§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
, who rose to move an humble Address to Her Majesty, for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the housing of the working classes in populous places, said: My Lords, I rise to call your Lordships' attention to a subject exceed- 1680 ing in importance and gravity even the terrible and deplorable tidings which have just been laid before the House. The matters to which I have to draw your attention do not affect current politics; they do not concern the struggles of Parties, or the praise or blame of Ministries; and yet they touch more closely the springs of national well-being and prosperity than even the deep and grave questions with which Parliament has been recently occupied. My Lords, the matter which I have to bring before your Lordships, and upon which I have to ask your Lordships to address the Crown, is the question of the housing of the working classes. It is a question that has, of late, excited very much interest, and has elicited so large a mass of testimony, that I am relieved from the necessity of proving my case for the consideration of Parliament. I have received numberless pamphlets and writings during the past Recess on the subject; the attention of persons of every class, of every creed and school of politics, has been turned to this question of the housing of the poor; and I have met no one who does not admit that there is a great problem to be solved, and a great evil to be remedied. I know, however, that there are some who think that what has already been done, both in the way of inquiry and legislation, is sufficient to justify us in holding our hand, or, rather, sufficient to make it important that we should hold our hand, in order that we may not seem to interfere with the goodwill of those who have already taken this matter up. There is a letter from a Member of the House of Commons in the newspapers to-day which raises the question directly. I refer to Mr. Brodrick's letter, in which he states his opinion that such a Royal Commission as that which I am moving for might have the effect rather of diminishing and slackening the effort of the local authorities, and those upon whom the duty of dealing with this matter rests, instead of stimulating and aiding them. I attach great importance to the advice that is given in that communication; but I think that hardly sufficient consideration is paid in it to the manifold and complex character of the particular evil with which we are concerned, and with which we have to deal. That evil is not, as it is generally treated, of a simple character. It is of 1681 a very complicated character. There are four different evils from which the working classes in our great towns and populous places are suffering, into which inquiry is very necessary, and to which Parliament should be invited to apply such remedies as it may decide. I observe that most of those who have given their minds to the discussion—and, as far as I can gather, that includes Her Majesty's Government themselves—treat this question as if it were purely a sanitary question in its most restricted sense. The impression seems to exist that if the sanitary legislation which is already on the Statute Book were carried out, the whole of the evil would be met. Now, a consideration of the character of the evil with which we have to deal would, I think, dispel that impression. It is, in the first place, and undoubtedly in a most important sense, a sanitary question. The neglect, or the imperfect fulfilment, of the requirements of public health, more especially in regard to the statutory provisions in the matter of sewage, is certaiuly a matter of primary interest in connection with this subject. The accounts that have been laid before us, in great abundance, with reference to the condition of the dwellings of the working classes in this Metropolis, undoubtedly show that in this primary requirement as regards health those dwellings are lamentably deficient. The sewage arrangements are in a state fit enough, not only to excite loathing on the part of those who have visited those places, but to convince us that a satisfactory condition of the public health is impossible so long as the present state of things continues. But the sewage question is not everything, nor is it the only one we must consider. If it were simply a question of proper arrangements with respect to sewage matters, the legislation that is already on the Statute Book certainly would seem to be adequate. It is a question to which the attention of Parliament has been constantly directed, and the legislation upon it is abundant and very drastic. The local authority has a right to require that proper communications with the sewers, proper arrangements as to privies, water-closets, &c., and a proper and sufficient water supply, shall be carried out in every dwelling-house. If they are not carried out, any two inhabitants have the right of forcing the attention of the local 1682 authority to the matter. And the decision of a justice is sufficient to impose upon the owner the necessity of making the proper arrangements, and, in default of his so doing, the local authority is authorized to make them at his expense. It is impossible to imagine provisions, which, if adequately carried out, could be more resolute and determined than those which Parliament has already adopted. But we know that, for some reasons or other, these beneficent provisions have not had their full effect, and that is one of the grounds on which I ask Parliament to make an inquiry. It is impossible to produce enactments, so far as mere enactments go, which could more completely effect the object we have in view. Therefore, it is impossible not to see, in that case, that there must be something wrong. Either there must be some insuperable obstacle, which it requires other measures to remove, against the carrying out of those provisions, or the authorities upon whom the duty of carrying them out devolves have been lamentably wanting in regard to the obligations and duties that are cast upon them. This is, at all events, a matter which Parliament should inquire into. I will say, with respect to this particular point of sewage, that it is intimately connected with the question of water supply. You cannot expect sewage arrangements to be perfect so long as the water supply is imperfect; and that question of water supply is intimately linked on to the question of the Water Companies which has already baffled and affected more than one Administration. How far it is the fault of the legislation that affects the Water Companies that the water supply is insufficient, how far the local authorities are inefficient, how far obstacles which we do not at present sufficiently recognize interfere with the law—these are matters which we cannot ascertain by discussion in this House, or in the newspapers, and which require a careful and accurate investigation by a Commission. We must not be too impatient in this matter. It is not a great many years ago—I dare say a great many of those now present remember how, some years ago, it was brought forcibly to the mind and senses of Parliament that the drainage of the Metropolis was in an unsatisfactory condition, owing to the state of the Thames, which 1683 absolutely prevented legislation during a considerable period of the Session. But the Parliament of that time, by the hands of Lord John Manners, who was then First Commissioner of Works, made the necessary provisions to enable the Metropolitan Board of Works to carry out a scheme for the drainage arrangements of the Metropolis; and it is only since the completion of that scheme 15 years ago that it has been possible to place the sewage arrangements of this great city in a satisfactory condition. It may be that, although progress is going on, it is not sufficiently rapid. Still, a more full employment of the appliances which we now have would solve that part of the difficulty. But when we speak of the bad condition of the houses of the poor, we may mean, besides bad drainage, that the houses are in bad repair. There, again, the Statute Book contains, as far as the law goes, an adequate remedy. The Metropolitan Board of Works has abundant and perfect power to cause the repair of a building to be carried out, and, in default of the repairs being carried out, to cause the removal of any building which is in a condition dangerous to those who inhabit it. If that power has not been sufficiently exercised, and if dangerous structures have not been removed, again, it is a matter for careful and impartial inquiry what is the obstacle which has prevented the Metropolitan Board from carrying out the intentions of Parliament in this respect. But the difficulties with respect to the housing of the poor are not confined to the actual structure of the dwellings in which they live. Some of them have arisen, not only from the