HC Deb 12 February 1838 vol 40 cc1007-30

Lord John Russell moved the Order of the Day for a Committee on the Poor-law (Ireland) Bill.

Lord Clements

asked permission of the House to make a few observations on the general principles of this bill, as he had been deprived of the opportunity of doing so during the discussion on the second reading. The subjects to which he wished to speak more particularly on the present occasion were, the patronage which would be created by the till, out-door relief, and the law of settlement. These were questions of a general nature, which he should be incompetent to treat at any other period than the present. He wished to express his sincere thanks to the noble Lord (the Secretary for the Home Department) for introducing the present bill, with the main features of which he most cordially concurred. He thought that nothing could be effectually done to ameliorate the condition of Ireland, unless the state of the poorer classes was taken into most serious consideration. He rejoiced that the bill was in the hands of the noble Lord, and, without wishing to say anything to raise a party discussion, he thought that a great debt of gratitude was due from the people of Ireland to that noble Lord for the introduction of it. It was a most important measure, and he thought that its success depended very much, if not entirely, upon the manner in which the patronage it created was disposed of. He knew that many of his constituents considered that the powers of the Poor-law Commissioners were much too large. In answer to this objection, it had been said, that there was no inducement for the Commissioners to abuse their powers. He could not see the force of that observation, because much greater evils might arise from the ignorance of the central commission than from any wish to do anything wrong. There ought to be some understanding that the Assistant Commissioners, who were to instruct the Commissioners and the Boards of Guardians, should be persons who were perfectly cognizant of the habits and circumstances of the poorer classes in Ireland, among whom they were to discharge the duties of their office. It would be useless to appoint a staff of officials, who were ignorant of the customs and character of the people. He was afraid, that there never would be much or any good done to the suffering poor in Ireland without a very extensive system of out-door relief, and also without an extensive system of voluntary out-door relief. Much had been said respecting the way in which the clergy were to act with respect to this Poor-law Bill. It had been said, that the principle of excluding clergymen from taking an active part in a Poor-law would be beneficial ultimately. It might be so. He felt that there was much weight in the arguments of those who supported that principle; but, considering the present condition of Ireland, he thought that facilities should be given to the clergy for inducing voluntary assessments in their respective parishes. He knew no class of persons who had been so much maligned and unfairly dealt with as the clergy of both persuasions in Ireland. He was well acquainted with many, both of the Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy there, and he must say that they had not been duly praised for their zeal and anxiety in the discharge of their duties, and, above all, for the universal principle of charity which they exemplified. The clergy had been placed in a hostile position with their fellow-countrymen, and they were supposed, in that House, to be mere politicians, but every person who knew them well, knew that they were ever on the alert for the purpose of relieving those who were objects of charity. He thought the Poor-law Commissioners ought to encourage the clergy and charitable people in general to come forward in the way he knew many did at present to assist persons out of the workhouse, and unless that was done, and the system was perfectly organised, he was afraid the bill would turn out a complete failure. With respect to the law of settlement, he thought that many erroneous notions prevailed. He was very anxious that some plan of settlement should be laid down, and thought that the bill would be incomplete without it. He knew, that in the western districts of Ireland, from the unfortunate way in which the lands were managed, great poverty prevailed, and consequently a great number of mendicants was to be found there. He thought that the bill should be first introduced into the western districts, for unless it succeeded there, it would certainly fail altogether. It would not be wise to stop the administration of out-door relief suddenly and simultaneously throughout Ireland, for, though there was no written law, there was a customary law, that all mendicants should be relieved by those to whom they applied. He suggested that the bill should be first tried in the poorer districts of the country, in the same manner as the English Poor-law Amendment Act had been introduced into those parishes in England in which pauperism was most prevalent.

