§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said: Sir, I am anxious, before the House proceeds with the business before it, to make a statement with respect to a most important Bill now standing for consideration—I allude to the Health of Towns Bill. The. House is aware that the Bill was introduced at an early period of the Session, although the state of public business would not allow it to be proceeded with until an advanced period of the Session. The Bill, as the House is aware, was read a second time by a very large majority, and also by a large majority was ordered to be committed. The House has also agreed to the first clauses in the Bill, involving the appointment of the Commission and other important matters, and has approved thereby of the principle of the Bill. The first clauses were carried by a very large majority; but lately, after proceeding through the more important clauses, considerable debate has arisen upon each clause, so that on Monday only two clauses were agreed to; and on Tuesday, I think, only one clause was agreed to. There are several other clauses in the Bill to which it is intended to move Amendments, and which would require discussion. Now, under those circumstances, when I consider the progress of this Bill, and the discussion which the remaining clauses are likely to lead to, while I think that those clauses should be adopted, yet I do not think that at this period of the Session, and of the present Parliament, we are likely to obtain the result we aim at, without a very considerable period elapsing before getting through Committee. I do not wish to argue the question as to what it is owing that such considerable delay occurs in agreeing to each separate clause of the Bill. Some Bills are of such an important nature—such as the Reform Act, the Poor Law Act, the Municipal Corporation Act 25 —that they necessarily would require considerable attention; and it was necessary that a long time should be taken up in the discussion of the various provisions of them in Committee. Another cause may be, that unnecessary opposition has been made for the purpose of delay. Another argument may be, that the Bill in itself is defective in its framing. All I say is, that I do not intend to argue which is the case with respect to this Bill. I have my own convictions upon the subject. The noble Lord opposite may have his opinions also on the subject; and all I have to request of him is, that he will be good enough to allow me to retain my opinion on the subject. The obvious result of this state of things is, that I cannot now hope to proceed with the Bill with any success in the present Session of Parliament. I may say, likewise, that there is another more special reason which applies to the present circumstances. We are not only now entered into the month of July, and are advancing towards the middle of the month, but we are also arrived at a time when the Parliament is approaching its termination. I believe the House has now sat for a longer number of years than any Parliament since the year 1826. No Parliament since that year has sat so long as the present one; and as we approach the termination of the sixth year of its existence, there is naturally a general expectation of dissolution; and with that expectation there is of course the usual excitement attendant upon the canvass of hon. Members. This is a reason with the Government, when they find there is not a clear probability of the immediate success of the Bill, not to proceed with it. But, at the same time, I would not allow any single word to drop from me which would at all signify that my confidence in the principle of the Bill as adopted by the majority of the House is at all shaken. The question is one which, it is admitted on all hands, excites the greatest interest in the country; and I think no person will deny that it is a subject for which legislation is required, and therefore it is not to be supposed that, in dropping this Bill at the present time, the present or any future Government should dispose of the subject altogether. On the contrary, at as early a period as possible in the next Session we shall bring forward a measure to make such amendments in the existing law as we think may be required. With this statement, Sir, of the reasons why the 26 Government do not wish to go on with the Bill, and not wishing to excite any irritating discussion on the subject, I shall therefore move that the Order of the Day for the Committee on the Health of Towns Bill be read, for the purpose of being discharged.
