HC Deb 04 June 1830 vol 24 cc1351-5
Mr. C. Calvert

presented a Petition from St. Olave, Southwark, against the Bill for the removal of Scotch and Irish Vagrants. The hon. Member took the opportunity to say, that he was happy to hear that the noble Lord (Stanley) had postponed the measure until next Session, and he should be still happier if he would abandon it entirely.

Sir R. Wilson

supported the prayer of the Petition. The time would soon come when Ireland must sustain some part of the burthen of the maintenance of her poor.

Mr. H. Grattan

said, that the bill of the noble Lord was not to be tolerated. If it were entertained, it would have the effect of sending back to their own country all the Irish poor, and ought to be followed up by a bill to send back all the Irish rich. Since 1811 no less than 1,150,000l. had been collected and spent in Ireland upon the maintenance of paupers.

Mr. N. Calvert

said, the question at issue, which this bill was to solve to the advantage of the parishes in the country was, whether London or the country was to pay all the expense of the removal of the Irish and Scotch paupers. At present they made jaunts at the public expense from one end of the country to the other. He would try and put a stop to the practice, by not providing them with the means for carrying it on.

Mr. S. Bourne

remarked, that the existing system grew out of the report of a committee of the House, as long since as the year 1817. It had appeared to that committee, that paupers might be removed like vagrants, by passes, and for some time the plan worked well; indeed so well, that a magistrate of Shadwell Police-office had assured him, that the effect had been to compel seventy families in that district to support themselves, instead of coming upon the rates. In time, however, it became liable to abuse, and the result was, the evils now the subject of such general complaint. The proposed remedy of the noble Lord was, however, no remedy at all, and he (Mr. S. Bourne) had made a suggestion to the Secretary for the Home Department, which he thought would be effectual; and that was, that the overseers of every parish should be allowed to give relief to any persons who applied, who seemed to be fit objects of charity, let them belong to what parish they might. This would, of course, preclude compulsory relief upon the orders of magistrates, as it would render them needless. Paupers might then be permitted to go to and fro, from parish to parish, without being interfered with; and a provision being made for the necessitous in every parish, the expense of passing paupers to their places of settlement would be avoided. It seemed to him by far the most equitable principle that residence (say for five years) should give a settlement, and he was confident that the parish authorities would be desirous of affording relief in all cases where it was deserved, without any further compulsion than that of circumstances.

Mr. Doherty

said, considerable misapprehension existed in Ireland—in Dublin among other places—with respect to the provisions of the bill. It appeared to be supposed, that the bill would introduce a different degree of power with respect to Scottish and Irish Vagrants and their removal, from that at present granted by the existing law; whereas, in point of fact, the noble Lord's bill went simply to alter the mode of laying on the expense of removal, but effected no alteration in the power of removal. By the law as it stood, there was a power of sending vagrants back to Ireland or Scotland; the proposed bill threw the expense of removal only on the district from which paupers were removed, instead of throwing it on all the counties through which they passed. He had seen reports in some of the Irish newspapers, according to which this was a bill which gave or revived the power of whipping Irish vagrants. As he interpreted the bill, it would have no such effect. The only object of the noble Lord was, to effect a new arrangement as to defraying the expense of removal, leaving the power of transmitting vagrants exactly where it was under the existing law. It seemed to be thought that the power of whipping a vagrant was only conferred in cases where the vagrant was an Irishman. Such was not the case. If a vagrant were sturdy and disorderly, he could be sent to the House of Correction at present, and whipped, whether he were Welsh, Scotch, English, or Irish. The noble Lord's bill did not add to this power. He should be the very first to oppose the bill, if it enacted (as was imagined) that Irish paupers should be whipped before they were sent out of the country. He was glad to have this opportunity of setting the matter right. This was simply a bill to arrange the expense of transmission: was it not a cruelty to endeavour to persuade the people of Ireland, that such a disposition existed in the House of Commons as to induce them to pass a bill for whipping Irishmen, because they were Irish?

Lord Stanley

rose, to explain the course he intended to take with respect to his bill. His intention was, to give up the measure for the present year. In the next Session he should bring forward another measure on the same subject, which, if the House would permit him, he should read a second time, and then refer it to a select committee up-stairs.

Mr. O'Connell

was sure, that the noble Lord had no intention of reviving the practice of whipping Irish vagrants, but that certainly would be the effect of his bill, if any body chose to carry it into execution, for it went to repeal the comparatively recent Statute, which made whipping no necessary part of the operation of send- ing home Irish vagrants; and by so repealing that, revived the Statute which it had repealed, and under which the Irish vagrants were liable to be whipped. Nothing, it was clear, could be easier than to obviate that inconvenience in the form of the bill. But he would still assert, that n its present shape the sending to the House of Correction, and the whipping, formed a necessary part of the proceeding preliminary to the paupers being sent to Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman then adverted to the proposed introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland, and observed upon the faulty condition of the system in this country. The Parliament of Great Britain had been endeavouring to amend the Poor-laws during a period of 300 years, and at the present moment, they were, if possible, more faulty than ever. Those who were not strenuous advocates for the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland, ought to remember that the Subletting Act was one of the causes which placed the population of Ireland in its present condition—that Subletting Act might be exceedingly convenient to gentlemen of large landed property, who wished, in the language of the day, to clear the estates—yes, the clearing of estates was spoken of as familiarly in Ireland as the clearing of land in America—in the one country, trees, and in the other human beings, were treated in the same manner.

Mr. Littleton

thought, that the measure might be further matured this Session, and even referred to a select committee, in order that it might pass at an early period of the next Session. It was now the season of the year when the Irish labourers came to this country, and the bill, in order to be brought into just and effectual operation, ought to be made known to the parties interested before they left their native country. He therefore recommended the noble Lord to advance the measure further before he allowed the present Session to pass away.

Mr. J. Grattan

expressed his satisfaction that the bill was to be given up, for he was prepared to give it his most strenuous opposition.

Mr. G. Dawson

thought it very unfair that the Irish and Scotch poor should be saddled upon the English landholder. He thought the only way to prevent this was to pass a declarative act, to the effect that such poor should not be of right entitled to relief here. If the emigrants from Ire- land knew that they would not be passed back at the expense of this country, he was sure that they would not come here. He therefore concurred in the views of his right hon. friend (Mr. S. Bourne) near him.

Sir G. Philips

thought that the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Bourne) opposite would meet all the difficulties of this subject.

Mr. Estcourt

was of opinion that the suggestion thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Bourne) ought to be attended to.

Mr. R. Palmer

concurred in the proposition of his right hon. friend (Mr. S. Bourne), and thought that a measure on that principle should be introduced this Session.

Mr. C. Calvert

was glad to hear that the noble Lord intended to postpone this measure. With respect to the measure of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Bourne) he could not, until he heard more of it, pledge himself to support it.

Mr. S. Bourne

, after repeating the nature of his proposition, said, that the learned member for Clare was quite mistaken in supposing that the Act respecting whipping would be revived by the bill of the noble Lord. That Act was altogether repealed, and no case of whipping could possibly arise, even if the noble Lord's bill, as it now stood, should pass into a law.

Lord Stanley

was glad to hear that the hon. and learned member for Clare was wrong in his law on this subject, because nothing could have been further from his (Lord Stanley's) intention than to revive such enactments. Under all circumstances, he thought the course he had already mentioned would be the best he could follow—namely, to withdraw the bill for the present, and to refer a measure of the same nature to a select committee in the next Session.