§ Sir J. Graham
moved the Order of the Day for a committee of the whole House on the Poor-law Amendment Bill.
§ Mr. Liddell
inquired of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department if the commissioners had put a proper construction on that part of the Poor-law authorizing the delegation of the whole powers and authority of the central board to any one commissioner, with the consent of the Secretary of State? 29 and suggested that the powers of the commissioners should be recapitulated and confirmed by the new act.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, it was quite clear that the law intended to give to one com missioner, in certain cases and with certain reservations, all the power of the commissioners. There were three commissioners, and as one of them was required under the Irish Poor-law Act to be occasionally absent in Ireland, and one of the two in England might be incapacitated, from illness or some other cause, from the performance of his duties, it had been thought better to authorize the remaining commissioner to act in the absence of his colleagues than to entail on the country the expense of a fourth commissioner. With respect to the other part of the question, the right hon. Baronet was understood to reply that the powers of the commissioners were sufficiently well known to render any insertion of them in the new act. unnecessary. He begged to move that the Speaker do leave the Chair.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
wished to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he seriously contemplated being able to pass this bill before the commission expired. Rather more than a fortnight since, in consequence of the state of public business, the late period of the Session, and the approaching expiring of the commission on the 31st of this month, he had himself moved that it would be expedient that some other measure should be adopted instead of this long bill. He considered it, then, totally impossible that the right hon. Baronet would be able to pass this measure within the time limited for the expiration of the commission. The House would admit that there was much less probability now; for in the week after next the commission would cease and determine. The right hon. Baronet could not expect that the bill would pass within that period, and he should like to know what would be the state of the country supposing it did not pass within that I time. To-morrow there would be a committee of supply; Thursday, being a notice day, there would be no Poor-law; Friday there would be supply again; consequently there would not be much more of the Poor-law after that evening, and he did not think the House would get through many clauses to-night. There would then be only next week for the House to get through a bill containing 30 upwards of sixty clauses; there must be one night for the report, and another for the third reading, leaving no time at all for the consideration of this most important subject by the House of Lords. Supposing the commission was put in abeyance by its expiry, the House must go back to the first clause, which would require to be altered. The clause stated that it was necessary to extend the commission; but it would be necessary to renew and revive the commission, and in the meantime the commissioners not being popular with the boards of guardians, they might depend on it throughout the country considerable advantage would be taken of their absence. He was in hopes they would not be allowed to sit one hour in Somerset-house after the commission expired. Several of the boards objected strongly to the size of these unions, especially in the metropolitan districts; he might instance St. Andrew's, Holborn, which the commissioners had joined to a small parish, in order to have it within their grasp. The moment the commission expired there would be a dissolution of that union, and there would be also, he expected, general confusion throughout the country. He should say, for the sake of the law itself, it would be much better not to let the commission drop at all, and to pass a short bill for its continuance, as it would be morally, and he might say physically impossible that the present bill should pass. He did not know what a tyrant majority might be able to effect, but. he was at least satisfied it ought not to pass. They might repeal the Gilbert's Act, but that would be contrary to the good faith of Parliament when the new law was introduced; but they would have the greatest difficulty in doing so, and ha very much doubted whether they would be able to effect it. Therefore, unless the right hon. Baronet's explanation was satisfactory, he should move that the Speaker do leave the Chair that day three months.
§ Sir J. Graham
was sure the threat which the hon. Gentleman had just held out, that the Speaker should be detained in the Chair for so long a period, would be the greatest inducement to him to make every concession to the hon. Gentlemen consistent with his public duty; but he was happy to perceive the hon. Gentleman was quite aware of the extreme inconvenience and evil to the public which would result from the commission lapsing, and 31 that the hon. Gentleman admitted that the controlling power of the commission was in fact necessary for the due execution of the law. He did not think the House would accuse him of unnecessary delay in bringing this measure under their consideration. He had done so from time to time whenever the progress of other measures, considered of paramount importance, allowed. Four nights had already been occupied in preliminary discussions, and some progress had been made with the first clause, which was one of great importance; yet the hon. Gentleman now asked him, when the House was about to proceed with the other clauses, to give him some assurance that he would not persevere in pressing this measure on the attention of the House. He could not, in the discharge of his duty to the public, give any such assurance; he was bound to take the opinion of the House, which had hitherto supported the bill by a very decisive majority. He could not conceive that the hon. Gentleman, being aware of the confusion which would result from delay, would take any extreme course to secure that object; yet he was afraid, from something which fell from him, that there was some probability of his doing so. It was, at all events, his duty to proceed with the measure until he was enabled to ascertain the decided opinion of the House on the subject. He had endeavoured to urge on the House his view of the extreme danger which, in the present state of the poor of this country, would result from the discontinuance of the commission; and in his opinion the passing of a short bill only for the purpose of renewing it would so brand that commission with the want of the confidence of Parliament that their functions could no longer be performed with equal efficiency. The period of the extension of the commission would come under the consideration of the House in the early clauses. He was disposed to act in accordance with the feeling of the House, and that he would have an opportunity of ascertaining when the question came before them. On going into committee the first motion would be to fill up the blank in the first clause, and this was the point on which to raise the discussion. Of course, if the judgment of the House was against him, he would defer to it.
was well aware that when a Gentleman felt it to be his duty to 32 oppose any measure of the Government, be subjected himself to the imputation of being factious. This was the stale device of every rampant majority when irritated by any check. He should therefore offer no apology for any opposition he might choose to give the present measure; but he would remind hon. Gentlemen who had possibly voted on this question against their public pledges and private convictions, that there might be such a thing as a factious support. He did not see why the House should be called upon, because of the short-sightedness of the Legislature, and the carelessness of magistrates in engrafting errors on the act of Elizabeth, to continue the imperium in imperio which the commissioners possessed. He could not help connecting the Corn-law with the Poor-law. In 1839 the noble Lord the Member for London asserted that under the operation of the Poor-law the land in Sussex had increased in value by three years' purchase. Why, then, when they were taking off the burdens on land, did they cling to their darling monopoly of corn? He did not know whether this was the proper time to make observations on the bastardy clauses, but he could not help expressing his opinion that they were most unwise and inhuman in their tendency. There had been a decrease of 40 per cent, in the charge of bastards on parishes; but would any person infer from that that the number of illegitimate children had diminished? In the course of his reading he had met with a valuable work, published by a Frenchman, on the statistics of crime in France, and the writer observed that the department where the number of illegitimate births was the greatest, there were the fewest infanticides; and where the number of infanticides was the greatest, the illegitimate births were the fewest. He trusted the House would force on the Government the necessity of reconsidering the bastardy clauses. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had been frequently taunted with having given his sanction to the Anti-Poor-law cry at the last election; and when he observed the great power which the right hon. Baronet exercised over hon. Members opposite, who, however much they might decry him in their own coteries, yet in that House believed in and trembled at him, he could not help thinking that the right hon. Baronet had given a silent sanction to those 33 who attacked the late Government under cover of the Poor-law. What had been the course pursued by a near relative of the right hon. Baronet at Devonport? He declared that if the provisions of the New Poor-law were not altered and modified, the country would be in a state of revolution. What, too, had been the course pursued by the present Under-Secretary for the Colonies at Weymouth? He expressed unmitigated hostility to the New Poor-law. Since entering that House, however, those Gentlemen who had been so loud in their denunciations of the Poor-law out of doors, had been rendered mute by the potent wand of the great wizard. Was it too much, then, to suppose, that if the same power which was exerted now had been employed twelve months back, it would have had equal influence? He did not now intend to allude to the conduct of the Paymaster of the Forces, who had afforded a remarkable proof of the truth of his own quotation—nusquam luta fides! But he wished to refer to the declarations made by another hon. Gentleman, and which he seemed to have most conveniently forgotten. He found that this Gentleman, after abusing on the hustings the Whigs for their attachment to place, proceeded to make the following observations:—He had always expressed himself,"he said,"on the harsh bearing of the Poor-law on the poor. The Ministers having first found out that all the institutions of the country were abuses, introduced theoretical reforms which were dangerous to the country. They discovered the necessity of altering the Poor-law. Now, he conceived that the vesting of absolute power in the commissioners had been the cause of all the misery which followed that law. The most of the hardships had arisen in consequence of the discretionary power given them.This was uttered in 1837, when there was great excitement about the Poor-law; and what said the same Gentleman in July, 1841, when the excitement had a little subsided? He stated that—On the subject of the Poor-law, he had not in any degree changed his opinion; he thought it most unjust for a central commission to take on itself the whole management of the poor; he thought a discretionary power ought to be given to local authorities, who were intimately connected with the poor, and who were much better acquainted with their habits than men at a distance possibly could be; he should like to see such a law as the old law would be if duly administered34 Who was the Gentleman who gave utterance to these sentiments? He now held a place in the office from which this Poor-law bill emanated—he was Under-Secretary of Slate for the Home Department. He would now leave the hon. Gentleman to strike a balance as to the attachment to place between Whigs and Tories. In his vocabulary he had but one term to characterise such conduct, and the hon. Member for Knaresborough would show some impartiality in applying to it the same language he had used to describe the proceedings of his opponents.
said, that being unexpectedly called upon to address the House, he should not, in the few words he felt it necessary to say in reply to the observations of the hon. Member, indulge in any warmth of expression, nor give cause, he hoped, for the application of any of those remarks, which the hon, Member thought ought to attach to his conduct. He felt called on to say a few words, in reference to the speech which the hon. Gentleman had quoted as proceeding from him at the last election; and he had no hesitation in again repeating the words he used. He remembered perfectly well stating in one part of the speech, which the hon. Gentleman had not quoted, that no man was more fully convinced than himself of the great and various abuses which had rendered a change of the old law necessary. He stated that he conceived it to be utterly impossible and unjust to frame any definite law for the relief of the poor which should be applicable in all the different parts of the country, and that he was most anxious to entertain any modification or alteration of the harsh clauses of that law. He believed that he had now stated all that he did say, and he must be allowed to say, that in the first place he felt most deeply the abuses of the old law. It, therefore, appeared extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman should attempt to impute to him a declaration that he would vote for a return to the old law. ["No, no."] Was he, then, to vote against the present bill?
What I said the hon. Gentleman stated was this, "That he should like to see such a law as the old law, if duly administered."
admitted, that he stated, as he was now ready to repeat, that the abuses of the law arose more from its maladministration than its nature. He also 35 stated that he was anxious to revise the I harsher clauses, and that it was impossible that there could be one uniform mode of relief applicable to all parts of the country. What was the course he now pursued? He was ready to vote for the continuance of the commission, because it was allowed by all that a different system could be applied to different parts of the country; and he voted for the bill with- the object of considering it in committee, and introducing such modifications as the House might deem fit. He, therefore, did not think he was liable to the charge made against him by the hon. Gentleman.