was happy to find that the noble Lord had abandoned his Bill—not because he thought the subject of the Bill ought to be trifled with; on the contrary, he thought it was one of enormous importance—but because the subject was so extensive in its nature, that no legislation could be attempted now under circumstances which would enable the House to give its consideration to every part of the measure. Being honestly anxious to give his humble assistance to make the Bill as perfect as possible, he had bestowed hours of painful attention on it; and if the noble Lord would pardon him for saying what had occurred to him on the examination of the Bill, it was possible that the remarks he had to offer might contain useful hints for a future occasion. The noble Lord was not present in Committee when the House was discussing the 21st Clause. He had ventured, when the House had entered upon the discussion of this clause, to call the attention of the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests to the number of clauses in the Bill, and the peculiar scheme of legislation on which the Bill was framed. This Bill was framed on a scheme entirely faulty, and one he hoped which was not to be attempted again. The 21st Clause incorporated in the Bill another Act of Parliament only recently passed—an Act difficult of construction, and difficult of incorporation in the Bill. After a limited examination of the Bill, he would just show to the House the result of the system of incorporating such Acts of Parliament in the Bill. The Act was called the Towns Commissioners' Clauses Consolidation Act, and it contained 116 sections. In this Clauses Consolidation Act, other Acts were incorporated, and of course they also became incorporated in the Health of Towns Bill. This Act, then, of fifty-eight clauses, incorporated no less than 790 clauses, Now only let the House for a moment conceive what it was about when proceeding to legislate in this way. The hon. Member for Brighton (Captain Pechell), with great good sense, remarked the other evening, that before we could go on with the Health of Towns Bill, we must first understand 27 the Towns Commissioners' Clauses Consolidation Act. Suppose, then, hon. Members set themselves to understand that Act. For his own part, he had at first thought only a few clauses of the Act were to be incorporated in the Bill. But a question was put to the Attorney General, who, in reply, said, that all the clauses of the Towns Commissioners' Consolidation Act, including the interpretation clauses, were to be included in the Bill. That Act incorporated another Act of Parliament, passed in referrence to railway companies. In the 104 sections of the Towns Commissioners' Clauses Consolidation Act were incorporated the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, passed in 1845, which had reference to the recovery of damages from railway companies. When we recollected that the Railway Consolidation Act and the Acts relating to damages had together 165 sections, and that these Acts were so interwoven with other general Acts and their interpretation Acts, we should see that the whole scheme, if carried out, presented the prospect of such a mass of litigation as the House could have no present conception of. All this would be attended with expense, to be levied on towns and places in England within the scope of the Act. He would call attention to another peculiarity of this mode of legislation. There was hardly a town in England which had not a local Act with reference to its sanatory regulations. He held in his hand an Act of 357 clauses, regulating the affairs of the town of Liverpool. By that Act of Parliament a board of health was established for the borough. The Health of Towns Bill was, if only on this account, wisely abandoned for the present, for it not only affected this Act of Liverpool, but it affected every other local Act in England. He mentioned the Liverpool Act, because he had been engaged hour after hour in endeavouring to understand it, as he was concerned in an expensive litigation on the construction of a clause in that Act. After a long and expensive litigation, commencing in Liverpool—carried three times into the Vice Chancellor's Court, and about ten days ago heard in the Chancery Court, the Lord Chancellor felt so much difficulty in the case, that, to the great injury of a proprietor of a house who wished to repair but could not, the Lord Chancellor gave permission to try by action at the next assizes, and thereby to determine the meaning of three words only in the ninety-fourth sec- 28 tion. He implored the noble Lord to well consider what he was about to do before, by the Health of Towns Bill, he gave occasion for litigation of this kind. As a lawyer he never felt his profession so degraded as when he found that, from words improperly introduced into a Bill, private rights were invaded, and questions were raised, by the ingenuity of lawyers, who wore stimulated to put a different construction on words which ought never to have become a matter of doubt. He only ventured to refer to the Liverpool case, because it was the last case of the sort which it had been his lot to be connected with. Would the noble Lord have the kindness to consider what Acts of Parliament passed for regulating the affairs of towns were already in existence? He would not go through the various clauses of the abandoned Bill; but