§ On the Question, that the Speaker leave the Chair,
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, that he was anxious to stop the progress of the Poor-laws' Amendment Bill altogether. The noble Lord had vaunted, that it would afford relief to agriculture; and when the repeal of the Malt-tax, or of the duty on agricultural horses was talked of, he had always said, that his measures upon the Poor-laws and upon tithes would accomplish all that was wanted. As to tithes, the noble Lord did not seem to be much in a hurry; his adversary was somewhat stout, and the noble Lord had not the courage to look him in the face; but the poor might be met—they might be looked in the face without danger; so, while the noble Lord fled from Dissenters and the Church, he was very vigorous in his attack upon the poor. He intended to propose, that the House should proceed no further with the Bill for the amendment of the Poor-laws, until it had investigated the increase of the poor-rates; he did not mean to press for the instructions of the barristers who had prepared the Bill, but to move the following resolu- 325 tion, "That, before the House proceeds further with the Bill, a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the cause or causes of the great increase of the poor-rates in England and Wales." If the Report laid on the Table did not afford sufficient reasons for this delay, it would be strange to him and stranger still, perhaps, to the people at large. After asserting, that the Poor-laws' Amendment Bill would afford effectual relief to the farmer, it was very natural that the noble Lord should introduce it; and after it had been read (he believed) a second time, another Report from the fertile brains of the Poor-laws' Commissioners was presented. The Commissioners had been instructed to find, whether the depression of agriculture arose from the increase of the poor-rates, or from the mal-administration of the Poor-laws. If they discovered that it did not, then there was clearly no necessity for this Bill. What did they report? That they had put this question to 1,717 gentlemen of England and Wales—"Do you think, that the amount of agricultural capital is declining?"—The real meaning being, in plain words, "Are the farmers worse off now than they used to be?" With one exception, the whole 1,717 replied, that the farmers were poorer than formerly. The exception applied to the estate of the late First Lord of the Admiralty, which, it seemed, was so well managed, that were it not for Scotch bastards and Scotch vagrants, the farmers would have been in a better condition than formerly. Then the Commissioners followed up their first question by a second, which was coupled by the little conjunction "and"—"And do you attribute such increase or diminution to any causes connected with the administration of the Poor-laws?" Why did they put this question? It was just as much as to ask them, "Do say, it is owing to the Poor-laws—do say, that magistrates, overseers, and the poor are to blame, and that the latter will soon devour up the whole country, or our poor Chancellor of the Exchequer will go crazy." What reply had been given? Out of the 1,717 gentlemen, 401 had positively given it as their opinion, that the poor-rates had not been the cause of the diminution of agricultural capital: 1,157 assigned other causes—the weight of taxation, and, above all, great, sudden, and arbitrary changes in the currency: 159 only ascribed the 326 ruin of the farmers to the poor-rates. The noble Lord first brought in his Bill, then read it a second time; and next laid this Report of his own Commissioners on the Table, to show, that his Bill was necessary; yet the whole 1,717, excepting 159 persons, had given it as their decided opinion, that the depression of agriculture was not owing to the poor-rates, or to the administration of the Poor-laws. It was just as if the noble Lord had said: "I will show you what power and influence I possess—I will bring in a bill, and pretend to back it up by a Report which directly contradicts it, and yet I will make the House of Commons pass the Bill; if it will not go, I will drag it with me." It was curious, also, that, of the 159 persons, twelve or fourteen were anonymous witnesses, one of whom was indorsed by the Bishop of London. Surely the Bishop, at this day, might better have employed his time, than in supporting evidence against the poor, and one of the most ancient institutions of the country. There was another ancient institution, that at present much required his aid, and to that he had better confine his exertions. Another of the 159 witnesses was one of the Commissioners who went down to his own parish, signed the Report, and sent it to