HC Deb 22 July 1842 vol 65 cc496-517
Sir J. Graham

moved the Poor-law Amendment Bill be read a third time.

Mr. S. Crawford

said, this bill was utterly barren of any provisions for the relief of the poor from the oppressive working of the present law; its only effect would be to continue the commission for five years longer. The question then was, would the House consent to a bill with such an object, in the face of all the objections brought against the arbitrary character and proceedings of the commissioners? He would remind the House that to those objections no satisfactory answer had been given. The commissioners, it was proved, had been guilty of the unnecessary and unreasonable forcing of the in-door test in cases where it was clearly absurd to attempt this—where there was sufficient accommodation for the poor, and they could not be relieved in the House. The next charge against them was for obstinately directing the use of unwholesome or inadequate diet for the paupers, and commanding it to be continued, although they knew that it produced disease. The facts brought forward to support these charges had never been disproved, and the charges accordingly remained in full force. The next charge against the commissioners was, that they permitted extraordinary and excessive punishments;—that was not denied. Another charge was, that the rules of the commissioners affecting aged persons were inhuman and cruel; the aged and infirm were put under the same roof with the able-bodied, and kept in such a condition that life could not be sustained. He challenged any hon. Mem- ber who supported the bill to show that these charges were false; the only answer to them was, that such things had been done in other places and at a former time, but that was no justification of the present conduct of the commissioners. Another strong objection to the bill was, that it gave no power of appeal to the poor man against the acts of the guardians or cone missioners. Again, the distance of the poor from the workhouses was generally so great, that it was impossible for them to make their wants known. The House was now asked to renew the commission for five years, under a promise from the Government that they would introduce a remedial bill next Session. That was a pledge on which no reliance could be placed, as its fulfilment entirely depended on circumstances. After the conduct of Ministers, in dividing the bill, and taking only the clauses affecting the commission, in the face of their declaration that it must be passed entire, how could the House rely on the pledge now given, to bring in a new bill in the next Session, when the intentions of Government might be defeated? He had little hope from a change of Ministers, for those who should succeed the present Government were even more hostile to the interests of the poor, and he should be even more distrustful of them than of the existing Administration. He might be told that if the House refused to pass this bill everything would be left in confusion. He was not of opinion that the affairs of the poor would be worse ad ministered if the commissioners were to die a legal death. But there was another remedy. If the House refused to pass this bill a new bill might be brought to continue the commission for another year. The present measure was framed on the principles of Malthus, and was designed for the purpose of lessening the population of this country by reducing the poor to such a condition of hardship that they could not live. The poor considered that this bill originated in a desire to oppress them, that it proceeded from a conspiracy of the rich against the poor; and was it safe in the House to give them ground for such an opinion. The double effect of the New Poor-law had been to raise rents and reduce wages. This had been proved by the most incontestible evidence, adduced in that House by the hon. Member for Oldham, and also by several most respectable witnesses before the Wages Committee. He had another grave objection to this bill, founded on its unconstitutional character. The 1st, 15th, 21st, 25th, 26th, and 32nd clauses gave the most arbitrary and unconstitutional powers to the Poor-law commissioners. They were invested with power to tax the people and to make laws; indeed, every power which the Legislature itself possessed had been transferred to these commissioners. He could not conceive on what grounds those who professed to be the friends of the people and the advocates of public liberty could give their assent to such a bill as this. It not only destroyed all the local boards of guardians, but it struck at the very root of all representation. If this bill passed, representation would be a humbug. They heard much in recent debates of the distress prevailing in the country, and it was fit that the House should properly investigate that subject. The greatest relief, however, which could be administered, at least to those who most required it, would, he was convinced, be afforded through a humane and charitable Poor-law; but he was sorry to find that those who talked most loudly of the prevailing distress were sup porters of the present bill. The most effectual mode of alleviating distress would be to give the poor an effective claim against the rich for maintenance and support, and then the rich would be glad to repeal the Corn-laws, in order that the labouring classes might have a chance of supporting themselves. He deeply lamented, notwithstanding the detailed account he gave the other night of the distress and starvation which prevailed in Ireland, Ministers had not allowed a word of consolation or comfort to escape their lips. He implored them to break their silence, and tell the country what they meant to do to relieve the agonizing distress which in some parts existed in Ireland. lie did not speak on this subject with anything like party feeling; he did not expect that a large number would support the motion he was about to make; but he was not ashamed to appear in a small minority on this question. At all events, he would rather glory in being in law a small minority supporting the rights of the poor, than in the largest majority against them. He begged to move, that the bill be read a third time that day three, months.

