HL Deb 06 August 1866 vol 184 cc2070-3

(The Lord President.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of the Bill, said, that the question of the public health had received so much attention, and had been so frequently the subject of legislation within the last few years, that it was quite unnecessary for him to enter into the reasons that had induced the late Government to bring in this measure, or the present Government to carry it on. Almost every year in the last twenty had shown some new attempt at improving the sanitary condition of the country, and during the present Session a Bill on the subject had been introduced into the House of Commons, and having gone through a Select Committee, in which it was carefully discussed, and subsequently through a Committee of the Whole House, it had passed the other House of Parliament. That was the Bill now before their Lordships. The measure dealt with a great many matters, but it might be divided principally into three parts. The first dealt with the case of the sewer authorities, and the amendment of the Sewage Outfalls Act of 1865; the second part amended the powers of removal of nuisances under the Nuisances Removal Act; and the third part was of a miscellaneous character, but comprised, perhaps, the most important part of the Bill. It amended the law in reference to several points which it was found could not be dealt with under any previous Act of Parliament. The defects of the present law in these respects were proved to give rise to very serious evils, which were especially important at such a time as the present, when serious epidemics prevailed. In the third part, the principal subjects dealt with were those of the regulation of lodging-houses, the power to parishes to provide hospitals and places of accommodation for the sick; the prohibition of persons suffering from any infectious disease passing through the public streets, or in public vehicles; and the prohibition against persons keeping open lodging-houses; keeping within their lodgings persons suffering under any epidemic or infectious disease. There were also most important powers with respect to burials; and also clauses in reference to cases of infectious or epidemic disease breaking out on ships or vessels in port, but at places beyond the present jurisdiction of the local boards. The fourth part of the Bill simply extended its provisions to Ireland. One very important part of the Bill was that which gave power to the Secretary of State, in the event of the local authorities under certain circumstances not electing, to exercise the power vested in them. The present state of some of the principal towns, and also parts of this metropolis, rendered it of the greatest possible urgency that additional powers should be conferred upon local authorities and those whose duty it was to deal with sanitary matters in towns; and it was also found to be of great importance to amend some of the defects and want of powers that were found to exist under the present law. He felt that this Bill was of such importance that, if the House should agree to the second reading, he should be justified in asking their Lordships to suspend the Standing Orders, so as to pass the Bill through the various stages, and enable it to become law at the earliest possible moment. He might mention that in the other House the matter had undergone considerable discussion; two or three points especially had been dealt with by the Select Committee, and subsequently by a Committee of the Whole House; and it had been modified in accordance with what was felt to be the general opinion of the public and of the other House.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." —(The Lord President.)


said, that the Bill was necessitated by the very great anomalies which existed under the present state of the law with regard to the public health. It was most important that something should be done with regard to the water supply; and to his mind the most important portion of the Bill was that which related to that subject. He thought, however, that some amendments would be found expedient, whenever it should be deemed convenient to consolidate all the laws relating to these questions.


said, he did not doubt that this was a measure of the highest importance; but still, he could not conceal from himself that it proposed to confer very large powers in a very summary manner, and he thought it rather sharp practice to ask their Lordships to pass a measure of such importance through all its stages with such rapidity. Still, the requirement was urgent, and their Lordships must conform to the necessity of the case. He was anxious to express his gratitude both to the late and the present Government for having brought in and forwarded this measure. But strong as some of the provisions of this measure were, it did not, in his opinion, go far enough to remedy the ten thousand evils of which they had to complain— something was required in order to strengthen the hands of the Government. Let their Lordships consider that though we were not insensible to the present necessity, we had been utterly regardless of the prevention of disease, and had despised the experience we had been gaining for so many years. In 1830, and afterwards in 1849, we had been told of the condition of the water supply and of the pernicious consequences of overcrowding; and now, after thirty years of warning, we were in a worse condition with respect to both. In the history of the world he did not believe there was to be found an instance of so many thousands huddled together in so disgraceful, filthy, and indecent a manner as now in the City of London. There was a great deal which ought to attract attention in the question of the water supply, not only in regard to the quality of the water, but also in reference to its distribution and the conduct of the Companies, and he therefore gave notice that, in the course of the next Session, he would call their Lordships' attention to the whole subject of the water supply of this metropolis, with a view to its improvement. In the Registrar General's Report a few days ago there was an account of a visit of the Deputy Registrar to the East End of London, which contained a statement of the water he saw, tasted, and analyzed. If their Lordships read his description of the internal condition of the dwellings, and the supply and condition of the water, they would see that it was perfectly disgraceful and horrible. He hoped another Session would not be allowed to pass without providing a remedy. It was absolutely necessary that larger powers should be conferred on those engaged in the administration of the internal affairs of the metropolis. He was glad the Bill had been brought in, and he was sure the powers which it conferred would be most ably exercised by the noble Duke who was now charged with the duty.


wished to be allowed to notice some changes and modifications which would be introduced with respect to a matter cognate with that dealt with by this Bill. By the Passenger Act it was provided that every ship carrying 100 passengers should be provided with a surgeon. It had been represented that in the present state of cholera a ship carrying fewer passengers would be subjected to very great danger if it had no surgeon. It was therefore resolved that in the course of a few days an Order in Council should be issued which would require that after the 20th instant every ship carrying passengers should take a surgeon with it.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly; Committee negatived; Standing Orders Nos. 37 and 38 considered (according to Order) and dispensed with; Bill read 3a, and passed.