Sir E. Sugden

would not rise to address the House on the present occasion, but that his connexion with Ireland had given him a deep interest in all matters that related to the welfare and prosperity of that country; he hoped, therefore, the House would excuse him if he offered a few observations upon the subject now under its consideration. He entirely agreed, that the time had arrived when some system of Poor-laws was necessary for Ireland, and he believed, that the calculations which had been made and spoken of in the course of the debate were of little or no importance; for if the views of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin were correct, there was a great deal more destitution existing in Ireland than the framers of this measure supposed, and that great extent of destitution rendered this measure still more necessary than if the framers were accurate in their calculations. It had been said, that it was very difficult, in speaking on this subject, to know what was destitution and what was poverty. He thought that what was poverty in Ireland would be destitution in England, and, therefore, in speaking of poverty and destitution, the one was so much mixed up with the other that it was impossible to separate them, or to state what was the amount or number of those in a state of destitution in Ireland. Thinking, however, that a poor-law was necessary, he was under the necessity, on looking at the Bill, and without referring to the question of out-door relief, of coming to the conclusion that it was insufficient for its own object. He could not disguise from himself that the erecting of large workhouses, as was proposed, at great distances from the places where the most considerable masses of the population were congregated, would hardly afford that relief to which, if a poor-law was necessary, as he admitted it was, the people of Ireland were justly entitled. Under the Bill as it now stood, and with which he did not find fault, no general right to relief was given, but relief was limited to lame, impotent, infirm, and aged persons, who were unable to maintain themselves, and the extent or amount of the relief was left to the discretion of the Commissioners, while no limit was placed to the extent of the expenditure. He thought that relief ought to be extended to able-bodied labourers. Nothing in his judgment could be more unwise than the proposed expenditure of a million of money in the erection of edifices for workhouses before it could even be guessed how the Bill would work. He was disposed, therefore, to go economically to work at first, for there was no man wise enough to say how this measure would operate in Ireland. This expenditure was not at all necessary at the outset, especially as the relief was to be confined to the lame, aged, and infirm, and was not to be extended to the able-bodied destitute poor. He therefore thought the experiment ought to be tried first on a small scale before so large an outlay was lavishly made. There was one provision of this Bill of which he entirely disapproved—he alluded to the clause, which as yet had passed unnoticed, but by which it was proposed to place under the direction and absolute control of the Poor-law Commissioners all the hospitals and other charities for the relief of the poor now existing in Ireland. He, for one, would certainly never agree to that or any other clause which would take from the poor of Ireland that relief to which they were entitled, and were in the enjoyment of, under existing foundations. By that clause, the Commissioners would be entitled to take those charities into their own control, and bring the funds of those charities in aid of the general Poor-law Relief Bill. This was not consistent with justice, and was not authorised by the provisions of the English Poor-law Act, and, in his opinion, there was no right in law to interfere with the grants or funds with which those charities were endowed. He, for one, would not consent to take away those vested rights which the poor enjoyed at present in Ireland. But on other grounds he objected to that clause. If no provision were made for the granting of out-door relief, the charities now existing, if uninterfered with, would afford a sort of safety-valve during the first working of the measure, and he was satisfied no greater mistake could possibly be made than to place those charitable institutions upon the same footing as this Bill. Parliament would be guilty of a great inconsistency if it took those charity funds and perverted them from the purposes of the original founders, according to the views of the framers of the present measure, and of those who might be charged to carry that measure into operation. The clause to which he adverted was the 46th, which provided— That the Commissioners should be authorised from time to time to visit, inspect, and inquire into the management of every hospital, asylum, infirmary, dispensary, mendicity, or other charitable institution, not wholly supported by voluntary contributions, and not being an institution dedicated exclusively to religious purposes or a school, and to require from all persons in whom any estate, property, or funds, should be vested or held in trust for any such charities, a true account in writing of the estates, funds, rents, &c, and the appropriation thereof, and of all other particulars relating thereto, as the Commissioners should think fit; and that the Commissioners might from time to time, having reference to the statutes, charters, deeds of foundation, or endowment, will of donor, or by-laws, by which any such hospital, asylum, infirmary, dispensary, mendicity, or other charitable institution, should be by law governed, make and issue all such orders as they should think proper for the government of every such hospital, &c, and the officers thereof, as the Commissioners might deem necessary for the prevention of any conflict between the objects and purposes of any such institution and the objects and purposes of this Act. Now, what right had the House thus to take away the vested rights of the poor in these charities? Let the House mould its laws to harmonise with those charitable institutions, but let it not take away those charities from the poor; let it not take away their vested rights in order to avoid any conflict between those charities and the Bill. By this clause, as he read it, the whole property of these charities would be confiscated in order to be brought in aid of the provisions of this measure. It would be extremely hard, after denying to able-bodied labourers out-door relief, to deprive them of the relief those charities afforded; and it would be a mockery, after this interference with those charities, to