§ MR. WODEHOUSE
said, that the last time the present measure had been before the House, he earnestly requested that it 1384 might be postponed till another Session of Parliament. He now rose for the purpose of repeating that request. The evil which the Bill was intended to remedy was, after all, not an extreme hardship; and he hoped the House would agree with him when he said, that the probable effects of the measure were likely to be so varied that Parliament could not proceed with too much caution. It was said, that the provisions of this Bill were expected to be of great consequence to the landed interest; but, whether it were of the most importance to the landed or the trading interests, one thing was certain, that its effect would be to throw vast masses of the population upon their own resources in small districts. For this reason, he recommended the House carefully to consider the course they were taking, and maturely to deliberate on the measure. In the year 1817, this subject had been with others referred to a Committee; and that Committee recommended that persons who resided in a parish for three years without becoming—within the three years—chargeable to that parish, should in consequence of such residence be entitled to a settlement therein; and the Committee of 1817 recommended that parties so obtaining a settlement should be permitted to depose to the facts which gave them a title to it, after giving notice to the overseers of their intention so to depose. The Committee that then sat acknowledged that the subject was one of very great moment; and, considering it as he did to be one of the most serious nature, he felt bound again to urge upon the House the expediency of its postponement until the subject could be fully gone into in the next Session of Parliament. Those were the views which he entertained on this important subject; and acting, as he hoped he did, in unison with those whom he was accustomed to act with, he would say, that though he did not desire to see the Bill put off altogether, yet he wished that the measure might be postponed till the next Session. He begged at the same time to observe, that he had no wish to harass the Government upon this matter or any other. The hon. Member concluded by moving, that the House should resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill that day six weeks.
§ MR. HUME
seconded the Amendment. He hoped, whatever change the Poor Laws underwent, that the present proposition, would be well and carefully considered—not by itself, but the whole system of our Poor Laws. He wished to remind the 1385 hon. Members that the present question came before them without any recommendation from the Poor Law Commissioners. He was anxious for the postponement of this measure, not only on the grounds which he had stated, but for this reason also, that there was little use in legislating on so small a branch of the subject in the present year, when it was arranged that the whole of the Poor Laws should come fully under the consideration of Parliment early in the next Session. He might mention that in a part of Norfolk with which he was connected, he and another person would possess, if this Bill passed into a law, the power of removing all the poor out of the parish, and thereby occasioning very great distress.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
said, there was no opposition to this Bill on the part of the manufacturing districts; and if it were to be postponed, it should be understood that it was at the request of a Gentleman from whom had sprung the insinuation that the manufacturers would oppose it. He had had several opportunities of obtaining the opinions of boards of guardians in the manufacturing districts as to this Bill; they would offer no opposition to its progress; and if the Government withdrew it, he hoped it would be known that those boards had not any sort of objection to the measure.
§ SIR G. GREY
wished to remove any impression that the Government intended to postpone the Bill. He was prepared to go into Committee on the Bill as amended. It would certainly have been the easiest course for the Government to have stated that this was only a part of a great question, upon which it was not desirable to commence any partial legislation, and that upon the whole they thought it better to let the question stand over till another Session; but the Government, after a full consideration of the question, had felt that they would neglect their duty towards a large class of the community if they adopted such a course. This measure was referred to by the right hon. Baronet opposite when he introduced his commercial policy as a measure which would remove a great defect in the existing system of poor laws, under which the labouring population were suffering what he rightly termed a gross injustice. If this Bill were to be taken as a permanent Act, and was not to be followed up by a more perfect alteration of the law of settlement, he owned that he would have entertained great objection to this Bill; but as it stood, the 1386 Bill would lay the ground for a more fair consideration of the whole question next Session, when they would have had experience of its working; and after the gratifying announcement just made, that the Bill would receive the support of the towns on which the increased burden would mostly fall, he hoped that the House would at once consent to go into Committee.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
