HC Deb 12 June 1845 vol 81 cc398-437

On the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Poor Law (Scotland) Bill; and on the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time,

Mr. Rutherfurd

said, he was sorry to oppose the progress of a measure which had for its object the improvement of the laws of Scotland relating to the poor; but after the best and most mature consideration, and looking at the state of the law and the amendments proposed to be made by the Bill, he had found objections to the measure; and others besides himself had also discovered objections to it, which were so serious, so extensive, and so well founded, as well in respect to its details as to its leading enactments, as to render it absolutely imperative on him to oppose its further progress. He was quite aware of the inconvenience which such a step might produce; but he thought that there were far greater inconveniences to **he apprehended if he did not take it, inasmuch as no evils were so serious as to assent to a law which did not satisfactorily adjust the question it was intended to settle, while the discussions which such a measure would give rise to, both in doors and elsewhere, would bring into action a variety of passions, and of conflicting interests, highly detrimental to Scotland. In order that the House might clearly understand the objections he was about to make, he must commence his observations by giving a sketch of the state of the law as it at present stood in Scotland. [The right hon. Member was here interrupted by the noise of conversation at the Bar. When order had been restored he proceeded.] He knew the subject was a dry one to Members not immediately interested; but it was one of vital importance to Scotland, and therefore he trusted that he should receive the indulgent attention of the House. The Poor Law of Scotland consisted of two Acts, the first passed in 1579, and the other sometime in the seventeenth century. These, with certain proclamations of the Privy Council issued in 1698, formed the whole body of laws for the relief of the poor in Scotland. The provisions were — first, that relief should be given to all permanently disabled poor; that was a very wide phrase. He wished it to be understood that his observations applied to the permanently disabled poor; and this distinction was the more necessary, as there was another question of great magnitude, the relief of the able-bodied poor, on which there was much diversity of opinion. But the object of the Bill was the relief of the permanently disabled poor; and to that point, therefore, he should address his observations in the first instance, and before he sat down, he would, with the permission of the House, touch on the other branch of the question. With respect to the permanently disabled poor, the law, as it now stood, had provided that all persons incapable of supporting themselves, having no funds of their own, nor any relations bound by law to support them, should be provided for by parochial assessment. In every parish in Scotland, the law had established parochial boards to distribute relief to persons so situated, and empowered to make provision for such relief by assessment. In the borough parishes those boards consisted of the magistrates and the kirk sessions, and in the landward parishes, as they were called in Scotland, of the heritors and kirk sessions. The magistrates in the one case, and the heritors in the other, were not only empowered, but by law called on to do this duty by preparing annual lists of the objects entitled to relief, and by providing, through assessment, the necessary funds. In burghs, the rules, as the law now stood, were anything but satisfactory. The rule was, that the assessment should be levied on what were technically called means and substance, which comprehended stock in trade, money in the funds, no matter where, ships in harbour or at sea, or in any other shape whatever. One way or another these were ascertained, as they should see presently; but that was the mode in which the assessment was made. In the rural parishes a different mode was adopted. The assessment was divided into two parts, one part to be levied on the proprietor of the land, and the other on the occupying tenant. The latter part of the assessment was not a counterpart of the first; but was to some extent levied on means and substance as in towns. The parochial boards had power to enforce their assessment by legal process. This was a part of the law which undoubtedly stood on a most unfavourable footing, and that was the imperfect means which existed of compelling the parochial boards to move the machinery with which they were entrusted. The sheriff might be applied to; but he had only power to order the parties to meet, and if the relief ordered at such meeting was inadequate, the only remedy the pauper had was an appeal to the Court of Session. Now, the Court of Session was equivalent to the Court of Queen's Bench in England, being the supreme law court of the country; and when the relief granted by the parochial board was inadequate, that Court would tell them that they must do their duty, and grant more adequate relief, or answer to the Court. The power of assessment, he must remind the House, the selection of the parties who were objects for parochial relief, and the extent of the relief which should be given to them, were subjects which were left in the hands of those who themselves were interested in keeping the assessment down. He did not find fault with the policy of the law in that respect. It was right to insure a very economical management of those funds; and he thought it was well insured by allowing those parties who were called upon to discharge that duty to be parties who were assessing themselves, and who, as they were paying sums of money which were required by law for the performance of that duty, would see that it was performed with sufficient economy, supposing them honest in the discharge of their duty; but then, what he wished to impress upon his learned Friend the Lord Advocate was, that if they had persons interested in the assessment, themselves selecting the objects for and the amount of relief, they must take care to provide for the pauper an easy, expeditious, and inexpensive appeal to the courts of law. They must take care that that relief was not withheld which every consideration of policy and humanity required should be given. He would ask the House to observe what had been the history of the administration of the Poor Law in Scotland. The Commissioners had told them that in many parishes in Scotland the support which had been provided for the poor was altogether insufficient. He was here speaking of the permanently disabled poor; and the Report stated, much to the discredit of the country, that in some of the parishes, and those including such towns as Edinburgh and Glasgow — Edinburgh especially — when an application was made to the magistrates complaining that the relief offered was insufficient, they refused to put on such an assessment as those having the management of the poor thought to be necessary. If there had been an easy appeal open to the poor, such would not have been the result of that application. It had been often considered that the Court of Session was not the proper Court in which to try the question of the adequacy of relief to the pauper, and in that opinion he was very much inclined to concur; and he thought that without much difficulty a cheaper and better remedy might be provided. At the same time, he would observe here, that the Court of Session, acting with great judgment and prudence in the cases brought before it, was slow to interpose at all. It then did interpose to say that it would not allow that the Poor Law should be made an illusion and a mockery, and in two cases it interposed with a stronger hand and said, "What you propose to do is a delusion and a mockery; go back; consider the case, we won't pronounce what is adequate relief." And in a very significant manner they hinted that such cases should not come before them again. The Commissioners proposed that the jurisdiction of the Court of Session should be abolished on the question of adequate relief. But they did not propose to substitute the jurisdiction of the sheriff of the county—an officer not like the sheriffs of this country—but a judge of the land, capable of judging in cases involving any amount of property. The Commissioners considered the propriety of leaving it to that officer, but they thought it better not to do so; neither did they propose to give it to any central board. They simply proposed to take away all jurisdiction and power of appeal whatever; and the right of parties to relief, and the adequacy of the relief, were questions which were left with the parochial authorities. And what was to be the remedy? Why that there was to be a board of supervision, whose duty would be to collect information as to the state of the poor all over Scotland, and to communicate it to the Secretary of State, so that that officer should lay it upon the Table of the House; and then the Commissioners supposed that those immense blue books would be read all over the kingdom, by everybody, and would thus excite such an amount of public opinion, that those parochial authorities, in deference to the public opinion so excited, would be compelled to give sufficient and adequate relief to the poor. That really did appear to him (Mr. Rutherfurd) to be one of the most simple and delusive imaginations that ever proceeded from so learned a body of men. In such cases, compelling men voluntarily to tax themselves, public opinion must always operate very imperfectly; but to suppose that the public opinion which would be occasioned by reading those blue book reports would do that which the existing right of appealing to the courts of law, which the acknowledged legal right on the part of the poor, which every consideration of charity and humanity had hitherto been unable to effect—to suppose that that could be effected by public opinion, was, to him, one of the most astonishing propositions which was ever laid before that House. The Bill proposed that the Court of Session should retain its jurisdiction as to the adequacy of relief; and now he came to one of the leading parts of the measure then before the House, which was, that there should be a board of supervision before whom, in the first place, a pauper complaining that the means of relief provided for him were not sufficient should make a good case; and that being done, the Board had no power under the Bill to give final relief; they could only give interim relief; and then they said to the poor man, "You have good cause of complaint, and we will allow you to go on and litigate your case before the Court of Session." All that he then obtained was a pass, allowing him to proceed before that court. If the board of supervision should think, however, that the pauper had not made good his cause, then, as far as the pauper was concerned, the matter ended; but if the parochial authorities were not satisfied with the decision of the board, they still had the power of dragging the pauper before the Court of Session. He asked whether it was just or reasonable that the poor