HL Deb 01 August 1839 vol 49 cc1055-8
The Earl of Shaftesbury

reported to the House the Metropolis Police Bill, with amendments.

Lord Edenborough

adverted to the clause, prohibiting the use of dogs as beasts of burden, and drew the attention of the House to a statement he had received from a poor man on that subject. The individual stated, that he performed a journey of fourteen miles per day, and by the aid of his dog and cart, earned about 18s. a-week, with which he supported his wife and family. If he was deprived of the use of his dog, he must, in order to carry on his trade, substitute an ass, which would lead to an expense of tolls in his journies, amounting to 5s. 6d. per week, and thus would reduce his means of support. He had not the least doubt that this was not a solitary case, and it was for the House to say whether it would assent to the clause in its present form, which would deprive all those persons of their sole means of support. He proposed, therefore, to modify the clause by inserting after the words "barrow, truck, or cart," the words "wherein any person shall be carried."

Lord Brougham

could not agree in the view taken of this subject by his noble Friend. He must call the atteution of the House to the very great cruelty there was in using for the purposes of draught, an animal which was riot framed for that purpose. The dog was framed for totally different functions; not one of his limbs or muscles was framed for the purposes of draught. Nothing could be more shock- ing or disgusting than to see, in the villages, the practice of great heavy men being drawn by dogs. Indeed, he had seen himself near the place wherein their Lordships were assembled—namely, in Abingdon-street—a large cart full of crockery and all sorts of articles, drawn by small dogs, who could scarcely get on. He bad been informed by medical men, that that most lamentable of all diseases, hydrophobia, had greatly increased of late years, and they had no hesitation whatever in ascribing that to the mode of exhausting the strength, and tormenting the physical powers of dogs by their employment as animals of draught. The persons who employed these clogs for such purposes could not suffer much, for they might get another animal which would answer their purposes as well, and which was not dearer in price than two or three dogs—he meant a jackass.

The Earl of Wicklow

said, the evil on which the noble Lord opposite had dwelt, had but recently commenced, and if their Loadships allowed it to go on, they would find it difficult to deal with it in an effectual manner hereafter. The subject had been very fully considered elsewhere, and he did not think it a hard task for their Lordships to come to a decision upon it. He believed that no man of humanity could walk the streets of the metropolis without being shocked at the scenes of cruelty which were daily exhibited in them. He opposed the amendment as not going far enough.

Lord Ellenborough

said, that after what he had heard flow noble Lords, he would not press his amendment. He had received several letters from Gentlemen complaining of particular nuisances which existed in their particular neighbourhoods; but he thought, that if their Lordships were to commence a legislation upon matters of that sort, there would be be no end to it. The suppression of many of the things complained of would be very injurious to some poor people, and, indeed, the House would only fall into disrespect by attempting a crusade of the kind.

The Bishop of London

begged leave, before the report was agreed to, to call the attention of her Majesty's Government, and their Lordships generally, to a very important subject, connected, he thought, with the police regulations of the metropolis. A very important and interesting document was appended to the last report of the Poor-law Commissioners, being the report of the physician to the London Fever Hospital, on the prevalence of fever in the metropolis, and which contained facts deserving of the most serious consideration. He hardly knew under what department this matter should be ranged—whether under the business of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, or the authorities of the Home-office; but it was clear, that the demoralized condition of those parts of the metropolis where poverty, filth and disease prevailed, went hand-in-hand with a sort of reciprocal accumulation. In fact, the prevalence of crime was, in a great measure, owing to the state of misery, squalidness, and disease, which many parts of the metropolis were in. The filthy state of those districts was alike prejudicial to public health and public morals. The report to which he had alluded, recommended the construction of underground sewers, with effectual surface-drainage into them. Much might be done to abate the evil by the active and systematic exertions of the police, by preventing the inhabitants of those districts from piling up heaps of filth, and leaving them to contaminate the air and generate disease; but more might be effected by pressing upon the commissioners of sewers the necessity of providing a more effectual remedy in the better and more general construction of sewers. In those low and crowded parts of the metropolis to which he more particularly referred, disease prevailed to an extent of which their Lordships had no idea; and he earnestly recommended to their perusal and attention the report in question. Perhaps, the principal means by which a change for the better was to be effected, was the pulling down of those close, crowded, and filthy courts and alleys, which were the greatest obstacles to a free circulation of air, and the promotion of cleanliness among the people. Among all the great exertions which had been made to improve the metropolis, in widening the streets in order to facilitate the purposes of trade and traffic, those poorer parts of the metropolis had been too much neglected, which were at once the nurseries of disease, vice, and crime; and as long as they were suffered to continue in their present condition, from which they would never be rescued by their individual proprietors or landlords, so long every effort of the police, however wisely organized or energetically directed. Would be inefficient in checking and suppressing either physical suffering, or moral degradation. He thought they did not, in their proceedings, pay sufficient attention to the moral and physical comforts of the poor, and unless efforts were made to improve their condition, both physically and morally, a diminution of disease or crime was scarcely to be expected. He hoped he was not stepping beyond the line of his duty, considering the situation he occupied, in calling the attention of her Majesty's Government, and their Lordships, to this subject.

Viscount Duncannon

said, attention should be paid to the suggestions of the right rev. Prelate.

The Earl of Haddington

inquired whether this bill really gave power to the police to put a stop to the trifling exhibitions which were sometimes to be witnessed in the streets, particularly the never-to-be-fogotten and most celebrated show of Punch? He did not conceive that there was anything dangerous in such exhibitions, and if the police were to have power to interfere with or stop them, he would be no consenting party to that regulation.

Viscount Duncannon

was afraid that by the clauses of the bill, it might probably be in the power of the police to interfere with those exhibitions, but he thought the magistrates would take care that it was not improperly exercised.

Report agreed to.