Mr. Fielden

seconded the motion. His hon. Friend, in taking the course he had adopted from the first with reference to this bill, bad ably discharged his duty to his constituents and to the country at large. If this bill were passed, he would not be answerable for the consequences which might follow. Its tendency undoubtedly was to render the labouring classes desperate and drive them to acts of madness. If he were a labouring man, and required relief, he would not go into one of these workhouses, which he contended had been most properly designated dens of murder. If they continued in this way to grind the faces of the poor, acts of insubordination would follow, and, although they might repress them for a while, they would find the spirit of resistance too strong for them ere long. If they attempted to carry out this bill for another five years, they would find their own reign would be short indeed. He felt strongly on this subject; it was his duty to speak out; and he should be doing the greatest injustice to himself, and those who sent him there, if he did not do all in his power to oppose this bill. He could regard it in no other light than as an act to starve the poor, and reduce the wages of the labouring man. He had that very morning received a letter, from Bicester, Oxfordshire, which he would read to the House. The hon. Member read the letter, to the following effect:— I have just read, with astonishment, Sir J. Graham's statement relative to the beneficial effect of the New Poor-law in rural districts. The fact is that the Corn-law and the Poor-law together have reduced tens of thousands of field labourers in the rural districts to a state of abject slavery, starvation, and nakedness. It is really heartrending in this once flourishing, but now suffering country, to hear its rulers, who profess to be the guardians of our peace, comforts, and prosperity, talk like Sir J. Graham, in the face of so many facts, which declare that the field labourers, at this moment, are starving for want of work. Two days ago I met a person in the street, and asked him how it was that he was not working. The poor man, who is well known to me as a sober and good workman, answered, I cannot get a day's work. I have walked fifty miles, but cannot meet with any employment. I have made application to go with my family to the workhouse, but they would not receive us. They said there was plenty of work about.' This is the very best time of year for work in this neighbourhood, and yet there are many good labourers, with large families, without work; and when they apply to the workhouse for workhouse room, they are told there is plenty of work. Between the New Poor-law and the Corn-law, the industrious classes are in a wretched condition. May God, in his mercy, avert the national calamity which the words and acts of some of our rulers are calculated to bring about I It appeared, front this letter, that this poor man had been walking fifty miles for work. They treated the poor worse than dogs—worse than the animals they kept in their stables. If the land was properly cultivated—if labour was employed to cause the land to yield its full produce, there would then be no further dispute about the Corn-law; but they first passed a Corn-law to keep up the price of bread, and then they passed a Poor-law to keep down the rates. It had been undeniably proved, before a committee on which he sat, that, when the poor man entered the workhouse, he was obliged to give up his goods. Therefore it was only the severest possible distress that could force a man to the workhouse, after he had disposed of everything belonging to him. When the Poor-law was originally introduced, there was a clause in it enacting that out-door relief should be refused to able-bodied men, after the 31st of July, 1835; but this clause was withdrawn. Now he asked, why did not the Government do what they got the commissioners to do? This was a cowardly course of proceeding. He did not expect his opposition to the bill to be successful. Nearly all the Liberal and Conservative Members would vote for the third reading. Still he would discharge his duty. The conduct of that House was oppressive to the poor. They passed laws to make food dear, and then they passed other laws to reduce the rate of wages. If they thought the labourers of the country would bear this, they were mistaken. He had been warning them for ten years of the approach of distress; and now that distress had come. He would now endeavour to impress on the minds of the Government what must be the consequence of continuing the commission for five or six years. The labouring men of England hoped, when a Conservative Government came into power, it would act on Conservative principles, and that their condition would be bettered. They had been disappoints, and a feeling of revenge was springing up in their bosoms, and would be manifested in a way which all would have to deplore. To what condition were they, reducing the poor? They were driving them to steal, or, per- haps to become murderers. He entreated the House not to read the bill a third time. Had it been proposed to continue the commission for one year, so as to afford time to consider the condition of the poor, he would not have been disposed to interfere. He advised the House to beware in time. They could not carry into operation the Poor-law and the Corn-law at the same time. They sat there daily till three o'clock in the morning, like owls and bats; the House of Commons was like the tower of Babel: it had become a house of confusion, and nothing was done in it for the benefit of the poorer classes. He heartily seconded the amendment.