his brethren. Another was the member for the West Riding of Yorkshire; another, the member for Suffolk; another, the member for West Kent; another, the member for Stafford; another, the member for Warwick; and another, the member for Buckingham. To these were to be added the names of two Peers, Lord Radnor and Lord Seaford. They ought to look a little closer into the actual amount that was collected for poor-rates, and into the real portion of that amount from which the poor could be said to derive any relief. Eight millions was, in round numbers, the amount of the poor-rate; but, of this, the sum of 1,694,000l. was expended for other purposes than the relief of the necessitous and the afflicted. They ought to have it stated, plainly and precisely stated, to what purposes this sum was applied; for, in his (Mr. Cobbett's) opinion, the Game-laws, the punishment of poachers, and such like matters, had no little to do with this expenditure. Then there was the pay of the overseers, and all other sources of patronage. The amount that actually went to the relief of the poor did not exceed 5,000,000l. This 327 fearful increase of the poor-rates was the theme of every tongue; nothing else was thought of. But the 50,000,000l. of taxes—the increase there was never complained of in that House. Why the German Legion, then in Hanover, received, and had for the last twenty years been receiving, more than the county of Bedford—the much-abused county of Bedford—paid towards the relief of the poor. Before such a Bill as that before the House were passed, they ought to go into the abuses which prevailed—into the reckless squanderings which had taken place. Why should they not? In the time of James 1st the entire poor-rate of England, according to Chalmers, did not amount to more than 160,000l. per annum—not so much as was now expended in the purchase of workhouse dresses. According to a return made in 1776, 16,000l. was the sum paid to the relief of the poor by the county of Bedford; now it was 100,000l. In 1776, the amount paid by the whole kingdom was 1,400,000l.; now it was 8,000,000l. Let them compare that increase with the increase in the general taxation of the country, and see how they went on together. The fact was, that the increase of taxation was the real cause of the increase of the poor-rates. And yet they railed against the poor, and abused them and insulted them. Why, they did not make the debt—they were not the cause of a twenty-two years' war to put down the Jacobins and Levellers—they were not the cause of the dead weight. Why were they to be railed against? and why were not other burthens to be reduced as well as this burthen of poor-rate? If the Legislature proceeded any further with such a measure as that Poor-laws' Amendment Bill, the people would have the right to mark them down as most inconsistent in their conduct, and most inhuman in their dispositions; and, therefore, he should consider it his duty to divide the House upon his Motion.
§ Lord Althorp
did not consider it necessary to occupy the House above one or two moments. He begged to say, that he never had declared that the Poor-laws were the cause of the agricultural distress; but merely a great ingredient of it, and that the Bill, it might be fairly hoped, would go a considerable way in relieving that distress. He could safely appeal, in answer to the observations of the hon. member for Oldham, to numbers of hon. Gen- 328 tlemen then surrounding him, whether they were not in a much worse state in regard to the poor and the Poor-laws than ever they were before, and whether the parties gaining most by the Bill then before the House would not be the labourers themselves? The hon. member for Oldham said, its operation would be cruel; but would it not be a benefit to the labourer to be made independent? He denied, that it was intended to be, or that it would be cruel, and he was convinced, that it would prove of the greatest possible benefit to the labourer himself. He should, of course, oppose the Motion.
wished to know if it was a benefit to make the poor man a pauper, or if it was a benefit to the labourer to be refused assistance when he really wanted, unless he consented to enter a workhouse? He agreed with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobbett), that there were many causes of the increase of pauperism which had been entirely overlooked, especially the unfair way at present adopted of raising the revenue of the country, instead of making property contribute its fair proportion. He should support the Motion for this reason—that he thought it indecent thus to press forward a measure founded on evidence, which, he would venture to state, not one person in that House had read.
