HC Deb 24 March 1887 vol 312 cc1287-316

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."—(Mr. Dodds.)

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

This Bill, as hon. Members will see, has passed through the House of Lords, and, having been read a second time in this House, has also passed through a Committee upstairs. It is, therefore, a somewhat strong measure to ask the House to reject the Bill under such circumstances, on what is practically the third reading; but I think I shall be able to show the House that in this case they ought to do BO. I have no doubt that the Committee upstairs carefully examined the provisions of the measure, and that, under the Chairmanship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), they have made their Report most conscientiously. But they only heard one side of the case. The other side was not heard at all, and, in point of fact, at the present moment, and since this Bill was brought into the House of Lords, the Kensington Vestry themselves have declared that they are opposed to it. We are, therefore, asked to pass a Kensington Vestry Bill against which the Kensington Vestry have pronounced. The Bill was brought in last Session, and came under the Resolution which provided that Bills which had passed through certain stages last Session should be carried forward to the present Session. I propose to state very briefly what is the opposition of the Kensington Vestry in regard to this Bill. The Bill originated with a Joint Committee of Works and Wharves of the Kensington Vestry, who were appointed to consider the best moans of disposing of the refuse of the parish. The Report of the Joint Committee was agreed to in November, 1885, and on the same day a Motion was passed by the Vestry directing the present Bill to be prepared. The Bill was accordingly deposited, but at the election of Vestrymen in May, 1886, there were 26 vacant seats in this particular ward. I may explain that there are three wards in the district which are treated by this Bill; but there is only one particular ward in which it is proposed that this dust destructor should be erected. Out of 26 Vestrymen returned in the month of May, 19 were persons who were opposed to the Bill. In Juno last a Motion was made in the Vestry itself to rescind the Resolution which ordered that the Bill should be prepared. That Motion was supported by 42 votes against 30, or by a large majority against those who were in favour of the Bill in the Vestry itself. Nevertheless, the Resolution was not carried, because one of the bye-laws of the Vestry requires that there shall be a two-thirds majority in order to rescind any Motion previously passed. The consequence was that the Bill came before the Committee of the House of Commons. Having already passed the House of Lords it was also carried through the Committee of the House of Commons, and it was called the Kensington Vestry Bill, although, in point of fact, the Kensington Vestry were opposed to it. I have just this moment presented a Petition against the Bill from the Kensington Vestry signed by 55 members. They state in that Petition that they and a large body of the parishioners object to the erection of a destructor as tending not only to destroy the value of property in the neighbourhood, but also to injure the health of the inhabitants. They further point out that it will seriously affect the trades and industries of the neighbourhood, and they submit that the ratepayers should be directly consulted before Parliament is asked to inflict such a serious and improper expenditure upon the district. This Petition is signed by 55 members of the Kensington Vestry who are supposed to be promoting the Bill, and they wind up their objections by the prayer— That the Bill may not receive the sanction of your honourable House, and may not be passed into law. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Barnstaple Division of Devonshire (Mr. Pitt-Lewis) has placed an Amendment on the Paper which declares that no destructor shall be erected until the opinion of the owners and ratepayers of the parish of Kensington shall have been taken by moans of a poll. Now, if the Bill is to pass at all I am certainly of opinion that it is desirable it should pass with the Amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman; but I do think that, looking at the fact that the Kensington Vestry themselves are opposed to the Bill, and that the people of Kensington, and especially of this particular ward—Netting Hill—have declared themselves strongly opposed to the Bill, it would be a far more sensible course, instead of tinkering the measure and amending it, to throw it out altogether. I do not propose to go into the merits of the question. I am perfectly willing to admit that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Chaplin) and the Committee carefully examined the matter, and received technical evidence as to the best means of destroying refuse of this kind. It is proposed to cart the dust and refuse from all parts of the parish of Kensington to a particular site in North Kensington, where the poorer portion of the population live. The area from which the dust is collected is a very large one, and it is contended by persons who have looked into the matter, and who live on the spot, that the health of the inhabitants will be destroyed if the Bill is allowed to pass, owing to the smoke and the fumes from the noxious gases which will be emitted. It is maintained that it would be far better to cart all this refuse away, as is done at present. I do not, however, so much dwell upon that point; and I own that there is always some difficulty in inducing the House of Commons, upon the third reading, to throw out a Bill which has already passed through a Committee. In asking the House to take that course, I will only dwell upon the special fact that a considerable time has elapsed since the Bill was brought in by the Kensington Vestry. It was ordered to be prepared at a very small meeting of that Vestry, and since that time not only have the people of the parish opposed the measure, but the Kensington Vestry themselves, in the Petition I have presented to-day, oppose it. I have already pointed out that the Vestry would themselves have rescinded the Resolution directing the preparation of the Bill if it had not been for the fact that to do so required a two-thirds vote. Nevertheless, at this moment, the House will find that 55 members of the Kensington Vestry are asking that the Bill shall not be proceeded with. Under these circumstances, I hope the House will consent to throw out the Bill; and I beg to move that the Bill be considered upon this day six months.


