§ SIR G. GREY moved the Order of the Bay for the Third Heading of the Poor Law Administration Bill.
§ MR. WAKLEY
rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice, that the Bill be read a third time that day three months. He would take that opportunity of recording his vote against this Bill. It was his fixed determination to divide the House on the question. A more improvident or more unconstitutional Bill could not have been introduced; and he apprehended, should it pass into law, the most disastrous consequences to the poor, and the greatest injury to the character of the Legislature would follow. He feared that many hon. Members, in giving their partial consent to its enactment, had been confiding in the Government, without ever having looked at the provisions it would enforce. When the measure had first been brought 843 forward, it was said, "See what changes will be effected; wait only, and you will see it modified;" and the understanding with many hon. Members was, that if these alterations were not effected, they would vote against the third reading of such a Bill. Well, it had passed through all the preliminary changes, and it was as objectionable as ever; hardly one of its obnoxious clauses had been expunged. Under these circumstances, his opposition to it was as strong as at first; and his conviction was, that a Bill more injurious to the poor could not have been introduced. It seemed to him to be a desperate effort to maintain the Poor Law Amendment Act. The Poor Law Commissioners were condemned by all parties now, except the Ministers, who had declared their readiness still to defend the conduct of the officials at Somerset House. The proposition now was to construct a new Commission; to make that Commission as strong as it could be made out of the materials of the Government; and the object was to maintain the iniquitous Act. The Poor Law Commissioners for the future would be among Her Majesty's Ministers. The first clause contained a proposal for allowing Her Majesty's Ministers to name any number of persons they might think fit to be appointed Poor Law Commissioners. The second clause enacted that the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Privy Seal, the Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the time being, by virtue of their respective offices, should be Poor Law Commissioners. By the fourth clause, it was enacted that the First Commissioner named in the letters patent calling the Commission, should be President of that Commission. The seventh clause provided, that any two of the Commissioners, or the President alone, might act, except in cases which would be pointed out by the Bill. The President, that was to say, might act in all eases except in the making of general rules and orders; and that President, it would be observed, would be nominated by the Minister of the Crown. The consequence would of course be, that he would be a servant of the Ministers of the Crown, sitting and voting with those Ministers in the Commission. The eighth clause provided that there should be paid to the Commission, their secretaries and clerks, such salaries as might be approved of by the Lords of the Treasury—in other words, such salaries as might be approved of by the Min- 844 isters themselves sitting in that Commission. The question then resolved itself into the power the Government might exercise in that House. By the nineteenth clause it was enacted that the Commissioners should have power to appoint any number of persons as inspectors, the intention being that the assistant poor-law commissioners should hereafter be called inspectors. He did not see that the country would gain much from that change in title. It would be perceived by the House that the legislative and executive functions of the Government would be blended as intimately as ingenuity could have devised. Ministers would decide in their executive capacity as Commissioners, that which they would afterwards have to discuss when laid before the House. If a case of discontent arose, and complaint was made by a Member, it would be found, that as the Ministers had sanctioned the oppression as Commissioners, they would necessarily be debarred from deliberating freely there on the great questions which affected the welfare of the people. They would never be free agents —they would always be pledged and committed to the line of conduct which elsewhere they had marked out for their guidance. If a Member should rise in that House to protest against any abuse, he would find occupying the Treasury benches men who could not listen to him, because they would be fettered by preconceived notions, prearranged rules and practices. If they were attacked they would call the place hunters and their own followers to their aid; every question introduced in relation to the Poor Laws, previously decided by the Commission, would be made a Government question; and it was, therefore, not difficult to foresee that the interests of the poor must suffer. Under such circumstances it would be impossible ever to obtain justice for the poor; whatever were the will or the disposition of the Commissioners, the Ministers, if a mistake were made, would not be in a condition to repair it. For these reasons he raised his voice against the principle of the measure. He regarded it as one of the most unfortunate propositions ever offered to the Legislature. What had the Poor Law Amendment Act been intended to accomplish? To raise wages—to make the poor independent—to diminish crime—and to lessen in the future the number of illegitimate children in this country. Had it accomplished any one of these objects? Not one. There was not the slightest 845 pretence for saying that any one of the anticipations with which the Bill had been attended had been fulfilled. One exception had indeed been insisted on: there probably might be a reduction in the total amount of money expended. But there was a fallacy in that statement. It was well known, that up to 1834, up to the time of the passing of that Bill, a great number of expenses had been admitted in parishes, put down to the account of the poor, but not incurred by relief to the poor; and it was a notorious fact, that since then these expenses had been disallowed by the Commissioners, and paid from other sources—out of the Consolidated Fund and the county rates. Let there be taken, for instance, the expenses of the office in which he performed his duties. All the expenses of the coroner's office, with the exception of the coroner's fees, had formerly been paid by the parishes, and were now paid out of the county rates. The burden was taken from one pocket and placed in the other, and John Bull was appealed to, and told that be was relieved. It was all nonsense; if the accounts were accurately examined, it would be seen that the amount expended now in the relief of the poor exceeded the amount expended previous to 1834. They bad then been promised that the measure would ultimately lead to the abolition of all Poor Laws, and that the effect would be to do away with out-door relief. And what really was the result? Why, that seven-eighths of the relief administered to the poor was out of the workhouse. The odious Statute of 1834, therefore, when properly inquired into, had been a complete failure; and yet Ministers now adopted the impolitic expedient of taking on themselves the duties of the Poor Law Commissioners, in order to maintain in its integrity that detestable enactment. What would the country have said in 1834 if it had then been proposed that the powers created by the Bill should be intrusted to the Executive Government? What would now be the effect? There were 590 unions, 590 masters of workhouses, 590 schoolmasters, nearly 2,000 relieving officers, and probably 3,000 medical officers; then there were 590 clerks to the boards of guardians; and all these parties, if the Bill passed into law, would hold their offices at the pleasure of the Government. And yet, few petitions had been presented against the Bill, and the House exhibited very little inclination vigorously to oppose it. 846 He would ask, if the Tories had been in power, and such a proposal had emanated from them, what would the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury have said to it? What would a Whig Opposition have said, if, in the old borough mongering times, such a scandalous measure had been introduced? Talk of a Reform Parliament! Why, this was something worse than was ever attempted by the Parliaments of the olden time. Whatever the sins of our forefathers, they had, at least, always been chary of their confidence, when there was mooted the introduction of placemen into that House, or when there was proposed any addition to the power of the Executive Government. Now, the President of the Commission and one of the Secretaries were to have seats in the House; and this would be independent of the enormous, unprecedented, and unparalleled influence which would be conferred on the Government acting in its double capacity. Let hon. Gentlemen remember what was the constitution of the boards of guardians. Let it be recollected that nominally, if not virtually, the boards of guardians were bodies elected from the ratepayers; and, though at present the election was a farce—for the same man was elected year after year—yet, under the operation of this law an inducement would be held out to the clerks to the guardians to throw into the board as much of political power as possible, that they might enhance the value of their own services when the day of election came. And in seasons of political strife and party contest, was it not inevitable that the interests of the poor would be forgotten, or, if remembered, undervalued? Was it wise or prudent to infuse into these bodies, throughout the country, that party spirit which would inflame passion and distract the attention which should be directed to one point alone? It was a most wicked device, and he should like to hoar the originator of the scheme named, that they might exhibit towards that individual that indignation which the character of the proposal so well merited. If they were to judge of what would be the conduct of Ministers as Poor Law Commissioners by the demeanour they had maintained towards the present Commissioners since the And over inquiry had terminated, he confessed he could not but look forward to the future with painful dread. In that inquiry the conduct of the Commissioners had been proved to have been improper and illegal 847 in the last degree; and yet they had heard the noble Lord rise in his place and declare that, having examined all the evidence, should a