HC Deb 14 March 1882 vol 267 cc915-6

rose to call attention to the Report of the Committee on the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in 1877, with the object of moving— That, in the opinion of this House, the protection to life and property from fire in the Metropolis is insufficient, and that whilst a constant water supply, with proper hydrants affixed, is absolutely necessary for its improvement, the management of the Fire Brigade itself should for the future form a branch of the Police Force of the Metropolis. The hon. Baronet remarked that his official position in the late Government had prevented him from following up the Report of the Committee of 1877; but the question was still one demanding the urgent attention of the House; and its importance might be gathered from the fact that during the seven years from 1868 to 1875 there were 1,197 lives endangered, and as many as 240 of them lost, by fires in the Metropolis. Since that period, moreover, these figures had gone on in a constantly increasing ratio. He had been unable to get the particulars for 1875 and 1876; but in 1877 he found that 165 lives were endangered and 29 lost; in 1878, 151 endangered and 25 lost; in 1879, 164 endangered and 32 lost; in 1880, 160 endangered and 33 lost; and last year, 1881, 154 lives endangered and 40 lost. Those statistics showed that in the last five years 159 lives had been sacrificed, and nearly 400 lives had been lost in 12 years. Another reason for calling attention to this matter was the large number of fires which took place in the Metropolis. Last year there were 1,991 fires, without including what were called "chimney fires," and of those 167 were of a serious character. There was a steady increase of fires, and, beyond the loss of life which resulted, the destruction of property was serious. Every day the Metropolis was growing in size; and if they looked at the streets and the mode of paving so much prevalent, there might be an additional danger under their feet if a fire got beyond the control of the Fire Brigade. General com- plaints as to the frequency and danger of fires, and the discontent existing amongst the firemen, led to the appointment of the Committee in 1876. When that Committee was sitting evidence was brought forward showing that the discontent amongst the men hindered recruiting, and that the men were short-handed and over-worked. The subject of the water supply also was considered, and even the question as to whether the Metropolitan Board of Works was the proper authority to have control of the Brigade was discussed, and the suggestion that the Brigade should be formed as a branch of the police was carefully gone into. That Committee sat from April to July in 1876, and from March to May in 1877. There was no doubt that the Committee made an exhaustive inquiry into the merits of the whole case. As to the question of superannuation, he would not go into that, because in 1877 the Metropolitan Board of Works brought forward a scheme which he was informed was working satisfactorily. The hon. Gentleman was proceeding to show how far the Fire Brigade, on receiving an increase of pay, had availed itself of the additional facilities afforded it in an increase of the water supply, when—

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at half after Seven o'clock.