tell the poor infirm pauper that he must travel some forty miles to the workhouse before relief could be administered to him. Now, he could not but think that a little relief for a short time at home was much better than relief in a workhouse, though continued for a period of twelve months. There was no ground whatever for taking away the benefits arising from the existing charities, and he could not but object to these new restrictions upon the poor without giving them a right to relief under this Bill. He thought, also, it was of great importance to provide some limitations to the amount of rates to be levied, in order that some restraint and control should be exercised over the Commissioners, in whom these great powers were to be confided. As to the omission of any provision in respect to the law of settlement, he did not regret it, as in this country it had led to expensive litigation, and its evils were not compensated by any benefits it afforded; but, at the same time, this omission created a difficulty with respect to the operation of the emigration clauses in the present Bill. There being no law of settlement, the union to be formed might be filled at any given time with paupers from all neighbourhoods and districts—men might choose their own place of living, and seek relief from the union of that place, and then, when emigration began, when the money was raised for emigration and charged upon that particular union, it would not be relieved, because it would be at the expense of the emigration of its casual, and not its own natural, pauper population. The moment emigration took place, the vacuum would soon be filled up, and that particular union suffer severely. Though friendly to emigration generally, he would not give a premium to emigration, by which some of the best and most substantial peasantry of Ireland might be lost to that country. When the unions were to be opened to people from all parts of Ireland, he could not see how, in the absence of any law of settlement, the emigration clauses could work beneficially, and he, therefore, was of opinion, that they must be re-considered. He repeated, that in all the clauses for raising money, some limitation must be provided. Such was the case in the English Act, and Ireland had a right to the same control and restraint over the commissioners, who were to have such ample powers and authority. If such a limitation were not inserted in those clauses, he should vote against them. On the whole, he thought that, in the matters he had named, the Bill required great alteration, or it must be withdrawn. But there still remained a great many other provisions in this Bill to which he entirely objected. It had been said, that this Bill would tend very much to put an end to vagrancy in Ireland. This, however, he much doubted. On the contrary, he was of opinion that it would serve to encourage it, for, as every workhouse would be open, and as every man had a right to go to any part of Ireland, he might demand relief anywhere, and thus he would be incited, as it were, to travel about the country. As regarded mendicancy, he thought that it was utterly impossible, under the clauses of this Bill, to put an end to or stop it. There were also some other clauses in the Bill which he hoped the House would not be induced to pass in their present shape. He alluded to the clauses inflicting punishment and penalties on individuals for such offences as the non-maintenance of their wives and families, though the Bill gave them no right to relief in their destitution. By the clauses to which he referred, certain liabilities were imposed on the poor of Ireland. By the first of them it was provided that every married woman should be bound to maintain her own children, and every child of her husband. Now, could any thing be more preposterous than this? If such a provision were carried into effect, a woman would have to maintain every child which her husband might have had by a former marriage. There was another part of the clause to which he begged to call the attention of the House, and about which a great deal had been said in another place with regard to its policy as applied to England. The Bill threw the maintenance of illegitimate children on the mother. Now, he believed, that, at present, there was no law in Ireland by which the father was bound to support his illegitimate children, nor the mother either. Therefore, when this clause said, that there should be no liability on the father to maintain his reputed offspring, the Government ought to have known that no such provision was necessary. He, however, was not prepared to visit the frailty of the woman and the profligacy of the man wholly on the woman; and, it was his opinion, that we could not read a worse moral lesson to the people, than by teaching them how to avoid what ought to be the inevitable consequence of indulging their own passions. He, for one, should certainly oppose this part of the Bill. The clauses to which he had referred were extremely harsh. They gave no rights, they conferred no immunities, but they imposed burthens and liabilities on the people of Ireland. There was yet another clause to which he would invite the attention of hon. Members. The House would hardly believe that, if a person refused to maintain a child which had been left in his care, he might be treated as a delinquent, and kept to hard labour. This clause rendered it penal for any person to desert a child under the age of seven years, so that any person who had the custody of a child under that age, either casually or as its parent, or relative, or nurse, might, if the child were deserted, be imprisoned for three months. Now, was there ever a more absurd proposal than this? If the clause were allowed to stand, an unhappy servant, in whose care the child might have been left by its unnatural parent, would be liable to imprisonment for three months for leaving another person's offspring, and a person who, like Don John, in Beaumont and Fletcher's play, had an infant popped into his arms, and refused to take care of it, would be liable to the same penalty. It might not be intended to carry the operation of the clause quite so far, but there ought to be no penal provisions in the Bill which it was not meant to enforce. On the whole he meant to give his support to the Bill, not in its details, for he certainly should feel it his duty to vote against several of them, but he knew of no better plan, and not having any better measure of his own to propose, he should give a general support to the principle of the Government measure. He must say, however, that in carrying the Bill into operation, he had no wish that any great expense should be incurred at the outset.

