HL Deb 07 April 1865 vol 178 cc873-8

said, he had been requested by his noble Friend the Earl of Shaftesbury, who was unavoidably absent, to submit to your Lordships the Motion of which the noble Earl bad given notice for the Amendment of Standing Order No. 191. The Amendment of his noble Friend had for its object to impose upon railway and other companies the obligation of submitting their Bills with a very accurate statement of the number of houses which the Bill proposed to take, and which were inhabited by the labouring classes; the number of persons who would be driven from their houses; and whether any provision was made in the Bill for affording those persons the accommodation of other dwellings. The matter was brought before their Lordships a few evenings ago, and it was then allowed to stand over in order that certain difficulties which were suggested should be duly considered. He had endeavoured to insert words, with the approval of the noble Earl, which would, he thought, meet the difficulty. He proposed to make it requisite to include in the Returns, not only the number of tenants in the houses, but of those also who lodged therein, and who might only be temporary residents. He proposed, therefore, to strike out the words "inhabited by the labouring classes," and insert the words "occupied either altogether or partially as tenants or lodgers by persons belonging to the labouring classes." That would insure the Return of the actual dwellers of the houses in whatever capacity, and whether they resided as tenants or lodgers.


said, he understood that the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) bad proposed to go further than obtaining a mere Return; he wished that the occupants of these houses should have notice of the intention to take the houses. He required that all the persons proposed to be displaced, whether tenants or lodgers, should have notice served upon them separately and individually before they were displaced. At present it was only necessary that notice should be served on the actual tenant.


said, it was found that there would be a difficulty about personal notice upon each occupier—it would often be found impossible. The latter part of the amended Standing Order of his noble Friend contained a stringent provision requiring that the companies should, by notices placed in public view, e upon or within a reasonable distance of the houses proposed to be taken, make known their intention of taking them; and that they should not actually take them until they had obtained a certificate of a justice that this provision of the Standing Order had been satisfactorily complied with.


suggested that the words requiring personal notice to heads of families should be omitted from the Standing Order, and that the notice by placards, handbills, or other public notice should be alone insisted on.


said, that when the subject was under the consideration of the House a few days ago. he had suggested that, after the words "fifteen houses" in the proposed Order, the words "in any parish or place" should be inserted. He was now, however, of opinion that it would be better to substitute for those words the words "in any city, town, or place." By that means a fuller Return might be secured, while there would be no objection to the increase of the number of houses with respect to which the Return was to be made from fifteen to twenty.


thought the words "in any city, town, or place" somewhat too vague. He suggested the substitution of the word "parish" for "place," and the expediency of fixing the number of houses named in the Order at thirty.


also objected to the word "place" as being indefinite, observing that, in a case which had been tried under the Gaming Act a short time ago, the foot of a tree in Hyde Park where certain persons had assembled for the purposes of betting had been held to be a "place."


said, he was anxious, on the part of the clergy, to express the great interest which they felt in the question under discussion, and their desire that the conditions of the proposed Order should be made as stringent as possible. The devastation occasioned by the public improvements undertaken in the metropolis was more extensive than their Lordships were probably aware. He was informed by a clergyman that in one parish in the City of London, in which one-third of the houses had been swept away, there was still no perceptible diminution in the number of the poor inhabiting the parish; while in another parish, in which the proportion of houses destroyed was even greater, the rates continued to be as high as before—thus showing that the number of poor who inhabited the remaining houses was as large as ever. How that state of things came to pass it was difficult to say with any degree of accuracy j but, speaking on behalf of the clergy, he was extremely desirous that the subject should not be allowed to rest even at the point to which their Lordships were now bringing it, inasmuch as they were convinced that if the humbler classes were, by overcrowding their dwellings, reduced to that condition which had been so graphically described by the noble Earl who brought the question forward on a former evening, any efforts to provide for their spiritual wants or their education must be altogether unavailing. It seemed very difficult to find a remedy for the case. Much good, it had been said, could not be expected to be done by improved lodging houses; although much, it was true, had been done by private individuals in the way of improving the dwellings of the poor, yet when all that had been effected in that direction at a great sacrifice was compared with the misery which was to be contended with, it would be at once seen that no adequate remedy had as yet been provided. In the immediate neighbourhood of their Lordships' House a wealthy merchant, greatly to his honour, had spent a large sum of money in the erection of model lodging-houses capable of accommodating some 800 persons; but then the number of poor removed at one stroke, owing to a slight improvement which took place after those houses were erected, was double that which he found himself able to accommodate. In another part of London a lady well known for her benevolence in carrying out works of that description had expended a large amount in improving the dwellings of the poor; yet those dwellings bore no proportion to the number of poor who were removed. Among the Returns which had been placed in his hands was one stating that the corporation of the City of London had taken up the subject, and had erected certain houses for the poor. Their example, he trusted, would be followed by other corporations. There were other bodies which had large funds that might be made available for the purpose. For example, the vestries of parishes in the City of Loudon were, in some cases, so rich that they literally did not know what to do with their money; and as that money had been placed at their disposal for the benefit of the poor they could not better expend the money than in erecting such model lodging-houses as those to which he had alluded. He desired to say another word on the subject. It was not only the spiritual interests of the poor of the metropolis for which the clergy were anxious; they were also alive to the necessity of taking care that considerations of health should not be neglected—especially at a moment when, if what was stated in the public journals were true, a mysterious disease which had passed from village to village had inflicted itself on a great capital, its ravages being aggravated, it would seem, by the circumstance that 40,000 had been added to the population, and a large number of houses therefore overcrowded. It was surely most desirable that before such a scourge visited this country—if, unfortunately, it should visit us—we should not have a vast army of poor displaced from their habitations and compelled to overcrowd the wretched abodes to which they were driven for shelter.


said, that in the absence of the noble Earl on whose behalf he had risen to move the present Order, he could not agree to the proposal for increasing the number of houses mentioned beyond fifteen. He had no objection, however, to the insertion of the words, "in any city, town, or parish," which would, ho thought, render the returns to be made more definite. He was also prepared to assent to the suggestion that the words "either by personal notice to heads of families inhabiting the same at the time of giving such notice" should be struck out, and that the words should be retained rendering it obligatory on Companies to give notice by placards and handbills publicly exhibited in the vicinity of the houses about to be pulled down, with the further provision having reference to the certificate of a magistrate being necessary to show that the Order had been complied with.

Motion agreed to: Standing Order No. 191 amended as follows:— That in the Case of any Bill for making any Work, for the construction of which compulsory Power is sought to take in any City, Town, or Parish Fifteen Houses or more occupied either wholly or partially as Tenants or Lodgers by Persons belonging to the Labouring Classes, the Promoters be required to deposit in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments on or before the 31st Day of December a Statement of the Number, Description, and Situation of the said Houses, the Number (so far as they can be ascertained) of Persons to be displaced, and whether any and what Provision is made in the Bill for remedying the Inconvenience likely to arise from such Displacement, and that such Statement be referred to the Committee on the Bill, and that the said Committee do inquire into and report thereon; and that in every such Bill a Clause be inserted to enact that the Company shall, not less than Eight Weeks before taking any such Houses, make known their Intention to take the same by Placards, Handbills, or other general Notice placed in public View upon or within a reasonable Distance from such Houses, and that the Company shall not take any such Houses until they have obtained the Certificate of a Justice that it has been proved to his Satisfaction that the Company have made known their Intention to take the same in manner required by this Provision.