19 JULY 1851, Page 13


IN the reports of the Board of Health, the question of Metropolitan Water-supply was mixed up with the Sewers question, the Paving question, and other questions too numerous to mention. The Board had entertained a magnificent but vague conception of the possi- bility of combining under one management the paving, watering, and drainage of London—in short, all those local ministerial func- tions which may be rendered ancillary to sanitary police ; a con- ception, however, which the Board lacked either ability or industry to reduce to a tangible, practicable form. After waiting for two or three years to have the embryo project elaborated into an or- ganic form, Government was compelled to set about legislating on the subjects of water and sewerage separately. It was found that the public had not patience to wait till the Board of Health should come to understand its own ideas clearly. Government, however, has evinced no desire to hurry on its water and sewerage measures with undue haste. In fact, its pro- jected Sewerage Bill has never been presented to the Legislature, and its egregious Water Bill has been submissively remitted to the scrutiny of a Committee. Now that the session is drawing near to a close, Government begins to give hints of a desire to abandon altogether its separate legislation, and fall back upon its scheme of combined legislation ; its notions of which appear to be as vague and indistinct as ever.

On this subject the Parliamentary oracle has, like Friar Bacon's brazen, head, spoken thrice, and each time as mysteriously. Last week, Sir James Graham intimated that the labours of his Com- mittee were likely to be "pretty nearly coextensive with the ordi- nary length of the session." It followed, that if such were the case, there could be no legislating on the Water question this year: but Sir James excited additional alarm by announcing that the Committee, thinking the Water and Sewer questions intimately connected, deemed it their duty to enter into both. Sir James and his colleagues, it appears, had mounted the old stumbling hobby from which Government had with so much difficulty been per- suaded to dismount.

In the beginning of the present week, Lord John Russell con- firmed the apprehensions thus awakened, by stating, that if, as Sir James Graham believed, the Committee could not report this ses- sion, Government would take no further steps with its Water Bill ; and that, as Parliament appeared to think that the Metropo- litan Water-supply and Sewers ought to be placed under one management, it was probable a mere temporary Sewers Bill would be introduced, leaving both questions open till some future occa- sion. About the middle of the week, Lord John announced posi- tively that the Water Bill is not to be proceeded with this session.

It is clear, therefore, that the water-supply of the Metropolis and the sewerage of the Metropolis are to be left in as unsatis- factory a state at the end of the session as they were at the be- ginning. Government has not been able to frame a satisfactory sewerage bill, and it has framed a very unsatisfactory water bill ; and having thus shown its utterincompetenee to legislate on either of these simple questions apart, it proposes to render its task easier next session by legislating on them combined. The Board of Health has advised Government to intrust the management of the water- supply, and the sewerage, the paving' and the lighting of London, to one administrative body : but the Board has never shown how this can be done. The realization of this grand and misty project has been a pretext for postponing all improvements in water-sup- ply and sewerage. The inhabitants of London have been told to post- pone all measures for improving their water-supply andtheir sewer- age, until a comprehensive scheme could be matured for converting their city into a sanitary Utopia. This visionary project has served Government as an excuse, year after year, for neglecting all possible improvements, and for preventing any other parties from under- taking them. At the beginning of the present session, it appeared that they had been compelled to leave their ideal world for the

world of realities ; but they have returned to their old habits as "the dog to its vomit and the sow to its wallowing in the mire." Next year, the questions of water-supply and sewerage will again be obscured by the mystifications of the thaumaturgists of the Whoever has prevailed upon the unwary members of the Select Committee on the Government Water Bill to trespass beyond the limits of the special question referred to them, and to enter unau- thorizedly on an inquiry into Metropolitan sewerage, has had this object in view. It remains to be seen whether the unconscious innocents will suffer themselves to be made the tools of Govern- ment by being persuaded to adopt such a report as will palliate the postponement of a definitive sewers bill, and the renewal of the obstacles thrown in the way of improving the water-supply of London.