man should not be allowed to get to the Court of Session except by permission of the board of supervision; whilst, in opposition to the decision of the board, he could be taken there by the parochial authorities? That was the position of the Bill. Though he entirely dissented from the proposal made by the Commissioners, yet he much preferred it to such a monstrous system as that; for the Commissioners' recommendation did rest upon a broad principle—a principle which had been administered by great political economists and humane men. The board of supervision would be attended with great expense. One of its members was to be paid, and, to discharge his duties well, he must be highly paid. There was to be a paid secretary, and he also must be well paid. They were to have power to order any of their members to any part of the country, and to employ persons, not their own members; and it appeared to be anticipated that the inquiries to be entered into would be of a very formidable description. Yet, that expensive board was to be appointed, it would seem, for no other purpose than that of furnishing annually information to the Secretary of State with respect to the operation of the Poor Law in Scotland. He wished to ask whether the Reports of the Commissioners, which filled three enormous volumes, did not contain sufficient information to enable them to legislate upon the subject without any more; for his own part, he doubted much whether any more information could be desired. He came now to another objection connected with the question of assessment and the board of supervision. He should have expected on the part of a Government bringing forward a measure to place the Poor Law on a more efficient footing, that they would have considered on what principle the mode of rating rested. It rested at present on Acts of Parliament which had been passed, some as far back as 1579, and was applicable to distributions of property which no longer existed. Now, it was very obvious that what might have been a perfectly fair mode of rating at that earlier period, might by change of circumstances have become a very unfair mode. Rating might be levied of every man's "means and substance." Were they to go to every man and demand an account of the property upon which he was living; consisting as it might of stock in trade, profits, sums in the public funds, and so on? That was the law as it stood at present; and this Bill did not abolish it, but only gave an option to the parochial boards to substitute an assessment according to the annual value. There were, at this moment, questions pending in the courts of law upon this very subject, and yet these anomalies were left unsettled by the Commissioners and by this Bill. Why not at once adopt the rental only as the ground of assessment? "A man's means" would not decide whether a party residing in two parishes should be rated to each the whole amount of his means. Suppose, for example, a gentleman had 12,000l. a year in the funds, and that he lived in two parishes; was he to be rated in both according to his means and substance, and not according to the amount of his property in each parish? He contended, that in a measure brought in to render efficient the state of the law relative to the poor in Scotland, such important matters should have been clearly defined and pointed out. At present the town parishes were assessed upon a totally different footing from that upon which the assessment of rural parishes rested. In the rural or landward parishes the assessment was according to a man's "means and substance;" but in the burghs there was no certain mode of assessment. In the burghs "use and wont" had been the rule. But in the rural parishes there was no such mode as "use and wont." It was, however, proposed to be enacted by this Bill that the rural parishes should be assessed in the same way as the towns. This, in his opinion, was objectionable. In the towns the landlord was relieved from all burdens of assessment, unless he was an occupant. If he were not an inhabitant, then his property would be relieved, and the burden would be placed upon the inhabitants. Another portion of the Bill empowered the parochial boards to classify the property, and assign a different mode of rating for the assessment, as it might deem proper. The result of this would necessarily be a different mode of assessment all over the country, especially in the rural districts, according to the opinions of the different parochial boards. He thought it a very grave matter that this point should be further considered before the Bill was proceeded with. This Bill might have been very applicable two centuries ago; but at the present day it must be attended with great injustice and oppression. As to the assistance of the kirk session at the parochial board, in conjunction with the heritors, that might have been well enough when the Church of Scotland was a united body; but since the kirk session no longer represented one-half of the people, their assistance would not be acceptable, and it might have been much better if they had been altogether left out. On the whole, he must be allowed to say that very little consideration had been given to this measure, and that it demanded much more deliberation before the House consented to pass a measure which must be productive of infinite discontent, and must lead to great litigation. These were some of the objections which he strongly entertained with regard to the administrative powers created and conferred by this measure. In respect to the practical operation of its provisions upon the poor, he thought there were objections which deserved consideration. He entertained great doubts as to the propriety of extending the period of residence, for conferring a right of settlement, to seven years. He considered that after a man had been resident in a parish three years, and, by his industry, been beneficial to that parish, he was entitled to support in the event of his becoming a pauper. Seven years was too long a period for the acquirement of a settlement. It would throw back the settlements of paupers generally upon the parishes of their birth. If they prolonged the period for obtaining a settlement by industrious residence from three years to seven years, they would render it so difficult for a party to establish any settlement at all, that they would be obliged to go back to the settlement by birth. There had been a great deal said about the removal of paupers from one country to another. The 70th Clause gave a power for the removal of English and Irish paupers from Scotland. In the mean time, if a Scotch pauper was sent from England or from Ireland to Scotland, the parish into which he was conveyed would be liable to maintain him until his place of settlement should be found. This was a point which required a great deal of consideration. With respect to the proposed combination of parishes, as a general principle he approved of it. But the mode in which it was proposed to be effected was most objectionable. It was proposed to take the Parliamentary boundaries as a guide for combining parishes or parts of parishes. But those boundaries were fixed upon without any consideration as to parochial interests. The Bill was going entirely upon caprice, and they were acting altogether at random. They ought to consider the thing by itself, and with reference to all the circumstances of the town or district where the union was proposed to be effected. The House could form no conception how much they were affecting private property by this capricious mode of legislation. They were taking a portion of the parish of South Leith, where there were no poor, and a great deal of wealth, and adding it to a part of Edinburgh, where there was no wealth, and a great deal of poor. The property in Leith would thus be deteriorated from 10 to 15 per cent. Surely that was a matter that ought not to be hastily decided upon. There were, no doubt, provisions in the Bill to which no one could object. The privileges of exemption from rates, for example, enjoyed by the College of Justice and officers of the Queen's Household were very properly to cease. They were exemptions odious and unjust. There was something unjust, however, in obliging parishes to maintain casual paupers, without any indemnity, until the settlement of the pauper should be ascertained. That fact might not be found out for eight or ten years. He knew a case now in a state of litigation bearing upon the very point, which had been going on for four years, and it might go on for four or five years longer. But the objections which he entertained against the Bill, upon these and other grounds, were so numerous, and struck so deeply at the very principle of the measure—which (and he spoke it with all respect) appeared to him to be so imperfect in its nature, and so inadequate to meet the real merits of the case, and so unlikely to effect a final settlement of the subject, that he thought the House had better pause before proceeding further. He thought it would be infinitely better to postpone the Bill for the present, and let it go down to the country for which it was intended, and be there fully considered. He did not think the Government would do more than relieve themselves from a temporary embarrassment, if they precipitated it in the face of so many, and, in his opinion, such conclusive objections to it. With respect to medical relief, it was impossible in many of the parishes, where the population was much scattered, that medical men could live by the ordinary practice of their profession; and he thought it, therefore, of great importance that some means should be taken in any Bill regulating the Poor Laws, to establish in the remote counties some mode of giving medical relief to the poor, by paying medical officers who would attend upon the poor. There was another subject to which he wished to allude—the able-bodied poor. As the law now stood, it was in rather an unsatisfactory state. In his opinion, under the existing law of Scotland, no able-bodied pauper had the right; but the question had been tried about forty years ago, and, with much division of opinion, the majority of the Court deemed relief was due as of right: the matter, however, was not settled, and he thought that the able-bodied poor should not be entitled to relief as of right, for they could not establish such a right without a system of workhouses; but he doubted whether it would not be proper to leave to the parochial authorities power in particular and urgent cases to give relief; and if they were permitted to impose an assessment for such temporary purposes, he saw no great danger of that power being abused. By withholding the right, but giving the power, they would be introducing a better state of things. Every one desired an improvement of the law on proper principles. He did not, therefore, propose that the Bill should not be read a second time. He was willing that it should go forward, that it might receive all possible improvement in a Committee of the whole House, or in a Committee up-stairs; but, entertaining the objections he did, he would have been wanting in his duty to his country, if he had not detained the House, and detailed the grounds of his objections.