construction of particular houses, but from the position of houses with respect to each other. They are built too closely, or built in courts and alleys where ventilation cannot penetrate, where the sun cannot operate, and where, consequently, all influences that minister to disease are unusually powerful, and do not receive their natural checks. This is a matter, also, which has engaged the attention of Parliament. It was in reference to, and to get rid of, these "unhealthy areas," as they are called, that the measure associated with the name of my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Assheton Cross) was passed in 1875. It is, undoubtedly, a measure which has already effected great 1684 good; but its further progress seems to be barred by some serious obstacles. A Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire into this particular point, and sat for two Sessions, and collected very valuable evidence. I do not think that it solved at all the question why this Act has not been more fully applied. But it, at all events, brought to light this fact—that the application of the Act was accompanied by extreme expense. It was impossible to destroy these insanitary areas and courts without sufficiently compensating all those who had any existing interest in them—ground landlords and leaseholders, and the actual tenants—and those compensations, largely increased, and often doubled by the cost of legal, surveying, and other expenses, have raised the cost of the operations to a point which even, for so wealthy a body as the Metropolitan Board of Works, is almost prohibitory. At all events, a very heavy burden was laid upon the ratepayers of the Metropolis. I think it was calculated, with regard to a considerable number of these areas, that whereas the price which was obtained for them did not exceed 5s. a foot, the Board had to pay as much as a guinea a foot in order to obtain possession of them, and the balance between the two prices was so much additional burden to the already heavily-weighted ratepayers of the Metropolis. This is undoubtedly a very serious evil, and I do not think that, although the Committee opened up the ground, they investigated thoroughly the particular cause to which this vast expense is due, and it is very desirable that the cause should be ascertained. In respect to this point, suggestions have been made by many persons of authority—some, I am sorry to say, of official authority, which are hardly consistent with the principles Parliament has observed in dealing with property. It has been proposed that the ground landlords and the leaseholders should be deprived of a portion of their compensation, in order to make it more easy for Parliament to destroy these unhealthy areas, and to substitute for them more wholesome dwellings. I do not think that that is a matter which ought to be submitted to the Commission. I think these are questions of principle—large questions, on which Parliament itself ought to, and will have exclusively to 1685 decide. The question how far, and what kind of compensation should be given, and how far any abuses that have arisen will require to be limited, is a matter which Parliament itself must settle. With respect to this matter of compensation, I would venture to say to those politicians, whoever they may be, who desire to put a portion of the cost of those sanitary reforms upon the ground landlord, or the leaseholder, or any other person having an interest in the locality, if they intend to go upon the principle of taking away compensation, let them have the courage of their opinions. I would address them with the words employed by Martin Luther—"Pecca fortiter." If they mean to meet this great evil by any kind of confiscation; let them get all advantage out of confiscation that they can by taking the property with the unceremonious facility which would befit a Turkish Pasha or a Burmese officer. To confiscate, to take off something to which the owner has a right, and only by that to gain 6d. or 1s. in the price per foot—that seems to me a most improvident proceeding. If they wish to get the whole advantage, they must confiscate more largely—they must confiscate the whole. There is no use in incurring all those penalties, which an unfailing Nemesis inflicts upon the authors of public plunder, unless they get a sufficient amount of booty to indemnify them for the operation. These three elements of the bad housing of the poor are those to which attention has been principally directed, and I think it has been unduly directed to the exclusion of one other. It has not been noticed sufficiently that the great and peculiar evil is the overcrowding of the poor, and that all the remedies which are proposed for these other evils, instead of diminishing overcrowding, only tend to exaggerate it. What is your remedy for dealing with all these bad houses, bad localities, and unhealthy areas? Your remedy is, knock down and turn out—to knock down unhealthy houses and clear unhealthy areas. But the immediate effect of all these operations is to increase the overcrowding on the spaces that remain. The people who are turned out of these unhealthy dwellings must find places somewhere, and all the remedies which have hitherto been proposed seem to me to fail in this point—that they absolutely increase the principal 1686 evil instead of diminishing it. They absolutely increase the overcrowding instead of doing anything to mitigate it. The idea seems to be that if you are sufficiently severe on unhealthy houses—if you clear away unhealthy areas with a sufficiently relentless hand—you will, somehow or other force somebody else to build healthy houses in healthy localities—that you will inflict upon the poor who are turned out such an intolerable amount of evil that somebody else will come forward and assist them. Even if that were true, it would be a most cruel method of proceeding. Even if it were true that you could, by the mere process of destroying every unhealthy house, ultimately force the building of healthy houses, still it would be a very gradual operation, and there would be an intermediate period during which the suffering would be intense. But the truth is, in this country at least, you cannot proceed by those violent methods. If you pass an Act of Parliament, of which the practical result will be the infliction of great misery upon a considerable number of people, you may be quite certain that the Act of Parliament will be mere waste paper. It will not be carried out by the authorities. No provision, however drastic, no administrative arrangement, however perfect, will prevent that inevitable result. The consequence is, that as long as you confine your attention to purely sanitary legislation, and do not bear in mind this difficulty of overcrowding, which is really the dominant one, your sanitary legislation will be in vain. People. will not be turned out of unhealthy houses if there is nowhere else to go. The local authorities, press them as you may, transform them as you will, will not carry out your enactments. That is really the most important matter on which, it seems to me, the Commission should inquire. If we have this overcrowding, unless you can meet it, it will neutralize all your efforts; and you can do nothing to meet it, unless you possess sufficient knowledge of the precise character of the evil. What is wanted is to know where and what are the localities in which the overcrowding exists, and how many of those who are thus crowded together are forced to dwell in that locality? As everybody knows who has followed this discussion 1687 at all, the great thing in London is that, with respect to a certain class of the population at least, you cannot move them to a distance from their industry, or they will cease to be able to pursue it. The result is that the obvious remedy of taking these people into the country only applies to a limited portion of those whose difficulties you have to meet. And, therefore, we want to know what is that portion, what is the number of persons who could not pursue their industry, living at a distance from London, where they might obtain some reasonable accommodation, and in what particular localities do they congregate? If you once had that information fully obtained and laid before Parliament and the country, I believe it would be possible, in the first instance, to apply, with greater clearness and effect, the remedy which would carry away those who can live out of London, to see how far cheap trains carrying people out of London might be employed, and what building operations are requisite, where they are required, and to what extent they must be carried out. That is really the gist and kernel of the whole matter. That is the difficulty we have to meet. Are large building operations requisite; and, if requisite, where are they to be carried on; and at whose cost? I do not affect to answer these questions now. If I could answer them, I should not ask your Lordships to seek for a Royal Commission. It is because enormous difficulties attach to all these questions that I think investigation, and speedy investigation, is necessary. My Lords, I have carefully avoided any words indicating that I think any man or class of men are to blame for the existing state of things. Of course, I do not and will not say that there are not persons who are to blame; but I say that any attempt to escape from the urgency of the problem by throwing the blame on any class of men is futile wholly. It is absurd to say the ground landlord is to blame. If he has got houses which come within the operation of the law, the law is strong enough to assert itself, and to force him to do his duty. But if he is not within the grasp of the law, he is not exposed to any blame. The ground landlord, or the mere temporary and intermediate owner of a house, like everyone else, has to sell the goods he 1688 possesses in the open market for the price he can obtain for them, and it is ridiculous to blame him for obtaining the best price he can. Then I have heard persons say that the blame of the overcrowding is due to some strange operation on the part of the large landed proprietors in the country, who have artificially diminished the population on their estates, and driven them into the towns. In the first place, I would submit, if that operation has been carried on, it is much more likely to be carried on by small landed proprietors than large proprietors, because the persons who would be most ready to save themselves unnecessary expense would be necessarily those whose incomes were too narrow to admit of superfluity. Therefore, such au evil, if evil existed, would be one far more likely to attach to small estates than to large ones. But an examination of the Census figures—I shall not trouble your Lordships with them, as they are not entertaining reading; but to anyone who will go through them, as I have done, and examine the returns from the counties that are in the imniediate neighbourhood of London, will see that the houses, so far from diminishing, have gone on increasing during the last decade. Not only in the towns, but in the Parliamentary counties—which is the best mode of reaching the rural population—by taking the Census for 1881 you will find that there is a considerable increase of house-room over the amount existing in 1871. There is, therefore, no ground for saying that any action on the part of owners of land in diminishing the country population accounts for overcrowding in towns. My Lords, there is a much more obvious and gloomy cause in the great disasters which have fallen upon agriculture—partly the result of inclement seasons, and partly the result of the persistent foreign competition, fully sufficient to account for the diminution of prosperity in the agricultural industry, and the consequent desertion of it by large numbers of persons. One of the most difficult questions is, by whom shall the work be done? My Lords, I do not attempt to solve this question; but I see before me my noble Friend (the Earl of Wemyss), whom I think I can call the head of the Property and Liberty Defence Association. The sight of him reminds me that, for any proposals of this kind, I may have 1689 to defend myself against the charge of Socialism. Now, my Lords, I will at once say I do not favour any wild schemes of State interference. I am as earnest as any man in this House that, while we approach great public evils, and desire to remedy them, we should scrupulously observe that honesty which is the condition of continued and abiding prosperity for the industries of this country. But while I will maintain that doctrine as earnestly as my noble Friend, I yet would ask the House to avoid that kind of political cowardice which declines to consider and examine a problem, lest its urgency should afterwards seem to be a temptation to provide unlawful and illegitimate methods for its remedy. The evils that we have to deal with are very serious. After all, even my noble Friend may press as earnestly as he will upon us the necessity of leaving every Englishman to work out his own destiny, and not attempt to aid him at the expense of the State; but, on the other side, he must always bear in mind there are no absolute truths or principles in politics. We must never forget that there is a moral as well as a material contagion, which exists by virtue of the moral and material laws under which we live, and which forbid us to be indifferent, even as a matter of interest, to the well-being in every respect of all the classes who form part of the community. If there be material evil, disease will follow, and the contagion of that disease will not be confined to those amongst whom it arises, but will spread over the rest of the community. And what is true of material evil is true of moral evil too. If there are circumstances which produce great moral injury, the contagion will not be confined to the class of those with whom the moral effects arise, but will spread their evil consequences over the whole of the community to which these classes belong. After all, whatever political arrangements we may adopt, whatever the political constitution of our State may be, the foundation of all its prosperity and welfare must be that the mass of the people shall be honest and manly, and shall have common sense. How are you to expect that these conditions will exist amongst people subjected to the frightful influences which the present overcrowding of our poor produce? I do not know 1690 if any of your Lordships have read the remarkable letter of Mr. Williams in The Times of to-day, giving an account of the terrible overcrowding which the investigations of the School Board have found in various parts of London. The instances are numbered not by tens, but by hundreds, where there are six or seven of a family living in a single room. My Lords, these conditions are not conditions of a physical or material deterioration only; but they are conditions deleterious and ruinous to the moral progress and development of the race to which we belong. How can you hope that any of the home influences, which, after all, are the preserving and refining influences, which keep men good amidst the various temptations of life—how are you to hope that these influences are to flourish in such a state of things as this? We pay great attention to the education of the people; but how are we to hope that popular education will flourish, when men, after the education is over, are dismissed to their homes where they cannot undertake any study, and where anything like literary interest is impossible, owing to the great mental and physical depression of mind and body under which they exist? Constant efforts are made by our legislators to deal with the great plague of intemperance, which is the moral scourge of the present generation; but how are you to hope that men will be kept out of the public-house, when the home, which is the only alternative to the public-house, presents such horrible and loathsome features? My Lords, I hope Parliament will never transgress the laws of public honesty, but I equally hope that Parliament will not be deterred by fear of being tempted to transgress those laws, or, still more, by the fear of being accused of intending to transgress those laws, from fearlessly facing, and examining, and attempting to fathom these appalling problems, which involve the deepest moral, material, and spiritual interests of the vast mass of our fellow-countrymen. I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name upon the Paper.Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to request that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the housing of the working classes in populous places."