HC Deb 06 July 1836 vol 34 cc1289-91
Mr. Waller

said, that he was intrusted with a petition from the rev. Mr. Clutterbuck, the vicar of Long Wittenham, in Berkshire, complaining of the manner in which poor women and children were treated under the new Poor-law Bill. It appeared, from the statement of the rev. gentleman, that not long ago Mr. Stevens, the assistant Poor-law Commissioner, advised the guardians of the Wallingford Union to pass a general resolution that no relief should be given to any able-bodied person out of the workhouse; that, on the suggestion of the petitioner, the guardians determined that this resolution should be applied to males only; but since the petitioner had ceased to act as a guardian, the Board had been induced, by Mr. Stevens, to act upon it generally; in consequence of which a number of persons, principally widows with small families, had been refused relief, and consequently driven to the work house. But he (Mr. Walter) had been further informed, that not only had some of these poor people been removed from their homes to the workhouse of the Union at Wallingford, but, owing to the defective state of that workhouse, many others had been sent to the workhouse of a neighbouring Union. This he (Mr. Walter) should have thought illegal, had he not already discovered that nothing which bore hard upon the poor was illegal under this Act. The rev. gentleman had clearly pointed out in his petition, the mischief to the moral character of the humbler members of his flock, which must ensue from the proceeding of which he complained, and he prayed the House to take the subject into its consideration, with a view to the application of some remedy.

Petition to lie on the table.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

presented petitions, nearly forty in number, from agricultural labourers and others, in parishes in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Bedfordshire, complaining of the operation of the Poor-law Amendment Act, and praying the House to repeal it. The hon. Member observed, that the only portion of the Poor-law Act which, in his opinion, had been productive of benefit, was that which facilitated emigration from one parish to another. In every other respect its operation had been most unjust, and most destructive of the interests of the agricultural labourers. Several petitions complained that the Act had had the effect of lowering wages, and he had no doubt that it was calculated to produce such effect; at the same time he must acknowledge that the wages of labour had risen throughout England of late; but the House must not attribute that effect to the operation of the Poor-law Amendment Act. He (Mr. Attwood) believed that it had produced no good effect whatever, and that, if left to itself, it would inevitably beat down wages. No; the recent rise in wages was attributable to the joint-stock banking companies, which had deluged England with a good paper currency. The petitioners strongly deprecated the separation of families in workhouses, and the other cruel hardships to which the poor were exposed under the operation of the Poor law Act, and they observed, that the poor who required relief should be fed fairly and honestly, and without the infliction of punishment. If the Government refused to the poor that protection to which they had a right, they owed no obedience or allegiance to the Crown or the State.

Mr. Mangles

said, that in his part of the country the Poor-law Act had worked most admirably, and that all the poor were employed and happy under its operation.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

was happy to hear the statement of the hon. Gentleman, but he believed he was under an error.

Mr. Mangles

. What I state is a matter of fact.

Petition to lie on the Table.

House counted out.

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