Viscount Morpeth

hoped that his noble Friend (Lord Clements), and the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, would not suppose, that it was from any disrespect to them that he abstained from following them into the details of this measure, particularly after the opinion which the House had expressed in a very intelligible manner the other evening, that it would be desirable to go at once into Committee. He did not understand that his noble Friend or the right hon. Gentleman were opposed to this Bill on principle, and he thought that it would be most in accordance with the feelings of the House to go now into Committee, and then use their best endeavours and utmost exertions to make the present such a measure as would conduce to the welfare of Ireland. He had, therefore, only to thank those hon. Members who had" given their opinions on subjects connected with the details of the Bill, and he could assure them that their suggestions should be carefully considered by the Government, in order to make the Bill perfect if possible. He had the more satisfaction in recommending the adoption of this course, as, after all the censures which had been cast on the Bill, no other measure had been proposed which presented any feasible alternative.

Sir Francis Burdett

wished before the question was put to express his strong feelings of opposition to the measure. He thought it was not maintainable in principle; that many of its clauses were most objectionable, and he was persuaded it never would be carried into effect. It might be said: "Why object to the Bill in this stage, since the clauses may be altered in Committee?" Certainly, from the examples which they had had of other Bills that had gone out of this House in so totally different a shape from that in which they had come into it, they might fairly expect that this Bill would undergo many modifications before it got through the Committee. But he objected to the Bill altogether. It appeared to him that her Majesty's Ministers had not even taken the trouble of applying to the Members of this House who belonged to that part of the empire, and whose advice, opinions, knowledge, and information would undoubtedly have been of the greatest possible importance. It was a Bill totally inapplicable to Ireland; for none of those general principles by which the noble Lord sustained himself, and which were to be found in all the modern treatises on political economy, were in the slightest degree applicable to Ireland. To attempt to impose a measure of this kind on the people of that country evinced a total disacquaintance with all their feelings, habits, customs, and prejudices, if you will, which were totally and entirely opposed to it. Then, the relief which was offered to them was nothing. No person in that House would be more anxious than himself to adopt a real measure of relief for the people of Ireland. Indeed the House, he was sure, would gladly catch at any thing that offered the probability of relief; but what he contended was, that the people of Ireland were at present better off than they would be under this Bill, if, by its operation, they attempted to take from them the right to which they had been long accustomed, of going about the country. But the Legislature never could prevent them from following up that habit. Something very superior indeed to what this Bill proposed giving, must be held out to them, in order to reconcile them to the privation of that right. To fancy that the people of Ireland could be shut up in workhouses all over the country, or to imagine that they would submit to that provision without some better equivalent than was now offered to them, appeared to him, one of the greatest illusions that could possibly deceive the mind of man. He was, however, not disposed at this moment to go into the general question, because he felt that it would be inconvenient to the House; but no opportunity would again occur in which he could so strongly protest against the measure in toto as the present. The feelings of the people of Ireland ought to be consulted more than they had been by those who propounded this Bill. Neither did he see the possibility of answering, among other arguments urged by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin the other night, that one in which the hon. Member pointed out the inability of the poorer classes of farmers to pay the tax intended to be levied upon them. It was true that those poor occupiers did afford relief to the destitute; for undoubtedly it was a characteristic of the people of Ireland that they were, of all nations upon earth, the most charitable. But how were they to pay the rate to be imposed on them? They might, as they now did, give a certain portion of their produce; but it was impossible to raise from that class of people any thing like a toll in coin. It appeared to him, therefore, that this measure was altogether impracticable; and he would venture to predict that it would never go out of that House. He conceived that all the arguments advanced by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, the other night, against the Bill, were unanswerable, or, at least, had been left unanswered. After a great waste of time in discussing the principle of the Bill, and of its clauses in Committee, the inconveniences and hardships of it would be made apparent, and he was confident it never would get through the House. Besides, another thing to be considered was, that the people of Ireland had not called for this measure; no portion of the people had asked for it. Unless, therefore, some measure a great deal more applicable than this seemed to be, something much better digested, and based upon a much sounder foundation could be proposed, it was his firm persuasion that it would be far more advisable to stop it at the present moment, than to waste a vast deal of time in discussing it, when it was impossible that it could ever be made useful or palatable to the people of Ireland. Another consideration was the enormous expense which this measure would entail upon the country. There would be an outlay of nearly a million of money for the erection of workhouses. Now, that million of money might be very serviceably applied to the relief of the people of Ireland; but the way in which that money was now to be expended, would do them no benefit whatever. What was the number that would be relieved? Eighty thousand. Why, it had been stated that there were occasionally two millions and upwards of persons in a state demanding that kind of relief which the people received from one another; probably those who received relief one part of the year contributed to the relief of others at another period; and thus a sort of reciprocity of benefits was going on amongst them, and keeping up the feelings of benevolence and kindness that bound them together in mutual charity. But the present measure was to introduce a system that would do away with all those things to which the people were accustomed, and in their stead would impose the most irksome restraints. But it would be found utterly impracticable to prevent the people of Ireland from going about the country wherever they pleased. The House might just as well attempt to prevent the winds from passing over the tops of the mountains. Another thing that occurred to him was, that if they intended to proceed upon the same principle which they had introduced in the application of the Poor-law in England, they must make the restraint and inconveniences accompanying a residence within the workhouses such as would place the poor in a worse condition than they would be in their mendicant state. The Poor-law in England had certainly not produced such beneficial effects as to induce him to sanction the adoption of a similar measure in Ireland. As to preventing the poor of Ireland from going about to their friends and asking relief, it was the wildest and most mischievous notion that could enter into the minds of a government. He would not trespass upon the House any further, having availed himself of the opportunity to declare the strong objections that he felt to this measure.

Mr. Barron

could not help congratulating the people of Ireland upon the sympathy which had been shown for them by the hon. Baronet. It was certainly quite consistent with all his past conduct. It was quite in consonance with his subscription to the Spottiswoode fund. He could not but congratulate the people of Ireland upon the appearance of a new advocate in their behalf. Still, he owned the hon. Gentleman's advocacy appeared in rather a suspicious light. He believed he knew somewhat more of the people of Ireland than the hon. Baronet; and what he did know of them convinced him that they would receive this bill as the greatest boon and the best practical measure that had ever been propounded for their benefit. The lame, the blind, the decrepid, and the aged would be protected by this bill; and he would ask any man of common sense whether that would not be a great step gained towards ameliorating the condition of the poor of Ireland? He begged to tell the hon. Baronet and all those who objected to this bill, that he had attended public meetings in Ireland, and he had found only one opinion expressed, as to the usefulness of this bill, and as to its probable practical working. In the county and city of Waterford there had been a measure in existence for the last fifty years in perfect accordance with all the principles laid down in this bill. It had worked in a most practically useful manner, in relieving annually from 400 to 500 of the poor of that city: and so far from the poor objecting to go to the workhouse they were most anxious to obtain admittance, and frequently were the governors of the institution obliged to refuse from thirty to forty, nay, sometimes fifty, individuals who applied for admission, because there was not sufficient room nor sufficient means for their support; although they were, as the hon. Baronet described it, confined in prisons and locked up in gaols. It was from total ignorance of the feelings of the people of Ireland, and of the condition of the poor, that the hon. Baronet had attempted to impede this measure; or, perhaps, it was worse—perhaps it was a desire to wound others—and not sympathy for the poor of Ireland, that had dictated this philanthropic outbreak on the part of the hon. Baronet.

