The EARL of SHAFTESBURY rose to move that the following Resolution be adopted as a Standing Order:—
That in every case of a Bill for giving power to any company, commissioners, or other undertakers, to take any houses, the Committee on the Bill shall require proof as to which of the houses are used wholly or in part as dwellings by persons of the labouring classes, and whether those houses can be taken for the purposes of the Bill without occasioning any pecuniary or other injury to such persons, and without being likely to occasion any overcrowding of any other dwellings; and, if it be not proved to the satisfaction of the Committee that those houses can be so taken without any such consequence, they shall see that adequate provision be made by the Bill for the erection or adaptation by the undertakers, at the earliest practicable period (not exceeding three years after the passing of the Bill), and within a convenient distance from the houses to be taken, of such dwelling-houses for the labouring classes as will be proper and sufficient for the accommodation of at least as many persons as can reside in the houses to be taken.
The necessity for taking such a step as that which lie proposed to their Lordships, arose from the circumstance that the institution of all Bills for improvements, whether they were Bills relating to railways or docks, or were Bills for town improvements, invariably involved the violent displacement of large multitudes of the industrious classes. Those large multitudes of the industrious classes were driven from the localities to which they were attached, by their proximity to the scene of their labour; they were driven to seek lodgings at a great distance from their
employment, or they were compelled, if they did not go to a considerable distance from the place where they worked, which in most instances would almost involve the ruin of many families, to reside as near as possible to the spot, by going into dwellings already overcrowded, teeming with population, filthy, and infested with the diseases incident to a locality so densely populated. He should give a few illustrations of the effect produced by this system of alterations and improvements, producing displacement without provision being made for the reception elsewhere of the parties so displaced. A few years ago an improvement was set on foot in that part of the town which was known in St. Giles's as the Rookery, and a street called New Oxford-street was formed, which was driven through a hive of human beings, a locality overflowing with human life. What was the result? That one of the most frightful localities in the neighbourhood, and in especial a place called Church-lane, already overpopulated to an extent far beyond what it could properly contain, doubled its population in a very short time; and when an examination was made in 1848 by the Statistical Society, the report which they made stated that, the average number of inhabitants to each house having in 1841 been 24, they found, in 1847, the average number of inhabitants to each house 40. During that interval the houses had been pulled down which had to be removed for the construction of the new street. What was the result? The report said of Church-lane, that it presented—
A picture in detail of human wretchedness, filth, and brutal degradation. In these wretched dwellings all ages and both sexes, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, grown-up brothers and sisters—the sick, dying, and dead—are herded together.
That, he could assure their Lordships, from personal knowledge, was not an overstatement, having frequently visited the locality. At the time when a great alteration was made in and about Farringdon market, a report was made, which was presented to Parliament in 1842, and in which it was stated—
It is usually assumed that the general effect of the clearances,' as they are called, occasioned by the formation of new streets, though attended with the present inconvenience of disturbing the occupants, is ultimately of unmixed advantage, by driving them into new and better tenements in the suburbs.
But the report went on to show that this
was by no means the case; for, though in some instances it was difficult to trace the individuals displaced, yet it had been ascertained that—
The working people make considerable sacrifices to avoid being driven to a distance from their places of work; that the poorest struggle against removal to a distance, from the opportunities of charitable donations, and that where new habitations are not opened to them in the immediate vicinity, every effort is made by bid-dings of rent to gain lodgings in the nearest and poorest of the old tenements. To the extent to which the displaced labourers succeed in getting lodgings in the same neighbourhood, as a large proportion of them certainly do, the existing evils are merely shifted, and by being shifted they are aggravated. On a survey of the newly-built houses in the suburbs to which displaced labourers can go, it appears that the labourer, to use the expression of Dr. Ferriar, is almost driven to hire disease.'
