HC Deb 25 April 1881 vol 260 cc1170-9

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Dodson.)


hoped the right hon. Gentleman did not propose to proceed with the Bill that evening.


said, he merely wished the House to forward the Bill into the stage of Committee, and he only proposed to go on with the unopposed parts of the measure. He should not press any matter upon which there was opposition.


said, he had placed a Notice upon the Paper of his intention to move that, instead of Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair, the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. The measure was one which proposed to place serious restrictions, not only upon alkali works, but upon all persons en- gaged in the manufacture of cement. The Preamble of the Bill declared that it was necessary to amend the Alkali Works Act of 1874, and to make further provision for regulating works from which noxious gases were emitted. His reason for asking the House to send the Bill to a Select Committee was that he believed, if the House assented to that proposition, he should be able to show the Committee that there were no noxious gases whatever emitted in the manufacture of cement. He did not ask the House to accept that dictum from him; but he would read a few words, and a few words only, from the evidence given upon this subject by two most eminent chemists. The first was Dr. Russell, Honorary Secretary to the Chemical Society and Lecturer on Chemistry at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and that gentleman stated in his evidence that he had spent some days in examining, in a most careful manner, the vapours and gases emitted from cement works, and the conclusion ho arrived at from Ids analysis was that the smoke emitted was largely diluted with air, and that it became, immediately on emission, still more diluted, so that within a few yards only of its emission there was only to be recognized the very slightest trace of gas more than existed in the air itself. Certainly the extent of the existence of noxious gases was not sufficient to render the vapours emitted from cement works in any degree unwholesome or dangerous. Dr. Russell added, that on examining the condition of the neighbourhood in which these works were in existence, he failed to find any indication of injury. He (Sir Sydney Waterlow) might be told that in the evidence given before the Committee on Noxious Vapours some of the chemists who were examined gave an opinion which differed from that expressed by Dr. Russell; but the views of Dr. Russell were strongly confirmed by another eminent chemist—Dr. Odling. These very differences were, he thought, an argument in favour of the Motion he was about to make—that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, in order that such Committee might have an opportunity of examining scientific witnesses, so as to obtain a clear opinion upon the whole facts of the case. He ventured to think that if, instead of referring the Bill to a Select Committee, its provisions were dealt with by a Committee of the Whole House, it would be impossible to bring before the House any evidence of that kind. He might also point out that there were other matters involved in the Bill which could only be fairly inquired into by a Select Committee. The manufacturer of cement in this country was already seriously handicapped by foreign competition, and if further restrictions were to be imposed upon him by a Bill of this description, it would be impossible for the British manufacturer to hold his own in competition with the foreign trade; and the result would be that the Legislature would drive from the banks of our rivers a trade which at the present moment afforded means of employment for a large number of persons. It was unnecessary to point out that such a result would be a great injury, not only to the manufacturers, but to the working classes. The cement works had been erected on the faith of an understanding that they would not be interfered with. Large sums of money had been invested in the trade when the former Act of Parliament was passed; but the manufacture of cement would be most materially and injuriously affected if the Bill was to pass in its present shape. Under these circumstances, he hoped the House would allow the Bill to go to a Select Committee, because he believed it could easily be proved that the vapours front cement manufactories and from gas works were injurious to a very trifling and inappreciable extent. He did not think it was necessary that at that stage of the Bill be should trouble the House further; but he would simply move, as an Amendment, "That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee."


begged to second the Amendment. There was evidence already that the vapours from this particular class of works were not quite so injurious as represented; and the Bill, if passed as it stood, he was informed, would materially interfere with the conditions under which the manufacture of cement and manure would in future be carried on. It was only reasonable, therefore, that a Select Committee should have au opportunity of inquiring into the matter, and of hearing the evidence of scientific witnesses upon it, so that sonic means might be devised of giving relief to the manufacturers, without materially interfering with the main objects which the Bill was intended to accom- plish. For these reasons, he had much pleasure in seconding the proposition of the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir Sydney Waterlow) that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be referred to a Select Committee,"—(Sir Sydney Waterlow,)—instead thereof.