Sir W. Brabazon

was strongly opposed to the bill. He had received communications and letters not only from his constituents, but from large bodies of the people of Ireland declaring their decided opposition to the measure. He felt himself called upon, therefore, to oppose it. Founded, as it was, upon the workhouse system, he entertained a sincere conviction that it was not calculated to meet the ends proposed. The numerous objections to the bill had been ably stated by the hon. Member for Dublin, on the former day's discussion, and in the arguments then adduced he most fully concurred. He entertained very unfavourable impressions of the bill, and he had formed them after a careful perusal of the clear and lucid report of the poor-law Commissioners, the result of a careful investigation in Ireland, during three years, which they had passed in the execution of the trust reposed in them. It appeared to him strange that all their trouble was to go for nothing—that the valuable mass of evidence collected by them was to be laid aside, and, as he might say, considered as so much waste paper, while the suggestions of another gentleman sent, indeed, on the same mission, but who had only the experience of a few weeks in that country, were adopted. Why was that? Why did Ministers so pertinaciously adhere to this measure? It must be from a decided conviction that this bill of relief would act as the great panacea for the evils of that country, and that therefore the able opinions and authorities of the first Commissioners should have no weight in the scale, when opposed to this, the favourite Government measure. He was inclined to give Ministers the merit of good intentions in producing this bill. He could only have wished, however, that before the noble Lord had acted in a matter of such vast importance to the sister country, he had taken the trouble to go over to Ireland—all in that country would have been most happy to see and receive him—that he would have exercised his own good judgment, and would have made himself acquainted, by personal observation, with the real state of Ireland—with its wants and its destitution. He (Sir W. Brabazon) was certain that the noble Lord would have arrived at a very different result to that which he had now come. A great difference of opinion prevailed even in this country, as to the benefit of a system of indoor relief as it existed under the new Poor-law Bill. He had lately visited different parts of the rural districts of England, and though he must admit that the new Poor-law had been generally acknowledged as a vast improvement on the former system, yet with such a diversity of opinion existing as to the utility of the workhouse system in this country, and with the doubts necessarily attending the working of a new measure, he did not think it right to introduce a similar system into a country like Ireland, so little prepared for its reception. Before sitting down he must briefly allude to the state of things to which he thought might be fairly attributed the poverty, want, and indigence of Ireland. They arose, in his opinion, from the vast drains of money annually leaving her shores without any return being made, and from the state of absentee property. These evils had prevailed ever since the period of the union with this country. If he might be permitted to allude to a subject which he knew met with little countenance and had few advocates in that House on the mere mention of which the House always evinced its desire to prevent discussion, he would state his firm belief that the union was the true source of the miseries of Ireland; and though it might be dangerous to the friendly connection between the two countries, to dissolve the union at this moment, yet he could not divest him- self of the belief that the repeal of that union was the only sure means of regenerating his country. Under all the circumstances, however, he was an advocate for a modified system of Poor-laws for Ireland, and he was anxious that provision should be made for the relief of those who were unable to earn for themselves a livelihood.

Mr. C. A. Walker

was of opinion that the noble Lord, in introducing this bill, had acted in accordance with the opinion generally entertained upon this subject by the Irish landlords.

House went into Committee.

On the first clause being proposed,

Mr. Shaw

objected to the mode of appointing the Poor-law Commissioners for Ireland. He desired to see them resident in Ireland, and consequently possessed of local knowledge. He thought it altogether impossible that the English Poor-law Commissioners could comprehend the necessities of the rural districts in Ireland.

Lord John Russell

observed, that the English Poor-law Commissioners were possessed of very considerable experience in the operation of the existing poor law, and were, therefore, properly prepared to superintend its execution in Ireland. At the same time, he was by no means disposed to deny that it was desirable to have individuals resident in Ireland to administer so much of the act as would require local knowledge and management. The right hon. Gentleman would, however, find at the end of the act the power specifically given of sending one of the Commissioners to Ireland, at the same time that the whole operation of the act would be under the superintendence of the board in London, with a view to insure regularity.

Mr. O'Connell

objected to the idea of English Commissioners being permitted to override Ireland. One of the chief objections which he found to this bill was, that it gave to persons unconnected with Ireland the power to carry its provisions into effect; that it not only took away this power from individuals identified with Ireland, but intrusted it to persons who he would not say were aliens, but who were remote from Ireland. He should be happy to get rid not only of this particular plan, but of the bill altogether.

Sir E. B. Sugden

thought, that the residence of at least one Commissioner in Ireland should be made absolute, and that it should not be left at the discretion of any party.

Mr. Goulburn

suggested that there should be an office in Dublin for the reception of information of every description connected with the operation of the proposed law, whether under the control of resident Commissioners or not. The object of his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Shaw) was to secure the existence of some constant resident authority in Dublin, capable of giving information upon every subject which might arise.

Mr. C. Buller

observed, that the English bill was a remedy against dishonest mendicancy, while in Ireland the great object to be attained was the introduction of a system merely to provide relief for the destitute, they not having hitherto been entitled to it. The circumstances! of the two countries were, therefore, different; and being so, he thought it would be most unfit that the persons appointed to administer a poor-law in Ireland should be the same persons who were intrusted with a similar law under perfectly different circumstances in England. He was of opinion, that there should be established for Ireland an entirely independent board.

Mr. J. Grattan

thought, that a board composed of Irishmen, and resident in. Ireland, would be the most ineligible thing possible. By the bill they were to have one Commissioner to attend in Dublin, and that, in his opinion, would be sufficient, acting as he would in co-operation with the English Commissioners, who he felt convinced would discharge their duty fairly, effectively, and justly.

