HC Deb 08 March 1841 vol 57 cc43-6

The House then went into committee on the Poor-law commission continuance and amendment bill, pro formâ.

Captain Pechell

asked whether the Gilbert unions were exempted from the operation of the act?

Mr. F. Maule

replied in the negative.

Mr. T. Duncombe

had on a former evening stated to the House, that he thought the recommendation of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, that the duration of the commission should be reduced to five years, and that the poor should not be thrown into those places behind the workhouse called workhouse churchyards, but should be buried in the parish churchyards, or, to use a more expressive term, in the poor churchyards, would be adopted by the Government in their amendments to the bill. He hoped also, that the Gilbert corporations would be excepted, and that the noble Lord would think twice before he attacked the local acts of the metropolis. Now, they had been often told, that the Poor-law commissioners had exercised the greatest discretion in the performance of their duties; but he did not think much discretion had been evinced in uniting the large parish of Kensington with that of Chelsea. Having done that, they afterwards got in Paddington, for the purpose of trying the Poor-law system. And what was the consequence? The greatest possible confusion was produced, and now there was a local act before the House for the purpose of dividing Kensington from Chelsea; or, as it were, to divorce them. But they had of course done away with the local act so that when Chelsea was separated from Kensington, that parish would be left with all the horrors of the Poor-law. He would advise all persons who were interested in the local acts not to halloo before they were out of the wood; for, though they might escape this year, the Gilbert corporations would be attacked, and in the next year the local acts would follow in the same course. It was proposed also, to divide large parishes into wards. Now, that was the most objectionable clause ever introduced into any bill, for it would produce divisions of the ratepayers of a parish. At present a ratepayer had as many votes for guardians as there were guardians forming the board; but would that be the case if this clause were adopted? He should like very much to know whether, if parishes were divided into wards, a ratepayer would have as many votes as he had at present, or only for the guardians of his particular ward?

Mr. Fox Maule

The hon. Member would see the clause when it was printed.

Mr. Duncombe

This point was a matter of deep interest, and unless he received a satisfactory explanation upon it, he should move that the chairman do leave the chair. The hon. Member concluded with moving that the chairman do report progress.

Mr. Fox Maule

said, the hon. Gentlemen refused what, he believed, had never before been refused to an individual, much less to a Member of the Government—namely, the right to move that a bill be committed pro formâ, for the sake of introducing amendments. It was a matter of ordinary courtesy to grant this to any hon. Member having a bill before the House. His noble Friend had stated, that he did not mean to take any step in the bill that evening-, but that he should ask permission to introduce certain amendments in committee, for the sake of having them printed, and placed before hon. Members, in the exact shape in which it was proposed to carry it Out. He hoped his hon. Friend would not press his motion, but allow the bill to be amended and reprinted.

Mr. T. Duncombe

thought he was called on to explain after what had fallen from the hon. Gentlemen. It might be unusual for an individual to object to a Member altering his bill as he liked, but it was much more unusual dud uncourteous when such a Gentleman was asked a question respecting the amendments he proposed to introduce, to turn round and say you will see when they are printed. When he was treated in that manner, he should certainly move that the chairman do report progress. No Secretary of State in the higher department, and much less one in the lower, should so treat an independent Member, or give, what he should consider in any other situation, a most impertinent answer. He had put a question respecting a certain amendment, and the answer was, that he would find it in the bill when printed. He did not regret the course he had taken, because the reply was uncourteous and unusual.

Mr. Fox Maule

said, the answer was one made in, perhaps, an unusual mode. He had answered from his seat without addressing the House, and meant it as from one Friend to another sitting at the same side of the House. The hon. Gentleman had chosen to consider it as an answer in his place. If the hon. Gentleman pressed his motion he should oppose it.

Lord John Russell

said, it was a very usual coarse for a Member, and particularly an official Member, bringing forward a bill, to take that bill through committee pro formâ, for the sake of having amendments printed, and that course was generally agreed to by the House. It was usual, as Well for private Members as for Members of the Government, to make amendments in that way, in order to place the bill before the House in the state in which they wished it to go into committee. He (Lord J. Russell) had done more. He had stated certain amendments which he wished to put in the bill, and the hon. Member said because you have done more than is usual, in stating certain amendments, I ask you to do more still, and state every item and iota of the amendments you mean to introduce. [Mr. T. Duncombe: I did not ask that.] The effect of such demands would be, that a Member of the Government, in asking the usual indulgence, instead of doing more than he had done, would do less, and give no explanation at all.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, the noble Lord might explain as much or as little as he pleased, but he ought not to misrepresent him. He had not asked for every iota of the amendments, bat for a particular clause—the clause respecting the division of districts into wards.

Lord J. Russell

had stated generally the amendments he meant to introduce, but had said nothing with regard to that part of the bill, and he had no amendment to propose in it.

The Chairman

was sure that the hon. Member for Finsbury would be most unwilling to use any expression inconsistent with what was due to another Member. He had no doubt, therefore, that the hon. Member would see the propriety of withdrawing the word "impertinent," which must have been used in the haste and warmth of debate. The hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary of State, had said, that his reply was not intended to be heard by the House.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, his question had been put publicly, and he therefore considered the answer public. He would not press his motion.

Colonel T. Wood

thought there had been a good deal of warmth about nothing at all. The expression "impertinent" was too strong a one to be allowed to pass by the House. He did not think that the hon. Member for Finsbury could desire to persist in it.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, that after the explanation of the hon. Gentleman, the Tinder Secretary of State, he withdrew it, of course.

Bill ordered to be reported as amended, and amendments inserted to be printed.

House resumed.