§ Mr. Hume
had gathered from the evidence—that to whatever part of England they turned, where the Poor-laws were badly administered, there they invariably found wages the lowest. In the north, where, generally speaking, abuses did not exist, the wages of labour were highest. He did not think the observations of the hon. and gallant Officer were just. What he looked at was this—did the Poor-laws do injury to the country? He said, that they did, and to none more than to the poor and labouring classes. He hoped the Motion would not be persevered in.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that ample inquiry should have been made before this measure was brought forward into the causes of the increase of the Poor-rates, and what it was that had produced the frightful extent of pauperism that at present prevailed throughout the country. But the noble Lord had prejudged the question by bringing in the Bill before a proper and full investigation had been gone into as to the causes that led to such a bill being at all required. He was not 329 opposed to all legislation on this subject; but he was of opinion, that relief from taxation would go much further towards relieving all classes of the agricultural population than any Bill of this description. If taxes were reduced, the labourer would be left to depend for his support on his own unshackled industry, and would be taught to rely on his own exertions. This would be the proper mode to raise the labouring classes from pauperism and degradation, and, without it, all other means would be found to be futile and abortive.
§ Mr. Petre
concurred with what had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex. He did not think the hon. member for Oldham, who had just addressed the House, would be found to turn out a true prophet. That hon. Member had prophesied that the present Bill would not be carried into operation, and that if it should, it would be the cause of destructive consequences. Now, he would say in contradiction, that not only the Bill would be carried into operation; but that it would be seen, in the course of two or three years, that it had worked considerable good. The public would then see who was the true prophet—he or the hon. member for Oldham. He had never seen more wisdom and good advice contained in any thing than he saw in the Report of the Poor-law Commissioners.
§ Mr. Hodges
said, that if the House should be pressed to a division, he would divide with the hon. member for Oldham, but after what had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex, he thought it would be more advisable to withdraw the Motion.
§ Mr. Slaney
The hon. member for Oldham had said, that taxation was the great cause of the depression of the poor. Now, taxation was spread over all parts of the kingdom. How came it then that the poor were differently circumstanced in different parts of the country? How came it that the poor of some counties were more depressed than the poor of others? If taxation were the cause, they would be all equally depressed, whereas it would be seen that the labourer of Northumberland and Yorkshire was very differently situated from the labourer of Sussex. His opinion was, that the present Bill would place the labouring peasants of the southern counties on the same footing with those of the northern counties, and that it would save them from the depressed 330 and degrading situation they were now in. He should oppose the Motion.
§ The House divided on Mr. Cobbett's Motion—Ayes 8; Noes 140; Majority 132.
|List of the AYES with the TELLERS.|
|Cobbett, W.||Finn, W. F.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Godson, R.|
|Evans, Colonel||Hodges, T. L.|
|Faithfull, G.||Robinson, G.|
|Fielden, J.||Scholefield, J.|
§ The House went into the Committee.
§ The 33rd Clause having been put,
expressed his satisfaction, that the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had so altered the clause that rate-payers should be entitled only to one vote. He thought it desirable that the clause should receive further alteration, and that the holders and owners of property should not have more than one vote. The more the Poor-laws were left in the hands of the lower classes of rate-payers, the better would they be administered. It was for that reason that they should be put on the same footing with the owners of property, and that both classes should have but one vote for their several parishes. He should therefore move, that the 33rd clause be omitted, and that another be proposed containing the principle he mentioned.
§ Mr. Hume
seconded the Motion. He thought there was another reason why the noble Lord should concur in it, namely, that it would be making the Bill more acceptable in the large parishes of the metropolis, and of the great towns. There was no part of the Bill so much disliked and opposed in the large parishes of Middlesex as that which gave the right of having accumulative votes. There was a very good reason for this dislike. The rate-payers at vestry meetings would be borne down by those persons who had more than one vote. Proprietors could not have the same interest in parish rates that tenants had, since it was the latter who paid them. It appeared to him, therefore, most monstrous that the tenants, who paid the rates, should have but one vote, whilst the proprietors, who did not contribute to them, should have several votes towards the making of them. He hoped the noble Lord would equalize the right of voting, and not allow the proprietors to over-ride the tenants.
