 4,000,000 of population, had only 406 firemen. There was a complete want of proper market accommodation owing to the absurd restrictions which prevented markets being established within, he believed, seven miles of the City. These and other evils he attributed to the system of vestries. The vestries fought amongst each other on questions as to the varying merits of wood pavement and macadam. Inconsequence of the vestry system, with all its anomalies, the state of the sewers and of the pavements in many districts was most unsatisfactory. He believed that one of the greatest evils of the present system was connected with the auditing of the vestry accounts. Some parishes were undoubtedly well managed in this respect; but he was credibly informed, for the information was based on a published document, that in some cases the auditors could neither read nor write. [A laugh.] That seemed an incredible assertion; but he made it on an authority that was open to any Member of the House, and if it was inaccurate he was not responsible. That document stated that no auditor could be relied upon carefully to examine parish accounts unless he could read and write, and that there wore instances of the appointment of auditors who possessed neither qualification. The vestries made rates on the parishes, and declined to make satisfactory reports showing how the money they raised was expended. The vestries, however, were not slow in demanding that the action of other bodies should be inquired into. It was charming to find that they were fully alive to the faults of others, and anxious to see them corrected, although they must not be touched themselves. He held in his hand a printed paper headed "Relief of Ratepayers' Burdens," and it purported to be a Statement in favour of inquiry into the administration of funds in possession of the City Guilds. It went on to say that— The vestries of London were recently invited, in pursuance of a resolution adopted by the St. James's Vestry, to join in a Memorial to the Government, urging the necessity for inquiry into the condition and management of the property and charities of the several Metropolitan parishes and City Guilds. The resolution above referred to ran thus:— That the several parishes in the Metropolis, the Corporation of the City of London, the Livery Companies of London, and other public bodies, now possess largo funds available for educational purposes, for the relief of the poor, and for other public objects; and that, in view of the constantly-increasing burdens imposed on the ratepayers of the Metropolis by the Metropolitan Board of Works, the vestries, and the London School Board, in the carrying out of their varied and increasing powers, it is desirable for a full inquiry to be made, under the authority of a Royal Commission, into the character and circumstances of any such funds, in order to ascertain how far they may be rightfully directed to the relief of such ratepayers, and to all or any of the objects served by the several governing bodies and rating authorities of the Metropolis. Now, the property of the City Guilds had been bequeathed for particular purposes; and although its value had, no doubt, greatly increased, it was doubtful whether that fact alone would justify an interference with the destination of that property. However that might be, the case of the vestries was very different. There the money spent was taken directly from the ratepayers; its amount was constantly increasing; and there could be no question of the right of the public to know and inquire into the manner in which it was disbursed. He now came to the charges which were made against the vestries. He would quote to the House some extracts taken from a printed paper issued by the Paddington Ratepayers' Association. If the statements there contained were incorrect, he was not responsible for them. This document said— There is a growing suspicion that the manner in which assessments are made, and rates expended, in some quarters calls for special investigation, and we believe that nothing short of such a step will give satisfaction to the public. It continued— People will want to get at the particulars lying behind the gross amounts which are tabulated, and act. occasionally at least, as their own auditors; and if Parliamentary assistance be not afforded them for that purpose, it may be incumbent on them in their several parishes to appoint a local commission from their number to scrutinize vouchers, so that what is going on behind the scenes may he proclaimed on the housetops. The paper went on to remark that, while pauperism and crime in the Metropolis were rapidly on the decline, there was no corresponding diminution in the burden of the rates; and that the inquiries made by independent residents of Paddington had revealed wasteful expenditure under various heads. It then added— The most entertaining and instructive portion is that which comes under the general rate account, and relates to 'refreshments.' The following particulars belong to one of many bills of the same description:—'September 25.—Finance and Assessment Committees:—18 luncheons, £3 3s.; 17 dinners, £7 13s.; ale and stout, 7s.; sherry, £1 4s.; port, 18s.; hock, £4 10s.; cigars, 12s.; and dessert, 25s.' These were among the items of one dinner for the gentlemen who were spending the money of the ratepayers; and other refreshment bills wore much of the same character. He asked whether those things were creditable to the local government of a great capital. Mr. Frith, in his admirable work on Municipal London, said that the government of the Metropolis was utterly without system, regularity, or order; that the ratings all differed, that there was no uniformity, and that in all things there was confusion and complication. Certain facts were very significant. In the last 19 years the vestries and district boards had not expended 18d. a-head in sanitary measures. The City had eight inspectors of nuisances, and St. Pancras had only one. The inspector for Chelsea reported that one-third of the houses infringed the sanitary regulations, and yet nothing was done to remedy the abuse. The cost of making roads in Mile End was £364 a-mile, while in Marylebone it was £1,200 a-mile. Again, the cost of watering streets was in Greenwich £50 a-mile; in Limehouse, £50; in Hackney, £15; in Mile End, £15; and in Whitechapel, £11. The cartage of dust and mud cost in St. Martin's, £70 a-mile; in Paddington, £07; in Greenwich, £65; in Lime-house, £23; and in Mile End, £ 19. On several previous occasions Bills relating to the government of the Metropolis had been introduced in that House; but they had not been passed. One measure was introduced by his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), who had done so much to bring this matter under the notice of the public; but he did not see how it was pos- sible for any private Member to carry a Bill for the better management of the Metropolis. The City of London was, n many respects, most admirably managed, and his noble Friend proposed to extend the area of the City. That, of course, was a plan open to many objections. Then there was the idea of making the Parliamentary boroughs separate Municipalities with a supreme Council. Earl Grey, who always took great interest in this question, proposed, not a Royal or Parliamentary Commismission, but a Committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council, partly of Ministers of the Crown, partly of the late Ministers. A Report by such a Committee would be invaluable. It would be brought under the attention of Parliament much more clearly, and would be more likely to command attention. This, his Lordship stated, was the course followed with the Bill in 1850 for extending representative government to the Australian Colonies. To-day he only asked the Home Secretary to appoint a Board of Auditors for the investigation of the accounts of all these vestries. If it should be shown by the inequality of charges in the accounts that the Metropolis was not well governed, then it would be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to introduce a measure for the bettor government of London. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the powers of the Vestries of the Metropolis, and their administration of the funds at their disposal,"—(Mr. Baillie Cochrane,) —instead thereof.

