HC Deb 03 August 1891 vol 356 cc1199-213

Lords' Amendments considered.

Amendment, as far as the Amendment, page 11, line 30, to leave out ("cow-keeper,") agreed to.

Page 11, line 30, leave out ("cow-keeper,") the next Amendment, read a second time.

(10.51.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I cannot understand why the word "cowkeeper" should be left out. Surely there are cowkeepers who are not dairymen.


The word is unnecessary, because in the Definition Clause the word "dairyman" is held to include cowkeeper.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments agreed to.

Page 18, line 5, after ("district") insert (" and the giving of sufficient notice of the times appointed for such removal, cleansing out, and emptying "), the next Amendment, read a second time.


I should like to call attention to the additional obligation imposed on the Sanitary Authority, coupled with a penalty of £20 if it is not complied with, by placing upon them the duty of giving notice of the time at which refuse would be removed. I think no inconvenience has resulted from the absence of such notice; and as the proposed penalty is a considerable one, I think we ought to have reasons for the alteration.

MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

The question is, what is meant by "sufficient notice"?

MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

I should like to say with regard to this I have a letter to the effect that if the duty is imposed of giving notice of the exact time the cart will call for the refuse it will be impossible for the Sanitary Authority to comply with the obligation cast upon them. They cannot state the exact hour or minute of calling. I therefore hope the Government will not insist on this clause, since it will only inflict immense inconvenience on the authorities.

SIR G. CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,

I am opposed altogether to treating the Sanitary Authority as a criminal, and therefore object to any extension of that principle.


I have received many complaints as to the neglect of the Sanitary Authorities to empty dustbins. I think it is only reasonable that the Sanitary Authority shall give proper notice of the time of the periodical visits for the purpose of removing refuse.

MR. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)

It appears to me that this is an attempt to put Local Authorities in leading-strings. Certain noble Lords who come to London for a part of the year and give great balls, the refuse of which fills their dustbins, seem to think that the London Vestries should empty those dustbins at any moment they may be called upon to do so, however inconvenient it may be.

Lords' Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments agreed to.

Page 23, leave out Clause 41, and insert Clause B—

(Improper construction or repair of water-closet or drain.)

"(a.) If a water-closet or drain is so constructed or repaired as to be a nuisance or injurious or dangerous to health, the person who undertook or executed such construction or repair shall, unless he shows that such construction or repair was not due to any wilful act, neglect, or default, be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.

Provided that where a person is charged with an offence under this section he shall be entitled, upon information duly laid by him, to have any other person, being his agent, servant, or workman, whom he charges as the actual offender, brought before the court at the time appointed for hearing the charge, and if he proves to the satisfaction of the court that he had used due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence, and that the said other person committed the offence without his knowledge, consent, or connivance, he shall be exempt from any fine, and the said other person may be summarily convicted of the offence,"

the next Amendment, read a second time.

(11.5.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

I cannot help thinking that the Amendment the Lords have adopted will practically destroy the character of the clause which was agreed to by the Committee upstairs, and also by the House on the Third Reading of the Bill. The object of that clause was to impose a penalty upon the real culprits; to protect the owner and occupier from being unjustly fined when they have been guilty of no offence. It frequently happens that owners and occupiers are held responsible for the insanitary condition of their dwellings when the real culprit is the builder or his workman. The owner and occupier may engage a man whom they regard as a respectable builder, and pay him a good sum of money for putting down drains or repairing closets, and yet the work may be imperfectly done and shamefully scamped. Blind drains may be put down, or pipes may be laid down with dry joints, with the consequence that the people who live in the house are subjected to very unhealthy conditions. For this state of things the owner and occupier are held responsible. The clause, as it left this House, would have exonerated the owner and occupier, and have placed the responsibility on the real shoulders: it would have punished the dishonest builder or workman who performed work of the description I have referred to. The clause, as amended by the Lords, will practically make it impossible to fix the blame upon the man, or men, who were the authors of the mischief. The words of the Lords' Amendment are—"Unless he shows that such construction or repair was not due to any wilful act, neglect or default." Those words will lead to great contention before the tribunal; indeed, it will be next to impossible to prove that the builder has been guilty of such wilful neglect or default. I, therefore, beg to move the omission of the words I have just quoted.

Amendment proposed, in line 3, to leave out from the word "shall," to the word "be," in line 5.—(Mr. Cremer.)

