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The Public Health Act, 1875, was introduced into the House of Commons by Mr. Sclater-Booth, the President, and Mr. Clare Sewell Read, the then Parliamentary Secretary of the Local Government Board, for the purpose of consolidating the numerous Acts passed in former years relating to sanitary local self-government–in urban districts, that is, Municipal Boroughs, Improvement Act districts, and Local Government districts,—and in rural districts, that is, districts under Boards of Guardians, and not included in any of the former.
The Consolidated Act, in the case of urban districts, provides for sewerage and drainage, scavenging and water supply, the control and improvement of the dwellings and lodgings of the poorer classes, the removal of nuisances and obstructions in streets, and restriction of offensive trades and sale of unsound food, the prevention of the spread of infectious and epidemic diseases, the maintenance, repair, and lighting of roads, and construction of new buildings, the provision of public hospitals, mortuaries, recreation grounds, of public clocks, and of markets and slaughter-houses, the licensing of hackney carriages, horses, and boats, extinguishing fires, and regulation of public bathing. But in the case of rural districts, unless the rural authority has been invested by the Local Government Board with urban powers, the Act extends only to sewerage and drainage, scavenging, water supply, the control of cellar dwellings and lodging-houses, the removal of nuisances and restriction of the sale of unsound food, the prevention of diseases, and the provision of hospitals and mortuaries.
As showing the importance which is now attached by educational institutions to sanitary science, it may be mentioned that the University of Cambridge now grant certificates to those candidates who pass both parts of the examination in state medicine, in the following form :
“Know all men by these presents that ... having been duly examined by ... the examiners in that behalf appointed by the Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Cambridge, and having approved himself to the aforesaid examiners by his knowledge and skill in Sanitary Science-to wit, in Chymistry and Physics, in the causes and prevention of epidemic and infectious diseases, and in the means of remedying or ameliorating those circumstances and conditions of life which are known to be injurious to health, as well as in the laws of the realm relating to public health. -—is certified to be well qualified in respect of his knowledge and skill aforesaid, to fulfil the duties of a medical officer of health, in testimony whereof the Vice-Chancellor of the said University, by the authority of the said Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars, hås hereto set his hand and seal.”
But it is to be observed that to Ireland is due the honour of having the first educational institution which directed attention to the teaching of sanitary science. This is shown by a memorial, dated the 10th of January, 1867, and directed by the Ennis Sanitary Committee to the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, in which the Committee state :
“ 1st. That very great and almost universal ignorance of sanitary science and hygiene prevails in this country.
“2nd. That no system of National Education can be considered satisfactory which does not convey some information on the principles of hygiene, such knowledge being universally and indispensably necessary.
" 3rd. That a great amount of the sickness and mortality in this country depends on preventable causes; and although the Sanitary Committee does not think that all the sickness and mortality from such causes would be prevented by a more general knowledge of sanitary laws, still there can be no doubt that they may be considerably abated.
“4th. That, as it appears that no treatise or manual containing any information on sanitary matters is included among the books used in the National Schools by the pupils, in which especially some elementary knowledge of sanitary science is peculiarly necessary, the Committee beg that the National Board of Education should have a suitable manual on the subject of popular hygiene prepared and introduced as a normal element of education in all their schools."
The repealed Acts are nineteen in number, and their consolidation has necessitated another entire revision of the present work, which, indeed, from the first claimed to be a practical consolidation of the Sanitary Laws, in an unofficial, or ratherexcept by the legal profession and local authorities-in an unrecognized form. The new Act is divided into eleven parts, exclusive of the schedules, each comprising a distinct branch of the subject, so that the plan of the work is the same as it has been in the former editions, though the number of chapters is increased, and their order is altered : the rules respecting the election of Local Boards, for instance, being contained in one of the schedules to the new Act.
The work commences, by way of introduction, with two circular letters of the Local Government Board, showing the amendments of the previously existing law which were effected concurrently with the work of consolidation.
The Public Health Act, 1875, is next given in extenso, with the appropriate notes and decisions of the courts upon the relative sections of the repealed Acts inserted at the ends of the sections, and printed in different type from the text of the statute, so as to be readily distinguishable from it. Those who have been acquainted with the repealed Acts will find, in the abbreviated references to them in the margin of each section, an easy method, explained by the list at page xxxvii, of referring from the new to the corresponding repealed enactments, while the table of references to the repealed statutes (pp. xxxviii-xlii) will enable them to find the new enactment which corresponds to any repealed provision.
The remainder of the body of the work is formed partly by the Acts which are expressly referred to by the Public Health Act as giving powers to Local Authorities, viz. the Acts relating to Bakehouses, Baths and Wash-houses, Burial of the Dead, Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings and Labouring Classes' Lodging-houses, and partly by the Acts relating to Petroleum, Locomotives on Highways, Tramways, Public Libraries, &c., and the recent Act for the Improvement of
Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings, under which Local Authorities also have powers.
The Appendices include those portions of the Consolidation Clauses Acts which are incorporated with the Public Health Act, with the exception of the Lands Clauses Acts, the provisions of which are so lengthy, and the decisions thereon so numerous, that it has been thought desirable merely to refer the reader to the collection of them in the second volume of the ‘Law of Railways,' by the senior editor of this work. There are also included the Acts of the session of 1875, relating to the borrowing of money by local authorities, the Act of the same session which is to regulate the sale of food and drugs in the place of the Adulteration of Food Acts, and various miscellaneous statutes which immediately concern local sanitary authorities, as well as references to the Acts which have been passed to confirm the provisional orders of the Secretary of State and the Local Government Board, and an index to the places to which those provisional orders and Acts refer.
The Index to the seventh edition of this work has been replaced in the present edition by an entirely new and more comprehensive Index.
WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM GLEN.
5, Elm Court, TEMPLE,
5th January, 1876.