HC Deb 11 August 1843 vol 71 cc556-64

The Poor Relief Ireland Bill was read a third time.

Mr. George Hamilton

had to move the adoption of the clauses of which he had given notice, they related to the mode in which persons in Ireland, entitled to receive rent-charge in lieu of tithe, were at present assessed for the relief of the poor. As it happened, however, that the parties principally concerned in these clauses were the Irish clergy, and seeing the hon. Gentlemen, the Member for Sheffield, opposite, he would just say that he hoped the matter would be discussed, as every other clause in the bill had been, apart from all party considerations. It was simply a question of justice, whether in point of fact one class in the community had to complain that the principle upon which they had to contribute towards the relief of the poor was not unfair and unequal, as compared with other classes. And with a view to this, it was necessary to call the attention of the House to the present position of all parties, whether lay or clerical, entitled to receive rent-charge in lieu of tithe in Ireland, and to the principle upon which the poor rate was made. If he understood the principle of the Poor Law right, it was this, that the net annual letting value being in all cases ascertained, and a rate being struck upon that net annual value, one-half the poundage is made payable by the occupier, by reason of, and in consideration of, the profits of occupation; and the other half by the landlord, in consideration of the profits of ownership. In this respect the principle of the Poor Law in Ireland was different from that in England. While the original character of tithe property remained, he could easily understand that the tithe owner might be considered as the proprietor, pro tanto in occupation; but since tithe in Ireland had been converted into rent-charge, with a heavy deduction, he thought the character of the property was altered, and the proprietorship divided into two parts, one of which belonged to the landlord, and the other to the tithe rent-charger. It appeared to him, that it followed from this that the landlord and the tithe rent-charger stood on nearly the same grounds, each being liable to a moiety of the poundage, according to his respective interest. Certainly this was the opinion of many persons in Ireland, who had transmitted through him petitions to the House. They thought that the rent-charger ought not in future to be called upon to pay more than a person receiving rent to the same amount. But how is the tithe rent-charger circumstanced? In the first place, by what he could not but consider a mere omission in the Poor Law, a lessee of tithes is not entitled to make any deduction from his lessor, like all other lessees of property. The tithe rent-charger whether lay or ecclesiastical, has further to complain that he has to pay upon an extreme, while all other persons pay upon a very low, valuation. This will, of course, be remedied in a great degree by a more correct valuation, but the tithe rent-charger pays upon a gross, while others pay upon a net valuation, and in many cases, in point of fact, the clergy pay upon incomes which they do not possess. They further have reason to complain, that one-half the deduction which the landlord allows, is clear gain to the landlord, in addition to the 25 per cent. which he has already received under the tithe rent-charge act. He was aware that this part of the question was involved in some difficulty; but whatever it might be in theory, he was quite sure that what he had stated was the case in point of fact. Many instances had been given him—he would select one furnished by a clergyman. This gentleman mentions a property in his parish of 1,200l. a year in rents, the valuation being the same, the rent-charge 50l. a year, the poor rate 1s. in the pound. In this case the occupier pays collector 60l., the landlord pays the occupier 30l., the clergyman pays the landlord 2l. 10s., so that the position of the parties is as follows:—the occupier pays 30l.; the landlord 27l. 10s.; the clergyman 2l. 10s.—60l. In this case the landlord has manifestly the advantage, of one half the rate paid by the clergyman, for the landlord's income, after deducting the rent-charge payable to the clergyman, is 1,150l.; half the poor rate upon 1,150l. is 28l. 15s. But the landlord pays only 27l. 10s. and has consequently the advantage of 1l. 5s. Another case had been put to him by way of showing the injustice of the present system, from which it appears that a landlord might virtually receive from the tithe rent-charger as much or more than he himself has to pay to the tenant. This would, in point of fact, happen in any case in which from any circumstance, as in the case of an unexpired term of an old lease, the tithe rent-charge is equal or larger in amount than the rent. Tithe rent-charges are subject also to this inconvenience, that the landlord deducts the entire poundage upon the annual rent-charge from the half-yearly payment. With respect to the operation of the present law upon the clergy peculiarly, the House is aware that the clergy of Ireland are liable to an eccle- siastical tax under the Church Temporalities Act. Now the clergy have to pay poor rate upon the amount, which goes in the shape of this tax to the ecclesiastical commissioners, and they have to pay ecclesiastical tax upon the amount which they pay to the poor rates. They have also in many cases in Ireland to pay to their predecessors, or to lay out themselves, under the Irish laws, upon their glebe houses, sums of money, by which the rateable value of those glebe houses is increased, and yet no allowance is made for that expenditure. The clergyman is thus paying twice—1st.—His rent-charge is rateable without deduction for sums so expended, or for the interest of sums so expended on his glebe house. 2nd.—His glebe house is rated at an increased value on account of the sums so expended. The remedy which the clauses he had to propose would apply to these hardships, was this—With regard to lay rent-charge, it would be made a rateable hereditament, subject to all the deductions which other property was subject to under the existing law. With respect to clerical rent-charge, the case would be somewhat different. Under the 3rd and 4th William IV., chap. 17, the Church Temporalities Act, a certain principle was laid down for the taxation of ecclesiastical property in Ireland—a valuation of the gross income of each benefice was made in the first instance; from that gross income a deduction is made of the sums necessarily payable by the incumbent out of his benefice—the salaries of perpetual curates—interest of money which he is compelled to lay out upon his glebe, or to pay to his predecessor; by which expenditure the rateable value of the glebe is enhanced, and the ecclesiastical tax is struck upon the net value—the sum which actually comes into the clergyman's pocket as income after these deductions. It was the object of the clause he had to propose, to apply that principle of taxation to the poor rate payable by the clergy. He was aware of the objection that might be made against his proposition, on the grounds that the system in England is different—but then he had already remarked, the whole system of the Poor Law in Ireland was different from that in England, and he did think it could not be considered unreasonable that rate payers in Ireland should call upon the House to tax them for what they had, and not for what they had not.