Motion he made to condemn the Commissioners, he would he prepared to defend them. Therefore, of course, the noble Lord was prepared, with his Colleagues, to imitate the example set to them by the Poor Law Commissioners. He (Mr. Wakley) did not think the case of the Andover Union was an exceptional case. He believed it had only been selected by accident. The circumstances prevailing in that had prevailed in other unions. And what were the facts educed by the investigation? In the Andover union, the poor had been literally starved. He was compelled to refer to the bone-gnawing, which had there been common. The evidence taken proved that the children had been in the habit of picking up the potatoes thrown to the hogs and poultry, running away with those potatoes, and devouring them ravenously. The most dreadful details had been given; women were shown to have carried their own dead children from the workhouse to be buried. And Mr. Dodson, the rev. gentleman who presided at the board, stated that he had authority for what he did, in the rules and orders sent down by the Commissioners. He said that he had violated no law—that he had only acted in conformity with the law; and he had made that statement apparently without any compunction of conscience, and certainly without exhibiting any sense of shame. The evidence taken before the Committee in reference to the union had been as condemnatory of the Commission as evidence could possibly have been; and he had listened with astonishment and amazement to that declaration of the noble Lord to which he had before referred. The noble Lord had retained the condemned men in the Commission to the present day; and the poor throughout England had had the mortification and misery of knowing that they were still exposed to the control of those whose conduct had been deliberately pronounced by a Committee of the House to have been improper and illegal. They had now to expect that the noble Lord would pursue the course thus condemned. It might have been supposed that the assumption of the odious title of Poor Law Commissioner would have especially been avoided. His opinion was, that the wheels of Government would be clogged, and that the system could not go on. He would not shun putting to the Govern- 848 ment questions which, as Poor Law Commissioners, it would be their bounden duty to answer; and, the more frequently such questions were put, the better would it eventually be for the interests of the poor. The Government was about to undertake the management of the dietary in workhouses—to superintend the dietary of the pauper, as it did that of the prisoner in the gaol. This was an affair which might very well have been left to the discretion of the ratepayers; hut this would not be granted; and Her Majesty's Ministers would have to decide if a man was to have more or less than half a pint of meal and half a pound of meat per day. If Her Majesty's Ministers decided against a liberal allowance, what would then be the result? The Crown, the seat of mercy, would be in danger of being brought into odium and contempt; and he was sure that in a time of party warfare, no Administration would be able to stand against the assaults they would be exposed to, from their participation in what would he looked upon as injustice to the poor. He did not care what the Government might be. It was impossible that that Government could stand. Could a Ministry professing popular principles maintain such a position in that House with the mass of the population against them? Take the converse of the proposition. Let Ministers decide for the liberal allowance, and what would the niggardly ratepayers say? What would the boards of guardians say, who had always voted against the liberal allowance? They would turn with the utmost hostility against the Government. Consequently, in every board of guardians the materials for political strife would be in constant agitation; and during those discussions the interests of the poor would be entirely forgotten. After thirteen years' experience of the present Poor Law, the Government might have framed a measure that would have given the poor the benefit of law, instead of placing them under a Commission. They should have brought forward a measure for the protection of the poor, with its principles well defined, and its powers well delineated; but, instead of that, they were to he placed under the discretion of a body called Poor Law Commissioners. Why should there not be a Poor Law court established in this country, with a judge of ability and integrity to sit there? and why should there not be an advocate in that court, paid at the public expense, to plead the cause of the poor? If a law were 849 passed with principles well defined, and a court, presided over by an able judge, established, in five or six years they would have such a code of decisions laid down as would save the country from the most enormous expense. At present, however, they had from persons of no authority whatever in law, reports of such a conflicting and chequered character, that any man, even after wading through all their details, would be at a loss to know what was recommended. Such a system must have worked badly for the poor, and it was working badly for the other interests of the country. It was withdrawing the feelings of the rich from the poor, and the feelings of the poor from the rich. It was calculated to spread abroad the belief that that House was hostile to the poor, and that they were depriving them of the benefit of those ancient Acts that were passed for their protection. Let the House look to the mode in which medical relief was administered. From the vast extent of the unions in many cases, poor people had to travel sometimes ten, fifteen, twenty, and even forty miles in a day before they could get relief; yet, in this Bill no attempt was made to reduce the size of those unions. How was that? Could the wealthy Members of that House believe that they were adding to the security of their own lives and property by taking a course so hostile to the interests of millions of the people? The true conservative principle lay in the wealthy, as their first duty, taking charge of the poor. If that duty were neglected, their own security was gone. Why should such an outrageous arrangement exist as to render it necessary for a man to travel forty miles before he could be relieved? Common sense and humanity taught them that if a man was destitute, he should be relieved as speedily as possible; and if an applicant turned out to be an impostor, that he should be treated as an impostor. But, unfortunately, in that House there were many who thought that nearly all the poor who applied for relief were impostors, and that all the able bodied men who applied for relief were idlers and drunkards. Now, there were thousands of deserving men in this country who had not an opportunity of obtaining their bread by honest industry; and the Act of Queen Elizabeth provided that for such men the parish officers should provide work; but the test of the workhouse was not known in that Act—no such cruel principle was in operation there. 850 The noble Lord might point, as proof that the wants of the poor were relieved, to the large expenditure throughout the country, and say, "Here was an enormous amount distributed every year in alms to the poor." Now, he denied that what they bestowed on the poor was alms. The poor had a right to relief if they were destitute; and no man had a better right to his estate, or any other possessions, than the poor had to this relief. But the noble Lord was mistaken if he supposed that all the money expended was bestowed in relieving the wants of the poor. Was he aware that the establishment charges were enormous, and that in many of the unions they equalled the amount given for the actual relief of the poor? [The hon. Gentleman read a statement from a pamphlet published by Mr. T. Smith, of Liverpool, in which an account was given of the expenditure for the poor and the establishment expenses of the township of West Derby for many years past, the period being divided into cycles of three years each. The statement was in substance that, in the last three years of the Old Poor Law the expenditure for the poor was 3,580l., and the disbursement in establishment charges, salaries, &c, 959l. 2s. 6d.; in the first throe years under the New Poor Law, the expenditure for the poor was 3,251l. 10s. 2d., and the disbursement for establishment charges, salaries, &c, 1,822l. 10s. 11d.; in the second cycle the expenditure for the poor was 4,255l., and the disbursements for establishment charges, 3,064l.; while, in the third cycle, the amount expended on the poor was 4,689l., and the establishment charges were 5,333l.] It thus appeared that, in the three years immediately preceding the operation of the now law, the charges for establishment were 959l.; and that during the last three years, under the operation of the new law, the charges wore 5,333l. And yet it was contended that this was money expended for the relief of the poor! Those were matters that demanded the closest examination; and the Poor Law Commissioners, under this new Act, would find that they had a most laborious duty to discharge, if they looked sufficiently into such accounts. But the object seemed to be to have one commission forming another. The Chief Commissioner of Railways had told them of a commission having been appointed to inquire into the state of a broken railway bridge; and it was no doubt intended that 851 the New Poor Law Commission should appoint several other minor commissions. It would he a breeding commission, and they would soon have a whole family of them. They would multiply fast enough, that was quite certain. The noble Lord, when he advised Lord Althorp not to bring forward such a proposition as had now been introduced, must have been impressed with its unconstitutional character; and he hoped the noble Lord would yet reconsider the course he had taken, and abandon this Bill with more grace than he did the Railway Bill the other night. In such a case as the present, he preferred the advice of practical men to all the mere theorists in the world; and he found that practical men were almost unanimous in their condemnation of this measure, and expressed their astonishment that the noble Lord, who had exhibited so much knowledge on so many subjects, should have brought forward such a measure. A gentleman named Ward, of the parish of St. Luke, who had great experience in the working of the present law, had stated in a letter, which he held in his hands, that this law had unhinged and destroyed the morality