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


said, he was fully alive to the extreme importance of taking care, in the passing of this Bill, that no works or manufactories should be brought under its provisions of which the necessity could not clearly be shown. But, at the same time, he confessed that he was unable to see in the arguments of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Sydney Waterlow) anything sufficient to justify the House in referring the Bill to a Select Committee. He thought it would be granted that in Committee of the Whole House they would be quite ready to hear and consider all the arguments that might be adduced in favour of excluding certain works from the operation of the Bill, or in favour of including under its provisions other works which were not already included under them. It must be borne in mind that they were not altogether without evidence in the matter. Hon. Members would be aware that a Royal Commission had already held an inquiry, and had presented an important Report. He was bound to say that in certain districts of the country—certainly in some parts of his own neighbourhood—the results arising from the unrestricted emission of noxious vapours were most deplorable. It was quite time that Parliament should take the matter in hand, in order to see how far the evils complained of could be remedied. If the Bill were referred to a Select Committee, and if it was intended that evidence should be given before such Select Committee in relation to the various trades affected by the Bill, it would be quite hopeless to expect that the Bill could be passed during the present Session. Therefore, although he was quite prepared in Committee of the Whole House to consider the case of the cement manufacturers, and although he had no doubt that the House would be similarly prepared, he did not think the arguments of the hon. Member for Gravesend were sufficient to justify them, solely in reference to the interests of a particular class of manufacturers, in preventing progress being made with the measure during the present year.


wished to say a few words upon the question before it was disposed of. He came from a part of the country which was very deeply interested in the whole question. Any hon. Member who had seen, smelt, or felt the evils which arose from noxious vapours emitted from alkali works, would certainly not vote for referring the Bill to a Select Committee. This was not a new matter; it was not a matter which they were approaching for the first time, and it was not a matter upon which the House had no information. The whole subject had already been inquired into by a Royal Commission, and had been thoroughly sifted in every possible shape and form, and the whole of the evidence collected by the Commission would be found in the Library. If any hon. Member would do him the favour to visit his (Sir R. Assheton Cross's) county, he would be able to see how matters stood under the present law. A person engaged in agricultural pursuits might see the finest crop of wheat one day, and look forward with the greatest possible hope to a good harvest; and the next morning he might awake to find the whole of his hopes absolutely blasted by the vapourings from alkali works. No one could well imagine the amount of destruction done to the crops unless he saw it. That being so, and the matter having already been thoroughly sifted and investigated in every form and shape, the Government had acted very properly in introducing the present Bill. In that Bill they did not adopt the entire Report of the Royal Commission which investigated the subject, and they did not seek to apply the provisions of the measure to all manner of works; but they took those works only which were considered to be of an injurious nature, and limited the scope of the Bill to them. He was bound to say that the Bill, as it stood, deserved in a great measure the support of the House. There would be no objection to consider the case of cement works when the Bill got into Committee, or any other special class of works in regard to which evidence might be brought before the Committee to convince them that such works should not be included in the Bill. But the measure was practically an Alkali Bill, and as an Alkali Bill it must be passed. He would appeal to any hon. Member connected with Lancashire, no matter from what part of the county he came, whether the Bill was not an absolute matter of necessity? All these smaller and minor matters could very well be dealt with in a full Committee. There was no one better able to deal with the case of the cement works than the hon. Baronet opposite the Member for Gravesend (Sir Sydney Waterlow), and the House, when the Bill went into Committee, would be quite ready to hear anything the hon. Baronet might have to say. He was quite sure that his hon. Friend behind him, the Member for Suffolk (Mr. Biddell), would bear him out when he said that it was quite time to put a stop to the main evil they required to deal with. If the Bill went to a Select Committee, everyone knew it would be absolutely impossible to deal with the question during the present Session. He therefore hoped that his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board would not accept the Motion of the hon. Member for Gravesend, and if his right hon. Friend would not accept it, he hoped both sides of the House would support him.


pointed out that the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir Sydney Waterlow) was based not upon the question of the alkali works, which had been so forcibly dwelt upon by his right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), but upon certain other other works, which his hon. Friend sought to exclude from the operation of the Bill. The questions which would have to be raised in regard to these works involved so many matters of detail, and so much technicality, that he was quite sure the House, with the immense amount of Business it had to transact during the rest of the Session, would not be able to devote to the consideration of the question the amount of time that was necessary to enable them to deal with it fairly. He was quite sure that if it was really desired to make speedy progress with the measure, the best plan would be to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Gravesend, and refer the Bill to a Select Committee, so that the time for the consideration it would require at the hands of the House, when it came down from the Select Committee, might be materially shortened. He did not think that anybody in the House was opposed to the principle of the Bill, so far as alkali works were concerned; but as regarded certain other branches of industry which, as it stood at present, were included in it, he thought they had not at present had an opportunity of being heard in the matter. It was, therefore, desirable that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, so that they might be able to obtain the opinion of scientific experts and of persons who were engaged in the trade. For these reasons, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would accept the proposition of the hon. Member for Gravesend.


