HC Deb 02 April 1833 vol 17 cc34-6
Lord Althorp

laid on the Table, by command, the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners. The noble Lord stated, that it contained only extracts from the evidence, not the whole of the evidence.

Mr. O'Connell

wished to take that opportunity of clearing up a misconception which he believed to have gone forth—namely, that he intended to make a Motion for giving Poor Laws to Ireland. This was incorrect; he might have thrown out some intimation on the subject, but he had given no decided notice. He would say, most decidedly, that from having read the extracts referred to, it would be impossible for him to acquiesce in any system of Poor Laws for Ireland: among all the misfortunes of his unhappy country, it had still the consolation of having hitherto avoided the Poor Laws.

Mr. Richards

had paid considerable attention to the subject, and had but lately arrived from Ireland, where he had also taken great pains in inquiring on this point; and since this visit he had become more convinced than ever as to the expediency and absolute necessity of this House passing some Act for providing for the indigent and half-starving poor of Ireland.

Mr. Hume

said, this was a question of the most extreme importance. He in-treated the House, before they proceeded to give Poor Laws to Ireland, first, to institute a strict inquiry into the monstrous abuses of the Poor Laws in England—abuses which were among the most destructive evils with which this country was afflicted, and which, unless some strong measures were adopted to put an end to them, would, ere long, bring ruin on the country. When they had looked into and corrected the abuses here, then he would say, give Ireland the benefit of the amended Poor Laws. But do not give Ireland the additional affliction of Poor Laws as they stood now.

Colonel Wood

was in favour of the proposed measure, as a charitable and humane provision for the miserably indigent poor of Ireland. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex, it did not seem to him to bear on the case, for it was quite a different thing to introduce a new system free from the errors of the old system into a country, and to set about revising so long existent and complicated code of Poor Laws, as was acted upon in this country. He trusted that the hon. member for Knaresborough would persevere; and without waiting till the Poor Laws were cleared from all abuses in England, would give to the Irish a system of Poor Laws purged from the evils and abuses to which the hon. member for Middlesex had alluded.

Mr. Pease

said, he hoped the hon. member for Knaresborough, when he brought forward this Motion, would be fully prepared to submit to the House some definite plan. There had been a great deal said on this subject, but hitherto he must confess he had not heard any practicable suggestion. Our system of Poor Laws, it was very universally asserted, would not be applicable to Ireland. No other practicable suggestion, however, had been offered; but he trusted that as the hon. member for Knaresborough intended bringing the matter before the House, he would, at the same time, come provided with some practicable plan.

Mr. Henry Grattan

said, that whoever had witnessed the frightful state of misery and disease in Ireland, must, if he were possessed of any feelings of humanity, advocate the introduction of Poor Laws into that country. In the great streets in Dublin, the number and condition of the poor was frightful; so urgent was their distress, that they were not content with merely asking casual charity, but they might be seen knocking with double or treble knocks at the great people's houses, and when the door, is opened thrusting themselves in, and demanding sustenance for themselves and their starving children. Some hon. Gentlemen and the absentees did not like Poor Laws; they were alarmed lest they should not get off without paying any longer. As an instance of the difference between what those who lived where there were Poor Laws had to pay, and those who lived where there were not Poor Laws, he would state, that for a few acres he had in Surrey, he paid as much in support of the poor, as the Lord Lieutenant of Wicklow did with all his large property. Since there was a union of the countries, let there be also a union of advantages. Before the introduction of Poor-rates here, England was not in a much better state than Ireland is in now.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that before the House came to a determination of introducing Poor-laws into Ireland, they ought to be fully satisfied that they were beneficial. He thought it very probable that the introduction of Poor-laws there would only serve to dry up the present fruitful sources of charity. He would not have Government do anything till the Report of the Commissioners had been carefully examined; then he would have them appoint a Commission composed of men the most suitable that could be found, for the purpose of inquiring into the exact state of the poor of Ireland, and to see how far in their judgment Poor-laws were applicable.