§ Amendments reported (according to Order).
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, he desired to explain to their Lordships the alterations which had been introduced into the Bill by the Select Committee to which it had been referred. The Members of the Committee had given their most careful consideration to the whole subject, and every point underwent the closest and most minute examination, no alteration having been made without the fullest discussion. But although the Amendments which had been introduced had, on every occasion, received the unanimous approval of the Committee, the House could hardly be expected to place such confidence as to take upon trust all the alterations which they had recommended. The changes proposed were certainly very considerable—and indeed the features of the Bill were so altered that on its returning to the House of Commons it would be hardly recognizable. The difficulty of devising a proper remedy for the evils against which this Bill was directed could only be properly estimated by those who had closely considered the subject from every point of view. It was quite clear, however, that no Bill could be of any avail unless it were compulsory. Permissive Bills had been tried and had signally failed. On the whole be believed the Committee had succeeded in framing a measure which was sufficient to attain the end in view, having a due regard to the rights of property. The first subject to which the attention of the Committee was directed was the Authority in the metropolis to which the powers of the Act ought to be intrusted. The Local Authority proposed by the Bill as it was introduced into the House of Commons, was the Metropolitan Board of Works. Petitions, however, had been presented to their Lordships' House from the vestries of many of the great parishes in London, complaining of that arrangement. 985 As the Bill originally stood most important works would probaby have had to be undertaken by the Board, and provision was made to raise the sums required for such works by means of a local rate. It was objected to this arrangement that it would be a very hard thing to make persons residing at a distance from the place where the nuisance existed contribute to a rate raised for a purpose in which apparently they had no interest at all. Now, perhaps, on principle it might be said that the whole of the metropolis was interested in preventing disease and infection in any part of it; but the Committee had deemed it right to alter the Bill, so as to obviate the objection. They came to the conclusion that, under all the circumstances, it would be better to impose the duty of carrying the Act into execution on the vestries and district Boards in the metropolis, as being more closely and immediately interested in the matter than the Board of Works. The next point considered by the Committee was as to the appointment of the Medical Officer—a most important agent in the carrying of the Bill into effect, as on his report all the subsequent proceedings depended. It was originally proposed that he should be appointed by the Metropolitan Board of Works; but as the Local Authority had been since changed it was deemed desirable by the Committee that the vestries and district Boards should not have the power of appointing and removing the Medical Officer without some check and control. The Committee, therefore, resolved that the appointment and the removal of the Medical Officer should only be made with the sanction of the Poor Law Board. The next point the Committee had to consider was what should be done in cases where structural alterations were necessary. As the Bill stood origiginally it was provided that on the Local Authority receiving the Report of the Medical Officer they should send it to their Engineer or Surveyor, whose duty it would be to take it into his consideration, and to state what alterations would, in his opinion, be necessary. Now, the Committee thought it most desirable that the Local Authority should be required to appoint a Surveyor to examine the premises after the Report of the Medical Officer had been sent in, and to determine and report whether the defects were such as required to be remedied by structural alterations, or whether it would be necessary that the premises, or any 986 part of them, should be demolished. The Bill only provided for the sending of the Report of the Medical Officer to the owner of the premises; but the Committee had thought it right that the latter should also receive the Report of the Engineer or Surveyor, and should further be afforded an opportunity of appearing before the Local Authority and objecting to any Order being made. In the original Bill no provision was made to meet a state of things which was very likely indeed to arise—the event of the owner of the property alleging that its condition did not arise from any default on his part, but was owing to some defect in his neighbour's premises, or some drain which the parish were bound to keep in repair. To meet such a case the Committee had recommended if the Local Authority decided against the objection the party aggrieved might appeal to the Quarter Sessions against the decision, giving notice to the person or persons whom he had alleged to be in default. From the decision of the Quarter Sessions there would be an appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench. Another point of very material importance, in which the Committee found it necessary to make considerable change in the Bill, was this—As the Bill stood when it came before the Committee, suppose the owner should not like to make the necessary repairs or alterations, power was given to the Local Authority to either shut up the premises or purchase them, and provision was made in the Bill as to the amount of compensation to be paid to the owner, and for intrusting to a building society the works undertaken by the Local Authority. The Committee deemed it objectionable that the Local Authority should have anything to do with the purchase of such property. They therefore introduced a provision to confine the operations of the Local Authority to either such demolition or such building as ought to be done by the owner, at the same time making the owner responsible for the cost. In the Bill as it originally stood there was no provision giving persons, and particularly nominal owners, the expenses of such improvements as it was desirable to have made. The Committee had, however, introduced a clause providing that when alterations had been made under the order of the Local Authority, and to the satisfaction of the superintending Surveyor, the owner might get from the latter a certificate, and proceeding to the Local Authority might 987 obtain a charging order for the outlay he had made. That certificate was to be filed and recorded by the Clerk of the Peace; and that having been done the owner was to have a charge on the premises of 6 per cent on the outlay for thirty years. The Committee had also provided that under similar circumstances the Local Authority might proceed to the Quarter Sessions with the certificate and vouchers, and that certificate having been filed the Local Authority should have a charge, by way of mortgage on the premises, for the outlay which had been incurred. He believed he had now put their Lordships in possession of the alterations which the Committee had made in the Bill, and which he thought had effected very great improvement in it.
§ LORD PORTMAN
was of opinion that the Bill had been very materially improved by the Select Committee, and that the noble and learned Lord who had just addressed the House, and to Lord Westbury, their Lordships were deeply indebted for the care and pains they had bestowed upon it. Under the guidance of those two noble and learned Lords the legal portions of the clauses had been carefully framed. The Bill was now one which might be made to work. All that was unworkable in it when it came from the Commons had been struck out. If they compared the Bill as it stood now with the Bill as it left the Commons, the comparison would satisfy their Lordships that it was wise to examine in a Select Committee Bills coming up from the Commons, even though they might have been in the House of Commons more Sessions than one. He thought it was right to have determined to prevent vestries from purchasing house property, and to have struck out the clauses for giving powers to building companies to speculate through the aid of vestries, but above all to have given to the vestry the powers which the House of Commons had proposed to give to the Metropolitan Board of Works. He believed that the only value which this Bill possessed over the Nuisance Removal and other Acts consisted in its giving power to the Local Authority to demolish buildings that ought to be removed.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
quite agreed that the alterations effected in this Bill by the Committee were good ones, and he desired to express his thanks to the two noble and learned ex-Chancellors who had been alluded to for the time and attention they had given to the measure 988 in the Select Committee. He felt assured that if the House of Commons accepted the Bill it would produce very beneficial results. What had been done with it in their Lordships' House would show the country that their Lordships were always ready to do what was for the benefit of the working classes.
§ Bill to be read 3a on Monday next.