—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the House has listened with intense interest to the speech of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury)—a speech which will be most cordially welcomed by thousands of Englishmen, and by those who have so earnestly laboured in this cause, and whose names are so familiar. Mr. Torrens, Sir E. Assheton Cross, Sir Sydney Waterlow, Mr. Broadhurst, Miss Octavia Hill, and Mr. Shaw Lefevre will welcome the powerful assistance of the noble Marquess, who has so cordially joined them; and these names will naturally bring back to your Lordships the name of the statesman who first gave the impulse to improvement by issuing an inquiry into the state of large towns and populous districts in 1884—I mean Sir Robert Peel. Since that time vast improvements have been made; the cellar population in Liverpool and Manchester scarcely exists, but much remains to be done. There is great sympathy with the suffering poor, and I think that the House will admit that the proposal for the appointment of a Royal Commission has the concurrence of the country. Under these circumstances, it might be asked, why is the proposal not made by Her Majesty's Government? The reason is very evident. Ever since the present Government took Office, this subject has received their most anxious consideration; and they appointed a Select Committee, of which Sir B. Assheton Cross was Chairman, which sat in 1881 and 1882, and made the following recommendations:—A short amending Bill of the Acts of 1875–9 (Sir R. Assheton Cross's) should at once be brought into Parliament to relax the compulsory accommodation of at least as many persons of the working classes as may be displaced by the improvement scheme," and "that the accommodation required should vary from one-half to two-thirds.This the Government have settled by the Artizans' Dwellings Act, 1882, as well as other proposals to reduce the expense, delay, and difficulty of carrying out the Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings Acts, which the Government have in the main adopted. In consequence, the Local Government Board is now in possession of most of the necessary information as regards populous places, and these inquiries made by the Committee have been supplemented by the visits of Sir Charles W. Dilke and Mr. 1692 George Russell to the poorest parts of London, and Her Majesty's Government consider sufficient powers already existed to meet the case, although they have not in all cases been sufficiently enforced by local authorities. This is proved by Sir E. Assheton Cross's Nineteenth Century article, which, perhaps, I may be permitted to quote. First, with regard to new buildings, he says—We must take care that houses in future may be properly built in the first instance, and strictly enforce the Metropolitan Buildings Act. This is a matter of the administration of the existing law. As to the maintenance in a sanitary condition of houses properly built in the first instance, we are told this is a matter of administration only; fresh legislation is not needed,With respect to old buildings Sir R. Assheton Cross says—The old slums and insanitary houses must be got rid of, as economically as can be done, certainly, but they must go—the sooner the better, but only with convenient speed, or overcrowding will certainly follow. Mr. Torrens's Acts for small areas, my own Acts for larger areas, give every requisite power.And lastly, as to the rehousing of the poor, he says—No legislation is here needed; what is wanted is patience, perseverance, and determination.So far as there has been a failure, it is mainly the administration of the law that has failed. Some local authorities have been backward in this matter, partly because some of the worst houses belong to persons in authority; and, therefore, Inspectors are afraid to move and make reports against their employers, as proved by Sir Charles Dilke's speeches at Birmingham, and partly from the reason that since the passing of the Act of 1875—It has been the desire of the local authorities to avoid the expense falling on the local district, in the hope that the matter would be dealt with by the Metropolitan Board out of the Metropolitan rates."—[Report of Select Committee, page XI.]This latter point is remedied by the Act of 1882. The reasons why the Government did not propose a Royal Commission to inquire into the housing of the poor in populous places are that if it were granted there might be a marked indisposition on the part of many local authorities to exercise the powers which they can and ought to put in force; and 1693 the excuse given that nothing shall be done till the Royal Commission had reported. Mr. Ashby, for instance, before the Select Committee, said—We held our hand in respect to the Petticoat Square area, waiting in hope that your Report, when complete, will give the relief we wanted; then we shall be able to do something.Sir R. Assheton Cross shows his opinion by the following remark:—That is to say, practically, you have determined to take no steps until this Committee has finally reported.In spite of these difficulties Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that it is desirable that the inquiry wished for by the noble Marquess should be carried still further. In his Motion are the words "populous places." With regard to towns, we have all necessary information, and as much power to act as is required; but the Government feel that the condition of the housing of the agricultural labourer should be improved; and if the inquiries of the Royal Commission extended to the housing of the working classes generally, the fear of exposure in itself would tend to induce careless landlords to repair their cottages and help to do away with what is not only a disgrace, but a positive danger to England. The country will learn with satisfaction that Her Majesty, acting on the advice of Her Ministers, has decided to issue a Commission in the words proposed by the noble Marquess, with the omission of the last three words.
THE PRINCE OF WALES
My Lords, your Lordships cannot have failed to have listened with the greatest interest to the speeches which have fallen from the lips of the noble Marquess who introduced the subject, and of the noble Lord who has just sat down—speeches which cannot have failed to make a deep impression on your Lordships' House. I feel convinced also that your Lordships, in common with all classes of Her Majesty's subjects, will be gratified to learn that the noble Marquess has asked for a searching inquiry into this great and momentous question with regard to the housing and the amelioration of the dwellings of the poor and of the working classes, and that Her Majesty's Government have decided to issue a Royal Commission for that purpose. My Lords, it is not my intention to trouble you with many 1694 remarks; but, as your Lordships know, I take the keenest and liveliest interest in this question. At the same time, I confess I have not gone into the matter deeply enough for me to venture on giving an opinion—especially after what has fallen from the noble Marquess and the noble Lord. Still, I can assure you, my Lords, that I am deeply flattered at having been appointed a Member of this Royal Commission. The subject of the housing of the poor is not entirely unknown to me, as, having acquired a property in Norfolk, now 21 years ago, I have been much occupied in building fresh dwellings for the poor and the working classes. On arriving there, I found some of the dwellings in a most deplorable condition; but I hope that now there is hardly one person on the estate who can complain of not being adequately housed. I can endorse, indeed, what has fallen from the noble Marquess, and what is stated in the quotation he made from the letter of Mr. Williams, the officer of the London School Board, which appears in The Times of to-day. Only a few days ago I visited two of the poorest courts and districts in St. Pancras and in Holborn, where I can assure your Lordships that the condition of the poor, or rather of their dwellings, was perfectly disgraceful. That, in itself, proves to me how important it is that there should be a thoroughly searching inquiry. As your Lordships are well aware, there have existed now, for some short space of time, several private Societies organized for inquiry into this very question. We ought all to be grateful that they should have given time to so important a subject, and I feel that a Royal Commission can in no wise clash with the efforts of these private individuals. In conclusion, my Lords, I cherish an earnest hope, which I am convinced will be shared by your Lordships, that the inquiries of this Royal Commission will result in its being able to recommend to Parliament measures of a drastic and thorough character, which shall be the means not only of improving the dwellings of the poor, but of ameliorating their condition generally.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
