HL Deb 10 February 1842 vol 60 cc236-41

The Marquess of Normanby,

PRICE Proposed Duty.
s. s. s.
At 50 & under 51 20 For every quarter under 51s.
51 .. 52 19
52 .. 53 18 At 52s. and under 55s.
53 .. 54
54 .. 55
55 .. 56 17
56 .. 57 16
57 .. 58 15
58 .. 59 14
59 .. 60 13
60 .. 61 12
61 .. 62 11
62 .. 63 10
63 .. 64 9
64 .. 65 8
65 .. 66 7
66 .. 67 6 At 66s. and under 69s.
67 .. 68
68 .. 69
69 .. 70 5
70 .. 71 4
71 .. 72 3
72 .. 73 2
73 or above 1

in moving the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Buildings Regulations Bill, expressed his surprise at finding, that it was intended to be opposed, and that by a noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) who had attended the committee with great industry, and who had not resisted the progress of this measure and of the Drainage Bill upon either of the two former occasions, when they had been unanimously passed by their Lordships. Under these circumstances, he (the Marquess of Normanby) regretted extremely the absence of a noble Lord in India, who had formerly rendered him most essential aid, as well as of a right rev. Prelate, who had also contributed most valuable assistance. As he had now more leisure than when in office, he had taken the opportunity of personally inspecting some of the most densely crowded and poorest districts, not merely in some country towns, but, during the last few days, in the metropolis, and within the daily reach of any of their Lordships; he did

PRICE. Proposed Duty.
s.. s. s.
At 25 & under 26 11
26 .. 27 10
27 .. 28 9
28 .. 29 9
29 .. 30 9
30 .. 31 8
31 .. 32 7
32 .. 33 6
33 .. 34 5
34 .. 35 4
35 .. 36 3
36 .. 37 2
37 1 27s. & upwards.

not wish noble Lords who agreed with him, to harrow up their feelings by witnessing such scenes, but he asked those who were opposed to him, to visit those neighbourhoods, and by the evidence of their own senses, to ascertain how much the prevailing misery had been understated. They would, surely, then, no longer resist the progress of measures which had for their object the remedy of such crying and increasing evil. In the neighbourhood of Whitechapel, they would find court within court, and alley within alley, inhabited by thousands, to reach whom the breath of Heaven had to thread a labyrinth of pestiferous avenues, full of accumulated and disgusting filth. All this might have been avoided, if, only thirty years ago, the Legislature had interfered to promote the circulation of air and cleanliness. He had also been to Bethnal-green, accompanied by a medical man, whose evidence had been much read and studied, in the reports on which he had founded these measures, and who took great and most humane interest in the subject. There he found 75,000 persons living in that parish, 50,000 of whom resided where there was no drainage of any kind. He went into the dwelling of a weaver, who had a wife and children, the children had never been without fever from the poisonous exhalations of stagnant filth, and he was compelled to pay 15s. a-month for a lodging, although his wages in the present state of depression, were only 10s. per week. One third of his earnings went, therefore, to secure him this foul residence, amidst dirt and disease. In some districts, the evil had even recently been created by the delay of legislation, and whole streets had been run up with extraordinary rapidity directly in the teeth of the bills upon the Table. Those bills would not, it was true, remedy immediately the evils against which they were directed, but they would correct them in future, and they would be of most essential service to a class of persons least protected, and who lived in crowded, and absolutely pestiferous neighbourhoods.

On the question, that the bill be read a second time,

The Marquess of Salisbury

had not intended to offer any opposition to the general principle of this bill (for he was aware that some legislative measure on the subject was called for) until he saw it in print that day. He had attended the committee on the bill, but circumstances over which he had no control had called him out of town; and he was also prevented from attending during the last short Session of Parliament. His objection to this bill was, that in its details it tended to perpetuate the very evils which it professed to remove. Another ground of objection was, that he did not think there was sufficient information on the subject before the House, and he should wish to have it referred back to the committee. It was asked why the people should like to live in those dens, as they were called, and the answer was, because they could not afford to pay for better. Any regulations which would enforce the erection of better houses, and with means of preserving greater cleanliness would necessarily increase the expense of building, and that would enhance the rent to be paid by the tenant; and, if they could not pay for the better and more cleanly habitations, they would of necessity be forced to remain in their present unclean houses, or be driven into the streets. In the town of Manchester there were, it was said, 15,000 persons living in cellars; but though many of the poorer classes in Manchester might not be as sensible of the comforts of cleanliness as those in other places, yet still it was reasonable to infer that so many persons would not prefer to dwell in such places if they could pay for better accommodation elsewhere. As to the Drainage Bill, which the noble Marquess had also introduced, he would not offer any objection to it, as he thought it was one which would do much good. It should be the policy of the Legislature to encourage buildings as much as possible, which would have the effect of lowering rents by the competition thus created; but the present bill would discourage all small buildings by rendering them too expensive. One clause in this bill was, that no persons should be allowed to dwell in cellars which had not chimnies with proper flues to them; but if this rule were applied to the 15,000 persons occupying the cellars in Manchester, to which he had referred, it would have the effect of turning them into the streets; for, as he had said, they would not have those cellars if they could afford to pay for better places of abode. If their Lordships could so improve the wages of labour as to enable the working classes to pay for better accommodation he should not object to this bill; but if the condition of the poor could not be otherwise improved this would only make them worse. The average expense of building a small house or cottage, for which a rent of nine guineas could be got was about 96l., and, taking the hazard of loss and all charges, that could not be considered too high a return for such an outlay. He would, therefore, again contend, that any increase of expenditure in improving the condition of the house would not operate favourably to the persons now occupying small and inconvenient habitations, for they would not remain in them if they could afford to pay for better. He agreed with the noble Marquess that there were many scenes of great filth in many of the crowded neighbourhoods in and near the metropolis; but he must repeat that the present measure would aggravate the evils it was intended to cure. With those clauses of the bill which went to widen and improve streets he would concur, but there were so many other clauses from which he differed, that he had no alternative but to oppose the bill altogether.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that having supported these measures in previous Sessions, he should give his vote in favour of them on the present occasion.

The Marquess of Normanby,

said, in answer to the Marquess of Salisbury, that in the temper of the House, and the evident disposition not to change the course previously pursued, but to sanction the bills as he had again presented them, he did not feel it necessary to enter into any detailed reply to arguments which, after all, though coupled with a motion against the second reading, were merely objections to detail. He, however, entirely denied the justice of the assumption, that the poor lived in these dens, as the noble Marquess joined in calling them, because they could not afford better. His information led him to believe that speculators made exorbitant profits from the working classes being obliged to dwell in certain localities. It was these profits he meant to reduce. The instance given by the noble Marquess confirmed, rather than contradicted this view. As for living in cellars, ample time was given for removal to other dwellings, before the prohibition came into operation, which was at the end of nine years, to this extent, that no cellar at present inhabited, should continue to be so, unless it had a window, an area, and a fire-place—surely, this was not requiring too much.

The Marquess of Salisbury

would with- draw his opposition if the noble Marquess would consent to refer the subject again to a select committee.

The Marquess of Normanby

could give no such pledge, but would promise, that any suggestions the noble Marquess at that time made should be received with the utmost attention, in order that the bill might be rendered as unobjectionable as possible.

The bill read a second time.

The Borough Improvement Bill also read a second time.

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