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


had understood the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight to say that all he asked the Home Secretary to do was to appoint a certain number of Auditors to examine the accounts of these vestries. This, however, was not the object aimed at by the hon. Gentleman's Motion. The hon. Gentleman condemned the general management of the Metropolis, yet he seemed content to accept only a modified means of remedy. He went further than the language of his hon. Friend, being of opinion that the general management of the Metropolis was simply abominable. It was a disgrace to such a large town as this that there should be so little uniformity and so little good management in the general arrangements. Still, he believed the vestries did their duty extremely well for certain purposes. What was required was a Central Body to be placed over them all. The Board of Works had not supplied the requirement, although he admitted that that body fulfilled its functions admirably in many respects. The town of Paris was managed quite differently from London. There were eight or 10 different departments; but they wore all centralized in one department, called the Department of the Seine. As to the subject of fires, they were strictly part of police duties. What were the duties of the police, if they were not for the protection of life and property? The police could render essential service in a fire long before the brigade arrived. It was a discreditable thing in the management of London that the fire brigade should be under the Metropolitan Board of Works. He did not say the Board did not do its best, but it had not the power. There was divided authority, and this was the case also with regard to the cleansing of the streets.


said, he thought his hon. Friend had done good service in calling attention to this important question—the proper government, or, rather, the mis-government, of the Metropolis. the mis-government was so patent that it was not necessary to dwell on the subject. They had got the vestries, but there was no control over them. His hon. Friend had pointed to the City of London. They had controlling power there, and things were bettor managed. On one occasion, when he complained to the Metropolitan Board of Works about a part of London where a terrible stench prevailed, owing to the streets not being-watered, as was believed, he was told that the Board had no power. This seemed to point to one of three things—that his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Board (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) ought to have more power given him; that he ought to be merged in some other power; or that he ought to be abolished altogether. Clearly he ought not to be left in his present state of impotence. He (Lord Elcho) did not think the Committee proposed by his hon. Friend (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) would he very useful; but the hon. Gentleman had made a very good practical suggestion—namely, that the Government should appoint Auditors to look after the accounts of the vestries. He would suggest that the Motion should he withdrawn, and that the Government should consent to the appointment of Auditors. They heard of the bottles of hock, champagne, and other wines consumed by the vestrymen. That alone required an audit, and the practical solution would be for the Government to appoint an audit of the different district accounts. It might be that the stories one heard were not true; it might be that there was no jobbery; and, in that case, it would be better for the vestries that Auditors should be appointed. If it turned out, however, that there had boon waste, they would have good ground for legislation.