I beg to second the Amendment; and, in the first place, I would ask what are the proposals contained in this Bill? I think it is desirable that the House should understand that the parish of Kensington is a very large district of some throe and a-half miles in length from North to South. Its widest part is in the South, where it is nearly two miles in width; and its narrowest part is in the North, where it is only half-a-mile wide. At the extreme northern, or the North Kensington part of the district, it is proposed that the whole of the refuse of the parish of Kensington should be collected and destroyed in a destructor by means of a huge furnace. Now, Sir, the refuse of the parish is of a very varied description. It consists not only of road sweepings, but of such matters as dead eats, dead dogs, decayed fruit and vegetable matter, sardine tins, dead rats, brick bats, oyster shells, jam pots, dress improvers, crinolines, pails, broken bottles, and many other miscellaneous articles. On the other side of the River, where something of the same kind has already been attempted under the direction of the parish officers, the experience has been by no means satisfactory, although, in that case, there is the River Lea and other moans for carrying away any of the refuse which is not absolutely got rid of in the destructor. Now, in Kensington, where it is proposed to put up this destructor, there is no such thing, and the Kensington Vestry have selected this point, although there were many other places which were much more suitable. There are wharves in the South of Kensington, near Warwick Road, which are easily accessible by railway, and there is also a canal wharf in another part of the northern district. Nevertheless, it is proposed to take this refuse away from all the well-to-do portions of the parish, and send to the poorest district this miserable tribute of the rich to the poor. Now, Sir, I would ask the House to consider what would be said if it were proposed to erect in the southern portion of Kensington any such structure. Suppose, for instance, it was proposed to take a portion of the Horticultural Gardens or a portion of Kensington Gardens, and devote them to the purposes of getting rid of the refuse of the parish of Kensington. We know very well what an outcry would be raised, and how the idea would at once be scouted, and yet at those places the erection of a destructor would do comparatively little harm. But what does it matter to some 100,000 or 200,000 well-to-do people if the poorer portion of the inhabitants are to be incommoded by smoke and noxious gases so long as they can and au easy means of getting rid of their refuse? What is now proposed is, that this hideous collection of all sorts of refuse is to be carried over an area of six square miles, trundled through the streets, and conveyed upon a point which is the narrowest in the district. But that is not all. The point selected is just on the borders of the parish of Hammersmith; and I, as an inhabitant of Hammersmith, object to the Kensington Vestry bringing their refuse to the borders of that parish. This parish contains a population of 100,000 persons, and the refuse of all the streets in the parish is to be carted away to this district of the North, principally occupied by the poor. A largo number of the population are engaged in the smaller industries—chiefly in the industry of washing. For about a mile to the North, a mile to the South, and a mile to the West the laundry establishments are very numerous, and a large population have to depend entirely, for their means of livelihood, upon this particular industry. There can be no doubt that the whole of the immediate locality will suffer very much in times of foggy and heavy atmosphere from the soot which will be distributed around, and it is only when there is a strong wind that there can be any reasonable hope that the fumes and smoke arising from the furnace will be got rid of. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that to establish anything of this kind in this particular locality will destroy this washing industry. [Mr. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford): Why?] The right hon. Gentleman is not acquainted, probably, with anything so low as a laundry business, or he would be aware that if the washing is dirtied by soot or dust of any kind it has to be re-washed, and that would be a very great loss to the poor people engaged in this industry. Clause 10 of the Bill provides that the Vestry shall not, under the powers of the Act, take more than a limited number of houses belonging to the labouring class; but what is the use of preserving their houses if you deprive the people themselves of the means by which they live? Then, again, we are told that the Vestry is to be required to lay out a certain portion of the land they take under the Bill for the purpose of forming a recreation ground. I expect that was au afterthought on the part of the promoters put in somewhat late; and I confess that on reading it it suggested to me very much the smile of a death's head on a coffin. What is the use of talking of a recreation ground when such ground must depend entirely upon the extent of the land required for the purposes of the Bill itself, and when the purposes of the Bill are satisfied? There would certainly be very little land left which could be devoted to the purposes of a recreation ground. Most of the poor people of the district live in squalid houses, and within 500 yards of this site there are hoard and other schools attended by 6,000 children. The nuisance arising from the offensive smells given off by this collection of refuse must be very great indeed. It is idle to say that there would be no offensive smell, and that the health and comfort of these children would not be very much interfered with. There are hundreds and thousands of carts constantly travelling through this locality, through narrow streets that are not particularly well drained, and the annoyance and nuisance arising from this objectionable addition to the traffic would be very serious indeed. It is pretended that all the refuse from Kensington can be got rid of in this way; but the pretence is an utterly false one, as experience has shown. I have hero a tabulated list in regard to the destructors already in operation in different parts of the country. I will not trouble the House by going into the details supplied in this long and formidable document. I will only say that the result is this—that in very few places at all, and only such as are favourably situated, is it attempted to get rid of all the refuse. In Lambeth, at Betts's Yard, the official in charge states that the parish is obliged to incur very heavy expense—I believe at the rate of £4 per barge load—in order to get rid of the refuse they dare not keep on the premises and are unable to burn. So far as the destructor is concerned it has failed absolutely, owing to the slow burning of the furnace. Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that the Kensington Vestry would not be able to get rid of all the refuse of the parish when it comes in. It must also be borne in mind that the refuse does not come in regularly, and not in exact quantities, day by day; but in certain circumstances of the weather there is a larger deposit and delivery than at other times. Consequently there would be an accumulation of this abominable material for many days in the neighbourhood. The officers in charge of Betts's Yard have been good enough to allow a friend of mine to inspect the process, and while he was there there came in a largo load of rotten oranges. He expected to see them put into the furnace at once, but the man in charge told him that it was impossible to get rid of that kind of refuse by burning. As a matter of fact, it is perfectly impossible to burn refuse of that kind; and yet from Kensington High Street and the streets in the neighbourhood there will be a large amount of refuse fruit thrown from time to time on the hands of the Vestry which will have to be got rid of somehow. It is pretended that the ratepayers of Kensington will be able to save a large amount of money if this Bill is adopted. I think, however, that the figures are altogether illusory, because they do not take into account the expense of getting rid of the refuse which cannot be disposed of by the destructor alone. No doubt the saving to the ratepayers is a very reasonable and proper object to have in view; but, unfortunately for this plan of erecting a destructor, I may say that the difficulty has already been solved in another part of London with perfect success, without employing any destructor at all. The Newington Board have arranged for getting rid of their refuse by railway, and the system has been so thoroughly successful that, although the population has increased enormously, the expense to which the Board is now put is actually less than it was before the system was adopted. I am told that the Newington Board are in reality making a saving of money as compared with their expenditure years ago, when the population was much less, and as compared with what the expenditure would be if the old system had been continued. The saving is something very remarkable indeed. Under these circumstances, because I believe that the erection of a destructor at North Kensington would not be true economy; because I believe that the work of getting rid of the refuse of the parish can be better carried out by other means; and because the plan adopted is cruelly unjust to the poor and labouring population, and is only supported by those who have regard to the convenience of the richer portion of the parish, I hope the House will assent to the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and decline to proceed further with the Bill. I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," in order to add the words "this day six months."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

Question proposed, "That the word. 'now' stand part of the Question."


