HC Deb 12 April 1892 vol 3 cc1260-75

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1.

(3.23.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

; This Bill was read a second time last night after twelve o'clock, and we had not time to then discuss it. Indeed, I did not know that it had been read a second time until I saw the report this morning in the papers. We ought to have a separate Public Health Bill for the whole of Scotland, for the counties as well as the burghs, as is the case in England. I shall now move to report Progress, in order to call attention to this matter. The Bill requires to be greatly altered, but we have not yet had time to put Amendments down upon the Paper. Altogether the Bill contains 560 clauses, and it can only be passed by striking out the whole of the Public Health Clauses. It entirely transforms our Burgh Law, our Police Law, and our Public Health Law. Under the circumstances, I think it is only reasonable that an opportunity should be given us of putting Amendments upon the Paper.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Dr. Clark.)

(3.28.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I hope the Motion for Adjournment will not be persevered with strongly. Three years ago a Committee was appointed to deal with this Bill, and they sat for three months. It is true that some changes were then made in it of an important character relating to rating, but they all came within small dimensions, and they might be discussed in a very short time. I deprecate very strongly the idea that has been suggested that the Public Health Clauses should be taken out of the Bill. The fact is that the Public Health Clauses are the most important clauses in the Bill, and it would be hardly fair to those who represent Scotland to take them out of it. I hope my hon. Friend will allow the non-contentious clauses to go through Committee, and to leave over those upon which there should be some discussion till Monday week. Opportunity would then be afforded to the hon. Member of putting down such Amendments as may be considered necessary.

(3.30.) MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)

I hope the Motion for Progress will not be persevered with. It is perfectly true that upon all the clauses there is not general agreement; but what I would impress upon my hon. Friends is this—to take a broad and a friendly view of the measure, and to allow us to go through Committee as far as possible to-day. I may say that I had a conversation with my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian, and that he is very anxious to see this Bill carried through. That being so, I am sure my hon. Friend will be willing to accede to the wish thus expressed, and will withdraw his Motion.


I understand the objections of the hon. Member for Caithness to be confined to certain clauses, and I would suggest, without discussing the value of those objections, that we might be allowed to take the less contentious clauses to-day. On the part of the Government I would be glad to postpone any clause to which objection is taken.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

It is perfectly impossible, when clauses are being read from the Chair, for hon. Members to formulate their objections. I have no objection to the Bill as a whole—certainly not to three-fourths or four-fifths of it; but there are in the Bill a number of things to which I have a very strong objection. For instance, in casually reading the Bill this morning, I came across one clause which completely alters the entire principle of the law relating to the abolition of imprisonment for debt in Scotland, and I am sure that this result was not intended by those who drew this Bill. I wish to point out the great inconvenience of the course adopted by the Government with regard to this Bill. I know that many hon. Members who might have an objection to the details of the Bill agreed to raise no objection to the Second Reading if the Government allowed a reasonable time to elapse before taking the Committee stage, so that they might look into the matter. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, I was prepared to move an Instruction to the Committee to the effect that the Committee have power to divide the Bill into two different portions. There was, however, no opportunity given so that I might put down such an Instruction. There is one body of men in Scotland who may be considered as pre-eminently entitled to be consulted in any matter connected with public health, and that is the Association of Medical Officers in Scotland. Those gentlemen have stated their objection to the question of the law relating to public health in Scotland being treated in the manner proposed in this Bill. They say that the Bill, if it is to be passed at all, should apply all round, and that the larger towns should not be excepted. They complain that, this Bill having only been printed a few days ago, they have had no opportunity of seeing its provisions. One of their objections to the Bill is that it proposes to alter the position of Officers of Public Health in Scotland as defined by the Local Government (Scotland) Act. If the Bill had been divided into two parts, the non-contentious matter might have been disposed of at once. But there is another inconvenience. It is proposed that the Bill should be put down for Monday week. Having regard to the Adjournment of the House until that day, it must inevitably happen that when the Bill is then brought forward a large number of Amendments will be handed in in MSS. I do not think that is a system of legislation which can commend itself to the House. Now, Sir, my hon. Friend below me intends to move to include Glasgow in the Bill. On that point, I will only say that while I could tolerate the Bill as long as it does not apply to the City which I have the honour to represent, I should certainly offer the strongest possible objection to Glasgow being placed under this Code without due notice.

MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)

I want to say a word on behalf of the small burghs, who really do want this Bill. Glasgow is not affected by the Bill, or if it is affected it is in so minute a way as to be imperceptible. In the small burghs people, without distinction of Party, are deeply anxious that this Bill should be passed. It has been ten years before the House. It has been printed I do not know how many times at great public cost, and over and over again for no reasonable purpose it has been objected to. Two or three years ago we got through Committee, and further progress was stopped, not by any representative of a constituency affected by the Bill, but by the hon. Member for St. Rollox, who put down 15 pages of Amendments which made it impossible to pass the Bill. Now we have the hon. Gentleman who represents the College Division objecting to do on the same grounds.


I did nothing of me sort.


That is the kind of objection by which this Bill is being met. My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness no doubt represents a burgh that is affected. I am sure there is no desire to deprive him of an opportunity of moving his Amendments. But the First Lord, has made a reasonable offer; he says that if any clause is objected to, it will be postponed, and ample opportunity given for its discussion. Why, then, should we not proceed with the Bill? There may be objections on some points, but the substance of the Bill is most acceptable to the constituencies, and is earnestly wished for.

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

The reason I objected some years ago was this: The Government was going to introduce a Local Government Bill which would transfer the administration of matters connected with public health to the County Councils. It was simply a matter of convenience. Now that the Local Government Act has passed, I may say that personally I have no objections to this Bill. At the same time, I would point out to the Government the extreme inconvenience of mixing up in one Bill questions connected, with the police and with public health. If there is to be an amendment of the Public Health Act it should be done by a separate Bill. To apply to burghs a rule different from that obtaining in counties will make the Public Health Act unworkable.


I would have no objection to the proposal of the First Lord if I saw how it could be carried out. But I notice that in the 4th clause it is proposed to substitute the word "Commissioners" for "Town Councillors." We do not want that newfangled word, and if it is not left standing then the phraseology of all the later clauses will have to be altered. Again, it is proposed that certain burghs should be exempt. Greenock is to be exempted, but Leith and Paisley and Govan are taken in. We want a uniform Police Law.


If, as has been said, there are few hon. Members present, it is because they do not desire to discuss in detail this Bill, and because they know that the Town Councils are anxious that the Bill should pass. I hope the Amendment will not be pressed. I can understand that it would be desirable to have some changes respecting the Public Health Act in counties. I do not see how it is likely we shall have a more favourable opportunity of passing the Bill than we shall have this afternoon. It will be a matter of the deepest regret and concern to all the small burghs in Scotland if anything is done to hinder the passing of this Bill. We are all of one mind on the subject, and it is very hard that the safety of this Bill should be endangered by the Representatives of constituencies which are hardly affected by it at all. There is nobody whatever against this Bill, and I earnestly hope our reputation for common sense will not be taken away by any senseless opposition to the Bill.

(3.55.) MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)

I would remind the hon. Member for Caithness, with reference to the postponement of Clause 4, the Definition Clause, that that was the very course adopted in the Committee, and why should we not postpone the Clause now? As representing five of the burghs in Scotland which will be affected by this Bill, I can speak as to the feeling which exists in favour of its passage into law, and I most sincerely hope the advice which has been tendered to this House through the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, who wishes to assist in the passage of this Bill, will be accepted by all sides of the House.

(3.57.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

With regard to the Definition Clause, I do not think there is any serious objection on the point as to whether those gentlemen should be called Town Councillors or Commissioners. What we are concerned about is the law under which they are going to administer the affairs of the burghs.


I have no objection to go on as far as we can until we come to the contentious matter, but then as soon as we get there we may go on to subjects which are not dealt with in this clause.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4.


I move that the clause be postponed.

Clause postponed.

Clause 5.


This clause raises a question of principle whether the Bill shall apply to the whole of the burghs of Scotland, or whether a number of burghs shall be exempted. I beg to move that this clause be postponed.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8.

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

I beg to move the Amendment which was moved previously— After 'situated' insert 'Members of Parliament for burghs wholly or partly within the county and Councils or burghs within the county.'

