HL Deb 09 May 1887 vol 314 cc1245-50

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

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


, in supporting the Motion, said, he would recall their Lordships' attention to their action in 1884 when the same Bill was carried on a Division. He would also point out that several Committees had dealt with this question from the beginning of the century, and that Acts were passed in 1833 and 1856 for abating the smoke of furnaces and steamers. The provisions of these Acts, however, were now insufficient, as, owing to the great extension of London, they did not cover the area. It was, therefore, proposed by the Bill to extend the provisions to the Metropolis as defined by the Metropolis Management Act of 1855 to the area of police, and to give further powers as to dwelling houses. In that district there were 700,000 houses, with a population of 5,000,000, which was more than double the population and 10 times the number of houses of the next largest capital. More than half the present area of London had been built within the last 30 years. The rate of building was strikingly illustrated by comparing decennial periods. From 1854 to 1364 there were 28 new houses built each working day; from 1864 to 1874 there were 45; and. from 1874 to 1884 there were 60. An extension of area having, therefore, been rendered necessary, the amount of smoke—as coal and no wood was burnt—might be imagined, but was hardly appreciated. The Smoke Abatement Committee of 1880, the Exhibition at South Kensington in 1881 of smoke-abatement apparatus, and the Smoke Abatement Institute of 1883 had evoked interest in the public mind, and the movement generally had excited very great attention. Experiments had been made and various apparatus had been tested, the result being that there was far greater knowledge of the principles of combustion than formerly. A series of experiments was recently made in a house in the Strand, to test the system of heating by one smokeless fire at the basement, as compared with the ordinary heating by open fires with the following results —the more equal distribution of heat throughout the building, with one smokeless fire, instead of 14 emitting smoke almost continuously. The cost of fuel was only one-seventh and the labour involved was only a hundredth part, calculating the attention to fires alone, and omitting the labour of carrying coals to, and ashes from, 14 fires instead of one. The question of properly housing the industrial classes was intimately connected with that of heating their dwellings. They would be enor mously benefited by an improved system of heating. This could be done at less than one-tenth of the present cost of fuel, with an absence of smoke, and with the advantage of giving facilities for cooking, drying clothes, &c. By an avoidance of dirt from smoking chimneys, by a saving of fuel for which they often paid 1s. to 2s. per week, and by a saving of labour, great advantage would be gained to the health, comfort, and general well-being of the people. Ventilation, too, did not, and need not, depend upon open grates. In consequence of the attention to the subject, there was a much greater use made of improved construction in grates, with a consequent greater economy in the use of fuel and with very much less smoke. But clubs and hotels were great offenders. In connection with this point he earnestly asked the First Commissioner of Works to consider the question of heating in the case of the new Government Offices. After all, legislation without the support and co-operation of the whole community was of not much avail. It seemed to him that the evil was not sufficiently appreciated; too much was taken for granted; but they hoped that people were more alive to the great and destructive agencies to health, vegetation, buildings, and other things, than they were formerly. The difficulty of enforcing the provisions of the Public Health Act of 1875 in the country consisted in the fact that the administration of the law was largely in the hands of producers of smoke. He thought power might be vested in stipendiaries where they existed. There had been considerable laxity on the part of the magistrates in enforcing the law, as the following Returns proved—In the administration of the Smoke Nuisance Acts in 1885, the total number of cases in which proceedings were taken was 124, total number of convictions 120, total amount of fines inflicted £275 10s., average fine £2 5s. 11d. The number of cases in which fines below the minimum of 40s. provided by the Acts were inflicted was 66. Those figures showed— (1) That the number of cases in which proceedings are taken is very small and can include only a percentage of the cases in which a nuisance is created; (2) That when proceedings are taken, and convictions obtained, the penalties inflicted by the magistrates do not comply with the Acts of 1853 to 1856, and are in many cases practically inoperative as a deterrent, being in 55 per cent of the cases below the minimum of 40s. One fine of £40 was inflicted, and seven of £10 each; the remaining 112 were all of less amount. No proceedings whatever appear to have been taken to enforce the conditions of the Acts as regards steamers on the River Thames, and this is a point which is considered of special importance. At a meeting of the Metropolitan magistrates last year, under the presidency of Sir James Ingham, it was, however, decided to increase the fine in all cases. The Bill gave power to Local Authorities to make bye-laws, prohibiting the emission of smoke from buildings, and to the Metropolitan Board of Works to make bye-laws as to fireplaces, &c, in new buildings. Their Lordships lived, as a general rule, in pure air, and he asked them to give a second reading to the Bill, on the ground that it would be conferring a been on those who were constrained to pass the bulk of their lives in an atmosphere greatly contaminated by smoke.


said, if there was one subject on which unanimity of opinion might be expected it was such a reform in the atmosphere of London as would prevent half of the burnt coal from polluting the air and entering the nostrils and throats of Londoners. One-half of the fuel was not producing heat at all, but only rising up into the atmosphere, and forming a dense and obscure canopy. We had, nevertheless, gone on for a number of years doing nothing effectual in the matter at all. London, in respect of amusements, conveniences, and so forth, compared favourably with the great cities of the Continent; but its atmosphere was its disgrace. Lord Palmerston's Act of 1853 went as far as public opinion and knowledge at the time justified; but science had now accomplished the avoidance of dense smoke. The difficulty was the punishment of individuals for their share of a collective injury. The Bill imposed on the smaller Local Authorities a duty which had been neglected by the more important Local Authorities, and they might effect a closer observance of the law within their narrow jurisdiction, supported as they would be by public opinion.


said, that Her Majesty's Government were not able to resist the Motion for the second reading, but he hoped the noble Lord (Lord Stratheden and Campbell) would allow sufficient time to elapse before the stage of Committee to enable the metropolitan authorities to take cognizance of the Bill.


said, he would suggest whether it would not be better, on the whole, after the second reading, to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.


We shall consider the suggestion.


My Lords, I do not rise to detain the House at any length. Having discussed the Bill, together with its object, on three separate occasions, I may claim exemption from the task of urging much upon it, after has fallen from the noble Duke (the Duke of Westminster) and the noble Lord who have so ably defended it. The noble Duke is well qualified to guide us by his Metropolitan authority, and also by his special knowledge. The approbation of the noble Lord who followed him, is singularly valuable, since to some extent at least he represents Lord Palmerston, whose well-known enactments against smoke it is intended merely to develop and improve upon. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government (the Marquess of Salisbury) suggests delay, that the Bill may become better known to the local bodies. There is no objection to delay, if the noble Marquess urges it. But the Bill, during the three preceding Sessions, has been made sufficiently familiar to the local bodies who, in the event of its becoming law, will be required to ad-minister it. It may be convenient that I should now point out, in a few words, the mode in which its clauses ought to be divided. The essential clauses give the local bodies power to act against domestic smoke under the veto of the Homo Office, and also give the Metropolitan Board power to insist in new constructions on a better heating apparatus. Thus it is proposed to deal with actual smoke, and to anticipate incoming smoke. These principles are vital. The subsidiary clauses enable the authorities to proceed at once against smoke of unusual density, although not coming from a factory, and they enlarge the area in which the Acts of Lord Palmerston are valid. Those clauses might be given up without destruction to the objects of the measure. As to the suggestion of the noble Earl the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, its framers would not shrink from that ordeal. It would, however, be unfavourable to despatch, and there is no clear reason for resorting to such cumbrous machinery. The point may be reserved, if the House will have the goodness to repeat its former judgments, and to read the Bill a second time this evening.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2