Here was an account of another displacement which occurred in the parish of Whitechapel. One of the most crowded places in that parish was swept away in the formation of a new street, called Commercial-street. By the removal of one street only, Essex-street, no fewer than 2,000 people were displaced. It was doubted whether the same persons continued to reside on the spot, or whether they did not go to a distance; but the medical officer of the parish, Mr. Liddle, stated that precisely the same persons continued to apply at the workhouse for relief after their displacement, and that they found shelter in the neighbouring streets, namely, Lambeth-street, Blue Anchor-yard, &c., places already notorious for their excessive mortality, caused by filth and overcrowding. This Commercial-street was made in 1844. The population of White-chapel increased from 34,000 in 1841 to 37,000 in 1851; and there was evidence to show that the new street, though it displaced thousands from their former abodes, did not drive them from the parish, but merely added to the numbers in already overcrowded houses. In the same district, when the new docks (St. Katharine's) were made, Mill-yard and the places adjacent became excessively crowded by the immigration of a poorer class of people, displaced by the docks; and now, he understood, the London Dock Company were about to pull down 500 houses, and displace some 5,000 people, who had no tenements to which they could resort except such as were disgusting for their filth, and were already full of disease and death. The result was notoriously the same in the
neighbourhood of their Lordships' House when Victoria-street was first opened. When the time arrived for pulling down the houses in that neighbourhood—Ducklane and High-street—he remembered being on the spot, and seeing the disorder, suffering, and confusion occasioned by the progress of the improvements. That part of the town appeared as if it had been taken by siege. People were running about to see where they could find shelter. Some of their houses were pulled down over their heads; and he knew, from inquiries he had made only two days ago, that those very persons so turned out of their houses were now living in the actual neighbourhood, but in houses tenfold more crowded than those which they inhabited before. Here was another evidence of the effect produced—it was evidence of the effect produced by the removal of houses for the construction of the Blackwall Railway. The engineer employed on that occasion was asked—
Have you had any (and what) occasion to examine the habitations of the labouring classes in the eastern districts of the metropolis?—I have witnessed much of the condition of these habitations; I was resident engineer to the Blackwall Railway, and we cut through some of the poorest property in that district, which is perhaps one of the worst-conditioned districts in London.
It is a frequent argument in favour of projected thoroughfares through densely crowded poor districts, the great blessing they will prove to the neighbourhood, in distributing the inhabitants. In my opinion there cannot be a greater mistake. This crowded population may be displaced, but cannot be removed to a distance, for the nature or situation of the labourer's employment will invariably determine the locality of his habitation, and until, in carrying out such improvements, suitable accommodation is provided for the disturbed inhabitants—the evil of overcrowding in the immediate vicinity must be fearfully aggravated. In the disturbance of the population to make way for the Blackwall Railway, I could not fail to observe that the same poor people continued in the immediate neighbourhood, which before was greatly overcrowded. Although this railway cleared away some of the vilest property in London, I do not hesitate to say it was an injury to the neighbourhood. I observe that the medical officer speaks of this increased overcrowding as a cause of ill-health. It always must be so, unless a proper provision be made for the disturbed inhabitants; the labouring classes cannot go great distances from their work.
He was asked—
Would it have been a hardship upon the Blackwall Company if, as the condition of their being allowed to take down a number of houses occupied by the labouring classes, they had been required at the same time to submit a plan for the
reconstruction, and to undertake the reconstruction of an equal number of improved tenements for the accommodation of such of the population displaced as might choose to have recourse to them?
His answer was—
So far from its being a hardship, it would, in my opinion, in all improvements, be a general advantage; in the case of the Blackwall Railway particularly; as they were compelled to purchase many plots of ground which they have not known what to do with, and are still lying waste, which would have answered this purpose well. They would have realised a fair interest, and the parties displaced have got a better tenement even at lower rates. I would decidedly recommend such a provision as the condition of Improvement Bills.