objected to the accumulative vote, and said, that the inhabitants 331 of the parish of St. Martin considered that their vestry was an open one; but that, whenever they endeavoured to try the case in vestry, they were outvoted by those who voted according to Sturges Bourne's Act.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that in the altered form in which this clause now appeared, two new principles had been introduced into it—the one was, to allow the owners of property to vote, and the other was to allow them to vote by proxy. He thought, that if it was admitted that those were principles which it was desirable to introduce, it would follow as a necessary consequence, that the right of having cumulative votes should also be vested in the owners of property. It was true, that the immediate expense of supporting the poor fell upon the occupiers of the land. That was the fact, generally speaking, though there might be individual exceptions to it, and therefore they were bound to assume it in legislating for the whole country. But there was not the least doubt that the effects arising from an increase or diminution in the Poor-rates affected the landlord much more than the occupier. Owing to a variety of causes, the occupier of the soil was not so much concerned in an increase of the Poor-rates as the landlord was. He could, for instance, say to himself, "If the Poor-rates are high, my rents must be low;" and in that way he could counterbalance the evil. But the landlord was ultimately the suffering party, while at present he had not the power of influencing the management of the poor, or of voting at the vestry. He considered it an act of great injustice to deprive a man who might have the greatest interest in a parish of a vote at its vestry. It was, in his opinion, a clear principle, then, that the owners of property should have votes as well as the occupiers. Then came the principle of giving them the power to vote by proxy. In political matters it was true, that a great difference of opinion might exist as to the propriety of the principle of voting by proxy. But it was a different thing to allow owners of property, as a matter of accommodation, to vote in matters which concerned their pecuniary interest. If a gentleman who lived in Northumberland possessed the right of voting through a property that belonged to him in Cornwall, of what avail or use would that right be to him unless he could exercise it 332 through his agent? As the Bill originally stood, the right of giving cumulative votes was continued, as under Mr. Sturges Bourne's Bill, not only to the owners, but to the occupiers of property. He would admit, that the object of introducing that into the clause as it stood originally was for the purpose of conciliation, and to render the Bill more popular. He was now, upon further consideration, ready to concede that the occupiers of property should not have the right of cumulative voting. He would not deny, that in the Middlesex parishes, as the hon. Member for that county had stated, great objections would be taken to the modification made in this clause, but then great objections would be made by other parishes, for instance the parishes in Lancashire, against taking away the right of cumulative voting from the owners of property. To exemplify the injustice of taking away that right, he would just put the case of a landlord who had in his possession the greatest portion of a parish, and who would not have more power, though he had infinitely more interest in the administration of its parochial concerns, than any of the occupiers of property in it, unless this cumulative right of voting should be granted to him. It did not appear to him that any danger would arise in the conduct of parochial affairs from granting this power to the owners of property, the great danger to be apprehended was from the occupiers of property not caring about the increase of the poor-rates. If the owners of property did not get the right of cumulative voting, it would be a matter of indifference to them to have the right of voting at all; for if they came to have only one vote for their property in the parish, they would have no power at all in the conduct of parochial affairs. For these reasons he would maintain the clause as it stood. With regard to the right of cumulative voting, proposed originally to be extended to the occupiers of property, as he did not think that it would produce that contentment which was the object of it, he thought it desirable to take it away.
§ Mr. Grote
was of opinion, that the distribution of the right of voting, as proposed in the clause, would be attended with mischievous effects in town parishes. He never believed that any such conspiracy as that feared by the noble Lord would ever take place on the part of the rate-payers in the town parishes for an 333 increase of the poor-rates, and to the detriment of the owners of property there. He would suggest, therefore, to the noble Lord to alter the clause so as to allow the right of cumulative voting to the owners of property in rural parishes, and to restrict it in town parishes. With regard to the right of voting by proxy, he considered it quite unobjectionable in this case, and he did not object to the principle of allowing the owners of property, as well as the occupiers of it, the right of voting.