and good feeling of society more than any other Act of Parliament ever did before; he stated his conviction that under the Bill now proposed, no Ministry could hold office; and he added, that if Parliament went on with the new scheme, or allowed the law to stand as it was, sooner or later it would end in revolution. The noble Lord saw no signs of revolution. Everything was in that House composed and quiet, and the noble Lord kept his seat without disturbance. Long might he do so! It was with regret that he spoke against the Bill, for he thought the greatest credit was due to the noble Lord for the course he had taken with regard to Ireland. He (Mr. Wakley) had demanded a Poor Law for Ireland more than twenty years age, and at that time was engaged with others in sending a deputation from the parish of St. Giles to the noble Lord on this subject. The conduct of the noble Lord, therefore, in regard to Ireland, had his most cordial approbation, as well as that of the public; and he now deeply regretted that he should have proposed so impolitic and unwise a measure as the present. Why should the noble Lord press forward a Bill that threatened to be attended with such disastrous consequences to the country? He said disastrous, because it would alienate the minds of the people from the 852 Government; and it was his firm belief, that it would encourage an amount of crime in regard to infanticide that would shock the public if they heard the half of what occurred. Perhaps the noble Lord was not aware that an enormous number of new-born children were now found dead, not only in the metropolis, but in all the great towns of the kingdom; and that the majority of these children were in reality murdered; while, from the nature of the cases, it was absolutely impossible to bring the perpetrators of those murders to justice. Many of these children were examined by medical practitioners, and were by them supposed to be still-born children. It was almost dangerous to publish what he was about to state, but the facts were such that the noble Lord ought to know them; because, as the law stood, encouragement was given to the most atrocious crimes. The sin of such a state of things could not be visited on him, because he had endeavoured to alter the law, and to introduce a more humane system. By the present law the magistrates were not allowed to grant an order for a larger allowance to a woman with an illegitimate child than 2s. 6d. Such a law was a disgrace to that House, and a disgrace to the public. Now, women, who were the parents of illegitimate children, knowing the dreadful condition in which they must be left with their offspring, in many instances destroyed them, and resorted to the most cunning expedients to protect themselves from punishment. It had come to his knowledge that women were in the habit of resorting to the most extraordinary means to get rid of their offspring. The woman, when pregnant, went to some place at a distance from her home, and where she was not known, and engaged a lodging, and told her landlady that she came there for her confinement, and at the same time she took care to engage a medical man and a nurse to attend her. But what did she do? She took care privately to deliver herself in the silence of night; and when this was done, she made a noise for assistance, and then the nurse and medical man were sent for; but the child was sure to be dead. If any person in the neighbourhood chose to entertain suspicions on the subject, the case might be brought under cognizance of a magistrate; but when he heard evidence to the effect that the woman had engaged a nurse and a medical attendant, and had also informed the mistress of the house of 853 her pregnancy, and when the woman stated that she had been delivered suddenly, and that the loss of her infant was her misfortune and not her fault, he could not do less than dismiss the case. The noble Lord was aware that there formerly existed, in cases of this kind, what was called the hydrostatic test, and the question of the child being born alive was determined by the floating of the lungs. Probably some women had suffered unjustly by the application of the test; but means had been adopted of obviating the application of it. The practice was, in many instances, for women to deliver themselves in water, when it would be out of the question for the child to breathe, so that it would be taken from the water dead; and if the body was examined by a medical man, and the lungs were tested, he would be obliged at once to say, that the child was born dead, as the lungs had never been inflated. What could be done in such cases as this? If 5,000 women had destroyed 5,000 children by such means, there were no means of convicting them. Such were the effects of this law, which he could not help feeling held out inducements for wholesale murder. He had spoken of facts which had come within his own knowledge and observation. The object of the Bill was to continue, on the largest possible scale, the operation of the Commission in its executive and legislative functions, under which such a state of things existed. Believing, then, the measure to be unjust, and fraught with the most disastrous consequences to the country, he should at once move that it be read a third time that day three months. He should take the sense of the House on this Amendment.
§ MR. FIELDEN
supported the Amendment, and condemned the New Poor Law, which he had always been of opinion was injurious to the poor. Wherever that law had been put into operation, the boards of guardians had been teazed and tormented by the Commissioners to carry out their system of relief of the poor in a harsh manner. In Oldham, which was not under the operation of the new law, the poor enjoyed a better system of relief, and at a less expense to the ratepayers, than any place in which that law was in operation.
§ MR. FERRAND
said, as the House was about to give the third reading to a Bill, founded, to a great extent, upon the principle of the late New Poor Law, as it was called, he considered it to be his duty to address a few remarks to the House. 854 Whatever that House might imagine, the country was aware that when the late New Poor Law Bill was under discussion in the House, Lord Althorp gave a distinct and solemn pledge that some of those cruelties and severe enactments and provisions contained in that Bill should not be enforced against the poor of this country. Whether Lord Althorp expected to control the Poor Law Commissioners, it was impossible to say; but he was prepared to prove that of the statements which Lord Althorp made to the House at the passing of the late New Poor Law, every one had been deliberately violated by the Poor Law Commissioners. He would ask the House whether they were aware of the manner in which the evidence was got up upon which that law was founded? Why, commissioners were sent into different parts of the country to inquire into the state of the poor and into the working of the Old Poor Law. These commissioners knew what were the instructions and wishes of the Government, and in what way they could best satisfy the Government; and the commissioners—most of the commissioners— took care that the evidence should be such as would tell against the 43rd of Elizabeth. There was, however, honesty on the part of some of the commissioners; and he was prepared to show that the Government of the day had kept back those parts of their reports in which the commissioners had stated, that, in some parts of the country, the 43rd of Elizabeth had worked well; in consequence of which the New Poor Law was founded upon a onesided view of the case. He was prepared to assert that the military had been called on to enforce that Bill at the point of the bayonet and the sabre, and that people had been cut down by the soldiers; and the House was now called upon to re-enact this Bill against the feelings of the country, and in spite of the outrages which had been exhibited before the And over Committee. The Poor Law Commissioners had been crushed to pieces; and when the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown said he was prepared to justify the Poor Law Commissioners, he believed that noble Lord was the only Cabinet Minister in that or the other House of Parliament who would say so. Who were the Members of that House who had defended the Poor Law Commissioners? The first was the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), who had been one of the Commissioners of Inquiry to overturn the 43rd of Eliza- 855 beth, and he was related to one of the Poor Law Commissioners. Another was the noble Lord the Member for London, who was also related to one of the Commissioners, and who had got up and said he was prepared to justify the Commissioners. Who was the other Member? for there were but three. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester, the late head of the Home Office, who got up and justified Mr. Lewis; and when he did so, he stated that he had been in constant communication with Mr. Lewis, in carrying out the law; whereas, on a former occasion, he had said, he had no power to interfere with the Commissioners, though he did interfere with Mr. Lewis. Why, it came out before the And over Committee, that the right hon. Baronet was in frequent communication with Mr. Lewis; and that, since 1842, the Poor Law Commissioners were entirely under the direction of the Home Office. What was the treatment of a Member of that House if he performed his duty in opposition to those Commissioners? He alluded to the hon. Member for Weymouth (Mr. Christie). How had he been treated in that House? His conduct upon the Andover Committee had been impugned; he believed it had been termed ungentle-manly— no, that would not be Parliamentary language. He had watched the conduct of that hon. Member on the And over Committee, and he declared that the hon. Member bad done his duty boldly; and the universal opinion throughout the country was, that he had acted the part of an honest, upright, and independent Member of that House, and that the services he had rendered to the country were invaluable. An attack had been made upon the hon. Member for Weymouth for having used a paper in that House against the right hon. Baronet the late head of the Home Office, without giving him notice; and the right hon. Baronet had told the House that the hon. Member for Weymouth had made a most handsome apology to him for having done so, and that he was perfectly satisfied with his conduct upon that occasion. As he saw the right hon. Baronet on the bench behind him, he might refer to his having made use of two documents