HC Deb 08 June 1846 vol 87 cc114-22

On the Question that the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Protection to Life (Ireland) Bill be read,


said, that on a former evening he had moved that the Committee on the Poor Removal Bill be taken this evening, in order that he might move that it do take precedence of the other Orders of the Day. At present the Irish Coercion Bill stood for discussion before the other Orders; but he maintained that he was fairly entitled to precedence for the Poor Removal Bill, and that the Coercion Bill ought not to be gone on with till that Bill was discussed, and in some way or other disposed of. He made this claim in consequence of an assurance which had been given by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government when the first reading of the Coercion Bill was agreed to. The right hon. Baronet then stated what he proposed should be the course of business—that immediately upon the first reading of the Irish Coercion Bill he should proceed with the Corn and Customs Bills, then with some Votes in Supply, then with the Poor Removal Bill, and then that he should take the sense of the House on the subject of the Sugar Duties. Now, the right hon. Baronet had disposed of the Corn and Customs Bills, and had taken some Votes in Supply, but he had not yet given the House a discussion on the Poor Removal Bill. On the contrary, he proposed to go on with the second reading of the Irish Coercion Bill. The House was called on to read the Bill a first time as a compliment to the House of Lords; a reason which weighed so much with some hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House, that they voted for the first reading, although they were going to oppose the second reading. Before, however, they went on with the second reading, which must give rise to another long, wearisome, and futile debate, because it never could pass that House, he maintained that they ought to proceed with that Bill—the Poor Removal Bill — to which the House was pledged as to the principle that certain residence should insure relief, irrespective, as it now turned out, altogether of settlement. The adoption by the Government of the instruction moved by the hon. Member for Malton had taken the House by surprise; and he considered that the majority on the division that took place did not really represent the sense of the House. His object, independently altogether of his hatred to the Coercion Bill, now was, to get the Poor Removal Bill discussed before the other Orders, because he believed that a majority of the House would discharge that instruction. Even the noble Lord the Member for London had not said he gave it an unconditional support. If he (Mr. Duncombe) should succeed in getting that instruction rejected, they would then have to go back again to the whole Bill before it had been altered in accordance with that instruction. He thought, under these circumstances, that they ought to know whether the instruction of the hon. Member for Malton, so adopted by a majority on Friday night, really embodied the sense of the House of Commons on the question—of the same House of Commons, which last year was so opposed to the principle of that instruction that the Government dared not proceed with the Bill. He therefore would move that the Order of the Day for the Committee on the Poor Removal Bill have precedence of that for the second reading of the Protection of Life (Ireland) Bill.


would not object to the Motion of the hon. Member if it were agreed to on the understanding that the Order of the Day was only read first for the purpose of postponing it. A majority of the House having on Friday decided on adopting the instruction moved by the hon. Member for Malton, he (Sir J. Graham) on Saturday morning gave directions for the preparation of clauses which in his judgment would give effect to it. Those clauses were ready, but he had not yet had time to consider them. If the Order of the Day were postponed to Wednesday or Thursday, he would be prepared on either of those days, in obedience to the decision of a majority of that House, to go into Committee pro formâ, and introduce those clauses. The hon. Gentleman, however, denied that the majority of Friday expressed the sense of the House, and maintained that to give precedence to the Protection of Life Bill was inconsistent with the arrangement of public business made by his right hon. Friend at a former period; but he was quite sure the House would remember that at the time the second reading of the Protection of Life Bill was fixed for Monday, the Committee on the Poor Removal Bill was fixed for Friday last; and that he (Sir J. Graham), at the time that that arrangement of public business was made, stated that the proposed instruction of the hon. Member for Malton was so important, both in form and in substance, that it must raise a preliminary discussion, and that, if it was agreed to, some delay would be indispensable, in order that the Bill might be modified in accordance with it. The second reading of the Bill for the Protection of Life in Ireland was at the same time fixed for this evening. If, however, the hon. Member for Finsbury, not being content with the decision of the House on the instruction moved by the hon. Member for Malton, after notice given before Whitsuntide—and if he thought it expedient, after the full discussion on Friday night, now, without notice, to put it to the vote in a more full House, by raising the question whether the Poor Removal Bill should not have precedence, of course it was open to him to do so. [Mr. DUNCOMBE had given notice on Friday.] He was not aware of that. He believed, however, that if the hon. Member did take the course he proposed, the decision of the House this evening would be in conformity with their decision on Friday; but, on the other hand, it was most important that the point should be decided, because the form in which the Bill would come before the House would depend upon that decision. Such a reversal of the decision of Friday, after the Bill had been prepared in accordance with it, would, he agreed with the hon. Member, almost render it impossible to proceed with the Bill. If, however, the House should adhere to its decision of Friday night, he apprehended that there would be no objection to allow him, as was usual with Members who had charge of a Bill, to go into Committee pro formâ—on Wednesday, for instance—when the Bill could be presented to the House in the shape required by the instruction, and reprinted.