Mr. Muntz

agreed with his hon. Friend that this was a measure of the utmost importance. It was of such importance that it had overthrown a strong and popular Government, and most probably would overthrow the present Government The delegation of the power to grant parochial relief' was a question of great delicacy. It required the persons intrusted with that power to have an intimate knowledge of the labourers and the working men in the manufacturing districts which the commissioners could know nothing about; it was worse than absurd to expect they should; but it was one of the consequences of an unsound principle of legislation. It went hand in hand with the Factory Bill, and the Emigration Bill, and other similar expedients which had been found necessary to resort to so many years after the conclusion of a disastrous war. He could do little against so powerful a majority, pledged to support a measure so unconstitutional, further than to protest, as he now most solemnly did, against adding this insult to exasperate the poor, already irritated and exasperated by distress and want of food. He would protest against it upon no other ground than this, that it gave to this irresponsible commission a power to overrule and overthrow all local regulations and laws on the subject of the treatment of the poor. Who could possibly be so competent as those elected by the rate-payers in each town to apportion relief and enter into the minute circumstances of each applicant's case? Without this there was no security for its proper distribution. What seemed to him to be the most extraordinary circumstance connected with this Poor-law of the right hon. Baronet's was, that it should, strange to say, have the support of the Liberal part of that House, at least to a great extent. This was a mystery he could never explain or make out. That the Gentlemen opposite should support it was what might be expected. It was in perfect accordance with their professions, with their actions on all occasions; but that those around him, or a great many of them, should support a bill which went to destroy local government in distant towns on a point of so much importance as the appropriation of relief to the poor, astonished him, as being an act totally at variance with their principles and with their professions on other occasions. Local boards of relief were clearly best for the larger towns: to vest the power of granting relief in the commissioners residing at a great distance was a farce. The local authorities spurned that authority, they did not want these worse than useless commissioners. Their power was totally at variance with the principles of representative government to which the people of England were so strongly attached, In conclusion lie should remark that he and those guardians with whom he had communicated upon the subject of the poor of this country, and their treatment in their several parishes, had one and all expressed the wish that they might be left to themselves in these matters, and permitted to avail themselves of their local knowledge of the circumstances of those who applied for parochial assistance in the administration and management of their own local funds.

Mr. Rashleigh

subscribed to the principle of the Poor-law Act, but could not help thinking that the cord had been drawn too tight. The operation of the law pressed extremely heavily, and even cruelly, on able-bodied labourers with large families. He thought the guardians might safely be intrusted with a discretionary power to relieve, and that the able-bodied labourers should not be obliged to give up their little all, and go with their families into the workhouse.

Mr. B. Escott

said, he had been subject to such very great misrepresentation as to what fell from him in a former debate, there were some points on which he had been so entirely misapprehended, that he wished to say a few words on this occasion. He had been represented to have stated that wages in the county of Somerset were 6s. a week: he never said any such thing. What he said was, that he knew parishes in that county in which wages were se low as 6s. a-week. He was also represented to have said that the rates throughout the whole of that county had been raised by the operation of the New Poor-law. He never made any such statement; if he had it would have been contrary to the fact. What he said was, that he knew many parishes where, under the unequal operation of the Poor-law, the rates had been raised. And now one word in parting on this bill. He, for one, should offer to the third reading no opposition whatever. He could not help congratulating himself, and he hoped he might congratulate the country, that there had been a great point achieved upon the debate he raised on his motion for out-door relief. The advantage which he felt had been obtained was, in his opinion, almost tantamount to having carried the motion he then offered to the House. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary then distinctly stated, and he had no reason to doubt the correctness of his statement, that the explanatory letter of the Poor-law commissioners of the exception which followed the prohibitory order against out-door relief still left a discretionary power in the boards of guardians to grant that relief in cases of urgent necessity. With that statement he for one was satisfied. The prohibitory order stated that out-door relief should not he granted to the able-bodied labourer—the exception stated that it might be granted in cases of urgent necessity. All he contended for was, that the boards of guardians might have the discretionary power to say what were cases of urgent necessity. Then came this explanatory letter which said that, in the opinion of the writer of that letter, cases of urgent necessity were confined to cases of fire or water; but when be was told that that was only a critical or philological explanation of the words of that order, and was not binding on the guardians, rejoiced that that point had been cleared up, and that the boards of guardians were at liberty to exercise their discretion upon what was or was not a case of urgent necessity. He would offer no further opposition to this measure. He still entertained the opinions which he cordially expressed upon a former stage of it but he hoped it would work better than he expected, and his desire was, that hon. Members might return home, not to use such language as the hon. Member for Oldham had used that evening, but that those who thought it a bad measure might make the best of it, and that those who thought it a good one might endeavour by their administration of it to prove that it was so: and that, above all, they might instil habits of industry into the people, which would prove to them the greatest blessing, and that by the example of hon. Members themselves throughout the country, and the humblest of them had some influence in that way, the people might be enable; to obtain the fruits of their own industry, and raise the rewards of their labour, which at present were much too low.

Mr. Aglionby

would vote against the third reading of the bill, but he was desirous of guarding himself against its being supposed that in doing so, he adopted either the arguments or the conclusions of the hon. Member for Rochdale, or of the hon. Member for Oldham. The ground on which he should vote against the bill was this: that having opposed the clause which went to continue the commission for five years, he could not consistently give his support to a bill in which that clause was retained. He would not consent to give to the commission for six years longer, which, in fact, it would be, a power in regard to the Poor-law, and a control over the poor of this country, the extent of which, until the other details of the law, which were postponed for future legislation, were settled, lie was necessarily ignorant of.