said, that this was a subject which had engaged his attention almost from the earliest moment he entered into political life. 1695 At that time the prospect of improvement was almost hopeless; but he was happy to say the results had been more satisfactory than the most sanguine had any reason to expect. He desired to express his most cordial approval of the proposal of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) to appoint this Royal Commission. He could not, however, help thinking that the information already obtained on this subject was far more minute and accurate than could ever be obtained by any Royal Commission. Nevertheless, he was fully prepared to go along with the noble Marquess, because the Report of such a Commission would have greater weight than the Reports of private per-sons. In the possession of Societies and Companies in London, and of Municipal Corporations in the Provinces, there existed a vast amount of information on this subject, quite as minute and complete as could be obtained by a Commission; yet it might be beneficial that it should all be brought, as it were, into a single picture by being collected and arranged by a Commission. At the same time, there was a serious point to be considered. He would suppose that the Commission sat for two or three years, for if it was to do any good whatever it must occupy several years in the inquiry. During that time he was afraid that many of the labours now going on with the object of improving the homes of the poor would be suspended; and he was sorry to say that there were a great number of persons who were glad of any excuse to do nothing at all. To avert these dangers, it would be necessary to appeal to the public not to desist from the work already undertaken. Education had been suggested as a means of improving the condition of the poor people in their homes; but he considered that, though they educated them up to the point of a senior wrangler, it would not have much effect in this respect. There were a vast number of persons, who were not conversant with the state of London, who imagined that it was the immorality of people which led to the wretched condition of their homes; but he believed it would be found that it was, in many instances, structural defects that led to immorality, rather than immorality that produced the condition of the dwellings; and that it was the insufficiency 1696 and offensiveness of rooms and their surroundings that degraded the mass of those who were forced to live in them. The houses to which he was referring were inhabited by hundreds and thousands of people, and were so constructed that, from one year's end to another, no current of fresh air ever passed through them. The state of health was fearful, and the condition of things was such, that domestic duties could not be performed with order and decency. The structural condition of these houses had led to much immorality. He had seen it with his own eyes. He had seen decent women totally borne down by the habits and manners of the people among whom they were compelled to live. In the condition of life in which thousands of those poor people lived, immorality and ill-health could not but be largely developed. It was said that if their homes were made better they would soon bring them back to their former state. No doubt many of them were hopelessly sunk in degradation; but there were thousands who would welcome a better state of things. Those who saw those places for the first time thought that nothing could be worse. But he did not hesitate to say that, compared with its condition 40 years ago, London was now indescribably better; but he said this to encourage those who were interesting themselves in this question. As great amendment had already taken place, more might be expected to result from this Commission. He thought the Commissioners would find that there was no necessity for any new legislation, although there might be a necessity for the adaptation of some of the laws to the peculiar circumstances of the time. The laws which had already been passed were very numerous and various, and what they required was that they should be consolidated. There was one point which would require legislation, and he hoped the Commission would attend to it. He was quite certain that they would never have the laws of health properly given effect to until they asserted the independence of the health officer. The officer of health ought to be under this condition—that he could not be removed from the situation to which he was appointed, except with the consent of the Secretary of State. He wished next to refer to a most pressing evil. Many "rookeries" had been pulled 1697 down in St. Giles's, in Westminster, along the Thames Embankment. On the site of the New Law Courts, the dwellings of thousands of the poor had been removed. No doubt those improvements—especially the Embankment, had been productive of great good; wide streets had been opened, and fresh currents of air passed in every direction. As an instance of the good that had been done, he had been informed by medical authorities, that asthma, which had at one time been very prevalent, had now almost disappeared in London in consequence of these improvements. But, unfortunately, there was another side to the question. Most of these poor people had to live in the neighbourhood of their old homes, and the consequence was that in the neighbouring streets, the overcrowding greatly increased. That had been the case in the St. Giles's district, and on a recent inspection of parts of Westminster he found many families which formerly occupied two rooms now occupying one, for which they had to pay the same rent as before; and three or four families were often crowded into a space where only one had been before. The same thing was going on all over the country. These poor people were treated in this way, because it was said they were weekly tenants. If they had been led to believe that they held their houses only by a weekly tenure, there might be something in that; but, in Lambeth, he went from house to house, and found that some of the tenants had lived in the houses for 30 years, and others for 20 or 10 years. They thought they were annual tenants, and then all at once they discovered that they were weekly tenants. When he first sat in their Lordships' House, he moved a Resolution, that parties effecting the displacement of families should make due provision for the residence of those they removed. The House, however, did not receive that Motion. There were two great difficulties in the way of improvement—namely, the cost of land, and the question of building. Perhaps some of their Lordships were hardly aware of the enormous cost of land in London. In some parts of the Metropolis, it was almost impossible to get a plot of land, and he knew of one case where £120 a-year was paid for one-tenth part of an acre. He did not know how we could provide for people whose 1698 condition was so low that they could not bear the cost of a house. He noticed the great improvement which had been made by the erection of houses in the Shaftesbury, the Noel, and Queen's Parks, suburban districts, by which 9,000 families were accommodated. Anything more delightful than the houses could not be seen. They were constructed on the best principles of modern sanitation, they had large gar dens in front; and, by means of rail ways, the men who occupied them, having fixed places of work, fixed wages and fixed duty, were able to go down there every night and come up every morning, and 9,000 families had been taken out of London and decently sheltered. He hoped the Commissioners would look into the question of the water supply, and take care that the houses had an abundant supply all day long, for this was a matter of cleanliness and of health. Compared with the old state of affairs, there was already a great improvement in the supply of water, although much still remained to be done, and education would do a great deal. With regard to nuisances of various kinds, he might mention that one day he was talking to a young woman, who said—Every night scores of rats come into the room, and I have to sit up all one night, and my husband has to sit up all the next night, to prevent the rats from eating the baby.He must remind their Lordships of an improvement which was effected by the legislation relating to common lodging-houses, which had been very wisely put under the inspection of the police. The common lodging-houses were now sweet and clean; whereas, before the passing of the Act, they were dens of misery and filth. Fever used to be dominant in them, and 30 or 40 cases of fever sometimes occurred in a single week; but during the last 30 years only two cases had been reported from the common lodging-houses. As to applying public money to this purpose, he trusted the day was not come when the people of this country would look to the State to discharge that duty which they ought to discharge themselves. Whenever it came to that pass, that things absolutely necessary for the working man could not be obtained by the exertion of all his energies, it would be time for the law to come in and give him the assist- 1699 ance he had a right to claim. The matter before their Lordships was well worthy of their consideration, and of the consideration of the Government and of the whole Empire. Of this he was quite sure, that there was no hope for the dignity, there was no hope for the safety of the Empire, unless it be founded upon the comfort, the health, and the purity of the hearths and homes of the working classes.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON
expressed his great satisfaction at the fact that Her Majesty's Government had consented to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into this matter. It had so often been the case, when some burning question had occupied the public mind, that a Royal Commission had been asked for and appointed, and a great amount of evidence collected during the inquiry, an interesting Report came forth and valuable suggestions had been made; but from that time the burning question had sunk down and nothing whatever had come of it. With respect to the present Commission, under the vigorous guidance of the noble Marquess opposite, supported by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, whose speech would be listened to with satisfaction throughout the country, they might venture to hope that at no distant period some practical results would be produced. What with the exertions made, many of them under the guidance of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) and by the clergy and other ministers of religion, there could be no doubt in arriving at the facts which constituted the evil. The remedies, to a certain extent, had already been applied; but they could only be applied to a limited extent, because there were many occupations in which working men must live near to their work, and if their dwellings were cleared away too quickly, the consequence would be that large numbers would be driven out of their homes and crowded together in a worse manner than before. There were persons who thought that all wretched homes were in the East End of London. Such was not the case. In Westminster, within five minutes' walk of the Houses of Parliament, there were dwellings as unfit for human habitation as any existing elsewhere. Moreover, in the Western parts of London, there was overcrowding and misery in houses 1700 where they might not be expected. Whole families lodged in single rooms of buildings intended for only one family, the result being that the greatest wretchedness prevailed. It had been hinted that it might be necessary to apply the public funds to this purpose; but, in his opinion, that would really be, in the long run, making the honest and industrious pay for those who were not so. All these questions formed a problem they would have to consider, and he confessed himself at present utterly unable to solve it.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, he thought that those who had followed this discussion must feel that, whatever view noble Lords might take of this proposal, there was unanimity as to the desirability of their endeavouring by every means in their power to remedy the grievances which unhappily existed in this and other large towns; and he trusted that even if anyone expressed an opinion contrary to that of the noble Marquess, it would not for one moment be supposed that that person yielded in any degree to those whose philanthropic desires induced them to endeavour to provide a remedy for this state of things. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) had done him the honour to refer to him as being connected with an Association which rejoiced in the name of the Liberty and Property Defence League. The noble Marquess, in his famous article, had also alluded to that League; and although he misunderstood what the action of the members of that Association would be in reference to this question, he did them the honour to say that he thought in these Socialistic times a body of this kind might be of some public use. All they professed to do was to stand by the old Whig principles of liberty and property, and to those old Whigs and noble Lords and gentlemen who thought legislation was proceeding on both sides rather Socialistically, they afforded a good old English standing ground on which to offer resistance. As regarded the question before the House, there was not, he thought, a member of that League who would not feel that it was desirable, as far as possible by legislation, to remedy this state of things. They admitted that it was the duty of the State to interfere in sanitary matters to prevent any owner of property letting houses which were 1701 what he might call "pest generators," whether it were individual houses or districts of houses which might be termed pest generating districts. Having done that, the question was how far the State should interfere with private enterprize? The article published in the autumn by the noble Marquess had done great good, for it had focussed the attention of the public upon the subject of the houses of the poor, and strangely stimulated the philanthropic zeal of officials. No sooner had that article appeared, than another great statesman (Mr. Chamberlain) rushed into print, and the President of the Local Government Board was moved to great activity, for, as they read in the papers, there was not a slum in London, that he did not visit. The noble Marquess had been very careful to-night in his speech in avoiding anything like a suggestion of what ought to be done. His only suggestion was a Commission. But in his article he had a remedy. He there put forward the most extraordinary and alarming suggestion that they should build barracks for the Post Office and all the public servants—for if it did not mean that, he did not know what else it meant. Such a measure, however, the article said, would only be palliative; and although an entire cure might be very difficult, perhaps it would ultimately be found in an agency of a totally different character, and that was in the philanthropic and wise action of Miss Octavia Hill and her fellow-workers. He (the Earl of Wemyss) could speak from personal experience of the admirable work which had been done by Miss Octavia Hill and her friends, and he thought his noble Friend was right in looking to Miss Hill, and workers like her, as the real practical solution of the problem. As regarded Mr. Chamberlain, he made seven recommendations in his article, six of which were declared by a Radical Member (Mr. A. Arnold) to be already law, and the seventh had been described as simply the confiscation of property and the expropriation of landlords. The third class of remedies were those suggested by the Local Government Board in their Memorandum. They simply amounted to this—enforce the existing law; and they had heard that night several speakers say that if the existing law was properly enforced, it would be sufficient. His own view as 1702 to the duty of the State in these matters was that it was in the main negative—that was to say, the State should forbid the letting of unhealthy houses; and as Parliament dealt with railway enterprize, imposing conditions when they conferred powers, so it ought to be the case with regard to property in towns, and that where proprietors could not, or would not, act together—where, perhaps, only one held out in a general improvement—the State should have power to clear away that district, but with the condition that the rest should be left to private enterprize. Let them trust to philanthropic efforts and agencies such as Miss Hill's. What Parliament ought to do was to guard against State interference. Give these powers only to the extent which was absolutely necessary to enable speculation—commercial speculation if they liked—commercial philanthropic action—to come in. As regarded this Commission, he had heard a great deal about it; but he did not think it was necessary, for a Committee of the House of Commons had sat for two years on the question, taking the fullest evidence, and doing also what a Commission might do—namely, visiting both collectively and individually the various overcrowded districts. And what was their conclusion? Not that further legislation or restriction was necessary, but that further relaxation was required in the laws that regulated these matters. He ventured, then, to think that, in regard to towns, they already had all the information that was necessary. He heartily agreed with the President of the Local Government Board, that the chief thing to be done was to get the Vestries and other public bodies to do their duty and enforce the existing law. Was there no possibility of the Commission doing some harm if it did no positive good? Speaking not his own opinion, but that of those philanthropic workers whose whole heart and soul were in this matter, and who had done so much in London to mitigate the evil, he could say that they strongly deprecated the appointment of this Commission. It would cause delay, discouragement, and demoralization. It would cause delay, because no one would invest in this kind of property until he saw what the Commission recommended. It would cause discouragement, because people could not know 1703 what might happen at the end of the two years—they could not know that their efforts might not be in vain. It would cause demoralization, because it would teach large classes that they had not to look to their own exertions, and that the State must come forward and raise them out of the slough of despond. He hoped it would not go forth, no matter at whose cost these things should he done, that the State was going to build houses for the working people, the artizans, or the poor. He