HC Deb 09 March 1830 vol 23 cc3-8
Mr. Alderman Thompson

, in presenting a Petition signed by 400 respectable inhabit- ants of Merthyr-Tydvil, complaining of great distress, said that the petitioners had so little business, and profits were so low, that they were hardly able to exist. The manufacturers and artizans having barely the necessaries of life, the shopkeepers and tradesmen were suffering most severely, and many of them had no business at all. The petitioners prayed for a reduction of taxation, as the only means of relief. He could bear his testimony to the truth of the petition, but he was bound to add that he believed the pressure would speedily pass away. He would enter into further particulars did he not anticipate a better opportunity for doing so when the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne brought forward his motion.

Sir Christopher Cole

bore his testimony to the severe sufferings of the petitioners, and at the same time said, they had, in the midst of all their sufferings, displayed invariable loyalty and good conduct. He was happy, however, to say, that there had of late been a gradual improvement in the trade of that part of the country.

Petition read and printed.

Lord Althorp

presented a Petition from the Grand Jury of the County of Northampton, complaining of the sums of money paid for passing Irish and Scotch Vagrants. It was difficult, his Lordship said, to credit the expense to which parishes were subject on this account. A single parish, in 1825, paid 797l. for the purpose; in 1828 it paid 688l., and last year 777l. If by this expense those paupers were permanently removed, so as not again to become a burthen, it might be borne, but it unfortunately happened that the same expense was incurred, year after year, in passing the same identical paupers, who amused themselves apparently travelling through the country at the expense of the different parishes. Some legislative provision was, he thought, necessary on this subject, and he hoped hon. Members would attend to it.

Mr. Cartwright

stated, that he fully concurred in what had fallen from the noble Lord, and agreed with him that some remedy ought to be applied to this evil. The necessity of passing vagrants caused an enormous expense to parishes.

Mr. Greene

concurred in this representation of the evil. In the absence of a noble Lord (Stanley), he begged to say that it was his intention to bring some measure respecting this subject under the notice of the House at an early day. He knew of one parish in Lancashire which was subject, on this account, to an annual expense of nearly 3,000l.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, that there was abundant proof of the expense occasioned by Irish vagrants; but he knew no examples of money thus spent in the conveyance of Scotch vagrants. Scotland would be glad to maintain her own vagrants, if she had none others to support, but she was burthened to a great extent with the expense of supporting Irish paupers.

Mr. Munday

expressed his satisfaction, that an evil which had long been seriously felt in many parts of the country, had at length attracted the attention of the House, and he hoped that the committee, for which he understood the noble Lord meant to move, might devise some remedy.

Sir James Graham

said, he could inform his hon. friend the Member for Kircudbright, that the expense of passing Scotch paupers was very considerable in the county which he represented.

Mr. C. Davenport

could also inform the House, that where he resided, the expense of passing Scotch and Irish paupers was very great, and he would give his strenuous support to any measure for relieving the country from this enormous expense.

Sir M. W. Ridley

also asserted, that the expense of passing Scotch vagrants was very considerable, and which fell very heavy in some of the northern counties. Where he resided it was very severely felt, and would, he was afraid, continue as long as the practice was continued of banishing men from Scotland. Whether that were a punishment or not to the individuals he would not say, but it was a severe infliction for the northern parts of England which had to pay for the passing and repassing of these banished Scotchmen.

Mr. O'Connell

thought, that if Irish vagrants were to be driven from this country, their deportation should be provided for at the expense, not of the country to which they were going, but of that in which they had spent their life, and enriched by their labour. It would be cruel on those men, after having spent their youth in the service of England, to send them back in their old age to starve in Ireland, or be a burthen on a land they had voluntarily quitted. There was an- other class of vagrants he should like to see transported to Ireland. He meant the rich vagrants, who collected their rents in that country, to spend them in foreign lands.