against him, without giving him notice, charging him with the basest conduct of which a gentleman could be guilty; but the right hon. Baronet had never yet expressed his regret, or apologized to him. If, therefore, the hon. Member for Weymouth was considered to 856 have been actuated by handsome and gentlemanlike feelings in apologizing to the right hon. Baronet for having used a paper against him without giving him notice, how much more necessary was it that the right hon. Baronet should apologize to him for having taken so unhandsome and unparliamentary a course against him? Perhaps he might be allowed also to allude to a statement made at the commencement of the Session by the right hon. Baronet, with reference to a matter now before a court of law. The right hon. Baronet had said that he had appealed to Cæsar, and that to Cæsar he should go; but the prosecution against him had been instituted at the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet. "I suggested to Mr. Lewis," said the right hon. Baronet, "to take counsel's opinion whether the letter was not libellous;" and the right hon. Baronet stated on the 28th of January, that the action would be tried in six weeks. This was the 24th of June; and on Saturday last he learned from his solicitor that Lord Den-man had postponed the trial, and that there was no chance of its being taken before December, or, perhaps, February next. Therefore, whether the right hon. Baronet intended to allow the statement he (Mr. Ferrand) made on the 28th of January to remain unanswered until Parliament was dissolved, he left the right hon. Baronet to decide; hut he confessed he was surprised that the right hon. Baronet should wish the matter to be postponed, instead of immediately testing its truth. He must now allude to what had fallen from the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) on the second reading of this Bill. The noble Lord had said that statements which he had made to the House were unfounded. He had made no statement which he was not prepared to stand by; there was not one which the noble Lord was able to refute. He had asked the noble Lord upon that occasion what statement he had made that was unfounded? The noble Lord, prompted by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (the brother-in-law of a Poor Law Commissioner) attempted, parrot-like, to repeat what he had suggested, but he was unable to repeat it correctly. The noble Lord said he had declared that the Poor Law Commissioners delighted in the murder of children. He had not said anything of the kind; this, therefore, was an unfounded charge against him. He would ask the noble Lord whether this was the way in which he should refer to statements made 857 by Members of that House? And were they going to allow this Bill to pass the House without any defence of the Poor Law Commissioners, and without any security that the poor would be treated with greater humanity, and that the horrors they had endured would not continue to be heaped upon their heads, year after year, and the Government interfered not? He would ask the noble Lord, whether the aged and infirm poor, who, after consuming their best years in labour, were unable to work through infirmity or old age, were to be compelled to see their household furniture sold, and themselves cast out of their cottages, and compelled to live in a union workhouse, beyond the walls of which they were never allowed to pass? The House was going to allow this Bill to be read a third time without considering how it affected the comforts, and the homes, and the labour of tens of thousands of the infirm population. Why, even the hon. and learned Member for Bath—who differed from him respecting this Bill, and who had attacked him in a very violent speech, which, however, had very little effect in annoying him—even that hon. Member had said, he was prepared to interfere for the protection of the aged and infirm, and would have them relieved at home. The House, therefore, ought to have some pledge from the Government that they would interfere on behalf of such persons. They had given all the best portion of their lives to labour, and when they became infirm, their cottages were to be broken up, their furniture —their household goods—was to be sold at the poor men's own door, and, with broken hearts, they were to be driven into places which they considered bastiles. What treatment was this? They were stripped of their clothes, too, and put into a prison dress, branded with the name of the poorhouse; and if a husband of threescore and ten was detected in saying to his wife of threescore and ton one word of comfort or affection, he was taken into custody by order of some sergeant of dragoons or discharged soldier, the master of the union workhouse, and confined to the union workhouse cell for so many hours, and kept on bread and water; and there was not the slightest provision in the law to rescue him from such cruelty, tyranny, and oppression. He would ask the House whether the working people must not regard such a law with feelings of disgust? He told them that there were millions in 858 this country who panted for an opportunity of revenging themselves on their oppressors. Where was there a Member of that House who would stand patiently by and behold his parents, who had been guilty of no crime, turned adrift from their dwellings, and despoiled of their property; because they demanded what was their right? Would not such treatment towards a member of the middle classes, or of the nobility of this country, rouse up a feeling throughout the land that would overturn any Minister who dared to support such conduct? But there was no inquiry—no redress for the poor. So far from it, that if any Member, in the performance of his duty, brought their wrongs before the House, he was immediately met by a false and secret document, charging him with acts which, if true, would have been so disgraceful that he never could have appeared in that House again. There had, nevertheless, been a small but faithful band in that House which had fought against the old Poor Law Bill, and had overturned it, although this new measure was intended to re-enact some of its most cruel and disgraceful provisions. What was the treatment it offered to the poor of this country? The hon. Member for Finsbury had truly said that the 43rd of Elizabeth enacted that every parish should find labour for its own industrious poor. But did they do so? If they did, there would be no able bodied man out of work. But when those industrious men applied to their parish for work, their applications were treated with contempt. During a period of dreadful distress in his own immediate neighbourhood, the board of guardians asked Mr. Mott, the assistant poor-law commissioner, what they were to do with the able bodied unemployed labourers? "Oh!" said that gentleman, "you must take them into the house." "But," said the board, "we have no place for them." It was then suggested by some of the guardians that the people should be set to work upon some waste land; and an application was accordingly made to Mr. Lane Fox for the allotment of several acres for that purpose. That gentleman immediately granted the request of the board, for a more liberal and nobler-hearted Englishman never existed. The board then applied to the Poor Law Commissioners for leave to employ these men on this land; but what was the answer? "You shall not do it!" They refused to allow the board of guardians to employ these poor men out of the workhouse, and told them that if they gave 859 these unemployed ablebodied labourers any relief out of the house, it would be at their peril, for their accounts would be overhauled. The guardians did, however, give them relief as far as they durst, against the wishes and inclinations of the Commissioners. But in how many unions in England were the guardians prohibited from relieving the ablebodied, except within the walls of the workhouse? On the second reading of this Bill, he was taunted by the hon. and learned Member for Bath with wishing to encourage the ablebodied labourer to live in a state of idleness, and at the expense of the industrious ratepayer. Was this the fact? On the contrary, there was no magistrate in his part of the country who committed so many ablebodied labourers to the treadmill for neglecting their families and refusing to work, when work was provided for them, as he did. Whenever any such men were brought before him, he invariably sent them to the treadmill for a month. But it was the height of cruelty and injustice, when an ablebodied man applied to the board of guardians for work, to tell him that they could not give him work, and that if he wanted relief, he must leave his humble cottage, his furniture must be sold, and he must go into the workhouse, there to live upon a dietary that would so reduce his strength that if he ever left the place he would no longer be an ablebodied man. Such treatment as this would eventually and speedily produce a revolution in this country, if it should be persevered in. He remembered passing through the Strand on one occasion, when he observed a public meeting convened for the purpose of opposing the Poor Law. He attended it. One of the resolutions passed at that meeting was strongly condemnatory of the Poor Law. On another resolution, also condemnatory of the law, being proposed, Mr. Feargus O'Connor moved an amendment, which declared "that the working population of this country could obtain no redress either in that House or out of the House unless the Charter became the law of the land." Now, that charter meant that universal suffrage should be granted to the people of this country. There was a large body of respectable people of a higher grade than that of the working population present at that meeting; but there was likewise a vast assemblage of the working population there; and he believed that eight out of ten of all who were present held up their hands in favour of the charter. What was it, he 860 would ask, that had produced this feeling of dissatisfaction among the working population against that House? Why, twenty years ago they never heard anything about the charter; no nor fifteen years ago. They heard, indeed, a great deal about the Reform Bill, and of the vast benefit it would confer on the people; when the Whigs taught the massess to cry out for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." But what had that Bill given to the people? It had deprived them of their franchise, and given them a New Poor Law. He would distinctly declare that there was a feeling springing up among the masses of dissatisfaction, not