§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
* LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, last year when I 1747 rose upon this subject, having upon four previous occasions discussed it at considerable length, I moved the Second Reading in a very perfunctory manner. The result was so much controversy that although the Bill was read a second time I acknowledge the necessity of going to-day into the question with greater accuracy and precision. At the same time I will not detain your Lordships longer than is necessary, especially after the serious debate which has taken place and from which it may seem an undue descent to pass to any lighter topic. In consequence of the black fogs which occurred consecutively for five days about Christmas there has been lately a good deal of popular attention drawn to the subject. At that time the hunting world,—for frost occurred simultaneously,—being driven up to London might well have murmured at the darkness that awaited them; at the same time the skating world was under great impediments as it was scarcely possible to move to the ice in the vicinity of London. Now as these two worlds contain men of every class from the highest to the humblest, there can be no wonder at the feeling which existed and still continues to exist. The noble Marquess, the First Minister, and the noble Viscount sitting usually behind him (Viscount Midleton), who questioned him not long ago, appear on this important subject to have opposite opinions. According to the noble Marquess it is useless to correct fogs as you would only change the colour. According to the noble Viscount it would be possible to eliminate the essence of fog altogether as well as to remove the dark and solid particles which are now unfortunately added to it. My Lords, I hold a middle view between these two, as it appears to me, extreme opinions. I hold that it is possible to remove the black and solid particles but that it is beyond, at least the present grasp of science to deal entirely with fogs that spring not only from the exhalations of the river but also from the exhalations of the ocean. But in order to convince Her Majesty's Government that it is worth while at least to eliminate the peculiar blackness which smoke must add to fogs, I would refer for a moment to some other cities. It is notorious 1748 that fogs exist in other cities, but that the blackness and malignity of which we complain is entirely peculiar to our metropolis. I happened to witness a fog quite recently at Hamburg, which is in some degree analogous to London. It is the second city and the great port of the German Empire; it is on a tidal river, not far from the mouth of it; it is exceedingly commercial, but not exclusively commercial. The fog there set in and lasted two or three days, and may be going on still; but as a witness of it I could mention that in consequence of its being confined to mere unblackened vapour, it had in it nothing at all to interrupt the traffic of the place, and nothing which could be injurious to health if due precautions were adopted. However that may be, my Lords, I think all men must admit that a campaign against the artificial must precede the campaign against the natural ingredients, that you must first direct your legislation against the peculiar element which we superadd to fogs existing here alone, and then aspire, perhaps, either by further drainage or by undiscovered agencies to combat the element itself in which fog originates. But there is something else to be remembered. The attention of the public has been drawn to fogs of late, and very justly; but fogs are not at all the only evil which this kind of legislation is intended to control or to diminish. If by the efforts of the noble Viscount who alluded to the subject fogs were entirely removed, you would still have the smoke of London; you would still have its effect on flowers, on furniture, on constructions, on health, and on the human system. But that topic I leave to the noble Viscount to consider, hoping that he will bring to bear upon it the impressive eloquence which a few days ago drew down the admiration, if not the envy, of his leader. It has been powerfully treated by Mr. Rollo Russell, whose pamphlets on the subject have entitled him to just and great celebrity. He agrees, I think, with me in a rough estimate that for 20 days of actual fog you have, perhaps, 100 days in which our light and sunshine is obstructed. I will now go on and touch in a few words upon the details of the measure. As framed this year, the Bill adheres, as 1749 far as possible, to the form in which it quitted a Select Committee in the year 1887, comprising the Duke of Westminster, the Earl of Harrowby, Lord Mount Temple, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the Earl Brownlow, Lord De Vesci, Lord Monkswell, and Lord Dundonald. In compliance with the Public Health Act, which passed only last Session, it is necessary that certain functions should be transferred to the Local Government Board which were originally entrusted to the Home Office. It is also requisite to refer to certain Acts of Parliament which exist instead of others which are abrogated. The executive authority of the Bill will as before reside entirely in the Vestries. The Local Government Board, if the Vestries are inert, will have admonitory powers to impel them, but it will not be able to keep their bye-laws beyond a certain limit in abeyance. There is a special clause, although it was not needed except for clearness, to prohibit