said, that the Bill did not give irremovability after five years' labour in the parish; it went a very little way towards effecting that object; but it would create a new injustice of another and a novel kind. It made the parties irremovable who had resided for five years in any place, not who had laboured there, or had, for any time, given to the parish the profit of their labour; this was introducing a new principle into the law of England, and would operate as a grievance in not a few parishes. He would refer to five or six cases, that the House might not rush into this hasty alteration of the law with their eyes shut. A petition had been presented from Sutton, in Nottinghamshire, stating that they had eighty heads of families of agricultural labourers settled in that parish, and ninety heads of families whose settlement was not there; and after the passing of this Act the extra population of 200 or 300 would be irremovable. In another petition from Wisbeach St. Mary's, it was stated that they had 100 families whose settlement was not now in that place. On Winchlow, Warwickshire, 300 persons would be flung for relief, who would now be relieved by other parishes; and at Castleacre, Norfolk, it would add twice the present number to those which would be relieved. The principle of the Bill was to relieve rich parishes under the command of one or two wealthy proprietors, and to throw the expense of maintaining the poor on the poorer parishes. The right hon. Gentleman might intend to remove the injustice in a future Session; but he was not sure that he could do so, for those to whom the power of relieving themselves from chargeability might maintain it. There was one remarkable petition against the Bill from a parish in Wales, which was in a great degree inhabited by families who worked in the copper and iron works of a neighbouring parish, from which it was separated only by a small stream; and all those persons who worked in the copper and iron works on the other side of the stream would be chargeable on the parish 1387 where they resided but did not work. If the Bill was not intended to be permanent, the Government had better postpone it till the whole question should be settled.
§ MR. J. S. WORTLEY
would give all the assistance in his power to improve this Bill in Committee; for it was a measure which would be advantageous to the country, and confer a great boon on the labouring classes. The hon. Member for Stroud had lost sight of the most important parties—the poor persons. A Paper had been laid on the Table that Session, showing the great extent of removals. These were a hardship on the poorer classes, and constituted a case of itself for redress; and when it was said that the parties would be chargeable where they resided, it must be remembered that if they did live in a populous parish, they spent their income there. In Yorkshire he knew of much hardship, because, in times of manufacturing distress, poor persons were sent back to work in the agricultural districts. He did not think this a perfect measure, for he should have preferred union settlements; but he agreed in thinking it most desirable to have the experience of the working of this measure for twelve months; it would check rash and inconsiderate removals, and could do no harm.
§ MR. STRUTT
regretted that the Government pressed this measure in the present Session. He objected to make such an important alteration in the law of settlement without consideration or inquiry, when there was to be a general inquiry into the law of settlement next Session. This alteration would introduce the new and anomalous principle of irremovability; and yet the introducer admitted that, unless it was accompanied by union settlements, the measure would create great injustice. They would act unfairly unless they went into the full inquiry next year, without prejudicing the question by the present adoption of this new and anomalous principle. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last stated that those Gehtlemen who he would not say opposed, but desired the postponement of this Bill, did not seem to consider the labouring poor. He hoped he should not render himself liable to the charge of a want of hnmanity towards the poor. But while they were anxious for the relief of the actual pauper, they should not forget that they ought also to show some humanity towards the poor ratepayers — their humanity should not be exclusively confined to one class. 1388 Now, what would be the immediate effect of this Bill? Why, it would impose upon a great number of poor parishes the burden of relieving the poor of other parishes. When he saw a poor ratepayer, who might have been a pauper, but who by his own exertions, his own industry, economy, and self-denial, had succeeded in maintaining himself as a ratepayer, he must say, that he did think that some humanity should be extended towards such men; and they should take care that no provisions in this Bill should injure them. There was another provision in the Bill to which the attention of the House had not been called. He thought it was now admitted that nothing could be more dangerous than leaving it to the option of the pauper as to the parish by which it should be relieved. It was well known how much the officers and ratepayers of a parish were interested in getting paupers removed from their parishes, and that they would offer bribes and inducements to paupers to swear that their place of settlement was in some other part of the country. It was true that there was a penalty of 40s. to 5l. in the Bill against any attempt at fraud with regard to the five years' residence; but how difficult was it to put such provisions into effect. He did not mean these as final objections to the Bill; but he objected to the period of the Session at which this crude legislation was proposed; and if the Government persisted in refusing to withdraw the Bill, he should not hesitate in voting with the hon. Member for Norfolk.
