HC Deb 18 July 1844 vol 76 cc1004-8

House in Committee on the Poor Law Amendment Bill.

On Clause 57, Guardians under local Acts to conduct their proceedings in like manner as guardians appointed under the 4th and 5th Wm. IV., c. 76, and that parishes under local acts, with a population of more than 20,000, not to be united without the consent of the guardians.

Mr. T. Duncombe

objected to the operation of this Clause being extended to those metropolitan parishes which were governed by local acts.

Sir J. Graham

said, there were very few of the metropolitan parishes to which the Clause would apply; but there were many country districts in which such a provision was necessary.

Mr. Muntz

moved, that the whole of the latter part of the Clause, relating to parishes with a population of more than 20,000, be omitted, for the purpose of inserting the words, That it shall not be lawful for the said Commissioners to interfere with the management of the Poor in any parish containing more than 20,000 inhabitants, where relief has been hitherto administered to the Poor by Guardians under the provisions of a local Act without first obtaining the consent, in writing, of at least two-thirds of such Guardians, or a majority of Ratepayers assembled in public meeting, called especially for that purpose.

Sir J. Graham

opposed the Amendment. It would defeat the most important Clauses of the Bill which the Committee had already passed. As the law now stood, the Poor Law Commissioners had undoubted control over those parishes governed by local acts; by this Clause that power was in some degree limited. There was no doubt that the Commissioners might now, if they pleased, form St. Pancras, St. George's, and Marylebone into one Union; and it was to prevent the unreasonable and inconvenient exercise of that power that the Clause was introduced.

Mr. Spooner

supported the Amendment. He could not see the force of the right hon. Baronet's reasons for opposing it. The first ground was, that they would by agreeing to this Amendment undo that which had been done yesterday. That was one great reason why he (Mr. Spooner) intended to vote for the Amendment. The borough of Birmingham was governed by a system in which the opinions of the whole rate-paying population was represented; that system had worked well, and had given universal satisfaction; but if the guardians, who, under that system, administered the Poor Law, were to be interfered with as proposed by this law, he could assure the Committee they would not consent to act, as they then would be the mere servants to the Commissioners.

Mr. Wakley

said, there had been some misunderstanding with regard to the hon. Member for Birmingham, who had just spoken. Somebody had made a mistake. They had been given to understand that the hon. Gentleman came to that House as a good old Tory, but what did they find? They found him supporting the Birmingham system of Poor Laws, because the guardians were elected triennially, because they were elected by ballot, and because the principle of universal suffrage in their election was recognised. If those were the principles of a Birmingham Tory, he hoped they should have many more of them in that House. He should support the Amendment.

Colonel Sibthorp

congratulated the Birmingham people on their return to their senses, evinced by the return of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Spooner) for Birmingham. "Let the galled jade wince, his withers were unwrung." He doubted not, if there were another election in Birmingham, the electors there would return another Gentleman to keep company with his hon. Friend on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. He should also vote for the amendment.

The Committee divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question.—Ayes 78; Noes 23: Majority 55.

List of the AYES.
A'Court, Capt. Howard, P. H.
Adderley, C. B. Jermyn, Earl
Ainsworrh, P. Johnstone, Sir J.
Aldam, W. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.
Allix, J. P. Langston, W. H.
Antrobus, E. Liddell, hon. H. T.
Ashley, Lord Lincoln, Earl of
Baillie, Col. Lindsay, H. H.
Barneby, J. Lockhart, W.
Barrington, Visct. McGeachy, F. A.
Bodkin, W. H. Manners, Lord C. S.
Boldero, H. G. Meynell, Capt.
Botfield, B. Mitcalfe, H.
Bowring, Dr. Mitchell, T. A.
Bramston, T. W. Morris, D.
Brotherton, J. Norreys, Lord
Bruce, Lord E. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Campbell, Sir H. Palmer, R.
Campbell, J. H. Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.
Chelsea, Visct. Peel, J.
Childers, J. W. Philips, G. R.
Clay, Sir W. Plumptre, J. W.
Clive, hon. R. Rushbrooke, Col.
Cripps, W. Russell, J. D. W.
Damer, hon. Col. Somerset, Lord G.
Dawnay, hon. W. H. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Denison, E. B. Sutton, hn. H. M.
Dickinson, F. H. Trench, Sir F. W.
Egerton, W. T. Trotter, J.
Forster, M. Vivian, J. H.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Wakley, T.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Walker, R.
Gore, M. Wawn, J. T.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Williams, T. P.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Wood, Col.
Harris, hn. Capt. Wortley, hn. J. S.
Hawes, B. Wrightson, W. B.
Henley, J. W.
Hinde, J. H. TELLERS.
Hodgson, R. Young, J.
Hogg, J. W. Pringle, A.
List of the NOES.
Ackers, J. Forman, T. S.
Arkwnght, G. Fuller, A. E.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Hall, Sir B.
Borthwick, P. Hervey, Lord A.
Brocklehurst, J. Mundy, E. M.
Collins, W. Napier, Sir C.
Colvile, C. R. Pechell, Capt.
Darby, G. Sibthorp, Col.
Dodd, G. Williams, W.
Douglas, J. D. S. Yorke, H. R.
Duncombe, T. TELLERS.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Muntz, G. F.
Fleetwood, Sir P. H. Spooner, R.
Colonel Wood