If the Black wall Railway had acted on that suggestion, and constructed houses, they would have made at least 5 per cent on those houses, whereas, as far as their shares were concerned, they did not realise at this moment more than 1¾ per cent. It might be said that those persons who were displaced had received notice, and ought to be prepared with dwelling-places for occupation when the time arrived for their being turned out of their habitations. It was all very well for leisurely and comfortable people like their Lordships to take notice; it was of little use to the poorer classes. The fact was they did not understand what it was, and lived always in hope that what was threatened would not take place; and even if they did comprehend the notice, the condition in which they were ought to be recollected. Living from hand to mouth, these poor people were called upon every day to look about for lodgings; now every day spent in the search was tantamount to a fine of at least 2s. The men were at work; the women could not leave their children, and must stay at home. That species of notice could not be turned to any practical account; and when their Lordships did proceed to legislate for the great mass of the working people, they must conduct their legislation with reference to the habits, feelings, condition, and even, prejudices of that class. He was at a loss to conceive any valid objection to the course he proposed. He had heard that some one said it was impracticable; but he could not see that it was one whit more impracticable to build up houses than to pull them down; to lodge people than to displace them; and if their Lordships made his proposition a Standing Order, and let it be known that they would allow no Improvement Bill to go forth from the Committee, without those provisions which he suggested, they might depend upon it
that they would find those provisions executed by the promoters in conformity with their orders. He was told such an order would be unjust. Unjust! Let their Lordships consider that if any Bill were brought in which affected the property of any of them, not only would the full value of that land be paid for, but full compensation would be given for any direct or indirect, future or immediate, injury that might arise to them as the consequence of the powers conferred by the Act. It was true their Lordships made a distinction between the holders of real property and those who were merely monthly tenants of the domiciles in which they lived. It was true the property their Lordships held was real property; it might be tangible property; but it should be remembered those people had as much property in the proximity of the locality in which they resided to that in which they performed all their work; and in driving them from their work, and removing them to a distance, you took from them their property, because you took from them the only source of profit they bad. Some consideration must be had for those who though neither owners, nor, as they were called, occupiers of these houses, were weekly and monthly tenants. You touched their property as much as you touched the property of the man to whom the house belonged—although it might be somewhat different in character, the interference produced precisely the same effect upon their social and physical condition. He could not see in what way this measure could be considered unjust; because it did not interfere with any existing rights; and it was only fair, that when companies came to their Lordships, asking for new and large powers; powers which affected the condition of so many hundreds, he might say thousands, of the population, that their Lordships should exact conditions, and such conditions should be required as should make those improvements as little oppressive as possible to those classes who did not derive any direct benefit. He might be told the evil prevailed only in the more crowded and central parts of towns. True, the great pressure of it was felt in the most densely-populated districts. The Standing Order might be limited to such localities in the first instance. But it was said that the rule was not applicable to railway companies, who thus would be turned into building companies. The fact was, that railway companies were at
the present hour great building companies. Let their Lordships look to the houses built by companies at Rugby, Swindon, Coventry, Crewe, Wolverton—to the great hotel at Paddington, and the great hotel at Euston-square. All these had been constructed by railway companies. When those companies wanted to do anything, they had no difficulty. They had the ownership and management of docks, canals, harbours, ferries, factories, and foundries—everything, in short, that could subserve their interests; it could not, therefore, be argued against this proposition that they would be more or less converted into building companies if they were required to provide houses for the accommodation of those of the poorer classes whom their enterprises displaced. It was thought by some that the proposed Standing Order might operate as a bar to internal improvement in towns. He could not believe it would be a bar in any way; but of this he was certain, that whatever delight might be taken in the improvement of London—whatever enjoyment there might be in a broader street—he decidedly maintained that, in a large proportion of instances, those improvements, so far as they affected the social condition of the people, were no improvement at all, but, on the contrary, very much increased the evil under which large masses of the population suffered; and, unless a check were put to that evil, it would become perfectly intolerable. By the Standing Order of the House of Commens, No. 142, relating to Enclosure Bills, the principle for which he contended had been recognised:—
That in every Bill for enclosing lands provision be made for leaving an open space in the most appropriate situation, sufficient for the purposes of exercise and recreation of the neighbourhood.
In confirmation of that principle, he should quote a letter he had received from Mr. Peto, Member for Norwich, who had been more engaged in railway transactions than any man living, and had himself set a noble example of the care he took of the men under his control. In answer to a question from him (the Earl of Shaftesbury), whether he would concur in the proposed Standing Order, Mr. Peto said—
I quite agree with the terms of the clause proposed. There may be some difficulty in carrying out the intentions of the clause without the aid of municipal action; but the intentions of the clause are such as should command support, and is a subject which should be brought before the country.