Clause brought up and read a first time. On the question that it be read a second time,

Sir J. Graham

said, that a report had recently been made by the Poor-law commissioners, which would make it necessary next Session to introduce a measure for the purpose of regulating the whole question of tithe rent charge. He admitted there was some disadvantage to the Irish tithe owner, in consequence of his not being rated on the books, and he should have no objection pending the general measure which would be brought in next Session to put the Irish tithe owner on the same footing as the English one, but these clauses went further, and claimed deductions on account of curates' salaries and other charges for which no deduction was allowed in England, and to this he could not consent.

Sir W. Somerville

proposed a clause, to take away from Poor-law commissioners the power to appoint or dismiss any assistant Poor-law commissioner in Ireland without the consent of the Secretary of State. He wished to prevent the recurrence of such a transaction as that which occured in the dismissal of Dr. Phelan, with respect to whom it was a general feeling in Ireland that he had been sacrificed to prejudice.

Clause brought up and read a first time.

On the question that it be read a second time,

Mr. W. Smith O'Brien

said, that he would much rather see the appointment vested in the Executive Government, who would be responsible for the manner in which power was exercised by them, than by the Poor-law commissioners, who afforded a proof of their irresponsibility in the manner they had treated Dr. Phelan.

Sir J. Graham

thought it extremely inconvenient, at the present advanced stage of the bill, to introduce a clause so closely bearing upon its principle, and the constitution of the Board by which it was carried into effect. The proper remedy in cases of abuse in these appointments would be by address to the Crown. If it were proposed to add the labour of all the details of the Poor-law upon the Home Department, he apprehended that that duty alone would fully occupy all the time of the Secretary of that department. He must, therefore oppose the clause.

Clause withdrawn.