The Earl of Arundel and Surrey

said, that he was desirous to call the attention of the House to some speeches that had been made at a meeting in Scotland, the purport of which was, to recommend the exclusion of Roman Catholic priests from the poorhouses in Scotland. He objected to such sentiments coming from the members of the Free Church of Scotland, and thought that they came with worse grace from them, inasmuch as they were claiming toleration for themselves. He hoped that means would be found of providing for the spiritual wants of the poorer classes of the Catholic population of Scotland.

Colonel Wood

was desirous to ameliorate the system as much as possible. He objected to the proposed enactment as to the Law of Settlement; and concurred in the views of the right hon. Gentleman who recommended the reduction of the period of residence to three years from seven years, in order to gain a settlement. If they adopted the plan of the Bill they would make it a Birth Settlement; and all the evils which attended the power of removal under English Poor Law would be thrown upon Scotland. The parishes would then squander in litigation the money that ought to be given to the poor. Just as they facilitated the gaining of a settlement, would they facilitate the change of settlement, and if they made it a Seven Years' Settlement, a change would be almost impossible.

Mr. Sharman Crawford

said, that if the state of the poor in Scotland was such as had been represented, the administration of the law could not be left in worse hands than those at present entrusted with it. There had been great cruelty and tyranny practised, and unpardonable neglect in providing what was necessary. In order that they might know what law ought to be applied to Scotland, they should know what was the real condition of the poor in a great part of that country. Now, a great part had been subjected to a system the most barbarous for exterminating the poor holders of land, and for converting the land into sheepwalks, He wanted to know the reason why such things occurred, and whether there was anything in the new law which would check or remedy them? A statement had lately appeared upon very good authority on this subject in The Times newspaper. He referred more particularly to what had taken place in Glencalvie. The writer refers to his former statement with regard to the dispossessment of the tenantry of Ardgay near Tain, Ross-shire, parish of Kincardner, consisting of the inhabitants of Glencalvie, to the number of ninety people. The estate is stated to be that of Major Charles Robertson, of Kindeare; his factor being Mr. James Gillander. He then went on to say that— These eighteen families, cousisting of ninety-two individuals, supported themselves in comparative comfort without a pauper amongst them; that they owed no rent, and were ready to pay as much as any one would give for the land, which they and their forefathers had occupied for centuries, but which, it seems, is now to be turned into a sheep-walk. He next proceeded to describe— Behind the church, in the churchyard, a long kind of booth was erected, the roof formed of tarpauling stretched over poles, the sides closed in with horsecloths, rugs, blankets, and plaids. On inquiry I found that this was the refuge of the Glencalvie people. They had kept their word, and saved their bondsmen. With the exception of two individuals who were permitted to remain, the whole of the people left the Glen on Saturday afternoon, about eighty in number, and took refuge in this tent erected in their churchyard. Their furniture, excepting their bedding, they got distributed amongst the cottages of their neighbours; and, with their bedding and their children, they all removed late on Saturday afternoon to this place of temporary shelter. They had been round to every heritor and factor in the neighbourhood, and twelve out of the eighteen families had been unable to find places of shelter. A fire was kindled in the churchyard, round which the poor children clustered; two cradles with infants in them were placed close to the fire. Of the eighty people who passed the night in the churchyard with most insufficient shelter, twenty-three were children under ten years of age, seven persons were sickly and in bad health, and ten above sixty years of age—about eight are young married men; there are a few grown-up children, and the rest are persons in middle life, from forty to fifty years of age. On the Monday following they met Mr. M'Kenzie's agent, who paid them the amount agreed upon for their stock; each family had, on an average, about 18l. to receive; as the allowance for their stock and their proportion, 72l. 10s. was agreed to be paid them for going out peaceably. The sum they had to receive is an evidence that they were not in the condition of paupers; but this sum will soon be spent in looking for a settlement, and then they must become paupers. He wished to ask what kind of a Poor Law that must be in Scotland which permitted these unfortunate persons to be turned out of their lands, and that no one should provide them with assistance or shelter? What were the heritors or the kirk sessions doing, that these things should be allowed? The system was not confined to the district to which he had referred—it extended over the whole Sutherland estate; that estate covered a district of from ninety by seventy miles in extent, and consisted of rock and heather-covered hills, with arable straths and glens. Nearly the whole county was parcelled out into sheepwalks, held by a few individuals. As an example, it appeared in evidence that Mr. Donald Macdonald, of Lochinvar, rents 30,000 acres—the whole a pasture — and employed only eleven shepherds. If a proper Poor Law existed, would these things be? There was a statement of great importance in reference to this subject made in Sir George M'Kenzie's evidence. Speaking of the crofts he said— Some of my friends have adopted the crofting system, which is a cruel system. They give the people little patches of land, and when the district is improved, the landlord finds it for his interest to let it to one man, and then these poor people are sent adrift. What a cruel and barbarous thing it was to give these poor people patches of land, and when they had made improvements to I turn them out! The result was thus summed up:— These expatriated victims became the germ I of a debased and helpless population, and thus the clearance system not only operates on those who are the immediate objects of it, but on the whole surface of society, diffusing general pauperism and mendicancy in one class, and a heartless apathy and indifference in others. These were all material points to be considered when they were speaking of a new Poor Law for Scotland. They ought to know by what means these abuses were to be removed, and how they intended to provide that these people should not be left in the condition he had described in the churchyard. The system which was going on in Scotland was driving the people to their old pastoral life. With regard to the sums paid for relief, he found that— In the parish of Lairg, Sutherlandshire, the highest amount given to puapers on the roll is 10s. per year, the lowest 2s. 6d. There is a large quantity of arable land, but a very small portion under cultivation. There is no employment whatever. It was said by The Times writer— The road from Lairg to Tongue is about forty miles. The Glens were formerly peopled; all have been cleared out. In that forty miles of country I did not see six houses nor six people; all have been cleared out; there was scarcely a tree or a stone wall or anything to see on all sides, as far as the eye could reach, but the barren heath, over which sheep and lambs were running about. And this was the condition of large districts of Scotland. Next, with regard to the poor in Glasgow, Captain Miller, superintendent of police at Glasgow, said— A man in a dying state was sent in a cart to Langbourn, where he was supposed to have a legal claim. He died before reaching that place; his body was returned to Glasgow, with a letter from the kirk treasurer, desiring no more to be sent in that state, but that be would pay the expenses of interment. Captain Miller declared of the poor in Glasgow, that— Hundreds of persons die annually in Glasgow from diseases produced by want of sufficient nourishment. Captain Thompson's evidence was to the same effect:— The consideration," he said, "is not what the poor require, but what is the smallest practicable amount of relief which they can possibly be obliged to give. As to the amount of assessment and relief, it appeared that on the legal assessment for Kilmore and Kilbride, which commenced October, 1841, the amount levied was 7d. in the pound. They fell back on the voluntary system; there were sixty poor on the roll, several bedridden; and on an average the allowance was 8s. 6d. per year—2½d. per week, combined with begging; and the second class begged for the first class. It appeared also that the average of five counties, with a population of 341,000, was 8s. 6d. per year—2½d. per week! Such a system required amendment; and the dispensing of relief should not be left in the same hands as at present. In the account published in the same newspaper that morning, he found Sutherlandshire described, from Tongue to Scowrie, as consisting of— Vast districts, formerly thickly peopled, but now barren wilds, without a hut, or a tree, or a cottage, or a wall, or any sign whatever of human habitation and industry often for twenty miles. There is no independent middle class to speak out. The consequence was that there was no protection for the poor; they were without hope, and the country was in a state of desolation. [Sir J. Graham: Desolation?] Yes, desolation. [Sir J. Graham: In Sutherlandshire?] Yes, in Sutherlandshire; and, if these accounts were not true, then it was quite time they should be contradicted. If, however, these accounts were true, they ought to be attended to in the construction or consideration of any Poor Law. Any hon. Member who pleased would now have the opportunity of contradicting them. The constitution of the boards now proposed would not give sufficient protection to the poor, especially with the regulation as to appeals to the Court of Session. The Irishman, in effect, would gain no settlement; as soon as he became chargeable, he would be removed, and landed on the shores of Ireland, where the law gave him no settlement, and where the law gave no power to send a Scotchman home. But by this Bill, under the 72nd Clause, a poor man might actually be treated as a vagabond in certain cases, and for no cause but a second time wanting relief. [Sir J. Graham: It is the law in England now.] Then it ought to be repealed. It made it no better to say it was the law in England, or in any country. The able-bodied man, too, falling into distress, would not have sufficient protection; his relief ought not to be dependent on the mere will and pleasure of those who had shown themselves so parsimonious in their dealing with the poor; he was entitled to the relief necessary to save him from starvation.