There remained but two objections to which it seemed necessary to direct the attention of their Lordships. One was, that this Standing Order, by the increased expense it would occasion, would deter companies from undertaking works of great magnitude. The second was, that it was unjust to fetter companies in their application to their Lordships' House. He did not think the Standing Order would deter companies from undertaking works of great magnitude. The proportion of the outlay to the whole would be insignificant, and the cost of a single mile of railway would suffice for all the purposes he had in view. As to the objection that such a Standing Order would fetter the companies in the application which they made to Parliament, why, the whole body of the existing Standing Orders acted more or less as fetters in this respect; but he was told that many of the present Standing Orders caused great expense without yielding a corresponding advantage, and that if some of them were slightly modified, more expense would thereby be saved than would be amply sufficient to meet all the necessities of his recommendation. If their Lordships had any doubt on this point, the Parliamentary agents could satisfy a Committee of the truth of this statement. He did not urge this question solely, although he did it principally, on the ground of the interests of the humbler classes; but he would also urge it upon their consideration, because the results to public morality and the public welfare were very serious. By hundreds and thousands of poor people being driven into these overcrowded localities, every form of disease, epidemic, and all the concomitant pauperism and misery, were engendered; and those epidemical disorders which were not confined to the densely-populated districts, but which spread to and penetrated the localities which were inhabited by the higher classes, might again be, as they had been before, the fearful consequence of those abominable evils. The ratepayers of the country would bear testimony to the truth of what he stated, because they had suffered from these effects, although they might not be so sure of the cause; and the people themselves (he had heard it from their own lips) and those who sympathised with them felt very deeply, and expressed it accordingly, that while the greatest consideration was given to the interests of the classes possessed of large amounts of property and capital, very little consideration
was given to the rights and wants of labour. He could assert, of his own knowledge, that the people of this country did look to their Lordships' House for the redress of many of their grievances; and he did trust—and he ventured to say further, he believed—that their wishes in this respect would not be disappointed. The noble Earl concluded by moving his Resolution.
The BISHOP of LONDON
entirely concurred with what had fallen from the noble Earl, and begged most cordially to second his proposition, if it were regular to do so. It was impossible to overrate the evils—physical, social, and moral—which resulted from the overcrowding of the poor in the narrow streets and alleys of the metropolis; evils which, he believed, had in many instances been greatly aggravated by the improvements which had been effected in other localities. For his own part, he never travelled through the different parts of that great city, and witnessed the noble streets which had been formed during the last twenty years, without asking himself what had been the fate of the thousands of poor people who used to live upon their former sites? And the answer that he had been compelled to give himself was, that they had been driven to take up their abodes in the narrow courts and alleys at a short distance from where they formerly lived, and thus greater overcrowding and misery than ever was the necessary result. He did not hesitate to say, that in their attempts—and to a certain extent their successful and laudable attempts—to widen and improve the streets and thoroughfares of the metropolis, although they had gained something for the comfort and enjoyment of other classes, that advantage had been purchased at the expense, in many cases, of the physical and moral degradation of the poor; and thus, it was not too much to say, that in beautifying some parts of the metropolis, they had brutified others. He had received a communication from a clergyman who had expressed the greatest alarm at the consequences which must result from the destruction, in his neighbourhood, of 500 houses, containing probably 500 persons of the labouring population, there not being a house at present that was not fuller than it ought to be; and where, therefore, were these poor people to go to but to already overcrowded tenements? With regard to these companies, and with regard to the moral as well as the pecuniary interests of 409 those with whose rights they interfered, he conceived that there could be no hardship in imposing the condition which the noble Earl suggested upon companies who came to Parliament to ask for powers to carry out any enterprise which interfered with the interests of the poor—whose rights, he must say, had been too much overlooked in their legislation. The poor had their rights; and although they might not have rights of property, as that term was strictly understood, yet they had rights, the enjoyment of which was as valuable to them as the rights of property were to other persons. If they destroyed a rich man's residence, he was entitled to compensation, and, perhaps, it was of no consequence to him whether he removed to a distance of one mile or five miles; but if they turned a poor man out of his tenement he had no choice, he must of necessity live near to his employment, and thus was obliged to