§ Lord Althorp
had no doubt, that in town parishes great objections would be taken to the granting of this right of cumulative voting to the owners of property, but it did not appear to him that any mischief would be produced by it. In the parish of Marylebone, for instance, Mr. Portman's having five or six votes would not enable him to overrule or overbear the rate-payers in that parish. His having such a right of voting would be a matter of no consequence to the rate-payers there. In fact, the great number of the rate-payers in the metropolitan parishes rendered it impossible that they could be overborne by the cumulative votes of the owners of property, and it was not worth while to alter the Bill to obviate the objections that might be made to this clause in those parishes.
§ Mr. Baines
objected upon constitutional grounds to both the new principles introduced into the clause, and he should be astonished to find that such principles could be adopted in a reformed Parliament. Two principles more adverse to the rights of popular election and popular representation could not be suggested.
§ Mr. Hawes
did not think, that either in town or country, with the Commissioners directing, as they would under the Bill, the administration of the Poor-laws, there was any necessity for returning to the provisions or principles of Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act. He trusted, at all events, that the noble Lord would consent not to apply this clause to the town parishes.
§ Lord Sandon
observed, that under Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act, which had been adopted in the town of Liverpool, the rates had been reduced one-third. He was afraid, that if even the clause in its amended shape should be passed, that parish would return to its former riotous state, and the rates would be increased. He would rather have the clause as it stood originally than have a new right of 334 voting created. He considered as odious the principle of voting by proxy. It would excite a very strong feeling when it was conjoined with the right of cumulative voting against the Bill in populous places. Under the circumstances, he would rather vote against the clause altogether.
§ Mr. Jervis
observed, that in the town of Chester, where the Poor-laws were administered according to the old constitutional mode, they were as well administered as in any part of the country. Every person who had a right to vote had as much interest, and should have as much power, in the management of the Poor-laws as any of the owners of property. He was against the introduction of such new and unconstitutional principles. The noble Lord not only proposed to give the right of cumulative voting, but also the right of voting by proxy to the owners of property, at the very moment when there was a notice on the Journals of the other House of a Motion to take away the unconstitutional right of voting by proxy there.
§ Lord Howick
remarked, that the only purposes for which the right of voting would be vested in the owners of property were two. First, voting in the election of guardians of the poor, and secondly, in deciding on adopting or rejecting certain rules proposed to them by the Central Board. Their votes would have nothing to do, as at present, in the management of the poor-rates. Now, surely no persons could be more interested in electing proper guardians of the poor than the owners of property. The noble Lord instanced the example of Scotland, where the heritors having votes had been productive of the most beneficial effects in the administration of the Poor-laws.
§ Mr. Cripps
was of opinion, that such a clause, at least as regarded country parishes, would be, generally speaking, just and equitable—he did not say, that it would be popular, for he did not like the word. They would all agree that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should act justly, and if his doing so should render him unpopular, blame did not attach to him.
§ Mr. Gisborne
was of opinion, that no owners of property should be allowed to vote whose property would not revert to them within a given period—say fourteen years. He thought, for instance, that 335 owners of property who had it leased out for twenty-one years should not have the right of voting.
§ Mr. Benett
observed, that leases for twenty-one years were very uncommon in England, and they were unknown in his part of the country. The tenants there were generally tenants-at-will. He hoped that the clause would not be given up, as he looked upon it as the best clause in the Bill.