Mr. Loch

Sir, before the learned Lord (the Lord Advocate) proceeds to discuss this Bill, I wish to say a few words, because I can supply some information on the subject of the most amazing mis-statements respecting the condition of Sutherlandshire, to which allusion has been made by the hon. Member who has just sat down. I happen to have been acquainted with that county for the last thirty years; and I can say, that there is no set of tenantry in the world, that form so anxious a care to their landlord. I can state, as one fact, that from 1811 to 1833, not one sixpence of rent has been received from that county; but, on the contrary, there has been sent there, for the improvement and benefit of the people, a sum exceeding 60,000l., in addition to the entire rental being laid out there. There is no set of people more industrious than the people of the county of Sutherland. Thirty years since, they were engaged in illegal distillation to a very great extent; at the present moment there is not, I believe, an illegal still in the county. Their morals have improved, as those habits have been abandoned; and they have added many hundreds—I believe thousands—of acres to the land in cultivation since they were placed upon the shore. Previous to that change to which I have referred, they exported very few cattle, and hardly anything else; they were also, every now and then, exposed to all the difficulties of extreme famine. In the years 1812–13 and 1816–17, so great was the misery, that it was necessary to send down oatmeal for their supply, to the amount of 9,000l.; and that was given to the people. But, since industrious habits were introduced, and they were settled within the reach of fishing, no such calamity has overtaken them. Their condition was then so low, that they were obliged to bleed their cattle during the winter, and mix the blood with the remnant of meal they had, in order to save them from starvation. Since then the country has improved so much, and the fishing in particular, that in 1815, in one village alone, Helmsdale (which previous to 1811 did not exist), they exported 5,318 barrels of herrings; in 1820, 28, 192; in 1825, 34,492; in 1830, 23,310; in 1835, 28,377; and in 1844, 37,594 barrels, giving employment to about 3,900 people. That extends over the whole of the county; 50,000 barrels were cured in the county. Do not let me be supposed to say that there are not cases that require attention; it must be so in a large population; but there can be no pains taken by a landlord, or by those under him, that are not bestowed upon that tenantry. It has been said, that the contribution of the heritor to one kirk session for the poor was but 61. Now, in the eight parishes which are properly called Sutherlandshire, the amount of the contribution of the Duke of Sutherland to the kirk session is 42l. a-year. That is a very small sum; but that sum merely is so given because the landlord thinks that he can distribute his charity in a way more beneficial to the people; and the amount of charity which he gives—and which is, I may say, settled on them, for it is given regularly—is above 450l. a year. Therefore, the statements that have been made, so far from being correct, are in every way an exaggeration of what is the fact. No portion of the kingdom has advanced in prosperity so much; and if the hon. Member (Mr. S. Crawford) will go down there, I will give him every facility for seeing the state of the people, and he shall judge with his own eyes whether my representation be not correct. I could go through a great many other particulars, but I will not trouble the House now with them; the statements I have made are accurate; and I am quite ready to prove them in any way that is necessary.

The Lord Advocate

said, before he proceeded to notice the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Leith, to whom he had listened with the greatest attention, as he always did to whatever fell from him, he would notice a circumstance which had been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman opposite, with reference to the occurrences that had lately taken place in the highland district of Glencalvie. The proprietor of that estate was at present residing abroad, in New South Wales, and the estate was under the care of managers in his absence. And though he was by no means disposed to approve or to defend the system of a wholesale removal of tenants from a property of this kind—that was, where the tenantry held small possessions—yet he must say, that the result of the inquiries he had made with regard to this case were such as to satisfy him that greatly exaggerated statements had gone abroad with regard to it. It was not a case, as the first place, where the persons were suddenly ejected; because negotiations had been going on between the landlord and the tenantry for a period of two years with regard to their removal, and arrangements for that purpose had been concluded to their satisfaction; and they declared a year ago that they would remove at a certain period. On the faith of that, the land was let to another person; and it was, therefore, impossible that the landlord could continue them, when they changed their minds and desired to remain. For then the landlord, as he had been informed, had given them an abatement of rent, had made some of them payments in money, and had made them offers of assistance in the way of emigration, if they chose to emigrate; and so far from their being in a state of destitution, 100l. had been paid to some of the parties, as the value of the stock upon their lands; so that altogether the statement was greatly exaggerated. At the same time, he did not defend this system of wholesale removal. If it was from any cause thought proper or necessary to diminish the number of persons on any estate, it ought to be done by a gradual removal, because the effect of that was to throw a number of persons at once in search of situations the most difficult to be obtained. A gradual removal would not be attended with the same difficulties; and while he said that the case had been greatly exaggerated, he did not mean to say that he approved of the system of wholesale removal. With regard to the observations which had been made by the hon. Member for Leith on the provisions of this Bill, he must say, notwithstanding these observations, he entertained a confident hope that the Bill would be productive of great advantage to the people of Scotland, and that there would be no difficulty, when it was passing through the Committee, to adapt its clauses to such modifications as might be suggested, so that it might completely accomplish the purpose for which it was intended. He was not indisposed to listen to any suggestions which might be made at that stage of the proceedings. He would now proceed to notice in detail the particulars which had been dwelt upon by the hon. Gentleman. In the first place, a point was made against the Bill in that portion of it which deals with the appeals from the local authorities as to the quantum of relief. For his own part, he did not concur in, and he had not followed out, the suggestion which was made by the Commissioners, that there should be no control whatever over the local authorities with regard to the amount of relief to be given to a pauper. It did not appear to him that that was a course which ought to be adopted, at least for the present. At the same time, he must say that he had more confidence in the salutary effect of public opinion as to the amount of aliment to be given, than his hon. and learned Friend seemed to have. He thought there was a great deal in the observations of the Commissioners upon this subject; and though he should not rest the matter upon that, for the present at least, and allow the paupers to suffer all the inconveniences of the present system till public opinion had worked a change in that respect, yet he confidently expected that, ere long, public opinion would effect an improvement in the condition of the poor. But his hon. and learned Friend thought that this measure was worse than that recommended by the Commissioners. The Commissioners proposed to leave the paupers in the hands of the parish authorities; and he thought that the present measure was worse, because it in some measure shut the door against an appeal to the Court of Session. When the pauper was at present refused relief, he could appeal to the sheriff, and the sheriff could compel the parochial board to take up the case and consider it. But the sheriff could not require the parochial authorities to give relief. Now, he had provided in this Bill that the sheriff might require them to admit the pauper on the roll: so far, the pauper's position was improved. At present, when a pauper was dissatisfied with his quantum of relief, he could appeal to the Court of Session; but it was scarcely to be supposed that he could have the means of prosecuting his claims. That he was a pauper, was a sufficient answer to the supposition that he would prosecute his claim. Unless he obtained aid from benevolent individuals, he must sue in formâ pauperis, when he would have the benefit of having his case conducted by lawyers who were appointed by the Court, and he was freed from certain charges. But in order to be entitled to that, his case must be considered by certain parties appointed by the Court, who reported whether he was entitled to the benefit of that mode of suing or not. Now, the proposition he (the Lord Advocate) made, was this: he proposed that the pauper should first apply to the board of supervision; and if the board of supervision should be of opinion that his case was a good one, then he should be entitled to sue in the Court in formâ pauperis, the same as if he had obtained the opinion of the lawyers; but he further provided that the board, in the mean time, should fix a proper amount of aliment, and that the parochial board should be bound to give that in the mean time. He considered that this was a matter of material importance in this way, that, without any expense, he should have the benefit of an increased allowance; and he anticipated pretty confidently that the practical result would be, that the opinion of the board of supervision would be decisive, and that the parochial board would give the pauper no farther trouble, but would give him the increased allowance. But it was said, that if the opinion of the Board of Commissioners was unfavourable to the claim, he would not be entitled to sue in formâ pauperis. He would not. But would the House consider how the matter stood? The case implied that the parochial board had already considered the case, and judged of it. He believed that in England that would be conclusive. But it implied further, that if the pauper was dissatisfied with the decision of the parochial board, he might appeal to another tribunal—to a tribunal which was not actuated by the same feelings as the parochial board, but consisted of parties appointed by the Crown to judge of these cases. He did not understand that his hon. and learned Friend would object to this, if the opinion of the board was to be conclusive out and out; but he agreed that if their decision was to be conclusive against the pauper, why should it not be conclusive against the parish? He must say, that he did not feel any strong aversion to its decision being rendered conclusive against the parish. But the House would observe this, that if the decision of the board was adverse to the pauper, it inferred this—that the parochial board had considered the case and given judgment, and that the court of review concurred in opinion with the parochial board; and their concurring opinions might fairly be presumed to be correct. But if this court of review—the board of superintendence—differed from the parochial board, then there was not the same concurrence of opinion; and in that state of matters, the parochial board might reasonably be allowed to call in the Court of Session to decide between them. The provision in question was calculated to check the pauper and also the parish. The hon. Gentleman had stated, there was no attempt made to abolish the mode of rating by means and substance; but in the whole of the evidence taken before the Commissioners, there was no fault found with it when administered fairly. On the contrary, the assessment on means and substance had several opinions in its favour. The town of Greenock was adverse to any disturbance of that system, and so was the town of Dumbarton. Was it wise to disturb it, therefore? The Bill, however, gave an optional power to the parties to get rid of that mode and adopt another. There was a power to classify also in existence; and doubtless the parochial board would modify the rate in their respective districts. It was urged against the Bill by his hon. Friend, that it gave a power of imposing rural burdens; but that power was liable to the control of the board of supervision. His hon. Friend had objected to the introduction of the kirk session in burgh parishes; but they had at present the power of interference, and there was, consequently, nothing novel in the principle. The introduction of the principle of a certain amount of estate being requisite to enable farmers to sit on the parochial boards, was for the purpose of getting rid of the unwieldy system that prevailed at present. The period of residence being lengthened to seven years, he (the Lord Advocate) defended on the highest authorities. Some had proposed ten years, and others had proposed less; but he was of opinion that he medium of seven years was the best that could be selected. With respect to the removal of English and Irish paupers, he considered that the want of an adequate provision for those parties in their own country, as in the case of the latter, was no sufficient reason why they should be left as a burden on Scotland. A Scotchman had no right to relief in Ireland; and to send an Irishman to Ireland would be no hardship, as he would be in a starving state in Scotland if he needed relief. In regard to the erection of poorhouses, he was of opinion that they would be useful in some towns; but he thought it better to leave it to the parishes themselves, as he had some doubts of the general advantages of poor-houses for the poor. Allusion had been made to the want of spiritual regulation; but he certainly thought that no objection could be taken to the Bill on that score. The union of parishes objected to by his hon. Friend, he considered one of the best features of the measure; and he considered the Parliamentary boundary as the best basis of that system of junction. With respect to the medical portion of the measure, he had given the parishes a power to obtain it in those districts where it was most desired. In conclusion, he defended the Bill from the objection of his hon. Friend, that it did not provide relief for occasional distress — such as sickness; but sickness was, in point of fact, disability; and disability came under the operation of the principle of the measure.