could conceive nothing which would be more prejudicial than that, because if they began on this system, where were they to stop? If they built houses, would they furnish them? Would they put fire in the grate or food in the cupboard? And if not, on this principle, why not? He would like to conclude by quoting from a pamphlet which was sent him by the author, one of the most large-hearted, benevolent, and intelligent men in this country. The author said—It seems probable that the scheme of State Socialism which in England during the next few years is likely to assume most importance is the erection of improved dwellings for the poor by funds supplied either from Imperial or local taxation.And he went on to say—It can be easily shown that, immediately the State steps beyond these limits of interference and attempts to control the rents that are charged by building houses with public funds, endless difficulties would be at once suggested.The author, however, recognized the right of the State to interfere on sanitary grounds, and then he said—There is, we believe, no surer way of drying up this great stream of self-help and self-reliance than to teach the working classes that they should look not so much to their own efforts as to the State or the municipality to provide them with the house accommodation they need.And the last and most telling sentence of all was this—The conclusion which, above all others, we desire to enforce is that any scheme, however well-intentioned it may be, will indefinitely increase every evil it seeks to alleviate if it lessens individual responsibility by encouraging the people to rely less upon themselves and more upon the State.These were the words of a Colleague of noble Lords on the Front Bench, the Postmaster General, and they were pregnant with sound philanthropy and common sense, and as such he respect- 1704 fully commended them to the serious consideration of the Commission and their Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
said, he entirely accepted the statement made by his noble Friend (the Earl of Wemyss) as to the limits of interference by the State. He did not think that any of their Lordships who assented to this Commission considered that, by so assenting, they implied that the State was to take the building of houses for the poor into its own hands. But the State had a great duty not only of a sanitary but of a moral kind; and since the State had taken into its hands the compulsory education of the young, that duty had become still more imperative. The State must give children not only intellectual, but moral education; and how they could talk of sending children to school, and then allowing them to go back to these miserable dens without any interference, he could not comprehend. It seemed to him that never had a more imperative duty been thrown upon the State than was now thrown upon it; for if the State allowed children to go back to these dwellings and evil influences, it fell short of the very object they had in view. He wished that this Commission should sit for many reasons. He was not at all convinced that they were in possession of all the information they ought to have on the subject. What he desired was to see the information gathered from different minds and different localities brought into one focus and treated by minds coming new to the subject, so that there should be some hope that the distressing, complicated, and difficult problem to which the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) had referred might at last receive a solution. He could assure the noble Earl that there was not only a great deal of information as to the present condition of things, but a great deal of exaggeration. In a work which had created a great sensation—the book called The Bitter Cry of Outcast London—it was stated that in a common lodging-house in London there were found as many as 80 persons gathered together without separation. ["Impossible!"] He was glad to hear the noble Earl say that such a thing was impossible. The author was written to on the subject, and he had never returned an answer. Things of this kind were sometimes picked up 1705 in conversation and put down as facts; and the advantage of the Commission would be that exaggeration, which was likely to lead to as great mistake as want of knowledge, would he avoided. He quite admitted that their Lordships might have some hesitation about appointing the Commission if it should lead to delay. But there were still workers, many of whom would go on working because they believed they were on the right track. In fact, it was a kind of work which could not be stopped. Therefore, they would not stop the real work going on in London. But the Motion of his noble Friend was not confined to London, but applied to the whole country; and though there were many towns in which the problem had been dealt with successfully, there were many in which it had not been approached.
THE BISHOP OF ROCHESTER
said, as to the observations of the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss), he could not understand how this Commission could cause any delay. So far as putting existing legislation in force was concerned, they might trust the Local Board to do that; and if the numerous philanthropic workers were to be discouraged by the granting of the Commission they must be easily discouraged. With respect to demoralization, it would be time enough to see whether the schemes would demoralize when they knew what those schemes were. The right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) had spoken of his experience of the North of the Thames; and as London, South of the Thames, where some of the most squalid habitations of the poor existed, was under his jurisdiction, he might be pardoned if he felt deep sympathy in this matter. For 30 years he had been, more or less, cognizant of the state of things which existed, and he, therefore, ought to know the great urgency of the case. The noble Earl who spoke a few moments ago (the Earl of Shaftesbury) was quite accurate when he remarked that the general condition of the labouring classes in the Metropolis had been improved to a greater extent during the last generation; but there was one melancholy exception, and that was the revolting and aggressive licentiousness in the public streets which had grown very much in the last few years. The Metropolis, generally, however, was 1706 in a hopeful condition, and they might approach the solution of this great problem encouraged. The deliberations of the Royal Commission, would, he thought, enable the public to draw a clear distinction between what was possible and what was impossible—between what was the function of the State and what was the function of the Church, for the State had her duties in respect of this matter, and the Church also. There was plenty of money in the country for any undertaking of this kind, and he believed it would be forthcoming as soon as suitable information was placed at the disposal of the nation. People were now beginning to feel that it was not just—that it was not humane—to turn their fellow-citizens out of localities where they had been labouring, and where they had been earning their humble but honest living, for the purpose of getting higher prices for the land by erecting warehouses thereon. The working classes had a right to claim that if their habitations were pulled down other houses should be erected for them upon the same site. He knew that artizans' wives preferred living in the Metropolis rather than in the suburbs, because they could get articles much cheaper. But the great difficulty which those who sat with him on the Bishops' Bench felt had not yet been touched upon. The noble Earl had spoken with pathos and frankness of the great mischief caused by the overcrowding of the poor in their homes. He would not tell their Lordships what his clergy had stated with regard to matters which had come to their knowledge; but he might say that it was impossible to over-estimate the difficulties and the horrible corruption which resulted to the young from overcrowding. But how was overcrowding to be prevented? Could it be done by legislation, or by sending out an army of Sanitary Inspectors? He should like to know what Government would willingly bear the expense of organizing an army of Inspectors to ascertain how many people slept in every house in the Metropolis, or what Parlinment would pass a law authorizing such a body of men? Such a course as that could not be adopted, and that brought him to a point which he wished to mention. If it was true that the house made the man, it was equally true that the man made the house. He 1707 could assure their Lordships that the Church had not neglected her duty in this matter; and that, if it had not been for her work, and for the labours of a number of other religious bodies outside the Church, the Home Office would have