HC Deb 11 February 1842 vol 60 cc295-7

begged to make an inquiry of the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with regard to the Poor-law Amendment Act. The right hon. Baronet had, on a former evening, stated that it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to bring forward a measure for the continuance of that act, and of the powers of the commissioners, but that that measure would not be introduced until after Easter. In March the election of guardians took place, and by the existing act it was enacted, that the votes of the rate-payers should be taken, and returned as the Poor-law commissioners should direct and order. Officers had been hitherto appointed who had been paid, and it was believed that through some of the northern districts of England there had been foul play, guardians being returned who were favourable to the new Poor-law, while those opposed to it, but to whom the electors bad, in truth, given a majority, were declared to be not elected. He had to ask the right hon. Baronet to use his influence in Somerset-house, and he hoped it was considerable, to induce the Poor-law commissioners to issue an order, that during the ensuing election, no paid officer should interfere with the voting.

Sir James Graham

was somewhat at a loss to understand the import of the question of his hon. Friend, the Member for Knaresborough, for it partook more of the character of advice than inquiry; but he would state, that with respect to the approaching elections of guardians, he conceived, that it would be exceedingly inconvenient, at the present time, to make any alteration in the arrangements for electing them. The Poor-law commissioners, by an order directed to most of the unions, recommended, that the clerks should be the returning officers at these elections, and the reasons for that recommendation were stated in the circular of the Poor-law commissioners, and fully justified the adoption of the course which the commissioners proposed. They were aware of the importance of their acquaintance with the forms of election, their necessary knowledge of the local interests of the officers, and the impossibility of their becoming candidates for the office of guardian. If the hon. Gentleman wished to know what his (Sir James Graham's) opinion was upon the subject, he would confess, that he could not take the hon. Gentleman's advice, because those reasons to which he had referred were, in his mind, satisfactory, as showing the propriety of the steps which had been already taken, and for the appointment of the clerks to the unions as the returning officers. If his hon. Friend, however, wished to bring forward any case against any of the returning officers, who were clerks, and might be punished by the commissioners for misconduct, he could assure him, on the part of the commissioners, that for past or future delinquencies, any such persons should be visited with condign punishment, and every facility should be given to bring such cases to a satisfactory conclusion.