Mr. Hume

regarded the whole question as full of difficulty. He saw the danger, on the one hand, of giving greater powers, because they might be abused; and, on the other, he perceived the difficulty of leaving the paupers in a starving condition without the means of getting relief. He could scarcely say that he had had much experience in Scotland himself on this matter; but, judging from the opinions of the borough he represented, from which he had received a full statement, and which, though differing on many points, concurred in the difficulty of legislation, he did not know but that the most prudent course would be to let the Bill lie over till next Session. If a wrong step were taken, incalculable mischief might be done. Should the Bill not be postponed till another Session, he should then recommend that it be sent to a Committee up-stairs. He had once considered the change effected in this country with reference to the Poor Laws as a progression to a good system from a bad; but he confessed that he had not seen all that benefit resulting from it which he had anticipated, and therefore he was now anxious, in reference to the Scotch Poor Laws, not to take a step which might be in the wrong direction.

Mr. Colquhoun

concurred with the hon. Member for Montrose, that nothing was more full of doubt and difficulty than any question relating to the Poor Laws. At the same time, he hardly concurred in the practical conclusion at which the hon. Member had arrived. The hon. Member seemed to entertain sanguine expectations from a Committee up-stairs; but it was not improbable that if one were appointed, there would be as many conflicting opinions in it as there were Members upon it. Besides, he thought that they had quite enough in the shape of reports on the question. He thought that the board of supervision would effect more than the hon. Member for Leith expected; for, besides having the power of giving relief, it would be called on to make reports to the Government, and thus the public exposure which would be insured of any flagrant case of inadequate relief, would have a salutary effect. This simple fact of exposure appeared to him to be a great amendment. He asked the hon. Member for Montrose whether in cases and in parts of Scotland where relief was in adequate, he could seriously propose that the question should be hung over for another year, and that Parliament should not now be called on interfere to put down that horrible state in some disstricts in Scotland, where the relief at present afforded was inadequate; and which inadequate relief might be continued, unless some measure of amendment were passed? He observed that the parochial boards were to be constituted partly of kirk sessions—ecclesiastical courts which the hon. Member for Leith disparaged; and which, after the late convulsion in the Church of Scotland, had been, no one could doubt, deprived of much of their moral influence. At the same time it must be borne in mind, that in an important Report, drawn up by the General Assembly in 1839, the value of the services of kirk sessions was very strongly set forth. With regard to the qualification in landward parishes, he thought, that as it was fixed by the Bill, it was decidedly too high; and he might also mention that he had seen a petition from Dumbarton, in which the petitioners expressed their anxiety that the principle of assessment on means and substance should be maintained, but which principle they feared would be effected by some of the provisions of the Bill. He likewise thought that a proprietor who was non-resident, but whose property was within a landward parish, which should be constituted a burghal parish, should be subject to assessment to the full amount of his property. In conclusion, the hon. Member observed, that in a country situated like Scotland, nothing could be more unwise than to introduce a system of relief for able-bodied men. He feared it might increase vice, and create difficulties which it would be found almost impossible to remedy.

Mr. Edward Ellice

, jun., adverted to the difficulty of framing a measure which should apply to the different sorts of population in Scotland. With respect to the general board, he thought it ought to be constituted to be the sole party adjudicating, without appeal to the Court of Session. In the Highlands of Scotland it was nonsense to talk (and he spoke from what he knew of the condition of that part of the country) of the likelihood of the parochial boards, constituted as they were, ever assessing the parishes. Thus the poor man was completely in the hands of the proprietor of the soil. He was generally distant from any place where he could obtain relief, and removed from all the advantages derived from living among a town population. He might live on a spot many miles from the main land, where every person on the island was under the dominion of the lord of the soil. The parochial board would be solely in the interest of the landlords; the same objection applied to the inspector, who must live in the place. In the Highland parishes, where would they get an inspector who was not a large tenant, and under the dominion of the landlord? The machinery of the Bill must be quite different and distinct from that of the English system. Many causes had conduced to bring about the present state of the Highlands; he should not dwell upon them; they were copiously detailed in the evidence taken by the Commissioners; he believed they took every pains with the subject; and he only wondered how any reasonable person, after hearing that evidence, could have made such a Report as they did. That evidence proved the state of things in the north of Scotland to be a perfect disgrace to a civilized country; it was most deplorable that such a state of things should continue to exist; but there was no power given in this Bill to put a stop to it. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) had alluded to statements which had appeared in a newspaper; be (Mr. Ellice) did not wish to give any opinion as to the course adopted in making the clearances that had taken place in the Highlands. No doubt, in many cases, those clearances had been made with a regard to what was believed to be the interest of the population; in other cases they had been made solely with a regard to the increase of profit to the proprietor of the soil. But whatever the condition of the people might have been at that time, the condition of the people now showed that the system had not led to good, for the state of the population was wretched in the extreme. He had witnessed it, and he knew it. It was very well to talk of the people engaging in the herring fishery; but that lasted but two months of the year, and what could they do during the rest of it? They had been deprived of the opportunity of cultivating the soil, which rendered them independent in their own way; and as to the general result of the clearance system in the Highlands, from what he had himself seen, no one could say the state of those districts was creditable to the country. Allusions had been made to certain reports now coming from the Highlands; he did not mean to mix himself up with the opinions expressed in those reports; he did not say how far they were exaggerated, or how far they were true; but, he did say, that he felt grateful to any persons, or any public body, who would bring the state of things in that country before the public. As to the relief that should be given to the poor, he did not want to see it provided for the able-bodied; if it was, looking at the standard of living in that country, he believed they would have the greater part of the parishes thrown upon the rates; he would confine relief to the pauper and the impotent, and, in bad seasons, occasional aid might be afforded to the able-bodied; it was not reverses of trade which caused distress in the Highlands, so much as unfavourable seasons. But, whatever the relief might be, as long as it was given by parties locally interested, it would not be sufficient; unless some authority was given to the central board, the parties so interested would not voluntarily assess themselves. The Bill was deficient in stating what sort of relief was to be given; it ought not only to be in money and food; medical relief was also necessary. A kind of relief was also required that would lead to the permanent bettering of the condition of the people, so that if unable to maintain themselves in their own country, they might seek a subsistence elsewhere. This they could only effect by spreading education among them; at present the children were growing up in total ignorance of the English language; and, from the same deficiency, the people were unable to come to England for employment. With respect to medical relief, great suffering and great mortality were caused by the impossibility of obtaining it; numbers of unbaptized infants died from want of medical attention after their birth. No system of relief would be efficient unless it included a provision for medical attendance. Why should parishes in Scotland be exempted from charges to which property in England was liable? No landlord in the north of Scotland was compelled to pay a groat to the poor; and let them look at the taxes for this purpose paid by property in England. With regard to the north of Scotland, he looked at the Bill as anything but an efficient or well-devised measure, and he thought it would be better to let it go over to another year. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would consent to postpone the measure; it did not in the least provide for the Highlands, to which, by a moderate assessment, great relief might be afforded.