pay any price, however exorbitant, to secure shelter for himself and his family in some miserable abode that had not been swept away in the vicinity of their improvements. His own experience justified him in saying, that no pecuniary loss would ultimately fall upon the companies who might be required to make provision for the population they displaced. It was often the case that a railway company purchased a larger quantity of land than was absolutely necessary for the line, and the houses that were built upon it paid a rent fully equivalent to the interest derived from the rest of the capital. In the case of the London Docks, the land they took might be all used for the docks; but if their large profits should be thus reduced to 7 or 8 per cent, instead of 10, though they would be losers, or rather gainers, to a certain extent, there would be no real injustice inflicted upon them, and the community at large and the labouring classes would be greatly advantaged. He was not one of those who looked with much alarm upon the extension of this great metropolis, as long as care was taken to lessen the evils of overcrowding; and the country was deeply indebted to the noble Earl and his Colleagues in the society which they had instituted for establishing model lodging and dwelling houses for the people, thereby proving, what many were unwilling to believe, that for any amount of capital that was expended in the construction of houses for the labouring classes, the rent that was to be obtained would yield an ample return. It would therefore be no hardship on companies to require them to 410 make some such provision as was now proposed. At the same time, unless the Legislature interfered to put an end to the overcrowding of the poor in the narrow and noisome streets, courts, and alleys of London, he felt that little could be done by associated individuals to remove the evils under which the working classes laboured. Unless they endeavoured to provide for the people not only convenient and commodious dwellings, but all the appliances of health and comfort, such as an adequate supply of water and pure air, which were necessary for the preservation of health, they would do but little to promote their moral or religious elevation. He trusted the House would accede to the noble Earl's Motion.
§ LORD REDESDALE
trusted that their Lordships, in considering this subject, would not merely look to the evils which had arisen from the overcrowding of the population in certain cases—an evil to which no one was more opposed than himself, and for which he acknowledged the importance of providing a remedy—but he hoped they would consider also the practical effect of passing this Standing Order. It might be right in the case of certain Bills for internal improvements, and even in some railway Bills, that there should be some such provision introduced as the noble Earl proposed; but that was a very different thing from passing a Standing Order, making a provision of this kind compulsory in all cases where property of this kind was taken. There was to be an inquiry what houses were used as dwellings for the labouring classes; but often there would only be the evidence of the promoters of the Bill. Then there was to be inquiry "whether pecuniary or other injury to such persons" would be occasioned. How could any conclusion be come to upon that? The proprietor of houses let to such tenants, to get all the compensation himself, would give them notice to quit; they had no hold on the property. Then, as to inquiring whether "any overcrowding of any other dwellings" was likely to be oocasioned, of course it must be possible, since they must go somewhere; but as the inquiry would take place before the scheme was granted, you could have no positive proof, because you could not know where they go. If the Lodging-houses Act were properly carried out, what was called overcrowding would be precluded; and therefore you were to have proof of an illegal act having to be committed. All these difficulties would be urged before the Standing Orders Committee by practised agents, and 411 it was not clear how any practical conclusion could be come to. The company was to be required to erect new houses within three years; but the evil would have arisen long before that, and by that time, if the new Lodging-houses Act was properly enforced, the evil would be more or less got rid of. The new houses were to be "within a convenient distance." There might in certain cases be space for such buildings; but when the improvement could only be paid for by new buildings on the ground taken, it might be necessary to buy other property for the erection of these houses for the labouring classes, and it might be impossible to procure it except by buying houses that were already lodging houses. Such a Resolution applying to all cases would create insurmountable difficulties. Further, the noble Earl intended to create a new species of property, consisting of proximity to the place of employment; but it was obvious that this would not be confined merely to large towns, but would extend to any village in the kingdom, because if a labouring man's cottage was taken from him, he would equally suffer by being deprived of a dwelling near where he worked. For these reasons, seeing that great inconvenience would arise from the present terms of the Motion, and yet admitting that it might be desirable to introduce a clause embodying the principle of this proposition into particular Bills, he yet thought that the laying down of an inflexible Standing Order on the subject, to be of universal application to all Bills for improvements, would be highly inconvenient, and he believed the difficulties in its practical working would be found to be insurmountable.