§ SIR J. PAKINGTON
had great satisfaction in finding that the right hon. Gentleman had determined to proceed with a Bill the very principle of which had been recommended in a Report from the Poor Law Commissioners. When it was said, that the Bill was introduced without sufficient consideration, he must remind the hon. Member that a Bill similar in principle was introduced by the right hon. Member for Dorchester (Sir J. Graham) at the close of the year 1844, for consideration during the recess; and it was discussed in 1845, and only withdrawn on account of the union settlements. The Bill was now without them: he was sorry for it; but the principle of irremovability had been discussed in that House. It was hard upon the rural parishes to have to maintain parties they had never seen, and who were connected with them only by this law of settlement; and it was a great hardship on the poor.
§ MR. PACKE
said, the Bill was brought forward for the benefit of the agricultural districts; but by Yorkshire and Cheshire, which were extreme cases, alone would any benefit be obtained, and in other parts of the country the Bill would work extreme injustice: under it the poor would be more harshly, corruptly, and tyrannically removed, because an absolute power would be given to the landowers; and where they had the benefit of the labour, the ratepayers would be glad of getting rid of the obligation to support the workmen.
did not support the measure on any calculation of benefit to the rural or the manufacturing districts: with respect to them, he believed it would be a give and take change; but viewed it on the much higher ground of doing justice to the poor, by removing the dreadful law which hung over them, by which a poor man, at the end of a long life, might be removed to a parish with which he had no connexion, and in which all the inhabitants were strangers. With respect to the petition from Wales, it was signed only by three persons, the clergyman and two ratepayers, and came from a parish near Merthyr Tydvil, where it happened that there was a common, with a good supply of stones, which gave every facility to the labourers for building cottages. He thought, therefore, there was no reasonable cause for alarm; and that, whatever parishes might lose by having a few poor passed on to them, they would gain by the wages others brought there. He hoped the Government would proceed with the Bill in its present shape, and that without any amendment it would pass into a law.
MR. B. DENISON
must say, that he thought the present state of the law of settlement was disgraceful to the country; for a person might be sent from one end of the kingdom to the other, more like a criminal than an unfortunate being unable to obtain his livelihood. He held in his hand a return which was made since the last discussion on this subject; and it appeared that in the year 1843, from the borough of Leeds, no less than 964 persons had been removed; of that number 56 had resided in Leeds all their life; 6 had lived there 40 years; 6 for 30 years; 32 for 20 years; 1 for 10 years; 27 for 5 years; and the rest for shorter periods. But suppose they passed the Bill before the House, what would they do? For it appeared by the return to which he had already referred, that, if they did pass this Bill, and said 1390 that no person should be removable who had been residing in a parish for five years, there would, in Leeds alone, be left 900 persons to provide for who were removable as the law stood, and thereby a heavy responsibility would suddenly be thrown upon that parish. At the same time, he hoped the House would not think he was adverse to this proposed law of removal, for he thought it ought to pass; but what he wanted the House to consider was, that it should be accompanied by an alteration of the union settlement. A change was required; but this appeared to him to be a monstrous jump for the House to take all at once; and it would lead to great consternation in the manufacturing districts. Not that he said they ought not to bear it; but he did hope the House would be cautious in dealing with the question, and would couple with it the consideration of union settlements, so as to soften the evils it would inflict upon those districts. With respect to the point of hardship to a parish having to maintain persons who had earned their living in another parish, he thought it was nothing, for the former parish would have received the advantage of the wages those persons had earned. If a man slept in parish A, but earned his living in parish B, he thought parish A ought to maintain him, because he had brought his wages and spent them there. He therefore saw no reason to entertain those apprehensions which some entertained; but he thought it would be much better to refer the whole matter to the consideration of a Committee.