Lord Clements

agreed with the hon. Member for Liskeard, that there was a difference between the circumstances of the two countries, at the same time there would be also found many points of similarity. The same law might be good for both countries, although governed by different principles. He thought that the assistant commissioner would be able to attend to the duties required under the bill, and give every necessary information.

Mr. Lucas

was of opinion, that in order to prevent delay by the transmitting of information and communications to London, there should fee a permanent board in Dublin; but that board should be removed from all Irish prejudices. In- deed he had no desire to try Irish boards again. English Commissioners could very well carry on the operations of the bill; and he confessed that he should rather trust to the ignorance of an English board, leaving them to the chance of acquiring the necessary information, than to establish two boards, and one of these liable to be acted upon by local prejudices.

Mr. O'Connell

conceived it to be a great defect in the bill that the working of it should be carried on at Somerset-house, or else that a Commissioner should be appointed to attend in Dublin, who would have to inform himself upon all local circumstances. He apprehended that every part of the bill would be found to be full of these defects, which he wished hon. Members would consider when considering the bill altogether. He would propose an amendment at the present stage, but that it would not correspond with the working out of a bill of the kind—a bill founded upon the abuses of the English system, which created a pauper population of a particular kind, shrinking from work, and throwing themselves on the parish. In Ireland there was no such shrinking; the labouring classes were most anxious to procure wages to live upon. It was known to all England that they walked to the remotest part of it in order to earn wages, and it might therefore be readily supposed that they would earn them at home if they could. The English Poor-law served as a kind of screw upon the English labourer who wished to be idle; the Irishman required no such stimulant, and yet the same principle was applied to both. The hon. and learned Gentleman moved as an amendment to the first clause, that instead of the words "the Poor-law Commissioners for the time being shall be the Commissioners to carry this Act into execution,"these words be inserted—that" the Poor-law Commissioners for Ireland be the Commissioners to carry this act into execution."

The Committee divided on the original motion:—Ayes 117; Noes 23: Majority 94.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Baines, E.
Adare, Viscount Baker, E.
Aglionby, Major Barnard, E. G.
Alsager, Captain Barron, H. W.
Alston, R. Barry, G. S.
Bailey, J. Benett, J.
Bentinck, Lord G. Lister, E. C.
Bewes, T. Litton, E.
Blackstone, W. S. Logan, H.
Blair, James Lucas, E.
Blake, W. J. Mactaggart, J.
Boiling, W. Maher, J.
Briscoe, J. I. Martin, J.
Brodie, W. B. Marion, G.
Brotherton, J. Moneypenny, T. G.
Burr, H. Morpeth, Viscount
Burroughes, H. N. Morris, D.
Busfield, W. O'Callaghan, hon. C.
Chapman, Sir M. L. Palmer, G.
Chute, W. L. W. Parker, J.
Clements, Viscount Parnell, rt. hn. Sir. H.
Clive, hon. R. H. Parrott, J.
Cole, Viscount Pease, J.
Collier, J. Perceval, Colonel
Coote, Sir C. H. Philips, G. R.
Corry, hon. H. Planta, right hon. J.
Dalmeny, Lord Plumptre, J. P.
Darby, G. Rice, E. R.
Davies, Colonel Rickford, W.
Duckworth, S. Bundle, J.
Duncan, Viscount Rushbrooke, Colonel
Ellis, J. Russell, Lord J.
Evans, W. Salwey, Colonel
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Sandon, Viscount
Finch, F. Sanford, E. A.
Fitzsimon, N. Scrope, G. P.
French, F. Shaw, right hon. F.
Freshfield, J. W. Speirs, A.
Glynne, Sir S. R. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Stuart, V.
Grattan, J. Strutt, E.
Greenaway, C. Style, Sir C.
Grimsditch, T. Tancred, H. W.
Hall, B. Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Hastie, Archibald Trench, Sir F.
Hayes, Sir E. Tufnell, H.
Heathcote, Sir W. Turner, E.
Hillsborough, Earl of Vere, Sir C. B.
Hobhouse, T. B. Verner, Colonel
Hodgson, R. Vivian, Major C.
Howick, Viscount Vivian, J. E.
Hughes, W. B. Vivian, right hon. Sir
Hume, J. R. H.
Hutton, R. Winnington, T. E.
Jackson, Sergeant Wood, G. W.
Jephson, C. D. O. Wrightson, W. B.
Jones, T. Young, J.
Kemble, H.
Knatchbull, right hon. TELLERS.
Sir E. Rolfe, Sir R.
Langdale, hon. C. Troubridge, Sir E. A.
List of the NOES.
Blake, M. J. Grattan, H.
Brabazon, Sir W. Johnston, General
Bridgman, H. Leader, J. T.
Buller, C. Nagle, Sir R.
Butler, hon. Colonel O'Brien, W. S.
Callaghan, D. O'Connell, M. J.
Chester, H. O'Conor, Don
Evans, G. Power, J.
Gibson, J. Pryme, G.
Redington, T. N. Yates, J. A.
Roche, W. TELLERS.
Somerville, Sir W. M. O'Connell, D.
Westenra, hon. H. R. Beamish, F. B.

Clause agreed to.

