HC Deb 08 May 1833 vol 17 cc1065-7
Mr. Pryme

said, that the object he had in view was to induce the House to pass a Resolution directing that in every Inclosure Bill hereafter passed, a clause shall be inserted to provide for the allotment of a certain portion of land, to such of the labouring poor as shall be willing to hire it at a moderate rent. He apprehended that would be one of the best modes of withdrawing the agricultural labourer from illegal or profligate pursuits, and of restoring to him, at least in some degree, those habits of steadiness and providence which were wont to be his chief characteristics. The plan had already been tried in several places, and particularly at Saffron Walden, with complete success; and by the Report of a Society, calling itself "The Labourers' Friend Society," it appeared that it had led not only to a considerable increase of the comforts of the poor, but also to a material diminution of the Poor-rates in every instance in which it had been carried into operation. What he proposed was, "that a portion of land be allotted out of the commonable lands, or waste grounds to the incumbent of the living, and the parish officers, for the time being, and the owners of 100 acres of land, in such parish, as trustees, to let the same in small portions at low rents, to all labourers resident in the parish, who may be desirous of hiring the same—such rents to be paid to the parish officers for the time being, in aid of the Poor-rates." And in contemplation of any objection that might be raised as to the impossibility of particular parishes being able to comply with such a regulation, he had added this proviso—"unless any special reason can be shown why such allotment cannot conveniently or properly be made in that particular instance." He trusted, therefore, that he had so worded the Motion, as effectually to shut out any objection that such a resolution or such a plan could not be adopted, because it could not be made applicable in every instance. One of the arguments which he had heard urged against the proposition was, that it would interfere to the prejudice of private property. He maintained that it would have no effect of the kind—on the contrary, by improving the condition of the poor—by rendering them more contented, more happy, and more orderly, and, at the same time, by diminishing the Poor-rates—it would confer a great benefit rather than effect any injury to private property. Of the few instances in which the experiment had been tried, he would mention two. In one parish the plan was adopted in 1819, at which time the poor-rates amounted to 2,000l. a-year; but in 1830, after it had been in operation for ten years, the Poor-rates were reduced to 1,400l. a-year. In the other instance—that of Saffron Walden, in consequence of the adoption of this plan, the poor-rates had been reduced from 3,000l. to 2,000l. a-year. Independent of this reduction in the Poor-rates, there was another point of view in which the plan seemed to have worked most advantageously. During the period of the disturbances in the agricultural districts, although the surrounding country was nightly alarmed by fires, and the day rendered dangerous by tumultuous bodies of machine-breakers, the parish of Saffron Walden was wholly undisturbed, and no destruction of property took place there. It appeared, too, that the rent of the small portions of land allotted to the labourer had always been punctually and cheerfully paid, without any demand for reduction, although all other rents of land had been lowered nearly thirty per cent. Further, it appeared that where the plan had been adopted, the idle and mischievous among the rural population—the thief and the poacher—had been converted into honest and industrious men. Having mentioned the general objects of his Motion, as well as some of the results of previous experiments, which should recommend it to the adoption of the House, he might, perhaps, be allowed to cite another instance, which was, perhaps, stronger than any to which he had yet alluded, and which seemed to afford conclusive evidence of the propriety of a general resolution of this kind being adopted. In an Inclosure Bill passed for a parish in the county of Huntingdon, in 1830, a clause was inserted for the allotment of about twenty acres of land, to be let out in the manner that he proposed, to the agricultural population of the place, which consisted of about 400 persons. The inhabitants of this parish had previously been rather idle and disorderly than otherwise; the Sunday was commonly spent in drunkenness and riot—pauperism prevailed to a very great extent, and little of providence or industry was to be found amongst them. The Bill had now been in operation for little more than twelve months; but, during that short period, the change effected in the disposition of the inhabitants had been most striking; they were become industrious, provident, steady, happy, and comfortable. Many burnings of agricultural stock, and much breaking of machinery, took place around them; but the inhabitants of this parish, though formerly of a disposition to join in such proceedings, not only abstained from doing so, but, in the only instance of a fire which took place within the parish, they turned out a man, to save everything that it was possible to save. The hon. Member concluded by moving the following Resolution:—"That the Committee, on every Inclosure Bill, shall, in their Report, certify whether a portion of land, as near to the village as conveniently may be, and not less than in the proportion of one acre to every twenty-five inhabitants, according to the last population census, has been by such Bill directed to be allotted out of the commonable lands or waste grounds, to the incumbent of the living, and the parish officers for the time being, and the owners of 100 acres of land in such parish, as trustees, in trust to let the same in small portions, at low rents, to all labourers resident in the parish, who may be desirous of hiring the same, such rents to be paid to the parish officers for the time being, in aid of the Poor-rates, or whether there be any special reason why such allotment cannot conveniently or properly be made in that particular instance."

Mr. Hume

did not rise to oppose the Motion, but he thought that on one of such importance the Resolution ought to be printed, and full time allowed for its consideration. He would therefore propose that the debate on this question be adjourned to that day week.

Debate adjourned.