§ General Johnson
put it to the right hon. Baronet opposite, whether he thought at that period of the Session there was an opportunity for a fair discussion of the details of the measure? He did not think it at all an unreasonable request to ask the Government to introduce a temporary measure, and to bring the whole question under the consideration of the House at an early period next Session.
Lord J. Russell
interfered as little as possible in these discussions, thinking it best to leave the hon. Gentleman to defend the bill; but on the last occasion on which he had spoken he stated, that he thought the best way would be to go into committee, there to consider the four or five first clauses, and then that the House should determine whether there would be time and opportunity to consider the other clauses. They embraced various subjects, the Gilbert unions, school-districts, &c.; and hon. Gentlemen wished to bring under the consideration of the House the bastardy clauses on which difference of opinion prevailed. But with respect to the first clause's continuing, the House seemed pretty well agreed, and even the opponents of the bill admitted that the immediate expiration of the commission would be attended with confusion. He therefore thought it desirable to go into committee to consider the first clauses, and after that an opportunity would arise for deciding whether they could go on with the rest of the bill.
§ Mr. S. Wortley
said, the course suggested by the noble Lord involved some difficulty. If they proceeded to the first clause, and filled up the blank prolonging the commission for five years, then he feared it would not be in the power of the House to retrace its steps. Be this so or not, there appeared to be great incon- 36 venience in pushing the bill forward in its present state. The right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham), in his desire to carry the enactments of this bill, appeared to be actuated by a feeling that the course proposed by the hon. Member for Finsbury, to continue the commission till next Session, would have the effect of affixing a stigma to it, and rendering it less efficient. He could not help thinking that there need exist no such apprehension. The commissioners had had already a very decided opinion pronounced in their favour by a majority of the House; and he did not see that it would be casting any stigma on them, if under the peculiar circumstances of the time, the commission was only prolonged for one year instead of five.
Lord J. Russell
did not mean that after the House should agree to continue the commission for five years the House should then retrace its steps and continue the commission for one year only. He always stated, that the commission should be continued for five years.
§ Sir R. Peel
was ready to admit that it would be unjust for a rampant majority to force the House against all reason to consent to any measure, and having made that concession he hoped it would be conceded to him that it would be equally unjust in a minority to prevent the sense of the House from being duly taken. There would be an end to all deliberative assemblies, if the sense of the majority was to be overborne. Why not take the sense of the House on the question whether the commission should continue five years or not, and discuss that question irrespective of the other clauses? He intended to propose votes of supply to-morrow and on Friday, so that it would be Tuesday next before this bill could be again considered; but all the Government asked was, that the House should proceed in the usual way, and deliberate upon the details of the bill. If there were objections to particular clauses, they might be urged, and due weight given them; but let the House determine whether the commission should last five years or not. He disclaimed taking any course on the strength of a majority against reason; but if they were to act on the principle that the minority may by obstructions defeat the sense of the majority, they would be establishing an argument in favour of despotic government, and against popular 37 assemblies. If the bill were committed, and parties should be dissatisfied because certain changes were not made in it, they had the power of taking the sense of the House against it on the report and on the third reading.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
was not liable to the charge of proposing a vexatious opposition. He said it was totally impossible, on account of the want of time, properly to consider the measure, and the right hon. Baronet had confirmed what he said, for he admitted that they could not consider the bill again until next Tuesday. Objections were entertained to various unbecoming, on the 12th of July, to at-clauses, particularly to that relating to the commission and Gilbert unions, and he still maintained that there was not sufficient time for a fair and straightforward consideration of the bill. He did not say that great inconvenience would arise if the commission ceased. What he stated was, that if they intended to renew the commission there would be great inconvenience in allowing it to cease; and that in that case they would find great difficulty in reviving it.
Mr. R. Yorke
said, that the present bill was unpopular, and by a large portion of persons was thought unjust and unchristian. Parliament had met at the beginning of February, and they had been speaking on every other subject except the poor. It was now the 12th of July, and it would be about the 20th before they could again proceed to the discussion of this bill. At that time a large number of Members would be leaving town, and he learned from information which he had received from various parts of the country, some of which was in his hat at that moment, that the Government intended to job this bill through the House when the state of the House would render it impossible for the measure to receive a just and proper discussion.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, he hoped the House would see the inconvenience of calling on the Government to state what course they should pursue with respect to particular clauses. He should be most happy to obtain the support of the hon. Gentleman for the first five clauses, but must abstain from making him pledge as to the sixth. He concurred with the noble Lord opposite in thinking it expedient 38 that the opinion of the House should be taken on the first five clauses; and the opinion of the House might be again asked on the proposition of the hon. Member for Finsbury, whether the commission should last, for one year only. The motion for filling up the blank in the first clause would raise the whole question; and if there should be a decided majority in favour of continuing the commission for five years, he hoped that those who were opposed to the prolongation of the term of the commission would then give way.
§ Mr. Hindley
thought it unseemly and unbecoming, on the 12th of July, to attempt to go into committee on this bill, against which a great portion of the supporter of the Government were pledged. What was the real intention of Government? The right hon. Baronet, opposite bad, not the least idea of carrying the bill. All that, he wanted was to get the first five clauses agreed to, and then he would just pass that short bill, and the House would hear nothing more about it. Was it not better to take the sense of the House on the motion that the commission should only last one year? He hoped the hon. Member for Cambridge's explanation would be better received at Cambridge than it had been in that House. If the hon. Member voted for the continuance of the commission, he would certainly act inconsistently with his former declarations.
§ Captain Pechell
recommended the right hon. Baronet, the Home Secretary, to imitate the conciliatory manner of Lord Althorp, who introduced the Poor-law, and who by his manner greatly disarmed opposition. In consequence of the right hon. Baronet having read a letter from one poor man in Chester in favour of the commission and the dissolution of he Gilbert Unions, he should be obliged to read to the House letters of a contrary tendency from almost every board of guardians acting under local acts. He advised the right hon. Baronet to take the continuance of the commission for one year, and leave the Gilbert Unions alone.
said, that all the Government should desire was such a pressure from the House as would justify them in not persevering with the bill. Nobody could blame them for not bringing it forward before, because other measures had been under the consideration of the House, It struck him to be utterly im- 39 possible at that late period of the Session to discuss all the clauses of the bill, relating to all the ramified interests of society. The school districts were a new topic to a considerable extent. They ought to educate the poor, certainly, but on a system equally just to all, and they ought to consider that system, as well as the arrangements of school districts. He therefore wished the House would express such an opinion that Ministers would be justified in passing a temporary act continuing the commission until the next Parliament. Then the subject could be considered at an early period.
§ Viscount Sandon
said, his opinion accorded with that just expressed by the hon. and learned Member. He had already expressed his opinion, that the new system should be allowed a little further experiment under the present Administration, before they attempted to re-adjust it for a considerable period. He observed, that as the law continued to be carried into operation modifications of an improved character took place, and there seemed now to be a more just appreciation of the impossibility of passing one iron roller over the whole of the country. He would therefore allow this improvement to go on before they attempted to settle the law, and they would then be able to bring the question to a more satisfactory conclusion. As it was important that every clause in the bill should be considered, he would prefer to see the Government at the present moment introduce a short bill for continuing the commission, he would not say for one year, but for two years, if necessary. In the present circumstances of the country it was desirable not to continue the agitation which arose out of this measure. He believed it was the exclusion of out-door relief which agitated some of the most populous districts of the country, and quiet would be restored by a declaration from the Government that the workhouse test was not applicable to districts of that description.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, he had declined to give a pledge to the hon. Member for Knaresborough which he conceived inconsistent with his duty; but there were two assurances he was now anxious to make to the House. The first was, that nothing could be further from the intentions of Ministers than to pass the present bill when the attendance of Members became thin. He was aware of the difficulty 40 there would be in carrying forward this measure. After the present day, it would probably be next Tuesday before the bill could again come under consideration. He therefore could only give the assurance on general grounds that it would be his endeavour to make progress with it that evening and on Tuesday next, and it was not the intention of the Government to press forward a measure of such importance at a more advanced period of the Session, when the attendance of Members was thin. The second assurance he had to give the House was this:—If it should be the pleasure of the House to renew the commission and to extend the term of its existence, and that then, from the progress of the Session and a thin attendance of Members, it should be impossible for him, consistently with the assurance he had just given, to press forward the entire measure, then he gave a most distinct assurance on the part of the Government, that they would feel it their duty at the earliest period next Session to bring forward a measure in detail, containing all the amendments embodied in the present measure, and others which the experience of the winter might suggest. He certainly could not, consistently with his duty, make the concession of shortening the term for which it was proposed to renew the commission. He had on former occasions stated as strongly as possible his opinion, that a renewal of the commission for a shorter term, for a period anything like a year, would tend to depreciate its authority. The state of the country was such as they all deplored, and the commissioners were about to enter on their duties under peculiar circumstances. He therefore thought that they must be armed with full authority. Their authority would, however, be imperfect if Parliament, after an experience of nine years, admitting that the central control of the commission was necessary, should yet declare, in reference to the persons who composed it, or to the mode in which they exercised their authority, that they were unwilling to invest those persons with authority for so short a period as five years. This important point would be most advantageously discussed in committee, on the very first motion to introduce words to fill up the blank; and the decision of the committee would be taken on it.
§ House in committee on the bill.
§ Sir J. Graham
proposed to fill up the 41 blank in the first clause, continuing the commission, with the words "thirty-first day of July, in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty-seven."