It is under some physical difficulties that I rise for the purpose of supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton for the rejection of the Bill; but I do so with all the earnestness in my power, fully recognizing the sense of the responsibility which attaches to myself as Member for North Kensington. I believe that the Bill, if it is allowed to pass, will act most prejudicially against the interests of a large portion of the parish and the most defenceless class in my constituency. I am aware that in coming to ask the House to reject this Bill at this late stage we are taking a most unusual course; but I would venture to submit that, so far as my opposition is concerned as a Representative of the district affected, I was seriously ill at the time of the second reading, and for some time before, and that I was actually ignorant of its being brought forward. Further than that, since the time the Bill was road a second time the whole conditions of the case have been altered in regard to the constitution of the Kensington Vestry. It has already been pointed out that the nominal promoters of the Bill are now really in a considerable minority, and that the majority of the Vestry are bitterly opposed to the measure. That state of things has been brought about by the result of the last Vestry elections in North Kensington. Those elections took place in May last, and the House will remember that the Bill was read a second time in March. That fact has entirely, I venture to submit to the House, altered the complexion of the case. Who now are the promoters of the Bill? They are only a small faction in the Kensington Vestry. It has been pointed out to the House that this very question has been brought before the Kensington Vestry since the last elections. I myself was present in the Vestry at the time the division took place, and I can confirm the statement of the hon. Member for Northampton that in that division 43 members voted against the Bill and only 30 were in favour of it. The hostility of those 13 members was complete. They objected to the Bill altogether; and, consequently, the House is now asked to pass a Bill against which its nominal promoters, or those who were its most active supporters, are now petitioning. It may be asked, of course, why the Bill has not been withdrawn; but it has already been explained to the House that the bye-laws which govern the Kensington Vestry, and, I believe, other Vestries also, are such that it is necessary, when any resolution of the Vestry has once been adopted, that a two-thirds majority should vote for its recision. Up to the present moment I am free to admit that such a very large majority as that of two-thirds has not shown itself in the Kensington Vestry, although, nevertheless, there is a largo majority in the Vestry against the Bill. As a resident for some years in Kensington, and as one who is thoroughly acquainted with the opinion of the great bulk of the inhabitants, at least of North Kensington, and to a large extent of South Kensington, I am prepared to say that the whole feeling of North Kensington, the inhabitants of which district are the most nearly concerned, is dead against the Bill, and bitterly antagonistic to it. I believe that already the conscience of South Kensington has been touched in regard to the gross injustice which will be inflicted upon North Kensington if this Bill be passed. I gather that their conscience has been touched because the number of Vestrymen who have signed the Petition presented to-day by the hon. Member for Northampton actually exceeds the whole number of Vestrymen returned to the Vestry by North Kensington. Fifty-five members have signed the Petition, and in order to obtain so large a number it must have been necessary not only to include every member who represents North Kensington, but also a considerable number of those who represent the richer and more powerful Division of South Kensington. I hope the House will remember that North Kensington is essentially a workingman's constituency; but for parochial purposes it is tied up with the vastly richer and more powerful Division of South Kensington. That attachment has long been a source of serious grievance to my constituency in North Kensington. It may be within the knowledge of some hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench that repeated Peti- tions have been presented by the ratepayers of North Kensington praying that there may be a separation between the two Divisions of the parish for parochial purposes, principally on the ground that the material interests of the two Divisions very frequently clash. This Bill, I think, shows that the interests of the two Divisions do entirely clash on certain occasions. Now, what is proposed by this Bill is simply that the refuse of the entire parish—all the horrible filth produced throughout Kensington—should be carted away without any question as to the convenience of cartage, but should be carted away, not to an open district, but to the very centre of the most densely-populated and most crowded and poorest district that is to be found in the West of London. That circumstance, I think, shows that the interests of North Kensington are seriously affected by this measure; and I do, myself, earnestly hope that the House will take into consideration the points which have been laid before it this afternoon, and will reject the Bill. I do not propose to enter into any details with regard to the measure, because they have already been dealt with by the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. A. O'Connor), who seconded the Amendment. I should, however, like to mention one or two points in connection with a statement in support of the Bill which has been circulated, as I understand, to a largo number of the Members of this House. It is there stated that the combustion in the proposed destructor, which is to be placed in the midst of this poor and densely-crowded population, will be so complete that the whole of the noxious gases will be destroyed in the furnace itself. Now, I do not pretend to be a great scientific authority; but I would ask any hon. Member whether it is possible that all the gases can be utterly destroyed? No doubt, they may be modified, and be made to take other forms, and possibly rendered innocuous; but I maintain that they cannot be altogether destroyed. It is further stated in this document that the Medical Officers of Health strongly recommend the destruction of refuse of this kind by fire. Yes; but their recommendation is that the destruction should be carried on by fire, not in densely-populated localities, but as far as possible in open spaces, where the fumes given off in the operation will hurt nobody. Lastly, this statement, put forward, I presume, by those who are promoting the Bill, asserts that the evidence given before the Select Committee shows that the site now selected is the only one that was available for the purpose. Now, I would venture to ask whether it is meant by that assertion that the site selected in this poor and densely-crowded part of the parish is the only site that can be had for money? No, Sir; I am afraid that the only reason why this site is called the only available site is this—that the people who live in close proximity to it are so poor as to be defenceless in the matter. Therefore, I call upon the House with the utmost confidence to show that it is prepared to act as the defender of the poor in this question, and that it will at once throw out the Bill.

