« EelmineJätka »
AFTER having occupied a considerable share of public attention for the last ten years, the subject of Sanitary Reform was recommended from the throne to the earnest consideration of
parliament at the opening of the session 1847–8, and in conformity with that recommendation “A Bill for promoting the Public Health” was introduced into the House of Commons on the part of Her Majesty's Government by Viscount Morpeth (now Earl of Carlisle), on the 10th of February following. The Bill was well received, and about a fortnight afterwards was read a second time without opposition. But, partly owing to the state of public business, and partly to a desire that the measure should be fully considered throughout the country, it was not discussed in committee until after the lapse of several weeks. In the interval various suggestions from different parts of the country were carefully considered, and many of them introduced into an amended draft printed by order of the House of Commons on the 15th of March.
This, however, was not the first attempt at legislation on the subject, a bill for the sewerage and drainage of towns having been brought into the House of Commons by the Earl of Lincoln under the auspices of Sir Robert Peel's Government towards the close of the session of 1845, and another, commonly known as the “Health of Towns Bill,” by Viscount Morpeth in 1847. To inquire into the points of agreement and disagreement between these several legislative projects would now be of little importance; suffice it to say that each was founded
the admirable reports of the commissioners for inquiring into the state of large towns and populous places, and that the points of difference consisted in the machinery and details by which it was proposed to carry out the common object—the improvement of the Public Health. But a very cursory consideration will be enough to show that in these points of differencemachinery and details—lie the difficulties which have been felt and acknowledged by the successive administrations which have turned their attention to the subject. Those difficulties have at length been overcome by the passing of the Public Health Act; and without detracting in the slightest degree from the credit so justly due to former labourers in the same cause, it may fairly be suggested as matter of pride and congratulation to Her Majesty's
present Government that they should have been the first to carry a large and comprehensive measure of Sanitary Reform. To the excellent nobleman to whom these pages are dedicated the country is under the deepest obligations; his exertions are eminently conspicuous ; and he would be the first to acknowledge how much the distinguished talents of the Attorney General in the House of Commons, and of Lord Campbell in the House of Lords, contributed to his success. The importance of the measure cannot be overrated, whether regarded by itself as a great step in practical legislation, or as “laying the foundations for continual advances in the same beneficent work."
The subsequent progress of the Bill was far less easy than might have been expected from the manner in which it was received. It underwent nearly every stage of parliamentary ordeal, and in addition to the difficulties which, under other circumstances, might have been anticipated, there arose a serious misapprehension as to the nature of the General Superintendence which it was proposed to establish. It was assumed that centralization and a constant interference by the state with local concerns constituted the fundamental principle of the measure. Nothing could have been more erroneous, or more at variance with the real and avowed intention of its promoters; but the misunderstanding rapidly settled into prejudice, and it was found necessary to modify, in particular instances, the powers with which it was proposed to invest the General Board of Health. And (perhaps as a necessary consequence of the same misunderstanding) the modification so made has induced many to suppose that the Act as ultimately passed was a total departure from the principle of the original Bill; but notwithstanding all that has been said upon this head it may be safely affirmed that in almost all substantial particulars the Act is identical with the Bill originally introduced, and that (with the single exception of the clause for preventing the nuisance of smoke), there has been no sacrifice of any important matter either of principle or detail. ing, the substitution in certain cases of a provisional order and the special sanction of parliament for the more simple proceeding by order in council has not been forgotten; for though, at first, it was feared that the alteration might hamper the operation of the measure, further consideration has tended to show that the slight delay which the substituted machinery may sometimes occasion will be more than compensated by the great facility afforded for dealing with