Mr. Littleton

said, that he did not think the case of the Irish vagrants was quite what the hon. and learned Member for Clare represented it. They did not benefit the country one-half so much by their labour as they injured it by the excessive competition they introduced, and the paupers their system of working created. He could assert, that they were a real grievance to the central counties. Staffordshire alone had paid 2,000l. a-year for the expenses of their removal, and the sum was increasing. He trusted the hon. Member for Lancaster would soon submit to the House some measure to remedy this evil.

Mr. George Dawson

said, that injustice was often committed towards Ireland in removing thither the female vagrants with whom the men had formed connections in this country. With regard to Scotland, he could show that invitations were often sent over to Ireland for labourers to go to Scotland, where they were wanted to underwork the active labourers of the soil, and they were then sent back in a very miserable condition, after they had served the purposes of those who had called them over.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

observed, that the hon. Gentleman must be mistaken, as Scotland unfortunately possessed no power of sending back the vagrants to their own country. That was the great defect in her law. In one county alone there had been 40,000 Irish paupers. He repeated what he had before said, that Scotland would gladly maintain her own poor if she had no others to support. In reply to his hon. friend, the Member for Cumberland, he would say that he did not assert that there were no Scotch vagrants in England, but only that the number was small.

Mr. Griffith

said, the hon. and learned Member for Clare was mistaken in the way in which he had spoken of the Irish vagrants. Our great evil was, that as soon as they had been sent back to Ireland they came back again, and out of a large number very few would at any time be found who had not been in this country before. They made a trade of this passing and repassing between the two countries.

Sir R. Heron

said, that the Irish labourers who found their way into Lincolnshire were very useful, and he had generally found them to be very orderly, well behaved men.

General Gascoyne

declared that the Irish vagrants were a grievous tax upon the people of Liverpool. One-half, or nearly two-thirds of the taxes raised in that town for the poor, were directly or indirectly consumed on account of the Irish vagrants. He thought an act ought to be passed declaring that every person who brought over an Irishman here, and did not give security that he should not become a burthen to any parish, should be liable either to pay a penalty, or to have him sent back to Ireland. He was quite sure that England would gladly take back all her paupers, from both Ireland and Scotland, if those two countries would undertake to receive their own from this country. He hoped the noble Lord would lose no time in bringing forward his promised measure.

Mr. Slaney

thought, that all the schemes for preventing the emigration of the vagrants of one of the three countries into either of the other two would be found useless, so long as the condition of the labouring classes in either of the three was superior to that of the same men in the other. The only mode of preventing the emigration of Irish vagrants here was to raise the condition of the peasantry of that country, and to place them as nearly as possible on a level with the peasantry of England.

Mr. O'Connell

denied, that the poor of Ireland were any worse off than those of England. At least, they were not subject to the tyranny of parish overseers and select vestries.

Sir C. Burrell

contended, that select vestries, which in London were considered such evils, in the country produced great advantage. They exercised no tyranny over the poor, but promoted their happiness.

Mr. G. Dawson

contended, in opposition to what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for Liverpool, that that town derived the highest benefit from its contiguity to Ireland, instead of sustaining any injury, and that the Irish labourers paid in the sweat of their brows for whatever they obtained in this country. Very few cases could, he believed, be found, of an Irishman being a willing pauper. He would be glad to work if he could get employment, and only begged when he was sick or out of work.

Mr. Benett

argued that the evil arose out of a difference of laws relating to the poor prevailing in England and Ireland. The sure remedy was, to establish the same Poor-laws in both. The existing tithe-system in Ireland prevented the outlay of capital upon the land there, and the extension of cultivation. If some equitable means could be found out for commuting the tithes there, it would give, he believed, a great stimulus to the demand for labour in the country, and both keep the peasantry at home, and improve their condition.

Mr. Protheroe

concurred with the hon. Member for Wiltshire, and said, he was sure that the evil must speedily be remedied some way or other.

Sir Robert Inglis

stated, that the expense of removing every pauper was as great as if he were sent by the mail, and the expense fell on counties lying betwixt Liverpool and London, which derived little or no benefit from the labour of Irish labourers.

Petition read.