said, the subject raised by his hon. Friend was a very important one, and one in which they were all interested; but he hardly thought the House would be prepared to appoint a Select Committee, such as was asked for, neither did he think the suggestion for the appointment of Auditors would command general assent. It was admitted that the Metropolis Management Act had effected a change for the better. A great deal had been said about the shortcomings of the vestries; but what wore the district boards but a combination of parish vestries? Under the Act to which he referred, no less than 46 parishes wore combined in 12 district boards, and a substantial change for the better was, no doubt, the result. He was not prepared to defend the vestries from all the charges made against them. Their powers were, to a certain extent, limited. In some respects they exercised their power very well, and in other respects the shortcomings of the vestries were considerable. As to gas and water, those were matters of so serious a nature that they had not been left to the vestries, but had been taken in hand by Parliament. Measures had been passed providing for the water supply and lighting of the Metropolis. A great deal might be said as to whether the provisions of those Acts were adequate or not. It would be monstrous to enter into the question of the water supply in connection with the present Motion. The question raised by the present Motion was one of very great importance; but he should regard the extension of the City jurisdiction or the establishment of a new Centralized Body for control of the affairs of the Metropolis with some suspicion, and to establish such a body might prove to be a step in the wrong direction. He had taken some trouble to ascertain what had been the increased cost of the Metropolitan taxation, and he found it had not been so considerable as some persons supposed. He would, with the permission of the House, state what the increase of that taxation had been during the last 10 years. In 1869 the vestries spent £1,789,281, including payments to the Metropolitan Board of Works. In 1878, or 10 years later, the vestries spent £3,162,771; thus showing an increase in 10 years of about £1,400,000. But while the rateable value of the Metropolis in 1869 was £16,258,000, in 1878 it was£23,470,000, or an increase of £7,212,000. While the net increase of the vestry expenditure in those 10 years was £1,000,000, the following were the principal items of which that increase was composed:—Upon streets and highways the increase was more than £500,000, upon lighting it was £37,000, on payment to the Metropolitan Board of Works £131,000—the vestries now paid £500,000 out of their rates to the Metropolitan Board—and they now paid £500,000 to the School Board rates. The salaries to officers were £46,000 higher than in 1869; when they amounted to £71,000; while, in 1878, they amounted to £117,000. Loans and interest in 1869 amounted to £174,700, and in 1878 to £263,000, or a difference of £88,000. He did not think that the Government could do of their own accord what his hon. Friend asked, and he did not know that the House would support the Secretary of State if he made such a proposition.


asked the House to look at this matter in a fair and broad light. Charges had been made against the vestries; but it should be remembered that vestries wore elected under an Act of Parliament, and by the same class of persons as elected Members of Parliament, and if they did not do their work well, the members who composed them might be put out, and others elected in their place. People, no doubt, complained very much about vestries; but so they did about the Members of that House. The thing to do was to change them, and put in better men. he challenged hon. Gentlemen who spoke about the health of the Metropolis to compare it with that of any other city in the world. London was the largest city in the world, and among cities in point of health it stood perfectly unique. What was the use of coming down upon these poor vestrymen and talking about gas and water. The vestries had no more power over the gas and water of the Metropolis than hon. Gentlemen themselves had. When his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) attempted to take up the water supply he was most violently opposed by the Water Companies, and it would be the same with the gas. It was all the Companies, and if you touched them they would say you were attacking private property. No doubt, the rates were heavy; the School Board rate, for example; but the vestries could not help that. Parliament made the law, and the vestries had to carry it out and to find the money. So it was with the main drainage, the fire brigade, the police rate—which was now very heavy—and so on. It was most ungenerous, unhandsome, and undignified to say—"Oh, these are small men, tradesmen." If they were small men and tradesmen, it was all the more to their credit that they gave a great deal of time to the public good. Hon. Gentlemen talked of the City of London, and spoke of it as a model. He knew something about the City of London, and, no doubt, it was very well managed; but it was very expensively managed. In the City of London there was more to pay than in the Metropolis generally. A good deal had been said about the state of the streets; but Oxford Street was as nicely kept and as clean a street as any in the world, and they had only to go to Marylebone to see streets as well watered, lighted, and cleaned as any in Birmingham, Glasgow, or any other city. It was easy to find fault with the government of the City of London; but it was of such enormous extent, and the interests involved were so vast and so diver- sified, that he was not surprised that all Ministries were particularly chary in attempting to interfere with it. He had felt it only fair to say a word in favour of the vestries, which had a great deal of hard work to do, and, upon the whole, they did it in an admirable manner. As a rule, they had nothing to do with the expense incurred for luncheons and dinners and wines. The blame, if any, on that score attached to the Guardians; but Boards of Guardians were not peculiar to London, and why blame vestries? There was no mystery or secret about their proceedings, for their meetings were more open than the House of Commons. He quite admitted that the rates were increasing and becoming more onerous, and they could not be too cautious in imposing new burdens.