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


The hon. Gentleman will remember, and the House may perhaps remember, that when this clause was introduced into the Bill on the Report stage I agreed to the clause, but said I thought it was of too drastic a character, and I reserved to myself the power in another place of altering its terms. I am bound to say I think there ought to be some penalty attached to the persons who perform their work negligently or carelessly, in such a way as to be injurious to public health. The clause, as it comes from the House of Lords, proposes that any person who undertakes work and does it imperfectly shall be liable to a penalty unless he can show that the defective work is not due to any default or negligence of the workman. Surely the House will not be prepared to go beyond that.

SIR G. CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,

The right hon. Gentleman has altogether omitted to allude to the word "wilful." If there is wilful neglect or default a fine ought to be imposed. I agree with my hon. Friend that the effect of the Lords' Amendment is to destroy the object of the clause.

*MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)

I hope my hon. Friend who has moved the Amendment will be content with the clause as it has come from the Lords, which I think practically carries out what he desires. The Bill as it left this House was not quite fair to the builder. A builder acts according to the plans and instructions of an architect, and it would be monstrous to inflict on the builder carrying out plans that are not well designed the consequences of constructing drains according to those plans, but which turn out to be unsatisfactory.

MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

But in 99 cases out of 100 there is no plan at all: the builder does the work without any instructions from anybody. My experience in London causes me to believe that this clause will not be a bit of good unless you make it as drastic and as harsh as you can.

MR. GAINSFORD BRUCE (Finsbury, Holborn)

It has never been the policy of our law to make an accidental act a criminal offence. All the clause says is that although the onus of proof is on the builder, if he is able to show that the act has not been done wilfully or intentionally he shall not be liable to a fine. Surely that is reasonable. It is quite possible to make a law that is so harsh that it cannot be enforced.

MR. KELLY (Camberwell, K)

My hon. and learned Friend talks about a man accidentally constructing a defective drain. If a man does that he is not fit to be a builder. I trust the House will remember that the punishment is not that of imprisonment, but of a fine not exceeding £20. I think we can trust our Magistrates to use the power properly, and not to impose £20 or any but a nominal fine in trivial oases.

(11.15.) The House divided:—Ayes 73; Noes 30.—(Div. List, No. 415.)

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 28, line 3, agreed to.

Page 28, line 3, at the end of Clause 46, add— (8.) Where a person has in his possession any article which is unsound or unwholesome or unfit for the food of man, he may, by written notice to the sanitary authority, specifying such article, and containing a sufficient identification of it, request its removal, and the sanitary authority shall cause it to be removed as if it were trade refuse, the next Amendment, read a second time.

(11.25.) MR. KELLY

As the House knows, there is no more difficult question than that of diseased meat. No one wishes to shelter a man who sells or exposes for sale diseased meat, but, on the other hand, I am sure the House will like to draw a distinction between a person who wishes to sell diseased meat and the unfortunate person who happens to find himself in possession of unsound meat. The clause provides that when found unwholesome food may be removed as if it were trade refuse. I submit that when a man gives notice that he has an unsound article, and has no intention whatever of selling it or exposing it for sale, he should be relieved from the unhappy consequences of having the food removed by the Sanitary Authority. I invite the House to remember that the fact of being summoned before a Magistrate and having the case reported in the newspapers is a far greater punishment on a tradesman than the infliction of a fine. I therefore beg to move to add to the Lords Amendment— And any person who shall have duly given such notice and made such request shall not be liable to conviction under this Act.

Amendment proposed to Lords Amendment, at the end thereof, to add the words— And any person who shall have duly given such notice, and made such request, shall not be liable to conviction under this Act."—(Mr. Kelly.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

*(11.30.) MR. RITCHIE

I hope the House will not adopt the somewhat dangerous course suggested by the Amendment. It is, I think, right and proper to give protection to a tradesman, who finds himself, by stress of weather or from any other cause beyond his control, in possession of food he thinks unwholesome, by enabling him to give notice at once to the Sanitary Authority to remove it; but, on the other hand, I think it is going too far to say that this notice shall be a bar to all prosecution. It is for the Magistrate before whom the tradesman may be summoned to judge whether the notice is a bonâ fide notice, and should be a protection against proceedings. I cannot conceive, unless the circumstances are of a suspicious nature, that the Sanitary Authority would ever institute proceedings; but there might be a colourable notice given, which, in the opinion of the Sanitary Authority, is not bonâ fide, and then the person ought to be liable to be summoned before a Magistrate to give some further explanation of the circumstances under "which he was in possession of the unsound food.

