HL Deb 30 July 1897 vol 51 cc1579-83

in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, reminded the House that the Bill passed a Select Committee of the House last year, and although during its passage through the House of Commons a large number of Amendments were introduced, the Bill had come back, much as it left last year, after undergoing the scrutiny of a Select Committee, presided over by the Duke of Richmond. But there were one or two alterations which he might mention. The first was in Clause 43, which dealt with procedure in regard to unsound meat. On the one hand the towns pressed for stringent regulations against diseased meat being brought in, but these would have been a severe burden on legitimate trade. On the other hand, the agricultural community were most anxious for restrictions and regulations which, while affording protection against the importation of unsound meat, would also protect the honest trader, and prevent him from being summoned when he had not committed any real fault. After much consultation the clause as it now stood in the Bill had been agreed to, and he might -say that it met the wishes alike of the farmers and the municipal authorities. Another clause which was the subject of considerable discussion related to the restrictions which were to be imposed on the milk trade to prevent unsound milk from being sold. The burghs were anxious to have the right to send their own officers and deal with the matter outside the districts over which they had jurisdiction. The country districts naturally resented this, but expressed their readiness, as every one acquainted with them knew they would, to accept provision for strengthening their powers of dealing with the matter. Ultimately the clause as it now stood in the Bill was inserted, with, at ally rate, the acquiescence, if not the entire approval, of all those mainly concerned. Members of the Committee would recollect that the rating clauses of the Bill were subjected to a good deal of criticism, and ultimately it was thought preferable that they should be considered and settled by the other House rather than by their Lordships. He would state briefly what the conditions proposed to be made law under the Bill now were. They would be found in Clause 124 and the following clauses of the Bill. In the country districts at the present time the public health rate was levied along with the poor rate, and that was equally divided between the owners and occupiers. It was levied upon the net and not upon the gross value. There was universal agreement that in the districts the public health rate ought to be levied on the same basis as the road rate, and not as the poor rate. That was, therefore, provided for in the Bill, and it would be levied upon the gross instead of upon the net valuation. The provisions passed by Parliament last year in the Agricultural Rates Act were carefully preserved. In burghs a change had been made, and the rate would now be levied not along with the Burgh General Assessment, but with the General Improvement Rate, which was levied half on owner, half on occupier, upon the gross valuation. The limit for the general public health assessment was proposed to be raised from 6d. to a shilling, and special water and drainage assessment from 2s. 6d. to 3s., power being given to the Local Government Board to sanction a higher rate where the circumstances of a special locality required it. It was also proposed that the whole expenditure within a special district should be levied upon the special district and not upon the general district. Under the Local Government Act of 1889, it was provided that the county medical officer and sanitary inspector should be appointed, and that their services should be available to the district local authorities and neighbouring burghs. By a large majority, contrary to the desire of the representatives of the Government, the police boughs had been relieved from their share of the rate, and consequently of their claim to the services of the aunty medical and sanitary officers. Personally he regretted very much this decision, but it was arrived at by such a large majority of the Standing Committee, and was evidently so much in conformity with the general wish of Members in the other House, that lie hoped their Lordships would agree to the provision as it now stood. Clauses had been introduced for the first time for the purpose of constituting port sanitary authorities to have jurisdiction over ports when not entirely in the district of one local authority, and to meet a strongly expressed desire of the medical profession, the title of medical officer would be medical officer of health in Scotland as well as in England. Considerable controversy took place as to what was to be the respective positions of the medical officer and sanitary inspector, and after a great deal of discussion the Bill remained substantially in the same condition as it did when it left that House. It would be in the power of the local authority, by means of byelaws, to regulate the methods in which those officers would discharge their duties respectively. With regard to the provisions for the compulsory taking of land for the purposes of the Bill, they remained practically in the same condition as when passed by their Lordships last year, with the sole exception that in cases where there was a disagreement between the body proposing to take the land and the landowner, an arbitrator was to be appointed, and if they could not even agree as to the appointment of arbitrator, he would be nominated by the Local Government Board for Scotland, instead of by the Lord Ordinary.


said he had no objection to Clause 60 of the Bill with reference to the inspection of dairies. It gave the burghs all reasonable facilities. The present practice, he believed, would be much more efficient than the clause in the Bill, or any clause that could be devised. There had never been any practical grievance in this question. The most important points in the Bill were the rating clauses, and he must congratulate the noble Lord on having for the first time enabled them to know what the liabilities of a district were; and provided that each district should pay for the benefits it received. He hoped the position of medical officers was as the noble Lord had stated, because he held that the power ought to be in the hands of the County Councils, whose authority the medical officers and sanitary inspectors ought to obey. Medical officers were always trying to obtain an independent status, and he hoped nothing of the kind had been done in this case.


congratulated the noble Lord on the introduction of the Bill, and hoped it would pass this year. He agreed that it was absolutely essential that the medical officers should be under the direction of the county authorities.


desired to have some information on this question. In his own case a burn passing through his property was polluted by a populous place a mile and a half off. The only remedy the landlord had—as he understood it—in such a case, to abate the nuisance, was that in the first place he must go to a considerable expense in order to abate a nuisance which had nothing to do with him. That seemed to hint to be all unjust state of the law, t here was a strong feeling that it ought in some way to be amended.


said he would not like to give an opinion on the question, because it dealt, not only with this Bill, but with matters under the Pollution of Rivers Act. It would require careful consideration to give a definite answer to the question.


said he only asked his noble Friend to consider it; it was an important point.


said he would do so.

Read 2a (according to Order); and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.