§ The EARL of DERBY
thought the House was indebted to his noble Friend for bringing under its consideration a most important subject, to which, indeed, the noble Earl had always devoted his own attention, but which, perhaps, had not hitherto received from the Legislature as much attention as it deserved in itself, and as it was entitled to receive from the helplessness of the class whom it chiefly concerned. He quite concurred with the noble Earl in thinking that we had, perhaps, in the consideration of Bills for the construction of railways, and effecting improvements in towns, paid a too exclusive regard to the rights of the owners of property, strictly so called, and too little to the rights and claims of those who might not have the same evidence to produce of the measure of the injury they were about to 412 sustain. He further concurred with the noble Earl in saying that he was afraid, in the case of many improvements, so called, and which no doubt were improvements—not introduced altogether for embellishment, as suggested by the right rev. Prelate, but with a view to sanitary advantages—the almost inevitable consequence and tendency in certain cases had been to aggravate the evil of overcrowding in particular neighbourhoods. Indeed, he did not see how it was possible to prevent such an incidental evil from arising; and therefore he agreed with his noble Friend (Lord Redesdale) that by acting too strictly on the principle proposed by the noble Earl, and by the interposition of too strict a set of conditions, that in densely populated parts of the town improvements required for sanitary purposes, and for the benefit of the health of the community, would be rendered impracticable. Take, for instance, such a district as that of Seven-dials, where you would find narrow streets, crowded houses, a dense population, no free circulation of air, bad health, disease—the consequence of the overcrowding. Suppose you desired, for sanitary purposes, to make a broad street through that district, in order to have a freer circulation of air. The very object of that improvement being in a given area to reduce the actual number of the houses, and to provide a better circulation of air for the inmates of those which remained, the result must be, that either a large portion of the inhabitants residing within that area must be displaced, or that they must overcrowd the houses in the immediate neighbourhood of the widened and improved street, and thus render a certain portion of the district more densely occupied than it was before the improvement began. He was afraid, therefore, that in such districts, if persons required in all cases to live within a convenient distance of the accommodation from which they were displaced—and this was especially the case with the working classes—in that case the result would be that there would be no improvement in the localities where it was most needed. He quite concurred with his noble Friend, that, so far as justice was concerned, where a private company, for a private object, sought to occupy ground and pull down houses, depriving a large portion of the population of their present habitations, and, from their habits, of their means of livelihood, there could be no question that you were fairly entitled to 413 call upon that company, undertaking the work for its private advantage, to compensate those whom it displaced from their means of subsistence, just as fairly as it could call upon them to compensate the owners of property in the district. But he could not but think that there was considerable force in the difficulties urged by the noble Lord (Lord Redesdale), with regard to a Standing Order or Resolution, such as was proposed to be applied to every Bill. He could not but think that there was considerable force in the objections raised by the noble Lord to the wording of the Resolution, with regard to the inquiry to be instituted as to the amount of population to be removed, whether they would be subjected to pecuniary or other injury from the removal, and whether it was likely to cause overcrowding in the immediate district. If the population were to remain in the immediate neighbourhood, the result clearly would be overcrowding to a certain extent; but what the inconvenience arising from that overcrowding would be, or what pecuniary or other injury would be sustained, he could not exactly see how the Committee could come to a satisfactory result by means of the evidence proposed to be laid before them. But he could understand that there should be an inquiry, and he thought it very desirable, though he did not pretend to suggest a form of words, what proportion of population and what extent of human habitations would be displaced by the projected work, and that the projectors should be called upon to show what provision they had made, if any, for the purpose of the decent accommodation of that population; he could not help thinking that there might be an inquiry into these matters, and that it would be neither unjust nor impracticable to call upon companies, particularly those undertaking works for their own private advantage, to show whether they had made any and what provision for the accommodation of the inhabitants they were about to displace. The difficulty would vary in proportion to the density of the population and the value of the land; but to require that a company should erect new buildings within a mile for all the population displaced by a broad street running through the heart of St. Giles's, for instance, would be requiring an impossibility; you could not find the room for such dwellings, without producing the very evil complained of—overcrowding districts already filled. If he might venture to 414 make a suggestion to his noble Friend, it would be this:—concurring in his object, thinking the House ought to take some steps for being better informed as to the effect that such works would produce upon the comfort of industrious classes of society affected by them, he would suggest that his noble Friend would do well to consider whether it was not possible to embody his proposition in a form which should not require an impossibility of companies—whether words less definite and stringent might not be adopted. He concurred entirely in the object the noble Earl had in view, which he regarded as most laudable and praiseworthy; but he thought the stringent terms in which the noble Earl had couched his Resolution might have the effect of defeating the object he desired to accomplish. He conceived that, by using less definite terms and proposing less stringent measures, there would be a better chance of effecting that object. Their Lordships would at all events, he was sure, agree with him in the opinion that the noble Earl had done a great public service in calling the attention of Parliament to a matter, the importance of which in his (the Earl of Derby's) opinion, had hitherto been much underrated.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