*(11.32.) MR. T. H. BOLTON

I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that a tradesman who has meat which has gone bad, and who has given notice of this, should not be liable to a summons. If the right hon. Gentleman docs not desire that there should be proceedings taken in such a case, then I do not see the harm of inserting the Amendment. It might perhaps be qualified by stating that the notice shall be bouâfide, or some such qualification might be introduced. I quite see the force of the right hon. Gentleman's objection that the notice may not be bonâ fide, and may be given by a tradesman designedly; but, at the same time, the clause as it stands might be worked very harshly against a tradesman who, by no fault of his own, may have unwholesome meat upon his promises, and who would be only too glad to got rid of it.

MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

If a person has unwholesome meat on his premises, and is quite innocent in regard to it, then he has a perfect defence, and will not be mulcted in penalties; but if you add these words, then the person who has the food on his premises with design may escape penalties by such a clause as this would be, with the Amendment of the hon. Member added, and justice will not reach him. I am quite sure that if you wish to make the Act deterrent you must be extremely severe in dealing with cases of possession of unsound food; and I hope the House will not agree to this Amendment, which I am sure would prejudice the course of justice.


If there is no intention to punish a man who in a bonâ fide manner complies with the Act, why not say so in the Act? What possible objection can there be to doing so? If that is the intention of the Lords' Amendment why not express it? There is an idea that the Amendment includes diseased meat, but that is not so; it refers solely to unsound or unwholesome food. Let me point out the hardship to a dealer in hot weather. He has food not diseased and perfectly wholesome to-night; he puts it in his safe, and to-morrow morning it is found to be unsound and unwholesome. That is no fault of his; and yet by virtue of the Act he will be liable to a penalty, not because he has exposed the article for sale, but because it is found on his premises in his safe. A case of the kind occurred the other day, and is now under appeal. Surely if a man gives notice at once to the Sanitary Authority he should not be liable to any penalty, and if that is the intention, what is the objection to saying so? It is a reasonable Amendment; it is the only sense in which public opinion, I am sure, will sanction the clause being enforced.

(11.36.) SIR G. CAMPBELL

The proposed Amendment will leave the matter exactly where it is. It simply amounts to this: That an offence is to be punished with a penalty to which a man is not liable if he has not committed the offence. But it is a very different thing to say that when a man knows he is going to be prosecuted he shall be allowed to rush off, and, by giving notice, escape the infliction of a penalty.

Question put, and negatived.

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Page 28, after Clause 48, insert Clause B (Cleansing of cisterns), the next Amendment, amended, and agreed to.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 37, line 28, agreed to.

Page 37, line 28, after "authority," insert— When the Sanitary Authority have disinfected any house, part of a house, or article under the provisions of this section they shall compensate the master or owner of such house, or part of a house, or the owner of such article, for any unnecessary damage thereby caused to such house, part of a house, or article; and when the authority destroy any article under this section they shall compensate the owner thereof; and the amount of any such compensation shall be recoverable in a Petty Sessional Court, the next Amendment, amended, and agreed to.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 37, line 41, inclusive, agreed to.

A Consequential Amendment made to the Bill.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 39, line 13, agreed to.

Page 39, line 13, leave out from "any," to the end of the Clause, and insert— Dangorous infectious disease, or for a person suffering from any such disease to enter any public conveyance, and if he does so he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding ten pounds; and it any person so suffering is conveyed in any public conveyance, the owner and driver thereof, as soon as it comes to his knowledge, shall cause such conveyance to be disinfected, and if he fails so to do he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding five pounds, and the owner or driver of such conveyance shall be entitled to recover in a summary manner from the person so conveyed by him, or from the person causing that person to be so convoyed, a sum sufficient to cover any lots and expense incurred by him in connection with such disinfection, the next Amendment, amended, and agreed to.

Amendments as far as Amendment, page 42, after Clause 76, insert Clause C., agreed to.

Page 42, after Clause 76, to insert the following Clause C.:— (Recovery of cost of maintenance of non-infectious patient in hospital. 42 & 43 Vict c. 54, s. 13. [Of. 38 & 39, Vict. c. 33, s. 12.]) C. Any expenses incurred by a sanitary authority in maintaining in a hospital (whether or not belonging to that authority) a patient who is not a pauper, and is not suffering from a dangerous infectious disease, shall be a simple contract debt due to the sanitary authority from that patient, or from any person liable by law to maintain him, but proceedings for its recovery shall not be commenced after the expiration of six months from the discharge of the patient, or if he dies in such hospital from the date of his death, the next Amendment, read a second time.

(11.45.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to agree with this Amendment. It really raises again a question which was thoroughly discussed upstairs and in the House, and on both occasions a most decisive opinion against the clause was arrived at. There was no point upon which we were more unanimous than that in the public interest it is necessary, so far as it is possible, to isolate in hospitals persons suffering from infectious diseases.


That is what the clause does.


