HC Deb 29 January 1846 vol 83 cc418-20

said, he understood it had been intimated last Session that some inquiry should be instituted by Her Majesty's Government into the working of the Poor Law in Ireland. He wished to know whether it was the intention of Government to grant a Committee of Inquiry in either House of Parliament in the course of the present Session. He was the more anxious upon this subject on account of the danger which was in all probability to be apprehended of a famine coming upon Ireland within the lapse of a few weeks. He had conversed with persons in all parts of Ireland, who agreed that not the slightest dependence was to be placed on the present Poor Law for the alleviation of the distress that might be expected. Under the circumstances, he thought it imperative that some inquiry should be instituted into the working of the law.


said, that no inquiry would be gone into on the part of the Government; the law, he feared, was about to undergo a severe trial from the impending distress, but already the Government had reason to be satisfied that it had been established. The existence of workhouses in different districts at this time was most fortunate and opportune; there were also, now, in every moderately sized district, boards of guardians, including magistrates and gentlemen of the locality, who formed an organized body, adapted to the application of means of relief. He was by no means satisfied that the law was a perfect measure; but still, when compared with the absence of any law, they might congratulate themselves on its establishment. He could only repeat the assurance he gave in the last Session, that if any Member of either House of Parliament asked for an inquiry into the operation of the law, the Government would offer no opposition to it; the hon. Gentleman was perhaps aware, that in the other House of Parliament notice of a Motion for an Inquiry had been given by Lord Clancarty. That Motion, or any made by a Member of that House, the Government would not oppose.


said, the New Poor Law, even in the most favourable times, had been found a heavy grievance in Ireland, and had never relieved the pauperism of the country. It had now to undergo a severe test, and he was convinced it would never succeed. The effect of the approaching calamity could not be exaggerated; they were within three or four weeks of famine, and it should be borne in mind that in Ireland a famine never occurred that was not attended by that dreadful pestilence the typhus fever. An eminent medical gentleman of Dublin, Dr. Corrigan, had shown by inquiries into past history that in Ireland famines were always accompanied by typhus fever. It would give great satisfaction to the people of Ireland to have it declared to them that the Government was prepared, without any unnecessary delay, to carry out some measure, with the object of relieving the existing distress, on a plan more extensive than that which had already been brought forward; that plan was one, indeed, totally unfitted for the occasion, and he wished it to be distinctly understood that he entered his protest against the expectation, if any such there was, that that measure was to be received as a boon by the Irish people. It was nothing for which thanks or gratitude were due; it was but a small return for the money of Ireland which had been taken away from that country by the rulers of this, without qualification or pretext.


was glad to find that such a measure had been decided upon, and that all was to be done which could be done by the Government to meet the demands of a people visited by unforeseen distress; but it would have to be recollected that the Irish Poor Law Bill did not provide for external relief; and, in the event of a famine, some provision should be made for the unfortunate, to have food supplied to them in their own houses. It was to be hoped this would not be overlooked by the Government.