said, that two years ago he gave Notice of a Motion for a Committee to inquire into vestry management, and especially into the paving, lighting, watering, and scavengering of the streets and houses of London. He had been unable to bring forward that Motion; but if he found encouragement from other Members of the House, he should be inclined to urge upon the House the desirability of appointing such a Committee. He did not think that a single word of blame or censure had been cast on the Metropolitan Board of Works, and very little, indeed, had been said against the vestries. It was not at all necessary to speak offensively or in a hostile manner against the vestries. As the hon. Baronet who had just sat down said, those gentlemen took upon themselves a vast amount of work for no remuneration, and they got a good deal of abuse, especially from people outside, who did not know how difficult their duties were. But he should despair of obtaining any improvement if they acted on the views of the hon. Baronet (Sir Andrew Lusk), whose maxim seemed to be, quieta non movere, and who appeared to think that the government of London, as it was, was the best possible government that could be, and that it could not be improved without additional expense and taxation. He (Mr. C. Beckett-Denison) was not of that opinion; but thought that in one or two respects there was a loud call for improvement and investigation. He referred especially to the watering and scavengering of the streets. As compared with Paris or other European capitals, the watering of the streets of London was not what it ought to be. A friend of his, who took a great interest in the St. George's Vestry, had told him that the watering and scavengering of the streets of London was practically in the hands of a close monopoly. There were five or six men who tendered in turns to the various parishes. Ostensibly the competition was open; but the contractors had entered into a secret arrangement among themselves by which the contract was always relegated to the same hands. On Sundays the streets were not watered as on other days of the week; and when they considered that the masses of the population took their holiday on that day and visited the parks in immense numbers, they would at once see that on allot Sunday afternoon, with the wind blowing, the state of the streets of London was a reproach to them. What was the remedy for this? He feared there was none, for the contractors would not allow their carts to go out unless in charge of their own men, and they would not send out their men; and as they would not do the work, no one could do the work which they refused to do. The watering of the streets of London was simply discreditable, and the same thing might be said of the scavengering. It was notorious that there was a regular system of blackmailing in connection with scavengering, and that no one could got his ash-pit cleansed without submitting to it. The result of this was absolute discomfort, uncleanliness, and unhealthiness, which they wore powerless to remove. It was all very well for powerful people, who could make their voices heard, to say that things were as good as they could be; but it was the poor and the small householders who were really affected. Without bringing any charge of corruption or abuse of authority against the vestries, there was certainly ground for inquiry whether it was not possible to bring about a better state of things. Without any hostility either to the Board of Works or to the vestries, he should, as he had stated, be inclined, if he found any encouragement, to renew his Motion for a Committee of Inquiry with respect to the two special points of watering and scavengering the streets.


observed, that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had introduced the subject in a very broad way, alluding to water supply, gas supply, sanitary arrangements, and so forth; but ended with a Motion which was limited to an inquiry into the question of the vestries and their duties. The great evil in regard to London was that the local government was very defective. Great works were distributed into the hands of a large number of different bodies, and there was no unity. He was, therefore, prepared to vote against the Motion, because it would take away their power to deal with the question in a more satisfactory way, especially when they remembered the Home Secretary's statement that the subject was so large that it would be the duty of the Government to take it up and consider it in all its aspects. But the Motion would throw the inquiry on the vestries, and would remove the responsibility from Parliament. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk) in the satisfaction he had expressed with the existing state of things. With regard to the water supply, for instance, in some places it was good; but he (Mr. Lyon Playfair) lived in a district which was supplied with water into which 750,000 people poured their excrements before he could drink it. They had been told that there would be another Session of the present Parliament. It would he a capital thing if the Government would deal with this question next Session. He would, therefore, suggest that as they were now getting into a state of things which so operated in the House as to produce the passing of but one Act a Session, the question of improvement in Metropolitan administration should be undertaken next year by the Government, which might thus signalize the last year of their reign by passing at least one comprehensive measure for the promotion of the health of the people. Should the hon. Gentleman withdraw his Motion, the House would be left free to consider a large scheme for Metropolitan local government.


