HC Deb 25 March 1834 vol 22 cc645-7

Sir C. Burrell moved for leave to bring in a Bill to explain and amend the Act of 2nd and 3rd of William 4th, for the better employment of labourers in agricultural parishes. The Bill which he wished to introduce was similar to one which, he regretted to say, was rejected by the House last Session. He was then satisfied of the necessity of some measure of the kind, and all that he had since heard had increased his conviction of the necessity of some arrangement like that in the Bill he intended to propose. There were several hon. Gentlemen present who knew that the best arrangement for the employment of agricultural labourers, so as to prevent their becoming chargeable to the parishes, were often set at nought by the obstinacy of one or two individuals, and, therefore, it became necessary to apply to Parliament for a legislative enactment. It often happened, in consequence of the obstinacy of some or the rate-payers, a number of the labourers were thrown on the parish, and were employed, at a low rate, in repairing the roads and bye-lanes, or in stone-pits, to the demoralization of the labouring classes, and to the great increase of the Poor-laws. He did not think that, under such circumstances, it was surprising that insubordination prevailed in many places. He would venture to assert, that when such a system prevailed as he proposed in his Bill, there would be order and satisfaction on the part of the labouring classes. He was aware that many persons were opposed to the principle of his measure, but, he believed, that most of such opposition was founded on theoretic views. He was convinced that, however the plan might be objected to in theory, it would be found good in practice. He could speak, from experience, as to his part of the country, where the plan he proposed had been productive of the greatest good. It might be said, that the Commissioners of the Poor-laws objected to his proposition, and that the general measure to be brought forward by the Government, which was founded on the Report of the Commissioners, would supersede the necessity of this Bill. He, however, thought that the House should have laid before it different views of legislation on the subject, so that they might be the better able to arrive at a sound conclusion on the subject. He hoped, under the circumstances of the case, there would be no objection to introducing the Bill and allowing it to be printed. He had no wish to carry the measure hastily through the House, and I should be happy to adopt any suggestion likely to improve it.

Mr. Secretary Stanley

hoped, that the House would allow the Bill to be introduced without entering into any discussion on the subject. The Report of the Poor Law Commissioners was under the anxious consideration of his Majesty's Government, and a general measure would be submitted to the House founded on it. He trusted, that the House would consent, without the expression of an opinion either of approbation or disapprobation, that the Bill should be laid on the Table.

Mr. Cobbett

knew of many parishes in which the adoption of the plan proposed by the hon. Baronet had been productive of the greatest benefits. In the parish of Farnham, with which he was connected some years ago, there were several hundred families on the poor-rates; but since the adoption of this plan he believed, that the number of paupers was very inconsiderable. With respect to the Poor-Law Commissioners he would only observe, that they had put many gross falsehoods into circulation. It had been proved in petitions presented to that House, that many statements in their Report were utterly and entirely without foundation. He knew, that the passing of the Bill of the hon. Baronet would be productive of the greatest benefit to the country. He, therefore, gave it his hearty support, and trusted, that it would be proceeded with before any of the projects of the Poor-Law Commissioners could be carried into effect.

The Motion agreed to, and the Bill ordered to be introduced.