merely towards the House and the Government, but towards the laws and institutions of this country. But if this system of tyranny and oppression continued to be practised against them, Her Majesty's Government might depend upon it they would not be able to keep the peace much longer in this country. It was the New Poor Law that produced rebellion in Wales; and what was the conduct of the Government of that day? They were incredulous, and would not heed the signs of the times; and it was not until the masses rose with determination and spirit that the Government was obliged to interfere and redress their grievances. The people, year after year, had petitioned the House, and complained of the grievances they suffered under the New Poor Law, and set forth how much they were oppressed; but their petitions had been treated with silent contempt. It was only by the exposure of the treatment they had experienced from the Poor Law Commissioners that the demands of the people of Wales at length became irresistible; and he would tell the Government, that in a great majority of the workhouses of England there existed at the present day a feeling of resentment as strong as ever was exhibited in Wales. Only the other day he was shown through a workhouse, which was regarded as a model of excellence. A sample of the food was produced, which appeared to be better than what the dietary table allowed. The master was asked whether he always adhered to the dietary table; his answer was, "Whenever I find the poor are beginning to get weakened by my adhering to the dietary table, I add to the allowance; but I take care never to let the Poor Law Commissioners know it. A complaint (said the master) was some time ago made to the Commis- 861 sioners upon the subject, and an assistant commissioner came down and walked round the walls of the building; but he never came in, and we have heard no more of the matter." Now, he knew not what the report of that assistant commissioner might be in that case; perhaps he would not make any report at all. Then, with respect to the medical treatment of the poor, he would ask Her Majesty's Government whether they were prepared to allow the present system of medical treatment of the poor to continue? There was not a sportsman in England who would suffer his dogs to be treated as the poor were treated by the present system. The remuneration received by the medical officer in many unions, did not exceed 4d. or 6d. each case. He would appeal to his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley), whether any medical man could perform his duty to a poor patient at such a shamefully inadequate rate of remuneration? He was once told by a medical officer in his own neighbourhood that he had in hand the case of a man whose life he could have saved with case; but it would cost him more than his salary, and therefore the man must die. He would repeat it, the medical officer declared, that by giving the patient medicine he might save his life; but it would cost him his salary to give it. These were the things which sunk deeply into the minds of the poor: they went to their hearts. These were the deeds which the poor brooded over. They talked of them in their workrooms; they discussed them at their meetings; and, above all places in the world, they made them the subject of their discourse at the beershops. The sufferings inflicted on the poor by the Poor Law Commissioners and their tools were the general topics of conversation at those places of resort; and the consequence was, that a spirit of hostility was being generated against the institutions of the country, and was being rapidly imbibed in the minds of the masses; so that, if ever there should be an outbreak in this land, God alone knew what would be the end of it. The next question he wished to be answered by Her Majesty's Government was, whether the children of the poor were to be treated with the same cruelty and oppression as they had hitherto been? It had been the custom to hand over the children of the poor to the manufacturers who applied for them. A master manufacturer would send to the master of the 862 workhouse, and say, "I want so many hands for my mills; send me an account of the number you have, their ages, their sex, and their state of health; and I will either come over, or send some one to look at them." The account was given, and the manufacturer went and took stock of the inmates, and the children were then handed over to this master manufacturer that they might be "absorbed," according to the expression used by the framers of the Bill of 1834 and 1835. And thus, children who were reared in the open fields, and rural villages, were taken from the country workhouses, and sent to the manufacturing districts, where they were speedily used up and destroyed. Was this system to be continued or not? There was very little doubt but the Government would carry the third reading of this Bill by a great majority. The people of this country had come to the conclusion, that it was of no use to have any question in which their interests were mixed up discussed in that House. The Government had a majority at its back, by which they could put a veto on any question which might be brought under discussion; but they had not now to learn that there was another place where those questions could be agitated and discussed, and where the people could bring a pressure from without to bear upon the Government, which they could not withstand. Did the noble Lord, or any of his Colleagues, imagine that they could enforce the worst features of the present Poor Law under the provisions of that measure which was now speedily to become the law of the land? He warned them. There was an agitation out of doors, by which the Ten Hours Bill was carried. For several years he had almost stood alone the advocate of that measure. He was called a madman, an agitator, an incendiary; but he had lived to see men who used those terms against him, advocating that very measure within those walls. He would tell the noble Lord, that with ten thousand times less difficulty than was experienced in agitating the country in favour of the Ten Hours Bill, could a fearful agitation be raised against the New Poor Law. He, therefore, again warned the noble Lord and his Colleagues, and those who attempted to impose upon their minds, what would be the feelings of the people whose rights, property, liberties, and life, would be attacked, injured, and destroyed by this, new law. He did not himself wish to become an agitator out of doors. He 863 had always declined becoming such, whenever he could consistently with his duty. There was to have been an immense agitation on the subject of the Ten Hours Bill during the Whitsuntide recess; but he refused to be a party to it, because he felt that the Government were determined to do justice to the working population with regard to that question. It would, therefore, have been unfair and unjust to raise an agitation out of doors. It never took place, and the working population found no fault with those to whom they were accustomed to look up for advice and counsel. He believed that with the exception of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) there was no Member of that House who enjoyed a greater amount of confidence on the part of the working population than himself. He had been earnestly entreated by the working classes to watch the proceedings of Government and of Parliament, to ascertain whether cither or both were prepared to redress their grievances. But what was the result of his vigilant observation? Why, instead of finding them prepared to do justice to the masses, he saw, even during this debate, that all the petitions and complaints of the working population were treated with silent contempt. The noble Lord and his Colleagues in office had shrunk from all discussion, and had suffered the question to he disposed of in silence. The only notice taken of anything that had been advanced by the advocates of the people was the declaration of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury, that his statement was unfounded. They were a Parliament that had ceased to represent the people. They had deprived the people of the franchise. Before the Reform Bill was passed, the people directly returned 120 Members to that House; but in the course of a very few years hence, they would not have the privilege of returning one. Let him remind Her Majesty's Government that they were now about going to the country. They would have to meet the people at the hustings; and then let them remember that there had been discussed at the close of this Parliament a question virtually affecting millions of their fellow-countrymen, and that this New Poor Law Bill was introduced because they durst not attempt to enforce the present law. But in this Bill there was not the slightest provision made to redress the grievances under which the poor had groaned for the last thirty years. They were to be handed over to 864 irresponsible Commissioners, and to a central authority sitting in London. The poor would still have to walk sometimes even thirty and forty miles to ask for their rights, for the unions were to remain at their present outrageous size. The relief was to he administered according to the same system, and their medical treatment was to continue such as no gentleman would have applied to his dogs. The aged and the infirm were still to be compelled to go into the workhouse, husband and wife still to be separated, and their children to be torn from them. And Her Majesty's Government were going to the country after having passed such a Bill as this! He envied not the feelings of those who should vote for this measure when they would have to stand face to face with their constituents. The Liberal party in that House were ever ready to call themselves the representatives of the non-electors as well as of the electors. But did those hon. Members believe that this Bill would ever pass if the Parliament had been returned by universal suffrage? He was aware that the Poor Law Commissioners appealed to the selfish motives and feelings of the ratepayers. The burden of their song was — "We have saved you millions of money." They had saved nothing, but they had robbed the poor, oppressed them, ay, and starved them to death. He made that assertion upon the authority of verdicts repeatedly given at coroners' inquests. If those verdicts were to be a guide to the public, given as they were upon mature deliberation, and after a full inquiry into the cause of the deaths of the parties; and if it appeared that such deaths had taken place in consequence of the