Captain Pechell

also expressed his intention of supporting the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale, in opposition to this bill. He was, however, gratified in so far as he should be enabled to inform his constituents, that the Gilbert unions were safe for a short period, at least until October next, for an hon. Friend of his had a motion to bring forward, which, if carried, would compel the Government to call Parliament together again in that month.

Mr. R. Yorke

wished to know from the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether it was to be understood that he had, in regard to the explanatory letter of the commissioners which had been alluded to, expressed an opinion, that notwithstanding that letter, the guardians had still a discretionary power in granting relief to able-bodied labourers?

Sir J. Graham

I am bound to say, that if I had consulted my own personal con- venience—if I could have been swayed by I any sinister motives, considering the short time the Administration of which I am a Member has been in power, nothing could have been more agreeable or easy to me than to have yielded to the, I will not say menaces, but very forcible appeal made to me by the hon. Member for Oldham, not to proceed with this bill; but, having been no inattentive observer of the laws with regard to the relief of the poor, having taken for many years a part in the local administration of this measure, having been a party to the introduction of it in 1834, having watched and marked its operation with great anxiety, I should be guilty of the most serious dereliction of duty which could disgrace any public men, were I for one moment to be led away by the threats or arguments of hon. Member opposed to it, and not ask the House to agree to the third reading of the bill. I have nut the slightest hesitation in declaring that the whole scheme of the Government of unions would be impossible if they were not controlled by some central power. If we put an end to the central authority we must resort to local. Government, and then comes the question whether we would have such a system, with local passions and prejudices of that narrow circle without appeal—or if the power of appeal be given, where should it lie—except in the local magistrates? I have heard none advocate a system of local Government without appeal. I am quite satisfied that the cruelty and oppression of such a system would be felt upon the smallest occasion; it would lead to a system of oppression than which nothing more monstrous could be conceived. I therefore dismiss a system of parochial Government without appeal, and if we 'adopts it with appeal we should have nothing less than the system which existed from 1796 to 1834; and how objectionable that system was, is admitted on all hands. It remains for me shortly to discuss the inconsistencies in the doctrines propounded on the other side, though, certainly, by a comparatively small number of hon. Gentlemen. The hon. Member for Rochdale complains that under the system as now organized, from the board of guardians there is no appeal; he is very much afraid of a system of local Government without appeal, and he taunted me with something of inconsistency when I said there was an appeal in the first instance to the Assistant Poor-law Commissioners, and ultimately to the Poor-law Commissioners themselves; and the hon. Member referred to the clauses at the end of the bill, in which he said there was no power on their part to order an appeal. I admit it; but practically I know that where relief is refused by the boards of guardians the poor man may appeal to the Poor-law Commissioners, and where that refusal has occurred on anything like a general system of the board of guardians, the remonstrances of the commissioners has been made against such refusal; and though no direct power is given to order relief to individuals, both the commissioners and assistant-commissioners have felt bound to redress individual grievances and hardships. The hon. Member for Winchester has most rightly interpreted that which fell from me on a former evening. Reference has been made to the explanatory letter that has been written; and I must say that I thought that from the very commencement of the operation of the law the secretaries have not only written too much, but in many cases too harshly. I should say chat, at this moment public opinion is against the measure, not so much for what is done as for what has been written—written, however, with the best intention: the system is large; there are variations from time to time under different orders addressed to the boards of guardians, which are hard to be understood, skid from a desire to make them plain, words upon I words, and precept upon precept, have been issued, and hence a great variety of explanatory letters. But I beg, it may be I distinctly understood, that though these explanatory letters are said to be illustrative of the law, they are in no degree mandatory, and are in no case to be considered as general orders which have received the sanction of the Secretary of State. I am very unwilling to refer to the exact state of the country at the time of passing the Poor-law, in 1831; but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham has read a communication from Oxford, describing the present state of distress in that union. I could cite a letter from an authority, who would be considered the very highest by the Opposition benches, in immediate connection with the county of Bedford, giving me a description of the state of that county in 1831, and instituting a comparison with the present condition of the labouring classes. My noble correspondent tells me, that in 1831 a great number of efficient workmen were either in the workhouses or receiving relief; that the worst possible feeling existed between them and the gentry of the country, whom they regarded as oppressors, and that that feeling evinced itself by various outbreaks; and my noble correspondent assures me that now there is a much better feeling between the gentry and the farmers and the workmen they employ; that, speaking generally, there is a full demand for the labour of efficient workmen; that peace, order, and regularity prevail throughout the county; and that the contrast with its former condition is most happy, and he, as a ratepayer of that county, where the working of the old system of poor-law was most disgraceful, attributes the change to the operation of this very law. The hon. Member for Oldham has made strong declarations against this measure. The hon. Member called it the most unfair, unjust, and oppressive measure that could be devised, and exhorted me not to proceed with it; he warned me of its effects, and told me that the day would come when I would repent of having passed it. I have listened in