entirely concurred with the hon. Member for Finsbury, that the House had been taken by surprise on Friday. The surprise among his Friends had been to see Ministers voting for a measure which it was thought they would have resisted, because the right hon. Home Secretary had said some time ago that he found it universally distasteful to the agricultural interest. His Friends had been very thin in their attendance under this persuasion. True it was that they had not been universally in the habit of trusting Ministers; but in this instance they had confided in them, and, as might be supposed, they had been deceived. Before it could be said that the instruction had been adopted by a majority of the House, another opportunity for a division ought to be afforded. He knew not when a more full, free, or dispassionate consideration of the subject could be given than at the present moment. The Poor Removal Bill had been introduced by Government as part of a great comprehensive scheme, and it was to proceed pari passu with the Corn Bill. They were to go through the same stages, and together were to be sent up to the House of Lords. The one was to be taken as a counterpoise to the other; and as the Corn Bill was unfavourable to the operative and the labourer, the Poor Removal Bill was contended to be as much to his advantage. As to interposing any delay in the discussion of the Coercion Bill, he believed the notion was universal that Government had no idea of carrying—that they had resigned all hope, if they had not lost all wish of carrying—it. He admitted the principle to be deserving of consideration; but he had this objection to the instruction of Friday, that the Poor Law Commissioners had made unions so injudiciously large, that unless they were remodelled, the principle would be found impracticable. He trusted that the hon. Member for Finsbury would persevere in his Amendment, in order that a decision might be come to which was not open to the objection of surprise.


said, that the great majority of Members present must have come down with the expectation that the second reading of the Bill for the Protection of Life in Ireland was the chief subject for discussion this evening. When opportunities had become so precious, he should be sorry that a night should be lost. He regretted that the hon. Member for Finsbury seemed to think he had not fulfilled any engagement into which he had entered: he was always anxious to be explicit, and to carry into effect all his assurances; but the House would be aware of the difficulties with which he had to contend, arising very much from not being able to foresee to what length discussions might be carried. He had always felt that the second reading of the Poor Removal Bill had been agreed to, in order that the debate might be taken on the question that the Speaker leave the Chair; and, notwithstanding the great pressure of some Votes in Supply, he had given way, in order that a night might be devoted to the Poor Removal Bill. He could not admit that he had ever led to the expectation that it should proceed pari passu with the Corn Bill: all he had said was, that he would afford the earliest opportunity for the discussion; but he had constantly stated, that, on the first possible occasion, he would submit the Bill for the Protection of Life in Ireland to the decision of the House. As to the instruction carried the other night, it was perfectly open to any hon. Gentleman to urge that it had been adopted by surprise; but it would surely be an additional advantage if due notice were given of an intention to reverse that decision. Notices given in speeches were not entered on the Votes, unless they were subsequently and formally handed in to the clerk. It seemed to him that the House was not at this moment in a position to enter into so important a question as the Poor Law, and he hoped that the night would not be wasted in fruitless discussion, but that hon. Members would be allowed to proceed to the expected business—the Irish Bill.


did not think he was open to the charge of having taken the House by surprise. The Bill as amended, in consequence of the instruction he had moved, was in such a state of progress that it might have been laid upon the Table this evening; but as the discussion of it was not expected, it seemed to him that it would be better to proceed with the business fixed for the evening.