treatment inflicted upon the parties by the officer acting under the direction of the Commissioners, then he was justified in saying that, under their authority, and by their direction, the poor had been starved to death. Why, it was nothing else but murder! [Sir J. C. HOBHOUSE: Do you mean that this has been done by order of the Poor Law Commissioners?] He would give a case in point. He attended a coroner's inquest in the case of a woman who had died from want. He was present when the jury returned from viewing the body. In answer to the coroner, their reply as to the state of the corpse was, that "it was nothing but a bag of bones; horrible to look at, and dreadful to contemplate." The daughter of the woman was examined. The child was greatly distressed, and could hardly 865 give her evidence. She said she had gone to the relieving officer, and asked him to give her some food for her mother; but he refused. The relieving officer admitted the truth of this statement. The coroner immediately asked him— "What have you to say for your conduct?" The officer here, in a most insolent manner, put his hand into the pocket of his shooting jacket, and pulled out the authority of the Commissioners, and holding it out he exclaimed, "This is my authority." By that document it appeared that the relieving officer was directed not to cross the line of a certain boundary to relieve any person who belonged to the union immediately beyond that boundary. It happened that this poor woman did not live a dozen yards from the boundary which divided the unions. The coroner observed that the woman had been starved to death; and the jury said she had been murdered. "But," said the coroner to the jury, "this officer acted under the orders of his superiors, and he cannot be touched." The verdict was, "Starved to death!" He said that the woman was murdered. He repeated that statement in the House; he never stated out of doors what he was not prepared to repeat within these walls; and he repeated there as a Member of that House that this woman was murdered. How long would such things be suffered? Might not the other bonds which united society together in this country be in a moment snapped asunder, if such oppression and tyranny to the poor were sanctioned by Parliament, and authorized by Government? It was said that he used violent language; but it must be recollected that the tyranny inflicted on the poor was violent; and let him tell them that a disease like this required a serious and violent remedy. He was attached to the institutions of the country; he had been a Tory all his life as well as a loyalist, and he was prepared to sacrifice his life for the good of his country; but he would never be a party to the oppression of the poor, and then expect loyalty from them. If he was a poor man, and saw his wife separated from him, his children torn away, and his home taken from him, would not his blood boil within him? Must he not protest against such conduct, and would he not care little whether there was a revolution in this country? He would pray for a revolution; and, since any change must be for the better, he would pray that it might be accomplished. The poor were dying of starvation now in Yorkshire and 866 Lancashire to a fearful extent; and he had been told by a contractor for coffins in one of the unions, that during the last few weeks he had placed in coffins twenty or thirty bodies of those who had died from starvation. The masses had never been in such a degraded state as they were now since England had been a civilized nation; year by year their condition had become worse; year by year they had suffered greater oppression and tyranny: against such treatment they would at last rebel. The poor were driven to rebellion in Wales, and then the Government redressed their grievances; and he implored the House to redress the grievances of the poor now, while there was yet time, or it would be too late; and the country would not be righted without going through the fearful ordeal of a revolution. For these reasons he was proud to second the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
was almost ashamed to address the House upon the present occasion after they had listened to two hours of declamation on a matter which was not before the House, for really the matter for the consideration of Parliament was the distinct proposal before them, and not the whole statute. What the hon. Member for Finsbury proposed was, that the Bill should not pass; but from the large ground he had taken, it would be supposed that they were discussing the whole question of the New Poor Law, whilst they were only really discussing the one particular portion of that law which created a Commission to regulate the administration of the law; and what they had to determine was, whether Parliament should revise that part of the law, and to decide the mode in which hereafter the Commissioners should be appointed. The hon. Member for Finsbury, indeed, had fairly stated what the Bill was; it related, in reality, only to the appointment of the Commissioners; it repealed so much of the present Act as related to the Commissioners, and placed power in the hands of three Commissioners; and it made one real Commissioner, and put with him certain nominal Commissioners, after the fashion of the East India Board of Control: there would be only one efficient Commissioner, who might, if he could get it, have a seat in that House. That was the Bill before the House, and it transferred to the Commissioners so appointed the power which, under the old Act, the present Commissioners possessed. The only question for discussion was the con- 867 stitution of the Board, whether by this Bill it would be rendered more efficient, more responsible, and more efficient in its intellectual and moral condition. That was the legitimate question for discussion on the present occasion; but the hon. Members for Finsbury and Knaresborough — and he must class them together in that respect— though their manner and matter were very different, went much beyond this question. He thought that the hon. Member for Knaresborough had gone beyond the proper limits of the present discussion when he dragged in the whole administration of the present Poor Law. This was not the time to discuss the whole of that law or the law of the 43rd of Elizabeth. He would, however, in half a dozen words state why he should vote for the third reading of this Bill. There had been mistakes; no doubt, there had been the most perfect intention on the part of the Commissioners to do their duty; but in his opinion, much mischief had arisen from the mode of carrying out the law. He did not think that the charge could be fairly made against them of adhering strictly to the enactments of the law; the complaint really was of their vacillation, of not pursuing what they really thought to be right, and of listening too much to the cavils of Gentlemen within those walls, and of the press out of doors; it was not to the Commissioners that he attributed any harshness, but he blamed them for yielding to the pressure without and within those walls. He thought, that in the place of Commissioners who were not in that House to defend themselves, and who were assailed without the opportunity of meeting their assailants, if there was one Commissioner in that House liable for the administration of the law, and who could be questioned at all times by Members of Parliament, they would see with regard to the Poor Law what they saw with regard to the administration of the affairs of India. He saw the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Hobhouse) enjoying that quiet, calm, and peace of mind, which was unknown to the Poor Law Commissioners. When he saw the violence, the vituperation, and the phrases in which the hon. Member for Knaresborough discussed the conduct of the Poor Law Commissioners, and held them up to anything but the admiration of the House— when he saw this position of the Poor Law Commissioners, and beheld the happiness of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Hobhouse), who sat smiling before him, he could not but think 868 that the one was a very enviable position compared to the other. Yet the right hon. Baronet was the successor of those who once governed India, and who had been in the same situation as the present Poor Law Commissioners; the only difference was, that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors had to withstand the magnificent eloquence of Burke, whilst the Poor Law Commissioners had to meet only the words of the hon. Member for Knaresborough. There was a wonderful difference in the intellect and the capacity of the assailants, whatever difference there might be in their miseries otherwise. Under the proposed Bill all violent declamation for purposes which he need not stop to describe would fade away; and why? Because, the moment a charge was made, an answer would be given; the people would not be satisfied to see charges made, which when made, were readily answered; and they would not find hon. Members ready to hazard them as they had done. They would not see in the columns of the newspapers anonymous slanders, anonymous imputations, and lies; hon. Gentlemen on that or on the other side of the House would make their attacks upon an officer of the Government—if the answer were not ready, Parliament would punish the offender; but if the answer were ready, and if the accusation were false, that false accusation would recoil on the head of the accuser, and justice would be done. That would be the result of the Bill then before them; and that being the case, he was prepared to vote for this alteration of the law. The hon. Member for Finsbury himself admitted that a change was necessary; and he was too wise and too honourable and straightforward not to see that vituperation would be repressed if the answer came directly after the charge. That was the ground why he voted for this Bill. Here he might leave the whole subject, and he doubted whether it would not be wise and discreet if he did so; but the situation of a Member of Parliament was very influential; speaking on the floor of that House his words resounded through the world; and, though the person from whom those sounds came might be utterly worthless, and though his accusations might be wholly unfounded, and vile and calumnious, unfit to be refuted, yet the very fact that they were made by a Member in his place in that House gave to the speaker an influence throughout the world so important that he could not refuse to proceed to answer 869 them. Upon that ground he condescended to make some remarks on the