§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that the measure was based on the recommendations of a Royal Commis- 645 sion. Its character was very comprehensive, as it sought to provide for the whole Kingdom, wherever a noxious trade was carried on, or noxious gas emanations injurious to the health of the public were produced, such a remedy as would be readily applicable without unduly interfering with the industry of the country. It was intended by the Bill to raise from the trades and manufacturers themselves a comparatively small sum of money which, with the amount already provided by Parliament, would be sufficient to supply an adequate machinery for giving effect to its object. In connection with the history of previous legislation with regard to the subject, he would remind the House that the original Alkali Act, passed in 1863, was designed to cure the mischief done to vegetation from the evolution of muriatic acid gas. It limited to a great extent the mischief done by isolated works; but the progress of trade had led to the establishment of a great aggregation of these manufactories in many districts, especially on the Tyne and Mersey, and the result was that vegetation was entirely destroyed in those neighbour-hoods. Accordingly, when he entered upon his present office, applications were made to him by gentlemen connected with the localities thus affected for an amendment and extension of the Act. That was affected by the Act of 1874, which required the owners of those factories so to conduct their operations as to allow only an almost imperceptible amount of muriatic acid gas to escape from the chimneys of their works at one time. Complaints, however, were still made that vegetation continued to wither from the effect of these gases, and the Government consented in 1875–6 to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Act and report on the whole subject of the injury to the public done by noxious vapours. Concurrently with the appointment of the Royal Commission an Inspector of the Local Government Board was engaged to examine factories and ascertain what means were available to diminish the mischief the caused by the evolution of gases; and he recommended that provisions analogous to those in the Alkali Acts should be applied to several trades. The first part of the Bill consolidated and re-enacted the main provision of the Alkali 646 Acts, and added new obligations with regard to sulphuric and other acids upon the manufacturers, in order that as little as possible might be emitted during the process of manufacturing. The second part was devoted to the trades that were placed for the first time under these obligations. The third part catalogued all the remaining trades that were to come under inspection, and that were to be liable to be called upon to adopt such preventive methods as were from time to time shown to be applicable. In this way, the inspection hitherto confined to alkali works would be extended for the benefit of the whole community. Existing works would be allowed a certain time for re-registration, without which no new works would be allowed. Licence fees would have to be paid and would reduce the cost of inspection, and a sanitary district, or a combination of two or more districts, might apply for the services of an Inspector, who would be paid by the Government, the district to guarantee a certain proportion of the salary. Complaint had been made of the supposed leniency of the Alkali Inspectors in instituting proceedings, but he doubted whether there was any ground for such complaint. The efficiency of inspection was not to be tested by the number of proceedings against works, for much good was done indirectly and without resort to legal measures. If the law with regard to nuisances arising from noxious gases were made uniform throughout the United Kingdom, he was satisfied that manufacturers would readily adopt any regulations on the subject which might be laid clown. In conclusion, he would move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Sclater-Booth).
§ SIR HENEY JAMES moved the adjournment of the debate, and his reasons for doing so he felt sure the House would accept. This was a very important Bill, in which many persons were strongly interested who were absent, and it seriously affected certain manufacturers in, for instance, the 29th clause. Therefore, when the Bill was discussed it ought to be discussed fully. Now, the right hon. Gentleman was asked on Thursday when he would take the Bill, 647 and he distinctly said he would take it on Monday.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
begged to explain. The Bill stood for last evening. He was asked about it early in the day, and he said he was afraid from the opposition to it that it would be impossible to take it before Monday, but that he had not given up all hope of taking it that evening.
§ SIR HENEY JAMES
asked, whether the natural inference from those words was not that the Bill would not be taken this evening? He knew many Members, including his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), who desired to speak on the Bill, had gone away, and if the second reading were pressed on, the only effect would be to create a feeling that a promise had been broken, and so to prevent its further progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Henry James.)
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he could not resist the Motion, if it were pressed; but he believed the hon. and learned Gentleman was the only Member in the House who desired the adjournment. His answer was not reported, and as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) was not present when the answer was given, he could not be prejudiced.
§ MR. WILBRAHAM EGERTON
said, he was in the House at the time the answer was given; but, as he did not catch its purport, he spoke to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sclater-Booth) afterwards, and certainly understood from him that he would bring on the measure that (Friday) night, if he could. He thought it would be very inconvenient to delay the Bill, and to waste the time of hon. Members who had come down to support the second reading.
§ MR. LOWTHIAN BELL
could not tell, of course, what took place between the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board and the last speaker privately; but immediately after hearing the answer given on the previous evening, he went into the Lobby and told half-a-dozen gentlemen, manufacturers and others, that the Bill would not come on before Monday, and they consequently went away. As a whole, he liked the Bill, although its 648 promoters had been singularly unjust in certain clauses to the manufacturers.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, of course, where there was any misunderstanding as to an arrangement, it was far better to take an adjournment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.