§ Mr. Cobbett
hoped, if the Bill passed, this clause would remain in it; as then it would tell every man in England what was the object of the measure—namely, to cause the landlords to receive more, and the labourers to receive less. ["No, no."] He liked to hear hon. Gentlemen say no, no, to that, but he would maintain that if the Bill passed with this clause in it, that would be the character which the people of England would universally ascribe to this measure. In no less than twenty-five parishes in the county of Sussex, the Select Vestries had, in consequence of the dissensions created by the operation of Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act, dissolved themselves and existed no longer. He hesitated not to say, that Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act, created the riots in the neighbourhood of Winchester, and in the county of Sussex. Great as had been the innovation upon the rights of the parishioners by the operation of this Act, yet it was now contemplated to take away the remaining rights of the tenants and give them to the landlords. He supposed this was the consequence, and in accordance with that march of the spirit of the age which had been adverted to by a noble Lord in another place. He did not know whether it might be in accordance with the spirit of the age, but he was satisfied such a concession was not in accordance with the feelings or spirit of the people of England. Though he felt convinced that the present Bill, even if it were passed, would not succeed, yet he hoped, that at all events, the present clause would be allowed to remain in it. If the hon. and gallant Member chose to divide the House, he would not vote with him, because he thought the Bill was so bad that it could not be mended. The present clause, however, as it stood went far to defeat many objectionable portions of the Bill, which in itself was an act of studied tyranny. He was surprised to have heard what had fallen from the 336 hon. member for Bradford, acute and sensible as was that hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member had said, that the poor-rates were finally paid by the landlord. He denied the position, for he contended that the poor-rates were ultimately paid neither by the landlord nor his tenants, but by those who purchased and consumed the sacks of wheat and corn. It might as well be said, that he (Mr. Cobbett) paid his forty sovereigns for the stamps on his newspaper—those sovereigns neither came out nor went into his pocket, but to the Exchequer from the pockets of his purchasers. He repeated his hope, that the clause would be permitted to remain part of the Bill, as the effect of it would be to make the measure inoperative.
§ Lord Althorp
expressed his disinclination to withdraw the clause, though he admitted that a distinction existed between rural and town districts. But it should not be forgotten, that the clause only affected three branches of the duties of a vestry, namely, the election of guardians of the poor, the effecting the union of parishes, with a view to the Law of Settlement, and lastly the building of workhouses. On these important occasions, the owners of property being as they were the most interested in every parish, it was desirable to give them some additional weight upon such questions as were brought before the vestry for a decision. In town parishes it must be admitted that the rate-payers were very numerous, and the cumulative right of voting given to a few individuals could not create any preponderating influence in such districts. He thought the objection in towns to the clause was really more matter of feeling than anything else, and that as a benefit would be conferred by its enactments upon rural districts, as was generally admitted, he could not but think it was desirable to retain the clause.
§ Mr. Grote
said, that if the noble Lord could show how a distinction could be made in the operation of the clause between rural and town districts, he would support it as it now stood. In the absence of such demonstration he hoped the noble Lord would take the provisions of the clause into further consideration, and at present consent to postpone it.
Sir Thomas Freemantle
thought the objection which had been taken to the clause had been much magnified; and so 337 far from agreeing with some of those objections, he was of opinion that to the landlord should be preserved that influence, on great and important questions, which were retained in the clause as amended by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
admitted, that the system of voting as proposed would be beneficial to the rural districts, but hoped that the clause would be allowed to stand over for further consideration.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, that he could see no beneficial result likely to arise from the landlords or owners having a plurality of votes. As far as his experience (which was principally confined to towns) went, be found that the smaller rate-payers were the most in favour of economy. If the object of the Bill was to reduce the rates, the means proposed would not conduce to the end. He thought, that if proxies were allowed, they should be confined to inhabitants, who would feel an interest in the welfare of the poor of these districts; for it would create great dissatisfaction if a number of persons from an adjoining township should come down with proxies and overrule the resident rate-payers.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 35; Noes 128—Majority 93.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Jervis, J.|
|Attwood, T.||Kennedy, J.|
|Baines, E.||Lalor, P.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Langstone, J. H.|
|Briggs, R.||Lister, E. C.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Bryan, C.|
|Clay, W.||Philips, M.|
|Evans, Colonel||Poulter, J. S.|
|Evans, G.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Ewart, W.||Scholefield, J.|
|Faithfull, G.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Fielden, J.||Tennyson, Rt. Hn. C.|
|Fryer, R.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Gaskell, D.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Hawes, B.||Wason, Rigby|
|Humphery, J.||Torrens, Colonel|
§ Mr. Jervis afterwards moved, "that that part of the clause which relates to proxies be omitted."