observations of the hon. Member for Knaresborough. Now, the charges brought by the hon. Member he would put in the order of their hideousness rather than their truth, or the position in which they were uttered. The first charge made against Commissioners holding office under the Crown was, in so many words —there was no circumlocution about it—that of murder. He made no exaggeration; the House would sec that he controlled his words. The charge was that the Commissioners had murdered the people of this country. Was it then becoming in them—was it becoming in the Commons of England, to hear one of their body—endowed with all the functions of a representative of the people—come forward and make such a charge against three high Officers of the Crown, and take no pains to ascertain the truth? because it would go out that a Member of the House of Commons reiterated the charge; he said that he knew what he was about, and asserted that the people of this country had been murdered by the Poor Law Commissioners. Nay, he went further: he said that he knew the case of a medical officer —and here he entreated the attention of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wakley), who belonged to a generous profession, which was the solace of mankind, he meant physic and surgery —the hon. Member for Knaresborough said he know a professional gentleman employed under the Poor Law, and employed for the medical relief of the poor, who said that he had seen a pauper patient, who might have been saved from death, but that man, though employed under the law, would not administer the medical relief which, under the law itself, he was required to do, because the medicine would cost as much as his salary. Now, upon this he founded part of the charge against the hon. Gentleman of a grave delinquency: if the charge were true, he laid at the door of this medical man, whom he did not name, but whom he indicated, an accusation of manslaughter, and almost of murder; and if the charge were not true, the hon. Member laid upon his own character and upon his own soul the greatest weight which it was possible to contemplate. He would fix the charge upon him; and in the name of the Commons of England he demanded the name of that officer who had thus contravened his duty, and been guilty of an offence, so stated in the face of the Commons of Eng- 870 land. It was declared by law that every man who was a surgeon to an union was bound to administer medical relief; and if any medical man, being surgeon to an union, told the hon. Member, what he said he did, that medical man asserted a falsehood, for the law did not require him to pay for the medicine, as that would come out of the poor rates, and would form part of the legitimate expenses of providing for the poor. Again, he said, even if—and let the House mark the conjunction, and all his phrases, and how he put them—if the medical man said it —even if he did — how came it that the hon. Gentleman, who was himself a magistrate, and who said that he administered the law with that promptitude which might almost be called guilty —how came it that he did not cause an inquiry to be made into the circumstance? — and how came it that the hon. Member stated this as one of the grievances of the people from the law. "See," said he, "what the law requires of medical men; yet here is one who stated of a dying person that he would not administer the relief which by law he was compelled to do;" and yet he laid this as a crime against the law. The next instance of the hon. Gentleman was also one of "murder" —it was right to keep that word distinctly before the House. The hon. Gentleman said, that in his neighbourhood a poor woman died, as the coroner's inquest decided, from starvation. What, then, was the object of the hon. Gentleman? What was the subject which he had to prove? And how did he attempt to prove it? The thing to be proved was, that the Commissioners murdered this woman. A person was murdered —the hon. Member did not state her name, but only that she died in his neighbourhood—that was the subject of the crime —who did the murder? The criminals were the Poor Law Commissioners; and how did the hon. Gentleman bring it homo to them? The child of the woman applied to a relieving officer, and this officer refused it in obedience to a general rule of the law— it was an order issued by the Commissioners, and he admitted that it had become law, in consequence of its having been so issued and approved of by the Government and by the Parliament; for he must remind the House, that the orders were laid before both Houses, and were tacitly sanctioned by Parliament, if they were not overruled. It was said that, by this rule, relief could not be given beyond a certain district — he was taking it as 871 proved that the rule was as the hon. Gentleman laid it down, though, among the many figments of his brain, might be the figment of this order — well, he would suppose the order said that the relieving officer should not give relief beyond a certain boundary. It appeared, then, that the child applied to the wrong officer; but, because the child applied to this wrong officer, there was no reason why she should not have applied to the right officer. Hunger did not kill at the instant like the sword, or prussic acid, or poison; and, even supposing the law was as it was alleged to be, there was time for the child who had gone to the wrong relieving officer to go to the right. He asked the House— he asked his countrymen, whether that was evidence upon which to charge throe officers of the Crown with murder — they sitting in London, and the transactions in question having occurred in Yorkshire? And yet that was the sort of charge brought forward by a man holding the high position of Member of that House; and that was the sort of evidence upon which that charge, the highest except high treason, was brought forward. If there were shame in any bosom, would it not be aroused when so unjust, so unfounded a calumny was uttered against three public men? But he could not help quarrelling with the mode in which the hon. Member for Finsbury had criticised the law. The hon. Member had a right to take advantage of the knowledge which his profession gave him; his mind was naturally turned to those awful calamities which had occurred, and to which he had alluded; and the hon. Member came, as he trusted they all did, to consider the details of the law with the knowledge he possessed for the benefit of the community. But what was the charge of that hon. Member against the law? The hon. Member for Knaresborough said, that the bastardy clauses were the cause of the rebellion in Wales. The hon. Member for Finsbury said, they had led to very great and miserable calamities in the shape of murder. Neither was induced by the operation of this law; and he hoped the House would pardon him if he endeavoured to show that the hon. Member for Finsbury had entirely mistaken the operation of the law, and that the calamities he lamented had not arisen from it. [Mr. WAKLEY said, what he stated was that he feared that that was the operation of the law.] He was glad to hear that admission; but none knew better 872 than the hon. Gentleman himself how difficult it was to trace the causes —the multitudinous and mysterious causes — of crimes that occurred. But he would remind the House of one of the cases put by the hon. Gentleman. It was this: an unmarried woman became pregnant; she took a house or lodgings; she engaged a medical man; she engaged a nurse; and yet, at the time when the labour came on, she was delivered alone; and the hon. Member then described what took place, and how medical skill was baffled by the machinations of that unhappy person. But did not every description given by the hon. Gentleman mark that those persons were not paupers? What was it that had driven them to those crimes? It was not the law that overcame the feelings of the mother — it was not the bastardy clause: it was the rigid rules of the society in which they lived; the shame that would come upon the mothers; the brand that would be fixed upon those who had yielded—unfortunately yielded—to the temptations of the seducer. This was a painful subject to treat of at any time; and he would not have dared to speak upon it, if he had not been dragged into it by this discussion, though he did not say that the discussion was improper; but he thought he had given the hon. Gentleman opposite reason to doubt the truth of the conclusion he had drawn; and that, out of doors, it would be seen that every instance he had adduced was not one that resulted from the operation of the law. He had seen much of the administration of the law. He had seen many poor women who had destroyed their offspring; and yet it was not from want, but from shame. "But," said the hon. Member, "it was the feeling of dislike to go into the poorhouse, and to be subject to the regulations of the poorhouse during the time of labour, that drove the mother to those crimes." If he knew anything of human nature, and of the nature of women, it was not that species of pain that governed them. A woman without shame would not think of anything but relief; and she would know that the poorhouse was the best place and the most comfortable for her at such a time. Now, what were the bastardy clauses? They first pointed out the way in which the putative father was to be fixed with the care and maintenance of the child; and he was prepared to stand up for them; and if a woman, being a pauper, demanded the assistance of the State when she was in a condition of pregnancy, if she had commit- 873 ted a breach both of morality and law, and asked the State to aid her in her hour of travail, he thought the State could not be accused of cruelty if it said to her, "You shall come within the poorhouse, where you shall receive the best medical advice, the most nutritious diet, and all the care which can be afforded you." That was what the bastardy clauses provided; and he was prepared to stand up for them. He declared from his own intimate knowledge, as far as that knowledge extended — and it extended to a good number of cases—that that was the fair treatment of women under those circumstances, and that the State was not chargeable with cruelty for that part of the Act which related to bastardy. What, then, the hon. Gentleman complained of—and complained of with many others — was, he supposed, the evidence upon which the putative father of the child was fixed. If there was one thing more than another carefully considered in the evidence upon which the Poor Law was framed, it was the evidence connected with the bastardy clauses; and such scenes