he would say, if the House had gone on, they would have found themselves in such a maze of difficulty, on account of the nature of the provisions introduced into the Bill, that it would have been impossible to have clearly seen their way through legislation on such a theme. He would therefore beg the noble Lord to pause and to attend to the remarks of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley), who said, and said with truth, that he wished, in the framing of Acts of Parliament, laymen were more employed, and lawyers less. He considered it was indispensably necessary to simplify the construction of Acts of Parliament. If we would refrain from holding out baits to the litigious part of the community, we must trust more to the good sense and discretion of the courts, magistrates, and individuals, and we must legislate in larger and more general terms. How many families had their affairs thrown into confusion by needless delay; how much time was taken up in construing words in such Acts, for instance, as the Consolidation or Joint Stock Companies Acts? He regretted the failure of the present Bill, for it was in able hands; and because that was the case, he must confess he did not at first bestow that attention on the details which otherwise he should have done. He had, however, since looked closer into the Bill, and he was satisfied it was impossible to proceed further safely with legislation. The noble Lord formerly at the head of the Woods and Forests spoke good sense, when he advised Government to confine the Bill to its first nine clauses. He would ask the noble Lord to see how far this might be done. He felt he had a 29 right to complain that a subject of so much importance had not been brought before the House in such a shape as to permit the House to come to a decision on it.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
had no right to complain of hon. Gentlemen's opposition to the Bill, nor did he mean to blame the noble Lord for withdrawing it, though this proceeding was a subject of regret to him, and would be a subject of general regret throughout the country. The noble Lord could do no otherwise, and there might this advantage result from the circumstance, that the hon. and learned Member for Newark, before next Parliament, might have an opportunity of bringing in another Bill which would obviate all the objections to the clauses which would have had to be discussed in Committee. He would not answer in detail the remarks of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Stuart); but he must own he was surprised to hear them come from an experienced lawyer, and with some of those remarks he certainly did not agree. He quite agreed with the hon. and learned Member in his observation of the necessity generally for simplifying Acts of Parliament; but he conceived if all but the first ten clauses were taken away from this Bill, such a proceeding would by no means tend to simplify it. In his opinion, the safest way to avoid disputes about the meaning of Acts of Parliament was for lawyers to continue to adopt the same form of words, and the settled construction placed on those words by courts of law. If laymen were to draw up Acts of Parliament, in his judgment the present difficulties would be increased tenfold. He concurred with the hon. and learned Member, that incorporations of other Acts of Parliament in Bills ought to be avoided in every case. He wished for a public Bill to be brought forward next Session. He wished to have such a Bill discussed not at the morning sitting, but at that period of the evening when it would be sure to have the attention of the House.
§ VISCOUNT MAHON
said, that it seemed to him the noble Lord had exercised a sound discretion in withdrawing the Bill at this period of the Session and of Parliament. He had persevered with it to the utmost point where success was at all likely. But, when reintroducing the Bill, he hoped the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) would introduce at the same time a Bill regulating interments in towns. He thought it would be hopeless to attempt to legislate on the 30 one subject without taking the other along with it. He hoped the noble Lord would give his attentive consideration to the question during the recess.
§ SIR W. CLAY
was anxious to remove a misconception which existed on the subject of the exclusion of the metropolis from the Bill. It had been alleged that a species of bargain had been entered into between the Government and the metropolitan Members that the metropolis was to be excluded; but, as far as his knowledge went, the allegation was altogether founded on a mistake. He believed that the metropolitan Members were not only willing, but anxious, to see a scheme of sanitary reform carried into completion; but, as regarded the metropolis, his opinion was, and he believed a similar opinion was entertained by other metropolitan Members, that it was not expedient to attempt to include London in a general Bill, and for this reason, that to do so would be to increase the difficulties which surrounded the question, and to render the passing of any general Bill, during the present Session, hopeless. He trusted a measure would be introduced for the metropolis alone; and in framing its provisions he hoped the constitutional and Anglo-Saxon principle of local government would be as little interfered with as possible.