MR. PITT-LEWIS (Devon, Barnstaple)

As I have placed an Amendment on the Paper in reference to this Bill, I think it is desirable that I should be allowed to say a few words. I have also the honour to be a resident in Kensington, and I may say that this Bill would have passed through this House on a former occasion if I had not interposed in order to prevent it. Having taken, therefore, some action in conjunction with several of my neighbours in Kensington in regard to the Bill, the promoters approached me in order to ascertain what my objections were; and they have undertaken, in the event of the Bill passing, without reservation, to accept the clause which stands in my name upon the Paper. I may point out that the clause I propose to move provides that the Bill, if it is passed into law, shall not be acted upon so far as the erection of a destructor is concerned, if a demand in writing, signed by not loss than 30 members of the Vestry or not less than 300 of the owners and ratepayers of the parish of Kensington, be made that the question shall be decided by a poll of the owners and ratepayers of the parish, until such a poll shall have been determined in the same way as is determined by the Public Health Act of 1875. By that means the clause makes provision that, before the erection of a destructor is commenced, the opinion of the whole parish shall be taken on the subject. That is certainly a compromise, but it is a compromise which has been accepted by the promoters of the Bill. Therefore, opposed as I am to the erection of this destructor, I shall feel it a matter of honour to vote in favour of the Bill. I may be allowed to point out that, in arriving at this compromise, I bore one or two things in my mind. In the first place, there is nothing to prevent any person from purchasing this land, erecting a destructor upon it, and then making a contract with the parish for the use of it. In the next place, the site consists of some four acres, and if bought by the parish at least a portion of it will be appropriated for the purpose of a recreation ground. It seems to me that it would be better for the parish to have the land in its own hands than that it should fall into the hands of some speculator, who may use it in an objectionable way. There will be this further advantage—that if this Bill passes with the modification I have suggested, in the event of the provision relating to the erection of a destructor being refused by the owners and ratepayers on a poll, it will be in the power of the Vestry to secure the whole of the land for public purposes. I have thought it right to explain the part which I have taken in the matter. Although I regard the erection of a destructor as objectionable. I shall consider it my duty, under the circumstances, to vote for the consideration of the Bill, trusting to the good sense of the inhabitants of Kensington and the members of the Vestry to prevent the Bill from being converted into a nuisance.

MR. R. CHAMBERLAIN (Islington, W.)

I was one of the Members of the Committee who inquired into the merits of this Bill, and I think I am able, not only from the evidence given to the Committee but from my own personal knowledge, to give a satisfactory answer to the fears which have been expressed by the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. A. O'Connor) in reference to the evils which are likely to arise from the erection of the proposed destructor. First of all, in reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), let me point out that the Bill was brought in originally by the Kensington Vestry, and that if the additional provision proposed by the hon. Member for the Barnstaple Division of Devonshire (Mr. Pitt Lewis), and ac- cepted by the promoters, is assented to, the Vestry will be precluded from erecting a destructor unless they obtain the consent not only of the Vestry, but of the owners and ratepayers. The hon. Member for East Donegal has told the House that the whole of the refuse of tin's large parish will be brought to the destructor, and that the inhabitants will be annoyed by the perpetual passing of carts conveying objectionable refuse through the district. The hon. Member has been misinformed. Only one-half of the refuse of the parish will be convoyed to this particular spot; the other half will continue to be convoyed to a more convenient site down the River, near the old Cremorne Gardens. It is idle to suppose that the works will be a nuisance when the products of combustion are to be carried away by a chimney 180 feet high. It is, therefore, impossible for the soot to settle down in the middle of the laundry yards adjoining; and, instead of affecting the comfort of this poor neighbourhood, I am inclined to think that it is rather a matter which may concern the wealthier portion of the inhabitants of the parish, who live a little further off, who will be within the radius of the influence of the destructor, and who will get the effluvia, if there is any effluvia, and most of the blacks that may be floating about. If the objectionable particles which are supposed to be given off when the destructor is in full force descend anywhere, it will be in the richer portion of the parish that they will find a settlement. Again, it has been said that after the erection of the destructor there will be no land left for the purpose of providing a recreation ground. The Committee foresaw that objection, and they took special care to provide that three-quarters of an acre of this ground shall be laid out for the purpose of a recreation ground. It is said that it is impossible to provide a recreation ground in similar circumstances; but the experiment has been tried in Birmingham with successful results. Reference has been made to the existence of schools in the locality, and it is said that the health of the school children will suffer. Nothing of the kind has occurred in Birmingham, and there are a largo number of schools in the vicinity. No effluvia or noxious gases are given off either to the injury of schools or private residences. The hon. Member for East Donegal stated that it will be impossible to get rid of the whole of the refuse by moans of a destructor. Again, I say that the hon. Member is misinformed. From my own personal knowledge, and from the evidence given before the Committee, I can assure him that there will be no difficulty whatever in dealing with the refuse. It might be so in the case of a small destructor, where you have vegetable matter to deal with; but with a destructor on the scale proposed in this Bill there would be no difficulty at all. With regard to the question of accumulation, the hon. Member for East Donegal must be unacquainted with the fact that the Committee dealt with that matter by inserting a clause that no accumulation shall be allowed, but that everything brought to the destructor shall be destroyed at once in the furnaces. The hon. Member denied, further, that there would be any saving to the parish. I believe that there will be a considerable saving; but I would ask the House not to look upon a question of this sort as a question of economy, or of the saving of money. As the member of an important Corporation which has dealt with the subject on a large scale, I feel that there are many things more important to be considered than the mere question of the money involved, and it is upon that ground that I ask the House to pass the Bill, and do nil in its power to assist the Vestry of Kensington in getting rid of this refuse in a proper manner—namely, by combustion. the difficulty of getting rid of it is a growing evil in our great towns, especially in connection with small house property. In Birmingham we have no fewer than throe separate destructors, and from neither of them is any nuisance whatever experienced. One of them is in the immediate neighbourhood of the general hospital of the town, and there would have been a loud complaint if it had been found in any way to interfere with health. It is quite possible that a destructor may be converted into a nuisance; but the Committee upstairs carefully considered that point, and inserted a clause in the Bill to prevent the possibility of a nuisance being created by requiring the plans to be approved by the Local Government Board. It is further provided that any destructor to be erected upon the lauds taken under the Bill shall be constructed in accordance with drawings signed by the Chairman of the Committee and deposited in the offices of the Vestry, or on such other system or with such modifications or illustrations as shall be approved by an engineer or other fit person appointed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I believe it is impossible for any noxious gases to escape from the destructor, and any fumes which might otherwise escape from the burning of vegetable refuse will be deodorized and consumed in another way. In Birmingham, although much worse substances are passed through the destructor, there is found to be a total absence of offensive smell. I ask the House to pass the Bill, because it was carefully and honestly considered by the Committee, and because I am able to speak from my own knowledge of the beneficial effects of the working of similar destructors in my own district.