Mr. Scott

hoped that the right hon. Baronet would not postpone the measure; the state of distress which the Reports of the Commissioners exhibited was so urgent, that he thought not even a night should be lost in passing a measure for its relief. This measure was, in his opinion, a well-considered and well-digested measure, meeting most of the evils which existed, although deficient certainly in some of its minor details. As to the acquirement of a settlement after seven years, he entirely concurred in the provision of the Bill. It was well known that the influx of Irish into Scotland was a great cause of pauperism in that country; that was especially so at Glasgow; and, therefore, he thought the provision of the Bill requiring a seven years' residence in order to gain a settlement was very judicious. He fully agreed with the hon. Member who spoke last as to the general board; he thought that the powers of the board of supervision ought to be greater than they were, and that they should have the means of compelling parishes to assess themselves. In a parish in Scotland with which he was acquainted, there had been an assessment for many years; and, so far from producing the evils anticipated, there was as much voluntary charity, as much good feeling, and as much independence, as in any other part of Scotland, and the number of paupers not larger than the average. The principle of the Poor Law in Scotland was excellent; the practice was defective; but little was wanted to make the system perfect. What they wanted was an assessment; and it was a great mistake to say that the feeling of the people generally was against the enforcement of assessment. Whatever class of the community they took, a great proportion of each class would be found to support that enforcement. Their course ought to be to give to the board of supervision the power of making an assessment. Without, then, opposing this most excellent measure, he pressed upon the Government the propriety of enforcing assessments.

Mr. P. M. Stewart

regretted that the Government seemed determined to press this most important Bill this Session. It would have been much better to have sent it to a Select Committee. He denied that this Bill effected any improvement in the management of the poor in Scotland. He defied any hon. Gentleman opposite, from the Lord Advocate downwards, to prove that any benefit would result from it. Without entering into the details of the Bill, he took objection at the threshold to the two administrative bodies proposed by it. The central board was open to most serious objections, as had been pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for Leith. Of all the members of that board none would enjoy the confidence of the country, except the Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Then, how anomalous were the powers given by the Bill to that board! Nothing could be more disgraceful than the present state of the poor in Scotland; and if the Bill offered any prospect of improving that state, he should hesitate before he opposed it; but he felt assured that the poor would be placed in a worse position by the measure. The parochial board was a worse board than the board which now existed; and they imposed upon it additional duties. There were eighty-eight clauses in the Bill, and it would be quite impossible to amend it in the present Session. Under these circumstances he felt bound to resist its further progress. The Poor Law system of Scotland had been praised; but directly the light was let in upon it, the sturdiest Scotchman felt ashamed of it. In their Bill the Government maintained the general principle of the existing law; but by the establishment of the supervisional board they were adding increased evil to what was so bad before. If the Lord Advocate carried his measure this Session, he would next year introduce a Bill to amend it; but what a disgrace to that House to consent to so anomalous and absurd a position! This was a Bill for the lairds and heritors, and not for the poor of Scotland; and, as a friend to the poor, he resisted its enactment. It professed to be a Poor Law, but it was no law for the benefit of the poor. He should offer to it an humble and respectful, but at the same time most determined opposition.

