HC Deb 15 December 1819 vol 41 cc1165-8
Mr. Bootle Wilbraham

said, he held in his hand a Petition from a Mr. William Salisbury, the author of a plan for employing to advan- tage the labouring poor. The plan had been carried into execution in the city of London, under the authority of the magistrates, and had been found to answer so well, that he was convinced great benefit might be derived from its more general adoption, and he was desirous of obtaining the report of a committee of the House on the subject. The object of the petitioner was not to obtain any pecuniary compensation, but to have the attention of parishes drawn towards it, as he conceived that if his plan was carried into execution, it might diminish considerably the expense of the maintenance of the poor, by enabling parishes to employ them to advantage.

The Petition was then brought up, and read. On the motion that it do he on the table,

Lord Francis Osborne

put a question to Mr. S. Bourne, with a view to learn, whether he intended to move for the revival of the committee on the poor laws?

Mr. S. Bourne

intimated, that he intended to move the re-appointment of the committee.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, he conceived it his duty to state that the petitioner's plan had been carried into execution in the House of Correction of the city of London on a small scale, and had been found of considerable advantage, in affording employment to persons capable of labouring. It gave employment to females as well as males. As far as the experiment had been tried, it had met with the approbation of the magistrates of London. As the object of this plan was the employment of the poor, and as an hon. baronet (sir W. de Crespigny) had given notice of a motion, which stood for tomorrow, for the appointment of a committee to take into consideration the plan of Mr. Owen, perhaps it might be advisable that Mr. Salisbury's plan should be referred to the same committee.

Mr. B. Wilbraham

observed that the object of Mr. Salisbury was the employment of parish poor, whereas the plan of Mr. Owen went to the general employment of the poor in the agricultural districts. Mr. Salisbury's plan had already been carried into effect to a certain extent.

Sir W. De Crespigny

observed, that, Mr. Owen's plan was certainly on a more large scale, and went to the general employment of the poor in spade husbandry. Mr. Owen conceived that the distress of labouring classes was occasioned by the extent to which mechanical improvement had been carried. He hoped the hon. member would postpone his motion for the appointment of a committee to consider Mr. Salisbury's plan, if he had such an object in view, till his motion for tomorrow was disposed of.

Mr. Mellish

said, that Mr. Salisbury's plan might be of advantage in particular instances; but he disapproved of all plans of employing the people attended with great loss to the nation at large.

Mr. S. Bourne

said, that the plan of Mr. Salisbury, having for its object the advantageous employment of parish poor, might be submitted to the committee on the poor laws.

The motion for the petition lying on the table was withdrawn with the consent of the House; after which, Mr. B. Wilbraham moved, that it be referred to a committee.

Mr. Huskisson

thought it very possible the House might not think fit to appoint a committee to enter on so extensive a plan as Mr. Owen's; but the petition before the House related, to a specific plan of employment for parish poor, and it was of great consequence, at the present moment, to inquire whether it could or could not be realised. Every gentleman acquainted at all with Mr. Owen's plan, knew that it embraced far more extensive plans than the employment of the poor.

Sir W. De Crespigny

said, that Mr. Owen had no wish whatever of deriving any emolument from his plan. He had no other object but to benefit mankind in general, and this country in particular.

Mr. J. Smith

was happy that any plan for the employment of the poor was in the hands of the member for Dover: it could not be in better hands.

Sir C. Burrell

wished to caution the House against allowing 'themselves to be run away with by their feelings of humanity. It had been said in recommendation of the spade husbandry, that the produce from it was the double of that of the plough. A case on which great stress had been laid, was that of a tenant of the hon. member for Newcastle, who was said to have obtained a produce by the spade, of 17½ quarters of wheat per acre. On inquiry into the subject, he learned from the tenant himself, that the produce had only been 74 quarters per acre.

Mr. Brougham

was extremely averse to the giving a sanction to any visionary scheme of general employment of the poor. If any practicable plan were proposed for the bettor employment of the poor, lying within a narrow compass, that might be a fit subject for the examination of a committee. But the idea of superseding the plough husbandry by the spade throughout the whole country, was altogether out of the question.

Mr. Lyttelton

suggested the propriety of having the petition printed, that members might have an opportunity of considering it before the motion for a committee was submitted to the House.

Mr. B. Wilbraham

had no objection to accede to this suggestion.

Mr. Wilberforce

thought the House ought to be very cautious how they gave countenance to the mistaken notions which prevailed among many people at present, with respect to extensive plans for the employment of the people. It might, however, be possible to provide employment in public works for great numbers of the working classes. The disproportion between the demand for labour and the number of labourers, would thus be lessened, by which wages would materially rise.

Mr. B. Wilbraham

having withdrawn his motion, the petition was afterwards ordered to be on the table and to be printed.