HL Deb 26 May 1865 vol 179 cc862-7

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª—(The Chairman of Committees.)


hoped their Lordships would not consent to the second reading of this Bill. It had excited the greatest consternation in the whole neighbourhood, on which it would inflict both injury and injustice, without being productive of the slightest public convenience. The original capital of the Company was £1,200,000, and it was now sought to increase the capital to £2,100,000, with borrowing powers to the extent of £886,000, and a land acreage of 150 acres. Even with its existing powers, this was one of the largest gas companies in the world. His first objection to the Bill was that the proposed extension of these works would greatly add to the pollution of the atmosphere, and the consequent injury to health, which they already occasioned to a neighbourhood the population of which was rapidly increasing. The right rev. Prelate who presided over that diocese had lately pointed out that the important Training College of St. Marks, on which no less than £50,000 had been expended, was not 100 yards distant from these works, and that the noxious vapours emitted from them were very deleterious to the inmates of that institution. The air was poisoned, and the property—whole streets of houses and garden ground—was much injured. A person passing these works at night might imagine that there was some serious conflagration in the neighbourhood. Another objection which he had to urge to the measure was that it would aggravate the evils of a most gigantic monopoly extending over a vast area, under which, the public had no remedy whatever, however impure and defective the quality of the gas supplied to them might be. Moreover, the works of the Company were situated at a distance of not more than 150 yards in a direct line from the Thames, into which much of their foul refuse found its way. On all these grounds he must protest against granting them the power to double their present works for which they now asked, and he therefore begged to move that the Bill be read the second time that day three months.

Amendment moved to leave out ("now") a and insert ("this Day Six Months.")—(The Lord Ravensworth.)


said, it was a very unusual course to attempt to throw out a Bill of that kind on the second reading, and not allow it to undergo careful consideration in a Select Committee when the promoters might be able to offer an explanation of the charges made against them. The promoters of the measure had sought an interview with the right hon. Prelate (the Bishop of London) in order to clear up some misconceptions under which he appeared to labour in regard to that Bill, and to explain to him certain facts which he had incorrectly stated; but the right rev. Prelate had not complied with their request. In his opinion, however, when a Peer of Parliament made an inaccurate statement affecting a public company in a case like that, he ought not to refuse to hear their explanation. Instead of making a demand for 150 acres, which might have been enough to frighten the right rev. Prelate and all their Lordships, the entire space required by the Company only consisted of three plots of nine acres, fourteen acres, and thirteen acres respectively—in all thirty-six acres, instead of the 150 alleged the other night by the right rev. Prelate. The Company could not now legally discharge their refuse into the Thames, and that Bill would not give them any power to do so—they would still remain liable to the penalties inflicted by the existing law. As to their having a monopoly, not long ago Parliament decided that the metropolis should be divided into separate districts, which should be supplied by certain companies. The number of houses in the particular district assigned to that Company had so greatly increased that they were absolutely compelled to enlarge their works in order to supply its wants. Therefore on public grounds he asked their Lordships not to refuse to read the Bill a second time. In Committee, however, the Bill might be thoroughly sifted and safeguards introduced, if found necessary, to protect private rights. If justice were not done after all, their Lordships, if they thought fit, might reject the Bill on the third reading.


said, that as the noble Lord seemed to impugn his conduct in not giving a hearing to the gentlemen representing the Company, he begged to state that in answer to their letter he wrote to them to say that he was ready to see them in presence of his legal secretary; and after that, having received another letter, in which they made certain statements similar to those now made by the noble Lord, he referred them a second time to his legal secretary, and he believed that an interview took place. It was difficult to ascertain in what proportions this nuisance was to be divided among the several parishes; but as to his statement of 150 acres he begged to point out to their Lordships that the ground they already occupied or asked to take amounted to fifty acres, and that there was a clause in the Bill which enabled them to acquire 100 additional acres. The parish in which this Company's works were situated in the east of London was an example of what might happen to Fulham or Chelsea if this Bill passed into law. There was a time when Bow Common was a pleasant place, but now there was no place which was more avoided than the Common of Bow by persons of sensitive organs. If Fulham and Chelsea were reduced to the condition of Bow Common, not only all the residents of those parishes, but all the inhabitants of the metropolis would have reason to complain. He was given to understand that there were various ways in which gas might be manufactured, and that one of these was at an increased cost of manufacture, but at a decrease of nuisance to the neighbourhood. It was an important public question whether the Companies should be allowed to manufacture gas in the mode most destructive to the health of the metropolis. They were told that this Company would not use its powers to their full extent, and that the law made it impossible that they could adulterate the Thames; but he had had experience of such impossibilities. They consisted in this—that for a very small penalty the Company could violate the law, and in cases in which it was cheaper to pay the penalty and violate the law, the penalty was paid. He had formerly had the misfortune to live near a railway station, where the engines were required to burn coke instead of coal; he saw the law evaded, and the engines burning coal, and when complaints were made the Company laughed at them. He understood that Fulham and Chelsea would not derive any benefit from this increase in the manufacture of gas. The gas was intended for places at a distance. He admitted that for the public benefit there must be gas companies, but he maintained that the manufacture of it ought to he so regulated as not to become a public nuisance. To show the strength of these powerful gas companies, he had heard that the Thames Embankment had been stopped by one of them in consequence of its demands for compensation. If the noble Lord divided the House, he would vote for the rejection of the Bill.