§ Mr. S. Crawford
rose to propose an amendment, and in doing so he trusted he should not be charged with offering factious opposition to the bill. It had been said that the opponents of the law did not sufficiently understand its provisions. He would endeavour to point out some of its arbitrary enactments:—Sec. 1. Commissioners may summon individuals before them, examine them ou oath, and enforce the production of all books or contracts whatsoever relating to the relief of the poor (sec. 2), and may delegate these powers to assistant-commissioners.Sec. 15. They may make all such rules and regulations as they may think fit for the management of the poor, for the government of workhouses, and the education of the children therein; for the superintending and regulating the houses where such children are kept, and for apprenticing the children of poor persons; also as to the examining, auditing, and allowing of accounts, and making of contracts in all matters relating to the relief of the poor, and at their discretion may alter, suspend, or rescind any such regulations.Sec. 21. All powers and authorities given by all former acts of Parliament, either general or local, with respect to the building of poor-houses, purchasing land, fitting up of the houses, and managing the poor therein, vested in the commissioners according to their rules, orders, and regulations.Sec. 25. Commissioners empowered to raise and charge on any parish any sum under 50l. for enlarging the workhouse without consent of guardians.Sec. 26. They may declare as many parishes as they may think fit to be united in any union.Sec. 32. Also have power to dissolve, add to, or take from, any union; but for this purpose they must have the consent of two-thirds of the guardians.Sec. 38. Commissioners shall determine the number and prescribe the duties of the guardians to be elected in each union; and also fix the qualification, so that it do not exceed an annual rental of 40/.; and determine the number which shall be elected for each parish.The only check upon the commissioners in the distribution of the guardians to the different parishes imposed by the above clause is that each parish shall have at least one guardian. This being complied with, the commissioners may distribute the rest as they please.Sec. 42. Commissioners empowered to 42 make rules and orders with respect to unions under the Gilbert Act, or any other general or local act, all these rules and orders, so made, being as valid and binding as if they were embodied in the act itself.Sec. 46. Commissioners may direct guardians or overseers to appoint paid officers for different purposes. They are given the complete control over these officers, and regulate the amount of their salaries.Sec. 48. Commissioners may, without any suggestion of complaint from guardians, remove any master of workhouse or overseer, or other paid officer, and declare such person incompetent to fill any paid office connected with the relief of the poor within the union.Sec. 49. All contracts entered into not in conformity with the rules of the commissioners void at their pleasure.Sec. 52. Commissioners empowered to make such rules as they may think fit for the relief to be given to able-bodied persons, or their families, out of the workhouse. They may direct to what extent and for what period it is to be given; whether by payments in money or food or clothing; to what persons or class of persons, at what times and places, on what conditions, and in what manner such relief shall be afforded.Sec. 89. All payments made by any overseer or guardian, at variance with any rule, order, or regulation of the commissioners declared to be illegal, any law, custom, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding.Sec. 98. Any person wilfully neglecting or disobeying any of the rules, orders, or regulations of the commissioners, or being guilty of any contempt of the commissioners sitting as a board, such person, upon conviction before two justices, shall forfeit any sum not exceeding 5l. for the first offence, not exceeding 20l. nor less than 5l. for the second, and the third offence becomes a misdemeanour, punishable with line and imprisonment.Out of these arbitrary principles had arisen the harsh enforcement of the workhouse test. The main mischief of the law was, that it confounded the profligate with the poor. Very different was the policy of the old law. Let the House refer to the following authorities: —Infirm Poor.—New Poor-law.—Sec. 27 provides that magistrates may order relief to any "adult person who shall, from old age and infirmity of body, be wholly unable to work without requiring such person to reside in any workhouse, provided that one of such justices shall certify in such order, of his own knowledge, that such person is wholly unable to work."Gilbert and Select Vestry Acts.— An appeal is permitted on the part of the poor man, 1st by sect. 35, to local magistrates; 2nd, by sect. 46, to magistrates in quarter-sessions. —Select Vestry Act, Section 2.—Appeal to two 43 justices. Gilbert's Act—Schedule, Rule 3 — "That the governor shall place in the best apartments such poor persons who, having been creditable housekeepers, are reduced by misfortune, in preference to those who are become poor by vice and idleness."Select Vestry Act, 59 George 3rd., c. 12, seel.—"And every such select vestry is hereby empowered and required to examine into the state and condition of the poor of the parish, and to inquire into and determine upon the proper objects of relief, and nature and amount of the relief to be given; and in such case shall take into consideration the character and conduct of the poor person to be relieved; and shall be at liberty to distinguish in the relief to be granted between the deserving and the idle, extravagant and profligate poor.Elizabeth 43, clause 1, provides, that Competent sums shall be raised for and towards the necessary relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind, and such other among them being poor and not able to work. And clause 5 gives a power to build on waste or common lands convenient houses Or dwellings for the said impotent poor.Commissioners' Report, 1840, page 29.— "With regard to the aged and infirm, however, there is a strong disposition on the part of a portion of the public so to modify the arrangements of these establishments as to place them on the footing of almshouses. The consequences which would flow from this change are only to be pointed out to show its inexpediency and danger. If the condition of the inmates of a workhouse were to be so regulated as to invite the aged and infirm to take refuge in it, it would immediately be useless as a test between indigence and indolence, or fraud Rules are to be established of such a nature that these establishlishments may not be almshouses, but workhouses in the proper meaning of the term.The severity of the dietary also proceeded from the same arbitrary source, its effect being clearly to exclude the unfortunate poor from the only relief the law allowed. The severe rules of the commissioners had not been at all relaxed until their existence seemed at stake. He had the highest authority for his denunciation of the arbitrary spirit of the law, and as to its contrariety to the humane spirit of the old law, in the following extracts from Blackstone:—One of the greatest advantages of our English law is, that not only the crimes themselves which it punishes, but also the penalties which it inflicts, are ascertained and notorious; nothing is left to arbitrary discretion. The King, t)y his judges, dispenses what the law 44 has previously ordained, but is not himself the legislator. The law not only regards life and member, and protects every man in the enjoyment of them, but also furnishes him with everything necessary for their support; for there is no man so indigent or wretched but he may demand a supply sufficient for all the necessaries of life from the more opulent part of the community, by means of the several statutes enacted for the relief of the poor.The objects of 43rd of Elizabeth were two:—first, to relieve the impotent poor, and them only; secondly, to find employment for such as are able to work; and this principally at their own houses—at their separate homes, instead of accumulating all the poor in one common workhouse, a practice which puts the sober and diligent upon a level (in point of their earnings) with those who are not so, depresses the laudable emulation of domestic industry and neatness, and destroys all family connection, the only felicity of the indigent.The commissioners Were compelled, so harsh and impracticable were their own rules, to become exceedingly inconsistent, as was evinced by this passage, in their 6th annual report, page 39:—It must be obvious to any one conversant with the mode of living of the Irish people, that to establish a dietary in the workhouses inferior to the ordinary diet of the poorer classes would be difficult, if not in many eases impossible; and hence it has been contended, that the workhouse system of relief was impracticable in Ireland. On the contrary, we are satisfied that the diet, clothing, bedding, and other merely physical comforts, may in the workhouse be better than in the neighbouring cottages, and Vet that none but the really destitute poor will seek for admission, provided that order and discipline be strictly maintained there. It is in truth the regularity, order, strict enforcement of cleanliness, constant occupation, preservation of decency and decorum, and exclusion of all irregular habits, and empty excitements of life, on which reliance refuge be mainly placed for deterring individuals not actually and unavoidably destitute from seeking refuge Within the workhouse.He firmly believed, that the effect of the Poor-law had been greatly to increase the distress unfortunately existing; for, whatever might be said as to the injury arising from paying wages out of the rates, it was undeniable, that in seasons of un foreseen distress, great relief was, under the old law, afforded occasionally to the poor. The House had decided, indeed, that the principle of the act should be maintained, but he trusted the commission would not be maintained for more than a 45 year at present. This would be considered an evidence of kind feeling on the part xof Government towards the poor. Moreover, let it be remembered, that in analogous eases, extraordinary and unconstitutional powers were never granted for more than a year, as in the case of the Mutiny Act, which had to be annually renewed. Whether as regarded the rights of the rate-payers—of the able-bodied poor—or of the aged and infirm—the bill was unjustifiable, unconstitutional, and severe. He appealed to those who professed a regard for liberal principles, but few of whom were now present, and to those who had promised a regard for constitutional rights, to set their faces against the virtual perpetuation of a system violating all liberty and all constitutional principles. The hon. Member concluded by moving—That the blank be filled up with the words ' 31st of July, 1843,"in order to continue the commission for one year only.
§ Mr. Ferrand
could assure the right hon. Gentleman, at the head of the Home Department, that he would receive an unflinching opposition. In the north of England, there was hardly a union in which the law had not given great, dissatisfaction, particularly in Keighley, Bradford, Halifax, Dewsbury, and Huddersfield Unions; men of all parties joined in denouncing its operation as most unjust and oppressive to the distressed poor. It was monstrous to enforce rigidly a workhouse test among a population of whom nearly 4,000 were in a state of pauperism. It was said by Mr. Mott, in the report made by that gentleman, and so often referred to in the course of the discussions which took place upon the subject of the Poor-laws, that relief had been afforded in the Keighley Union in aid of wages. Now, he was prepared to say that there was no foundation for any such statement. The relief which the board of guardians afforded was not more than had been found absolutely necessary for the bare support of life; and he could distinctly affirm that nothing had been given in aid of wages. The next assertion of Mr. Mott, which he was prepared to deny was this, that the rents of persons in distress had been paid to an alarming extent by the board of guardians in that union; but he met that statement with the authority of Sir John Walsham, who, in the plainest 46 possible terms, denied the whole of that statement. In the evidence which he gave on the sunset. In the report of Mr. Mott, a statement was made to this effect, that the paupers insolently put forward their claim to relief, as a matter of right; hut he was prepared to show that this assertion rested upon as unstable a foundation as any other which Mr. Mott had made. Some of the paupers, no doubt, might have urged their claims in strong language, but, most assuredly, without the slightest degree of insolence. As to the question of rents having been paid by the board of guardians, lie should merely state, that once a certificate was sent into the board, stating that an inhabitant of the union, would, on the 13th of May, owe to his landlord a sum of 3l. 3s. for rent. Such an intimation was treated with total disregard, and even with ridicule; and it formed the only instance in which any application whatever had been made on the subject of rent. But, not content with such representations as those, Mr. Mott, in his report, alleged that no efforts on the part of the guardians were made to procure work for the paupers. So far from there being the least foundation for such a statement, he was enabled to inform the House, that the poor of that union had been, with hardly any intermission, occupied in raising or breaking stones. Then Mr. Mott said, that the education of the children had been neglected. What was the tact? Neither Mr. Power nor Mr. Mott ever set foot within the workhouse! And here was another fact, which neither of those gentlemen could disprove, namely, that means of education were supplied for the children of the poor in the town of Bingley according to their ages and capacities. Another charge brought against the guardians was, that they encouraged legal disputes. That was an allegation which he utterly and totally denied. It was said by Mr. Mott, that the bill of the attorney employed by the union would, for the past year, amount to 500l. The House would be surprised to hear that it really amounted to only 230l. Complaints had been made of the local situation of the workhouse, as if it were in the middle of the town of Bingley, whereas it was in a very healthful and open spot quite outside of the town, and as a proof that the situation was highly favourable to health, he could inform the House that they had not 47 had one case of fever since the formation of the union. In the workhouse of the Keighley Union the poor were happy and contented. It was true that the master of the workhouse did sometimes allow the poor old men to walk more than a hundred yards out of the House, and even go down to the river side to enjoy a little fresh air. He allowed smoking tobacco in some cases, at the particular request of the medical officer; but there could not be a shadow of doubt that there was an entire separation of the sexes, both at meal times and during the hours of rest. Then as to what had been said about the dead having been companioned by the living, he should tell the House what had occurred. An old man died at the age of 82; he was laid out in the usual place. Almost immediately afterwards another old man, aged 72, died. The men who had been in the room with the latter were asked whether they would have the corps removed and laid with the other, or whether they would allow it to remain where it was. They replied, that they had been friends of the deceased, and that they preferred that his corpse should remain with them. That was the only instance of anything of the sort which had occurred, and there was not the least ground for saying that a corpse had ever been placed in the same bed with a living being. The House seeing, then, the character of Mr. Mott's report, he thought he might venture to express a hope that the next time that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government brought forward charges against any one, he would take the trouble of providing himself with a better foundation for his charges. Once more he must say that the statements of Mr. Mott were without the least foundation. The motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale had his entire approbation, and he should with great pleasure give it his support.