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

As the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has stated, it was my misfortune to preside over the Committee which sat upon this Bill, and it becomes my duty, therefore, as briefly as I can, to state the view at which the Committee arrived. The hon. Member has informed the House that, although the Bill was originally promoted by the Kensington Vestry, the majority of the members of that Vestry now dissent from it. Of course, I have no know-ledge of that fact; but if the hon. Member be correct the matter rests entirely in the hands of the Vestry, because the Bill is purely permissive, and there are only three years allowed in which it can be put in force. If the Vestry are opposed to it, it is not necessary that they should take any further action in the matter, and the Bill will naturally drop. The hon. Gentleman says that the ratepayers have nobody to defend their interests. Now, what has happened? An Amendment has been moved by the hon. Member for the Barnstaple Division of Devonshire (Mr. Pitt-Lewis). [Mr. LABOUCHERE: It has not been moved yet.] Well, an Amendment has been placed on the Paper, which the promoters have declared their readiness to accept, to the effect that if the Vestry propose to act on the power which the Bill confers upon them, a plébiscite of the owners and ratepayers shall be taken. I confess that I do not see how the wishes of the ratepayers could be better consulted. Perhaps I may be allowed to say what, in the view of the Committee, was the case which had to be dealt with. In some way or other this refuse must be disposed of; and it was admitted on all sides—even by those who gave evidence in opposition to the Bill—that the difficulty of doing that was increasing very much. At one time it was easy to dispose of, and the refuse itself was valuable; but the opposite is the case now. The hon. Member talked about the interests of the poor and the interests of the rich; but can he be seriously aware that under the proposals contained in the Bill it is estimated that, at least, £2,000 a year will be saved to the ratepayers of North Kensington—the people whom, he says, are going to be so much injured by this Bill? What are the objections of which we have heard so much in the course of this debate, and in the course of the evidence which was given upstairs? The hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill carefully abstained from entering into details. I think he was wise in doing so. First of all, he said that the destructor it is proposed to erect must give out noxious gases. All I can say is that the scientific evidence, given by expert after expert, and never in any degree shaken, proved beyond the possibility of doubt that there would be no escape of noxious fumes or gases at all. The hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. A. O'Connor) told the House that it would destroy the laundry industry of the district. I asked him why? Question after question was put in the Committee on that point, but we failed to discover that there was any ground for the apprehension. He said the clothes must be injured by dust and the escape of smoke and noxious gases; but no such escape can occur, and the destructor, it must also be remembered, is to be placed in the centre of four acres of ground. The refuse, when taken there, will be immediately put under cover, and shot into a furnace; and how dust and gas are to escape it is difficult to understand. I have endeavoured to give the subject all the consideration in my power, and I have arrived at the conclusion that the opposition to the Bill, and the objections which have been urged against it, are baseless, and are founded either on prejudice or very imperfect information. Neither the hon. Member for Northampton nor any other hon. Member who has spoken against the Bill has gone into an)' details, or attempted to explain in what way the injuries they speak of are to follow; and I venture to submit to the House, in justification of the course taken by the Committee, that it is only by a careful study of the details of the question that a right appreciation of the matter can be arrived at. I do not think it is necessary to detain the House longer, although I might say a great deal more upon the subject if it were necessary. No evidence, of any other site being available for the purpose was offered to the Committee; and it was proved that the proposed site would cost a great deal less than any other. It was further proved, beyond the possibility of doubt, by the evidence of experts, that no injury would result from the escape of gas, soot, or smoke. It was also shown that in the case of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, and 20 other large towns which I could name, where these destructors are in work, they are found to answer admirably, and that no possible injury can be done. Under these circumstances, I hope the House will support the decision of the Committee


I do not intend to enter into the question whether or not this Bill should be read a third time, as it is not a matter that comes under the Local Government Board at all, except that the Local Government Board have given their sanction to the erection of destructors in other parts of the country; and I am informed that, so far, they have been working admirably well, without creating any nuisance at all. It must also be borne in mind that Clause 22 of the Bill provides that— Nothing in this Act shall exonerate the Vestry from any indictment, action, or other proceeding for nuisance in the event of any nuisance being caused by them. What I desire to say has reference to the clause which the hon. Member for the Barnstaple Division of Devonshire (Mr. Pitt-Lewis) has placed on the Paper, to provide that after the Bill has been passed a poll of the owners and ratepayers shall be taken before it can be put in force. I would ask hon. Members seriously to consider what they are about to do before they vote with that intention in their minds. It is the introduction of an entirely now principle that powers should be conferred upon a Local Authority, and at the same time that it should be intended that the Local Authority should not put such powers in force until a vote of the inhabitants had been taken. I think that to pass such a clause would be to establish an exceedingly bad precedent. As far as I know, there is no more reason why a power of this kind should require the assent of the inhabitants than any other power conferred upon the Local Authority. I desire, therefore, to point out to the House that in my opinion it would be bad policy for the House to assent to a clause which says that in the event of certain powers being conferred upon the Local Authorities under certain circumstances they shall not be exercised.