Sir J. Graham

said: Sir, after the very strong opinion the hon. Gentleman has expressed with regard to this Bill, I confess I am surprised that he should not have concluded with some substantive Motion against it; because if it is a Bill for the heritors and lairds, and not for the poor, he, as a Scotch Member, has not done his duty in not having proposed its rejection. But, Sir, this subject has been long under the consideration of the Legislature. During nearly two years the Government and the Legislature have had this subject before them. The Royal Commission, whose Report is now on the Table of the House, was issued in 1843. Of course the appointment of that Commission raised expectations among the poor of Scotland, who had been in a state of extreme misery, if not of oppression. That Report has been on the Table of the House since the commencement of the Session, and the Government have given it their fullest attention. The hon. Member for Montrose, who has carefully applied himself to the whole of the evidence, admits that he labours under some doubts on the subject of the remedy to be applied to existing evils. Some hon. Gentlemen have urged further inquiry; but after the full and entire investigation of the subject which has taken place, if there are still doubts entertained, I do not think that any further investigation would tend to remove them. The subject having been so long before the Government and before Parliament, it appears to me that the time has arrived when something must be done—when we are bound to take some steps towards the settlement of the law relating to the poor in Scotland. I do not think that it would be worthy of this House to institute a mock inquiry, which such further inquiry must be, in order to gain time. Such being the state of the case as regards inquiry, this Bill is to be dealt with as it is; and if in principle it is so erroneous, and if in its details it is so bad as some hon. Members represent it to be, then undoubtedly it would be the duty of the House to resist the second reading. The Government, in framing the Bill, have endeavoured to adhere as much as possible to the ancient law of Scotland with respect to the poor; while they have also endeavoured to remedy the evils that have arisen under it. With respect to the question of assessment, there exists amongst the highest authorities in Scotland great difference of opinion as to whether assessment should be made general. I think, that under the present circumstances of Scotland, with the wide-spread and growing necessity which exists for relief, general assessment is most desirable; but, considering the difference of opinion which prevails on the subject, I think it is infinitely more wise to leave the public of Scotland, by a voluntary act, to adopt assessment themselves, rather than by an enactment to make it compulsory. This Bill is framed on that principle. It does not, in terms, compel assessment; but, practically, I feel confident that it will gradually lead to its adoption. With regard to appeal, I think that the process of appeal which the law has hitherto given to the poor has been illusory, and from its very nature open to great abuse. I believe that the appeals must necessarily, if multiplied, fall into the hands of low practitioners, seeking employment, and give rise to the worst feelings between the richer portion of society who contribute relief, and those who seek to obtain it by compulsory processes; and this is one reason why there should not be any further delay. This brings me to the appeal in the first instance which this Bill substitutes for the appeal to the Court of Session. The hon. Member for St. Andrew's would prefer a board, every member of which was nominated by the Crown. I think that the combination of nomination by the Crown, and of parties holding high station, and owing that station to popular influence, and the admixture of persons possessing local knowledge, does constitute the excellence of this board, and entitle it to public confidence. I certainly have the strongest opinion that the presence on this board of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and the Lord Provost of Glasgow, will give additional importance to the board. The presence of the Solicitor General for the time being connects the board directly with the Executive Government. From his avocations he will always be present in Edinburgh; he is a great legal authority; and he will form a connecting link between the Government and the board. With the addition of the three sheriffs, this board will combine with legal knowledge local knowledge of the most important description. There is also vested in the Crown the power of appointing three Commisioners. I am bound to say, that on the whole, I think a better tribunal could not be formed. With respect to the objection that new obstacles are raised against obtaining relief, let me observe, that we give an appeal to this tribunal; and if the tribunal of appeal concur with the tribunal in the first instance, and are of opinion that relief should be rejected, I do not think there can be any hardship, the one tribunal knowing the local circumstances, and the other applying the law to the facts. In this Bill there is an important provision, to which I do not think any Gentleman has referred. We do give for the first time a cheap, easy, and ready appeal against the absolute refusal of relief. Against such refusal we give an appeal to the sheriff, or his depute, the latter being always resident in the county. Now, let me just state to the House why I think this Bill contains a provision which will improve the administration of the Poor Law in Scotland, in the sense of meeting the just claims of the poor to further assistance and kinder consideration. We have had experience in this country of the vast importance of constantly visiting the poor claiming relief at their own dwellings. As the law now stands in Scotland, there is no such parochial visitation. This Bill provides, that in every parish in Scotland there shall be an inspector appointed, whose duty it shall be to visit at their own dwellings the poor on the roll. The only objection made to that provision is, that the inspector may be appointed by the local board. That board is composed of the minister, the heritor, the elders in kirk session, and, where assessment is introduced, the representatives of the ratepayers. If you say that the representatives of the ratepayers are not worthy of confidence, I have not one word to say in reply; but if they are to be intrusted with the administration of relief at all, I must say, that, subject to the supervision of a superior authority, they certainly may be allowed to appoint the inspector. If assessment be introduced, the representatives of the ratepayers are to have the appointment. The appointment of an inspector appears to me an improvement of a marked and decisive character. But that would be most imperfect if you did not add to local inspection central control. That control is vested in the board of supervision; and though I am quite willing to listen to propositions for improving this tribunal, yet I must say, that if you are satisfied with the composition of the board, securing local inspection and control—control exercised by persons entitled to confidence—you make the administration of the Poor Law in Scotland as perfect as it can be made. Now, I am astonished, considering the quarter from which the objection comes, at the little weight which is attached to public opinion with reference to these matters. If you secure complete publicity as to the conduct of the local board, and of the controlling central authority, my belief is, that all your legislation on details will be ineffectual, compared with the effect of that publicity. I am quite satisfied, that already, even without any alteration of the law, public opinion has operated upon its administration; and my belief is, that when you secure a much greater extent both of publicity and of control over the local administration, public opinion will effect almost everything that you could desire. Something has been said in reference to the right of the able-bodied poor to relief. I think the feeling of Members on both sides of the House appears to be, that it would not be prudent, by direct enactment, to change the law in Scotland in this particular, and to say that the able-bodied poor shall be entitled to relief. It must be admitted, that without this change we have done a great deal to effect an improvement. I now come to the question of the mode of assessment. The diversity of opinion on both sides of the House proves the extreme difficulty of dealing with this question. We are dealing with an ancient law—a law which is defective in its administration, but to touch the framework of which requires great caution and forbearance. It is asked—"Why, if you feel quite sure of the excellence of any portion of your enactment with reference to assessment, why do you not give to that improvement universality?" The hon. Member for St. Andrew's showed that the circumstances of the Lowlands and the Highlands of Scotland are so opposite, that almost separate legislation is necessary. Different practices have arisen in different localities; in different rural parishes and districts, different modes of assessment prevail. In this Bill we have recognised and endeavoured to maintain the law, taking security for its proper regulation. The hon. Member for Leith stated that a practice had arisen, in many parishes, of rating persons according to their means and substance. I am not prepared to depart from the principle, or the use of the mode of assessment by means and substance, as it prevails in the burghal parishes of Scotland. Sir, again I say, this Bill contains provisions which I believe are calculated to meet the maladministration of the existing law, and the wants of the poor, to the utmost possible extent. The first duty of the controlling board will be to call into activity the powers this Bill conveys. I must say, however, that an hon. Gentleman, in his earnest desire to meet the wants of the poor of Scotland, did make a proposition with respect to the administration of medical relief, which is quite impracticable. Think of a Highland district spread over an immense extent, containing only 300, or perhaps 400 inhabitants; to fix a medical man in that district would be the semblance of relief without the reality. Even taking the case of a village of 1,000 inhabitants, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, I think it probable the kind feelings of the hon. Gentleman have been wounded by some particular case of neglect which has come to his knowledge; still I do not think his plan can be adopted. To have a rate levied throughout the Highlands of Scotland on the inhabitants of each district, for the purpose of establishing a medical man in that immediate district, would not be consistent with reason, and still less with sound policy. I have been engaged, more or less, I am sorry to say, in warfare with the medical profession; but I would observe that it would be a nice question in the statistics of health to determine whether the Highland constitution, without a doctor, does not conduce more to longevity, than sickness, without medicine, to the fatal termination of disease. [Laughter.] It is within the experience of an hon. Friend near me, that in a small island in the Highlands, without a medical attendant for the whole of it, persons live to a greater age, and enjoy better health, than where doctors abound. With regard to the prolongation of the term of industrial residence, from three years to seven, I admit that the prolongation, at first sight, appears considerable; and I am not prepared to say that seven years may be the right period to fix. The point is still under consideration. But, I must say, that there are advantages in making settlement by industrial residence somewhat more difficult in the manufacturing districts. In those districts it is impossible not to contemplate the return of those revulsions of commerce which have at times produced so much distress and suffering. Sir, it is very well for the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne, and the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, to take credit for the relief that in those circumstances of distress was given to the poor; and they would leave the House to believe that it was the prosperous and wealthy, and those who resided in the neighbourhood, that supplied relief to the destitution that existed at those periods; but, in truth, the relief that was given did not come from the large landowners—it did not come from persons living in the immediate neighbourhood—it did not come from Scotland at all; but it proceeded from the spontaneous kindness and humane feelings of the people of this country, whose feelings were wrought upon so as to induce them to contribute to maintain the able-bodied poor who were then in distress in Scotland. Now, Sir, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne made two objections to certain clauses of this measure. I have answered one of those objections—the first, with respect to the qualification of the elected members of the parochial boards. That point, however, is quite open to consideration; and I am perfectly willing to give a favourable consideration to the hon. Gentleman's objection, and, if I can find a proper substitute, not to insist on the proposition as it now stands in the Bill. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne also objected as to the hardship that non-resident proprietors, under the enactments of the Bill as it now stands, would escape paying their just share to the poor. I admit that it is a defect in the Bill; and I shall be glad to remedy it. I am not aware that I have now omitted any material point of the measure; but I would add, first, that I think it not expedient to postpone legislation on this matter, and that now is the time to legislate; next, that you have before you a measure which I do not say is perfect, but which I say has been framed deliberately, and with a sincere intention on the part of the Government of meeting the evils of the present law, coupled with the caution which it is indispensable that the Government should observe in dealing with such a subject, touching habits sanctioned by law, sanctioned by ancient usage, and intimately connected with the social happiness and welfare of so important a portion of the United Empire as Scotland. I believe the measure to be well worthy of the mature consideration of the House. To the principle of it no objection has been urged; and to the details there is also, I think, no objection but what may be met or modified in the Committee. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire hinted that there was a means of not allowing this measure to pass this Session; but I am persuaded that was a hasty expression, to which the hon. Member would not wish to adhere; and if the hon. Member, and any one who thinks with him, will lend their aid to perfect the measure in Committee, they shall be met in a fair and candid spirit with reference to the portions of it to which they object. Time, in this case, is of the greatest importance. I do not deny that the poor of Scotland do labour under hardships which, I think, the Legislature may, to some extent, remove; and I feel, therefore, that time presses. I do hope that this Bill may be allowed to proceed in the regular course, and not be sent, as I hear it is intended to propose, before a Select Committee up-stairs. I say, do let us enter upon the matter in this House. In this House, and in this House only, can the Bill be satisfactorily discussed. Up-stairs the people of Scotland will not know what we do, or the reasons for what we do. Here all that we do is done in the presence of the whole House, of the public, and of the people of Scotland. I ask—I invite—I challenge hon. Gentlemen to meet me in a fair spirit in the discussion of the provisions of this Bill; and I do hope the Motion to which I have referred will not be made; if it should, I trust that the House will negative it, and will agree to appoint an early day for going into Committee of the whole House, where every endeavour shall be made to meet all objections in a manner which shall prove our sincere desire to render this Bill acceptable and beneficial to the people of Scotland.