could not agree that the House had been taken by surprise, for the notice had been ample. Before the recess the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had stated that the discussion would certainly be taken on Friday. He was astonished to learn that the agricultural interest was so strongly opposed to the measure, for 1844 and 1845 a feeling against it had been displayed on the opposition side of the House. The question was a most important one, and, considering the helpless condition of the hundreds of thousands affected, it ought to be debated without any tinge of party feeling. He trusted that it would be impressed upon the minds of all that the law would operate upon the poor for many years to come. He had paid the utmost attention to the subject. He had considered it in all its bearings, and he frankly owned that he knew not what course to take in consequence of the vote of Friday night. He really wanted more time. The Motion of his hon. Colleague referred to giving relief in unions, not in parishes, and he wished the House to bear that especially in mind. It involved a question of the continuance of unions under the Government of the Poor-law Commissioners. He had been sitting for some time on a Committee which was inquiring into the subject, and although he was bound not to disclose what passed, he might say, that from deficiency of information the House was not yet prepared to legislate. He had moved in the Committee, and in the House, that the proceedings should be laid upon the Table day by day, his object being, that hon. Members, as far as possible, should be duly instructed. It was impossible for the House to legislate until they were in full possession of the facts.


could not quite agree with the hon. Member near him, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had brought this question before the House in the most convenient shape. Though it was perfectly well known that his hon. Friend the Member for Malton meant to have introduced this question, he thought it would have been better if the House had had some previous notice that the right hon. Gentleman meant to support the Motion of his hon. Friend; or, what would have been still better, to take this instruction into his own hands. His hon. Friend who had made the Motion rightly interpreted his (Lord J. Russell's) vote on that question. He considered it fair to the right hon. Gentleman and his Government that the House of Commons should enable the right hon. Gentleman to shape his Bill in the mode he thought best for the public advantage. It might have been better, perhaps, if the Bill had been withdrawn, and the right hon. Gentleman had brought in a new Bill for the purpose of giving union settlements; but he could not quite see the advantage of going into this question on the present occasion. It was far better to allow the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of fully considering the Bill, and shaping the clauses in the manner he thought it best that they should be brought under the consideration of the House. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire had stated what he (Lord J. Russell) thought a good reason for taking that course, when he said that his reason against union settlements was, that the unions were inconveniently large. Until they saw the Bill, they were not aware whether the right hon. Gentleman meant to propose any modification in the size of the unions, whether they were to be smaller or larger. They had not the details before them, and until they had, they were not in a condition to judge of the question. For himself, he reserved his opinion until the details were before the House. He regarded the whole question as open for their consideration when the Bill should have gone into Committee pro formâ, and been recommitted.


would take that opportunity of adverting to a statement made by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe), to the effect, that while from some towns he had experienced the greatest difficulty in obtaining certain returns for which he had moved, specifying the number of persons removed from Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire, in 1841, 1842, and 1843, he had more especially experienced such difficulty in getting them from the town of Stockport. The hon. Gentleman had gone on to say, that "he had sent down to Stockport, and asked for information on this subject, because he had understood that great numbers of families had been removed from that town in 1842; but the clerk of the union would not suffer the persons who applied on his behalf, although a ratepayer, to see the books of the union, or afford him any facilities for his inquiry." He had received a communication from the gentleman pointed at, declaring that there was not one word of truth in the statement, so far as he was concerned; and that he had always in the discharge of his duties given all facilities for obtaining information as to the working of the Poor Law; that no such application had been made to him, nor did he know till Saturday last that such information was required by the hon. Member for Finsbury. It was added that the return presented to the House was made out as fully, and with as great despatch as possible.


hoped the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Duncombe) would withdraw his Motion, after what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for London.


wished to know what course the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take in reference to the Poor Removal Bill?


proposed to make it an Order of the Day for Thursday.


thought it would be better to see the Bill before coming to a decision on the subject. The opinion of the House might afterwards be distinctly taken on the question of union settlements.


observed, that at an early stage of this Bill the right hon. Baronet was asked whether it was proposed to include Irish paupers under the operation of the Bill, and stated that such was the intention. In Ireland there was no law of settlement, and provision would require to be made in express terms for enabling natives of that country to take benefit under the Bill. He wished to know whether the right hon. Baronet had given directions to have proper words introduced to carry out the intention of the Government.


stated, that he by no means departed from the pledge he had given. He meant to extend the principle of irremovability to the cases of all Irishmen who had resided for five years in the place where they might fall destitute. Had it not been for the high authority of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he should have thought the present words in the Bill sufficient for the purpose.


object was to save the House trouble. The two questions were separate, and ought to remain separate; and there was no use at all in going into Committee pro formâ, until the question had been decided by the House whether there should be settlement by unions.

Question again put.

Amendment withdrawn.

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