HL Deb 16 August 1853 vol 129 cc1752-5

, in moving that the House go into Committee on the Smoke Nuisance Abatement (Metropolis) Bill, observed that it was a measure of considerable importance, because it affected the comfort not only of their Lordships, but of every one in the metropolis, and every class of society. He believed that their Lordships were all aware, though they might not be aware of the whole ex-tent to which it had taken place, that they had been for years past subject to the gra- dual encroachment, not of an invisible enemy, but of an enemy who was perfectly obvious to any one, but whose approaches were so gradual that the whole extent could hardly be appreciated; and that at this moment, and for years past, they had been living, not under the canopy of heaven, but under one of their own creation. He need hardly tell their Lordships how injurious the smoke which now covered the metropolis was to works of art, and how much the evil called for some distinct interference of the Legislature, provided their legislation could be carried out without undue interference with the rights of parties. The experiments of the last seven years had abundantly proved that their Lordships could with perfect safety, without imposing any burdens upon individuals beyond some amount of attention and trouble, require the extinction and consumption of all smoke generated by manufacturing establishments. It was proposed by this Bill, that after the 1st of August next year all furnaces should be compelled to consume their own smoke, with the exception of glass works and potteries, throughout the metropolitan districts, and the Bill included the steam-boats on the river. There was an impression that this was a sort of dilettante measure, only sought for the benefit of the rich, and the preservation of works of art. He should be the last to say that works of art should not be protected, and that it was a wise policy to amass in the metropolis collections of the most valuable description. He thought that object alone was deserving the protecting hand of their Lordships. But so far from its being only for the interest of the richer classes, only affecting the feelings of amateurs and preservation of works of art—it affected every class of the community and the general cleanliness of the metropolis, for there was no housekeeper who was not able to vouch for the increased difficulty in maintaining the commonest cleanliness in consequence of the nuisance which this Bill would abate. The smoke so affected the clothing of the working classes that it was computed every mechanic paid at least five times the amount of the original cost of his shirt for the number of washings rendered necessary. Therefore, in proposing this Bill, he was assuming the functions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as it would make a considerable reduction of a duty levied upon the whole community not the less rigorously because they were hardly aware of it. The Bill, while affording that relief did so with singular care— he might also say more care than was necessary for the interests of the parties upon whom it would operate, because although six months was first proposed to be allowed for every manufacturer to provide himself with this machinery, that period had been extended to the 1st of August next. The provisions of the Bill were the same as had been adopted in various local Acts of Parliament. There were five or six places, including a part of the metropolis, White-chapel, in which provisions for this purpose were enforced; and in many instances in which persons had been compelled to adopt the new machinery they had found themselves benefited in point of economy by the change. He thought it unnecessary to say more upon a matter so obviously for the public advantage.

House in Committee.

Bill reported without Amendment.


congratulated the House and the country upon the introduction of this Bill, and expressed his obligations to the Government for having undertaken to pass so necessary a measure. He had himself carried two Bills for the same purpose through their Lordships' House; but not receiving the support of the Government, it had proved impossible to carry them through the other House of Parliament. If this Bill did not do all he desired, it was still a great improvement. He regretted that the operation of the Bill was postponed, as it created unnecessary delay; but since that was an agreement come to for the withdrawal of certain opposition, he should not interfere with it. He regretted also that glass works and potteries were excepted. A Bill had passed that very year for the improvement of Newcastle-on-Tyne, where more glass was made than in any other place in England, and no such exemption had been required in that instance. He considered that a great blot upon the measure; but he should not propose any alteration. He should, however, move amendments to make the words of enacting clause the same as the preamble, with respect to steam vessels between London-bridge and Richmond-bridge, and to modify the third clause, which provided that no penalty should attach where only coke or other fuel, not emitting smoke, was used. With respect to that proviso it would enable parties to evade the proviso it would enable parties to evade the operation of the Act; and it was only necessary to observe a railway train to see that coke put on rudely did emit smoke; and he, therefore, should propose to limit the exemption to cases in which no smoke was caused. He thought no one could object to those amendments; but if they endangered the passing of the Bill, he trusted the Government would at once give them up.


approved of the amendments, and had no objection to their introduction, upon the understanding that, if objected to elsewhere, they should be given up. He reminded the noble Lord that, with respect to glass works and potteries, the Bill would apply to those parts of the works which created the most noxious smoke.

Amendments made; and Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next.

House adjourned to Thursday next.