said, it was quite unnecessary for him, or for any other Member of their Lordships' House, to acknowledge the importance of the objects which the noble Earl had in view in bringing this question before them. The motives of the noble Earl must be universally acknowledged and recognised; but he (the Earl of Aberdeen) quite agreed with the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees (Lord Redesdale), who had pointed out that in his desire to obtain a great good, the noble Earl had proposed that the execution of which was clearly impossible; and they must take care that in attempting to accomplish an object in which all must agree, they did not incur those practical difficulties which would render vain all efforts. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) need not trouble their Lordships with repeating the objections which had been already stated to the course proposed by the noble Earl, because some of them appeared to him to be quite conclusive. Every measure of improvement had its own character; but, agreeing fully that this was a subject well deserving the attention of the House, he was sure that if the noble Earl thought fit to propose an inquiry into the matter by a Committee, their Lordships would 415 have no objection to assent to such a suggestion. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) considered, however, that their Lordships were clearly not in a condition to pass such a comprehensive Standing Order as was now proposed, professing to embrace all matters of this description that might come before the House, and the execution of which would be found in many cases impracticable. He must, therefore, press the noble Earl to withdraw his Motion, at least for the present, and perhaps, upon further consideration, he might be able to frame some practical measure which would be better calculated to attain the results he desired.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
thought it was desirable to give this subject more full consideration before they agreed to a regular Standing Order. He would have been disposed to suggest that if equivalent accommodation was not provided, in cases of improvements or new works, for the labouring population whose homes were destroyed, the Committees should be instructed to report to the House. He certainly thought that the Resolution in its present form was too peremptory and universal in its application, and he considered that the best course would be to refer the question to a Committee, with the view of ascertaining in what way so desirable an object could be attained. Such an inquiry would be free from the objection to this Resolution, which was too general in its application. There would be no difficulty in a Committee ascertaining the nature and value of any property, as that might be obtained from the rating, and from information derived from the surveyors and parish officers. With regard to the difficulty that had been suggested as to planting the displaced population near the localities from which they were removed, he believed that by means of such structures as had lately been erected in various parts of the town, they might in a very small space accommodate a large number of persons, and provide them with many conveniences. He had some time ago seen the lodging-houses at Birkenhead, which, although they were very ill-placed, afforded accommodation with perfect ease to 400 persons in a space about as large as that occupied by their Lordships' House; and he therefore thought there could not be so much difficulty as was apprehended in placing a large number of persons in almost any part of the metropolis that might be selected.
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
concurred 416 most cordially and entirely in the observations which had been made by the noble Earl and right rev. Prelate as to the magnitude of the evil complained of, and the great desirability of providing some efficient remedy. He had felt the evil so much, that in the case of the improvements introduced under the Government with which he was connected, in effecting the metropolitan improvements, he had within a fortnight after he became Chief Commissioner of Woods proposed a Bill to enable the Crown to grant sites, free of any rent, for the erection of model buildings for the better accommodation of the poor. He found, however, that that measure was against all the punctilios of office, and perhaps against the rights of the Crown, and he had very precipitately to withdraw it. Ho thought it most desirable that a compliance should be required with some such beneficent provisions as those proposed in the Standing Order of his noble Friend. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had proved, however, in his own laudable and painful experience, that nothing was so difficult in this world as to do good to one's fellow-creatures in the way in which we should most like to do it. Desirable as the noble Earl's object was, and crying as was the necessity for some regulation on the subject, he (the Earl of Carlisle) thought the matters with which the noble Earl proposed to deal, required too much adaptation to the particular circumstances which surrounded them; to admit of their being subject to so stringent and peremptory an order, at all events in the shape in which it was proposed. He thought, therefore, it was for the noble Earl to consider whether he would propose to refer the matter to a Committee upstairs, or whether, by consulting with other parties who had taken much interest in this subject, and who were thoroughly conversant with the details and orders of Parliamentary proceedings, he might be able to free his Motion from the objections to which it was now open.