a great deal more on its hands than it now had, and London, instead of being the safest Metropolis in the world, would be the most dangerous. He made that observation because statements had appeared in the newspapers which might lead people to think that in the South of London nothing was being done for the religious or moral improvement of the poor, who, it was suggested, were living there in hideous and repulsive circumstances with no one to care for them. He emphatically denied that such was the case; and he wished to state that the clergy of the Church of England, and many excellent and admirable ministers of other religious bodies had been indefatigable in the discharge of their duties among the poor in that locality. Then there was another point which he desired to touch upon. How was it many of the poor would not pay for two rooms when they were able to do so? On one occasion he was speaking to a poor man, who told him that he paid for two rooms because he knew his children required them; but he added—"It cost me my beer." He would take off his hat to a man of that kind. Legislation would never induce many of the poor to benefit themselves, and it was only the great ideal and the facts of their holy religion which would improve their condition. The Queen might appoint a Royal Commission; £10,000,000 might be spent in the erection of model lodging-houses all over the country; and an army of Sanitary Inspectors might be sent out; but until Parliament stirred itself to the task of limiting the licences for the sale of intoxicating drinks, and the hours during which those intoxicating drinks were sold on Sundays, all labour was lost.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he did not think he could add anything to what had already been said on this matter; but, as he felt deeply the importance of the subject, there were one or two things he should like to mention before the debate closed. In the first place, he wished to express his extreme satisfaction at the unanimity that had prevailed in their Lordships' House on 1708 this occasion. That unanimity had hardly been broken at all; but it had been illustrated in a singular and striking manner by the illustrious Prince, who had thought this a fitting opportunity of showing the sympathy which he felt with efforts of this kind for the improvement of the condition of the people; and then by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), to whom great honour and praise was due for having come forward, as he had done prominently, to call attention to this matter, out of the House first, and afterwards in it. Then he was happy to think that Her Majesty's Government had not been behindhand in recognizing the importance of this question, and their duty, all Party considerations being laid aside, to contribute as well as they could to a satisfactory solution of it. The noble Earl on his left (the Earl of Shaftesbury), whose name would be handed down to posterity for the efforts he had made during a long and illustrious life to promote the welfare of his fellow-countrymen, had contributed his singular knowledge to the elucidation of the subject, as had also the right rev. Prelates who had laboured in those fields in which an accurate knowledge of it was best acquired. On an occasion like this they naturally dwelt on the evils which existed in large and crowded populations; but he thought it was right not only to remember those unavoidable evils, but also to pay some tribute to the general character of those large populations among which those evils existed. With reference to London particularly, with its enormous population, when they considered the enormous disadvantage of the poor as compared with the rich with respect to those untoward circumstances which so much affected morality as well as health—he could not but express his astonishment at the generally excellent, admirable, and noble character of that great population; and what was true of London was also, in a very considerable degree, true of most of the other great centres of population in the country. That convinced him that, notwithstanding all the evils of which they heard and knew, and which they could not too strenuously endeavour to grapple with, the influences which were everywhere working for good had an effect which was most palpable; and they might depend on it that that effect 1709 would be more and more widely different as the general sympathy of the more prosperous classes was manifested with those who were more poor. It had been said that the State had interfered with advantage to promote, and even to compel, the higher education of the whole people. Could they expect that, when improving their minds and cultivating their manners, and improving, it was to be hoped, their morals also, the poorer class could possibly be left to go on in the misery of this state of things which it was now attempted to remedy? And was it possible to be too prompt, earnest, and urgent in collecting all the information they could, and taking all the means they could, wisely and on sound principles, to diminish that misery, and to help to provide even the very poor with some degree of that civilization and comfort in their domestic surroundings which would be suitable to the education we had given them? A spontaneous public feeling in favour of temperance was, at the same time, continually gaining strength, and putting pressure upon the State in spite of itself to adopt compulsory legislation. All these were signs of good. He heartily hailed the movement with which the name of the noble Marquess had been so honourably connected; he rejoiced that the Government had been able to comply with his wishes; and he hoped and believed that important public benefit would be the result.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
thanked the noble Lord (Lord Carrington) and the House for the manner in which they had received the Motion, and could not but notice the entire absence of Party spirit in the discussion. He must say one word with reference to the observation of his noble Friend on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss), from which it might have been thought that he had advocated eleemosynary aid to the working classes at the expense of the State. He earnestly repudiated that charge. He was unwilling to bind himself to any course in a very difficult and complicated question; but he had carefully avoided saying one word that could bind him to that principle, or show that he was desirous that there should be any eleemosynary action of the State in the matter. The State could do many things without transgressing that principle. There was one other point to be men- 1710 tioned. The noble Lord (Lord Carrington) who represented the Government, and many other Members of the House, had felt themselves at liberty to fall foul of the Vestries. In the minds of many men those bodies were the black beasts of the whole affair. He did not know whether that was a right or a wrong view; but, at all events, blame of the Vestries did not sound well within those walls. The real culprits in regard to the overcrowding of London were those within the Palace of Westminster—the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The fault lay in the practice which Parliament had pursued for many years of allowing compulsory expropriation to go on, no doubt for excellent public works, without having before the Committees any person authorized to represent the interests of the public and of the State. It was this defect in Private Bill legislation which, he believed, more than anything else had produced this unintended, but most lamentable overcrowding, to which the evils they had heard so eloquently described were due. With regard to the proposal of the Government to strike out the three last words of the Motion, and so extend the inquiry to the whole country, he would not for a moment seek to oppose it; but he thought the greatest evil was in London, and he feared this extension of the Commission's labours would greatly postpone the time when they would be able to present a Report. He would only mention one other point. He had received such an enormous number of applications from persons wishing to be put on the Commission that he thought it desirable to take this opportunity of saying that he had nothing whatever to do with its composition. He had no doubt it would be judiciously selected; but if any improper selections or omissions were considered to be made, he was in no degree responsible.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, he did not wish to imply that the views of his noble Friend were in favour of the building of dwellings by the State. He only felt strongly on the subject, and thought the words he had quoted might be useful.
§ Motion amended, by the omission of the last three words, and agreed to.
§ The said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.