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


I would ask the hon. Gentleman to remember his attitude towards the Bill, and to consider whether it is desirable to take this Amendment now. I hope he will take another occasion for bringing it forward.


If time be allowed for the purpose of making other Amendments I certainly, for my part, will not put down one single unnecessary Amendment. I have no intention of interposing any obstacle to the passing of the Bill, but I would appeal to the Government to give time for the consideration of Amendments.


I hope my hon. Friend in moving his Amendments will only press matters of principle.

MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)

The hon. Member should put the saddle on the right horse.


Order, order!

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 9 to 14, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 15.


I beg to move that the clause be postponed.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 16 to 27, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 28 postponed.

Clauses 29 to 35, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 36.


This clause limits the number of Magistrates of burghs according to population. We think that two Magistrates are not sufficient for some of the burghs, and I move that the clause be postponed.


The smallest burghs have 7,000 of a population. I should think two Magistrates would be sufficient for such burghs, and I have heard of no wish from any burgh whatever that the number of Magistrates should be increased.


It is with reference to burghs between 10,000 and 15,000 that this matter is contentious. There was a division in the Committee on the matter, and a strong feeling about it.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 37 to 41, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 42.


This clause affects one of the burghs which I represent, where we have two classes of Magistrates, Police Magistrates, and Burgh Magistrates. I think this clause wants amendment, as it does not meet the case entirely, and I move that the clause be postponed.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 43 to 45 agreed to.

Clause 46 postponed.

Clauses 47 to 59, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 60 postponed.

Clauses 61 to 74, inclusive, agreed to.

Clauses 75 to 77 postponed.

Clause 78.

(4.8.) MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)

This clause deals with a population of not less than 25,000. I beg to move, as an Amendment, in page 3, line 8, after the word "thousand," to insert the words, or at any time it is proved to the satisfaction of the Sheriff that they have a population of 20,000.

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

(4.9.) DR. CLARK

If this had come on in the usual fashion the hon. Member's Amendment would have been on the Paper, and we would have known what it meant. I object to anything of this kind being done without notice, and I think the Amendment should be put on the Paper, so that we may know what we are doing.


I hope my hon. Friend will not press the Amendment now.


This Amendment is to alter the population of the burghs, and it will give rise to considerable discussion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause postponed.


The Government have now got two portions of their Bill, and Parts 3 and 4 raise the questions of the Police Force and the Public Health Clauses, which I think require further time for consideration. To these clauses also there are a great number of Amendments. I, therefore, move that you do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."


I hope the hon. Member will not press his Motion, but let us get on with the Bill, in which the burghs I represent are deeply interested.


I hope my hon.. Friend will not press the Motion.


In these clauses there are several powers given which I do not think ought to be given. I think it would be a reasonable compromise to take up to Clause 99, the end of Part 3 of the Bill. Beyond that the clauses are bristling with pains and penalties, and we ought not to allow the Criminal Law to be altered in this way without full and free discussion. If the right hon. Gentleman will take up to Clause 98 that will give him the machinery, and leave the clauses beyond, which deal with the incidence of the taxes and lighting, and will then report Progress, I will withdraw.


I hope my hon. Friend will not persist. How, in the name of common sense, are we to pass this Bill till the crack of doom if there are constant Motions to report Progress? The Bill is of great magnitude, and to apply the process of dealing with ordinary Bills would render its passage impossible. When I observe that those who are the subjects of the clauses imposing penalties are themselves anxious and pressing for them to be passed, and that the objection comes almost wholly from those who have select penal clauses of their own, it is impossible to reconcile their proceeding with a sincere desire to pass the Bill.


I think progress would be facilitated if my hon. and learned Friend would abstain from indulging in unnecssary lectures. He previously said that my object fn resisting the progress on the Bill was to enable me to put down 15 pages of Amendments. I never put down 15 pages of Amendments to a Bill in my life. I have been silent while 70 or 80 clauses have been passed, waiting till I have some Amendment to propose—and surely that is a guarantee that I have no desire to place a mechanical obstacle in the way of the Bill. The First Lord of the Treasury feels the importance of these clauses as he intends to give an opportunity of discussing them, and I shall feel bound to offer some remarks on the clauses in Part 4.