Mr. F. Maule

said, he could not see how, with any prospect of bringing this Bill into anything like an operative state, it could be discussed in that House; it ought to be referred to a Select Committee up-stairs. His object in moving that it be so referred was, not to entomb it for the Session, for no one was more anxious than he was to place it on a proper footing; but only that it might be digested by men who knew the merits of every individual case, so that it might be placed before the public in such a shape that all might agree to it. That was not a singular course to be taken with a Bill of this description, especially with a Scotch Bill; for he recollected bringing a Bill into that House in which the people of Scotland were most deeply interested; and, although the question of assessment was the only great question to be discussed, yet, until he had consented to take it up-stairs to a Committee of Scotch Members, he never attempted to force it through the House. The same consideration ought to be shown to this measure. If, indeed, he had looked at it with the single eye of a landed proprietor, he should have allowed it to pass without opposition; but he must say, and without any wish to give offence, that if this Bill were adopted in the present state, it would go forth to the people of Scotland, not as a Bill for the benefit of the poor, but to protect the rich from contributing too much to their maintenance. The people seemed to have been ignorant, until the last eighteen months, of the power of the Court of Session to enforce a due observance of the present law; but from the moment they became aware of that power, from the fear of being dragged into court, those who had the administration of the funds as they now stood had administered them in a way that assured him that even if this Bill were suspended the poor would not only not materially suffer by it, but by this Bill the power of a poor man to carry his appeal to the Court of Session was most materially, and he thought very unjustly, interfered with. The right hon. Baronet had stated as one ground why he would interfere to prevent that appeal was, the risk of low practitioners getting hold of these cases, carrying them to the Court of Session, and using them against the heritors and managers of the poor of Scotland. He thought that the evil would cure itself. Suppose a low practitioner got hold of a case, and carried it to the Court of Session—if he did not succeed, the poor man whose case he had taken in hand could give him no compensation, and all the expense of the proceeding must fall upon his own shoulders. If, on the other hand, he succeeded, and from the Court of Session obtained a decree against the heritors and managers of the poor of any parish, then the expense of that litigation very properly fell upon those who had so far neglected their duty as to compel the Court of Session to interfere. He had no fear whatever of such matters leading to the excess anticipated by the right hon. Gentleman. But of the various objections which he had to this Bill, he would in the first instance mention the constitution of the parochial board. He thought it was very improperly constituted. In the first place, where an assessment was made on a parish, he objected to the minister and kirk session being on the parochial board at all; and for this reason, that the collections made at the church doors were not proposed to be thrown into the general funds of the poor of the parish; but the management of it was specially reserved to the ministers and kirk session, and the only thing they were called upon to do was to give an account of its management to the parochial board after its administration. He could see no earthly reason why that fund should be kept separate; but if it were, then he saw no reason why the minister and kirk session, not elected by the ratepayers or by those who attend the parish church, but by the dictum of the members themseves, should go into that board retaining for their own purposes their own fund. Another objection was, that he found that at present, under the term of heritors, a certain body of persons were included in the management of the poor fund in Scotland who, by this Bill, were disqualified from being heritors at all, because the interpretation clause defined a heritor to be a person who possessed land of the annual valued rental of 5l.; but a person having a large manufactory, having extensive buildings upon a mere plot of ground not one-fifth of the same value, would not be entitled to hold himself out as a heritor at all. At present he could do so; but by this Bill he would be deprived of that right. Then as to the election of the members; in the first place, they must look to who were the persons who, in a case of assessment, would pay the greater part of it; and he thought that all common fairness dictated that those persons should, at least, be equally represented in the disposal of that fund. But how stood the matters? In the first place, the number of those elected members was not defined by the Bill, but was left to the irresponsible control of the superior board. Those ratepayers, too, who were assessed on their means and substance would pay more than the landed proprietors in the same parish. Then how were they elected? It was done by a system of plurality of votes, which he thought was always to be condemned, except where there was a very strong reason in its favour. The number of votes to be given by proprietors of land was altogether out of proportion to those of other ratepayers: they had at least double the number of votes which the latter had. Then look at the qualification. At present they allowed the ratepayers to select from their own body, or to take men whom they might think perfectly qualified to administer the affairs of the poor; but by this Bill they were to choose a man having property of 20l. a year, or occupying property of 40l. a year. Then, with regard to the superior board, or board of supervision, he should like to see whether if this Bill were referred to a Select Committee, they could not make that superior board a little more simple, less numerous, and, perhaps, with some popular control; for he could not see any reason why the superior board should consist of two provosts, the Solicitor General, three sheriffs, and three other members. There was another reason why this Bill could not be properly discussed in that House, and that was with reference to the combination of parishes. If the Bill went to a Committee up-stairs they would have this advantage at least, that the points on which they differed would be ascertained, and those upon which they agreed fully established; after which the passage of the Bill through the House would be comparatively easy. Nothing was further from his wishes than to embarrass the Government by any captious objections; but when the proper time came he should certainly feel it his duty to move and to take the sense of the House upon the question that the Bill be referred to a Committee up-stairs.

Mr. P. Borthwick

said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had not shown that he could deal with the objections he urged against the Bill in a Committee of that House. A Committee of the House, in his (Mr. Borthwick's) opinion, was perfectly competent to discuss and deal with those objections. It had been said by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire and the right hon. Gentleman, that their object was to save the poor of Scotland from the operation of this Act. If that was the sort of friendship they had for the poor of Scotland, he hoped the poor of Scotland would be saved from it. The result of referring the Bill to a Select Committee would be to throw it back for another Session, which he should very much deprecate after the statements which they had heard of the condition of the poor in Scotland.

Mr. E. Ellice

said, he took a different view with regard to the principle of the Bill, from all those who had spoken on the subject. He thought, that there were sufficient means of protection for the poor of Scotland, if they were only properly carried out. The only difficulty was, that they had no due power of administering those means, though be should say, that the more simple the machinery they proposed, and the more in accordance with the authorities now constituted in Scotland for the administration of the existing law, the better. He thought it would be perfectly sufficient if they provided by Bill competent inspectors, and gave them a power with respect to the assessment and relief of the poor, of applying to the sheriff or his substitute, as a court in the first instance, before going to the Court of Session. He agreed in many of the objections that had been urged by his right hon. Friend the Member for Leith. He had no wish to entomb or delay the Bill, but he thought that the details of the measure, particularly the subject of the consolidation of parishes, could be better examined up-stairs than in a Committee of the whole House. How was it possible, at the present period of the Session, to consider the subject fully in a Committee of the whole House? He was not opposed to the Bill, however. With all its defects he would assist in its progress, and would abstain from voting if a Motion was made to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. He would only make one further observation, namely, that he hoped, under no circumstances, would an attempt be made to change the principle of assessment of property in Scotland; for the only just principle of assessment for the relief of the poor was the principle of assessment according to a man's means and substance.

Mr. W. Miles

said, that after all that the House and the country had heard recently of the poverty, misery, and of the deaths even, resulting from starvation in Scotland, it would be bad indeed if the Legislature were to suffer the Session to pass without providing some remedy for those evils. He, therefore, recommended hon. Members not to appear to throw obstacles in the way, or to obstruct the progress of the measure. On the contrary, let them all endeavour to render it as perfect as the circumstances would admit of, and not, by persisting in sending it before a Select Committee, either prevent it from passing into a law during the present year, or else protract the Session, in order to complete it, to September.

Mr. Hastie

did not think the Bill would carry relief to the Scotch poor. On the contrary, it would be more difficult to effect the purposes for which it was intended, than was the case under the existing Poor Law. The mode of assessment pointed out by the Bill was most objectionable; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider that part of the measure, and alter it. As the Bill now stood, it was more of a landlords' than of a Poor Law measure.

Mr. Aglionby

said, that whatever difference might exist on the opposite sides of the House with respect to the manner in which the objects contemplated by the Government were affected by the measure, he nevertheless hoped it would be clearly understood, and go forth to the public, that there was on both sides an ardent desire to afford due relief to the suffering and destitute poor in Scotland. His first impression was, that it would be advisable to send the Bill up-stairs to a Select Committee; but he could not withstand the candid, straightforward manner of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), whose readiness to accede to any Amendments which might render the measure more perfect, had determined him to vote for the second reading, and to support the intention expressed by the Government of proceeding at once with the Bill in a Committee of the whole House.

Mr. Collett

observed, that it had been urged that, under the proposed Bill, only one person was to be paid. He found, however, that, in addition to this person, a secretary and three sheriffs were to be paid. He would ask the right hon. Baronet what was the amount of the salary to be received by the party to be paid, and also what was the amount which the secretary was to receive, and who was to pay it?

Sir J. Graham

said, that it was intended that the amount of the salaries should be fixed by the Lords of the Treasury; but, if it was so wished, the amount might be inserted in Committee.

Bill read a second time.

On Motion that the Bill be committed,

Mr. F. Maule

moved, that it should be referred to a Select Committee up-stairs. He disclaimed all intention of delaying the Bill. His sole object was to have its minutiæ fully discussed by gentlemen acquainted with the various localities to which its provisions referred. If the Government would agree to send the Bill to the Committee proposed, he would be happy to leave the nomination of that Committee entirely in their hands. He thought, that to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, was the only way in which justice could be done to the question at all.

Mr. Cumming Bruce

hoped the House would not agree to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, as doing so would be equivalent to delaying the Bill for another year.

Mr. Hume

said, he had been inclined to think, that the better course would be to delay the Bill; but the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had met all opposition, by offering to give every consideration to the provisions of the Bill in Committtee, and to make it as perfect as possible. He, therefore, could not think of dividing against him on the subject; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) would not press his proposition to a division.

Sir J. Graham

joined in expressing a hope that the right hon. Gentleman would not press his Amendment. He (Sir J. Graham) proposed Monday se'nnight for going into Committee, and, in the mean time, Her Majesty's Government would take into consideration the several suggestions which had been made, and, to facilitate their due consideration, he would recommend that hon. Gentleman should have their Amendments printed and laid on the Table of the House. He thought by this course, from the unanimity that prevailed, that something practical would arise. From the spirit that existed, he would deem it unfortunate if they were pressed to a division.

Mr. P. M. Stewart

concurred in the request not to press the Amendment to a division. He suggested some alteration in the constitution of the board of supervision.

Sir J. Graham

said, that as at present advised, no alteration could be assented to in the constitution of the board.

Mr. F. Maule

said, that after the disposition shown by the right hon. Baronet to attend to the propositions made, he could not think of pressing his Amendment to a division.

Amendment withdrawn. Bill to be committed.