HC Deb 02 March 1836 vol 31 cc1136-8
Mr. Kemp

presented a Petition from a large body of his constituents at Lewes, complaining of the operation of certain clauses in the Poor-law-Amendment Act. The petitioners were very anxious that every relief should be given to the rate-payers, but they were also anxious that nothing should be done to press with unnecessary severity against the interests and feelings of the unfortunate paupers. The petitioners objected to several clauses in the Act; they objected also to the conduct of the Assistant Poor- law Commissioner at Lewes, and regretted that he had not made himself sufficiently acquainted with the wants and feelings of the pauper population, but had contented himself with the information derived from partisans in that part of the country. Of the conduct of that gentleman he (Mr. Kemp) could not, of course, be any judge; but he should feel it he duty to move that the petition be laid on the Table. With respect to the clauses of the Act to which objections were made by these petitioners, the most prominent were those relating to bastardy. They complained of the hardship which the unfortunate mother was now exposed to, because under the old law either the father or the parish was bound to provide for the child, and the consequence was, that the parish sought the father, and compelled a provision; but now the guardians were not bound to look to any provision being made; so that many persons of great respectability escaped the charge of supporting their illegitimate children, and the burden fell upon the mother. The petitioners also objected to the Board of Guardians being in all cases controlled by orders emanating from the Board of Commissioners in London, and particularly as to the quantity of provisions to be allowed to the paupers. Another circumstance that the petitioners complained of was that sufficient attention was not paid to the education of the children that were taken from their poor parents and put into separate workhouses. They also objected to the clause which allowed of the separation of the husband and wife. He recollected that, in the course of the debates which took place on that clause, it was asserted that no such thing as the separation of husband and wife could occur under the operation of the Bill; but such cases had occurred. A Bill, giving such important powers to the parochial authorities, ought to provide proper restrictions over the persons exercising such powers. The petitioners pointed out certain remedies for the removal of the objections entertained by them; and, particularly, they thought that the elected guardians of the poor should have their powers somewhat extended, so as in particular cases they might be enabled to afford relief out of doors. The petitioners also suggested that rate-payers should not be allowed a plurality of votes, but that the guardians should be elected by each rate-payer having a single vote, They likewise thought that the elected guardians ought not to have their decisions liable to be counteracted by the introduction of an ex officio guardian. He certainly thought it particularly hard, now that the community were allowed to appoint their own municipal governors, that the poor of those communities should be handed over to the tender mercies of a Board of Commissioners sitting in London. The hon. Member concluded by bringing up the petition.

Mr. Goring

could not withhold his testimony to the very humane conduct of the Assistant Commissioner to whom the petitioners had alluded. He had at all times taken into consideration the feelings of the poor, and was always anxious to ascertain what were their wants, while he ever lent an attentive ear to the suggestions of the Board of Guardians. A school for the education of the pauper children had been, at the suggestion of that gentleman, established by the Board of Guardians, and the greatest benefit had been derived from it. At his suggestion, also, the Board of Guardians had resolved to give premiums for merit among the children, which, no doubt, would have the most beneficial effect.

Sir Charles R. Blunt

had been requested to support the prayer of this petition, which he was very willing to do; although he was bound to say that, as far as his observations had gone, the new Poor-law Bill was working well. At the same time it was obvious, that a measure of such magnitude must, from time to time, require amendment. He was happy to learn that a noble Lord in another place had, on a question being put to him, expressed his willingness to take certain suggestions as to the Board of Guardians, into consideration.

Petition laid on the Table.

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