§ MR. BANKES
could not but feel very considerable difficulty upon this subject, when he perceived the diversity of opinions that had been expressed by so many hon. Members, some of whom, as chairman of boards of guardians and of quarter-sessions, had had a great deal of experience upon it. But, after all he had heard, he retained the opinion he had held ever since the Bill had been introduced, viz., that although it stopped far short of the benefits that might be enacted in regard to the poor on the question of settlement, yet, seeing that the Bill in its reduced form of not more than seven clauses contained in every one of those clauses a principle of which he approved, he thought it would confer some benefit on the poor, and that would induce him to vote for it, although he considered it an imperfect measure. It would be a comfort to the feelings of the poor to know that some such measure was passed; but he would venture to call the 1391 attention of the law officers of the Crown to this point, which he thought very material in regard to the benefits the poor would derive from this Bill—whether it was the intention of the Bill as it now stood to give a poor man the option of returning to his own settlement, or of remaining where he then might be; for, if it were not, then he doubted extremely whether any benefit would in fact be conferred upon the poor man by this Bill. It seemed to him, indeed, that all power of removal was taken away from the magistrates by this Bill; though every one knew that the poor man had no means of removing himself; that he could only do it through the instrumentality of the magistrate. However, he should vote for going into Committee, and then, if no other hon. Member did so, he should propose the addition of a few words to the first clause, which would give to the poor man the option of remaining in the place where he had laboured three or five years, or of going to the place of his own settlement. With respect to the question of union settlements, he thought the Government had acted prudently in withdrawing that portion of the measure; for it was a question to which, at that late period of the Session, they could have no hope of the House giving due consideration. At the same time, his opinion was, that if they went so far as to give a union settlement, they had better go further, and give a county one.
§ MR. E. DENISON
had a very great objection to the Bill as it at present stood. The authority of the right hon. Gentleman opposite had been used in favour of this measure; but he thought that that was an improper use of that authority; for the right hon. Gentleman stated in that House that he thought the measure in its present shape would lead to great injustice and much inequality in different parishes, and doubted whether it would produce any good, or rather whether it would not work evil, if unaccompanied by some other such measure as that of union settlements; but the noble Lord on that (the Ministerial) side of the House had expressed his opinion against union settlements; and therefore it was not right to take advantage of the authority of the right hon. Gentleman opposite for bringing in this Bill. This was no measure of the present Government. On the contrary, he had a right to state that the authority of almost all the Members of the present Government who had taken part on this measure was against it. His 1392 right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done him the favour to support the Motion he had introduced for union settlements; but he said, "I do not come down to support your union settlements; but what I came down to press upon the House was this—and I do so upon some authority, for I have been in the habit of attending as chairman of a board of guardians—that irremovability without settlement is so bad, so objectionable, that it is impossible for me to allow any Bill to pass in such a shape." But what was the system under this Bill but one of irremovability, which his right hon. Friend had said was so bad and useless, that, so far as his knowledge went, he was entirely opposed to it? His right hon. Friend had had no opportunity of attending a board of guardians in the mean time, and he really could not conceive what grounds his right hon. Friend could have for his change of opinion. He himself thought that this measure would be legislation in the wrong direction. All who were driven out of one parish the adjoining parish would have to maintain. That would be a great grievance, which their legislation ought to endeavour to prevent. They ought to do what they could by law to prevent any inducement for persons to be driven from one parish to another adjoining, thereby inflicting a great injustice upon the ratepayers of the latter parish, as well as upon the poor themselves. He had stated on a former occasion, that the kingdom was pretty equally divided into close and open parishes, and if that were the case, one half of the kingdom would have to maintain the poor of the other half. Was that right or just? Would it not be extremely injurious to the ratepayers, and would it not also be unjust to the poor themselves, for nothing could be harder upon them than to be driven from a parish where they had lived, and where they had formed connexions, to a remote parish, where, perhaps, they knew no one.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had hoped that, after the last discussion upon this subject, they might have been permitted to have at once gone into Committee upon this Bill; but after the personal reference that had been made to himself by his hon. Friend the Member for Malton, he might be allowed, perhaps, to say a few words. He did not think this Bill by any means a perfect Bill. But nevertheless he did consider it a Bill in the right direction. He thought his hon. 1393 Friend was entirely wrong when he said they were going back, for in his opinion the system which this Bill proposed was better than that which now existed. On a former occasion he had said that he thought that settlement was the great evil of the poor, and that the more they could get rid of the present law of settlement and removal, the more would they do for the benefit and improvement of the condition of the lower orders. And that was the reason why he was ready to support this Bill. He regarded little whether this parish or that supported the poor; but this he did say, that it was extremely hard that the poor should be inconvenienced whilst a quarrel between two parishes should be decided. As a guardian of the poor, he could speak from his own knowledge as to the hardship and severity of removal in the time of manufacturing distress. Over and over again persons were brought before the board who told the guardians that they had lived for fifteen or twenty years at Halifax, or some other place—that their children were born there, and that there they had formed connexions; but that, if they were sent back to their own parish, miles and miles off, they would find all their connexions dead and gone, and should not know what to do with themselves; that they would have no other means of living than to break stones; that that was the only species of labour they were fit for, bred up as they had been in manufactures all their life, and conversant only with that; and yet hundreds and hundreds of families had been removed from towns where they had lived for many years, to remote and distant parishes. He thought, then, that this Bill was a step in the right direction.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, if he thought the Bill would stop removal, he would vote for it; but after the declaration of the Government, that an important measure embracing the whole question must be brought in next Session, he should vote against the Motion to go into Committee, on the ground that paupers would be hung up by suspended orders of removal in the interim. He was averse to doing and undoing their legislation within six months.