§ Mr. Aglionby
also supported the motion and denied that the limitation of the commission to one year would have the effect of leading people to think that the commissioners had lost the public confidence. The powers of the commissioners ought to be fully stated. It was morally certain, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that the bill in all its details could not be carried this Session; therefore as far as the details were concerned, the bill was at an end for the present. But he had hoped that the House would have 48 been enabled this Session to effect considerable alterations in its details, and if that had been the case he should have felt less repugnance to the continuance of the powers of the commissioners. Therefore, as there was no prospect of considering the bearing of the measure upon the condition and improvement of the poor, and taking into consideration the alarming state of starvation which large masses of the population were in, he thought it would be unwise to bestow large and unknown powers upon the commissioners for five years. He was not one of those who had joined in the outcry against the Poor-law Act, he thought that many of its provisions were good for the poor themselves. But at the time it was passed he objected to some of its details, and he had hoped that now there would have been an opportunity to alter those parts of it. His expectations for this Session, however, were at an end. He believed that the confidence of the country would be withdrawn if the continuance of the measure for five years were passed, and that considerable dissatisfaction would be engendered among those who were serving as guardians of the poor; and, therefore, it would be quite as well for the Government to fix the period at one year, and to take an assurance from the right hon. Baronet that at the first opportunity next Session a bill should be introduced with a full explanation of its details, and of all the powers that were to be vested in the commissioners. He should, therefore, vote for the continuance of the commission for one year.
§ Mr. Hardy
said, he had formerly opposed the measure, and his opposition had not been diminished by the evils which had followed it, particularly in the north of England. It fact, it had grown to be one of the most unpopular measures there that had ever been passed. In the north of England before the bill passed, the poor were satisfied with the relief they received as well as with those who administered it, and if there was any dispute, there were justices on the spot by whom their disputes were amicably settled, so that all parties were satisfied. He preferred that the poor should be placed under guardians residing in their locality, rather than that of the Poor-law Commissioners. He should sup* port the amendment of the hon. Member for Rochdale.
§ Sir C. Napier
read some passages from 49 the report of Mr. Mott, of the state of the Keighley Union, and contended that its veracity had been unshaken, and that its contents were worthy of the most serious consideration. He regretted that the hon. Member for Knaresborough made assertions without proof, and then walked out of the House, with the intention he supposed of coming back to call all on his side a parcel of humbugs. If the term ought to be applied to any one most assuredly the hon. Member for Knaresborough was a humbug. ["Order."] Well, he was in order. He thought the continuance of the Poor-law Commission for five years quite unnecessary; but if their powers were restricted or subject to control he might perhaps agree to that period. It was quite clear that there had been a great neglect of duty with regard to the Keighley Union, or those evils of which complaint had been made could never have arisen. Therefore, as the Poor-law Commissioners and the assistant-commissioners had not done their duty in that and in other unions, he would suggest that the several unions shall be placed under one year's surveillance, and at the end of that period there would be an opportunity of judging whether or not the duties of the official persons were better performed.
§ Mr. Liddell
hoped to hear no more about the Keighley and Bingley unions, until the committee with which the gallant Commodore was connected had made its report. It was his intention to give his support to the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale. It was impossible that all the clauses of the bill, in their present shape, could pass in this Session, and therefore it would be much better to postpone the bill for one year, in order to enable the Government to reintroduce it in a more perfect and acceptable form. He did not deny that a central body was necessary, but as long as he perceived a disposition on the part of the commissioners to carry out the provisions of the bill in conformity with their own square and rule, in direct opposition to the views of others, he must protest against their continuance in power. If the commissioners acceded to the wishes of the ratepayers more often than they were disposed to do, many of the objections which he entertained to them would be removed. There was no comparison between the present Poor-law and that which had been in ex- 50 istence prior to its enactment. Under the present system the paupers were forced into the union workhouse as the only alternative against starvation. Great abuses were said to have existed in the workhouses under the old law, but this fact should never be lost sight of—that the poor who applied for relief were refused that relief unless they went into the union workhouse; they were thus forced in, which was not the case under the former system of Poor-law relief. That was an important point to keep in view in discussing the provisions of the Poor-law bill.
§ Mr. Hawes
had, on previous occasions, when the Poor-law bill was under the consideration of Parliament, invariably extended toward it his support, on the ground that it was a measure which the circumstances of the country and the condition of the people rendered imperatively necessary. He saw nothing in the past working of the bill which had inclined him to change his opinions respecting its beneficial operation. The hon. Member who last addressed the House had said that under the present law the poor were "forced into the union workhouse."He did not think that the hon. Member was justified in using such an expression; it was not a very accurate mode of stating the case. He had heard from those who opposed the Poor-law bill much of the cruelties and hardships to which the inmates of the union workhouses were subjected under the present law. It was easy for hon. Members to declaim on this subject, and point out individual cases of hardship and apparent cruelty; but he should like to know what those hon. Gentlemen who so loudly denounced this law and the measure brought forward by the Government would like to substitute in its stead? He never heard any clear and well-defined plan brought forward in lieu of the law now in operation. When hon. Members who were violent in their opposition to the present law came to close quarters with those who supported it, it was found that their views were more in accordance with the Poor-law bill than would at first be supposed. The hon. Member for Durham had stated that if the feelings of the people were consulted with reference to carrying out the principle of the bill, he would not so much object to support it. He would ask the hon. Member to point out to him any one single document to prove that the Poor- 51 law bill had been carried into effect in opposition to the feelings of the people. Hon. Members had talked of the abuses of the present law. What system of laws, however good they might be, abstractedly considered, were not liable to such a charge? Considering the extensive change which the Poor-law bill made,— considering the number of interests which it affected, and the mass of persons who were implicated in its operation, he was astonished that the abuses and defects of the law were not greater. He thought that the advantages of a central board of commissioners were great. To the poor themselves such an authority was likely to be productive of considerable benefit. It identified the interests of the poor with the board of commissioners and the Government of the country. The central body was also connected with the Government, and on that account all questions involving the state of those who were subjected to the operation of the Poor-law Were brought immediately under the observation of the Government and the House. He would defy any hon. Member to point out any country in Europe where the wants, feelings, and interests of the poor were more consulted by public men than in this country under the present system of Poor-laws. A reference had been made to Scotland; but what was the condition of the poor of that country, where no Poor-laws like those existing in England were in operation? In many parts of Scotland a frightful state Of destitution prevailed. Let hon. Members compare the state of the poor of this country with the poor of Scotland, and they would be obliged to admit that the Poor-law bill approached closely on the confines of perfection. This law had been designated as not only novel in its character, but as unconstitutional in its principle. He should like to know from those who used this language, what idea they really meant to convey. The law itself was not unconstitutional. Was it not an act of Parliament passed after due and deliberate consideration? The law gave certain powers to persons who were responsible to Parliament; they acted by the authority of the Legislature, and not on their own individual responsibility. He now came to the proposition of Government. He regretted that any circumstances should render it necessary to postpone the passing of the bill this 52 Session. Was the bill to be abandoned after the House consented to a continuance of the board of commissioners for a period of five years? He could quite understand that it was Impossible to pass a bill like that through the House at that period of the Session; but if the House consented to allow the commission to continue for five years, he did not see on wha ground hon. Members could offer any opposition to the remaining clauses of the bill, having passed the most important portion of it. He must again express his regret at the idea of the bill not being carried. He could not see any alteration, either in the Administrative part or spirit of the bill, when compared with the law now in operation. No material alteration was proposed; he did not, however, mean the House to infer that he should object to any modifications were such proposed. Much had been said of the dietary. It had been urged in opposition to the present mode of administering relief that no regular or uniform system had been pursued with reference to the diet of those in the union workhouses. But let those who were disposed to take this view of the case compare the physical condition of those in, with those out, of the workhouse. He did not hesitate to assert that the paupers in the workhouse were infinitely better fed, better clothed, and better taken care of in every respect than those who lived without the walls of such establishments. That fact could not be denied. Compare the condition of the poor now with what it was twenty' years back, and hon. Members must arrive at the same conclusion. The improvements which had been introduced could not have been effected without having a central power. Such an authority was necessary; without it he could not conceive how the state could interfere in the matter. The hon. Member concluded by stating, that he was resolved to continue his adherence to the main principles of the bill; and if the right hon. Baronet was determined to pass his measure, he might rely upon his most cordial support.