§ MR. HUDSON
said, that in consequence of some statements having been made injurious to the sanitary state of the city of York, he had made some inquiries, and was desirous of disabusing the public mind on the subject. Some hon. Members seemed to imagine there were no boards of commissioners except in London. Now, in York, there were commissioners, consisting of forty members, elected by the ratepayers, who discharged the duty of paving and cleansing the city. The corporation had nothing whatever to do with the matter, but sometimes voluntarily assisted the commissioners in carrying out their views. It had been said that the health of York was worse than that of any other town. Now, the Report on the Health of Towns showed a very different result; for whilst the average longevity in York was 32 years, in Saddleworth the average was only 26; in Halifax 2G; in Bradford 20; in Sheffield 22; in Huddersfield 27; and in Leeds 23; and in Burlington, Duffield, Patrington, Beverley—all agricultural districts—the average was 28. He should also observe, that the longevity at York was greater than it was in any of the neighbouring agricultu- 31 ral towns. He believed the hon. Member was connected with Whitechapel; now, he (Mr. Hudson) could show that York was more healthy than that, as well as many other districts of the metropolis. The mortality in Whitechapel was 3 7–10ths per cent,whilethatinYorkwas32–10ths. Many towns like York were sufficiently healthy, while many rural districts were far from being so, The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wakley) was much mistaken in supposing that there would be any danger in visiting York; and if any Member would take a trip there in the recess, he (Mr. Hudson) would do all in his power to make the sojourn agreeable. He was glad that this Bill would not be proceeded with; he had always entertained strong objections to a central commission; and he was confident that if the experiment were made, and full powers given, the local boards would prove adequate to carrying out sufficiently well all necessary sanitary regulations. It had from the first been apparent to him that the measure, as it had been committed, would never fulfil, had it been passed, the benevolent intentions of the noble Lord and the Government; and if it was again introduced next Session, he hoped it would be in such an altered form as to insure the approval of the House.
§ MR. MACKINNON
rose, merely to State to the noble Lord that it would be very acceptable to the country if he would give an assurance that early next Session the would proceed with this Bill.
§ MR. WAKLEY
hoped the noble Lord would reflect on the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Newark. It was clear that this Bill was not applicable to the object the Government had in view. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had recommended the noble Lord to bring in the present Bill again next year. He could not join in such a request; but he trusted the noble Lord would bring in a more comprehensive general measure, and bring within its operation the whole of the metropolis. He trusted, that on no account the city of London would be left out of this Bill, for there was much anxiety that this should be done. The drawer of the present Bill had drawn it up without any reference to parties who would be materially affected by it; the consequence was, that much greater opposition had sprung up against it than otherwise would have been the case. Before the noble Lord brought in another Bill, he advised him to institute a preliminary inquiry, and to con- 32 sult the various paving, lighting, and watering boards, of which there were a great number in the metropolis, none of whom, he understood, had been consulted. If the noble Lord did this, he would carry the public with him, and pass such a comprehensive measure into a law. There were nine or ten separate boards for these purposes in one district only of one of the metropolitan boroughs; and he was sure no measure on the subject would be satisfactory to them if they were not previously consulted to a certain extent. When those interested had been consulted, a Bill might be framed in such a manner as to overcome the difficulties which now stood in the way of an effective Health of Towns Bill. He trusted that general as well as specific inquiry would be carried out in the first instance, and without delay. The noble Lord must be aware, from what had been stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that it would be desirable to try the effect of having laymen to draw up some measures for legislation, which experiment he had no doubt would be attended with success. The hon. and learned Member said, that he would leave a large discretionary power to the Judges in construing Acts of Parliament. He complained that they had too much power already in the interpretation of Acts of Parliament. They even sometimes set aside Acts of Parliament, and put extraordinary constructions on them, which when they were passed, were never dreamt of. The hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to the difficulties which had grown out of the interpretation of one of the sections of a local Act relating to Liverpool, in a recent case which had been before the Vice Chancellor and the Lord Chancellor's Courts. It appeared that these learned Judges, after full consideration, could not tell what was meant by the words, "a house projecting;" the case was therefore to be sent to a jury to determine the question. In a matter of this kind they should so simplify the Bill as to render misinterpretation impossible, so that a child might understand it.
