§ Lord Granville Somerset
was afraid, that under this Bill it would be impossible for poor persons to obtain relief if they should be opposed by the parochial authorities. The pauper had no means of enforcing his claim to assistance, except by appeal to a distant central board, or by indicting the parish officers. That might lead to starvation and cruelty. He wished to give Magistrates a power of enforcing relief in cases of extreme emergency. He was also desirous, that the Secretary of State should exercise the same supervision with regard to any suspension or alteration of existing regulations by the Commissioners as in the case of new rules.
§ Mr. Walter
said, that the Bill being in this advanced stage, he apprehended it was the duty of those who, like himself, had opposed it on its first introduction, to state whether their aversion was removed or diminished by the modifications it had undergone. It was possible, certainly, that the character of a measure might be totally altered by the various provisions introduced with a view to regulate its operation in detail: and he heard it said, with respect to this Bill, when objections were stated: "Oh, it will come out of the Committee a totally different thing." It had now come out of the Committee, and he asserted that it did not come out of it a totally different thing, but that whatever objections were entertained with respect to the principles of the measure at first, remained undiminished, or very little diminished, in its present stage. It was, in truth, as it had been justly called,—so far as related to the management and support of the poor, and in reference to the long-established Poorlaws,—a revolutionary measure. He did not think the statesmen of this age and nation wiser than the statesmen in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and that there- 914 fore the principles first laid down by the Ministers of that illustrious princess, however they might be modified in their application to existing circumstances, should be wholly cast away, and other principles, the invention of speculative heads, substituted in their place. There was this difference also between the law of Elizabeth and the present Bill—the former was an Act of Parliament, containing in itself a complete code of Poor-laws, in twenty brief and intelligible clauses, upon which the country acted from 1601 to 1662; whilst the latter, containing upwards of four-score clauses, neither brief nor very intelligible, was only part and parcel of a code consisting at present of 118 statutes. If from such a nucleus, for the present Bill was no more than a nucleus of what was to be, it increased with proportionate rapidity, he concluded that the new Poor-laws of England, before the natural death of the present Parliament, if it lasted the usual time, would he equal to those massive volumes of which a sample was lately produced by the right hon. member for Tamworth. For the sake of clearness and conciseness, he should confine his remarks to three of the chief provisions—the Central Board, the workhouse system, and the emigration scheme. Now, with respect to the Central Board, besides its despotic power, the objection was, that it created not merely fresh patronage, for one might have seen some bounds to that, but a fresh source of patronage which was immeasurable in its effect and extent. We could have found fault before, for example, with the Board of Taxes, the Victualling Board, the office of the Commander-in-chief, and many others, each as having too much patronage attached to it; but then these were old institutions, carried perhaps to a considerable excess. But who could calculate beforehand what would be the expense of a Central Board of Poor-law Commissioners, now first invented, and to push forth its arms into every parish of the kingdom? The only change under this head was, that the new Commissioners were not to have the same power, immunity, and irresponsibility as the ancient Judges of the realm; they were not to be allowed to imprison at will upon summary process; but the Commissioners were themselves, in one word, patronage,—newly created patronage—patronage liable to yearly and indefinite increase. All objection, therefore, to the Bill under this head was undiminished. Whatever were the evils 915 of the present Poor-law system, it at least possessed no patronage. With respect to the workhouses, had the Bill in Committee received improvement of so important a character as to do away with the objections on this head? Workhouses certainly existed before, but the change which this Bill suggested in them was of a most severe and oppressive character. The poor were liable to be removed from the vicinage of their friends, and all those little occasional helps which might soothe their distress in their native villages—removed to new faces, and to the severe custody of persons unacquainted with their previous habits. But what he would most particularly wish the House to mark under this head was, that the whole principle of the new law and the motives for its introduction were entirely violated and set aside by the most important provision in the 44th clause. What said the Report of the Commissioners on which the Bill was founded? That the present local authorities were often illiterate and ignorant men—that their motives were often as faulty as their capacity for business was deficient—that they were swayed by local habits, passions, and interests, and that they were liable to intimidation. And what said the Bill itself? Why, that at that very moment, when the inefficacy of the present local authorities was most glaring, and might be most fatal, the poor were at that very time to be tossed back from the central or provincial boards upon the despised and rejected local authorities. The professed principle of the Report was, that the poor should not be brought into contact with the local authorities, whilst the act and operation of the Bill was positively to put them into contact, and perhaps into collision with each other, and that at a time when both were in a state of the greatest excitement; for it appeared by the 44th clause as it now stood, that "if the overseers or guardians of any parish or union deem it advisable that relief should be given to any able-bodied persons out of the workhouse, or his or their families, who at the time of applying for such relief shall be wholly or partially in employment, it shall be lawful for such overseers or