I would ask the indulgence of the House for a few minutes while I explain the reasons which induce me to oppose the Bill. My constituents will be greatly affected by it, for the locality in which it is proposed to erect this destructor is an exceedingly poor one. It is close to the parish of Hammersmith, near Latymer Road. During the Session before last I attended a largo public meeting, at which it was decided to oppose this destructor, and an important Petition, very numerously signed, was got up and presented to this House by me. So poor, however, are the inhabitants of the district that they have not the same opportunity of bringing forward scientific evidence as the Kensington Vestry, and I regret to say that, in consequence of my having been obliged to obtain leave from this House, I was prevented from attending before the Committee and giving evidence on behalf of my constituents. I had hoped, however, that the Committee would have taken into consideration the feeling among the poorer inhabitants of Hammersmith and North Kensington, and the fact that they were being imposed upon by the richer people of South Kensington. A Report has been presented by the promoters of the Bill in which they state that the refuse will be de- stroyed at a distance of half-a-mile from the parish of Hammersmith. On receiving that Report, I went down to the Sanitary Inspector and he told me distinctly that he preferred the present system, as far as Hammersmith is concerned, to the system that is now proposed to be substituted for it. He told me that it is all nonsense to say that you can get rid of these gases; and, therefore, on behalf of Hammersmith, and also on behalf of that part of North Kensington which is affected by the Bill, I earnestly implore the House to throw out the measure. I regret that we have not been able to put forward the scientific evidence which would have satisfied the right hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin); but I may say that an hon. Member of this House (Mr. Isaacs) to whom the House is much indebted for what has been done in regard to its sanitary improvement, and who is a resident of North Kensington, has kindly told me that, in his opinion, the effect of having this destructor will be most injurious to the neighbourhood. I will leave my hon. Friend to speak for himself, for he is fully qualified to inform the House on the subject. I believe, however, that I may safely leave the matter in the hands of the House in the conviction that they will not permit the poor of North Kensington and Hammersmith to appeal to them in vain. we have been asked what is to be done with the refuse. I see no reason why it should not be put in barges and sent down the River.

MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board if he can inform the House whether, in the event of the clause proposed by the hon. Member for the Barnstaple Division of Devonshire (Mr. Pitt-Lewis) being adopted, the Local Government Board will allow it to form part and parcel of the Bill, because I gathered from his remarks that it would be imprudent on the part of the Government to allow an innovation of that kind? I do not think it necessary to avail myself of the invitation which has been thrown out by the hon. and gallant Member for Hammersmith (Major General Goldsworthy) to state my views on this Bill, because they have already been ably expressed by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. Although I may have considerable knowledge as an expert in this matter, it is unnecessary to detain the House with a statement of those views. I will only say that I fully support the view which has been taken by the hon. and gallant Member for Hammersmith, because I believe that the parish of Kensington, in which I reside, has acted in a most selfish manner in regard to the selection of a site for the destructor. I should not have objected had it been proposed to put up this objectionable machinery in the centre of the parish itself, but to select the confines of the parish, and the poorest part of it, where numerous industries are being carried on, which are sure to suffer from this structure, appears to me to be the most selfish principle any rich parish could adopt. I trust the House will take this view of the case, and will say that the rich parish of Kensington shall confine its operations to its own parish, and shall not seek to impose a nuisance on the adjoining-parish of Hammersmith. I shall heartily give my vote for the rejection of the Bill.


): Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word in consequence of the remarks which have been made in regard to the question of the treatment of the poor by the rich. Now there is no such question involved in this Bill. the fact is that the whole of the refuse of South Kensington at present finds its way into the Thames by Chelsea, and will continue to do so. North Kensington, however, does invade a neighbouring borough, and as a matter of fact sends the whole of its refuse to Wood Green, where at present it is burned in the open. The hon. and gallant Member for Hammersmith (Major General Goldsworthy) seems to infer that the operation of the destructor must necessarily be a nuisance in the neighbourhood in which it is erected. I can only say that I have been down to Whitechapel to see the destructor there. I had some difficulty in finding it, and it certainly did not seem to be a very great nuisance, seeing that so very few people know where it was. When I succeeded in finding it, I made it my business to visit the small shops in the district. I also saw a score of children playing about the streets close by, and in answer to my questions I could not find that any one complained of a nuisance or hardship arising from the existence of this destructor. I hope at South Kensington when the time comes we may have a destructor of our own. At the same time, I ma}' say with regard to North Kensington that the site which has been selected is at present a brick-field—a place certainly not full of the most savoury odours, and I consider that if the Vestry are permitted to put up its destructor it will not be a nuisance, but, on the contrary, will prove a great benefit to the ratepayers and the poor of the district.


I do not propose to detain the House for more than a few minutes, because the subject has been practically threshed out. the hon. Member for Newington (Mr. Isaacs), when appealed to to give his opinion as to the scientific aspect of the question, very wisely declined to do so. The hon. Member gave his evidence before the Committee, and it would have been a very bad precedent to appeal from those who hoard him and the other side upstairs to the House below. This is a Bill which was originally promoted by the Vestry of Kensington, and it has passed through Committees of both Houses. It has come down now for the consideration of the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, and the proposal made by the hon. Member for Northampton is that it should be rejected on what is practically the third reading. Now, I confess that I have heard nothing to lead me to reject the opinion of a Select Committee of this House. No doubt there is a fact which to some extent is material, and that is that the majority of the Vestry which originally promoted the Bill are at present opposed to it; but it must be borne in mind that the Bill only gives power to the Vestry to do certain things permissively, and if hereafter a majority of the Vestry should object to carry into effect the provisions of the Bill it would be impossible to put it into operation at all. There will be a further guarantee in the clause which is suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Barnstaple Division of Devonshire (Mr. Pitt-Lewis), which has been accepted by the promoters of the Bill—namely, that, even if there should be in future a majority of the Vestry in favour of putting the scheme into operation, the owners and ratepayers may be appealed to by a demand, in writing, signed by 30 members of the Vestry or by 300 owners and ratepayers of Kensington, and it will then be necessary to take a poll of the inhabitants. Now, that appears to me to be a complete and efficacious power to place in the hands of the inhabitants in order to prevent any abuse. As the Bill has passed through the ordeal not only of a Committee of this House, but of the House of Lords, I have no hesitation in voting for it.

MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)

The right hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) has relied very strongly upon the evidence of export witnesses. I wish to say that, in my opinion, expert witnesses are the most unreliable that can be obtained. I believe that if it were necessary I could obtain the evidence of experts upon every side of an abstruse question. Of course the counsel for the promoters know exactly what kind of expert evidence it is desirable to call on their own side of the question, and they take care that no other experts are submitted for examination. I may say that I know nothing of this Bill; but from the knowledge I have of the neighbourhood in which it is proposed to erect this destructor, I think the Kensington Vestry have selected the very worst site that could possibly be obtained. The brick-field they have proposed to take is situated in a complete swamp, and the lowest site which could have been found in the whole district has been pitched upon. I am afraid the result will be that, if this destructor is erected, the entire district will be affected by the fumes of the noxious gases thrown out. I am told that the original promotion of the Bill was carried in the Vestry by a snap-division at a small meeting, but that at the present moment there is a very large majority of the Vestry entirely opposed to the project.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 190; Noes 170: Majority 20.—(Div. List, No. 81.) Main Question put, and agreed to. Bill considered.

MR. PITT-LEWIS (Devon, Barnstaple) moved to insert the following clause:—

Clause 4B.

"No buildings or machinery for the destruction by combustion of the refuse or other materials from streets or houses, which are mentioned in section four hereof, shall be erected on the land taken under this Act, unless and until a resolution that buildings and machinery for the destruction by combustion of such refuse and materials be erected on the said land shall have been passed by the Vestry, at a special meeting convened for that purpose, in the manner provided by the Metropolis Management Acts, which meeting shall not be held before the first day of June, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven, and shall not in any year be held at any time between the fifteenth day of July and the twenty-fourth day of October. Provided that, if within fourteen days after the passing of such resolution, a demand in writing, signed either by not less than thirty members of the Vestry or by not less than three hundred of the owners and ratepayers of the parish of Kensington, that the question shall be decided by a poll of the owners and ratepayers of the parish of Kensington, shall be served on the Clerk to the Vestry, then the question whether or not such resolution shall have effect shall be decided by a poll of owners and ratepayers of the said parish of Kensington, such poll shall be taken by voting papers, with the same incidents and conditions (so far as applicable) as to the qualifications of voters and scale of voting, as to notice to be given by the summoning officer, delivery, filling up, and collection of voting papers, as to the counting of votes, and as to penalties for neglect or refusal to comply with the provisions herein incorporated, as are contained in and in all other respects so far as practicable in the same way as is provided by the Third Schedule to 'The Public Health Act, 1875,' with respect to the taking of a poll of owners and ratepayers. The summoning officer for the purposes of taking such poll shall be the Clerk to the Vestry. The expenses of any poll taken under this section shall be deemed to be, within the meaning of section twenty-four hereof, expenses in relation to this Act."

New Clause (Consent of Vestry to erection of destructors,)—(Mr. Pitt-Lewis,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

MR. CHANCE(Kilkenny, S.) moved the adjournment of the debate.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Chance,)—put, and negatived.

Original Question again proposed.


I really must protest, not with standing what the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees has stated in reference to this clause, that it is an absolutely now thing to confer by special enactment power upon a Local Authority, and at the same time to say that that power is not to be exercised until there has been an opportunity afforded to the inhabitants for deciding whether it is to be exercised or not. There are many cases in which the Local Authorities cannot avail themselves of the benefit of certain Statutes—as, for example, the Free Libraries Act—without first consulting the ratepayers; but, so far as I know, there is not a single instance in which a Local Authority dealing with powers which have been conferred on them by Statute have had imposed on them the duty of going to the ratepayers and asking them for a vote as to whether or not those powers shall be exorcised. In my opinion, that change is most undesirable, and therefore I oppose the Motion.

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

the circumstances of the case are somewhat peculiar, and I must say I cannot but feel that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has touched a matter of great importance. It is one of those matters which, perhaps, the House is necessarily exposed to have raised in connection with Private Bills, but which really involves public principles. Now to me the proposal of the hon. Member has all the appearance of a startling novelty, that the House, in granting powers to a Local Authority, should like wise insert a condition that the Local Authority should go before its constituents before it can be allowed to exercise those powers. [Mr. COURTNEY: That is not accurate.] If that is so, I am glad to hear it. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees will have the goodness to explain afterwards the exact position; but I must say, if the case were as I have represented it, I think it would be a very dangerous precedent, and would go far to make the House of Commons responsible for all the abuse of power, or misuse of power, by Local Authorities. However, I am glad to find from my hon. Friend that the case is not as I had put it. At the same time, I think there should be a clear understanding on the subject.


the state of the case is this. The duty imposed upon the Vestry of consulting their constituents is not imperative, but only in the event of a certain proportion of the Vestry objecting to the exercise of the powers. In that ease it is proposed that a vote of ratepayers shall be taken. I think that is a material alteration, and I cannot discover the grave objections which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has raised against that limitation, more especially as there is an analogous provision in the Borough Funds Act, which requires, under certain circumstances, the sanction of the constituency to be given by a poll. If there were a matter of doubt it might deserve arguing; but I do not feel that there can be the slightest doubt in the matter, and, therefore, I fail to see why the right hon. Gentleman opposite should oppose the clause.