vain to hear what the lion. Member would recommend instead of this law. Would he recommend that the able bodied labourer should be dependent on the poor-rates? [Mr. Fielden: No.] The hon. Member objects to this law; but he never said he would revert to what was the law in 1831. After all that has occurred in this debate, it would be most satisfactory if the gentlemen who oppose this law would state, distinctly and explicitly, what law they would desire for the relief of able bodied labourers in this country. I have never yet heard hon. Gentlemen enter into the explanation. I give the hon. Member for Oldham the utmost credit for the warmth of his feelings towards the working classes, and I should be doing him an injustice if I were not to say that I know that the hon. Member in his own neighbourhood, and with regard to his own immediate dependants, is most kind, and illustrates the warmed of the feelings he expresses in this House, and I listen to him with attention and respect, because I know the sincere attachment of the hon. Member to the working classes. But I should have been extremely glad—the hon. Member having (even so much attention to this subject, and acting with such kind feelings towards the working classes—if he had proceeded to state what course, if this law were repealed, after the results of his long experience and attention to this subject in his magisterial capacity, he would recommend. I have bestowed the most anxious consideration upon the question, I have listened to many debates upon it, I have taken part in various inquiries, I have read the reports of the commission, and have devoted much attention to the subject, but the result of my experience and attention does not enable me to offer to the Legislature anything, upon the whole, preferable to this measure. Able-bodied paupers are not, under all circumstances, denied relief out of the workhouse. The test of the workhouse is universally applicable as the surest mode of ascertaining real destitution. But it would be cruel in the extreme, it would be unjust, it would be oppressive. if the test were made the universal rule. It is not so—it is not intended to be so; practically, I repeat, it is not so. There is an enormous amount of population relieved out of doors, bearing an immense proportion to those relieved within the walls of the workhouse. In round numbers where there are 200,000 relieved in-doors, there are about 1,000,000 relieved out of doors. Out of 165,000 widows and deserted females who obtain relief, only 13,000 obtain it in the workhouses, the remainder in their own homes. As to the proportion of able-bodied men, the question is of course very important, and I will give the best accounts I can, including (as I must do) the vagrants. [Ink answer to Captain Pechell, the right hon. Baronet here parenthetically stated that the returns included, not the local act parishes, nor those of course tinder the Gilbert unions.]. In 1640 there were 297,695 able-bodied adults relieved. Now, out of that number, how many were relieved in the workhouse? The House will, perhaps, suppose, from what has been so often said, that nearly all were so relieved. Not so. Perhaps, then, one half? Not so. Or a quarter? Not even so. But the fact actually is, that out of (in round numbers) 300,000 able-bodied adults, 245,000 were relieved out of doors, and under 50,000 were relieved in the workhouse. Had the stringency of the measure increased in the following year? In 1841, out of 345,656 able-bodied adults relieved, 280,189 were relieved out-of-doors. Now, the success of the measure, as far as my judgment goes, depends upon the judicious application of the workhouse test, but it is not binding as a positive rule upon the discretion of the guardians. I go further, and say that, in my opinion, the main value of the commission, in constant communication with the Government, is this, that instead of being, as it is called, an unbending cast-iron system, it is a plastic system, readily adapting itself to all the various circumstances of each community. I can conceive one state of circumstances in which it would be right, and prudent, and politic, that the workhouse test should be strictly applied; and I can conceive another state of circumstances taking the case properly out of the prohibitory order, and rendering the out-door labour test expedient. Again, I can conceiv—nay, I know of extensive districts under great and general distress in which it would be harsh, cruel, and unjust to apply the work house test, or out-door test, to able-bodied poor unable to obtain the least employment. And it is the confidence that I am acting with a commission of wise and humane men, who know that, after all, human affairs must be conducted with reference to times and circumstances—it is this which makes me feel, that as it is not only politic but necessary that amidst the difficulties which at this period surround us, large discretionary powers should be vested somewhere, they can be vested nowhere with such advantage as in a commission so composed, acting in constant communications with the Executive, and for all its acts responsible to the Legislature. Nor is there any subject on which the conduct of the commission has been exposed to closer examination, and on which the result has been more satisfactory, than with reference to the large powers intrusted to it on this painful and delicate point for the government of the entire community. Could I believe that the extension or continuance of the measure was inconsistent with the safety, the order, or the peace of society, and the distribution of property in the country, I, of course, should confess that no more lawful considerations could ever in. duce a Government to pause in their course; but I am satisfied, on the whole, that it is a measure insuring a just and safe administration of relief to the poor; and I feel that under any system of poor relief not checked and guarded, so as to prevent the growth of the most monstrous abuses, there must arise consequences awfully dangerous to the order, the peace. and the property of this country. Therefore, I shrink from throwing the vast subject utterly loose at this period, and thus incurring the very danger which some professed to anticipate from an enforcement of the law. Deterred, then, by no improper fear—disregarding all personal obloquy that may attach to me on account of my enforcing what may be thought severe. but which, I believe firmly, will, in the long run, prove humane and salutary,—I cannot hesitate as to the course which I ought to adopt; and I earnestly entreat the House to pass the bill with such a majority as will mark how united we are (without reference to party distinctions) on the propriety of continuing a measure so important to the interests of the poor and of the community at large.