I must ask the House to support the Motion I have made, that the Speaker do now leave the Chair. As I have already stated, if that Motion is assented to, I do not propose to ask the House to go, at this hour of the night, into any of the provisions of the Bill that may be opposed; but as soon as we arrive in Committee at any opposed portion of the Bill, I should ask the Committee to stop. I would ask the House to consider for a moment what the proposition is which I have submitted to it. This is a Bill founded on the Report of a Royal Commission, which Royal Commission was composed of Members of both Branches of the Legislature, of practical men engaged in business, and of scientific men. Some of the most eminent chemists in the country were Members of that Commission. The Commission heard evidence in regard to all the different businesses which are included in the Bill, and a great many more; and they made an elaborate Report, which was presented to Parliament with a very full volume of the evidence taken. The present Bill is founded on the Report of that Commission. As my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross) has pointed out, it does not go to the full extent of the Report of that Commission; but it only applies to those businesses which the Commissioners emphatically declared stand most in need of such legislation. The hon. Baronet behind me (Sir Sydney Waterlow) says he wishes the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee, because it includes in its provisions as it now stands cement works, and he thinks he should be able to show a Select Committee that cement works should not be included. Now, I would ask the House if it is fair to ask that an entire Bill of this nature should be referred to a Select Committee on the single question of cement works? I should be perfectly ready in Committee of the Whole House, or privately, to give every attention to any representation that might be made to me by the manufacturers engaged in cement works, or by the hon. Baronet, or by any other hon. Member; but I cannot admit that any case has been made out for referring the Bill to a Select Committee. The matters with which the Bill deals have already been the subject of a very careful investigation by a Royal Commission; and if the only object of referring the Bill to a Select Committee is to take evidence upon scientific and business matters, upon which the Royal Commission has already taken evidence, the only practical result would be that you would be appealing from a tribunal more competent—namely, a Royal Commission—to one less competent, and with less power of affording information—namely, a Select Committee. It is not necessary that I should detain the House longer. I hope that hon. Members will support me in the proposition I have made, that the Speaker should now leave the Chair.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Commencement of Act).

SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW moved, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 9, to omit "1882," and insert "1883." The Bill provided that after the passing of the Act the Inspectors should be empowered to order the works that were deemed necessary under it to be carried out; and Clause 2 provided that the Act should come into operation in January, 1882. Many persons, on the faith of the existing law, had incurred considerable expenditure in the construction of works for carrying on certain manufacturing processes, and they were now to be called upon entirely to alter the character of their works. It was hardly fair, he thought, to put a man in that position without giving him full and proper notice. If the clause remained as it stood, the manufacturer would, practically, have only four months to make what might prove to be very serious alterations. He had no wish to say anything in regard to alkali works, because he did not pretend to understand that question; but it would be perfectly impossible for any cement manufacturer to re-construct his works and put them in the form indicated in the evidence given before the Royal Commission in the course of four months. He would therefore move, as an Amendment, to insert "1883" instead of "1882," which would give an additional year for constructing the necessary works.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "1882," in order to insert "1883."—(Sir Sydney Waterlow.)

Question proposed, "That '1882' stand part of the Clause."


said, that as he had told the House he would not press any matter that was objected to, of course, if the hon. Baronet insisted upon his Amendment, he (Mr. Dodson) would move to report Progress. He would, however, point out that it was a misapprehension to suppose that a manufacturer would be required within four months to alter his works, although the work of inspection under the Bill would commence at that date.


remarked, that the manufacturer might be summoned if he had not complied with the provisions of the Act.


hoped the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir Sydney Waterlow) would not press the Amendment. The statement made by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Dodson) ought to be entirely satisfactory. He did not think the effect of the Amendment would be a very serious one, except that it would put off for another year all the benefits that were to be derived from the Act. It was, however, quite a mistake to suppose that the moment the Act came into operation the pains and penalties imposed under it would be put in force. It simply provided that from and after the time the Act came into operation a certain inspection should commence, and that the Inspector should have power to recommend certain alterations. In every case it was carefully provided that ample time should be given for carrying out the alterations required by the Act. He was quite satisfied that there was no desire to press the manufacturers unduly.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do now report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Dodson,)—put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.