said, that they all grumbled at the cost of Metropolitan rates; but it was but fair to give the devil his due, and look at the results which they got for the rates. The Metropolitan rates also, he might say, had not been much raised for the last 10 years. For instance, the total rating of Kensington, from the year 1870 to 1879, averaged 3s. 5d. in the pound; whereas, in the present year, the rating amounted to only 3s. 5d., a decrease of 4d. on the whole, although the charge for the Metropolitan School Board had increased from nothing to bd., and the Metropolitan Board rate had also increased. He differed from the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk) as to the constitution of the vestries. He thought it required improvement. There was a want of a head and of responsible officers known to the public. As to the complaint that the management of parochial affairs was in the hands of small tradesmen, he thought that gentlemen had themselves to blame in that respect, because it was owing to their negligence that such was the case. If people wished to improve the management of their affairs, they should take a more active part themselves.


said, that this year he had been elected a vestryman for the City of Westminster, and he had been induced to become a member of the Board, not from any motive of public spirit, but from a feeling of curiosity. One heard so much of the working of these bodies that he desired to see the machinery from the inside. No doubt, the majority of those who composed the vestries were small tradesmen; but, considering the nature of the duties they had to discharge, he was not surprised that a great many gentlemen did not care to serve on them. They had to administer the greater portion of their funds under the direction of the Metropolitan Board, and the amount over which they themselves had control was very small. The hon. Member (Mr. C. Beckett-Denison) had stated that the dust was badly laid in the streets on Sundays; and he might say that he was a member of a Street Cleansing Committee for the City of Westminster, and, therefore, he could say that how the matter was done was thus—The contracts were drawn in general terms, the contractors undertaking to keep the streets in proper order under the vestry. The vestry could be set in motion by any ratepayer who chose to communicate with them; and when communicated with they summoned the contractor to produce his books, to show how often he had watered certain streets; and if he was found guilty of neglect he was blown up. He himself had made a complaint that a particular road was not watered properly on the Sunday, and his complaint was attended to, and since then the state of things had been much better. If any hon. Member felt aggrieved in reference to the watering of the streets on Sundays, provided that hon. Member lived in his (Mr. J. R. Yorke's) district, and provided, also, that he would write a letter, he (Mr. J. R. Yorke) would, of course, do his best to see that the matter was attended to. About three autumns ago he was in London for a month, and the condition of the water was at that time intolerable, and it was extremely unpleasant to the nose. The water, he believed, came from the Chelsea Company. He took a sample to Professor Franklin and asked him to analyze it. The Professor told him that he had already analyzed water from the same Company, and showed him a long tube containing some of it, in which he noticed a large number of unpleasant-looking bodies in suspension. He asked would there be any use in filtering the water, but was told that it would be useless, because all the really deleterious matters were to be found in solution, and not in suspension; and, in fact, it was only a question between the thick and the thin turtle. He asked the Professor the nature of the thing, and he said that he found things in the water that led him to believe that they came from Surbiton. There had recently been a flood in that locality, and some of the contents of the cesspools of the place had been washed into the reservoirs. He had naturally since that time kept his eyes open to the quality of the water coming from the Chelsea Waterworks, and he had noticed whether there had been any extensive floods in that neighbourhood, so that he might not drink any more water than he could help. He thought the defence which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had made for the vestries, that they were not responsible for a great deal of the charges laid at their door, was a just one. He would conclude by saying that if some arrangement could be made for a proper audit of vestry accounts, it would be a real and substantial improvement; and he hoped that, ere long, whenever there might be an opportunity of legislating upon the subject, it would be provided.


said, that, to his own knowledge, the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had been, from the commencement of the Session. endeavouring to obtain a night on which to call the attention of the House to the question of the water supply of the Metropolis, which was a very large question, and ought to be discussed by itself. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Biding of Yorkshire (Mr. C. Beckett-Denison), speaking of the watering of the streets, had told them that, in that respect, London was infinitely worse than Paris and other Continental cities. That was so; but then the streets in those cities were watered, not by carts, as in London, but by fixed hydrants; and this question should be discussed on the Water Supply Motion. It should be borne in mind that the population in foreign cities was much more densely concentrated than in London, owing to the practice of the people living in flats; so that the 12 arrondissements which constituted the older City of Paris, as contrasted with the outer ring of 8 arrondissements, were much less in area than the borough he had the honour to represent. Still, he believed considerable improvement had been made within the last few years. As to the paving of London, no one could say that it was all that it ought to be; but considerable improvement had been brought about. The existing boards wore becoming alive to the question. As regarded the contracts for scavengering, several vestries had given up the practice of entering into them, and did the work for themselves. It had been said that the London vestries had no permanent officials; but he must say that the vestry clerks, as a rule, wore well chosen and very able men, and generally they had served for a great number of years. He hoped that the debate would not close without there being a renewed assurance that the Home Secretary would go into the whole question.