Mr. O'Connell

The right hon. Baronet had said it would be extremely unjust, extremely cruel, extremely oppressive, if no relief were, under any circumstances, to be given out of the workhouse to able-bodied paupers, and those superlatives were assented to by the majority of the House. Yet there was no such outdoors relief in Ireland. It was not, however, on that ground that he was about to oppose the bill. The objection to the bill had been stated by the hon. Member for Cockermouth—it was the continuance of the commission for six years. He thought the commissioners did not deserve the eulogium that had been pronounced upon them. He believed they had enhanced their unpopularity by the manner in which they had treated boards of guardians, and by the flippancy and impertinence of their expressions; and the determination too, that they would not yield to local feelings and circumstances but maintain their own "cast iron" system had also added to that unpopularity. There was an impression in Ireland that these commissioners were actuated by some of those motives, that ought least to influence them, for that they had political partialities and religious prejudices. That impression might be unjust, but it was an unhappy circumstance that their conduct should have created it at all. The noble Lord opposite had certainly pronounced his official eulogium upon them; for it seemed to be the practice of the House, whenever any functionary was attacked, that some Gentlemen on the Treasury bench should get up and prove him to be every thing that was most extraordinary in talent, and wisdom, and virtue. His objection to the bill was, that it continued the commission. He rejoiced to see the liberality with which the measure had been worked in this country, and hoped that the system would be ameliorated in, Ireland. He pledged himself not, to allow a week to elapse in the next Session, without moving for a committee to inquire into the working of the Poor-law in Ireland.

Captain Berkeley

rose to take his share of the odium which must attach itself to the supporters of this bill. He had paid much attention to the operation of the New Poor-law as compared with the old one, applied to the county in which he resided, and he could bear witness to its beneficial effects, not only in reducing rates, which he regarded as the least important consideration, but in arresting the progress of demoralisation, and in exalting the character of the poor.

General Johnson

objected, and had always objected, to invest three men with such great unconstitutional powers. He rejoiced to hear that some relaxation had taken place in the system, although he believed nothing short of dire necessity could ever have induced the commissioners to give out-door relief. Nobody had ever found fault with the statute of Elizabeth. The complaints were against the abuses of that law, with the acts passed in the reigns of George the 3rd and George the 4th, with all their complicated machinery. He protested against this motion, calling on hon. Members to decide on the third reading of a bill with the details of which hon. Members were wholly unacquainted, for not having had the bill delivered into their hands they could not know what clauses had been struck out and what clauses had been retained, and therefore must legislate in the dark. All they knew was that the principle of centralisation was to be retained, and that was sufficient to secure his opposition. He did not feel at all sure that this measure would be brought forward next Session now that they had gained their main point, especially as they must anticipate serious opposition to many parts of their measure.