I want to make a suggestion which may help matters. I propose that we shall proceed with the Bill avoiding all discussion to-day, postponing all contentious clauses.


That is the offer I made to the Committee two hours ago.


I think my hon. and learned Friend had the opportunity of raising every one of these points before the Committee which sat for eight weeks in the summer, and he carried as many of his points as any individual of the House could expect to do. It is true that if my hon. and learned Friend persists in raising these points it will make legislation impossible. I think it a little unfair of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), whose constituents have insisted on being exempted from the Bill, to resist the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Scotch Members in this House, and of the small burghs of Scotland to whom the passing of the Bill is very important.


If we carry out the principle that every clause to which objection is made be postponed we should get on better. I shall have to cut this discussion short, having regard to the other business of the House, but we have still a little time left for it.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I want to raise an objection to this Bill being scamped in this way. In the Bill many precedents will be set which it may be attempted to apply to Ireland, and we ought, therefore, to give more time to the consideration of them. It is an absolute piece of humbug and bunkum trying to rush this Bill through in an afternoon, to meet the exigencies of an already defunct Government.


We might proceed to Clause 104, and then postpone the rest. I am glad to have heard this discussion, which shows that the voice of Scotland is not unanimous, as that is in favour of Scotch Home Rule.


Order, order! Does the hon. Gentleman withdraw his Motion?


There is Clause 83, the Coercion Clause, on which I feel very strongly. After our experience in Skye I shall have to oppose that clause. I withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 79 to 82 agreed to.

Clause 83 postponed.

Clauses 84 to 86 agreed to.

Clause 87 postponed.

Clauses 88 to 99, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 100 postponed.

Clauses 101 to 103 agreed to.

Clause 104 postponed.

Clauses 105 to 107 agreed to.

Clauses 108 and 109 postponed.

Clauses 110 to 113 agreed to.

Clauses 114 to 117 postponed.

Clause 118.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

This is another clause to which we object. It imposes a penalty of 40s. on occupiers for not performing certain duties which are now performed by the owners. I do not think we are making much progress, and I see no use in going on in this way.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

I think the clauses up to 126 are of a most contentious character.


Then we will postpone those clauses.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

There is a great deal in this Bill raising new powers, and if we go on as we are going it will be said you allowed those powers to be given to Scotland sub silentio, and then it will be proposed to apply them to Ireland. There are a number of excellent clauses in this Bill which we should be delighted to apply to Ireland, but we have no chance of getting them. But in voting clauses in this matter we are acting entirely in the dark, and if we vote anything that is bad for Scotland we shall have it applied to Ireland, and be told that we should not oppose it. I venture to make a protest against this system of passing legislation.

Clauses 119 to 126, inclusive, postponed.

Clauses 127 to 129, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 130 postponed.

Clauses 131 and 132 agreed to.

Clause 133 postponed.

Clauses 134 and 135 agreed to.

Clauses 136 to 141, inclusive, postponed.

Clause 142 agreed to.

Clause 143.


I do not see why Scotland should have powers which are refused to Ireland, and I propose to alter this clause most mischievously. I propose to introduce the same mischievous proposal as was included in a Government Bill with regard to Ireland. We are not allowed to alter the names of the streets in our towns, and if we are not allowed, why should Scotland be? I admit the Amendment is a mischievous one, but I put it forward to show the manner in which Ireland is treated. We are allowed to alter the numbers, so we will leave the same power to Scotland; but I move after the word "name," to take in from the Irish Bill the words "with the consent of the majority of the inhabitants."

Amendment proposed, after the word "name," to insert the words "with the consent of the majority of the inhabitants."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)

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


This clause was brought forward at the particular request of the Scotch Members, and I hope the hon. Member will not press his Amendment. The Scotch Members will be very glad to help him to alter the Irish Bill if he will not spoil our measure.


This Amendment will show Her Majesty's Government the necessity of dealing impartially with all portions of the United Kingdom. I hope the Scotch Members will assist us to make the Government swallow one of their impartial proposals.


I admitted that my Amendment was mischievous, and I think the clause had better be postponed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 144 postponed.

Clauses 145 to 148, inclusive, agreed to.

Clauses 149 and 150 postponed.

Clauses 151 to 179, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 180 postponed.