Mr. C. Buller

rose to move the omission of the 16th clause, which enabled the guardians of the poor to assist destitute poor persons to emigrate. Looking at the title of this bill, nobody would have supposed that any of its provisions could have had reference to the subject of emigration; and he had not the most remote notion that emigration came within the scope of the bill until his attention had been drawn to the fact by an article which appeared in The Times newspaper. He should not trouble the House at this advanced stage of the bill, did he not think the subject of considerable importance, not merely in reference to the direct object of the clause, but also with reference to its effect upon other measures which were actually in operation under the authority of her Majesty's Government and a board especially appointed for that purpose. He had two objections to the clause. In the first place he greatly objected to the mixing up emigration at all with the administration of the Poor-laws. These laws had already sufficient odium attached to them, and if emigration, on a system which many would consider as a sort of transportation, were added, their unpopularity would be increased. The clause was compulsory, and, if adopted, would bring upon the Poor-laws the imputation that transportation was the penalty for being poor. Now, what he wished was that emigration should be held out to the people as a great and substantial means for bettering their condition; but if it was connected with pauperism, it would be regarded as a mere alternative for, and have all the degradation attached to, the workhouse. But if this clause was calculated to be odious to the paupers, it was equally so to the rate-payers, inasmuch as the emigration rate could, under its provisions, be raised by the commissioners without the consent of the rate-payers at all. He had another objection even stronger than that he had already stated to the clause. That objection was founded upon the effect of the operation of the clause upon the colonies. What would the working of the system be? By this clause parishes were empowered to send out emigrants. Where would they send them to? Too much humanity must not be ascribed to the parochial authorities. Their object would doubtless be to inquire to what colony they could transport their emigrants cheapest, and they would have no regard to the benefit of the emigrants or the advantage of the colony, and practically the result would be that emigrants would be sent to Canada, and to Canada alone. It was not probable that the parochial authorities would go to the expense of 18l. or 20l. to send a man to Australia, when they could send him to Canada at an expense of 5l. That being so, what would be the effect upon Canada, as well as the emigrants so sent out? The noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department, on a former occasion, stated that Canada was not the place to which to send emigrants who had nothing to carry with them but their labour; and he begged to ask the noble Lord how he could give his sanction to this clause until some provision had been made in Canada for the reception of the paupers to be sent out to that colony under its provisions? He understood, also, the Government had a specific object in view, namely, to send out to Canada a number of young women. To this he objected, because they were not wanted; in Canada there was no inequality of the sexes. What would be the effect of pauper emigration on the colony? What had been the effect before on Canada? So bad that the Assembly resolved to check it by a tax. Instead of any benefit, it would be a disgrace and disadvantage to the colony. At present emigrants were selected, they were examined, and unless fit for labour and in good health, they were not sent out. There was no provision of that nature in this bill. It was proposed to assist any poor persons desirous of going out. [Lord Eliot.—Under the superintendance of the commissioners.] Yes, under the superintendance of the commissioners; but still there were no regulations as to age, health, sex, or qualification for labour. He might appeal to Irish Gentlemen on both sides of the House whether it were not the duty of Government to relieve the population of Ireland by a large and well regulated system of emigration. He wished to have this clause omitted, because he objected to the mixing up of emigration with the Poor-laws; and, though he might occasion the stoppage of some slight relief to Ireland during the next six months, he should lead the way for a proper system of emigration.

Sir J. Graham

said, the subject had been fully discussed before with respect to colonization to which the hon. and learned Member had directed so much at- tention, and the importance of which he did not underrate. He thought that while the interests of the colony should be regarded, no opportunity of relieving the mother country should be neglected. In the existing Poor-law there was a power given to send out emigrants. Under the working of the emigration clause and the English Poor-law Bill 10,575 emigrants had been sent out during the last seven years—6,737 to the North American colonies, 864 to the United States, 114 to the Cape of Good Hope, and 2,860 to the Australian colonies. There was nothing compulsory in the clause, as the hon. Gentleman supposed; and the absence of the abuse of their present power on the part of the guardians under the existing laws was a proof that the power now proposed to be given might be safely intrusted to them. He had no objection to take a large view of the subject of emigration, as suggested by the hon. Gentleman; and if he thought this clause would interfere with such an object he would not insist upon it. Upon general grounds he was determined to adhere to the clause.

Mr. C. Buller

said, he had understood, that however large and general were the terms of the clause, the Government had a specific object in view—the emigration of young women. But if it was not the intention of Government to send them to Canada, but to the Australian colonies, still his objection to the principle of the clause was not removed

Lord Stanley

begged the hon. Gentleman not to run away with the notion that the clause was confined to any specific object. The design was to benefit parties desiring to emigrate, and at the same time to confer no mean advantage on the colony. The hon. Gentleman could not condemn more than he did the shovelling out of the pauperism of this country upon the shores of its colonies. It would be most cruel and barbarous. He had in the course of the present year had to complain of, and remonstrate with, certain emigration societies who had sent out emigrants who were in a state of destitution and not likely to be able to obtain their living by their industry. By the same post that he wrote to those parties, pointing out the cruelty of their proceedings, he wrote out also to the governors of the colonies to which the emigrants were bound, warning them of the circumstance, and entreating them on the arrival of the emigrants to provide means for their sustenance or employment. Under these circumstances, he trusted the motion would be withdrawn.

Motion withdrawn.

Bill passed.