§ Mr. Borthwick
said, in denouncing the present bill as one cruel in its character, he did not wish to impute such feelings to hon. Members who supported it. He thought that it was of the utmost importance, at the present crisis, to extend to the poor the greatest protection. The security of the country depended upon our 53 encouraging a healthy tone in the minds | of the poorer classes of the community. He had no hesitation, keeping the principle in view, in fully considering the merits of the bill. He, like the hon. Member for Lambeth, had enjoyed opportunities of assisting in administering the Poor-law, both under the old and the new system, and he could inform the House, that in the district with which he was connected by representation, the rates had been doubled since the introduction of the new Poor-law; therefore, he could not say that the system was an economical one, and the more especially as, although the rates had been doubled, there had been a considerable decrease in the contentment of the poor. He considered it a very shortsighted legislation, that any Member should select any one particular district, and say that in that district, the law which was intended for the whole country, had worked well. Such a law applicable as it was to every class of her Majesty's subjects and to every spot in England, ought to receive the most careful consideration on general principles, and not in connexion with any particular locality. The question before the House was whether the commission should be continued for one or for five years. He had not the slightest hesitation in saying that his vote would be given in favour of the hon. Member for Rochdale, and he would give it with less hesitation, as the question was evidently considered without reference to party purposes; for many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House would oppose the motion and support the Government proposition, while, on the other hand, many of the supporters of the Government on this occasion would join him in voting for the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale. One inducement for him to vote for the motion certainly was the argument of the hon. Member for Lambeth, who said if the House only granted the continuance of the commission for five years, then hon. Members might propose what amendments they thought proper. Surely that was a monstrous proposition; the House was called upon to fix the term of the commission definitely before they considered the powers that were to be granted to them; but that was not the only inconsistency into which the hon. Member for Lambeth had fallen, for in a later part of his speech, he said that After the Government had obtained the 54 first few clauses of the bill, they would abandon the remainder for the present, and introduce another measure early in next Session. That appeared to him to be trifling with the House. The powers proposed to be continued to the commissioners were not only large, but wholly unconstitutional. The hon. Member for Lambeth said that no body or tribunal could be more amenable to public opinion than the Poor-law commission, and the way he made it out was this:—The com-missioners were responsible to her Majesty's Government, the Government, be said, were responsible to that House, and that House, by its constitution, was responsible to public opinion. Now, that sort of reasoning still left the powers of Queen, Lords, and Commons in the hands of those commissioners, who were made responsible to public opinion in such a roundabout manner. Nothing could be more inconclusive than such an argument. and he, for one, would not vote for the continuance of the commission for one single hour, if it was at all practicable to carry on the new system without their superintendence. As he did not think so, he was disposed to vote for the shortest period to which their power could be limited. He could not justify, and therefore he would not use any violent language against any law, for the purpose of raising excitement against it; he never had done so, nor was he called upon to do it. He never had been required to give any pledge upon that or any other subject, nor had his constituents interfered with him upon it. Undoubtedly they had not concealed from him that the poor-rates had been doubled upon them, that the law caused much individual suffering, and that the poor were not so contented as before. All these things they had laid before him, but, like a patriotic body as they were, they said they did not wish to interfere with his vote—these were the results of the operation of the law in their locality; but if he found that it worked for the benefit of the country gene rally he was at perfect liberty to vote for it. He had no doubt whatever that the Gentlemen who were appointed to administer the law did so with ability and perfect honesty of purpose, the personal character of her Majesty's late Government was security enough for the personal character of those whom they had appointed to fill such a high situation, but he said, that no 55 men whatever could properly administer so disjointed, so iniquitous a law: he did not therefore vote against the Gentlemen composing the commission, but against that part of the law itself. Was not the very principle of the law to invest with as much severity as possible all relief to the poor, in order to deter as far as they could the lazy and the idle from applying for it? That had been the avowed object of the bill on its first introduction; so that in fact the honest and industrious poor were made the warning beacons to deter the evil and the vicious from coming upon the poor-rate. He did not feel that that was the proper period for him to state his general objections to the bill, because he sincerely trusted the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale would be carried, and then they would have an opportunity of revising the whole law in the ensuing Session. Her Majesty's Government on their accession to office claimed the confidence of the country for five months, while they considered and perfected their measures, one of which, and a most important one, was the Poor-law, After a lapse of that long period the present bill was presented as the concentrated wisdom of the Government, and yet the House was called upon to consider the whole of its provisions in little more than as many hours. He should feel that he was doing his duty by warmly supporting the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, it was not because he was indifferent to the importance of the subject that he had hitherto abstained from taking part in the discussion upon this bill; but he thought he was best performing his duty in giving a silent vote in its favour, as he entirely approved of the course the Government had taken upon it, and the declarations by which that course was upheld. Nothing could be more satisfactory. They adhered to ail the main principles of the law while they proposed what they considered to be improvements in it. He was not a little astonished at many of the statements which had been made in the course of the debate. He had no wish to impute motives to any one, but certainly many of those statements were eminently calculated to deceive. The hon. Member for Durham spoke as if the workhouse test was rigorously applied from one end of England to another. It was no such thing; and he would venture to say, that the petitions from the West 56 Riding of Yorkshire, to which allusion had been made, came from districts where the prohibitory order had never been promulgated, in that riding there were fourteen unions, embracing all the manufacturing districts, in not one of which had that order been issued. In four—viz., Doncaster, Poole, Selby, and Calne, all agricultural districts, it had been promulgated; and he could speak to its good effect in the union with which he was connected. He spoke in the presence of several of his brother guardians, and would fearlessly say, that it was impossible that any law could have worked better than it had done there. There the poor in the workhouse were better treated, they were better lodged, better clothed, and better fed than the ordinary class of the labouring poor around them. The allowance to the deserving poor had been increased, the attention of the medical men to them was much improved, the workhouse test had been fairly tried, to the great benefit of the deserving poor, and to the exclusion of those who were not fair objects of charity. The cost to the union was a little more per head, but there was also a considerable reduction of rates in the union. He said this distinctly and without fear, because a most rigorous investigation had been made, and the result was as he had mentioned—the law had worked admirably. He considered that the workhouse test might, in ordinary circumstances, be fairly and properly applied; but he was not prepared to say, and he never had said, that it was possible to apply it in all places, and under all circumstances. He thought it was essentially necessary to continue the existence of the commission; that the commissioners might, in the exercise of a sound discretion, relax the application of that rule under circumstances in which it was never intended to be, and in which it never could be, applied. No one could support the workhouse test more strongly than he did; but he admitted that it was impossible to apply that test in the manufacturing districts, and especially in the West Riding of Yorkshire, while the present distress existed. He believed that if a strict, unbending, and invariable rule was laid down for the administration of relief, one of these results would follow,—either they? would induce a state of things similar to that which existed before the adoption of the Poor-law Amendment Bill, the greatest 57 abuses prevailing in one part of the kingdom while the law was well administered in other districts, or by laying down a strict undeviating rule they would be unable to meet the varying circumstances and phrases of the country. An unvarying rule was laid down previously to the passing of the Amendment Bill, and throughout a great portion of the south of England the law was administered most mischievously, to the degradation of the poor; but he believed hon. Gentlemen acquainted with those districts would testify that by the administration of the present law under the control of the commissioners the condition of the people had been greatly improved. It had been boasted that the north of England was entirely exempt from these abuses; but he thought, from facts which had come under his notice, that there was little reason for that boast, and that the administration of the Poor-law in the north of England was not free from abuse. He strongly approved of the substitution of boards of guardians for overseers. The overseers were generally ignorant, and often interested parties. The boards of guardians embraced, frequently, the most respectable and intelligent persons in the district; but still he would not assert that the guardians ought to be uncontrolled. He might refer to the abuses existing in the Keighley Union, which had recently been brought under the notice of the House. The hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand) was the chairman of that union, and was resident but a short distance from Keighley; and if such abuses could exist under the eye of the chairman, this fact alone afforded sufficient proof of the absolute necessity for the exercise of some control over the boards of guardians. The hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone had said that the commissioners had not gone far enough in compelling the boards of guardians to obey their directions; but he thought that the argument of the hon. and gallant Member showed that, instead of the powers of the commissioners being restricted, increased powers ought to be given them, to enable them to remove such abuses as had existed in the Keighley Union. The question now before the House was the continuance of the commission. He did not agree with those hon. Gentlemen who wished to shorten the duration of the commission; for he believed that, if the 58 commission were now continued for five years, at the end of that time the necessity for its continuance would be as strong as it was at the present moment. He was fully prepared to say that he considered the commission ought to be permanent. He was not afraid of stating his opinion. He considered that the boards of guardians required control. The Keighley board of guardians had now been in existence four or five years; they had certainly not discharged their duty hitherto, and he believed, without more efficient control over their actions than now existed, they would not perform it properly. He thought the discussion in that House, year after year, of the existence of the commission, produced a most injurious effect as regarded the operation of the law. Such discussions tended to diminish the authority of the commissioners, and threw obstacles in their way in the exercise of those powers which he believed it was necessary they should possess for the due administration of the law. He conceived one of the best effects of the present law to be this—that public attention had been called to the administration of the Poor-law from one end of England to the other, and abuses which, under the old law, would have passed unnoticed, were discovered and exposed; and he might add, that many of those abuses would not have been detected but for the vigilance of the Poor-law commissioners. What would have been known of the abuses which existed in the Keighley Union but for the report of Mr. Mott and Sir J. Walsham? He hoped the exposure which had taken place with reference to that union would lead the guardians to discharge their duty properly. But as to the continuance of the commission, the commissioners had introduced great improvements, and had adopted most beneficial regulations with respect to the administration of relief; and as it was necessary, under certain circumstances, to relax regulations which might be too stringent, he thought the discretion of making those relaxations could not be placed in better hands than in those of the commissioners themselves. The discretion must be vested somewhere; he did not know in whom it could be better vested than in the commissioners, and he would gladly support the continuance of the commission for a period of at least five years. He would now only refer for a moment to the statements which 59 had been made with respect: to the subsequent clauses of the bill. He understood the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) to say that, in the event of the first five clauses being adopted, his conduct with regard to the remaining clauses would depend upon the degree of opposition which they encountered. He would be glad to see some of those clauses passed — nay, he would say that he wished to see them all adopted, for he considered their tendency was to effect improvements in the present law. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would carry as many of these clauses as he had an opportunity of doing; but, whether these clauses were adopted or net, he considered it most important that the commission should be continued.