guardians, under the special circumstances of the case, to grant relief to such able bodied persons and their families, although they may at the time be wholly or partially employed. Here, therefore, he said, the overseers were brought in direct contact with those poor, which contact it was the professed object of the Bill 916 to prevent. The Poor-law Commissioners suggested, that the new local authorities should be divested of all discretionary power in the administration of relief, and the enactment gave them that discretion at a time when they were likely to be torn in pieces if they did not exercise it in a manner to please those with whom they were in contact. The third head on which he should speak was emigration, which the Commissioners had been pleased to call "an innocent palliative" of the evils of the present system, and they said, that "the abolition of partial relief will remove the main discouragement to emigration. It will increase the disposition to emigrate on the part of those whose emigration is to be desired." Objecting generally to the principle and details of the Bill, he should particularly mark this clause with respect to emigration, as cruel, impolitic, and in the result not likely to admit of complete execution. It appeared to him to be a clause by which one portion of any parish might be allowed to transport another for no other crime than that of poverty; and because the transporting party did not give itself the trouble to find employment for those whom it might choose to send out of the country; for it must be observed that the "emigrants," as they were mildly called, must be people capable of work—must be the young, the healthy, and the vigorous; or else sending them out of the country was but sending them to certain death and destruction. But it might be said, that the persons emigrating were to be voluntary fugitives; the clause stated that they were to be persons willing to emigrate. Now, he said that the will to emigrate—the inclination to be removed from your home—to break through all the ties of nature and the bonds of long habitude—to quit the place of your birth—to divest yourself of the love of ancient associates and the love of country—the inclination to break through all these ties, he said, did not depend on a man's self, but upon the treatment which he received from others at his home, at the place where he first saw the light, and where he must naturally wish to lay his bones. There might, no doubt, be here and there voluntary ramblers; but in general you must reduce a man to the most abject state of misery before you could drive him to that heart-rending condition, in which he should voluntarily apply to he removed for ever from his native land to he knew not whither. The will, therefore, to emigrate 917 depended not upon those who were thus transported, but upon those who transported them. In general there neither was nor could be any such thing as a voluntary emigrant for life. External circumstances, over which the individual had no control, drove the inclination in at the chinks of a breaking heart. Milton thus described certain emigrants of his day, who quitted their native country on account of religious persecution, and his remarks were equally applicable to those who quitted it under the persecution of want and hard treatment:—"There cannot be a more ill-boding sign to a nation (God avert the omen from us!) than when the inhabitants, to avoid insufferable grievances at home, were enforced by heaps to quit their native country." He had said, that this clause was never likely to admit of complete execution, and for this reason—it could not be said to be so completed till the debt contracted by the parish sending forth the emigrants was repaid. And when was that likely to be, he asked? You contracted your debt for the purpose of sending these voluntary emigrants out of the land. Your rates were therefore so much diminished by the interest due upon the debt; the residue would not be more than sufficient to supply a comfortable provision for the remaining paupers. The time for repayment approached—the clause limited it to five years. In the mean time, what was doing? Could you stop the course of nature? A fresh pauper population had been born, was growing up, and required support. What were you to do with them? Why, instead of the parish paying off its old debt, it must, if this dreadful system continued, borrow a fresh sum to send the new race out to Australia, to Canada, or wherever else it might be. He did say, therefore, that the clause was unnatural, and that it would never admit of complete execution. With respect to emigration itself, it addition to its violating the tenderest feelings of our nature, was it not liable to occasional terrors, arising from accidental causes? Who could have read without shuddering the various melancholy accounts which had very recently appeared of the sufferings of emigrants in their outward bound voyage? Several ships and many hundred lives had been lost. Now, although these might be accidents which could no be reckoned upon as of frequent occurrence yet they must naturally increase the terror of emigration, and render our population, 918 particularly the female part, the female part also with children, more averse to quit their quiet homes. Let it be observed, also, that ships for emigration had not the same appointments—not the same securities, as British ships of war, or even the trading vessels of rich commercial houses. Were he to venture further into the details of the Bill, he thought he could show more at large its severity and probable inefficiency. Whoever would take the trouble of comparing it with the Bill introduced by Mr. Pitt in 1796, and which actually passed through a Committee of that House, would find that the measure of that eminent statesman breathed a spirit of humanity and tenderness towards those who were the objects of it; whilst the present measure was harsh, and totally unaccommodating to the feelings of the poor. He felt very strongly that there was no occasion for this measure, and that the amendment of the old system was all that was necessary for the future management of the poor. But what he had already observed under the three chief heads, of the Central Board, the workhouses, and emigration, was sufficient to determine him with respect to the vote he should give, if the sense of the House should be taken upon the propriety of such a Bill passing into a law.
