The Sanitary Act of 1866

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The Sanitary Act of 1866

The next step forward was taken in 1866, under the stimulus of yet another cholera epidemic.

The Sanitary Act of that year made it compulsory for local authorities to provide sanitary inspection and suppress nuisances in their areas, and provided machinery by which the central Government could keep them up to the mark.

This attack on the sacred principle of local autonomy was flanked by another on individual liberty; for the Act made offences against quarantine in cases of infectious disease punishable.

Standards did move up; there was no return of the cholera, and other" filth diseases" began to decline, but there was a great deal of waste and duplication of effort owing to the overlapping of different authorities.

In some rural parishes, said Simon, "the privies are under one authority and the pigsties under another."

Simon wanted a central co-ordinating Government Department even more comprehensive than our present Ministry f Health; but consolidation, when it came, did not go anything like so far, and he had to be content with the Local Government Board set up under the Act of 1871.

In 1875 a new Public Health Act codified and consolidated all existing health legislation.


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Public Utilities

Nor were actual housing conditions the whole, story. Decent towns need not only decent houses but decent streets, lights, water supply and drains; and neither the old nor the new towns of the early Industrial Revolution possessed these. The bigger the town, the more difficult the technical problem and the more devastating the effects of neglect; and in the new towns there was not even, until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1885, a competent authority to tackle these difficulties. Streets, were left unpaved and unlighted, sewage went into cesspits which contaminated the drinking water; even London,... see: Public Utilities


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