said, that, considering the terms of the Motion, they might conclude that they had discussed this question enough for all practical purposes. He quite agreed in the general view expressed in the Motion; but he was in this unfortunate position—that different views were en- tertained with respect to what he said last year. One hon. Gentleman went so far as to state that he had distinctly promised that Government would take up the question and deal with it in the course of the present Session, and had called him over the coals for not having carried that promise to fulfilment; but, certainly, that was not the view of what he had said taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), who had, upon the occasion in question, complained that he had not made any definite statement upon the matter, but had treated it in a light manner as if it were a question of no importance. All he could say was that they were both mistaken. There was, however, no one more sensible of the importance of the question than he was; but then it was one which must be dealt with as a whole, and not in piecemeal. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Hankey) seemed enamoured of the one idea that the whole of the Metropolis should be included in the City of London. That was a startling proposition, so much so, indeed, that the hon. and gallant Baronet the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board immediately rose from his seat and left the House. If, however, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough would embody that proposal in a Bill, and submit it to the House, it was probable the hon. and gallant Baronet would remain in his seat and let the hon. Member understand that there were weighty objections to it. As regarded the reform of the City of London, it was a large and serious question, and had been considered by Committee after Committee and by Commission after Commission, which had, no doubt, collected a vast amount of material for Government to deal with, and such was its importance that no person but the Government should attempt to do so. There were, however, several minor points—minor points as regarded the main question, but still of great importance in themselves. Such was the watering of the streets, and such was the efficiency of the fire brigade; but both these questions depended upon a much larger one, which was that of the general water supply. He looked upon that as one of very great importance, for the water supplied for household use was in such a state that it ought to be discontinued. There were a great many minor questions involved in this which ought to be dealt with at once, for he was not one of those who thought that if they could not at once carry some gigantic measure of reform they should not attempt reforms in detail. Besides the defective system of local government in the Metropolis, there was the defective system of vestry administration. He was glad to find that his hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke) had joined the vestry of his parish, for the great difficulty in the way of the system of local government by vestries was the inability to find gentlemen of ability and social standing to undertake the duties of vestrymen, where they obtained no honour, but had to undertake a great deal of work, and disagreeable work, for which they received no thanks. There was no doubt the nature of the election prevented gentlemen of that class seeking for seats on the vestry; and, therefore, he would at once remove every impediment in the way of obtaining the best men to serve. Some gentlemen were of opinion that the functions of vestrymen were small—they were small in one sense; but in another they were of the utmost importance, as upon them to a large extent depended the comfort, the domestic happiness, the health, and the daily convenience of the inhabitants. In the first place, it was the duty of the vestrymen to see that the house drains were properly connected with the sewers; but he believed few of them took that trouble. [Mr. J. R. YORKE: They do not.] They had it, then, on the authority of a vestryman that they never did that duty. Again, as regarded the filthy state of the footpaths. The duty of keeping them clean rested with the occupiers of the houses forming the frontage; but if they neglected to do so, then it was for the vestries to step in and put the law in force by compelling them to do so. Then, as to the watering of the streets, he agreed that the system of watering in Paris was superior to theirs. But the watering of the streets and the efficiency of the fire brigade could not, he repeated, be well dealt with apart from the general question of the water supply. He did not wish to put aside that great question; but it would be irregular for him to deal with it until it came before the House as a whole. When the Motions on the Paper bearing upon these subjects were brought forward, he would be quite prepared to state the views of the Government upon them. He might add, in conclusion, that his hon. Friend had suggested one practical question which was well worthy of consideration, and that was, if they could not obtain a regular Government audit of vestry accounts. That was a subject which, in his (Mr. Assheton Cross's) opinion, must be dealt with before long.


said, that after the discussion which had occurred he should, with the permission of the House, withdraw his Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."