§ Mr. George Frederick Young
considered that it would be an act of moral cowardice on his part if he did not now say, that he still entertained towards the measure the same feelings of opposition which he expressed in the beginning of the discussion. He charged the promoters of the measure at the time of violating the soundest doctrines and principles of legislation when he saw them introducing a measure into that House based on opinions formed from partial conclusions. He knew many instances in which local abuses had been remedied without having recourse to general measures when parties on the spot wished to interfere. The Constitution of this country was dependent on the habits of the people, and he particularly thought all matters relating to charity, such as the relief of the poor, should be left to the feeling and good sense of the people without any interference on the part of the Government. He cordially concurred in several of the remarks made by the hon. member for Berkshire. It seemed that the noble Lord meant to make experiments upon the institutions of the country. He had one consolation however. The Bill 919 would not do all the injury expected from it, because it would not be long in existence. It would not practically work, and therefore would come to an end. The only clause of the Bill that met with his consent was that which limited the power of the Commissioners as to the duration of time, and he only wished that their powers were also limited as to space. He wished that their power was confined to agricultural parishes, and did not extend to towns. He had hoped for a modification of this measure; he had got none; and he was now determined to vindicate his former opinions by voting against all the future stages of the measure.
§ Mr. Benett
considered the powers granted to the Commissioners as being most outrageous, and he was surprised that any hon. Gentleman could consent to that portion of the Bill which conferred those powers. The intention of uniting parishes was monstrous. The parishes in the country and in country towns would never consent to be united with the parishes of manufacturing towns. It would be very easy, however, to find guardians of the poor who would wish to unite such parishes, and to make the union between them permanent. It was, therefore, his opinion that the clause which related to the union of parishes was an excessively unjust one. By that, of course, he meant unjust towards the agricultural parishes. He did not like the plan of having the parishes taken out of the hands of their provisional managers and placed in those of a Central Board of Commissioners. He objected strongly to the cramming of adults into workhouses, for in his county there would not be found more than one workhouse in every seven parishes. In looking to the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners he found them stating that small parishes were well managed, but the large ones were badly managed, though the overseers of them were paid. He was convinced that the Bill never could be carried into operation.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that although attempts had been made in the Committee to alter the objectionable character of this Bill, yet he did not think such alterations had been made as to justify the House in passing it at a late period of the Session. He would ask what evidence there was that the people out of doors entertained opinions favourable to the Bill, as there had been no petitions presented in favour of it, while a great many had been laid on the Table against it, and the latter were 920 signed by men practically conversant with the operation of the Poor-laws. The Magistates and Overseers of the poor had almost unanimously pronounced their opinion against the Bill. The only reason why so little opposition had been given to it in that House was, that it had been held out as a measure of relief to the landed interest. Indeed the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had stated, that he considered the Tithe Bill and this both to be measures of this nature. He had said more than once, that this Bill would tend to lessen the amount of the poor-rates, and thus benefit the agriculturist; but he was satisfied that it would be many years before there could be any material reduction in the poor-rates under this Bill, as it would be necessary to erect workhouses and incur other heavy charges. He never recollected any Bill of importance in that House with respect to which there was such a desire to give support to Government in every point. He recommended that the Bill should be withdrawn, and in the meantime it could be circulated throughout the country in its amended form, and it could then be brought forward under better circumstances early in the next Session. He regretted that he should feel it to be his duty to oppose the third reading of the Bill; it might not be with any prospect of success, but it would show his sense of the conduct of the Government.
§ Mr. Slaney
contended, that no subject had ever been submitted to the Legislature which had been more attentively examined by the House and the country than the present. For the sake of the poor and humble classes of the community, and if the House was constituted of those who were truly the Representatives of the people, they must be desirous of bettering the condition of the labouring classes, they should at once pass either this or some other Bill equally efficient. If he could for a moment think, that this Act would prove in the least degree injurious to the poor he would oppose it to the utmost of his power; but he was satisfied that it would have the effect of enabling the industrious poor to better their situation, and would, at the same time, afford great relief to the landed interest. The present Government had been the first to grapple with this extremely troublesome and difficult question, while other Administrations had merely applied palliatives, which, instead of affording relief, had tended to increase the evil. He congratulated his noble friend (Lord Althorp) at having brought 921 forward a measure to amend a system which, if allowed to continue, would ultimately ruin all the property in the country. His hon. friend the member for Wiltshire (Mr. Benett) never appeared to understand the sound principles which were acted upon in the north of England, where better wages were given to the good workman than to those who were idle and profligate, instead of giving all men the same rate of wages. He trusted, however, that in the course of a few years, he should see the labourers of Wiltshire in the same situation as those of Northumberland and Cumberland, and, instead of an uniform scale of wages, that the industrious man would be enabled to support his family without going to the parish for his pay, and that relief would only be given to the helpless. He had no doubt if the Bill passed, that in the course of a few years, even in the south of England, the poorer classes would make provision for themselves, by means either of the Savings' Bank or the Friendly Societies, and that a sense of pride would prevent their resorting to the poor-rates.