Clause 181 agreed to.

Clauses 182 and 183 postponed.

Clauses 184 to 191, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 192 postponed.

Clauses 193 to 199, inclusive, agreed to.

Clauses 200 to 208, inclusive, postponed.

Clauses 209 to 214, inclusive, agreed to.

Clauses 215 and 216 postponed.

Clause 217 agreed to.

Clause 218 postponed.

Clauses 219 to 221, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 222.

(4.51.) DR. CLARK

According to this clause a person throwing a cork into the street is to be fined 20s.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 223 to 234, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 235.

(4.52.) DR. CLARK

This clause provides for the construction of sewers; and as it may come under one of the charges in connection with the Committee I should like to have it postponed.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 236 and 237 agreed to.

Clause 238.

(4.53.) DR. CLARK

This clause means that new houses cannot be built unless they are drained, and it is impossible in some of the smaller burghs to do that.

Clause postponed.

Clause 239 agreed to.

Clause 240.

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

This clause deals with the ventilation of buildings, a subject forming the subject of inquiry in a Committee upstairs; and as it may be connected with the operation of the Public Health Act I hope the Committee will postpone the clause.

Clause postponed.

Clause 241 agreed to.

Clause 242 postponed.

Clauses 243 and 244 agreed to.

Clause 245 postponed.

Clause 246 agreed to.

Clause 247.

(4.55.) DR. CLARK

This is a very objectionable clause, which permits the sewage of other people to be put under the houses of their neighbours.

Clause postponed.

Clause 248 postponed.

Clause 249.

(4.56.) DR. TANNER

Here, again, "waste pipe in communication with drains." To run a waste pipe in communication with drains anywhere in the vicinity of an open window may be very serious. We have been considering these matters for weeks past in connection with a Committee upstairs; and that particular point was discussed during the whole of an afternoon; and accordingly, in connection with many of these sanitary clauses, I do not think you are doing well or wisely in scampering through this Bill with this undue and indecent haste.

(4.57.) DR. CAMERON

All these clauses would be much better dealt with by giving powers to the Local Authorities to make bye-laws. The small details would be very much better dealt with by bye-laws than by clauses of an Act of Parliament; and I would suggest, therefore, before coming to any decision, that all these clauses up to 256 should be postponed.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 250 to 256, inclusive, postponed.

Clauses 257 and 258 agreed to.

Clause 259 postponed.

Clauses 260 to 269, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 270.

(4.58.) DR. CAMERON

This is a subject, again, which had better be dealt with by bye-law.


I wish to point out to my hon. Friend that the object of this Bill is to consolidate the law, so that there may not be one law for one burgh and another for another. My hon. Friend is more familiar with the City of Glasgow than with the smaller burghs, where the same law would not be applicable, as they can go to any expense in these matters in the City of Glasgow.

(5.1.) DR. CAMERON

With all respect to my hon. Friend, whose views are entitled to great weight, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the propriety of dealing with a great number of these matters by bye-laws, and that these clauses should be postponed.

Clause postponed.

Clauses 271 to 276, inclusive, postponed.

Clauses 277 to 281, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 282.

(5.3.) DR. TANNER

This clause, which deals with the accumulation of penalties, appears to me to afford much room for discussion and ought to be postponed.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 283 to 285, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 286 postponed.

Clauses 287 to 289, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 290 postponed.

Clauses 291 to 315, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 316 postponed.

Clauses 317 to 325, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 326 postponed.

Clauses 327 to 329, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 330 postponed.

Clauses 331 to 339, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 340.

(5.20.) DR. CAMERON

Here we come to the public health portion of the Bill and the Sanitary Clauses, and I would suggest that we should now break off. I beg to move, Mr. Courtney, that you do report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Dr. Cameron.)


Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the discussion in Committee on the Bill will be resumed?


The Bill will be put down on the day the House is to resume after the Recess, with the view of making progress at all events with the remaining uncontested clauses. Under these circumstances I agree to the Motion moved by the hon. Member.

Motion agreed to.

Committee report Progress.


I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to take it on the Monday, as it would much facilitate business.


The House could, after the Easter Recess, make progress at all events with the undisputed clauses.

Committee to sit again upon Monday, 25th April.