§ MR. HUME
thought there was something contradictory on the part of the hon. Member in recommending that they should have a comprehensive, and at the same time a simple measure. He was very sorry at the Bill being withdrawn; but this had arisen in consequence of the Government having exempted the city of London from its operation, on merely a manifestation of 33 opposition on the part of that place. He hoped, that early next Session another measure would be introduced, and that they would proceed with it day by day. He trusted that the noble Lord who had charge of the subject would not consent to the measure being framed in such a way as to give the Judges larger discretionary power. He objected to the proposition laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman. There was a very great difference between statute and judge-made law, and they had already too much of the latter. He hoped they would take care that the statute which would be passed on this subject would be so clear that the Judges could not put a different construction upon it from that put upon it by its framers.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that as he had been one of those who had taken a somewhat active part in opposing this Bill, he hoped he might be allowed to say a few words on the subject of that opposition. He had a great wish, and he believed the wish was common to all who had taken part in opposing the progress of the Bill—that a good measure should be introduced for promoting the sanitary improvement of towns. He could answer for himself that no man could be more anxious on the subject than he was; but neither he nor those who had acted with him could believe that the way to accomplish the object was by passing the Bill which had been submitted to the consideration of the House. At an early stage of the discussion, in fact, when going into Committee, he had foretold what had occurred. He foresaw then, and he warned the Government of it, that when the discussion reached a certain point, no further progress could be made. And now let the House and the country judge of who were the true friends of sanitary reform. The country ought well to understand that some of those who opposed the measure from the commencement, foresaw that when the clause came round which involved the consideration of 700 clauses embodied in other Bills, instead of the 58 clauses contained in the Health of Towns Bill, it was impossible that the measure could succeed. At an early period of the discussion the Government were advised to adopt the only course which was likely to prove practicable, and it was to make the application of the Bill voluntary on the part of towns; but this advice was scouted. Then came the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Falkirk (Lord Lincoln), who very ably demonstrated that, from the withdrawal of 34 one or two clauses, the Bill would prove inoperative in towns, and who recommended a certain course to the Government as likely to prove useful; but neither was that recommendation acceded to. In fact, the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests was like a man going into a bog—going by little and little towards the part where he was told by the noble Lord (Lord George Bentinck) and others that he must inevitably sink; namely, that part which involved the discussion of 708 clauses, causing discussions which must have proved absolutely interminable, although a space of six months had been at the command of the House. That was the real juncture which occurred. It was his firm belief that had the Bill unfortunately passed, the country would have been thrown into con-fusion, and a degree of litigation would have sprung out of its impracticable enactments which would have proved most damaging to the cause of sanitary reform by disgusting the people with the very measure which was intended to promote and secure it. It was his sincere conviction from the beginning—and he stated then what he would state now—that he was one of those who did not approve of a Central Board of Commissioners. To that proposal he had early intimated his objection; and nothing had occurred calculated to induce him to change his mind. In fact, everything which had occurred in the history of the Bill, showed that a measure which had been announced in the Queen's Speech had not received that degree of consideration which he thought the country had a right to expect and to call for, in a matter so deeply affecting their social rights and interests. He joined heartily in the hope which had been expressed on all sides of the House that a measure better considered would be introduced; and if he might he allowed to offer a remark, with the view of obviating future difficulty, it would be that in his opinion the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) had failed from attempting too much; he believed he would go safer, and reach his point more directly, were he to attempt less at a time. He believed that his Lordship was impelled onwards by his benevolent disposition; but in grasping at too much he had failed in devising the machinery necessary for the right working of so extensive a scheme. He might also say that he thought considerable assistance might be derived from the successful experiment which had been made in the case of the Enclosure Commission. That was 35 a difficult subject to manage, owing to the conflicting interests which were involved. These difficulties, however, had been overcome, and the measure was now working so satisfactorily that he thought its machinery might be looked at with advantage by the Government. Where so many interests were involved as in matters relating to the health of towns, it might also be well to consider how far the initiative should not be left to the parties interested, instead of subjecting them to the operation of the compulsory principle. He would repeat his belief that those who had joined in opposing the measure, had acted from no hostile feeling to the principle of the Bill. At all events he could answer for himself, and would repeat the assurance he had already given, that the opposition he had offered to the measure originated in the impracticable nature of its provisions. In conclusion he would thank the noble Lord for having withdrawn the measure, and express his regret that it had not been brought forward in a manner which would have entitled it to the favourable consideration of the House.