§ Mr. Richards
had, when the Bill was originally introduced, recommended that the powers of the Commissioners should be curtailed or controlled. Much had been done in the Committee to satisfy him on this point, and he should rejoice extremely to see it pass into a law. He was glad, notwithstanding the attempts made by the public Press to excite a feeling against this House in consequence of the support given to this Bill, that there was such a determination on the part of the Government and hon. Gentlemen to carry the measure into effect. He trusted, notwithstanding the violent articles which had appeared in one leading newspaper, and especially in the paper of that morning, which were utterly disgraceful to that journal, that Government would continue to rely upon the good sense of the House and the country. He almost felt called upon by a sense of duty to call the publisher of The Times newspaper to the Bar of the House for three articles; and the only thing which induced him to abstain from taking that step, was, that he was a young Member not much acquainted with the forms of the House. He was satisfied that this measure would be attended with the greatest advantages to the country, although he felt bound to state, that he believed that it might be amended with advantage in some of its details. If the present system, however, were not put a stop to all classes of the 922 community would be involved in common ruin; and, if it should not work so well as he wished he should still feel bound to give the Government the greatest credit for the manner in which they had introduced it into the House. But great a benefit as he thought the Bill would confer on property, it was much more for the benefit of the poor than for that of any other class. He trusted, that the Ministers would extend the principle of the Bill to Ireland, for if that country were left without Poor-laws it was quite clear that no improvement in their administration in England would tend to better the condition of the labouring classes. Permanently to improve the condition of the labouring classes in this country, it was absolutely necessary that they should also better the situation of the Irish poor. Merely to raise the condition of the labouring classes here without passing Poor-laws for Ireland, would only cause such an immigration of the Irish poor as would bear down the rate of wages to nearly the level of what they were in Ireland, and throw a large portion of the labourers on the poor-rates. He called upon the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) not to suffer Ireland to remain in its present condition, as it was a by-word throughout Europe, and most injurious to the interests of all classes in this country. He would only, in conclusion, express his earnest hope, that hon. Gentlemen, whether they were supporters or opponents of the Bill, would, if it should pass, exert themselves to see that its enactments were carried into effect in a mild but, at the same time, a firm manner.
§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
said, it had been asserted, that the present system had almost doubled the Poor-rates in the last twenty years; but such was not the fact. The amount now levied for the Poor-rates was only 300,000l. more than the amount raised in 1814, twenty years ago. The amount raised in 1814 was 6,400,000l., and the amount raised last year was 6,700,000l. It appeared, from the population returns, that the population had increased one-third during that period. If the Poor-rates had increased in the same proportion, they would be now 9,000,000l. The effect of this Bill would be, not to raise wages, but to lower them. Knowing the state of the public mind on this subject, he could not but consider that this Bill was like a firebrand thrown into a magazine of gunpowder; and he called upon the noble Lord to pause before he 923 made such a dangerous experiment. He protested against every part of the Bill—against that monstrous part of it relating to illegitimate children—against that part of it which created a parcel of bashaws to rule the country, but to whose rule he was sure the people of England would never submit. He protested against the part of it intended for forcing the people into workhouses, as cruel, futile, and unconstitutional, and, in fine, he protested against the whole Bill, and against all its clauses and enactments.
thought, that Government deserved praise for endeavouring to apply a remedy to the evils and abuses of the Poor-law system; but he had great apprehensions as to the consequences to be anticipated from this measure. Unless great care was taken in the administration of it, especially in the country districts, he looked forward with dismay to the effects that might arise from it. The country was certainly indebted to the Government for endeavouring to apply a remedy in this case, and those who objected to the remedy were undoubtedly bound to bring forward some other. He did not think, that they should deal so abruptly with the labouring population of the country. No doubt, the final result of the measure would be to effect an improvement in the condition of the people. He was sure, that that was the object of the Bill, and that the measure would not be for a moment countenanced by the Members of that House if such were not its object. If it did not ultimately effect an improvement in the condition of the labouring classes in this country, the measure would be good for nothing. It was no answer to him to point out the evils and difficulties of the present system, or of the situation in which the labouring classes of this country were at present placed, unless an easy exit out of those difficulties by some defined measure was submitted. Even if it were in his power to carry an opposition to the present Bill, he should propose that opposition with extreme reluctance: but he must remind the House of one, in his judgment, of the most essential parts of the Bill; he alluded to that which refused parochial assistance to able-bodied labourers who might from circumstances be unable to gain any part of the means necessary for their own subsistence. After the month of June next, the labourer could not have any wages made up by the aid or assistance of the parish; and if hon. Members 924 would for a moment recollect what was the condition of the labouring classes of a great portion of the country, at all events in his own district, he thought they would concur with him in his apprehensions that this change, effected by the clause to which he had alluded, would be brought most abruptly in operation. He confessed himself alarmed at the abruptness of the contemplated change, and he was of opinion, that to its effects the labouring classes ought to have been brought by degrees, and by such a course the alteration might have been effected with the most perfect safety; but now, by this particular clause of the Bill, the labouring classes would have almost immediately to meet the alteration under the infliction of all the encumbrances under which they at present laboured. If the provisions of the clause had been confined to the assistance to be afforded to children hereafter to be born, the minds of labouring men, who could not be supposed to be conversant with Acts of Parliament, or to be competent to entertain a notion of what might be the result of the measure coming upon them, would have accommodated themselves during the lapse of time to the preparation for the coming change. This portion of the Bill, in his opinion, required and justly called for, a more gradual and easy course of legislation than had been pursued, and in this feeling he was borne out by the evidence of one respectable and intelligent witness examined before the Committee upon agriculture of last year. He admitted, that the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) was entitled to the thanks of the country for having introduced some measure for the improvement of the existing Poor-laws. He, therefore, could hardly make up his mind to oppose the passing of the present Bill, though he could not but repeat his apprehensions that the Legislature was thereby effecting too abrupt and rapid a change.