§ Viscount Sandon
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House had stated that in his opinion the commission ought to be perpetual. If the power of the commissioners were restrained to mere supervision and reporting, without determining the application of the law to different districts, he might be of the same opinion, and might deem the continuance of the commission not only desirable, but essential. He did not admit, however, that for conducting efficient supervision it was necessary that a board should be constituted, sitting in London, which should determine how the law should be applied in different parts of the country. The power of the commissioners was not confined to minor affairs, it extended to important points; for they determined whether the workhouse test should be applied in particular parishes, or whether relief should be given to the poor out of the workhouse. It rested, therefore, with the Poor-law commissioners to decide whether a different regulation should exist with regard to the administration of the Poor-law indifferent, but adjacent parishes. He did not object to the continuance of the commission; he objected to the arbitrary power and the large discretion given to the commissioners, and he thought the only guarantee for the proper exercise of such power was to be found in the constant control of their actions. It had been said that it was ridiculous to suppose that the workhouse test was intended by the Poor law to be of universal application. Until within the last two or three years, however, it was admitted that the workhouse test was the principle of the Poor-law; but since the sense of the country 60 had been so decidedly manifested against this principle, the supporters of the bill had withdrawn the assertion. In one of the reports of the commissioners they stated that the intention of gradually withholding out-door relief from the able-bodied paupers was declared in so explicit and unambiguous a manner in the bill, that no option was left to the commissioners as to the course they pursued. This showed that the commissioners considered it the intention of the Poor-law that this test should be applied, and they considered that they were bound to carry out the principle. It was the knowledge of this fact which kept up the agitation in the country on this question, and till it was declared by the Legislature that it was not the principle of the Poor-law that relief should always be refused to able-bodied persons, except in the workhouse, the apprehensions of the people would not be allayed. It was impossible, where large masses of the population were deprived of employment by the bankruptcy of a mill-owner, or other circumstances, that the workhouse test could be applied. His hon. Friend who had last spoken had admitted that the workhouse test was inapplicable in the manufacturing districts, and especially in the country with which his hon. Friend was connected; and a similar admission had been made during the recent debates on this subject by the right hon. Baronet. He wished, however, that this principle, which now appeared to be so generally admitted, should receive the sanction of the House. It was his opinion that, as such extensive powers and such large discretion were vested in the commissioners, their tenure of office should be as limited as possible; for it was only by that means that their power could be restrained within proper bounds. He would, therefore, give his support to the amendment of the hon. Member for Rochdale.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, that this was the fifth evening on which this question had been under discussion, and as yet very little progress had been made. He conceived, that after the observations of his noble Friend, he could not remain silent. He thought the arguments of his noble Friend amounted to a total condemnation of the commission, and he could not understand how his noble Friend, entertaining the opinions he had expressed, could consent to renew the powers of the commissioners 61 even for a single year. The noble Lord objected to the discretionary power vested in the commissioners. It appeared to him (Sir J. Graham) that there was no ground for the assertion, that the commissioners were irresponsible for the exercise of that discretion. They had a large discretion, but he contended, that they were strictly responsible. He entirely adopted the opinion of the hon. Member for Lambeth, that so far from the commissioners exercising irresponsible discretion, he did not think any power exercised in the state at this moment was subject to more close investigation, to more constant scrutiny, or to more jealous supervision. The commissioners were removable at the pleasure of the Ministers of the Crown, and those Ministers in their places in the representative assembly were responsible for the acts of the commissioners. Was there an abuse? A question was immediately asked in that House— Ministers were put to the question—does such an abuse exist in such an union? and an inquiry was instantly made as to some imperfection in the diet, or as to some workhouse being overcrowded. There was no state, however free its institutions, where practically the sufferings of the destitute classes, relievable under a Poor-law, administered as this law now was, were so constantly watched and alleviated, or so much protected, as by this Jaw. Two reports had been presented to the House by the commissioners, the facts had been disputed by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, and a committee had been appointed to inquire into them. The committee was the tribunal before which to prove these facts. The hon. and gallant Commodore had told them what the proof had been before that committee. The House would remember the assertions repeated that night, that the reports of Mr. Mott and Sir J. Walsham were scandalous and unfounded, and the report of the committee would show whether those assertions were correct or not. His noble Friend, the Member for Liverpool, had stated, that the workhouse test was universal. [Lord Sandon: I said the principle of the bill was the application of the est.] Though the test was universally dmissible in its application, it was practically under the control of the commission; and if his noble Friend were of opinion, hat a large discretion ought not to be ested in this commission, he (Sir J. Graham) repeated his assertion, that entertaining that opinion, his noble Friend ought 62 not to vote for the continuance of the commission for one day, for he (Sir J. Graham) maintained, that without that discretion, the office of the commissioners was a sinecure, and worse than useless. He would point out the advantage during the last three weeks of this discretionary power. In unions where distress generally prevailed, the commissioners had thought it expedient to withdraw the prohibitory order against out-door relief, and within the last three; weeks this order in such cases had been withdrawn; and they were even of opinion, and had acted upon it in some eases, that the out-door labour test should be withdrawn in the present circumstances of the country, and that relief might be fully administered at the will of the guardians. Here was a principle adapting itself to various circumstances, with a degree of pliability which no law could possibly possess. What the hon. Member for Halifax had asserted was perfectly true. This dilemma presented itself: if by specific enactment you endeavour to provide for all cases, you will omit some, your law will be defective, and injustice will be done; if your enactment be vague and indefinite, it. will be inefficient and will be evaded, and all the evils of the old abuses will return upon you. The hon. Member for North Durham had not only asserted, in common with the noble Lord (Lord Sandon), that this prohibition of relief except in the workhouse was a general rule, but he should almost imagine from his statement, that out-door relief was the exception, and that in-door relief was the rule. He stated on a former evening, that no less a portion of the community than 1,300,000 persons had received relief in the quarter ending Lady-day, 1841. Now, as to this general principle of relief in the workhouse, to the exclusion of out-door relief; out of this large number of persons relieved, what proportion did the noble Lord believe had received relief under the stringent order of admission into the workhouse? 192,000 persons had been relieved in the workhouse, and 1,108,000 had been relieved out of it. Out of 1,300,000 persons receiving relief during that period, only 192,000 persons had been relieved in the workhouse. And here he might, perhaps, be able to make a statement to the House relative to what was said on a former evening, as to the extent of distress which the relief of this number of persons proved. He had obtained a return, carefully prepared from Parliamentary documents, showing the numbers that 63 had received parish relief in the year 1803, in the year 1815, and in the last year, 1841. He had taken those years because there were Parliamentary returns for those years which showed the precise number of the whole population and of the numbers receiving relief during those periods; he, therefore, had the means of instituting a strict and accurate comparison with reference to the whole of the population that received relief in those years as compared with 1841. The population in 1803 was 8,872,000; the total number of persons receiving relief at that period was 1,040,000, or 12 per cent, on the whole population. In 1815 the whole population was 10,150,000, and the whole number of persons relieved was 1,319,000,or 13 percent, on the whole population. In 1841, the whole population had risen to 15,900,000, and the whole number of persons relieved from Lady-day quarter, 1841, was 1,300,000, or 8 per cent, on the whole population. Therefore, although, in 1815, the population was only as 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 in 1841, yet the gross population receiving relief was in 1815 greater than 1841. He made this statement in the hope that the House would be relieved from apprehension, and that it might allay any feeling of sorrow as to the state of the country which might exist from the statement of the number of persons who had been relieved. The hon. Member for North Durham had stated, that the workhouse test was quite new. He (Sir J. Graham) had stated on a former evening that, so far from being new, it was the law of the land for the greater part of the last century— from the early part of the reign of George 1st to 1796. During the greater part of the last century it was the law of the land and the rule of relief. In the first place, the hon. Member had fallen into the error that in-door relief was the universal rule under the New Poor-law. Then came the other assertion, that this system of relief was unknown before to the law of England. He (Sir J. Graham) had proved the reverse to be the case. But he had been more astonished still at the assertion of his hon. Friend, the Member for Bradford, when he said, that an unhappy pauper had to apply for relief 200 miles off. In each union there were four sources of relief for the poor; they could apply first to the relieving officer, then to the board of guardians, in the case of emergency they might apply to the overseer, and in the case of sickness they might apply to the resident 64 magistrate. So far, then, from being obliged to apply to the commissioners at Somerset-house 200 or 300 miles off, in every union there were, as he had shown, four sources of relief. His hon. Friend said, the poor man might be refused relief. Why, if the relieving-officer refused relief, or if the overseer refused it, the applicant had a direct appeal to the board of guardians, and if they did not do him justice he might state his case and complain to the assistant-commissioner, and even to the board itself. It was said, that the law and the office of the board of guardians was to protect the rate-payers. He knew, that such was not the case, and that the board of guardians did not so regard their duty. He had a vote of thanks before him, passed by the local committee for relieving distress in the manufacturing district of Burnley to Sir J. Walsham, when he left that district, about a fortnight ago. The committee stated, that they could not but deeply regret the departure of the commissioner and being deprived of his valuable counsel and experience, and they more particularly dwelt on his having, by the introduction of a better system of management, secured an adequate amount of relief to the really necessitous. He (Sir J. Graham) spoke from confident knowledge, that Sir J. Walsham, amidst great difficulties in that particular union, not only had obtained the thanks of the board of guardians, but had won the gratitude and good opinion of the great body of the poor. The hon. Member for Cockermouth had objected to the collocation of the clauses of the bill, on the ground of the extension of the term of the commission preceding the enactment of the powers of the commission. If the hon. Member referred to the original enactment, he would find, that the clauses conferring the powers on the commission followed, and did not precede the clause which fixed the term of their duration of the commission. The powers of the commissioners were strictly defined and known; and the question really resolved itself into this,— was the commission so composed as to command the confidence of the House; were the powers as they stood, partly on statute, and partly on the general orders, such, that upon the whole any doubt could be entertained as to the policy of maintaining this commission? He (Sir J. Graham) entertained the strongest opinion, that in the present circumstances of the country it was prudent to continue the central control of this commission. He did not think their 65 powers would be exercised to the full benefit of the community if only of annual duration. He was perfectly willing and anxious to discuss the various provisions of this bill if the House would allow it to proceed in committee, without further opposition. Various opportunities would present themselves of checking the further progress of the bill; but, on the whole, he was of opinion, that to shorten, for any period, the proposed term of this commission would be in the highest degree impolitic and imprudent.
§ Sit B. Hall
said, a statement had been made, that the children and girls in the workhouse of the parish of St. Pancras were not classified, that prostitutes were admitted amongst the girls generally, who were decoyed by them away, and that the young girls soon became as vicious as the elder ones, which was perfectly correct— all those abuses did exist; but when? When the select vestries were in operation, and before the rate-payers had the opportunity of controlling the management. It was very true, that all those evils used to obtain in that parish, but that was no longer the case. Another point was the mismanagement of the children; but the abuses respecting them no longer existed, the children being now, in every respect, properly taken care of,—so that there was no reason for the commissioners being introduced into the borough and exercising their authority there. As he had done formerly, so he should on this occasion, vote against the continuance of the commission for five years.
§ Mr. Trotter
wished to state to the House the reasons why he voted for the bill. He had sent copies of it to every union in West Surrey, and he had not received a single objection from any of them. As far, therefore, as regarded the first clause, he thought it was his duty to his constituents to vote for it. With regard to the other clauses, he reserved his opinion. That opinion it would be for him to express hereafter. Not having received any expression from his constituents contrary to the duration which was proposed by the Government for the commission, he felt bound to vote for it. He would not, on any account, wish to see this question agitated year by year.
§ General Johnson
disapproved of this law in every branch of it. He did not see how persons residing in London could be better judges of what was fit to be given 66 to paupers than persons who were locally acquainted with their situation. The right hon. Baronet talked of appealing to the assistant-commissioners; but he did not know where the assistant-commissioners were to be found. They were very frequently not seen in a union for three or four months. He could not conceive, therefore, that this could be a very efficient appeal for the pauper, and he could not, therefore, think that the right hon. Baronet was serious in saying what he did on this point. As to the power of the magistrates to grant relief in cases of sickness, it was conferred in the most vague way that could be conceived. If the commissioners residing in London, who could not, as it was, be controlled by law, instead of making regulations so intermixed with the law that it was impossible to tell which was the law and which the regulation, were subjected to some specific enactments, he thought it would be much better, supposing there was to be a commission at all. The out-door test had been much spoken of, and the House had been told that the commissioners in London were judges where the test was to be put in practice, and where not. But from whom did they receive their information, or rather, he conceived, the recommendation that the test was proper to be carried into effect or not? Why, from the board of guardians, most probably. Now, he conceived that the board of guardians were far better judges of the necessity, and far better adapted to carry out the test as they saw fit, than the commissioners in London could be. Then, why were the agricultural districts placed on a different footing from the manufacturing? In fact, the whole system of the commissioners had been changed of late, and changed because they found it impracticable. ["Hear, hear."] Yes, they found it impossible, and therefore it was abandoned; but if the system was abandoned, why were the Government desirous to disturb those parts of the country which were under Gilbert's Act, which was allowed on all hands to be acting well; and why put them under the management of persons who could never give them the same satisfaction as the present administration of their affairs? As long as some show of uniformity was kept up there might be some pretence for invading these unions, but as uniformity was abandoned, he could not see why the Gilbert Unions 67 should be interfered with; and he could not see why the Ministers should be so anxious to press this measure, which would make them more unpopular than any other measure that they could have devised.