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH
hardly need assure the House that he had not become a party to the withdrawal of the Bill without the deepest regret on his own personal account, as well as on public grounds. He had felt that the postponing the consideration of the details of the measure to such a late period of the Session, must prove a very great drawback to its chance of success; however, while there was a prospect or chance of making this measure a law during this Session, he should have been induced to fight for it to the utmost; but after the experience of Monday, on which two clauses were agreed to, and of Tuesday, on which only one clause was adopted, he could not retain a hope that he could pass this measure through both Houses during the present Session; he therefore felt that he should not be justified in further pressing it. In the course of the discussion which had taken place, many objections had been stated to the measure; and he was not prepared to say that on a subject of such a complicated nature—one of a nature nearly, in fact, to justify the hon. Member for Warwickshire in calling it a social revolution—if it was, it was a revolution for social good—there might not be some well-founded objections. He could not agree that if he had confined the measure to the first seven clauses, which related to the preliminary inquiry, 36 that he should have disarmed opposition to the measure. Directly, on the contrary, they would have been told that the object it had in view was only to add to the patronage of the Government; and if they had merely appointed officers for the purpose of inquiry, they might with some show of justice be open to the charge. He could not object to the spirit of the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Newark; and he felt grateful for some of the remarks which he had made. The hon. and learned Gentleman had laid great stress upon those clauses which proposed to incorporate consolidation Acts into this Bill. Although there might be grounds for some of the considerations urged by the hon. and learned Gentleman, yet he believed that it would be found, with very few limitations, that the incorporation of Acts of this nature into Bills did not lead to any practical inconvenience. Still it was a fair subject for consideration whether this mode of proceeding was the best mode of legislation; and he would not then stop to inquire whether the merely referring for shortness to particular model Acts so incorporated in a Bill, was better or not than specifically inserting every enactment in such consolidated Act at length in the Bill. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Lymington, he had no hesitation in saying that at an early period of the Session he should feel it to be his duty on the part of the Government to bring forward a similar measure to this; and he hoped that he should be enabled to do so at such a time and in such a manner as to obtain for it the fullest attention, so that it might pass into a law. In the mean time it would be his duty to give his fullest consideration to all the objections which had been raised, and to all the suggestions which had been made; and experience did not make him think that this would be a very easy task. An hon. Gentleman had said that the Government must include the metropolis, including the city of London, within the operation of the Bill. He certainly had no wish to exclude the city of London; but as some misapprehension had arisen as to what had passed on that subject, he wished to state that he had made a communication to the city, by which he had only intended to convey to them that the corporation, comprising as it already did the Commissioners for Sewers and for Paving, would be invested with the general powers contained in the Bill, as being an analo- 37 gous body to the commissioners or corporations in other towns. They, however, had misconceived him, and had thought that he had intended to except the city altogether; and in consequence of this he had consented to postpone the portion of the Bill relating to the city until next year, as he did not wish that there should appear even the suspicion of bad faith. Certainly, the Government never would consent to except such an important part of the country as the metropolis from a Bill like this. On the other hand, he had been urged to include within its operation every rural district. He was also told that he must consult all the local boards and existing bodies, and he was then told that he might do all this in a Bill of ten clauses. He had also been told that he should take the advice of his noble predecessor in office, who had introduced a Bill on the subject which contained 300 clauses. His anxious hope had been not to embitter the progress of this Bill by his conduct; and he did not wish to accompany the withdrawal of it by any word or deed which could give offence. He trusted that he should be enabled to introduce an analogous measure to this under better auspices early next Session, and he certainly would not then say anything savouring of acrimony. He could not conclude without expressing his confidence, that, notwithstanding the complexity and difficulty of the matter, it was of such a nature that it must command the most serious attention, and shortly ensure its own success.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was most anxious for the introduction of a comprehensive system of sanatory reform, but would be no party to a social revolution. That was the real foundation of his opposition to the measure. He trusted the noble Lord would endeavour to obviate the objections which had been raised, and would introduce a law which should be in itself supreme, and not cast upon the discretionary power of any commission the onus of regulating the working of the measure. If the noble Lord would bear in mind the suggestions which had been made, he would no doubt be able to introduce a Bill which would not cause those feelings of irritation which had been created by the present measure.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