§ MR. HORSMAN
would also support the Amendment, in order that a measure more comprehensive, and not confined to the question of settlement, might be considered by the House.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
would not detain the House at any length, but as they were 1394 about to proceed to a division, he would state the reason which would decide the vote he was about to give. He could not doubt that the portion of the original Bill which they were about to discuss would be most beneficial to those who had a claim upon the rates for the maintenance of the poor: as far as they were concerned the measure was an excellent one; but he retained the opinion he had more than once expressed, that the right of irremovability conferred upon those who had no settlement, would be attended with a burden upon the ratepayers. In justice to the ratepayers it would be found necessary, if this measure became law, to throw the extra burden on a larger area. They must in justice proceed to the establishment of union settlements, if they established the principle of irremovability. At the present moment, at so advanced a period of the Session, the House was not prepared to adopt the principle of union settlements; but he for one was prepared to proceed with that portion of the original Bill which now remained for consideration, because, if it became law this Session, he felt convinced that next Session the House would be compelled to go to that ulterior length, the establishment of union settlements, which ought, in justice, to be adopted.
MR. V. SMITH
said, if the right hon. Gentleman thought the Bill in its present shape would be so unjust to the ratepayers that it would be impossible not to alter it next Session, that formed a strong argument for postponing the Bill till next Session.
§ The House divided on the Question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—Ayes 112; Noes 36: Majority 76.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Clements, Visct.|
|Baine, W.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Bankes, G.||Courtenay, Lord|
|Barnard, E. G.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Cripps, W.|
|Beckett, W.||Dickinson, F. H.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Duncombe, T.|
|Bernal, R.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Borthwick, P.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Bowes, J.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Elphinstone, Sir H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Escott, B.|
|Brown, W.||Etwall, R.|
|Cardwell, E.||Floyer, J.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Forster, M.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Gardner, J. D.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Parker, J.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Greene, T.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Pigot, Sir R.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Price, Sir R.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Pusey, P.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Hatton, Capt. V.||Rich, H.|
|Hawes, B.||Rutherfurd, rt. hon. A.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Seymour, Lord|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Hindley, C.||Smith, J. A.|
|Houldsworth, T.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Hudson, G.||Spooner, R.|
|Hutt, W.||Stuart, H.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Jervis, J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Jones, Capt.||Thornely, T.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Tower, C.|
|Langston, J. H.||Towneley, J.|
|Le Marchant, Sir D.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Wakley, T.|
|Loch, J.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Ward, H. G.|
|Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.||Wawn, J. T.|
|M'Donnell, J. M.||Wood, rt. hon. C.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Wood, Col.|
|Martin, J.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Worsley, Lord|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Morris, D.||Young, J.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Muntz, G. F.||TELLERS.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Tufnell, H.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Craig, W. G.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Allix, J. P.||Lascelles, hon. E.|
|Arkwright, G.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Beresford, Major||Morgan, O.|
|Broadley, H.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Broadwood, H.||Packe, C. W.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Palmer, R.|
|Christie, W. D.||Richards, R.|
|Deedes, W.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Denison, J. E.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Denison, E. B.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Stuart, J.|
|Forbes, W.||Strutt, E.|
|Forman, T. S.||Trotter, J.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Warburton, H.|
|Henley, J. W.||TELLERS.|
|Hodgson, R.||Hume, J.|
|Horsman, E.||Wodehouse, E.|
§ House in Committee. On Clause 1,
§ CAPTAIN PECHELL,
with a view to protect from removal the industrious poor who had laboured in towns, moved, in line 7, after the word "parish," to insert the words "who has maintained himself therein by his industry, or been a householder therein."
