HC Deb 09 August 1839 vol 50 cc135-6
The Poor-Law Commission

Continuance Bill having been read a third time,

Mr. Freshfield moved a proviso, which he wished to be added to the bill, to prevent the Commissioners from framing any new regulations so as to limit out-door relief to able-bodied labourers or their families. The proviso, which he wished embodied at the end of the bill, was no doubt an experiment, but it was one which he thought would operate beneficially for all parties; and as the bill was only to endure for a limited time the House would have an opportunity of seeing, in the meantime, how that experiment would answer, so as to enable them to legislate properly on the subject when the whole question of the Poor-Law Amend- ment Act came to be discussed. The great difficulty affecting the administration of the Poor-law, under the old system, was owing to the numerous misconstructions and misrepresentations to which that system was exposed; and the difference between the former state of things and the present was, that instead of the old parish officers, they had now efficient boards of guardians, men of experience to regulate the administration of the funds, in the proper appropriation of which they themselves had extensive local interests. He thought they ought to leave as much discretionary power as possible in the hands of the boards of guardians, and prevent the unnecessary interference of the Commissioners. Although the new law was in general operation throughout the agricultural districts, there were several extensive manufacturing districts into which it had not yet been introduced; and he knew no plan which would so much facilitate the introduction of the measure into those districts, and tend so much to remove existing prejudices against its adoption, as giving full discretionary powers to the guardians. It was for that purpose that he felt it his duty to urge the trial of the experiment he proposed on the attention of the House. He did not intend there should be any restriction in the description of relief, whether it was to be given in money or in kind. He was certain it would only be given by the guardians in cases of extreme necessity, and the nature of the relief might be safely entrusted to their discretion. The principle would be most acceptable to the country at large, and particularly to the commercial districts. He disclaimed all hostility to the new Poor-law, and would not, on any account, return to the old system, but thought the House ought to ameliorate the provisions of the new law in several respects, and therefore acquiesce in the motion which he had introduced. The hon. Member concluded by moving a clause to the effect, "Provided always, that it shall not be lawful for the said Commissioners, by any rules or regulations not already made, to prohibit or limit the administration of relief to able-bodied labourers or their families out of the workhouse of any parish or union."

Lord John Russell

said, the principle involved in the motion of the hon. Member had been decided several times, and he could not consent to adopt it.

Motion negatived; Bill passed.

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