all entry into the interior of houses. The Bill dictates nothing to householders, but leaves them to avert objectionable smoke by any method they think proper. It is less disturbing and less drastic than the law as it now exists at Dresden. The law of Dresden, of which I have a copy, gives the authorities control over interior arrangements instead of merely laying down that the householder should do anything he chooses except to permit black smoke to flow out of his chimneys. The Bill, as always, rests on the fundamental principle that the householder is entitled to burn whatever he desires in any mode he fancies, but is not entitled to send into the public air elements which vitiate it. It is a principle which came into existence so long ago as the time of Charles II. who directed Mr. Evelyn, the well-known proprietor of Wootton, the author of the Diary, to frame a measure to support it. It is only by the use of coal in its bituminous and uncorrected forms during two centuries that we have become gradually demoralised and have lost sight of the principle, while at the same time our habitations and our thoroughfares have been gradually thrown into an obscurity from which it is now desirable 1750 to rescue them. My Lords, I wish with a view to the satisfaction of noble Lords to answer a question which is nearly certain to suggest itself, although I am not bound to do so by the provisions of the Bill. It is a question as to how the new law would be carried out in practice. I can only give my personal impression that it would be carried out in practice with the greatest ease and with the minimum of outlay, by mixing anthracite and coke rather than by changing and modifying fire-places. Having been much in Germany last autumn, and having opportunities of entering into the subject with the first mechanical inventor, and also in consequence of other observations, and looking also to the movement of the public mind, I learn that anthracite is there regarded as the true and practical solution of the problem. I have convinced myself by some inquiry not only that anthracite may be drawn from Germany and from America but that in the Principality of Wales large stores of it exist which have not been exhausted. But supposing that no effect immediately arises, I should still contend that the Bill will be salutary. It will embody in the Statute Book the principle that domestic as well as industrial smoke requires to be combated. No doubt some further legislation may very possibly be requisite. Amended statutes may be frequent before an absolute solution is arrived at, but that has often been the case on other subjects. I happen to remember the late Sir Robert Peel remarking in the House of Commons that although he had been over thirty years in Parliament he never knew a Session in which there had not been a new Bill for regulating salmon. But he did not therefore draw an inference that legislation upon salmon had been useless. If he had, I am inclined to think that no one who knows the Tweed or any Scottish river would have been able to agree with him. I will now, my Lords, briefly answer an objection of the noble Viscount, to the effect that no Bill upon this subject can be carried unless a Government initiates it. Glad indeed should I have been if Her Majesty's Government 1751 had resolved upon that conduct, But I am bound to point out, as it appears to escape the recollection of some who may exert an influence upon the measure, that the Bill as it left the Select Committee was on the point of being adopted by this House, and there is no proof that it would not have gained the sanction of the other. Her Majesty's Government intended to support it with one or two minute Amendments, which would have been easily accepted. It was then destined to a smooth and unresisted course, so far at least as the Third Reading in this House, when at an unusual stage and in an unexpected manner a noble Earl on the Cross Benches—I think he is absent to-day, I mean the Earl of Wemyss—came forward to oppose it. His oratorical ability was such—and I refer to it without the slightest acrimony—that he carried round the Government, who were induced to swerve from their original design, and resolved upon outvoting it. I recall it merely to show your Lordships that had it not been for something wholly unforeseen, wholly unexpected, and, to a great extent, unprecedented, the labours of that Committee would not have been thrown away, and it is probable, at least, that the law would now be in existence. What tends strongly to urge it upon both Houses is the grave consideration, that unless something is done to improve the air and light of the Metropolis it may not be easy to maintain it as the capital much longer; but that topic is much too large for me to handle it this evening. My Lords, if your Lordships have the goodness, as I scarcely doubt, to read the Bill a second time, I am glad to understand that by the arrangement now in force it will naturally go before a Committee of the whole House. That is my object. I desire that its clauses shall there be freely canvassed and impartially decided on. If a question had arisen as to whether it should go before a Committee of the whole House or before the Standing Committee, I should have had some further observations to address to you, which I am glad that I can properly avoid; and I will now, therefore, merely move that the Bill be read a second time. 1752 Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."— (The Lord Stratheden and Campbell.)
