HC Deb 18 March 1879 vol 244 cc1153-4

asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether it is true that the Registrar General has reported that the death-rate of the Metropolis, which was 22.3 in every thousand in 1876, and 21.9 in 1877, has risen in 1878 to 23.5in every thousand; whether this increase was almost entirely due to zymotic diseases; whether the death-rate has risen to a still higher figure in recent weeks (29.2 in that ending March 8th); whether Dr. Frankland has reported that during the past year the quality of water delivered by the Companies who derive their supply from the Thames was inferior even to the unsatisfactory water supply of recent years; and, whether the Local Government Board have taken any action in consequence of these reports?


It is true, Sir, as stated in the hon. Gentleman's Question, that the annual death-rate in London, which was 23.8, 22.3, and 21.9 per 1,000 in 1875, 1876, and 1877, rose again to 23.5 in 1878. It is also true that during the first 10 weeks of this year, influenced by the severe winter, the death-rate has averaged 26.3 per 1,000. The average annual death-rate in London, however, during the eight past years of the current decade—1871–78—has averaged but 22.8 per 1,000, against 23.6 and 24.3 in the two preceding decades—1861–70 and 1851–60 respectively—showing an actual recent decline. As to the increase in 1878, compared with the exceptionally low rate in 1877, less than one-third of it was due to the increased fatality of the principal zymotic diseases—namely, whooping cough and diarrhœa. The marked excess of mortality in the first 10 weeks of this year is in no way due to zymotic diseases. The annual zymotic death-rate in London in the eight years 1871–8 has averaged 4.0 per 1,000, against 4.5 and 4.9 in the two preceding decades, 1861–70 and 1851–60 respectively. In reply to the second part of the Question, Dr. Frankland has reported that with one exception—namely, 1872—the Thames water was last year more polluted than during recent years by organic matter, and that owing to the frequent heavy floods the water was extremely difficult to filter. The efficiency of filtration, however, during 1878, as ascertained by the monthly analysis of the Local Government Board's examiner, shows that out of 60 samples of the water of the five Thames companies in that year, 48 were clear and transparent, whereas it appears that during the six preceding years the average result was that out of the 60 samples 42 only were clear and transparent. The Local Government Board have no power to enforce a supply of water from any fresh source, their powers being chiefly limited to seeing, through their officer, the water examiner, whether the water is, as far as practicable, properly filtered. They have not failed to impress upon the companies the necessity of adopting all necessary improvements, and during the last two years the five Thames companies have expended upwards of £400,000 in constructing improved reservoirs and filtering beds. Many of these new works are completed, or on the verge of completion.