§ Lord Althorp
expressed the satisfaction with which he had heard the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, because the hon. Gentleman seemed to concur with his Majesty's Government, that the present Bill was calculated to effect that for which it was intended, namely, the amelioration of the poorer classes of the community. His hon. friend had expressed his fears as to the abrupt mode in which that amelioration would be effected; and if the clause to which his hon. friend had referred was unaccompanied by other enactments, he should himself look to the 925 doing away with the allowance system with considerable apprehensions. But his hon. friend must remember, that the clause was accompanied by provisions, enabling the Commissioners to bring the operation of the change in the allowance system gradually into effect. Under such circumstances, he hoped his hon. friend would see that his objection was removed. A noble Lord, not then in his place, (Lord G. Somerset) had expresssed an opinion, that too much power was given by this measure to the parochial authorities to refuse relief in cases of emergency. He must say, that he thought the Bill strengthened the law under which, as he believed, overseers were indictable, if they did not afford relief in cases of extreme necessity. Though the noble Lord wished that Magistrates should have the power to order relief in cases of emergency, he should bear in mind that one of the provisions in Mr. Sturges Bourne's Bill made that measure nugatory. In reference to the observation of the noble Lord, that too much power was given by this Bill to the Commissioners to rescind and make orders, he (Lord Althorp) thought the objection of the noble Lord was met by the necessity, under this measure, of such proceedings being referred, before adopted, to the Secretary of State. The hon. member for Berkshire had said, that the Bill had not been materially altered in its passage through Committee. The hon. Member had previously thought, that the Bill would have been cut into pieces in Committee; but he was glad to find that the hon. Member could now admit, that, in that ordeal, no material change had been effected. The hon. member for Worcester had alluded to the number of petitions which had been presented against the Bill; but the hon. Member had forgotten that though on the Journals the petitions appeared to have been presented against the Bill generally, yet the majority of them were directed against particular clauses, and not against the measure as a whole, to which he was satisfied the objections were comparatively but few. He admitted, that the opposition had been more general in the metropolitan than in the country districts; but from what he had heard and seen in the country journals, he was satisfied, that the present Bill was, generally speaking, a popular measure. He was convinced, that this Bill would be productive of the greatest possible good to those very individuals with respect to whom it had been described as a harsh mea- 926 sure. The farmer and his labourer would both be benefited; the latter being made independent by increased wages, and the former, in consequence of that increase, would have his work much more effectually and zealously done and performed. Under all these circumstances, he confidently trusted the House would give its continued support to the measure.
§ The Clauses, from A to E inclusive, were agreed to.
§ Clause F was withdrawn.
§ On Clause G being put from the Chair,
§ Mr. Langdale
said, that he had met with frequent instances where parents at the point of death were extremely anxious that their children should be brought up in the tenets of the religion to which they themselves belonged; and he should therefore propose, that where the children of persons dying in workhouses were directed by their parents to be educated according to a particular form of religion, their instructions should be attended to. He alluded more particularly to those whose religion he himself professed, and, in some parts of the kingdom, especially Lancashire, a great part of the inmates of workhouses were Roman Catholics. He acknowledged, that his object was to protect those individuals, who, it was well known, were very desirous that their children should be taught the form of religion which they themselves believed the true one. He moved an Amendment accordingly.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, if parents did object to their children being educated according to the doctrines of the Established Church, they certainly ought to have the power of preventing it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ On Clause O being proposed,
§ Mr. Jervis
rose to repeat objections which he had formerly urged against the immunity given to the Commissioners by this clause. It had been agreed upon all hands, that these Commissioners were to be regarded merely as agents for carrying the Poor-laws' Amendment Bill into effect; and that they were not to be at all regarded in the light of Judges; it was, consequently, an anomaly in legislation to exempt them from the liability to actions; nor was it necessary for the due performance of their duties. The House, he would assume, was willing to give these Commissioners great authority, and to repose great confidence in them; but the greater the authority committed to them, the greater the confidence reposed in them, the less 927 reason was there why they should receive this extraordinary protection. It was possible that, acting as a Board in a judicial capacity, they might be guilty of gross injustice and oppression; and yet the individual injured by them, if he happened to be poor, was to be virtually denied all redress. To proceed against a Commissioner by indictment was a course which no poor person could adopt. It would be productive of no pecuniary remuneration to him; on the contrary, he would be exposed to a heavy expense. He also protested against allowing Commissioners treble costs, which would not alone cover the expenses to which they were exposed, but actually exceed them.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the question really was, would they allow actions to be brought against the Commissioners sitting as a Board. There was no desire or intention to screen individual Commissioners from the consequences of any misconduct of which they might be guilty. He apprehended, that the practical meaning of treble costs was, in fact, that no action should be brought against the Commissioners under the circumstances to which he had alluded. He thought, that if actions were allowed against them, they would be so annoyed, so cramped thereby, as to be rendered altogether inefficient. Actions on the most frivolous and vexatious subjects would be brought against them, and he did not believe they could get on at all with the business, if they were exposed to the multiplied annoyances that would ensue.
