HL Deb 24 July 1885 vol 299 cc1769-72

Moved," That the Bill be now read 3a"—[The Marquess of Salisbury.]

Motion agreed to: Bill read 3£.

Amendments made.

On Motion, "That the Bill do pass?"


said, he still entertained the objection he had expressed to the principle of the Bill; but, seeing the general feeling in favour of the Bill, he would be putting the House to a needless trouble if he pressed the Motion for its rejection, of which he had given Notice. Since the last stage of the Bill he had looked into existing Sanitary Acts, and it appeared to him neither as regarded the sanitary or constructive provisions of this Bill was it necessary or desirable that any further powers should be given, if those now existing were enforced. The noble Marquess, indeed, admitted that they were sufficient; but he said they were surrounded by checks on the Local Authorities, and these the noble Marquess swept away. For instance, he substituted a simple majority instead of a majority of two-thirds, which majority Parliament had thought to be a necessary safeguard. He would also point out that considerable taxation must follow from putting such a Bill as this into operation in any locality, and that the working class would suffer most. In Scotland the working class themselves had repudiated any necessity for legislation of this kind, and a very satisfac- tory state of things now existed there. The powers of the Bill were very large to be exercised by a bare majority in a district, and this he considered was a dangerous principle to carry too far. He believed that the effect of this Bill would be greatly to disappoint its promoters and to diminish private enterprize.


said, he did not think that his noble Friend was justified in saying that the Bill swept away all checks. That was a very exaggerated statement. Generally, in giving new powers by Act of Parliament, they applied a certain number of checks with the hope that the machine which they were constructing would move with deliberation, and not too fast for public opinion. The checks supplied in Lord Shaftesbury's Act, in 1851, were so effective that the Act never moved at all, and, as he believed, had never been applied. The Bill by no means swept away all checks. It left what appeared to him to be very efficient checks. In the first place, the application of the Act must be desired by the parish; in the second place, the Local Government Board must send down an Inspector to make local inquiry and satisfy himself that houses could not be procured, that they would not be built unless the Act was applied, and that it could be applied without financial imprudence. Even then the Local Government Board had a discretion as to whether they would or would not give the requisite leave; and then, again, the parish had to come to a resolution to adopt the Act. He did not believe that these checks would prove insufficient; he should rather say that, on the whole, perhaps, they were multiplied too much, and that there might be a difficulty in applying the Bill in those cases where it was desirable it should be applied. He did not at all contemplate that that part of the Bill which embodied the Shaftesbury Act was one for general application; it was for exceptional cases. He hoped the cheeks would insure that it would be only in exceptional cases it should be used; and in the cases in which it was wanted he hoped it would be used. His noble Friend had but one argument against this proposal—namely, that it was not wanted in Scotland. Now, the difficulty of overcrowding was peculiar in London, because the natural remedy could not be applied. On the outskirts of towns of smaller dimensions there was plenty of land on which dwellings could be erected for working men, who might easily walk into the towns to their work. This remedy could not be applied to the same extent in this enormous and unprecedented town; and in other large cities, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, the pressure was not likely to be so great as in London.


said, that he had addressed their Lordships at some length about water, and now he wished to say a word about land. He did not see why the State should provide houses any more than it provided food and clothing for the working classes. The title of the Bill should be not only to improve the housing of the working classes, but also to empower people to give away property which did not belong to them. As the Bill stood it gave the Crown power to give away the sites of Clerken well and Millbank Prisons, which nominally belonged to the Crown, but in reality to the taxpayers, and gave the Justices of the Peace of Middlesex power to give away the site at Coldbath Field Prison, which belonged to the county ratepayers. It also authorized all the Corporations throughout the country to give away what belonged to those for whose benefit they were the legal owners, and it enabled the tenants for life to sell to the detriment of remainder-men, instead of obtaining the best price that could be got. He considered that the demolition of houses in crowded places had done more good to the working classes than to any other persons.


said, that he did not think that the tenant for life would be likely to sell the land for a fraction less than its value.


remarked, that the tenant for life might be a very old man.


said, that very old men had frequently as much common sense as younger ones. The noble and learned Lord seemed to have overlooked the fact that under the existing law a tenant for life could sell land for the purpose of churches, chapels, or burying grounds; and he did not see that in extending the power to selling land for the purpose of the erection of dwellings for the working classes they wore introducing any new and extraordinary principle into the law.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.