HL Deb 16 February 1865 vol 177 cc278-80

presented a petition of inhabitants of St. Peter's District, Hammersmith, for the Equalization of the Rates in Metropolitan and Suburban Districts. The noble Lord said that the subject was one of very considerable interest, being connected with the larger question of union rating. But it was of particular interest to the districts concerned, and more particularly in reference to the great displacement of population which had taken and were still taking place in consequence of the railways and other large undertakings now in progress in the metropolis. The other evening their Lordships' attention was drawn to this result of the alterations and improvements now going on; and they were told that 14,000 persons had already been displaced, and that 3,500 more would be displaced by the works for which the sanction of Parliament was asked for this Session. No doubt these improvements were desirable on sanitary and social grounds; but by their displacements of population, while they increased the valuation of the districts improved, the pressure on the poorer districts, to which the displaced persons necessarily flocked, was made much heavier. The subject was by no means a new one, for so far back as 1858 meetings had been held in various parts of the metropolis, at which the speakers had succeeded in clearly pointing out the great amount of distress occasioned by the inequalities of the poor rates. In January, 1858, a meeting of the parochial clergy was held, at which the evil effects of high rates in poor districts was forcibly dwelt on. He had also a report of a meeting of medical officers of health, in which a vast amount of the suffering and misery among the poor was directly traced to overcrowding, which was continually increasing in suburban districts of the metropolis. That over-crowding again was traced to unequal rating; and the meeting of medical officers adopted a resolution declaring that the vast destruction of houses which was going on in the metropolis was injurious in a sanitary point of view. Last Session the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) presented a petition from the district of St. George's, Southwark, complaining of the inequality of the system now in operation. The remedy for those evils was an extension of the area of rating from the suburban to the metropolitan parishes. He was ready to admit that great difference of opinion prevailed as to the advisability of this course. The question of the inequalities of rating had been brought under the consideration of a Committee of the House of Commons which sat last year, and in previous Sessions. Upon referring to this particular branch of the Committee's inquiry, he had been disappointed; inasmuch as the Committee, having pointed out the existing evils, came to a resolution which neither suggested a doctrine nor proposed a remedy. The Committee recommended the general question of extending the area of rating to the further consideration of the House; but they declared that the circumstances of the metropolis were so peculiar that in any legislation for extending the area of rating it would be necessary to have regard to those circumstances. The case of the suburban districts, as compared with the metropolitan districts, was comprised in this short sentence, that whereas the wealthy metropolis had the benefit of the labour of the able-bodied classes of the poor, the burden of maintaining the sick, the helpless, the aged, and the indigent of those classes was cast upon the suburban districts. If it were necessary, he could quote a number of communications he had received in support of his proposition, but he did not think it needful to take up the time of the House in doing so. The noble Lord concluded by asking, whether the Government contemplated any measures of relief to the suburban districts in their promised Bill for the amendment of the Poor Law Acts.


was understood to say that the Government proposed to introduce, in the other House, a measure embodying some of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons last Session, but not contemplating any especial legislation on the subject-matter of the petition presented by the noble Lord.


said, he heard the statement of the noble Earl with great regret, and he could only say that the Government would hear more of the subject.