§ Mr. Buck
had great pleasure in expressing his full concurrence with all that had fallen from the noble Lord near him (Lord Sandon). With respect to the assistant-commissioners, he had voted the other night for abolishing them, and he thought that much of the evil that existed had arisen from their uncalled-for interference. The hon. Member then proceeded to state that one of the assistant-commissioners had summoned a respectable magistrate to appear at Guildford before him for presiding at a meeting where the Poor-law was discussed; that the magistrate had consulted his attorney, who told him that he would be guilty of a misdemeanour if he did not go; that he went to Guildford, where the assistant-commissioner kept him waiting a whole day, refused to to allow his legal adviser to be present, cross-examined him in every way, and then refused him a copy of the depositions. So long then as he conceived that the bill contained these and other powers which he objected to, he should not consent to continue the commission any -longer than was absolutely necessary, and therefore he should vote for the shortest period of its duration.
§ Captain Pechell
said, that after all the assurances of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) on bringing in this bill, and the confident tone in which he made them, he thought it his duty to proceed in the same manner with respect to it as if it were in the same condition as when the right hon. Baronet laid it on the Table. He warned the right hon. Baronet not to take the advice of the hon. Member for Lambeth; the right hon. Baronet ought to be very suspicious of advice coming from the Opposition side of the House. The right hon. Baronet, on the last occasion this bill was before the House, had read a letter to show that the feeling of one part of the country was entirely in favour of this bill. That letter was produced as an answer to some observations of his as to the towns which were at present under local acts, and which did not wish to be governed by this bill. The right hon. Baronet for this purpose had obtained this letter from a deputy's deputy, a clerk of the board of guardians of 68 the city of Chester; and the right hon. Baronet read it as evidence that Chester at least differed in opinion as to this law from the rest of the kingdom. The hon. and gallant Member read the letter, in which the writer stated that he enclosed the circular from the Brighton guardians, in order to show the sort of machinery which had been adopted in order to get up an opposition to the Poor-law Bill in places governed by local acts. Chester, though under a local act, did not oppose the bill; they only objected to being united with agricultural districts, which was provided against in the bill. This was what the right hon. Baronet had hoped would be satisfactory to him. He did not think it at all satisfactory, and if the clerk had had authority from the board of guardians for writing this (which he had not), all he should have said was, that the board of guardians were not competent to manage their own affairs. He had presented a petition that evening, stating that the clerk was not authorized by the board of guardians to write this letter. It was true that the present chairman of the board was favourable to the bill; but then he had pledged himself to maintain the local act. The Brighton vestry, it was true, had written a circular letter to various towns that were under local acts, and since the right hon. Baronet had refused to see the deputies from the different towns having local acts, he would read to the right hon. Baronet and the House the letters he held in his hand from several towns under local acts. The hon. and gallant Member read letters from Devon-port, Norwich, Plymouth, Oxford, and Chichester, all agreeing in condemning the proposed extension of the powers of the commissioners to the towns under local acts, and expressing their desire to remain as they were. The right hon. Gentleman said, that no opposition had been shown by the different towns, and that few or no petitions had been sent against the bill. Now, what said Bristol, Canterbury, Coventry, and a host of other towns in their respective answers to the document alluded to? Bristol declared it would petition; Coventry had forwarded a petition to its Members, and had extorted from them a promise of opposition to the bill; at Canterbury an extraordinary meeting of the board of guardians was to be held, at which the Brighton letter was to be considered. Birmingham had intrusted a 69 petition to its Members, and boasted that one of them had amendments to propose to the bill. Finsbury—they might guess what they would do there—said that it would instruct its Members. Montgomery and Poole sent word that the rate-payers deprecated change. Shoreditch had the subject in consideration; and St. Pancras had sent up a petition, and appointed a committee of the vestry to watch the progress of the bill. After these opinions, expressed by the inhabitants of towns all acting in concert, it was clear that very great fears were entertained upon this subject. No doubt most of the places he had mentioned were at present exempt from the control of the Poor-law commissioners, but the decision of Lord Denman had frightened and aroused the inhabitants, and it could create no surprise if they used every means in their power to secure a modification of the bill. In fact, unless the clause of the hon. Member for Sussex were adopted, there would be, he considered, no security whatever: and for himself, be would say, that so long as he saw the slightest disposition to abolish the Gilbert Unions, he should consider that there was no other way of dealing with the question than to vote against the continuance of the power of the commission. The Government had better decide at once what course they would take on this point. Delay in expressing their intention would only protract the discussion; therefore, he should recommend that even before the House separated that night they should tell them what they intended to do.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, that with perhaps, the exception of the debate on the people's distress, nothing had come before the House this Session nearly so important as the subject now under discussion. He did not know, however, that he should have troubled the House with any observations if it had not been for the course the debate had taken. The question seemed now to be as to the expediency of granting the commissioners the power of giving or refusing to give an authority to administer out-door relief to the poor. The right hon. Baronet's argument on this subject to night was certainly opposed to his line of reasoning on former occasions. He would beg the attention of the House for a few moments to what had been said in a former debate upon this subject. On the 20th of July, 1839, on the motion of the 70 noble Lord the Member for London for continuing the Poor-law commission for two years, the hon. Member for East Sussex said:—That the noble Lord opposite had not dealt fairly with the House in this matter. They had the noble Lord's distinct admission that some portions of this act required amendment, and now, without any suggestion of amendment, the noble Lord proposed that the act be continued in force for a period of two years. Where was the consistency or the justice of this course?He did not know how the hon. Member, after having so expressed himself, could now vote for the proposition of the present Government, which, without any amendment of the act as regarded the discretion of granting out-door relief, went to continue the commission for five years; and he thought he had a right to assume that the hon. Member would vote with those who were for continuing the commission for one year only. What said the right hon. Baronet the Paymaster of the Forces on that occasion?In the motion which had been submitted to the House by his hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex he fully concurred. The question was simply nothing more nor less than this—were the board of guardians to be intrusted with any discretionary power of giving out-door relief or were they not? He perfectly well understood why the power was withheld when the Poor-law Amendment Act was first introduced, and when the Government was, perhaps, justified in considering it necessary to pass a measure of an arbitrary kind. But that necessity, if So it might be called, no longer existed, and experience had shown them that that principle might be relaxed.The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say, thatHe would ask hon. Gentlemen who were conversant with the subject, whether cases were not constantly occurring on which there could be no second opinion as to the propriety of permitting the board of guardians to afford relief upon their own discretion? Nay, were not cases daily submitted to the Poor-law guardians, in which they took upon themselves the responsibility of giving relief contrary to the law? Nobody knew exactly how it was given, but given it was.The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home DepartmentConfessed he felt considerable difficulty in making up his mind as to the course he should pursue; and if the noble Lord had stated positively that he should be prepared to resist, 71 next Session, the amendments which might be proposed, he should have voted against him.The right hon. Baronet went on to say,The law contemplated, that on a given day the refusal of out-door relief throughout England and Wales should be general. When the commissioners of Somerset-house came practically to consider the prudence of carrying out this regulation, the inquiries they made and the experience they had acquired taught them the impossibility of giving general effect to the law. Uniformity was desirable. This rule prohibiting the administration of outdoor relief, so far from being general throughout England, was, he must say, somewhat capriciously applied. It was applied to certain unions in the south, but in the north the rule was not in operation. In Cumberland, in the union of which he was chairman, they were bound by no such regulation. An ample discretion was left them; they were not fettered in the least, and if they had not been left to the exercise of this unfettered discretion, he was bound to say he should not have held himself responsible, during the last winter, for the conduct of that union.He was anxious that the sole and entire control and relief to be given in parishes should not be given to the Poor-law commissioners. He thought it would be a great mitigation of the evil if those acquainted with the wants of the poor should have some power in their own unions. That was the amendment which he hoped to see effected in the bill. But was he, he would ask, in the absence of it, to vote for the continuance of the commission for five years, objected to on a former occasion by the hon. Member for East Sussex, the Paymaster of the Forces, and by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had told the House that if there had not been a full discretion left to the board of guardians, he would not be responsible in his own union? The right hon. Baronet, however, voted against the motion of the hon. Member for East Sussex: but the right hon. Baronet the Paymaster of the Forces voted with him, and he hoped he would now vote with those who supported the amendment. He did not object to the general principles of the Poor-law Bill. He thought it was necessary to make a clear distinction between the honest and industrious poor and the dissolute and idle. But he, at the time it was proposed, felt that its provisions were hard, and he now felt that they had been harshly carried out. In the present state of the country, more particularly, he conceived that they 72 ought to be mitigated. If they were, he should have no objection to the continuance of the commission for a longer period than was now proposed on his side of the House.
§ Mr. Kemble,
like the hon. Member for West Surrey, had received no communications from his constituents on this subject. If he had he should have given them his best attention, but at the same time he felt it to be the duty of a representative of the people to look to what he considered the general good of the country, and not to the interests of particular individuals. He would vote on this occasion as he had voted last Session. He confessed he had heard with much surprise that evening some observations which he considered inconsistent with the great principle of the Poor-law. That principle he considered to be, that the accommodation within workhouses should be inferior to that which the honest, industrious, and independent labourers enjoyed out of it. But the hon. Members for Halifax and Lambeth asserted, that the able-bodied poor in workhouses were better fed and clothed, and more comfortable, than the labourer was out of it. This did not look as if the great principle of the Poor-law had been carried out. The opinion of the right hon. Baronet he thought at variance with those of the commissioners. The right hon. Baronet read from their last report that they conceived it was the intention of Parliament that no relief should be given to the able-bodied out of the workhouse, and yet a statement was made by the right hon. Baronet to show how much larger a proportion of relief was given to those out of the workhouse than in it. The simple question now, however, was, as to the continuance of the commission for five years, or a shorter period; and he confessed that he had heard no argument in favour of five years that might not be equally applied to its continuance in perpetuity. He thought the time was now arrived when it would be more honest and straightforward for the House to say that the Poor-law commission should continue in perpetuity than for five or six years. It was really marvellous how those who called themselves "Liberals"could vote for a measure which continued the most arbitrary authorities—authorities not more justifiable as regarded the poor, than they would be in reference to municipal or any other rights 73 of Englishmen. Was it in unison with the principles of the constitution, that commissioners should have the power, virtually, of making laws? A great deal was said about "constant supervision of Parliament;"but no practical good resulted from the presentation of the huge annual "reports. "He was not unwilling, he firmly declared, to leave the people of this country that local self-control to which, he believed, they were entitled. There might be some tendency to abuse: but that must be very much counteracted by the entire demolition of the old small parish system; and he was persuaded that the vesting in the guardians the discretionary management of relief would have a tendency to prevent abuse. Moreover, the fact was undeniable that only by winking at the partial exercise of this discretion was the act carried out at all. On these grounds he should support the amendment, for though he would have been prepared to accede to a continuation of the commission for three years, he could not agree to its continuance for six, believing that equivalent to its perpetuation, and being of opinion that it was essentially unconstitutional and injurious.
