HC Deb 11 July 1815 vol 31 cc1145-7
Mr. Rose

reported from the committee appointed to inquire into the state of Mendicity in the Metropolis, and its immediate neighbourhood, and to report the same, together with their observations thereupon, to the House, and who were empowered to report the minutes of the evidence taken before them;—That they had considered the matter to them referred; and had directed him to make a Report thereof to the House, with an appendix: and the Report was read. On the motion, that it be printed,

Mr. Rose

begged to call the attention of the House for a few moments to the subject. When in a former part of the session he had moved for the appointment of a committee, he stated that his object was twofold—to better the situation of those who were really distressed, and to repress scandalous and abominable imposture. The evidence obtained by the committee, confirmed more strongly his previous opinions on this subject. They had found that there were a great many objects of real compassion, but that there were many more of the worst description of impostors. The number of mendicants in the metropolis was estimated at about 30,000, but probably it was much greater. Most of these persons gained more than many industrious individuals of the lower classes of the community. One man actually acknowledged that his profits were about thirty shillings a day. This might be a singular case, but it was proved by the strongest evidence that the average receipts of mendicants in London were from three to six shillings a day each. This money was spent in the most excep- tionable manner, in dram shops, at feasts, and even in the purchase of luxuries of all sorts, eatable as well as drinkable. The committee had ascertained a fact which was unknown to him before. Many parishes farmed their poor. About 100 parishes, he believed, in the City did so. Six or seven shillings a week each were allowed to those by whom they were taken, and who then sent them about to beg during the day for the purpose of saving their provision! It was desirable that the conduct of parishes in this respect should be more carefully watched, even when they maintained their own poor. It appeared by the minutes of evidence annexed to the Report, that in one case 22 paupers were compelled to sleep in a single room of small dimensions, thus creating a great risk of pestilential disease. Many of the paupers of the Metropolis were Irish, who coming to this country with the laudable intention of obtaining employment, failed in that object. In a court which led out of one of the fashionable streets of Mary-le-bone, 700 of these poor persons were crowded into 24 small houses! It would appear by the Report that the number of private charities in the Metropolis was almost inconceivable. But unfortunately most of those by whom, they were supported, contented themselves with giving their money, and never examined into its application. The House would hardly believe that there was one benevolent institution supported by peers, members of that House, and other opulent individuals, the object of which was to purchase beef, and sell it to the poor at a moderate price. Nothing could be more commendable than this institution, were it properly administered. The revenue of it was 600l. a year. But it appeared that the whole of it was managed by a single individual, and it had been recently discovered that this man put the whole of the money, with a trifling exception, in his own pocket! It appeared in evidence, that in one year he had purchased only 27l. worth of beef, and that the largest quantity he had ever bought within the twelvemonth was to the value of 72l., he appropriating the remainder to his own use. On a Bow-street officer's being employed to apprehend this person, it was found that he was the subject of other charges of as serious a nature. There were various practices described in the Report, by which the most cautious as well as the careless had been imposed upon. It had never been in his contemplation, that a complete remedy could be discovered for these evils; and he was persuaded that the closest attention was necessary to the formation of any measure calculated materially to diminish them. The existing laws were evidently too severe; in consequence of which they were never acted upon. There must be some alteration in the law. It was evaded in a hundred ways. One man with a dog, when taken up by the parish officers, remonstrated, exclaiming, "I am no beggar, it is my dog that begs; you see that he has his hat in his hand." It was but justice to the beadles and parish-officers in this city to say, that they discharged their duty with commendable activity. But the only present effect of apprehending beggars in the Metropolis was, to remove them to the vicinage—to Richmond, to Egham, and elsewhere. The best course that could be adopted with respect to them would be, to provide places in which they could be employed; but this would be attended with great expense to the public. At all events he trusted the House would feel, that this was a subject which demanded their most serious attention.

Mr. W. Smith

hoped, that when the subject should be again brought foward, as it would next session, the consideration of a measure on it would not be confined to this metropolis, but extend to the whole country.

The Report was ordered to be printed.