HL Deb 28 June 1858 vol 151 cc472-5

in presenting the Report of a Committee said, he wished to make a statement with respect to the ventilation of the Committee-rooms overlooking the river. During the time their Lordships' Committee had been sitting they found the ventilation of the Committee rooms to be eminently defective, and they suggested that the only true mode of effecting their ventilation was by forming openings at the top of the rooms.

In reply to the Duke of GRAFTON,


said, that Her Majesty's Government had taken immediate measures to alleviate this evil, so much and so justly complained of on Friday evening. The only measures which could be adopted were only temporary—that of deodorising the sewage during the hot months of the year, according to the plan which had succeeded so well at Leicester. That was the only way in which the Government could deal with this matter at present, The Government were ready to pass an Act, if it should be necessary, for the purpose of guaranteeing the payment by rates of any expenses which might be incurred by the process he mentioned. He begged their Lordships to remember that fear was a very bad counsellor, and that although it was very natural they should entertain certain apprehensions of disease arising, such has had been expressed on a former occasion, yet they ought not to pass any measure without due consideration. In their disturbed moments the other night it quite escaped their Lordships' notice that if they were, under the present circumstances of the river, to employ 500 or 1,000 workmen, it would possibly produce among these men disease which might spread over the whole metropolis. It would be much better to undertake at present whatever the Government might fix upon, and then adopt permanent measures in the autumn, when the weather would be much cooler. He hoped the House would be satisfied with what the Government had done, and with their assurance that they would give every attention to the subject. An officer of the Board of Health had been appointed to report upon the best means to be adopted on that part of the river which was opposite to the Houses of Parliament, and not a moment would be lost in putting the recommendations into practice.


, after expressing pleasure in hearing the statement just made, and at what the Government had done, said he would propose that a Commission should be speedily appointed with strong powers to act in the best manner possible. No doubt fear was a bad counsellor, but there was another counsellor much worse, namely, foolhardiness. The delay which would ensue might bring on a serious and fatal attack of cholera or typhus fever when the month of August came, and when the atmosphere would be in a most fearful state. He thought the Government ought to assume, if not arbitary, very complete powers in this matter.


said, the Government and the House were agreed that a great evil existed, and the Government were desirous of dealing with the question in the most expeditious and satisfactory manner possible. Men eminent in science were considering the subject, and they and the Government were exercising their ingenuity to alleviate the evil. The Government had taken the most proper step which existing machinery allowed to abate the nuisance, and that was by using 100 tons of lime or more with other chemicals to pour into the river at the mouths of the sewers, and thus deodorising the sewage. He did not see that mere could be done in this sudden emergency. The question was one not only of great difficulty but of enormous outlay. If the sewers were at present opened in the town it would be very prejudicial to the health of the inhabitants. At present the Government proposed to deodorise the Thames, and then, when the weather became cooler, go on with the greater measure,


hoped these attempts would be successful; but they must recollect, when reference was made to Leicester, that it was a different thing to deal with a town of 50,000 or 60,000 inhabitants and a city like London with 2,500,000. The process proposed to be taken by the Government in deodorising the sewers was not that which had been adopting in Liecester. The noble Earl seemed to think that those who had advocated larger measures on a former occasion had been actuated by fear, and that it would never do to set 500 or 1000 workmen to stir up the mud on the banks of the river in the hot months. Perhaps not, but if these works were resolved upon to-morrow, two or three months must elapse before the materials could be collected to enable the contractors to begin. That might well be done during the hot weather. He would have liked better if the measure of the Government had been more of a permanent measure, and if it had had reference to larger operations than those proposed. His noble and learned Friend had spoken of a Board to be constituted by Act of Parliament for the carrying out the necessary operations. He believed that the noble and learned Lord would be content if he were assured that the Metropolitan Board of Works aided and spurred on by the Government, could, with the machinery in existence, carry out the works that were necessary. He should like to know whether the proposed Bill was intended to have reference merely to minor measures, and whether some provision would not be introduced in it similar to that contained in the original Act establishing the Metropolitan Board, but withdrawn in consequence of the opposition of some Members of the other House.


said, that the first object of the Government was temporary and palliative. The Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works would take the matter in hand, and power would be taken by an Act of Parliament to give him the money he might require for carrying out these measures, and to provide for its repayment. The larger measures that might be required were under the consideration of the Government; but they were so extensive that they could not be adopted without earnest and careful thought. He believed that the measures of deodorisation which had been successful in a small town would be equally applicable to a larger. In Paris there were not less than eight or nine deodorising machines in use at a trifling expense, and every one knew how much more salubrious the atmosphere of Paris had become during the last few years.