HC Deb 08 March 1841 vol 57 cc9-11
Lord John Russell

said, that it was Ins intention to re-commit the Poor-law Amendment Bill pro forma, in order to introduce into it certain alterations, some of which were so important that he would state the nature of them in the first instance to the House. He proposed that the blank respecting the duration of the commission should be filled up with the word "five" instead of the word "ten." Upon another part of the measure there had been a good deal of misapprehension and uneasiness: he alluded to that portion which related to the operation of local acts. He wished that, in future, the Poor-law Commissioners should have the same powers in places where local acts existed as they possessed at present; such places (as we understood) were to be exempted specially from the other clauses of the bill before the House. Another clause in the bill gave power to draw different unions together, for the purpose of providing for and managing the insane and infant poor. The word "infirm" had been introduced, and was intended to apply to persons totally helpless, such as the deaf and dumb, and others in a similar state; but as it; was thought that that term might receive-too general an application, it was meant to leave it out. He proposed that receptacles should be constructed chiefly for idiots, or persons: whom it might be dangerous to leave more at large. The same power would be conferred for the regulation and management of the infant-poor; but that no expense should be incurred for any such establishment if one-fifth of the Poor-law guardians in any union refused to accede to the arrangement. It would thus be in the power of one-fifth of any body of guardians to prevent the operation of this clause of the bill. His attention had been called to another part of the measure by the right hon. Member for Tamworth: he meant the clauses which related to the poor having burial grounds, merely belonging to the workhouses. He (Lord John Russell) did not propose that such clauses should remain. At the same time, it was necessary to say, that complaints bad been made by clergymen and others, not on account of the burial of paupers belonging to the union, but of casual paupers dying in the workhouses. He proposed to remedy the evil, by making the unions contribute, in certain cases, to the expense of enlarging churchyard. This was a general sketch of the more important amendments he intended to introduce when the bill was recommitted pro formâ to-night, in order that the report might be taken into further consideration on Friday se'nnight.

Sir R. Peel

had heard, with great satisfaction, that the noble Lord intended to limit the existence of the commission to five years instead of extending it to ten years. The noble Lord had left the matter a little doubtful in what he had said respecting buildings for the education of idiots and infant-poor. The expense was not to be incurred if one-fifth of the guardians objected. Did the noble Lord mean that if the proposed structure were for three unions, and one-fifth of the guardians of any one of the unions objected, that in that case the plan was not to be carried into effect?

Lord J. Russell

replied, that it would prevent the extension of it to that union.

Mr. Wakley

also expressed his satisfaction that the noble Lord had abandoned his first plan; as far as they went, he approved of the amendments, but he hoped the noble Lord would go one step farther, and would adopt the suggestion he had thrown out of dividing the present measure into two bills; one to continue the commission for five years, and the other, apart from the commission, to regulate the working of the Poor-law, so that people might feel satisfied that it was not intended to make the commission perpetual. What the people most earnestly desired was, that the law should be so constructed as at the end, at all events, of five years to work itself without the assistance of the Poor-law commissioners. The commission at present was made the excuse for every species of abuse. He would also remind the noble Lord that he had received several deputations from medical practitioners respecting that department of the Poor-law Act; but the noble Lord had not intimated his intention to introduce any change in that respect. Several proposals had been submitted to the noble Lord with reference to clauses of great importance, and he trusted that the interests of the poor, as regarded the medical depart- merit, would not be forgotten. The medical profession was ready to come forward with their propositions, and would be supported by an influential body in the House, to which he hoped the noble Lord was ready to give due consideration.

Mr. W. Duncombe

asked if the Gilbert unions were to be exempted.

Lord J. Russell

replied, that he meant to include the Gilbert unions.

Mr. Ormsby Gore

inquired whether incorporations under local acts were to be exempted.

Lord John Russell

added, that as to local acts he meant to reserve to the commissioners the powers they now possessed, but to exempt districts included in local acts from additional powers. As to the first part of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Finsbury, that was fair matter for discussion and consideration; but with regard to medical provision for the poor, the boards of guardians had introduced some alterations and improvements, and it was better to leave the matter as it was than to make any special enactment on the subject.

Mr. Grimsditch

begged to know whether the noble Lord intended to reduce the size of any of the unions?

Lord. J. Russell

answered that he did not.