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Why did politicians pass the 1875 public health act

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My dear fellow mps, I am here today, 1st December, 1874 to persuade you to pass the public health act of which I am going to make clear to you. We cannot delay taking action any further seeing as the future of England, our nation is our hands. It must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. People are dying as we speak because of our government turning a blind eye to what is happening before us. What I would like to happen would be for all town councils to be responsible for public health and for local government to advise and oversee.

Let us waste no time… Let us save our families… I will explain. There are many, many reasons why this act should be passed; and why it should be passed immediately. The evidence we now have is that dirty cities with their bad living conditions are to blame for the many devastating disease we are now suffering from including tuberculosis, typhus, typhoid and scarlet fever. I would like to mention the name of a great man to you all, Edwin Chadwick who has made the connection between health and hygiene.

He like myself, feels strongly about public health and has visited many towns and in 1842 he published a report, which said that British towns faced serious problems. Surely it would be cheaper to look after the poor if more money was spent on improving their living conditions. In addition, there has been a rapid growth in the size of the major towns. This has led to severely overcrowded badly built houses and shortages of pure water and a steep rise in the death rate among townsfolk.

While doctors believe that the miasmic state of the air is responsible for the great number of deaths that have been caused by disease, we simply cannot believe this nonsense any longer! Louis Pasteur, a French chemist and Robert Koch have proved that germs are the cause of human diseases. Lord Shaftsbury is now an important supporter of improving the living conditions of the poorest groups of society and Robert Peel, our former Prime Minister set up a royal commission to find out about water supplies in 50 large towns. His findings said that water in cities was poor or inadequate.

Moreover, William Farr has recorded the details about how people died. This means we are now aware of how badly our country has been affected because before there was no record of births or deaths. Farr has established that disease is far worse where sewage systems are bad. Even though Edwin Chadwick and Florence Nightingale has given us new knowledge about dirt poisoning the air and people falling ill when they breathed in the foul smells, there has been a new discovery about how diseases are being passed on. John snow has proved that cholera is spread by water.

Why, did people fail to notice that when this London doctor made the link between dirt and disease and removed the handle of the water pump in the broad street area, that there was an immediate decrease in the cases of cholera because people were no longer drinking the contaminated water. Does the word cholera mean anything to any of you? Although by 1830, our people of Britain had accepted that killer diseases such as typhoid and tuberculosis were part of modern life, but our country was struck by this new disease. How would you feel if someone you loved fell ill with cholera?

Could you bear to watch as that person began to vomit? What would you do as their body turned blue and their eyes sunk into their head. Then imagine that person’s skin going cold and eventually die, knowing that maybe, if the act had been passed sooner they could have survived. Someone can be perfectly healthy in the morning, drinking water with their breakfast and dead in the afternoon after catching the disease. Furthermore, it has been proved that illnesses like cholera and dysentery are caused by the filthy unhygienic conditions in the slum areas of towns and cities.

However, because nothing has been done about Public Health, this is no longer the case. We are no longer safe! … And no, I am not just talking about those poorer people who are still sharing a damp cellar in a room full of strangers. What I am trying to get across to you is that nobody can hide out of harms way while our government does nothing to help. The disease has spread. We are all at risk. Even your own families are jeopardised and are very likely to be affected by a deadly disease such as cholera tuberculosis, typhoid typhus and scarlet fever.

Despite the security and wealthiness of being a member of the royal family, the Queen’s husband died of typhoid even with the protection of Windsor castle over ten years ago in 1871. Queen Victoria was overwhelmed by grief and is still mourning for her loss. Since 1831, there have been 4 serious major outbreaks of cholera in 1832, 1848, 1854 and 1865, in OUR country. Why are we allowing this to happen? Each time thousands of people have died. These people were rich and poor alike.

Why is it that in this modern age, our government still believes in “laissez faire” and that parliament should not interfere with people’s lives? This stupid believe is slowing down the progress of improving public health because whilst medical treatment might cure the illnesses people arre suffering from, they are too expensive for most people to afford or unavailable. Wouldn’t it be a lot better if the diseases were actually prevented in the first place? Why is it that respectable gentleman such as yourselves are still ignoring important discoveries such as Chadwick’s.

Did you fail to notice that in 1866, the London Water Company accidentally allowed sewage from a cholera raging district to get into the water supply. Within weeks, seven thousand people had died. Certainly this is proof that we must do something to stop disasters like this happening again, don’t you think? I am aware that there was a public health act in 1848, but this act was only to make government board of health to encourage local authorities to deal with the problems of public health. Because people were not forced into action, very few people set up and those that did were not very effective.

This new act will make it compulsory for councils to clear refuse, clear sewage, provide a sufficient water supply and to notify a health officer on the outbreak of any infectious disease. Finally, it is clear that cleaning up the towns is the only way to save our nation. Britain has been loosing its trade and business over the years and public health is the cause. We need a healthy workforce to stay ahead of France and Germany because they are catching up with Britain’s wealth. Also, before the reform act in 1867, only rich people were allowed to vote.

These rich people did not want their money being spent on amenities for the poor. However, there have been some important changes in who holds power and how that power is used. Just think about that. Now that the poorer people of our community can vote politicians out of power, they simply cannot be ignored. We must put our people before parliament! Even our Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli who became the conservative leader this year supports the Public Health Act. My fellow MP’s, vote with me today to get this act passed. Once and for all.

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