The Attorney General
recommended his noble friend to substitute for 'treble costs' the words 'full costs' as between attorney and client.
§ This Amendment was carried, and the Clause agreed to.
§ Mr. Poulett Scrope moved a clause to be added after the 84th clause, as follows:—"And whereas it is contrary to the humane spirit of the English laws, that any individual shall be permitted to perish for want of the necessaries of life, or of medical assistance, and that whoever is by sudden emergency, or urgent distress, deprived of the ordinary means of subsistence, ought to be relieved immediately by the overseers of the parish in which he may be at the time, whether his legal settlement be there or not; be it enacted, that in case any overseer of any parish or union 928 shall refuse or wilfully neglect to afford due relief, according to the circumstances of the case, to any poor person so situated, every such overseer shall, upon conviction thereof before any two Justices, forfeit and pay for every such offence, any sum not exceeding 5l. Provided, also, that when such offence shall appear to any two Justices to be of a nature to merit a heavier punishment, it shall be lawful for such Justices to direct such overseer to be indicted for such offence as a misdemeanour at the next general Quarter Sessions for the county in which the said parish or union shall be situate; and the said Court of Quarter Sessions shall have power, if they think fit, to direct the costs of such prosecution by indictment to be paid out of the Poor-rate of the said parish or union."
§ Lord Althorp
thought, that the hon. Member was mistaken in his view of the necessity for this clause. Overseers were liable under the existing law to indictment, if they refused relief in cases of extreme distress, and might be indicted for murder if death was the consequence; but he did not think that, in cases of prosecution, the costs should be paid out of the rates, and he therefore could not see the advantage of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member, the effect of which might be to produce indictments where there was no ground for them. By the present law, overseers were bound to afford relief in emergency.
Sir Thomas Freemantle
said, that the Bill, as it at present stood, left the pauper at the mercy of the vestry, without any control or appeal whatever. Much as he approved of the Bill, he was not prepared to go the length of leaving him without control or appeal. There were intermediate cases between ordinary ones, and where the pauper was dying for want of relief. He saw no objection to the introduction of the clause.
The Attorney General
said, that the allowance of costs in such cases led to inconvenience; it often swelled the criminal calendar. Overseers were now liable to punishment, as proposed; but if the costs of a prosecution were to be paid out of the rates, it would tend to encourage unnecessary indictments.
§ Mr. Poulett Scrope
, in reply, observed, that by the existing law of Elizabeth, Magistrates, had the power of compelling overseers to grant relief; that power, however, would not exist under the present Bill.
§ The Clause was negatived.
§ Mr. Baines
proposed a clause to restrain the Commissioners from the exercise of their powers in any parish or township maintaining its own poor, where the rates, on an average of the three last years, shall not have exceeded 2s. 6d. in the pound, unless at the requisition of the rate-payers in special vestry. The hon. Member observed, that the majority of the petitions presented to the House against this Bill were opposed to the power given to the Commissioners, and its extension to all parts of the country, where, such as at Manchester, and other places, there was no necessity for the exercise of that power, the parishes being well administered. Instead of 5s. and 15s. in the pound, in most of the manufacturing parishes, the rates were scarcely one-eighth of the annua rental. The measure here recommended would with-draw one quarter of the population of the country from the operation of the Bill, and the remaining three-fourths were quite sufficient for the Administration of the Commissioners. If these three-fourths were well administered, then it would be an inducement to parishes to require their superintendence. The exception he proposed would not vitiate the Bill, or prevent the experiment being tried; on the contrary, it would facilitate the experiment.
§ On the Question that the Clause be read a second time,
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he could not think the clause an improvement. It would destroy one of the principal advantages of the measure, namely, uniformity of practice, to exempt some patches of the country from its operation. He could not conceive that good could arise from the adoption of the proposition. The hon. Member said, that many parishes were averse to the interference of the Commissioners. If that interference was likely to increase the amount of the rates, that might be a reason for the objection; but the effect of the Bill would not be to increase the amount. The object of this measure was, that the poor should be raised from their present condition; but, in the manufacturing and other places, however low might be the rates in many cases, the situation of the poor was not what it ought to be. If the House acted upon the principle of lowering the rates merely, it would make the Bill what they had been accused of wishing to make it, a plan to save the pockets of the ratepayers only.
§ The Clause was negatived.