§ * THE DUKE OF WESTMINSTER
My Lords, I desire to make one or two remarks, and they shall be very short, in the hope that you will be induced to read this Bill a second time. The principle has been accepted on previous occasions by your Lordships, and its objects are twofold—namely, to enable the Sanitary Authorities of London to make bye-laws for abating, or regulating, the emission of smoke of houses and buildings, and those that are not included in the Public Health Act of last Session. The machinery of the present Bill is identical with that of the Public Health Act of 1891, and will apply to the same extended area. Therein, of course, London becomes very much enlarged. The old Acts affect only the inside ring, it may be so called, of London; and there is a very great deal of smoke beyond that ring; and that area is proposed to be included in the present Bill. It affects, as you will observe, the emission of smoke, not only from factories, but from private houses and those very great offenders in the matter of smoke, the hotels and clubs of London. Your Lordships may very often have observed that about luncheon time, at 2 o'clock, Pall Mall is very often over shadowed with a dense pall of smoke coming out from those clubs at that interesting time of day. The second part of the Bill is to enable the County Council to make byelaws, in all cases of new houses, for the construction of fire-places so that they may consume the smoke which arises from them. I hold this to be a very moderate and almost permissive Bill, because it gives powers to Local Authorities for the execution of the Act. As your Lordships are well aware, the evil is increasing, and must increase, owing to the number of additional fire-places that are built every year. It has been computed that the amount of coal consumed in one year amounts to the enormous total of 8,000,000 tons—that is the bituminous coal full of smoke. It is easy to see that that enormous 1753 amount is being increased every year by the increase of population, and the increase in the number of houses in all parts of London. There is also the melancholy consideration, in connection with the case, that there are fogs and fogs—of course country fogs are not so deleterious as London fogs, because the London fogs are thickened and deepened by the amount of smoke that adheres to the globules in the air; but I am sorry to say that by the register the foggy days in 1887 were 93; in 1888, 119; in 1889, 151; and in the year 1890 they amounted to the larger number of 156. All that shows a very increasing state of the evil, and one which this Bill may affect. We cannot expect very much from it; but we hope it may tend to affect it in some slight degree. In regard to the state of the law of prosecutions for offences against the Act, the law at present affects only the industrial chimneys; and it has been considered that there is a spirit of some unfairness when other chimneys, also emitting a great deal of smoke, are let off, arid are not subject to the provisions of the law. This question no doubt affects the decision in some cases of the Bench; at all events, the law would be more efficiently carried out if all the chimneys in London were placed so far upon an equality. It is also held that, if this Bill were passed, inventions for the consumption and getting rid of smoke will be very considerably stimulated. Those inventions are being arrived at every day, and I have a line here from Mr. Brunner, M.P., of the large firm of Brunner Mond and Co., Northwich, the great alkali works, where he tells me that 125 tons of slack at 7s. a ton produce in his case four tons of sulphide of ammonium worth £12 a ton. At that rate, 7s. a ton for 25 tons of slack, he makes a total of £43 7s., and by the sale of four tons of ammonia, produced by that consumption of slack, he makes £10 10s. a ton, or £42 10s. That is so far satisfactory and encouraging as showing that, by the production of this very valuable ammonia, no very considerable loss, in fact hardly any loss at all is entailed by the consumption of smoke. At the same time that would not apply, or very slightly, to the question of smoke 1754 consumption in London; but it may fairly be considered to apply to industrial factories. Then there is an increasing consumption of oil in the heating of London, and of gas and coke; and facilities are given by low prices for numbers of poor people to avail themselves of gas and coke. Then again anthracite coal can be obtained in any quantity in the world, both from South Wales and America, where the supply is practically inexhaustible; and I understand that in Paris anthracite coal is used to a very considerable and large extent; and there are restrictions there as to the consumption of smoke; I am not sure what they are, but there are considerable restrictions; with the result that a great deal of smokeless coal, anthracite, and coke (I do not know about gas) is used. The question of the consumption of smoke, my Lords, does not affect us in our position as much as it does the poorer classes of the community; we can get away to purer and fresher air, at all events, occasionally; but the poor cannot, many of them,—the great bulk of them,—are in London day after day, and week after week, through sunshine and through fog; and I think in their interests my noble Friend the promoter of this Bill, and those who wish to see something, however slight (and I do not believe in any very great result from this Bill, certainly not so far as the private grates are concerned), may do some good, and we should be very glad if your Lordships would, under the circumstances of the case, consent to pass the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ * THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I will not resist the appeal to pass the Second Reading of this Bill; but the noble Lord who introduced the Bill spoke of indirect pledges of approval. I beg to say beforehand that, by assenting to the Second Reading of the Bill, I give no pledges as to what we may think it right to do at any further stage of it. I cannot help feeling that the noble Lord who has just sat down is indulging in sanguine anticipation, and that the results will not be very large, even if it were possible to carry out 1755 the measures which he suggests; and, if the results are not large, I do not think we shall be paid for losing the comfort of a flaming fire. I was a little alarmed at the proposal of the noble Lord that we should recoup ourselves, for the expense of a new installation, by the manufacture of sulphide of ammonium in our own houses. I do not know whether the noble Lord is familiar with that drug.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It smells more exactly like a drain than any drug I know; and I am afraid we shall hardly thank the reform that the noble Lord has brought in if we are compelled to have much of it about us. However, what I would suggest to the noble Lord is that if we read the Bill a second time he should allow us to refer it to Lord Midleton's Committee, so soon as that Committee is appointed.
Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a (according to Order), and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.