Yes; but the difficulty is to get people into the hospitals, and this clause provides that a person shall be liable (or his representative) for maintenance. Bat the right hon. Gentleman will say, "Not if the patient is suffering from an infectious disease." Then the clause is unsatisfactory, for a reason he has himself given. As a matter of fact, a Sanitary Authority does only establish a hospital for infectious diseases, so there is no necessity for the clause, and it may have a mischievous effect, raising an element of uncertainty as to whether the person maintained in the hospital was really suffering from an infections disease. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will omit the clause.

*(11.47.) MR. RITCHIE

No, I cannot do that. When this point was raised before there was a general assent, and I think a special assent on the part of the hon. Gentleman, to the proposition that cases of infectious disease should be removed to the hospital. There is no reason for the clause so long as hospitals for infectious diseases are alone provided by the Sanitary Authority; but the time may come when the Sanitary Authority may find it expedient to provide hospitals for the inhabitants of the district for other than infectious diseases, and then the payment for the maintenance of the patient will be only reasonable. Amendment agreed to, as amended.

Amendments as far as page 56, line 34, agreed to.

Page 56, line 34, after "only," insert "and— (d.) A sanitary inspector appointed after the first day of January one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five shall be holder of a certificate either of the Sanitary Institute or of such other body as the Local Government Board may from time to time approve, that he has by examination shown himself competent for such office, or shall have been, daring three consecutive years preceding the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five, a sanitary inspector or inspector of nuisances of a district in London, or of an urban sanitary district out of London containing according to the last published census a population of not less than twenty thousand inhabitants, the next Amendment, read a second time.

Amendment proposed to the Lords' Amendment, to leave out the words "either of the sanitary institute or."—(Mr. Ritchie.)

Amendment agreed to.

(11.57.) MR. KELLY

The House will now see that the Sanitary Inspector is to be the holder of a certificate from such a body as the Local Government Board may approve. The Amendment which has been moved loaves matters precisely where they are, because nobody, I believe, can got a certificate except through the Sanitary Institute; and this body, it seems to me, is merely an association of faddists and amateurs. There is a Council, but it cannot be pretended that the Council understand all the details of sanitary work and inspection. There are alternate requirements for the appointment of Inspector. He must have been engaged for three years cither as an Inspector in London, or in an urban district of 20,000 inhabitants. But why this limitation? Why is a. Sanitary Authority to be deprived of the service of an efficient practical man because his qualifications do not comply with these conditions? There may be a most efficient man in a small town, or an inefficient man in a larger (own. Why should the Local Authority be so hampered in their choice?

*SIR W. GUYER HUNTER (Hackney, Central)

I must Say I am amazed at the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who has had the audacity to call members of the Council of the Sanitary Institute "amateurs and faddists." I would inform him that the Council of the Sanitary Institute is composed of some of the leading sanitarians of the country. When I mention the name of Sir Douglas Gallon as the Chairman of that Council, I think I say enough to show that this body, instead of being a body of faddists and amateurs, is one of the most eminent Sanitary Authorities in the world. To show how popular it is, I need only say that 307 candidates have applied in one year for the certificate of the Institute; and that 22 of the Sanitary Authorities of the Metropolis, and 54 of the provincial Sanitary Authorities, insist on their Inspectors having the certificate of the Institute. This is going on increasing every year. And I would call the attention of the hon. Member who preceded me to the fact that the Sanitary Authority of Camber-well, his own constituency, have decided that their Inspector shall hold the certificate of the Institute.


That Inspector until recently was a messenger in the City.


All the more reason why these certificates should be required. We do not want messengers as Sanitary Inspectors. But I do not want to say more. I have, I think, said quite enough to show the absurdity of the position of the hon. Member for Camberwell.

MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)

the hon. Member for Hackney may be right that the Sanitary Institute is not an association of amateurs and faddists; but he cannot deny that it is a private venture society, and that it would not be fitting for us to endow it in the way proposed. This clause is to be objected to on many grounds, especially because, after 1895, you will shut out from qualification for the post of Sanitary Inspector the persons experienced in the work of sanitation in our large towns—and it must be remembered that experience earned in towns of over 25,000 inhabitants is of no common order, while, on the other hand, qualification by education is very doubtful and insufficient. No proper facilities exist for teaching sanitation, nor is there at present any body for examining. Therefore, I think the clause should stand as it is.