§ SIR G. GREY
said he had conferred with the Attorney General respecting the Amendment proposed, and they both thought that it would tend to restrict the operation of the Bill within undue limits, and that it would give rise to extensive litigation. The practical operation of the Bill would be of the nature contemplated by the hon. and gallant Captain. The effect of his Amendment, however, would be, that all those who resided in one parish and had worked in another would be exempt from the operation of the Bill. He could not give his consent to the Amendment.
MR. V. SMITH
said, it had been repeatedly complained of, as a great hardship upon ratepayers, that poor persons who lived in their parish, but who walked some four or five miles to their labour in another parish, should be chargeable upon the parish in which they resided, and not upon that in which they worked. He hoped the Attorney General would endeavour to introduce some words into this Bill to render it what it was originally designed to be—a measure connecting irremovability with industrial residence. He called upon the learned Attorney General to define the meaning of the term "residence." The right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester (Sir J. Graham) had, on a former occasion, promised to define the expression, but he had not done so; and he (Mr. V. Smith) considered, that if the right hon. Gentleman and the law officers of the Crown hesitated to give such a definition, it was rather hard to expect justices of the peace to define this very indefinite expression.
§ MR. HENLEY
urged upon the Government the absolute necessity of introducing into the Bill some words to show whether, by the term "residence," actual residence or constructive residence was meant. This ought to be done, as well in justice and fairness to the poor themselves, as to those who would be called upon to administer the law. If the indefinite expression "residence" was to be retained, undoubtedly great litigation and hardship would be occasioned from the uncertainty of its construction. A poor man might be removed to a parish where it was alleged he had gained a settlement; the order might be disputed; the case, probably, after being decided by the court of quarter-sessions, would be taken into the Queen's Bench, and the parties would be fortunate indeed if they obtained the decision of that court 1397 in less than two years. But what was to be done during this interval with the poor man whose case was the subject of dispute, and who would be left nearly in a similar position with Mahomet's coffin? He considered this a subject which deserved the serious attention of the law officers of the Crown.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
said, before the learned Attorney General answered the appeal which had been made to him, he might perhaps he allowed to say a few words on this point. When he (Sir J. Graham) first introduced this measure, he added to the word "reside," the words "or shall have maintained himself therein as a labourer, mechanic, servant, or tradesman." But having maturely considered the propriety of adhering to these additional words, and having consulted the law advisers of the Crown on the subject, after full and deliberate consideration he came to the conclusion that it was advisable to withdraw them; and on re-introducing the Bill he adopted that course, because he feared that the introduction of those words, so far from removing ambiguity, would give rise to additional difficulties and increased litigation. The definition now proposed to be inserted in the Bill by the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Pechell) was almost identical with that to which he (Sir J. Graham) had just referred, and he considered that it was open to the same objections. Indeed, this point was one of immense difficulty, for if they attempted a definition, whatever terms they might use were open to cavil and objection. Under these circumstances he thought the wisest course was to adhere to the use of a particular term which had long been known to the law of England, and which had been interpreted in innumerable cases. It was true, as had been stated by the right hon. Home Secretary, that there could be no doubt the right interpretation of the term "residence" was industrial residence; but that term "industrial residence," though well known to the law of Scotland, was unknown to the law of England. A remark he had made on a former occasion, that irremovability was equivalent to settlement, had excited some comment. That, however, was the case in effect; for the only difference between irremovability and settlement was this—that irremovability conferred no hereditary right, while settlement conferred the right to relief upon the children of the party who obtained a settlement. They had legislated on the subject 1398 with reference to Scotland in the last Session of Parliament; they had passed an Act for amendings ome of the ancient provisions of the law of Scotland. Now, since the first introduction of a Poor Law into that country, in the reign of Charles II., a residence which in common parlance was there termed an "industrial residence," had conferred the full right of settlement. But although the term "residence" was admitted by the law of Scotland to mean industrial