then moved an addition to the Clause:— Providing that the Commissioners shall, upon application in writing of two-thirds of the guardians of parishes containing more than 20,000 persons, declare such parish be separated from a union. His object was, that Kensington and other parishes similarly circumstanced, which could not, were this Clause to pass, be united into one Union, should be separated from the unions of which, under the existing law, they had been made to form part.

Sir J. Graham

said, that an hon. Friend of his had given notice of an Amendment, empowering the Commissioners to alter the limits of any existing union, and as that was the larger proposition, he submitted to his hon. and gallant Friend whether it would not be advisable to postpone his present Amendment until after the sense of the Committee should have been taken upon that other Amendment.

Amendment postponed.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 58, that parishes with a population exceeding 20,000, under Local Acts, having adopted the provisions of the 1st and 2nd Will. c. 60, to elect permanent paid auditors,

Mr. Hogg

moved that the parishes of St. George, St. James, St. Marylebone, and St. Pancras be excluded from the operation of this Clause.

Sir J. Graham

said, to make an audit effectual, the auditor must be independent of the parties whose accounts he audited. The question was, whether an auditor elected under Sir J. Hobhouse's Act was in that position. Now, he understood that in 1835, in the parish of St. Marylebone, the auditor did append certain remarks which the vestry suppressed. If that could be done, the audit could not be said to be effectual. But if the two hon. Members representing Marylebone could contradict that report — if they could assure him that no such thing had taken place, and he found that the majority of the rate-payers objected to be included in the operation of this Clause, he should not have any ground for resisting their desire.

Sir C. Napier

said, the right hon. Baronet had asked him a question. What answer did he expect? All he could say was, that since he had represented Marylebone he had never heard any rate-payer complain of the auditors. He believed they were satisfied with the auditors, and if they were not, they could get rid of them at the end of the year. The right hon. Baronet had asked him (Sir C. Napier) whether it were not true that certain remarks appended by the auditors, in 1835, to their report, had been suppressed by the vestry. He was not prepared to say that it was not. But that he might be enabled to speak with certainty on the matter, he would move, that the Chairman do now report progress and ask leave to sit again, in order that he might ascertain the truth of the statement which the right hon. Baronet had so unexpectedly brought forward.

Sir B. Hall

said, that during the period he had had the honour of representing Marylebone (since 1837), and having attended closely to its parochial affairs, he could say that he had never before heard of the circumstance to which the right hon. Baronet had referred. He could not take on himself to assert that no such circumstance had taken place, but if it had he had never before heard of it. During the whole time he had been connected with the parish he had never heard of any complaint being made as to the manner in which the auditors performed their duty.

Sir J. Graham

said, foreseeing that much time would be taken up if he persevered with this Clause, and looking at the great inconvenience which would result from any such delay at this advanced period of the Session, he was not disposed to insist upon more than the first part of it, which was indispensable.

Mr. Liddell

had conscientiously opposed the Poor Law for many years, but he must say, that the Amendments which had now been made in that law by the right hon. Baronet removed most of his objections.

Mr. Wakley

said, the great evil complained of by the minority in these parishes was, that the majority elected the vestry, and the vestry the auditors, and that they played into each other's hands.

Sir C. Napier

withdrew his Motion to report progress, the Amendment proposed by Sir James Graham was agreed to, and the Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

House resumed. Chairman reported progress.

Committee to sit again.

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