§ Mr. Tooke
proposed to add the following clause to the Bill:—"And whereas there are several districts, precincts, or places in England and Wales which, not having been rated to the relief of the poor of the respective parishes or townships in or near which they are situated, are through such usage alleged to be extra-parochial, and the occupiers of lands, tenements, and hereditaments and premises within the same, claim to be exempt from payment of the rates made for the relief of the poor of such parishes or townships, but support the poor within their own respective districts, precincts or places: and whereas it is expedient for the purpose of simplifying and equalizing the payment and collection of the rates for the relief of the poor, and their settlement and maintenance, that such districts, precincts, and places, should be rated with the parishes or townships in or near which they are situated; and that the poor within the same should be relieved and maintained in common with such parishes or townships;—be it therefore enacted, that all and every such districts, precincts, and places, whether having overseers or not (save and except any district, precinct, or place within the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and any place declared by Act of Parliament to be extra-parochial), shall for the purpose of making and collecting such rates for the relief of the poor, and for their settlement, maintenance, and relief, from and after the time at which this Act is to take effect, be deemed and taken to be within and part and parcel of the parish or township in which they are respectively situated, or of the parish or township to which they are respectively nearest or adjoin for the greatest space; and if any such district, precinct, or place, shall be equally near, and adjoin two or more parishes or townships then, and in such case, the district, precinct, or place shall be deemed to be within the most populous of such parishes, according to the last census for the time being."
§ Mr. Pollock
, in rising to oppose this clause, said that he did not rise to perform an act of self-denial. This clause was calculated to bring a charge varying from ten to twenty per cent, on property that had hitherto been exempt from it. In Gray's-inn, for instance—a society with which he was not connected—the chambers were not the property of the society, but of individuals, who had purchased leases 931 of them from the society. The larger part of the Inner Temple, and a still larger part of the Middle Temple, was in the hands of individuals who had purchased chambers on leases for one or two lives, and who had hitherto received a fair rate of interest on their purchase-money. These extra parochial places created no charge on the parishes to which they were contiguous. If they did create any charge, he had no objection to compel them by the Bill to provide for all persons reduced to distress within their boundaries. Now, in the case of Gray's-inn, which was extra-parochial, and contained property to the amount of 10,000l. or 12,000l., was it fair to pass a clause of this kind, which would impose a tax of 3s. or 4s. in the pound on that property? What would be said if a law were passed inflicting a rate of 3s. or 4s. in the pound all over the country? Would it not be called a monstrous—he would not say a dishonest—piece of legislation? Would it not be to that extent a confiscation of property? However his hon. and learned friend might be pressed by parties out of the House, he could not pretend to call this proposition of his a proposition of justice. But why should this new tax be imposed upon this species of property? The property had grown up long before the enactment of the Poor-laws. He would also ask his hon. and learned friend whether he thought it fair, after having been beaten in the claim which he made upon Gray's-inn on behalf of the parish of St. Andrew's Holborn, to endeavour to reverse the solemn verdict of a Jury given against him by a clause of this nature? He thought that it was not, and he should therefore give his most strenuous opposition to the Bill.
§ Mr. Littleton
hoped that the House would not look upon this clause as one merely affecting the Inns of Court. It affected the country generally. He thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not considered it fairly. He said, that these extra-parochial places ought to maintain their own poor. But the hon. Member said, that they ought to maintain the poor of the adjoining parishes. Now that went, as he thought, beyond the necessity of the case. He should be glad to support the proposition of the hon. member for Chester, which met, as he conceived, the evil of the case. This clause went far beyond the necessity of the case, and as such he should oppose it.
§ Mr. Blackburne
said, it was a strange uniformity which the hon. Member wished to produce, when his own clause contained five exceptions to it.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ Colonel Wood moved a clause authorizing the Justices of Peace assembled in Session to appoint a suitor for the poor in each county. His reason for making the proposition was, that the nine assistant-commissioners would have more business in settling the complaints of the poor than they could by any possibility accomplish. It also prescribed the mode of their election, but we were unable to catch the details of it.
§ Lord Althorp
thought, that such a clause was quite unnecessary. He considered that a separate visitor in each separate county would not be wanted. If such a provision were necessary to assist the execution of the Bill, the mode of electing the officers proposed by this clause was not advisable. When the regulations of the Commissioners were published, it would be found, that no such violent changes as gentlemen expected would take place, nor would there be any difficulty in carrying the regulations into effect. The new arrangements would not require many persons to carry them into execution. The provision of the gallant Officer was unnecessary, and if it were necessary, it was by no means the best mode of effecting the object which he had at heart.
§ The Clause was negatived.
§ Mr. Hodges
proposed a clause giving to the mayor and corporation of borough towns jurisdiction over the workhouses of such towns, in cases where the workhouse was in the parish, but not the corporate town. This clause, he said, was necessary to meet a set of cases, in which the parish being larger than the borough town, the borough Magistrates had no authority over the workhouse, because it was out of the borough whilst it was in the parish.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he could not consent to this clause at present, as he had not had sufficient time to consider its bearing.
§ The Clause was negatived.
proposed to leave out clause 60, and to insert the following clause:—"And be it further enacted, that from and 933 after the passing of this Act, no settlement shall be acquired or completed by occupying a tenement, unless such tenement shall have been assessed, or have been liable to be assessed, to the poor-rate for one year, during the occupancy of the party claiming the settlement." He thought the adoption of this amendment would be for the relief of the agricultural interest.