MR. PITT-LEWIS (Devon, Barnstaple)

As I drafted the Amendment, perhaps I may be allowed to explain the peculiar circumstances of the case. Of course, I was aware that no Vestry has a right to ask from Parliament anything beyond the statutory powers it is entitled to have. I have already stated that the residents of the parish were utterly unaware of what the Vestry of Kensington were doing. Happening myself to ob-serve on the Papers of the House this innocent-looking Bill, called the "Kensington Vestry Bill," I obtained a copy of it at the Private Bill Office, and found, to my amazement, what it was. I had never heard of it before, and I immediately took action, and the result was that as soon as the constituents found out what the Vestry were doing the public opinion of the parish was organized, and a strong Committee formed to oppose the Bill. By their exertions they succeeded in turning out every member of the Vestry who came forward to support the Bill; 19 members who went out had been supporting the Bill, but the 20th was retained be-cause he had behaved properly and had opposed it. That shows that the constituency do not want the Bill. It is not quite accurate to say that no precedent can be found for a clause of this kind. There was a precedent in the case of the St. Helen's Improvement Bill, in which exactly the same thing I now propose was done. In that case power was given which was only to be exercised in a certain contingency. If the expenditure was likely to be exceeded, the Local Authorities wore to go back to the constituency and obtain their consent. The effect of the compromise which is suggested by the present clause is that the Vestry will be enabled to buy the land, and if it cannot be utilized for the erection of a destructor, they will have power to lay it out as a recreation ground, or to devote it to other parochial purposes. Now, the erection of a destructor is a new thing, and I think it is not too much to ask that the Vestry, before proceeding with such an erection, should ascertain whether they have the consent of the inhabitants, and whether the majority of the owners and ratepayers are desirous of exercising the power with this Bill sanctions. I think that the analogy of the St. Helen's case is perfect, and that when it is proposed to go beyond ordinary matters it should be necessary to consult the constituents. I believe that this House has again and again adopted the principle. For instance, there is a clause in the Public Health Act under which fairs and markets can only be established by means of a proceeding something like this; and there is a common instance in the case of the application of the Free Libraries Act. That Act cannot be adopted without previously obtaining the consent of the parish. So also in regard to the Borough Funds Act, which Act indicates the mode in which the opinion of the constituency shall be obtained—namely, by voting papers. I have adopted the machinery of the Borough Funds Act in this clause. I appeal to the House to accept the clause, because it has been accepted by the promoters of the Bill, and is, in fact, the result of the withdrawal of a considerable amount of opposition. Therefore, under the very peculiar circumstances of the case, I hope the House and the right hon. Gentleman opposite will allow the clause to pass. Until the President of the Local Government Board rose a few minutes ago and expressed the disapproval of the Government, I had received no intimation that it was intended to throw any opposition in the way of the clause.


I think it is a very inconvenient proceeding, to introduce into a Private Bill any new principle affecting our local legislation. I was glad to hear the remark which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in deprecation of this clause. I can perfectly well understand why the clause has received the support of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney). It is because it is the introduction of the thin end of the wedge of that scheme of proportional representation in which the right hon. Member takes so great an interest. I think that if we are going to deal with questions of this kind which are questions of great principle, it should be done by means of a Public Act and not by a clause dragged into a Private Bill. I hope the House will reject this clause.


I wish to support the Amendment, and in doing so I should like to point out that a considerable number of Members have probably been induced to vote in the majority in the recent Division on the supposition that this Amendment would probably be accepted by the House. Such an inducement was certainly held out to hon. Members. The right hon. Member for the Liskeard Division of Cornwall (Mr. Courtney), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin)—to whose powerful and clear speeches I have no doubt the success of the Bill has been due—distinctly alleged that this clause had been put down, and stated that when it came on it would remove a large number of the objections which had been raised to the Bill. I think that the fact of this clause being on the Paper, together with the speech of the right hon. Gentlemen, induced many hon. Members to vote as they did just now, and to constitute the majority of 20 by which the Amendment was rejected. This clause is one which does not in every respect meet all the objections which are felt in North Kensington to the Bill itself. That has been pointed out, and is, I think, admitted even by the hon. Member who proposes the clause. I think the House ought certainly to give the Vestry of Kensington and the ratepayers of Kensington a chance of reconsidering their position. "Whether they will exercise the option given to them will depend very largely on the amount of conscience that may be developed on the part of the ratepayers of South Kensington in regard to their treatment of their poorer neighbours in North Kensington. For my own part, I trust that their consciences will be touched, and, therefore, I urge the House to accept the clause.

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

If this clause introduced any new principle I should regard it as very serious, and a matter that would require further and careful consideration; but I do not understand that that is the case, although lam unable to state the fact of my own knowledge. I am informed, however, that the same principle has already been embodied in other Acts. It is quite true that I did hold out this clause as an inducement to the House to vote for the Bill, and I did so on the ground that the promoters had agreed to accept it. Under such circumstances, I shall feel bound to accept it myself. It may have the effect of inducing the Vestry to make up their minds more clearly than they have hitherto done.


The clause does not remove my objection to the Bill, seeing that it proposes that the question shall be decided solely by the vote of the ratepayers of the parish of Kensington. Now, I am interested for the parish of Hammersmith—which, has no voice in the matter—and therefore I feel obliged to vote against the clause.

MR. LABOUCHRE (Northampton)

I am the representative of humanity. we lost the last Division because the hon. Member for the Barnstaple Division of Devon(Mr. Pitt-Lewis) said that, although he disapproved of the Bill, he should vote in favour of it, so that he might put in this clause. Now, I am entirely opposed to the Bill itself, and also to the clause of the hon. Gentleman; and I am opposed to the clause because a right hon. Gentleman of the highest experience—tho right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)—says that it raises an objectionable principle. It seems to me, therefore, that we ought, as practical persons, to vote against the clause of the hon. Gentleman, and the clause having been defeated, then take a Division on the Main Question. The hon. Gentleman will then vote for us, because he said he would if he did not get this clause, and then we shall do all we can to throw out the Bill.


I regard the elections for Vestrymen which occurred in May last as decisive of the question locally, so far as North Kensington is concerned; but the clause of the hon. Member for Devonshire enables the whole of the people of the parish of Kensington, including North, South, East, and West, to vote. That is not, I think, a fair issue to raise, seeing that the people who are locally concerned are those who are outside South Kensington. I am an inhabitant of a neighbouring parish, and I shall certainly object, whatever other people may do. I am satisfied that if it had not been for the interposition of the hon. Member for Devonshire, who, of course, is in love with his own clause, the House would never have been induced to give the vote they did a short time ago. His proposition is a perfectly inadmissible proposition, and it will be necessary to take another Division even if the hon. Member persists in dividing upon the clause.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill," put, and negatived.

An Amendment made.

Bill to be read the third time.

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