could confirm the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets as to there having been no compact or agreement between the Government and the metropolitan Members about leaving the metropolis out 38 of the operation of the Bill. He believed that a very strong feeling existed amongst his constituents in favour of a Health of Towns Bill; and they only objected to certain clauses of the present Bill, which had caused them great anxiety. They were far from being opposed to the principle of the Bill. He trusted the noble Lord would endeavour to conciliate the local government, at the same time that he established a Board which would see that the proper course was taken.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: It is not my intention to disturb on such an occasion the good humour of the House; for it is impossible to find fault with the noble Lord for having relieved me and my friends from the intolerable and harassing burden of attempting to throw out the Bill. But the noble Lord ought to have had the candour to state that we were exonerated from all blame for the time which has been occupied in discussing and resisting the measure. Just look at the case. According to the hon. and learned Member for Newark, the clause which we were discussing yesterday—the 21st Clause—involves the consideration of 790 other clauses, of which 472 belong to four Bills that have only passed this year. 216 of the clauses were incorporated in the Commissioners' Clauses Act, which did not receive the Royal Assent till the 21st of June; and yet they are referred to in the Health of Towns Bill, which in its amended shape appeared on the 24th of the same month; so that in three days after the Commissioners' Clauses Act received the Royal Assent, and before any Member of the House had an opportunity of considering the amendments which had been made on the Bill by the Lords, the entire measure was incorporated in the Bill which has this day been withdrawn. In fact, six Acts of Parliament are included, each involving an inconsistency. If that be not enough to puzzle a conjurer, I do not know what could; and although the discussion of the measure had been prolonged till August, the noble Lord would have had no right to complain of those whoso opposition had caused the prolongation. But not only was the House called upon to discuss a clause which involved six public Acts of Parliament, but we had to consolidate and take into consideration almost every private Act which had been passed, and which if estimated at 10,000 clauses, the estimate would be under the mark. But I wish to call the attention of the House and of the noble Lord to this 39 fact, that whilst in this Bill, by the 32nd Clause, it is enacted that all the powers possessed by local commissioners shall be taken away from them, and that their powers shall be transferred to this Act, by the 39th Clause there is this extraordinary provision, that all the provisions of all existing Acts of Parliament are to remain in full force, unless they are inconsistent with the Bill, namely, the Health of Towns Bill. How is it possible that in a few days' time we should be able satisfactorily to discuss an Act constructed out of such a mass of confused materials? I trust, therefore, that those Members who opposed such a measure as this, will now be ex post facto exonerated from the charge of having made a factious opposition, and of having made any unreasonable demand, when they asked that they might not be hurried on, and not forced to sit from noon of one day till half-past two in the morning of the following one; and then at noon of that same day to come prepared for renewing the discussion of a measure of so extensive and complex a nature as would require the assistance of all the lawyers in the country to comprehend it in all its bearings. I cannot allow that, in asking the Government, as I did, and for which I was found fault with, not to hurry on such a measure, I was asking anything unreasonable; and I think I should not be doing justice to my friends or to myself if I had not said these few words in justification of the course we adopted in asking for the time necessary to the mature consideration of a measure which, if hastily adopted, we were convinced would not only lead to no practical good, but to the most interminable, the most vexatious, the most hostile litigation.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
, after what had fallen from the noble Lord, felt bound to observe, that in his original statement he had brought no charge against those opposed to the Bill; for all that he said was, that he would leave it to hon. Members to decide according to their own feelings whether the opposition to it had been vexatious or not, or whether the Bill itself was ineffective. Having said so much, he had hoped that the same forbearance would be exercised by hon. Members opposite, and that they would not proceed to argue the merits of the Health of Towns Bill after it had been withdrawn.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, that, as he had given notice of a clause to be inserted in the Health of Towns Bill, which would 40 prevent hospitals being built in particular locations without the consent of the Woods and Forests; and that Bill having been withdrawn, the only thing that remained for him to do was to give notice that, he should introduce a Bill to-morrow for the purpose of obtaining what the clause was intended to do. The object which he had in view was to prevent the building a fever hospital in so crowded a neighbourhood as Islington.
§ Order for the Committee discharged.