The week just gone, May 3, 1879, had its share of parliamentary debate. The Graphic, an illustrated weekly newspaper from London, was present at a few of them. Here are some snippets – the text and illustrations are as produced in the original publication.
BOILER EXPLOSIONS – Boilers are not a particularly lively theme, but Mr Burt proved in his admirable speech on Tuesday that in existing circumstances they may profitably be made the subject of discussion. He mentioned a case in which a boiler expected to work at the pressure of 60lb, was made to work up to 80lb or 90lb. When it touched 90lb., “the people got as far away as possible;” and not unnaturally, since few persons quite like the prospect of being blown to atoms. At the same time Mr Burt declared that in many instances enginemen are “thoroughly incompetent, and ought not to be in charge of engines and boilers.” These are rather startling facts, and it might have been expected that they would enduce Mr Cross to accede willingly to the proposal of Government inspection. Curiously enough, however, he declared that “the country, at present at least, was not prepared for this.” We incline to think that he is mistaken. In its present humour the country is only too ready to have recourse to the Government for all kinds of evils; and with regard to this particular danger only a few interested persons would maintain that nothing should be done. Certainly the people who are apt to be the victims would not at all complain of inspection of a very stringent kind. The pet argument on Mr Cross’s side is that we must not undermine the sense of responsibility of the employers. But as a matter of fact it is not always found that inspection has this result. At any rate, it saves life. Since the inspection of coal and iron mines was begun, the mine production of the country has tripled; yet, as Mr Burt and Mr Macdonald both testified, accidents have greatly diminished. In like manner the inspection of factories has led to much improvement in the position of our manufacturing population. The Government ought not to be asked to do anything for which private action suffices; but experience proves that in this instance private action does not suffice, and we venture to say that if the lives of a higher social class than workmen were involved they would be speedily and effectually protected.
… Many hon. members think that length is the proper measurement of an important speech, or perhaps it is more exact to say that the gift of condensation is one of the rarest with which Heaven has blessed Parliamentary orators. Mr Childers, for example, was never known to make a short speech. He has a hopeless habit of rearranging his sentences, so as to repeat a simple assertion ten times over in slightly varied phrase. There is an impression among people of patience that Mr Childers is a man of clear and sound view on finance. There are, however, few people in the House of Commons who have a sufficient stock of patience to listen all through a speech by the right hon. gentleman. They are content to take their information from those who have survived the ordeal, and consequently Mr Childers enjoys a considerable reputation.
But his influence in debate is entirely illusory for the reason hinted at above, and on Monday night he sorely tried the temper of the House by presenting himself at half-past eleven and commencing one of his monotonous harangues. Mr Gladstone had by common consent been accepted as the authoritative censor of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s policy. He had delivered an exhaustive, and to many minds, an unanswerable speech. He had certainly left nothing unsaid that Mr Childers was likely to supply. But nevertheless here – when the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have risen, and concluded his reply so that the division might take place at one o’clock – was Mr Childers with a sheaf of notes and a wilderness of words. Many members of sufficient presence of mind met the emergency by rising and leaving the House. Those who remained indulged in private conversation, varied, after the speech had proceeded for half an hour, with cries for a division. But through it all Mr Childers went, monotonous and unmoved, saying over again all that Mr Gladstone had urged and, presumably, in his own opinion saying it better …
LONDON MORTALITY slightly increased last week, and 1,771 deaths were registered against 1,757 during the previous seven days, an increase of 20, being 236 above the average, and at the rate of 26.2 per 1,000. There were 10 deaths from small-pox (a decline of 3), 57 from measles (an increase of 8), 25 from scarlet fever (a decline of 1), 17 from diptheria (a decrease of 2), 88 from whooping-cough (an increase of 16), 18 from different forms of fever, and 14 from diarrhoea. There were 2,369 births registered against 2,703 during the previous week.
MISCELLANEOUS – Nautralists will please note that the mole’s utility in the garden has been vindicated by Dr. Buckland, and that excellent rat-pie has been made by the Rev. J.G. Wood. The generality of people in the country are interested in the view of Dr Buckland, while the discovery of the Rev. J.G. Wood is principally interesting to inhabitants of cities under siege.