thought that the House should, in this case, follow the usual course and refer the Bill to a Select Committee, where all the clauses and details would undergo consideration. If the Select Committee failed to secure sufficient protection for the public—a thing that had not occurred within his experience—the Bill could still be rejected on the third reading.


said, that the Bill before the House involved consideration of great public importance which could scarcely be finally or satisfactorily decided upon by a Committee of five Members of their Lordships' House. The proposal came before the House, backed by a powerful company, whereas the opponents were private individuals who had no organization suited to bring their case effectively before the Committee. It was evident that the manufacture of gas in towns was in itself a nuisance, and it ought to be ascertained whether the manufacture of gas could not he carried on at a distance from the towns. In reference to such a Bill as the present, he thought that some public Department ought carefully to consider the whole subject, and place their conclusions before the Select Committee, without imposing on private individuals the burden of conducting a protracted opposition to the scheme of a powerful company. With respect to the works of this kind, he regarded the Select Committees of both Houses as most unsatisfactory tribunals, and yet under the name of Private Bills questions of the greatest public importance were decided by those Committees. What was wanted was some kind of tribunal to decide upon Bills which, under the name of Private Bills, sought to authorize works of a public nature, and by which the public health was likely to be affected. In the case of gas companies and water companies competition was impracticable, and any attempt at competition always ended in some compromise at the expense of the public. It would, therefore, be sound policy to adopt the course followed in certain towns, and leave the supply of gas and water to some public body acting on the part of the inhabitants.


said, he should be sorry if a different course was pursued in the present case than that which was usual with other Private Bills. The question was a difficult one, hut the case for the Company was that the works which they sought to erect were on a site on which they had carried on the manufacture of gas for thirty-five years. If they went to a new place they would only extend the nuisance to that district. There was no doubt but that improvements were taking place in the manufacture of gas, and others might be made, and that the entire subject could be regulated by a Public Act similar to that carried by Lord Derby for restraining the nuisance of alkali works. The Imperial Gas Company had three other establishments in the metropolis for the manufacture of gas, and the 100 acres sought under the Bill were not likely to be required at Chelsea or Fulham. At Fulham already they had nine acres on which gas was manufactured, and they had power to erect additional works on thirteen acres. As they could not prevent the Company from erecting works on the lands over which they had powers, it would be better if the residents in the district would go before the Committee and have such clauses inserted in the Bill as might be thought advisable for the protection of the district likely to be affected by it.

After some observations from Lord RAVENSWORTH and Lord LYTTELTON,

On Question, That ("now") stand Part of the Motion? their Lordships divided;—Contents 43; Not-Contents 46: Majority 3:—Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2ª this Day Six Months.

Cambridge, D. Belper, L.
Westbury, L. (L. Chancellor.) Bolton, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Cleveland, D. Camoys, L.
Somerset, D. Chelmsford, L.
Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)
Ailesbury, M.
Cranworth, L.
Belmore, E. Ebury, L.
Caithness, E. Foley, L.
Carnarvon, E. Lyttelton, L.
Chichester, E. Lyveden, L.
De Grey, E. Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)
Granville, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Grey, E.
Harrowby, E. Portman, L. [Teller.]
Nelson, E. Redesdale, L.
Saint Germans, E. Rivers, L.
Shaftesbury, E. Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Spencer, E.
Stanhope, E. Seymour, L. (E. St. Maur.)
Eversley, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Sydney, V. Taunton, L. [Teller.]
Aveland, L, Truro, L.
Dublin, Archp. Winchester, Bp.
Westmeath, M. Castlemaine, L.
Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)
Amherst, E.
Bandon, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Cardigan, E. Denman, L.
Dartmouth, E. Digby, L.
Hillsborough, E. (M. Downshire.) Dinevor, L.
Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)
Home, E,
Mayo, E. Dusany, L.
Powis, E. Feversham, L.
Romney, E, Houghton, L.
Verulam, E. Inchiquin, L.
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Hawarden, V. Polwarth, L.
Lifford, V. Raglan, L.
Melville, V. [Teller.] Ravensworth, L. [Teller.]
Strathallan, V.
Rollo, L.
Bangor, Bp. Sherborne, L.
Carlisle, Bp. Silchester L. (E. Longford.)
Chichester, Bp.
Gloucester and Bristol, Bp. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanriearde.)
London, Bp. Wentworth, L.
Oxford, Bp. Wynford, L.
Ripon, Bp.