§ The Committee again divided: Ayes 30; Noes 125—Majority 95.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Attwood, T.|
|Baines, E.||Jervis, J.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Lalor, P.|
|Bewes, T.||Lister, C.|
|Brotherton, J.||Madocks, J.|
|Buller, E.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Clay, W.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Collier, J.||Scholefield, J.|
|Ewart, W.||Tennyson, Rt. Hn. C.|
|Faithfull, G.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Fielden, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Fryer, R.||Wallace, T.|
|Hawes, B.||Williams, Colonel|
|Heathcote, J.||Wilbraham, G.|
|Hume, J.||Wood, Alderman|
§ Clause 33 was then ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ On the Question that Clause 36 should be agreed to,—
§ Mr. P. Scrope moved, that a proviso should be added to the clause, to the effect, that no officers appointed under the Act should be authorised to put poor persons into any place considered a workhouse, for the purposes of the Act, unless it had been previously ascertained to be fit for their reception by the personal inspection of two Justices of the Peace, or by the report of other persons, made on oath to them; and, further, that in the event of the said Justices being of opinion, that the place was not in a fit condition for the reception of poor persons, they should be empowered to order them to be relieved out of the workhouse.
§ Lord Althorp
opposed the Amendment as unnecessary. The Commissioners would have the power to make the proper regulations for workhouses.
condemned the cruel practice of separating a man from his wife in the workhouse; it was opposed to humanity, and contrary to the dictates of the highest authority. It could not be denied, that the circumstance to which he alluded was felt most acutely by those whose only crime was their poverty. On more than one occasion, lately, there had been rebellion in different workhouses on that very account. He had known instances in which the enforcement of this regulation had almost broken the hearts of those to whom it was applied.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the separation of man and wife was necessary, in order to ensure the proper regulation of workhouses.
§ Mr. Hodges
wished to know, whether the workhouses under the Act were to be district houses of correction, and whether 339 the Commissioners would have the power to erect treadmills in them?
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the workhouses would be managed as they were at present, but more strictly; care would be taken to prevent disturbance which might annoy the sick and infirm. The hon. Member need not be under any apprehension with respect to the erection of treadmills in the workhouses, because, if he remembered rightly, they could not under the Act be erected in any places except gaols. He could assure the hon. Member, that there did not exist the slightest intention of making the workhouses houses of correction, and measures would be taken to maintain regularity and good order, and that he believed would have the effect of excluding ill-conditioned persons.
§ Sir H. Willoughby
observed, that although the Poor-law Commissioners in their report stated, that where a large number of persons were congregated in a workhouse, it was impossible to prevent the rapid extension of vicious feeling, they singularly enough concluded by recommending the establishment of the system.
§ Mr. P. Scrope
mentioned the case of a poor tinker, eighty years of age, who accompanied by his wife aged seventy, sought relief at a workhouse in the country, but being told that he must enter the house, and be separated from his wife, he went away. Shortly after, impelled by hunger, he returned and entered the house, but died in a few days of a broken heart.
§ Mr. Benett
objected to the discretionary powers given to the Commissioners, of sending labouring men to the workhouse, because they might happen to want relief on any temporary occasion, or to make up his means. A man might thus be deprived of the advantage of earning 8s. per week, which would be a hard case; the more so, when it was considered, that when once in the workhouse, it would be difficult for the pauper to get out again, even if work were offered to him. His cottage would be in some other person's occupation, his furniture gone; and, unless the parish replaced both, the man must stop where he was.
§ The Amendment was withdrawn, and the Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 45 being read,
§ Mr. P. Scrope moved, as an Amendment,—"That no rule or order of the Commissioners should prohibit the guardi- 340 ans of unions from giving relief out of the workhouse to such of their sick or impotent poor, and to such widows, orphans, and illegitimate children, as they might think fit so to relieve.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he should like to know what part of the Bill deprived the guardians of those powers?
§ Mr. P. Scrope
said, his object was to prevent the Commissioners from issuing any prohibition to that effect, which, under the powers bestowed on them in the Bill, they might.
§ Clause postponed—House resumed—Committee to sit again.