§ Lord Althorp
did not see any material difference between the clause in the Bill and that proposed by his hon. friend. He did not believe, that even under the clause proposed by his hon. friend any House under 10l. would confer a good settlement. The clause in the Bill as it stood did not alter the law as to giving settlement by occupancy. He only added to the existing law that the persons so occupying should be rated. His hon. friend's proposals was, that the houses should be rated. The clause which his hon. friend proposed would not effect the object which he had in view, nor would it give any advantage to the agricultural interest.
§ The Clause was negatived.
§ Sir Henry Willoughby
proposed the insertion of a clause to the effect:—'that the powers of the Poor-law Commissioners and the Asssistent Commissioners shall not be exercised in any parish or township maintaining its own poor, in which relief is confined to the aged, to the orphan, to the maimed, to the lame, to the blind, to the idiot, to the lunatic, and to those who suffer from sickness, accident, or infirmity.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the power of inspection, even in well administered parishes, would not in his opinion, be a hardship. He was sure that the measure would not be a law of pains and penalties, as some had described, but that it would effect general good for the country.
§ Mr. Hodges
also supported the clause. He wished to know from the noble Lord with regard to the power of inspection, whether it would be the duty of the Commissioners to include in unions all the parishes in England and Wales. If such should be the case, the Bill would really be a Bill of pains and penalties.
§ Lord Althorp
said, they would do no such thing. The power was merely given to the Commissioners to unite parishes as might to them seem expedient. The clause was negatived.
§ The Bill with the amendments, to be engrossed, and to be read a third time.934
§ On the Motion of Sir James Graham the Merchant Seamen's Registration Bill was recommitted.
§ On the 3rd clause being put, which compelled masters of vessels, on clearing out of port, to deposit with the collector or comptroller of the Customs, a true copy of the agreement entered into with the crew,
§ Mr. George F. Young
objected to the clause, on the ground that it would be impossible, from the nature of his duties on leaving port, for a captain to make out the required copy, in order to return it by the pilot. The hon. Member moved an Amendment to the effect, that all masters of vessels should have the option of delivering copies of their agreements with their crews either to the pilots on board, for the purpose of being transmitted to the Register-office, or to the consul or vice-consul at the first foreign port at which the ships touched.
§ Sir James Graham
supported the clause, which he said, had been prepared with every view to the convenience of the shipowners and the masters of vessels. The hon. Member had failed to point out any inconvenience which would arise from the operation of the clause as it at present stood.
said, the clause had been met by objections put forward by the chambers of commerce both of Belfast and Dublin. Those objections were, that ships frequently left port with only a portion of their crews on board, but completed them at other places where men could be obtained at a cheaper rate. Under such circumstances, it would be impossible for the captain on leaving port to make the return required of him; and though the alternative remained of his lodging it at the first port at which he might touch with the consul or vice-consul, yet the clause contained no provision to exempt the captain from the penalty imposed in case of the neglect of those officers to make the return to this country prior to the arrival at home of the particular ship.
§ Sir James Graham
said, that the great object of the clause was, to protect the sailors from the liability when they entered for an outward and homeward voyage, of being left ashore on foreign stations, where other hands could be procured at a cheaper rate to work the vessel home, while the British seaman was left to perish from disease and other causes attendant upon foreign climates. From this system much injury was done to the men, and to prevent it was the object of this clause.
§ Mr. George F. Young
said, that so far from the sailors being so treated, it was well known, that many secreted themselves in foreign ports in order to get higher wages for the voyage home. Indeed, to such an extent did this at one time prevail, that an Act of Parliament was passed, the object of which was, to limit sailors working home from a foreign port to double wages.
§ Admiral Fleming
concurred with the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) in condemning the present system, and which was well known by every individual who had visited the West Indies to prevail to a great extent. He should support the clause.
§ Sir James Graham
said, that if time were allowed him, he could move for returns of documents which had been received from consuls abroad, which described scenes, especially in the Pacific, of a most heart-rending character, arising from the circumstance of sailors being left on shore and otherwise being most barbarously treated by the captains of vessels, and which documents would fully bear out his assertion.
§ The Committee divided on Mr. George Young's Amendment:—Ayes 35; Noes 47; Majority 12.
§ Several Clauses were agreed to. The House resumed—the Committee to sit again.
|List of the AYES.|
|Attwood, T.||O'Brien, C.|
|Barnard, E. G.||O'Connor, F.|
|Blake, M. J.||O'Connell, Daniel|
|Buckingham, J. S.||O'Connell, J.|
|Chapman, A.||Pease, J.|
|Cayley, Sir G.||Rippon, Cuthbert|
|Cayley, E. S.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Ruthven, E.|
|Ewart, W.||Ruthven, E.S.|
|Ewing, J.||Sandon, Lord|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Stewart, Sir M. S.|
|Gully, J.||Sullivan, R.|
|Henniker, Lord||Vigors, N. A.|
|Hutt, W.||Vyvyan, Sir R.|
|Jacob, E.||Wallace, R.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Young, G. F.|