HC Deb 10 May 1819 vol 40 cc284-7

Mr. Sturges Bourne having moved the order of the, day for the farther consideration of the report of this bill,

General Gascoyne

said, that he had several objections to make to this bill, for which reason he should move as an amendment, that it be recommitted. The, provision in it which he would chiefly oppose was that relating to the length of time necessary for gaining a settlement. This, in his opinion, ought to be extended from three years, as proposed by the bill, to five years, in the case of native subjects, and to seven in the case of foreigners. This and other points could be discussed only in a committee, for which reason he should move, that the bill be re-committed.

Mr. Mildmay

seconded the motion, although his objection went rather to the principle of the bill than to its provisions. But of the provisions, he would principally oppose that which related to domestic servitude. The bill was supported on the ground that it would put a stop to much litigation, but in this he thought there was a fallacy. The claims to settlement under the existing law, though depending on many circumstances, were not liable to so much difficulties in their details as those which were proposed to be substituted.

Mr. Phillips

objected generally to the bill, and said, that if the hon. general would consent to withdraw his amendment, he would propose instead of it that the report be taken into consideration on this day six months. He argued at some length to show the injustice and impolicy of compelling parishes where an individual had resided for three years, to support them in their necessities. He supposed the case of a labourer in a manufacturing town, wherein the manufactures had failed—in such a case it would be not only a hardship to the parish, but a cruelty to the man himself, to compel him to remain in the place of his usual residence.

Mr. Frankland

Lewis spoke at some length in favour of the measure. He was supported in the opinion he entertained of it by one whose sentiments had always been listened to with attention, and whose loss would for ever be deplored by the House; he meant the late sir Samuel Romilly. By him it was said, that such a system as was now proposed to be introduced was one of the greatest improvements in the laws regarding the poor he had heard of. But this was not a solitary opinion; men whose knowledge and experience on these matters rendered their sentiments valuable had also expressed their approbation of the system. Supported and strengthened by these opinions, he had no difficulty in declaring, that the system which at present existed brought ten times more injustice upon the pauper, and ten times more hardship upon the parish, than the system which was proposed to be introduced by this bill. He strenuously supported original settlements—settlements in that parish where the child was bred and born, under the parental roof where it had received its education, and where it had given the benefit of its labours. How often was it the case at present, that a man worn down by age an infirmity was sent from the spot where he had spent the greater part of his life, to that parish where he might have obtained a settlement by the labour of a single year, but where he was perhaps unknown, and where he was unlikely to obtain a subsistence! This was hard indeed upon the parish, but doubly hard upon the unfortunate pauper, to be removed from his friends and connexions, at a moment, perhaps, when he was afflicted with illness, to a place where he might expire without regret to a single individual in the parish. He remarked upon the facility with which settlements were gained by labour, and earnestly recommended the adoption of a system which would prove a comfort and a blessing to the pauper. He saw no reason why towns as well as country parishes should not bear a proportion of the burthen of supporting these paupers. He was sensible of the inconvenience of charging the manufacturing districts with paupers, but still they ought to support their share of the burthen. He was also sorry to ob- serve, that the poor laws were not strictly observed—a circumstance which greatly aggravated all their evils. He hoped that he had said enough to support the opinion which he had originally expressed on this question. It was not, perhaps, desirable to press it upon the country under the present clamour which had been raised against it, but still it was due to those who had recommended the proposed alterations to show that they had not adopted them upon light or inconsiderate reasons.

Mr. Allan

objected to the bill, principally on the ground of its tendency to increase parochial burthens.

Colonel Wood

objected to the notion of uniting two of the parishes in Wales in the manner alluded to. He rather thought the bill would work more harm than good. The only way to get rid of the difficulties respecting the poor laws, which caused such endless litigation, was to retread the steps that had been passed, and abolish settlements altogether. Labour was the property of the poor man, and he should be at liberty to exercise it wherever he pleased.

Mr. Huskisson

admitted, that the removal of the cruel and unfeeling restraint which the old laws put on the poor man's labour ought to be removed, but he could not see how the law of settlement could be removed, unless the poor laws were altogether repealed. An amendment was necessary in the existing law—to make it was, in fact, a choice of evils, and he thought this bill would answer every purpose. He complained of the moral evils which were produced by the old law upon the agricultural population, and contended it was most desirable to amend a system so productive of injurious effects. Not the least of the merits of this bill was, that it would prevent the great expense and litigation now so common in asserting rights of settlement.

Mr. G. Lamb

denied that the effect of the bill would be to prevent litigation. To give the lawyers a new act of parliament, was rather a strange way of diminishing their practice. He enumerated in detail the provisions of the bill, and thought that it was most injudicious to prevent a man from obtaining a variety of settlements in the course of his occupations.

Lord Milton

supported the bill. He thought it was a considerable improvement upon the old law, which was too compli- cated to be useful. He attributed the augmentation of the poor-rates to the anxiety to reduce the price of agricultural labour. The great manufacturing towns were no doubt desirous of getting rid of their poor who had spent their lives in the workshops of Manchester or Birmingham.

Sir G. Clerk

suggested to his gallant friend who had moved the amendment, to withdraw it, and allow the bill to go through another stage.

Mr. Canning

approved of the bill in general, though he admitted that there were some objections to it. The amendment was important, as tending to raise the character of the poor. A great number of Irish were annually imported into Liverpool, and he thought the residence in large towns ought to be five years. The simplification of the law was a great gain, although in the present generation it might be attended by inconveniences. It would be ungracious to object too strongly to this first-fruits of the committee on the poor laws. The task it had to perform was complicated and difficult; and if it were not encouraged, gentlemen would be very reluctant to undertake the duties, He was in favour of the re-commitment, that the amendment might be introduced.

Mr. A. Wright

opposed the bill, on the ground that it was fertile of litigation.

Mr. S. Bourne

replied briefly, and said he had no objection to the recommittal of the bill.

Mr. W. Smith

, though originally a friend to the motion, felt it a duty he owed to a very large body of his constituents to oppose it.

The question being put, "That the Bill be recommitted," the House divided. Ayes, 62; Noes, 92. The question, that the farther consideration of the report be put off for six months, was then put and agreed to.