The House divided on the question that the word "now" stand part of the question:—Ayes 103; Noes 30: Majority 73.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Bentinck, Lord G.
Acland, T. D. Berkeley, hon. Capt.
A'Court, Capt. Bolder, H. G.
Allix, J. P. Broadley, H.
Antrobus, E. Browne, hon. W.
Baillie, Col. Bruce, Lord E.
Baird, W. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Baring, hon. W. B. Chetwode, Sir J.
Barnard, E. G. Chute, W. L. W.
Barrington, Visct, Clayton, R. R.
Clerk, Sir G. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E,
Clive, E. B. Knight, H. G.
Clive, hon. R. H. Langston, J. H.
Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Corry, rt. hon. H. Lincoln, Earl of
Courtenay, Lord Litton, E.
Cripps, W: Lockhart, W.
Damer, hon. Col. Lyall, G.
Darby, G. Mackenzie, W. F.
Duncan, G. M'Geachy, F. A.
Duncombe, hon. A. Morgan, O.
Ebrington, Visct. Morison, Gen.
Eliot, Lord Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Escott, B. Norreys, Lord
Estcourt, T. G. B. Northland, Visct.
Ferguson, Col. Packe, C. W.
Flower, Sir J. Patten, J. W.
Follett, Sir W. W. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Forbes, W. Peel, J.
Fuller, A. E. Philips, M.
Gaskell, J. Miles Pollock, Sir F.
Gibson, T. M, Pringle, A.
Gill, T. Rashleigh, W.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Rice, E. R.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Rushbrooke, Col.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Sheppard, T.
Greene, T. Somerset, Lord G.
Grimston, Visit, Stanley, Lord
Grogan, E. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Hale, R. B. Tangled, H. W.
Hamilton, W. J. Taylor, T. E.
Harcourt, G. G. Thornely, T.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Thornhill, G.
Hatton, Capt. V. Tollemache, J.
Herbert, hon. S. Trench, Sir F. W.
Hervey, Lord A. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Hope, hon. C. Ward, H. G.
Howard, P. H. Wood, Col. T.
Hughes, W. B. Young, J.
Jermyn, Earl Fremantle, Sir T.
Jones, Capt. Baring, H.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Hodgson, R.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Johnson, Gen.
Blackstone, W, S., Muntz, G. F.
Bowring, Dr. Napier, Sir C.
Broadwood, H. O'Connell, D.
Brotherton, J. Pechell, Capt.
Bryan, O. Polhill, F,
Cobden, R. Pollington, Visct.
Colvile, C. R. Richards, R.
Duncombe, T. Scholefield, J.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Sibthorp, Col.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Williams, W.
Grant, Sir A. C. Yorke, H. R.
Halford, H.
Hall, Sir B TELLERS.
Hardy, J. Crawford, W. S.
Henley, J. W. Fielden, J.

Bill read a third time.

Sir T. D. Acland

rose, pursuant to notice, for the purpose of moving a clause to enable guardians to appoint local com- mittees for receiving applications of poor persons in parishes situated at a certain distance from the place of meeting of the board of guardians. This clause he begged to propose by way of rider, and in submitting it to the consideration of the House he wished it to be understood that he did not desire to excite any discussion upon the general merits of the measure. There were only to be passed a certain number of the clauses of which the bill was originally made up. Amongst the provisions which ought to be contained in the measure, and which were not included in it as it now stood, was this one; it was a mild and beneficent provision, and one which he trusted the House would not exclude from the bill. Circumstances had rendered it impracticable to secure this clause in committee, and after the arrangement entered into by his right hon. Friend he could not propose such a clause, but it was to be hoped that his right hon. Friend would stand neuter between him and the rest of the House—that he would not oppose the clause,—to ask him to support it was out of the question. In some instances paupers were resident as many as fifteen or twenty miles from the central place of meeting of the guardians, and that fact alone, he thought, should determine the House in favour of the proposition which he had made. He remembered in the union in which he was a guardian he witnessed instances of poor women coming fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen miles, and being obliged to go home again in the heat of summer without receiving relief. Then it was to be recollected that guardians from the more distant parishes of a union were not very regular in their attendance; upon that ground also, lie was sure that hon. Members would agree with him as to the necessity of there being local committees. He had some difficulty in fixing the precise distance, but lie thought he should be safe in proposing four miles from the central place of meeting.

Sir C. Napier

seconded the motion. He did think that, after passing die obnoxious clauses of the bill, they ought not to reject one so mild as this. With respect to the assistant-commissioners, in how few places was it possible for them to know the feelings and wants of the people! The parties concerned could not even know when an assistant-commissioner would visit the place. [Sir J. Graham: There are post-offices.] But poor people could not get paper to enter into a correspondence of inquiry even if they were able to write. In the union with which he was connected, they bad not seen an assistant-commissioner for twelve months together, and they were not anxious to see one any more, It was rather an extraordinary fact that those unions which were visited oftenest were the worst conducted, whilst those which were unvisited were well managed. Considering the vast sums of public money that were pocketted by these assistant commissioners, he must say that this was a matter which ought to receive some attention. He could not help expressing his surprise at the statements made the other night by the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the numbers of able-bodied labourers receiving outdoor relief, In the union to which he belonged they knew nothing about out-door relief to able-bodied persons; they had always understood that they must not give it. Where did the right hon. Gentleman get his extraordinary numbers from? Did he mean vagrants? Or did he mean the able-bodied who happened to be sick, and got medical or other relief out of the house? If the right hon. Gentleman made up his figures that way, be could understand them; but he really could not understand where it was, or how it that such an immense number of able-bodied paupers had received out-door relief. He must say of the commissioners, that he thought they had positively prevented the guardians from making the Poor-law a great deal better than it otherwise would have been. Had it not been for them the guardians would have made the law more satisfactory to the poor without at all increasing the expense to the rate-payers. There were many cases of old and worn-out persons receiving 3s. a week out-door relief, when they were no longer able to do any work, those persons having paid rates when in better circumstances. Now he held, that if encouragement were given to those poor persons who paid rates for five or six years, or for a longer period, that they would, in the event of their receiving it, receive a greater amount of relief than those who paid no rates; it would reduce the disinclination to pay poor-rates, and go to foster habits of frugality. The labouring people would pay die rates with the same readiness that they subscribed to their clubs, with the view of deriving assistance from their clubs when they might require it. He had conversed much with guardians of the poor, and recommended that the relief they gave should be regulated by that principle; they expressed their readiness to act upon it, but said that the commissioners would not permit them, and the auditor would strike out any allowance of the kind from their accounts.

