§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (5.23.) SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
I am sorry that I have to interfere in connection with this Bill. It is promoted by the Joint Committee of the County Councils of Lancashire and Cheshire for the purpose of preventing the pollution of the Rivers Mersey and Irwell; but I think it is open to grave objection, inasmuch as the Bill, while conferring powers upon the County Councils for the prevention of pollution of the rivers, also seeks to confer new and extensive powers without taking into account any of the safeguards which are in existence under the Public Act for the Protection of Manufacturers. This Bill seeks not only to enforce powers already existing, but it seeks to enforce new powers for the prevention of the pollution of rivers. That may be right or wrong, and I will not stop to discuss it; but it should not be done by means of a Private Bill. The Bill will throw a very great burden upon both the manufacturers and the ratepayers in the neighbourhood of those rivers, and I feel it due to my constituents to make a protest against the progress of it, believing as I do that, though I should like to carry its objects into effect, this is not the means of doing it.
§ *(5.25.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
When the Bill first came under my notice, I thought that the provisions contained in it were of a serious character; so serious that I thought that, so far as I am concerned, it would 1364 be quite impossible for me to recommend it to the House for Second Reading. In the first place, the Bill proposes to effect a very sweeping alteration in the law with regard to the pollution of rivers. But while I do not wish to lay down the general principle that in no case ought the law to be altered by means of a Private Bill, it seems to me that the provisions of this Bill are so strong and that the proposed alterations are so great that it goes beyond the proper limits. The main proposal in the Bill, and one to which I think serious objection may be taken, is that it sweeps away the whole protection given to manufacturers and others by the general law. The Central Board takes the best means in its power to prevent the pollution of rivers, and in manufacturing districts such protection as it is possible to give within reasonable limits is given by the Central Department. I informed the promoters of the Bill that if the protection given by the general law to manufacturers was swept away, the Local Government Board would oppose the Bill, but that they would forward its passing if the promoters would consent to retain the protection given under the general law by the provision which prevents proceedings from being taken until the consent of the Local Government Board has been obtained. I received an assurance from the promoters that they would assent to this course, and that a clause would be submitted to the Committee which would restore the protection given by the general law to the manufacturers. Still, even with the insertion of such a clause, I think objection may fairly be taken to the Bill in regard to its other provisions, although possibly not of so serious a nature; so that I should be disposed to recommend the House to allow the Bill to be read a second time in order that it may be put before a Select Committee. There is no doubt that the condition of these rivers is very bad, and I am sure all those interested would be very glad if they could by any means be rendered more pure. For these reasons I think the Bill might be sent to a Select Committee.
§ (5.28.) SIR WILLIAM HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.W.)
I should like to say a word or two in defence of the action of the Joint Committee of the Counties of Lancashire and Cheshire in promoting this Bill. It should be recollected that the Joint Committee represents some eight or nine county boroughs, and also that they are specially charged, by order of the Local Government Board, to carry out the Rivers Pollution Act of 1876. It has been found perfectly impossible under the general law to carry out that Act with any effect, and they therefore felt it was their duty to come to this House and ask for powers which they believe to be absolutely necessary for the carrying out of the duties imposed upon them. In regard to the manufacturers and others most affected they recognise how desirable it is that action should be taken to carry into effect the Act of 1876, and I believe I am right in saying that no objection on the part of manufacturers is taken, although, no doubt, their interests ought to be, and will be, protected. No doubt some of those who desire that protection will appear before the Committee, and there obtain the protection they are entitled to.
§ (5.30.) MR. CHARLES SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
In regard to the Ship Canal and the sewerage along the route, I believe the health of the people is likely to suffer unless some drastic measure is adopted. I believe this Bill will afford some remedy, and I beg to support the Motion for its Second Reading.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed.