HC Deb 23 June 1847 vol 93 cc814-34

On the question that the Poor Removal Act Amendment Bill be read a Second Time,


thought the House was much indebted to the hon. Member for Dorsetshire for having stepped in to endeavour to remove the evils of the Poor Removal Act. He had, last Session, great pleasure in supporting that Act; but when it came to be tinkered by the authorities at Somerset House, he predicted that it would prove a failure, and his prediction had been completely verified. From the beginning of the Session they had been led to expect that some measure would be brought forward explanatory of that Act; but it was now the 23rd of June, and Her Majesty's Ministers had as yet done nothing. In the mean time great evils were experienced. Parishes which had been supporting their own poor, and which, in addition, had been compelled to give relief to great numbers of strange paupers, who had found their way to this country, had waited patiently in the expectation that Government would do something; but nothing had been done, and he therefore thought the House would do well to take the measure of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire as a step towards remedying the evils complained of. It was absolutely necessary that a speedy cure should he found for the existing evils. Why, what were the boards of guardians accustomed to do when persons who had been resident in particular parishes for five years applied for relief? They offered them the workhouse, and the consequence was, that many persons, such as householders and members of families, who were averse to the workhouse, would not apply. They would sooner starve than be placed in the workhouse. This was not the case in those places where the poor were relieved under local Acts. In the early part of the Session, a Committee was appointed to make inquiry upon this question; and since that time it had been sitting with the view of producing something that would satisfy the country, and remedy the inconveniences now experienced; but he had been told—and he believed there was no doubt of the fact—that that Committee had closed its labours without doing anything. He must say, therefore, that they ought to rejoice that the hon. Member for Dorsetshire had come forward and done his best to remove an evil which pressed so severely on particular parts of the country. The law officers of the Crown had given an explanation of the present Act very different from what was expected; and inconsequence of the construction put upon the Act, great cruelty had been practised towards the poor, and injustice towards the ratepayers. With regard to the Bill now before the House, he found that petitions had been presented in its favour signed by upwards of 30,000 persons, and he therefore thought it was a measure well entitled to the favourable consideration of the House. As they were about very shortly to appear before their constituents, the latter would have good reason to complain that, although they had been sitting there since the month of January, nothing had been done to remedy the evils of the Poor Removal Act.


had opposed the Poor Removal Act of last year as one likely to be productive of more evil than good. A great deal was said during the discussion which then took place about the term "industrial residence;" and it was laid down as a principle that when a person had bonâ fide lived in a parish five years, and given the benefit of his labour to that parish, he should be entitled to relief. As a general principle, he was not disposed to contend against this; but no one could deny that it operated very differently in the manufacturing from what it did in the agricultural districts. If a person living in an agricultural district went with his family to a manufacturing town, and settled there, it was perhaps a rational mode of procedure that he should be relieved by the parish which got his labour; but the law operated with great hardship in many parts of the country not manufacturing; and towns of considerable magnitude were in many cases subjected to much inconvenience. This measure was one of those that was last Session put forward as a boon to the agricultural body; and he remembered stating, that, as one of that agricultural body, he did not feel himself justified in accepting any such boon, while other friends around him expressed the same sentiments. His anticipations with regard to the operation of the Bill had been realized. During the last winter it had operated very injuriously and with great hardship towards those who were residing in towns, but whose labour was all bestowed on the adjoining agricultural parishes. The town of Reading afforded a striking illustration. People had stated to him over and over again, that they were not relieved by the parishes in which they were employed, because they were not resident in them; and, on application to the relieving officers of Reading, they were there also refused, and told they had no legal settlement in that parish. One of the petitions he had presented on this subject was from Newbury, a populous town in a large agricultural district, complaining of a hardship in the working of the Act, arising from the influx of paupers, owing to the practice of proprietors of estates in the country pulling down cottages, with the view of forcing the poor into the towns; and in one of the blue books, he found Mr. Chadwick alluded to the town of Reading and its neighbourhood; and stated that that town had been burdened with paupers not belonging to the town, in consequence of the proprietors of estates in close parishes in the nighbourhood pulling down cottages for the purpose of driving the poor into the towns. He had been struck with this statement, and he said at once that he disbelieved it; and added, "Show me a close parish in the neighbourhood of Reading" He made inquiries, in consequence of seeing this evidence of Mr. Chadwick, as to whether it was or was not the fact. He had inquired of gentlemen proprietors and of overseers; and he could assert that in not one of the parishes in the neighbourhood of Reading had this been done with the view of driving the poor into the towns. Cottages had not been built in proportion as the poor population increased; but that was a very different thing from pulling cottages down in order that the poor might be forced into towns. The evidence of Mr. Chadwick was, therefore, not borne out by the fact. The only other observation he should make was, that the measure had been a source of litigation; that it had given rise to very great inconvenience, from the differences of opinion amongst legal authorities as to the true construction of it; and this would go on; so that he thought, upon the whole, as there was no prospect of a more perfect measure at present, that the best course was to repeal so much of the Act as the hon. Gentleman proposed.


said, as to the Act having been a cause of litigation, his belief was, so far as related to the town with which he was connected (Droitwich), that there had not been a single appeal under the Act; and, instead of its being a subject of litigation, there had been very few appeals. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government, and that the House, by a very large majority, would resist this Motion for a repeal of the Act (for that would be the effect of passing this Bill, which was for the repeal of some important parts of the Bill); for, if they repealed this Act, they would be guilty of a great outrage against the poor of this country. His hon. Friend supported his Motion for the repeal of the Act on two distinct grounds: first, the hardship it inflicted upon the poor; and, secondly, the objections entertained against it by the ratepayers. This last ground was the real objection— it was a money question. There had been cases in which the poor had suffered great hardship because boards of guardians would not carry out the provisions of the law, supposing they could drive away the poor from certain localities, and thus save expense to themselves. If any Gentlemen believed that the Act was one of hardship to the poor, he would refer them to a valuable paper moved for by the hon. Member for Finsbury last year, which showed the effect of the law of removal at a time when the manufacturing districts were suffering great depression. That return would show the manner in which the law bore upon the poor; and in the reports of the Poor Law Commissioners it would be found that large numbers of people endured great hardship rather than go before the boards of guardians, as they would be transferred to other parts of England, or perhaps Scotland; and it was in order to arrest this hardship that Parliament passed this law. But he was happy to say, for the honour of boards of guardians, that such hardships had been much exaggerated, and that they had occurred in very few instances. The reports of the Poor Law Commissioners bore out the position he had stated, that where such hardship had been inflicted, it had been inflicted by the boards of guardians, and not by the Act itself; and that, in many cases, instead of inflicting a hardship, the Act had conferred a very important boon upon the labouring classes. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire proposed to repeal this Act, under the pretext that it inflicted a hardship upon the poor; but in reality it was because the ratepayers did not like the additional burden it threw upon them. Was the hon. Gentleman prepared to propose that the burden should be borne by other classes? The ratepayers must bear—they ought to bear—the additional burden for the support of those who had laboured for them, and had given them their best days. The real remedy must be found, not in repealing this Act, but in some material alteration of the law of settlement. He regretted to have heard a rumour that the Committee on the law of settlement, at the commencement of their proceedings, had come to some decision — that they had adopted some resolution of an important character—and had determined by a majority to keep that resolution to themselves, and not to report it to the House. He did hope and trust, that, although a difference of opinion in the Committee might prevent any definite report being made to the House, Her Majesty's Government would take the subject up, and that another Session would not pass without legislation upon this subject. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


would offer a decided opposition to the second reading of this Bill, which went absolutely to repeal the substance of the Act. One of the clauses of the Act of last Session which it was proposed to repeal, provided that a certain term of residence should confer an exemption from the liability to be removed, so that a party should become chargeable to the locality where he resided. Prior to the Act, persons applying for relief were liable to be removed to distant parts of the country; and it was with a view to apply a remedy to this grievance that the Act was passed; and the principle was affirmed by Parliament that a certain term of residence should confer an exemption from the liability to be removed. From all the information he had obtained upon the subject, and from the evidence received by the Committee, he was led to believe that the anticipations of benefit to the poor by the enactment of last year had on the whole been fully realized. He was happy to hear from the hon. Member from Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) that in his district the measure had operated favourably. Without denying that in many instances cases of hardship might have occurred, both to the ratepayers and to the poor, yet he believed that the balance of good derived from the Act greatly exceeded the inconvenience; and that it would inflict greater injury on the poor to restore the old law, than to retain the Act of last Session, now sought to be repealed. The hardship of which complaint was made with regard to the poor, was such as was incident to any change concerning the law of settlement. A degree of uncertainty would necessarily for a time exist. In reference to the case stated by the hon. Member for Berkshire, with regard to the parish of Reading, he believed that, if the former law were to be revived, the hardship, instead of being removed, would only be repeated. The hon. Gentleman stated that the parish officers of Reading, not being aware of their liability, refused to carry the law into operation by relieving the poor persons who had become chargeable to the parish. But that was before the real nature of the law was understood by them. He hoped that when the magistrates and other gentlemen of influence residing in the neighbourhood should point out to those officers the nature of the duty thrown upon them by the Act of last Session, they would no longer adhere to what was an illegal course, but would act in obedience to the law. If Parliament wore to alter the law again, as it was proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Dorsetshire should be done, the same inconvenience would ensue. Other parishes, in the first instance, would not admit their liability; the same uncertainty would occur; and the poor would be without that relief which the law entitled them to receive. Every day the present law remained in operation, the doubts entertained respecting it would diminish, and the hardships resulting from those doubts would be lessened. But when litigation was spoken of as a consequence of passing this Act, he would ask hon. Gentlemen whether they had considered the amount of litigation which this Act had been the means of abolishing? Was there no litigation arising out of disputed settle- ments? Had not that been diminished by this law to a very great extent indeed? It was no objection to this Act to say that litigation had not wholly ceased, unless it could be shown that it had increased instead of having diminished. He admitted that cases of hardship and much inconvenience did exist, especially in regard to one burden which was thrown by this Act, in certain cases, upon the ratepayer, and to which he ought not to be made permanently liable. He expressed that opinion last year; and on that occasion said, that this law was not one which could be proposed with a view to its remaining permanently on the Statute-book, without any ulterior or greater change being made in the law. But the question was, whether this was a case of such pressing emergency, and of such importance, as to require the House to retrace its steps, and replace the law as it stood before this Act was passed? To that question he had not the slightest hesitation in saying they ought not to change the present law by any such measure as that now proposed. That it would be necessary to consider the whole question, both of the law of removal and the law of settlement, in a future Session, he fully admitted; but it would be most unwise merely to return to the state at which they were at the end of last year, when it was felt by all parties that the whole subject must undergo a speedy revision with a view to the enactment of some general measure. The hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) had referred to the Committee sitting on the subject. The evidence taken before that Committee would be a most valuable record; and when the question for making an alteration in the law of settlement, and of removal came to be considered (which must be the case at an early period), that evidence and the resolutions to which the hon. Baronet referred, would deserve careful perusal. It would appear, when the evidence and resolutions were reported to the House, that there prevailed a very general if not unanimous opinion that the law required a very extensive change, and that one of those changes ought to be an extension of the area of rating. With regard to the petitions of the people, he denied that any had been presented in favour of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Dorsetshire. The petitioners, indeed, spoke of the operation of the Act of last Session, and asked for its repeal, or that it should be amended. A great majority of the petitioners wished the law of settlement to be entirely abolished; others wished it to be changed by extending the area of rating and the right of settlement from the parish to the union; but none asked that the House should return to the law of settlement as it existed last year, unless it were impossible to find an alternative. Mr. Gulson and Mr. Pigott were examined before the Committee; and their evidence was in favour of an extensive modification of the law of settlement. It would, therefore, be most unwise in Parliament to agitate the question until they were prepared to deal with the whole subject. It would lead to the most mischievous consequences. This question had been before two Committees in the course of the present Session—one of the Commons, and one of the Lords. The Commons' report stated, that the most prominent difficulty under the present Act was attributable to doubts entertained as to the construction of the first section of the Act; but, whatever were the evils arising from those doubts, the Committee did not consider them of such urgency as to recommend that they should be removed by any act of legislation of a temporary nature. Now, the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Dorsetshire would be one of a temporary nature, because the general question would still have to be dealt with by Parliament. The resolution to which the Lords' Committee arrived, declared that it was not advisable that Parliament should make any alteration in the Act of last Session, pending the consideration of the law of settlement. Such were the opinions of the two Committees on this subject, although he believed there was not an individual Member on either of those Committees who did not think that a very material alteration in the law of settlement and of removal should take place. For these reasons, he hoped the House would reject the Bill, and not consent to repeal an Act which was a very great improvement on the old law. At the same time, he admitted that all the authorities on this subject were in favour of an alteration of the law of settlement generally; but with respect to what that alteration should be, he would express no opinion now.


said, it appeared to him that the right hon. Baronet did not feel very great confidence in the justice and well-working of the measure of last Session. The hon. Member for Droitwich had said, that that measure was not proposed as a boon to the agricultural interest. He contended that it was. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tarn-worth (Sir R. Peel), when introducing the Corn Law Bill, said— I come now to a law which is the subject of complaint, and justly so, by the agricultural interest—I mean the present law of settlement. In another part of the same speech the right hon. Baronet said— We propose not only to relieve the land from a burden, but we propose to do an act of justice to the landed interest by altering the law of settlement. This evidently showed that it was the intention of that right hon. Baronet to give that law as a boon to the agricultural interest; but he quite agreed with the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) that it was not accepted as such; and he believed that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester (Sir J. Graham) did not consider that it was a boon. But, even if it were a boon, though not so considered, still he begged to tell the hon. Member for Droitwich, that if the agricultural interest thought it was a boon conferred upon them at the expense of the labouring classes, they would not take it. He believed the law of last Session had acted most injuriously to the people of this country, and most unfairly to those very parishes that were the most liberal and humane. It had, perhaps, given relief to what were called close parishes; but it had afforded no relief to those that were open. It might also have served the interest of some agricultural parishes; hut in regard to the towns it had acted most injuriously. He knew of a case that had occurred in the Grantham Union, where no less than forty families had been removed from one parish to the neighbouring parish, while they still continued to labour in the former parish, but where they could no longer reside, because their cottages had been pulled down. Should these families become destitute, they would be a burden upon the liberal parish that had received them, to the sole advantage of the close parish that had sent them away. The Act of last Session might, therefore, he well termed an act of injustice and oppression to the poor. Upon this ground he should support the Bill of his learned Friend the Member for Dorsetshire, and he should do so the more readily, because he understood from the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) that it would virtually repeal the Act of last Session.


approved of the principle of the Bill passed last year, which was, that the parish which derived the benefit of a man's labour, should support that man in the hour of need. But what had been the real operation of that Act, by reason of the legal construction which had been put upon it? The construction of the Act was this: If a man and his family went to reside in a town or parish where he had no legal settlement, but where he had friends, by whoso assistance, with a little additional aid from the parish to which he really belonged, he could comfortably live—that, although it could not be called an industrial residence, was construed to give the man a right of irremovability; and the town or parish to which he had so gone was held bound to maintain him and his family. In Birmingham, cases of that description had occurred to a great extent. This was a great and pressing evil, and constituted an emergency which ought to be immediately provided for. They must take care that they did not change ratepayers into rate-receivers. The subject was a matter which required great consideration; and he called upon the House at any rate to repeal the existing Bill.


denied that the Bill was intended to act harshly towards the poor; but it was because the ratepayers felt the pressure, that they inflicted the greatest hardships upon the paupers to induce them not to remain in the towns. There had been difficulty in interpreting the Act; and when the Attorney General gave his opinion on his own Act, he gave a very different meaning to the Act than that which the Legislature contemplated. The consequence was, that the Act, by general consent, was almost a dead letter, and litigation had not gone to the extent it would otherwise have gone. By the evidence of Mr. Coppock, the town-clerk of Stockport, and the clerk of the board of guardians, given in reply to a question from Sir J. Graham, it was proved that the Act was injurious to the poor, and that its repeal was preferable to a declaratory Act. The Committee had sat all the Session and had come to no good opinion; and he did not think that any benefit would arise from waiting for their determination; if he thought otherwise, he would not vote for the Bill of the lion. Member for Dorsetshire. By voting for it he would be relieving the ratepayers, benefiting the poor, and preparing the way for a more perfect arrangement of the law of settlement.


thought the law as it stood was a hardship on the poor; and the reason why the Act had not been further carried out was, because the general belief was that it would be altered or repealed. He was sure that the continuance of the present Act would aggravate existing evils, and he therefore trusted that the Motion of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire would be agreed to.


said, that after the speeches of his hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, in opposition to the Motion of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire for the second reading of this Bill, it would not be necessary for him to detain the House by repeating the arguments urged by them; but he would notice an observation that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton with respect to a remark that had fallen from the noble Marquess the Member for Stamford. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that, considering the merits of the question then under discussion, it mattered little what was the precise understanding upon which the Bill introduced last Session was brought forward; hut, as the matter had been mooted, he thought it right, as the reputed author of that Bill, to give an explanation to the best of his memory of the circumstances of its introduction. When he brought forward that Bill, he distinctly stated that it was not intended as a measure of compensation to the agricultural interests who were so much affected by the repeal of the corn laws; and he expressly stated that if he could have ventured to bring it forward as such, which he did not, he knew it would have been rejected as a measure of compensation. No compact whatever existed as to the introduction of that Act; and, moreover, the proposition then made by him was by no means new. On the contrary, in August, 1844, he himself introduced a Bill relating to the law of settlement containing the very provision embodied in the Act of last Session. He had before him the clause in question, in the Bill of 1844, containing the principle of an industrial residence of five years, conferring a right to relief and irremovability. He appealed to the House whether the clause introduced by him in 1844 was not in principle, and almost in detail, identical with the proposition brought forward by him last year, and which received the sanction of Parliament. But he thought that the matter they were about to decide was to be tried upon this issue—is it favourable or unfavourable to the poor? And, first, he might say that he entirely assented to the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich, and dissented from that which had been laid down by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire. The hon. Member had said, that this Act was favourable to the rich, and injurious to the poor. He joined issue upon that ground; and he contended for the maintenance of this Bill, that, although it might inflict on the ratepayers a partial injury, its repeal would be an injury to the great body of the poor. Let them consider who were the recipients of relief, and under what circumstances the different classes of paupers were entitled to relief. The first, and by far the greater class, were those who resided in parishes where they were settled, and where they were entitled to relief. Upon that class this Act had no effect whatever, favourable or unfavourable. He would then consider another class, and that was the class upon which to a certain extent he admitted that the Act had, in the first instance, operated injuriously—he meant the class of paupers who were not resident in the places where they were settled or entitled to relief. He admitted that, upon the first passing of this Act, to a limited extent those persons did suffer; but he must observe, that he had great doubt whether, according to the strict interpretation of the law, persons not resident in the place of their settlement were entitled to permanent relief in places elsewhere than their settlement. Those who were practically acquainted with the administration of relief knew that giving relief under such circumstances was necessarily exposed to great imposition and fraud. At all events, that kind of relief was not generally encouraged, and when given was always open to great abuse and fraud. But that was the only class adversely affected by the Act of last Session. He would then refer to a third class, upon whom the Act conferred new and unmingled benefits; he meant a class resident in parishes where they were not settled, and not in the receipt of relief from the parishes where they had a settlement; a class who, however destitute they were, never up to the passing of this Act would venture to apply for relief for fear of being removed. For that class, the most suffering of all, the Act of last Session was the most beneficent measure ever passed. There was another class which he would also ask the House to consider—a class numerous in the manufacturing districts and in this metropolis — the industrious Irish, who had laboured in this country for more than five years, and had contributed to its wealth; and yet, the moment they became destitute and applied for relief, were liable to be removed. Upon that class, also, the Act of last Session conferred an unmixed benefit. He had now gone through all the classes of paupers in this country who were entitled to relief; and by far the most numerous classes were either entirely unaffected by the Act, or received great benefit from it. There was one small class which had received a temporary injury from it; but the Committee had had evidence the most conclusive that an adjustment had been going on between parishes where paupers were settled, and other parishes where they were resident, either for an interchange of paupers or a continuance of the relief to them as an equivalent for the relief afforded to their paupers by other parishes. He believed that the hon. Member for Birmingham was one of those who supported the Act of last Session, and who did not regret the course he had taken; but he was perfectly willing to concede to the hon. Gentleman that the Act had received a more extended operation in consequence of the construction put upon the words of it than was originally intended when it passed that House; and he asked them again to try that alteration by this test—had the poor been injured by such extension? He denied that they had; and that, so far from being injured, the interpretation put upon the Act was most humane and beneficent. Instead of the variation from the intention of the Legislature in consequence of such construction being a reason why the Act should be repealed, if they had any regard for the condition of the poor it was an additional reason why it should be maintained in its present integrity. Allusion had been made to what had fallen from him when this Act was introduced. He did not retract one word of what he then said. He admitted that the Act, though most beneficent to the poor, had in some localities effected an injustice on the ratepayers; and he had always contended, and still contended, that both with regard to the interests of the poor and the ratepayers there ought to be, concomitant with this measure, a revision of the law of settlement and of the law of removal; and that at all events there ought to be a more extended area of rating. The Committee, of which he was a Member, had laboured five months on that inquiry. They had accumulated an immense mass of evidence, and he regretted the decision they had come to on the preceding day not to report any resolution to the House; hut, fortunately, without any determination of the Committee to report, by an admirable regulation of that House, their proceedings would not he unknown. All their proceedings would be before the House and the country. How each Member voted with respect to each resolution would be seen and known; and it would then be apparent that a considerable majority of the Committee thought that the' law of removal ought to be abolished; that a wider area should be given to rating; and, in the opinion of the Committee, removal being abolished, the limits of the existing unions subject to revision, afforded the best field for the extended area. Those propositions, taken in conjunction with the evidence, would, he hoped, enable the public to form their opinion upon those important subjects during the recess; and, whilst they would afford to the Government an admirable opportunity of ascertaining the public feeling upon them, he trusted they would look to the whole subject dispassionately and carefully, and that at the opening of the new Parliament the Government would be prepared with some substantive proposition. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire, in stating his case for the introduction of this Bill, had referred to authorities; and he cited only the authority of a clergyman at Blandford and of a gentleman at York, known to his right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of that city, he believed, the editor of a country newspaper. He would not weary the House by proceeding to quote the opinions of the most competent authorities with respect to the Act itself; but he would state, that Mr. Hall, an assistant commissioner for one of the metropolitan districts, having under his superintendence a population of about a million and a half, said, that as to the recipients of relief, he could not find that there was any complaint whatever of the operation of the Act; that amongst the ratepayers complaints were rapidly diminishing; and he gave the most satisfactory testimony as to the general beneficial working of the measure. He could not therefore hesitate in the course he should take; and he consequently trusted that the House would by a large and de- cided majority refuse the second reading of the Bill.


said, that although. Mr. Assistant-commissioner Hall had home testimony in favour of the Act, there was hardly another witness who had not spoken in condemnation of it. No one could doubt that the operation of the measure was most injurious to the interests of the small ratepayers, whether they resided in the country or in towns. It appeared to him that the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, seeing no prospect of an early adjustment of this important subject, had acted most wisely in bringing forward the present measure, to remove a nuisance, the ill effects of which were very generally acknowledged.


hoped, considering the position which he had occupied with reference to this measure, that the House would excuse him if he took up their attention for a few minutes; and he was the more induced to address them, when he remembered the frequent references which had been made to the proceedings of that Committee of which he was a member. From what had occurred during the pre-sent discussion, it would seem as if the House thought it was the duty of the Committee to take the business of legislation wholly off their hands; and there seemed to have been considerable dissatisfaction felt that the Committee had not presented such a report as would at once have put an end to all doubts and difficulties. Now, he must say, that that was expecting rather too much—it was expecting much more than was ordinarily required of Committees — especially from Committees to which delicate and difficult duties were assigned; and he felt the more justified in making this observation when he called to mind the many important interests connected with the subject, and the exceeding difficulty of the whole question. The House could not fail to remember, that in the course of the present discussion, some complaints had been made against the Committee on account of what was said to be the unsatisfactory termination of their labours; and some hon. Members thought proper to be witty at their expense. But it appeared to him, that the great object to which the Committee were bound to direct their attention, was to collect and methodize all the material evidence that they could obtain relating to the subject referred for their inquiry, and to bring the difficulties of the question in connexion with that evidence before the House. It seemed also to be a part of the duty of the Committee to collect the most feasible schemes which had been suggested for remedying the evils which gave rise to the inquiry; but he conceived it to be a great mistake if any one supposed that fifteen Gentlemen were appointed, not merely to obtain material evidence or hear suggestions, but to assist the House with their opinion, and relieve the whole representative body of this country from the task of legislating upon the subject referred to that Committee. They were not called upon, and, speaking generally, he did not think that Committees were called upon to do anything of the sort. If the House had said to the Committee, "We feel ourselves incompetent to the duty of legislating upon this subject, and we transfer that duty to you, the Committee—your report shall be received as final, and your resolutions shall become law"—such an instruction would have very materially altered the state of the case. But he, as one member of the Committee, never had taken a view so ambitious as that of the duties which he was called upon to perform. He had looked merely to collecting evidence; and he took upon himself to say, that in the performance of that task, the Committee had discharged their duty faithfully and efficiently. They engaged cheerfully and sedulously in the arduous, and as he thought important, duty of obtaining evidence from various parts of the country. At the same time he must be allowed to add, that if the Committee had acted upon the suggestions made to them, and had examined every witness whose evidence was supposed to be essential in this matter, he undertook to say, that if the next Parliament sat for seven years, they could not have gone through the whole of the testimony which the Committee had been advised to receive. The first duty in which the Committee engaged was to obtain information from those who were best acquainted with the practical working of the law; and he now appealed without hesitation to the House, to say if it could have been possible for them to obtain a better class of evidence than that which they had selected. It appeared to him, that no class of men could possess more practical knowledge than those who had been examined by the Committee; and he ventured to say, that very few persons, perhaps no one, could read the evidence appended to the report of the Committee, without having his practical knowledge increased, no matter how great it might previously have been. The Committee had also considered it to be their duty to listen to all the useful practical opinions that they could obtain respecting the working of the law; and to all the practical suggestions which were laid before them, with the view of bringing all the knowledge that could be collected on the subject into something like a focus, in order that the House might have before them all possible complaints and opinions, as well as the several remedies which could be suggested for counteracting the evils imputed to the existing state of the law. This was the duty which the Committee had proposed to themselves; and he ventured to affirm that no one would be so unjust as to say that they had not discharged that duty faithfully and efficiently. He had been himself the chairman of the Committee; his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department was also a member of the Committee. Upon that account, as well as for other reasons, it was thought that the Government ought in the proceedings of the Committee to take the initiative—it was considered that it lay with them to do so; and in the Committee he proposed resolutions of which no one could say that they did not satisfy the conditions to which he had just adverted. The Committee fully canvassed the plans which were laid before them, and they adopted some parts of the suggestions made to them, and rejected other portions. But was that all? No, the hon. Member for Stroud proposed a plan of his own, a portion of which was incorporated in the report of the Committee, and the rest was rejected. The hon. Member for Leeds proposed some resolutions which were discussed and rejected; so likewise wore the propositions of the hon. Members for Fins-bury and Rochester, and various other proposed changes were discussed and rejected; but nevertheless the results of them were apparent in the report which the Committee had laid before the House; besides which, a mass of evidence had been brought before the House, of which the House and the country would now be enabled to judge for themselves; and thus, as he conceived, great good had been effected. He had thought it necessary to state now to the House, in a few words, the labours of the Committee, before he took any notice of the conclusions at which he himself had arrived as to the law of settlement. He confessed he had seen no reason to change the opinion which he had expressed when one of the resolutions was under discussion. In the course of the investigations in which the Committee had been engaged, such a picture had been drawn of the working of the law of removal, that they felt they could no longer be parties to inflicting upon the poor of this country an evil so intolerable as that of liability of removal from parish to parish. He went into the Committee with a strong impression that the law ought to be left as it was. He thought and argued against interference with the existing state of the law; but he never gave any vote with a more perfectly conscientious feeling of rectitude than in favour of that resolution which declared that the law of removal was injurious to every class, and most intolerable to the industrious labouring people of England. He repeated, that the labours of the Committee had done great good, though they might not have fulfilled all the expectations which some hon. Members seemed to entertain. The possibility of a modest young Member deriving no advantage from their labours had been suggested; certainly a lazy and stupid Member would not, from the report, find that the Committee had performed for him the duties of legislation. If a modest young Member possessed true wisdom, he might derive no inconsiderable advantage from a perusal of that report; and if that imaginary Member, in the next Parliament, were to look at the evidence which the Committee laid before the House, that evidence would enable him to draw conclusions well calculated to assist him in the task of legislating upon the subject then under consideration; and he must be a very crotchety, as well as a very modest young Member, if he did not draw from the evidence practical conclusions to which he might afterwards safely adhere. Having now expressed the conclusion at which he had arrived with reference to the state of the law and the condition of the poor, he presumed there could be no doubt as to the vote that he should give. In the course of the present discussion, some observations had been made with respect to there being a necessity for introducing a Bill to amend or explain the former Bill. He had always considered that the distinction taken between irremovability and settlement was not tenable; at the same time, he was willing to admit, that if the subject now before them related to amendment or to interpretation, the question which they might be called on to decide would be wholly dif- ferent from that respecting which they must that evening give a vote. He was not asked to interpret or explain; but he was asked to repeal last year's Bill, the object of which was to prevent removal; and those who supported the present measure would be for re-establishing the previous state of the law. He knew it was said that the Bill of last Session inflicted hardship on the poor; but he was at a loss to discover by what evidence that position had been proved. The evidence of Mr. Cop-pock was most clear—that gentleman showed that he well understood the subject; but he did not show that the law of last Session had worked injuriously for the poor. He did not understand the mischief which the Bill was said to have inflicted— at all events if there were any evil in it, Parliament had incurred that evil with their eyes open. Would any one tell him, or would any one maintain, that the law which prevented the removal of the poor could be detrimental to the poor? If they repealed the Act of last Session, without creating a perfect settlement, they would inflict upon the poor a gross hardship. There could not be a more just cause of discontent to the labouring poor, than their liability to removal. He wished that the House would, upon this question, consider what had been their course of legislation for the last fifteen years. It had been against the interests of the poor. The old law of settlement gave a settlement by hiring and service and by apprenticeship. Apprenticeship had been almost, and the right from hiring and service had been entirely, swept away. Hardly any one could now acquire a settlement in the place where he had worked and spent his days. The practical effect of this was, that whenever a poor man became destitute, he was almost always liable to the chances of removal; he never till now heard that the Act creating irremovability had been otherwise than beneficial to the poor; and now the hon. Member for Dorsetshire proposed to repeal that Act—simply to repeal it— although it was the only Act passed during the last fifteen years at all calculated to mitigate the sufferings of those who became chargeable to their parishes. He trusted, then, that the House would not accede to any such proposition. Whatever might be the evils of permitting the law to remain as it was, there could be no doubt that those evils would be much less intolerable than the mischief that would not fail to arise from the measure of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire. Some advantage might be derived from extending the area of rating: upon that point, however, and indeed upon any other relating to the matter before them, he was not then prepared to make any proposition; but the House had heard his right hon. Friend say that the Government would not lose sight of the matter, and that they would direct their best endeavours to place the law of settlement upon a new, and, as they ventured to hope, a satisfactory footing. But in the face of those considerations—in the face of the growing opinion of the country —in the face of the growing wish that the area of rating should be extended, he did entreat the House not to take a retrograde step by recurring to one of the worst principles of legislation. On those grounds he should oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. He hoped the House would reject it; that they would postpone till next Session the task of devising the best possible remedy for the existing evils; and that they would remember that the interest of the country was deeply involved in the step that they were about to take.


replied. He did not fear that the measure which he had proposed would have the effect of producing such discontent as the hon. Member apprehended. His right hon. Friend behind him, the Member for Dorchester, proposed in 1844 the test of industrial residence, and from that principle it was not now proposed to make any very great departure. It should be remembered that several witnesses who were examined by the Committee said that the sooner the law of last Session was gotten rid of the better.

The House divided on the question, that the word "now" stand part of the Question: —Ayes 102; Noes 105: Majority 3.

List of the AYES.
Adderley, C. B. Christopher, R. A.
Allix, J. P. Clive, Visct.
Arkwright, G. Davies, D. A. S.
Bailey, J. Denison, J. E.
Barrington, Yisct. Denison, E. B.
Bentinck, Lord G. D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. C.T.
Blackstone, W. S. Douglas, Sir H.
Boldero, H. G. Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Borthwick, P. Duncombe, hon. O.
Bramston, T. W. Farnham, E. B.
Broadley, H. Fielden, J.
Brooke, Lord Fellowes, E.
Buck, L. W. Floyer, J.
Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W. Forbes, W.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Fuller, A. E.
Burroughes, H. N. Gaskell, J. M.
Carew, W. H. P. Gladstone, Capt.
Chaplin, W. J. Gore, M.
Goring, C. Pinney, W.
Granby, Marq. of Prime, R.
Grimsditch, T. Repton, G. W. J.
Hall, Sir B. Rice, E. R.
Heathcoat, J. Richards, R.
Heneage, G. H. W. Rolleston, Col.
Henley, J. W. Round, C. G.
Hervey, Lord A. Round, J.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Seymer, H. K.
Hodgson, F. Seymour, Lord
Hodgson, R. Sheppard, T.
Hotham, Lord Shirley, E. J.
Houldsworth, T. Smith, A.
Hudson, G. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Hussey, T. Spooner, R.
Ingestre, Visct. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Stuart, J.
Kerrison, Sir E. Tancred, H. W.
Lennox, Lord G. H. G. Taylor, E.
Liddell, hon. H. T. Thornhill, G.
Lowther, hon. Col. Tollemache, J.
Manners, Lord C. S. Trelawny, J. S.
Manners, Lord J. Trollope, Sir J.
Miles, W. Trotter, J.
Morris, D. Vyse, H.
Mundy, E. M. Waddington, H. S.
Muntz, G. F. Welby, G. E.
Neeld, J. Williams, W.
Newdegate, C. N. Wodehouse, E.
O'Brien, A. S. Worcester, Marq. of
Packe, C. W. Yorke, H. R.
Paget, Col.
Palmer, G. TELLERS.
Pechell, Capt. Bankes, G.
Pennant, hon. Col. Palmer, R.
List of the NOES.
Ainsworth, P. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Alford, Visct. Gore, W. R. O.
Anson, hon. Col. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Antrobus, E. Greene, T.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Grosvenor, Lord R.
Baine, W. Hallyburton, Lord J.
Bannerman, A. Hanmer, Sir J.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Hastie, A.
Bellew, R. M. Hatton, Capt. V.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Hawes, B.
Bodkin, W. H. Hollond, R.
Buller, C. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Burke, T. J. Howard, P. H.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Howard, Sir R.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Jermyn, Earl
Christie, W. D. Johnstone, Sir J.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Kelly, Sir F.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Lawless, hon. C.
Craig, W. G. Lindsay, Col.
Crawford, W. S. Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.
Dalrymple, Capt. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Mitchell, T. A.
Dennistoun, J. Moffatt, G.
Dickinson, F. H. Monahan, J. H.
Duncombe, hon. A. Morpeth, Visct.
Dundas, Adm. Morison, G.
Dundas, Sir D. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Ebrington, Visct. Neville, R.
Ellice, rt. hon, E. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Esmonde, Sir T. O'Brien, C.
Evans, W. O'Brien, J.
Fergusson, Col. O'Connell, M. J.
Forster, M. O'Conor, Don
Fox, C. R. Ogle, S. C. H.
Owen, Sir J. Strutt, rt. hon. E.
Palmerston, Visct. Thornely, T.
Parker, J. Towneley, J.
Pattison, J. Tufnell, H.
Perfect, R. Turner, E.
Plumridge, Capt. Vane, Lord H.
Pulsford, R. Villiers, hon. C.
Reid, Col. Vivian, J. H.
Rich, H. Walker, R.
Romilly, J. Walpole, S. H.
Ross, D. R. Ward, H. G.
Russell, Lord J. Wellesley, Lord C.
Russell, Lord E. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Russell, Lord C. J. F. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Rutherfurd, A. Wyse, T.
Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Shelburne, Earl of TELLERS.
Somerville, Sir W. Hill, Lord M.
Strickland, Sir G. M. Pakington, Sir J.

Second reading put off for three months.

House adjourned at Six o'clock.