The EARL of WICKLOW
observed, that there could be no doubt of the philanthropy, or the good intentions, of the noble Earl who brought forward this question; but he (the Earl of Wicklow) thought the subject had not received the careful consideration which was necessary before a proposition of this kind was submitted to the House. It appeared to him that the noble Earl took it for granted that the property was in the persons who were in- 417 jured in the manner he had mentioned. Now, if the property was theirs, no new Standing Order was required, because it was necessary for improvers, whether the Crown or a company, if they destroyed property of any kind, to make compensation to the owners. Surely, however, the House would not, by such a Standing Order as was proposed, establish a new description of property in the case of those who were merely tenants of others, and who, as tenants by the month or by the week, were liable to be dispossessed at any time the proprietors might choose. Would the House, if they required the same number of houses that had been pulled down to be rebuilt, require also that the proprietors should receive the old tenants back into the new houses? If they did not, they would do nothing for the tenants; while if they did they might compel the landlords to receive tenants whom they did not wish to have. He would suppose the Standing Order now proposed had been in existence before New Oxford Street was built. The noble Earl had told them that, previously to the building of that street, the houses upon its site were crowded with sometimes four or five times the number of inmates they were intended to contain. Would the noble Earl be content, then, when new accommodation was obtained, that the people should continue to live in the same crowded state as before? He would not; and it would therefore be incumbent upon the persons who provided new accommodation, to provide four or five times more than had been destroyed. He (the Earl of Wicklow) would leave it to their Lordships to imagine how it would be possible to do this in the neighbourhood of Oxford Street or Regent Street, or any similar localities: the thing was totally impossible; and therefore he must say that if the Standing Order now proposed had been in existence some years ago, they never could have seen the improvements which had recently taken place in London, and which, though they might have been attended with a good deal of inconvenience to the unfortunate persons who had been deprived of their former homes, had on the whole been highly beneficial to the localities in which such improvements had been effected, by converting them from a nest of overcrowded houses into an airy, convenient, and healthy spot. He doubted whether even a Committee, if the noble Earl should think fit to move for one, could point out any mode by which the evil with respect to the occu- 418 pants of houses destroyed for improvements could be remedied, because such persons had no interest in the property for which the owners were entitled to compensation. He saw no more reason for debarring railway companies or the Government, by a Standing Order of that House, from carrying on improvements, than for preventing landed proprietors, or any other body in the community, from improving their property by pulling down houses, although such a measure might be attended with inconvenience to a portion of the population.
§ The EARL of SHAFTESBURY
was understood to say he believed that in many cases monstrous cruelty had been exercised towards hundreds of thousands of Her Majesty's subjects by the removal of their houses. The noble Chairman of Committees (Lord Redesdale) had fallen into great error in alluding to the Common Lodging Houses Act. That measure related only to the common lodging-houses which were registered; but there were tens of thousands of persons living in houses which were not common lodging-houses, but where there were ten or fifteen persons in a single room. It was very difficult to define what constituted a common lodging-house; but it must be a house where lodgers were taken in by the night or by the week, where persons were constantly passing to and fro, and where the money was taken night by night. He saw that it would be vain for him to attempt to insist upon his Resolution. He thought, however, he had gained a great deal by the ventilation of the subject, and he had shown their Lordships that many of the public were directing their attention to that House, in the hope that a remedy would be provided for the great grievance under which a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects were suffering. He would therefore be glad to adopt the suggestion of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, and would move for the appointment of a Committee on the subject. He must say, however, that he would, with God's blessing, give their Lordships no rest until they had clone something to remedy the evil he had brought under their notice.
§ Motion, by leave of the House, with-drawn.
Afterwards it was moved—
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire in what Manner and to what Extent it would be expedient to require that Provisions should be inserted in Bills introduced into this House by
which Dwelling Houses occupied by the Labouring Classes are proposed to be extensively destroyed to remedy the Evils produced by such a Displacement of that Population.
§ On Question, agreed to.