I think the House should hesitate before passing this clause, because it creates a strict monopoly with reference to an existing occupation. It gives a monopoly to existing sanitary officers, and provides that all future sanitary officers shall pass an examination before some body not at present constituted. It places these occupations entirely in the hands of the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board may authorise the Sanitary Institute to hold these examinations, or may authorise some other body. It seems to me that to pass in this general Act of Parliament a clause creating this monopoly would be a very hasty proceeding. I yield to no man in this House in my desire to see capable and efficient men discharging this duty. I do not think the Vestry of Camberwell have displayed very much judgment in selecting a man for this position of Sanitary Inspector, who, from his antecedents, would probably not be the most suitable person to discharge the duties, but it would be rather hard because one Vestry may have chosen a man with unsuitable antecedents to jump to the extreme of creating a monopoly" in reference to this occupation. It is true that the clause says that this stipulation shall not come into force until the year 1895, but the clause refers back throe years, so that after the expiration of a year from now no one will be able in the future to be come a Sanitary Inspector unless he has been before 1892 discharging such duties or passes an examination before some body to be appointed by the Local Government Board. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has in his mind the creation of any particular examining and certifying body. If he has not, I presume he will hand over these examinations to the Sanitary Institute. Well, I have great respect for the Sanitary Institute. I believe it is a very important body, but before conferring on it virtually a charter and monopoly—the power of creating an exclusive occupation of this kind—I think we should make some inquiries and give the matter very serious consideration. If We are to create a new monopoly of occupation, I think we should very carefully consider the examining body and the subjects in which the persons are to be examined, the fees to be charged for the examination, and the certificates which are to be given, and we should lay down the full conditions of the employment. I do not rise for the purpose of objecting to sanitary officers being examined, but I do object to a clause being put in this Bill (a general Public Health Bill) which has the indirect effect of giving a monopoly of employment to the Sanitary Institute, or any other body that the Local Government Board chooses to create. I venture to say that this clause should not be accepted, and that the subject it deals with should be reserved for a separate Act of Parliament


I would point out that a clause very similar to this was carefully considered by the Committee upstairs and was rejected, on the ground that it would limit Local Authorities in their choice of Inspectors. I should also like to ask this—no doubt the Sanitary Institute is an important body, and many of the individuals examined by it are useful sanitary officers, but is not the Institute a self-elected body? I think we should err if we were to give to such a body authority to appoint the Sanitary Inspectors throughout the whole of the Metropolis.

(12.20.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

So far as I can follow most hon. Members who have spoken, there is nothing to be said against the Sanitary Institute. I think the more we endeavour to safeguard the health of the public by paying attention to sanitation the better; and if you have a Sanitary Institute, why not avail yourself of its services? The name of the hon. Member for Hackney (Sir Guyer Hunter) in association with the Sanitary Institute is a sufficient guarantee of the importance of that Institution, though the hon. Member does sit on the other side of the House. Nothing that has been said in my estimation undermines the Institute; accordingly, I think this proposal a very reasonable one.


I would point out that the principle of this proposal has already been adopted in several local Acts. As to the experience of two years it is only in precise harmony with a clause passed in the Local Government Act of 1888.

Amendment agreed to.

Lords' Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Further Lords' Amendments agreed to.

Page 61, line 24, leave out Sub-section (.3) and insert— (3.) Where some only of the persons by whoso act or default any nuisance has boon caused have been proceeded against under this Act, they shall be entitled to recover in a summary manner from the other persons who were not proceeded against a proportionate part of the costs of and incidental to such proceedings and abating such nuisance, and of any fine and costs ordered to be paid by the court in such proceedings, the next Amendment, read a second time.

Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


At this hour of the night I will not divide against this Amendment, but I must say it appears to me to be of a very objectionable character. The Amendment in the most light-hearted way runs a tilt directly against what I may call the very remarkable legal doctrine that contribution cannot be claimed between wrong doers. Suppose in the case of two owners of insanitary property one is prosecuted and fined, you allow him, although he may be the more guilty of the two, to use the medium of a Court of Law to obtain a contribution from the other wrongdoer. That, I think, is a scandalous innovation in the common law doctrine that contribution cannot be claimed between two wrongdoers. There is a second alteration in the Amendment, which gives power to recover the contribution in a summary way. I think that is objectionable, because its effect will be to throw a large amount of difficult and delicate business on the already overburdened shoulders of the Metropolitan Police Magistrates. I think that is a matter to which the attention of the Homo Secretary might very well be called.

*(12.25.) MR. RITCHIE

There are many cases in which the party proceeded against is really the least guilty—has, in fact, only the most remote liability—and I think it hard to say that under no circumstances shall the real offender be proceeded against for at least some portion of the damage or loss suffered.


I admit the reasonableness of the case put by the right hon. Gentleman, but my objection is to the sweeping nature of the Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords' Amendments agreed to.