On the 12th Clause, which provides, that assistant commissioners may examine on oath or on declaration,

Mr. Goulburn

observed, that this clause left to a witness called before the assistant commissioner the option whether he would be examined on oath or not. Now, if two witnesses were examined, one on oath and the other not on oath, he thought that the Committee would know which of the two witnesses would be most credited. The assistant commissioner in the English Poor-law Bill had power to examine a witness on oath or on his declaration, according to his discretion. Why did this bill differ from the English bill, in leaving the option with the witness instead of leaving it with the assistant commissioner?

Viscount Morpeth

said, that the discretion had been left with the assistant commissioner, because the current of legislation for some years back had run in favour of dispensing, as far as possible, with the administration of oaths. Whether the witness gave his evidence on his oath or on his declaration, he would be equally liable, in case his evidence were false, to the penalties of perjury.

Mr. Goulburn

thought the answer of the noble Lord anything but satisfactory. He thought that it would be far better to leave the option with the assistant commissioner than with the witnesses.

Mr. O'Connell

thought the best way of amending the clause would be to abolish the oath altogether, and allow of no other form of giving evidence than upon a declaration. He moved that the words '' upon oath," be omitted.

Sir E. Sugden

said, it surely ought not to be attempted to alter the existing laws relative to the obligation of taking oaths, or making a declaration by a sidewind. What he would propose was, not to take away or to extend the obligations, but to leave it just as the law now stood. This was not the fitting occasion to settle such a question.

Sir Robert Peel

said, they were now, on the 12th clause, discussing a point which ought to have been raised on the second reading. He could not advise the appli- cation of the principles of the English Poor-law to Ireland, because he thought that, as far as regarded this question, they were completely erroneous. In certain cases, parties summoned to give evidence before Courts of Justice were exempted from taking an oath, but the English Poor-law empowered the assistant Commissioners to impose an oath, and if the witness declined to take it, to reject his testimony. It was unadvisable, in his opinion, to have one rule with respect to the validity of testimony in Courts of Justice, and a different rule regarding that given before the Poor-law Commissioners. If it were left to the conscience of the party to determine by what sanction he was to be bound in the one case, the same course ought to be taken in the other. The question regarding the validity of testimony ought to be reserved for separate consideration, and by far the best course would be to allow all who in Ireland were exempted from taking an oath before Courts of Justice to make a declaration before the Commissioners.

Mr. O'Connell

remarked, that the House had already acted on the principle of abolishing superfluous oaths, in the case of Excise and Custom-house oaths, and of the oaths formerly taken by persons receiving half-pay. He was perfectly prepared to go the length of abolishing oaths in all civil cases heard before the courts, and he thought the security of a declaration amply sufficient in the present instance.

Viscount Howick

felt himself compelled to resist the amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin (Mr. O'Connell), from the inconvenience to which it would lead. Whatever opinions he might entertain about the desirableness or expediency of abolishing unnecessary oaths, he thought that that object could only be effected by a separate and express Bill. It would be highly inconvenient that the power proposed to be granted to the Commissioners to examine on oath should be withheld.