§ Mr. Muntz
deemed it his duty to act on his conviction of what was right, whatever might be the opinions of his constituents. On this subject, however, happily, he went hand in hand with them. The per-centage of those who supported this odious and unnatural measure was so exceedingly small as to be worth no consideration. He did not know which part of the bill first to deprecate: that was his sole difficulty. Of course, then, he should vote for the amendment. He could not help expressing his surprise that the hon. Member for Surrey should have concluded a speech directed against the unconstitutional character of the commission by declaring his readiness to vote for a three years continuance of it. That surely was strangely inconsistent. The right hon. Baronet had drawn a comparison as to the alleged saving of poor-rates between the period after the most devastating of our European wars and a period following twenty-five years of profound peace. That was certainly not much in favour of the Poor-law. One thing remarkable was, that for twenty years after the peace nobody complained of the poor-rates; then, all at once, the idea was started of the nation being devoured by the rates, 74 and since that time legislation on the subject had been conducted on the most unnatural principles. Paupers, whether in or out of the workhouse, were not fed as men ought to be fed. That, however, was only a part of the evil. It unhappily was too apparent that the class of people who now received relief was very different from those who formerly received relief; and it would be found, when the prosperity of the country returned (as soon it must, or else the country could not go on at all), that causes deeper than were imagined lay at the root of that severity with which not poor-rates only, but all rates and taxes, had of late years pressed on the people.
§ The committee divided on the question that the words "31st day of July, 1847,"be inserted:—Ayes 164; Noes 92: Majority 72.
|List of the AYES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Elphinstone, H.|
|Alford, Visct.||Estcourt, T. G. B.|
|Allix, J. P.||Evans, W.|
|Bailey, J.||Fleming, J. W.|
|Baillie, Col.||Flower, Sir J.|
|Baird, W.||Forbes, W.|
|Baring, hon. VV. B.||Fox, C. R.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Bereford, Major||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Bernal, R.||Gill, T.|
|Blackburne, I.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Botfield, B.||Gordon, Lord F.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Greenaway, C.|
|Buller, C.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Grimston, Visit.|
|Byng, G.||Hamilton, W. J.|
|Carew, hon. R. S.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Cartwright, W. R.||Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Hawes, B.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. U.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Heathcote, Sir W.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Clive, E. B.||Hogg, J. W.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.||Holmes, hn. W. A' Ct.|
|Colborne, hon. W.N.R.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Collett, W. R.||Howard, P. H.|
|Corry, rt. an. H.||Howick, Visct.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Hughes, W. B.|
|Cripps, W.||Hussey, T.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Hutt, W.|
|Darby, G.||Jackson, T. D.|
|Duncan, G.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Duncombe, bon. A.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|East, J. B.||Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Knight, H. G.|
|Eliot, Lord||Labouchere, rt. hn. H|
|Lambton, H.||Sanderson, R.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Scarlett, hon. R. C.|
|Lawson, A.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Lefroy, A.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Legh, G. C.||Sheppard, T.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Smith, A.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Litton, E.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Lockhart, W.||Stanley, Lord|
|Lyall, G.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Stuart, H.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Strutt, E.|
|Manners, Lord C. S.||Sturt, B.C.|
|March, Earl of||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Marshall, W.||Tangled. H, W.|
|Marsham, Visct.||Thornely, T.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Mordaunt, Sir J.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Morgan, O.||Trotter, J.|
|Morison, Gen.||Tufnell, H.|
|Nicholl, rt. hn. J.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Norreys, Lord||Vane, Lord H.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Northland, Visct.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Paget, Col.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Pakington, J. S.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Parker, J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Patten, J. W.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Wilshere, W.|
|Peel, J.||Wood, C.|
|Pollock, Sir F,||Wood, Col. T.|
|Praed, W. T,||Wood, G. W.|
|Pringle, A.||Worsley, Lord|
|Pulsford, R.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Rice, E. R.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Rushbrooke, Col.||Young, J.|
|Russell, Lord J.|
|Russell, J. D. W.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Ryder, hon. G. D.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Collins, W.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Colville, C. R.|
|Aldam, W.||Corbally, M. E.|
|Arkwright, G.||Cresswell, B.|
|Bagge, W.||Curteis, H. B.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Dawnay, hon. W. H.|
|Beckett, W.||Denison, E. B.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Dick, Q.|
|Blake, M.||Dodd, G.|
|Borthwick, P.||Douglas, Sir H.|
|Boring, Dr.||Buncombe, T.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Eaton, R. J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Escott, B.|
|Buck, L. W.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Buckley, E.||Fielden, J.|
|Buller, Sir. J. Y.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Gladstone, T.|
|Busfeild, W.||Gore, M.|
|Cardwell, E.||Gore, W. O.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Grant, Sir A. C.|
|Cochrane, A.||Grimsditch, T.|
|Halford, H.||Palmer, R.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Palmer, G.|
|Hammer, Sir J.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Hardy, J.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Richards, R.|
|Henley, J. W.||Russell, Lord E.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Sandon, Visit.|
|Hindley, C.||Scholefield, J.|
|Hodgson, F.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Hodgson, R.||Smyth, Sir H.|
|Hollond, R.||Stewart, J.|
|Hornby, J.||Taylor, J. A.|
|Humphery, Ald.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Johnson, Gen.||Towneley, J.|
|Kemble,||Vivian, J. E.|
|Liddell, hon. H. T.||Walker. R.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Wilbraham, tin. R. B.|
|Lowther, hon. Col.||Williams, W.|
|M' Taggart, Sir J.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Masterman, J.||Wood, B.|
|Morris, D.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Muntz, G. F.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Murphy, F. S.|
|Napier, Sir C.||TELLERS.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Crawford, W. S.|
|O'Connell, J.||Ferrand, W. B.|
§ On the question that the clause as amended stand part of the bill,
§ Colonel Sibthorp
rose to object to it. It would entail an enormous expense on the country and had already cost no less than 641,396l. He objected to it also on the ground of the arbitrary power which it gave the Secretary of State to remove commissioners or substitute others at pleasure. The language of the right hon. Baronet in the early part of the evening had been most equivocal, but it had at least given hon. Members pretty plainly to understand that the more they worked the right hon. Baronet—the more they threw obstacles in his way—the more likely it was, at this period of the Session, that he would be brought to listen to reason, and induced to give up the attempt to force the bill into law. He would like to know where that guardian of the public purse the hon. Member for Montrose was? Why was he not in his place to oppose this clause on economical grounds? He wished to save the country between 30,000l. and 40,000l. a-year; on that ground he opposed the passing of the clause. He quite concurred in the propriety of forcing the Government to abandon the clause, although he must express his admiration of the right hon. Baronet and the other Members of the Cabinet.
§ Lord Worsley
rose for the purpose of saying, that he was connected with the county with which the hon. and gallant Member opposite was also connected; and he (Lord Worsley) begged to say, that his constituents entertained opinions respecting the Bill before the House quite in opposition to those entertained and expressed by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Colonel Wood
said, that as there had been already two nights' discussion on the clause, he hoped hon. Members would allow it to stand part of the bill. He would suggest to the hon. and gallant Member whether he ought not to withdraw his motion.
§ The committee divided on the question that the committee do report progress:— Ayes 16; Noes 178: Majority 162.
|List of the AYES.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Brotherton, J.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Callaghan, D.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Collins, W.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Scholefield, J.|
|Duncombe, T.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Johnson, Gen|
|Hindley, C.||Williams, W|
§ Main question again put.
§ Sir R. Peel
protested against the course which the hon. Member was pursuing. He hoped that hon. Members would not thus endanger one of the most important privileges of the House. The course now adopted was calculated to obstruct the progress of legislation, to bring the House into great discredit, and to impair their authority as a deliberative assembly.
§ Viscount Palmerston
hoped, that the hon. Member would not press his motion to a division, which appeared to have for its drill the obstruction of public business.
§ Mr. Fielden
thought that any hon. Member had a right to throw all the obstructions he could in the way of the clause proposed for the adoption of the House. He thought that time should be given to hon. Members who were desirous of stating their views on the bill. He did not think that he could be charged with unfairness. Every opportunity ought to be afforded for discussing this question.
motion negatived, and the committee divided on the question, 78 that the clause stand part of the bill:ߞ Ayes 146; Noes 26: Majority.
|List of the AYES.|
|A 'Court, Capt.||Heathcote, Sir W.|
|Antrobus, E.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Bagge, W.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Holmes, hon. W. A'S.|
|Bailey, J.||Howard, hon. J. K.|
|Baillie, Col.||Howard, P. H.|
|Baird, W.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Hussey, T.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Hutt, W.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Jackson, J. D.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Jermyn, Earl.|
|Blackburne, J. 1.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Bolder, H. G.||Jones, Capt.|
|Botfield, B.||Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E|
|Bramston, T. W.||Knight, H. 0,|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Labouchere, rt. hn. H.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Lascelles, hon; W. S.|
|Busfeild, W.||Lefroy, A.|
|Carew. hon. R. S.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Cavendish, hon. O. H.||Litton, E.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Lockhart, W.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Lowther, hon. Sol.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Collett, W. R.||Mainwaring, T.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Courtenay, Lord||March, Earl of|
|Cowper, W. F.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Cripps, W.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Mordaunt, Sir J.|
|Darby, G.||Morgan, O.|
|Dodd, G.||Morris, D.|
|Duncan, C.||Neville, R.|
|East, J. B.||Nicholl, rt. lion. J.|
|Eliot, Lord||Norreys, Lord|
|Elphinstone, H.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Escott, B.||Northland, Visct.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Evans, W.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Fleming, J. W.||Patten, J. W.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Ffolliott, J.||Peel, J.|
|Forbes, W.||Praed, W. T.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Pringle, A.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes,||Rasleigh, W.|
|Gill, T.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Glynne, Sir S. R.||Russell, Lord J. D. W.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Ryder, hon. G. D.|
|Gore, hon. R.||Scarlett, hon. R. S.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Seymour, Lord|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Sheppard, T.|
|Grimston, Visct.||Smith, A.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Smyth, Sir H.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Stanley, Lord|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Hawes, B.||Stuart, H.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Thornely, T.||Wilshere, W.|
|Trench, S. F. W.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Trevor, hon. G. R.||Wood, S.|
|Trollope, Sir J.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Trotter, J.||Wood, G. W.|
|Tyrell, S. J. T.||Worsley, Lord|
|Vane, Lord H.||Wortley, hon. H. J. S|
|Vernon, G. H.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Vesey, hon. T.||Young, J.|
|Waddington, H. S.|
|Walsh, Sir J. B.||TELLERS.|
|Ward, H. G.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Wawn, J. T.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H, A.||Hammer, Sir J.|
|Aldam, W.||Henley, J. W.|
|Borthwick, P.||Hindley, S.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hodgson, R.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Buckley, E.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Callaghan, D.||Richards, R.|
|Collins, W.||Scholefield, J.|
|Colvile, S. R.||Taylor, J. A.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Williams, W.|
|Denison, E. B.||Wood, B. Duncombe, T.|
|Egerton, W. T.||TELLERS.|
|Fielden, J.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Johnson, Gen.|
§ House resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at half-past one o'clock.