residence, yet in framing the measure to which he had just alluded, the late Government did not attempt to introduce that definition into the Bill, but they used throughout the measure, the largest term, "residence." Therefore, although the term "residence" was construed in Scotland to mean an industrial residence, no definition of that kind was introduced into the Bill. All the existing heads of settlement in England, without exception, required residence as one of the ingredients. A settlement under the old head of hiring and service, which no longer obtained in this country, was gained by forty days' residence; apprenticeship, which still existed, required a residence of forty days. A residence for the same period was required to establish a settlement by the rental of tenements. Settlement by estate required a residence of forty days in the parish where the estate was situated, or at least a residence within a distance of ten miles from the estate; settlement by the payment of rates and taxes, and by serving public offices, also required a residence of forty days. It was the invariable practice, when a settlement case was brought by appeal before courts of quarter-sessions, for the courts to put such a construction upon this term "residence" as on the whole they might think reasonable. To that extent the court was intrusted with a discretionary power. He (Sir J. Graham) had pointed out the difficulty, if not the impossibility of a strict definition of the term; and he contended that the safest course was to adhere to a term which had long obtained in our law, and upon which the courts had put their interpretation. For more than a century the courts of this country had put their interpretation upon the term "residence;" the courts of quarter-sessions and the Court of Queen's Bench had given decisions on the question in innumerable cases; and he hoped that, until some stronger arguments were adduced on the other side, the Committee would think it expedient to adhere to the 1399 word "residence," without attempting any definition of the term.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that it was undoubtedly the intention of the Government to retain this term "residence" in the Bill, without attempting to give any definition of it. His right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Sir G. Grey) and himself had given close attention to the subject; they were aware that considerable difficulty must arise in the construction of this term; but after mature consideration they arrived at the conclusion that by attempting to define the term, they would only render its meaning more doubtful. The courts of quarter-sessions and of Queen's Bench had, in innumerable cases, put their interpretation on the word; and he considered, in revising this Bill, that the safer course was to follow the precedents which were to be found in our own law, and in the Scotch Act to which the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) opposite had referred, and to adhere to the term "residence."
§ MR. P. SCROPE
thought that if the Legislature could not, when called on, explain the meaning of the words it made use of, that circumstance would open the door to great litigation. He thought, therefore, that they should determine what was the meaning of the words used.
§ SIR R. PEEL
considered that the words employed in the Bill implied industrial residence; but if they attempted to define that, they would introduce more doubt than they could create by the simple adoption of the words in the Bill, with respect to which there existed a legal construction. What was meant by industrial residence must be left to the equitable interpretation of those who had to decide on the matter. The gallant Officer (Captain Pechell) proposed to introduce the words "who has maintained himself therein by his industry, or been a householder therein;" but those words were as doubtful as the words in the Bill, and would give rise to much question. Therefore he agreed with his right hon. Friend on this subject; and, considering that there had been a legal construction of the term "residence," and that, let them use what words they might, there still must be a wide discretion left to those who had to decide on the matter, he thought it wise to adopt that precedent which existed in the Scotch Act, or they would subject the point to greater doubt than would prevail by allowing the word "residence" to remain; and deciding 1400 that that should give the right to relief. If they were determined to pass no law exempting the poor from removability until they discovered some words free from doubt, he was afraid that they would be obliged to give up the attempt; and he knew of no words which more excluded doubt than the words in the Bill.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that if by the words in the Bill actual residence was meant, he was of opinion that the talk about the irremovability of the poor was all nonsense; for how could a poor man, or any one else, prove that he had slept for five years in one parish? He would suggest that the decision of the two magistrates who made the order should be final on the point.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Bill went through Committee.
§ House resumed. Bill to be reported.
§ House adjourned at Eleven o'clock.