Clause brought up and read a first and second time.

On the question that it be read a third time,

Captain Pechell

said, he did not know what the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman were, or in what manner the House would proceed upon this occasion, but there were other clauses of equal importance—for instance, one relating to voting by proxy, which, if opportunity offered, should also be taken into consideration. Did any other hon. Member mean to take advantage of the quiescence of the Government to propose other clauses, which, by common consent, might be adopted? With regard to the Poor-law commission, he had always said that the principle of the act or the 22nd of George 3rd, cap. 23, was the best principle which the poor could be governed by; and if that act had been made compulsory instead of voluntary, the condition of the poor would have been greatly improved. He was aware that some complaints had been made of the state of certain parts of Sussex as requiring the application of a more stringent law. But, as he had always said, the dose was too strong for the disease; as to the statements of the right hon. Gentleman of the large number of persons receiving out-door relief, he believed the number to be greatly augmented by the excellent system in those towns which were under local acts, having a population exceeding 1,500,000l. The clause of the hon. Baronet showed the necessity of diminishing the size of the unions, or of having district committees. It had been stated in a petition presented to the House from the Kensington Union, that I the magnitude of Poor-law unions was a serious evil. He hoped the hon. Baronet would succeed in carrying his clause.

Mr. P. Howard

thought the clause of the hon. Baronet might be acceded to without any infraction of the bill as it stood, and that if it were a compulsory clause it would be a great boon to the infirm and > aged poor. When the unions were large, and the number of poor great, there were good and sufficient reasons for the guardians to delegate their powers to subcommittees. No doubt these sub-committees must be the objects of very vigilant attention; and he trusted that with the controlling powers of the sub-commissioners, the plan would lead to no abuse. He hoped the clause would be adopted by the unanimous vote of the House.

Mr. Borthwick

was glad that there was a disposition to agree to the clause of the hon. Baronet; it would relieve other hon. Members as well as himself from a difficulty. There was nothing to which he would more readily lend his assistance than to the modification of this law; but it would be dangerous after the Government had pledged itself not to re-open the question during the present Session, to attempt it. This was a clause, however, which the House felt no difficulty in acceding to. It would undoubtedly be a great improvement of the law, and much as he could have wished to bring up some other amendment, he would not presume to disturb the arrangement to which the House had come. He hoped her Majesty's Government would, in consequence of hon. Members refraining from impeding the public business, take this bill into their serious consideration during the recess, and so improve it as to relieve hon. Members from the trouble of proposing amendments in another Session.

Sir J. Graham

felt that it would be a breach of faith to consent to the introduction of new clauses into this bill, after the declaration he had made that he would take none but the first four or five—but those that were unopposed or were brought forward with general approbation. This clause appeared to be one coming within the latter description, and one which he felt would lead to real practical benefit. He was anxious for its introduction, because his own experience corresponded with that of the hon. Member for North Devonshire, as to the distance of boards of guardians from some parishes causing those who required relief to walk eleven, twelve, or thirteen miles, and the rule, which he thought an excellent one, requiring that the head of a family should make the application on behalf of his family, in such cases often caused the loss I of a day's work, a matter of great cones- quence as well as great fatigue and some expense. Though he was not prepared to delegate to a committee the power of ordering relief, upon reflection lie should not object to the clause as proposed by the hon. Baronet; and if after the consent of the House by a large and decisive majority to a regulation which by some hon. Members was considered severe and cruel, that of a central commission having power over the local administration of the Poor-law, this clause was regarded as a mitigation of the severity of that regulation, hr should rejoice that almost their last act at the close of the Session should, not with standing this much disputed point, be deemed not only to have the appearance of an act of kindness, but to be one in reality.

The clause read a third time and added to the bill.

On the question that the bill do pass,

Mr. Fielden

moved as an amendment that the bill be printed.

The House divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question—Ayes 83; Noes 5 Majority 78.

List of the NOES.
Collins, W. Williams, W.
Johnson, Gen. TELLERS.
Pechell, Capt. Fielded, J.
Scholefield, J. Crawford, S.

Bill passed.