HL Deb 19 March 1846 vol 84 cc1217-20

moved the Second Reading of the Metropolitan Buildings Bill. Their Lordships would remember that in the Session of 1844 an Act was passed, the object of which was to repeal the old Building Act of 1774, which had been found inefficient for the purposes it was intended, namely, for establishing and defining a well-digested and well-regulated code of rules, by which metropolitan buildings should be erected and repaired, with a view to the safety and comfort of the public. The country had had more than a year's experience of the new measure; and he was bound to admit that in several respects defects were apparent in the Bill. It was scarcely to be expected to be otherwise in a measure so full of details as this necessarily was, and affecting so many interests, and interests of such various kinds. The consequence had been, that many representations of different sorts had been addressed to the Government, setting forth the real or supposed defects of the measure, and pointing out what the complainants considered would be the proper remedies to be applied. Some of those representations contained suggestions, and others complaints, many of which, no doubt, were unreasonable; while, on the other hand, he must admit, others were founded upon just and reasonable grounds. Where the latter was the case, the Government had considered it to be their duty to take those complaints or suggestions into consideration, with a view to devise some remedy for the defects complained of. The Bill upon their Lordships' Table, therefore, was only the Bill of 1844, containing several Amendments, which had been thought necessary in consequence of the representations which had been made to the Government. At a later period of the Session he should deem it his duty to bring the whole of the corrections before their Lordships, embodied in a Bill, if any further Amendments were proposed. In the mean time it would only be necessary for him to refer to the amended clauses on the Act of 1844, which described the machinery by which it was proposed to carry it out. Under the Act of 1844, there were two official referees appointed. A subsequent clause in the Bill directed the appointment of a third officer, who was called the registrar, whose duty it was to put upon record the decisions of the official referees, and as it was understood that this officer would generally be a barrister, to act as a sort of legal assessor to them, by affording them advice upon legal matters. The clause also provided that the award of one referee was final and binding, if the seal of the registrar was affixed to it. This was calculated to lead to great inconvenience, inasmuch as the referees might give different awards; and the one which received the seal of the registrar, who was not supposed to be practically acquainted with the details of building, was final. Her Majesty's Government had deemed it their duty to seize the earliest opportunity of removing this obstruction; and for that purpose they proposed to appoint an additional referee who should possess co-ordinate powers with the other two; and, of course, from the mere fact of there being three referees, in case of disagreement, a decision would be come to by a majority of referees acquainted with the subject. The most formidable objection to the appointment of this third referee was the additional expense. By the Act of 1844 the salaries of these referees were partly borne by the Consolidated Fund, and partly by the city of London, and the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, and Kent. The salary of each referee was 1,000l.; but by the additional appointment it was not proposed to increase the expense, as one of the parties had retired on account of the condition which had been heretofore attached to the office, that he should be debarred from pursuing his ordinary professional avocations: the Government now proposed to appropriate this sum to the payment of 500l. per annum each to the successor of this gentleman and the third referee, and to permit them to pursue their own private practice as surveyors. He hoped no objection would be offered to the passing of this Bill, so that it might go into Committee next day.


said, there never was a Bill passed that had met with more objections, and had so little answered the purposes for whieh it was intended, as the Metropolitan Buildings Act of 1844. He could speak to the inefficiency of the measure, and he was gratified in hearing the noble Viscount express his intention to introduce a new Bill during the present Session; and he trusted that the provisions of that Bill would be such as would do away with the necessity of constant complaint against it on the part of the public, by providing a proper and efficient remedy for the existing defects.


did not rise to oppose the second reading of the Bill; but he must say that he thought the only way to remedy the evil would be to repeal the Bill of 1844 altogether. He was convinced, that to attempt to patch up that Bill would only be to make confusion worse confounded. He and some noble Friends of his foretold the difficulties that would ensue; but in vain. His noble Friend had given but a faint idea of the confusion that had been occasioned. So very defective was the Act, that he thought few of those noble Lords who supported it in 1844 had read it through. The present Bill touched only two or three clauses out of some hundred or more equally objectionable; and he would suggest to the noble Lord (Lord Canning) that the better course would be to withdraw the present Bill, and bring in another more comprehensive, or, at least, one to repeal the Act of 1844, and allow buildings to be regulated for the present by the old Building Act of 1774, which, whatever its defects, was perfection, compared with the present.


said, he had read the Bill of 1844 several times while it was before the House. He did not say that the Act was not in many points capable of improvement; but it was almost impossible to propose a measure of such a nature, dealing as it did with various interests, and involving many complicated matters, that should be in the first instance altogether free from objection. Questions of doubt were seen to arise, and objections to be made especially by those whose acts it was most necessary to control. He should much regret to see the Act repealed altogether, as the noble and learned Lord suggested; for it was absolutely necessary for the safety of the buildings and the health of the people that stringent measures should be taken.


regretted that no measure had hitherto passed for abolishing the smoke nuisance in the metropolis. So serious had that nuisance become, owing to the establishment of so many manufactories, and the introduction of steam-engines, that the citizens of London were only by great accident ever permitted to see the sun, unless they went some miles out of town for that purpose. He was informed, that, by a very small expenditure, the nuisance might be abated in nearly all cases.


had granted two or three patents, while he held the office of Attorney General, any one of which would be effectual for remedying the nuisance of which the noble Lord complained, and that not only without any great expense, but with considerable economy, by diminishing the cost of fuel. He was inclined to agree that measures to compel the adoption of a remedy should be passed.


reminded the House that a Bill passed some Sessions ago for compelling manufacturers to consume their own smoke in the manufacturing towns.

Bill read 2a.

House adjourned.