HC Deb 22 March 1825 vol 12 cc1136-8
Mr. Grattan,

in rising to ask for leave to bring in a bill for the Relief of the Poor in Ireland, said, that the object of this measure was to leave it optional in parishes to assemble in vestry to appoint a committee to investigate the state of their several parishes, to receive reports from such committee, and to collect subscriptions to relieve distress, in case the committee should be of opinion that distress existed. If the subscriptions should not be equal to the relief of the distress which they were intended to obviate, his plan was, to enable the vestry to assess the parish to a certain degree. As his bill was only an experimental measure, he designed to limit its duration to a given time, in the hope that during that interval some other plan might be devised to enable the poor of Ireland to support themselves. His bill had no resemblance to the Poor-law of England; though he must say, that if some system to relieve the poor had existed in Ireland in the years 1816 and 1822, all those evils which the country so much deplored might have been avoided. For his own part, he did not expect that any permanent tranquillity would be found in Ireland, until it had the benefit of some parochial system.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he had no intention of opposing this measure in its present stage. He thought that the best time of considering the merits of the bill would be on its second reading. It was a subject which required deep and serious attention; for the points to which the hon. gentleman had so briefly alluded were, in his opinion, of paramount importance.

Sir H Parnell

hoped his hon friend would examine the case, as regarded Ireland, thoroughly; for if he did, he was satisfied he would see that the best policy was, to let the matter alone. If the poor-laws were introduced into Ireland, as appeared from the evidence before the committee on the state of that country, before a few years passed the whole rent of the landlords would be swallowed up in that gulf of national prosperity.

Mr. V. Fitzgerald

contended, that if a system of poor-laws were introduced into Ireland, it would perpetuate its poverty and degrade its population for ever. He regretted that his hon. friend had not deferred the introduction of his bill until the committee on the state of Ireland had brought in its report.

Sir James Mackintosh

said, he had only one observation to make on this question. It was his deliberate opinion, that the poor-laws were the only curse which had not been inflicted on Ireland; and he earnestly trusted, that the House would not consent to inflict it upon that country, after the experience it had had of their lamentable consequences in England.

Mr. Curwen

would not give any opinion upon this bill at present; but, when he heard so much said about the poor laws, he thought it right to mention a fact which had fallen under his own knowledge. Since the enactment of the law giving magistrates in England power to pass to Ireland such natives of that country as became chargeable to English parishes, the Irish in England had not only became more sober and industrious, but more prudent and provident than they had formerly been.

Mr. Baring

was of opinion, that the objection to the poor laws rose more out of the abuse than the use of them. He declined giving any opinion on the hon. gentleman's bill, because, to say the truth, he did not know what the hon. gentleman meant by it.

Mr. M. Fitzgerald

doubted whether Ireland could ever be placed in a fit condition to receive a system of poor-laws. But though that was the case, the House would be wanting both in humanity and in good sense, if it shut its eyes to the condition of the poor of Ireland; most of whom were at that present moment thrown upon the state for support. He trusted that, if his hon. friend did not, some other member would, originate a bill which should do justice to the pressing nature of their wants and emergencies.

Mr. Carus Wilson

did not object to the poor-rates so much on account of their-burthen, as on account of the abuses connected with their administration.

Mr. Monck

said, he had formerly been hostile to the poor-laws, but had recently seen cause to alter his opinion. Had it not been for the poor-laws, he believed that the peasantry of England would, during the late winters, have been quite as turbulent as the peasantry of Ireland had been.

Mr. Bennett

was of opinion, that if the poor-laws were introduced into Ireland, manufactures would be established, and capital would flow into it. He was therefore glad that this bill was introduced as an experiment, and trusted that the hon. gentleman would persevere with it to the end; as, if it were carried, it must be productive of singular advantages to Ireland.

Leave was granted to bring in the bill.