The Committee divided on the original clause:—Ayes 148; Noes 77; Majority 71.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Archbold, R.
Alexander, Viscount Attwood, W.
Alsager, Captain Bagge, W.
Alston, R. Bailey, J.
Baker, E. Jones, W.
Baring, F. T. Jones, T.
Barrington, Viscount Kemble, H.
Barron, H. W. Knatchbull, hn. Sir E.
Bateman, J. Lambton, H.
Bellew, R. M. Liddell, hon. H. T.
Benett, J. Litton, E.
Bentinck, Lord G. Lockhart, A. M.
Blackstone, W. S. Logan, H.
Blake, M. J. Lucas, E.
Blake, W. J. Lygon, hon. General
Blennerhassett, A. Macleod, R.
Boiling, W. Marsland, T.
Broadley, H. Master, T. W. C.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Maunsell, T. P.
Burdett, Sir F. Mildmay, P. St. J.
Burr, H. Miles, W.
Burroughes, H. N. Monypenny, T. G.
Busfield, W. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Chetwynd, Major Morpeth, Viscount
Chisholm, A. W. Morris, D.
Christopher, R. A. O'Callaghan, hon. C.
Chute, W. L. W. Packe, C. W.
Clements, Viscount Pakington, J. S.
Clive, hon. R. H. Parker, J.
Cole, Viscount Parker, M.
Compton, H. C. Parker, R. T.
Coote, Sir C. H. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
Corry, hon. H. Parrott, J.
Courtenay, P. Patten, J. W.
Curne, R. Peel, right hon. Sir R.
Curry, W. Perceval, Colonel
Dalmeney, Lord Philipps, Sir R.
Darby, G. Philips, M.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Phillpotts, J.
Dowdeswell, W. Planta, right hon. J.
Dundas, hon. J. C. Plumptre, J. P.
Egerton, Sir P. Pringle, A.
Ellis, J. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Feilden, W. Richards, R.
Fort, J. Rickford, W.
Gibson, T. Rose, right hon. Sir G
Glynn, Sir S. R. Rushbrooke, Colonel.
Gordon, hon. Captain Sanderson, R.
Goring, H D. Sandon, Viscount
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Sandford, E. A.
Grattan, J. Scrope, G. P.
Greenaway, C. Shaw, right hon. F.
Grey, Sir G. Sheppard, T.
Grimsditch, T. Sinclair, Sir G.
Halse, J. Stanley, E. J.
Hastie, A. Stanley, W. O.
Hayes, Sir E. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Hayter, W. G. Stuart, H.
Hinde, J. H. Stuart, Lord J.
Hobhouse, T. B. Stuart, V.
Hodges, T. L. Sugden, rit. hn. Sir E.
Hodgson, R. Talbot, C. R. M.
Holmes, hon. W. A. C. Tancred, H. W.
Hope, G. W. Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Houstoun, G. Thornley, T.
Howard, F. J. Tollemache, F. J.
Howick, Viscount Trench, Sir F.
Hughes, W. B. Verner, Colonel
Jackson, Sergeant Vivian, Major C.
James, Sir W. C. Vivian, rt. hn. Sir R. H.
Jolliffe, Sir W. Walker, R.
White, L. Young, J.
Whitmore, T. C.
Wilkins, W. TELLERS.
Winnington, T. E. Adams, Sir C.
Woulfe, Sergeant The Solicitor-General
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, Major Marshall, W.
Barry, G. S. Marsland, H.
Beamish, F. B. Martin, J.
Berkeley, hon. H. Maule, W. H.
Blewitt, R. J. Muskett, G. A.
Bodkin, J. J. Nagle, Sir R.
Bowes, J. O'Brien, W. S.
Brabazon, Sir W. O'Connell, J.
Bridgeman, H. O'Connell, M. J.
Briscoe, J. I. O'Connell, M.
Brocklehurst, J. O'Conor, Don
Brodie, W. B. Pease, J.
Brotherton, J. Power, J.
Byng, right hon. G. S. Redington, T. N.
Callaghan, D. Rice, E. R.
Chapman, Sir M. L. C. Roche, W.
Chester, H. Salwey, Colonel
Collier, J. Seymour, Lord
Collins, W. Smith, R. V.
Divett, E. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Duke, Sir J. Stuart, J.
Dundas, F. Strutt, E.
Dundas, hon. T. Style, Sir C.
Ebrington, Viscount Talbot, J. H.
Evans, W. Tuffnell, H.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Turner, E.
Fitzgibbon, hon. Col. Vigors, N. A.
Fitzsimon, N. Walker, C. A.
Gibson, J. Westenra, hon. H. R.
Grattan, H. Westenra, hon. J. C.
Hindley, C. White, S.
Howard, P. H. Williams, W.
Hutton, R. Wood, G. W.
Jephson, C. D. O. Wrightson, W. B.
Johnston, General Wyse, T.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Yates, J. A.
Langdale, hon. C.
Lefevre, C. S. TELLERS.
Lister, E. C. O'Connell, D.
Maher, J. Hume, J.

Clause agreed to.

On the 15th clause, which provides for the formation of unions,

Mr. S. O'Brien

said, that this was a very important clause. It gave the commissioners power to throw into one union any amount of territory, or of population, they might choose. They might include a whole province in one union. He thought that some limit ought to be placed on this power.

Viscount Morpeth

said, that the question of the size of the unions had been discussed very much last year, and it had been considered very seriously whether it was possible to adopt any limitation. It was felt, after much consideration, that any limitation or restriction would probably very much shackle the beneficial operation of the Bill. To a certain degree the Bill was an experiment, and he thought that at first the Commissioners ought to be allowed to exercise their own discretion.

Captain W. D. Dundas

said, that from his experience of the working of the new Poor-law in England, he could state, that large unions had been found very inconvenient. He thought that there ought to be some limit to the unions.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

said, that no doubt the unions ought not to go beyond a certain extent, but the circumstances of locality must and ought to affect the extent of every union, and it would be impossible to make any general rule upon the subject.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that in the bill of last year it was provided that the unions should be of such an extent as that no person should be distant more than ten miles from the workhouse. According to the present Bill it was impossible to know how many workhouses there would be, or what distance those persons who sought relief would have to travel before they could reach a work house.

Mr. Goring

said, that in the English Act it was provided that no parish should be included in a union which was distant more than ten miles from the union workhouse, and that provision was found to work well. He should wish to place some specific restrictions on the size of the unions, and in order to do so he would move as an amendment, "That no parish should be included in a union if it were more than eight Irish miles distant from the union workhouse.

Viscount Howick

said, that in his own county some of the unions were very large; and, indeed, it would be utterly impossible in some instances to limit them without great inconvenience.

Sir Robert Peel

was of opinion that it would be most unwise to confine the powers of the Commissioners within too narrow limits. If the unions that were at first established were found to work well, nothing would be more easy than to extend them. He considered it an objectionable provision that in every instance the workhouse should be erected in the immediate vicinity of popular towns.

Mr. O'Connell

was persuaded that though the Government introduced this Bill for the purpose of conferring a benefit on Ireland, they had not estimated the expense of erecting these union workhouses. He thought the expense would be twice or three times as much as what was calculated upon. It was last year said that one hundred workhouses would be sufficient. Did any one now imagine that number would be sufficient? It was easy to begin with a limited number of workhouses in England, because where they were not established parochial relief was continued. But what would be the case in Ireland? The workhouses would not be sufficient to afford adequate relief, whereas the belief would exist that a right to relief was secured from the imposition of taxation. If they were to have Poor-laws in Ireland let them be established simultaneously, their expense estimated, and relief be placed within the reach of every individual.

Amendment withdrawn. Clause agreed to.

The House resumed. The Committee to sit again.