were opened up of constant attacks upon the most pure and virtuous of the community; persons were so open to calumny —so open to accusations—when entirely innocent; that it was necessary to make some attempt to rescue the unoffending from the charge of being putative fathers of children that too frequently destroyed the peace of families, and made hundreds of the community wretched. The Act, therefore, provided that the woman's oath should require some corroboration which should be sufficient, in the opinion of some justices of petty sessions, to charge the father. He had now done with the bastardy clauses, and the wholesale evils which the hon. Member for Finsbury had attributed to them. Upon turning to the Act of Parliament, he found that, for the first six weeks, the woman was to be allowed 5s. by the magistrates, and 10s. for the nurse, and not 2s. 6d., as the hon. Gentleman said. If she remainad outside of the House, then the maintenance of the child was to be 2s. 6d. But he did not believe that any person would assert that the diet of the workhouse was as low as the food of the agricultural labourer out of doors. He should like it to he fairly put before the world —and he would place his authority against that of the hon. Gentleman opposite —and say, that from his knowledge of the habits of his poor countrymen, of whom he employed many, ay, and many women 874 who were suckling children, who laboured honestly and industriously outside the poor-house, living upon their own and their husbands' earnings, that they were not so well fed as she who was the mother of an illegitimate child, and was within the walls of any poorhouse. He ought to conclude; but there were some one or two statements made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Knaresborough, which he would not leave without observation. He was sure the hon. Gentleman did not know the meaning of the word "absorbed." The hon. Gentleman spoke of the agricultural population being "absorbed" in the manufacturing districts. Now, was that the fact? In the southern counties of this country it was supposed that there was an overabundant population, living upon low wages; and it was suggested by the Poor Law Commissioners, that if some of those persons, instead of going to America —and he would, in passing, observe that the friends of colonisation in that House were never accused of hard-heartedness in bringing forward their grand plans and schemes — that if, instead of going to America, South Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, or New Zealand—if, instead of traversing half the globe, they would put themselves into a railway train, and go to Lancashire, there being there a demand for labour, they would (to use the somewhat metaphorical phrase of the hon. Gentleman) he "absorbed." So that, instead of getting but 8s. or 9s. a week, they might get 28s. or 30s. That was the dreadful crime of absorbing with which the Commissioners were charged —that was the direful accusation which the hon. Member had made more than once, and at the non-effect of which he himself was the only person that was startled —the hon. Member said the Poor Law Commissioners absorbed the poor. One would have supposed that they had swallowed them. But there was another charge made by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman said, and said truly, that the general regulation of the law respecting out-door relief was unnecessarily strict; and he (Mr. Roebuck) should be prepared to move, at a proper time, that out-door relief should be afforded to the aged and infirm. But the hon. Gentleman had mentioned the case of a man of threescore years, having a wife as aged as himself, who, for speaking a few words of kindness to his aged partner, was, in fact, incarcerated in a cell and fed on bread and water. In his conscience he believed 875 that no such case had ever occurred. If the hon. Gentleman could not prove it, he was doubly guilty. He should have proved it long ago. He should have gone to the Poor Law Commissioners and have pointed out the case; and then, indeed, if the Poor Law Commissioners had not dismissed the cruel officer, the hon. Member would have brought home to the Commissioners something like an accusation of cruelty. But had the hon. Member ever done so? Did he know of any one particular case? If he did, he had been very guilty in not having long ago complained of it. If he did not, then, as Parliamentary phraseology did not suggest to him an appropriate epithet for the conduct of the hon. Gentleman, he would leave it to the imagination of hon. Gentlemen to supply it. But, said the hon. Gentleman, the people ought to rise in rebellion against this law. He (Mr. Roebuck) believed that the people of England had not so much faith in the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman went wandering about the country stating his opinions upon the Poor Law in all combustible places; but the hon. Member, never amongst all that excited population, could find any electors to bring the hon. Gentleman forward to represent them in Parliament. If anything could show the value of his authority, it would be his being returned to Parliament on the shoulders of the people. He understood that England was to be relieved of the hon. Gentleman's presence, and that Dublin was to be honoured with it; and he would only add, that carelessness of assertion and wildness of accusation were to the English people extremely distasteful, as marking either a deficiency of intellect or a want of the love of truth.
§ MR. FERRAND
, in explanation, said that, in making the statement he had made about medical officers, he was anxious to show that the pittance they received was so small that it was utterly impossible for them to attend to the poor. The authority upon which he made that statement was the answer that was given by Mr. Guthrie, the eminent surgeon of London, to a question that was put to him by the Committee on the 6th May, 1844. The question was to this effect:—Are the Committee to understand that your objection is with reference to the want of knowledge on the part of the medical officers that the poor cannot be properly attended to?" and the answer given was, "No; but that even if a man were properly qualified, he would not be able, from the smallness of the allowance, to do his 876 duty. No respectable man would take the office, except for the purpose of keeping out an interloper, and then he could get the duty done by an assistant.
§ MR. HENLEY
stated, that certain sums were agreed upon in certain cases, as for medicine and attendance; and he could undertake to say that in many cases the amount so paid was insufficient; that the medical gentlemen who attended the poor were not able, out of the small sums allowed them, to supply the necessary drugs; and that this was most especially true in those cases which required the administration of expensive drugs. In the early part of the present evening, Ministers seemed to say that they felt an insuperable objection to those alterations in the measure which some hon. Members had suggested; but, looking at the notices which stood upon the Paper, he could not help observing that the Government themselves had manifested an intention of proposing very considerable alterations. If it were competent to the Government to do that, he saw no reason why it should not be done by individual Members. It ill became the Government to object to that of which they themselves set the example. As to that part of the measure which related to bastardy, he must be permitted to say, that, though the hon. Member for Bath told them that he was well acquainted with human nature both in man and woman, yet he had omitted to bring under their notice one fact, the importance of which certainly entitled it to their full consideration —he alluded to the great increase which had taken place of late years in the crime of child murder. No man with the least knowledge on the subject could doubt, that, since the law of bastardy had been altered, the crime of child murder had greatly increased. Whether the cause was a fear of the workhouse, or a sense of shame, there could be no doubt of the fact. Now, when the increase of the crime happened to be concurrent with the alteration of the law, he did think that nothing could be more natural than to suppose that there existed some connexion between the two events. He was not singular in supposing this connexion to exist; for two or three years ago, so great an outcry was raised upon the subject, that the Government were obliged to alter the law, and to give the mother of an illegitimate child a civil remedy against the putative father. Many people thought, and apparently upon very good grounds, that child murder in many cases resulted from unwillingness on the part of the mo- 877 ther to enter the workhouse. The putative father frequently went out of the way; the mother, foreseeing that all expenses must be borne by her unless she killed the child or went into the workhouse, usually resorted to the former expedient. Thus a vast number of crimes were committed; and where children were not killed, they were generally placed out at nurse, upon some such small stipend as usually proved insufficient for their support; they therefore dwindled away, and died prematurely; therefore life was destroyed by the one mode or the other. The subject was one which he admitted it was exceedingly difficult to deal with. On the one hand, they ought to take active measures to prevent the crime of child murder; on the other hand, they ought not to encourage immorality and vice. As to the treatment which mothers received during "the month" in the workhouse, it was usually so good that it might be considered a premium on vice; they were placed in the medical ward, and enjoyed many comforts which they could not obtain outside the workhouse. Still, young women who had illegitimate children were most unwilling to seek for parish relief, and rather than receive it, would commit almost any crime. With these few words he should content himself, having on a former occasion addressed the House at considerable length. He conceived that Parliament ought to make the law so that local authorities might administer it; and that the Government ought to inspect its administration. Upon these grounds he should support the Amendment.
said, that, as they were now called upon to take leave of the present Poor Law Commissioners, he could not avoid giving them most cordially his "farewell." He hoped that the Government had no intention of proposing any of these gentlemen members of the new Commission, inasmuch as he thought it would be a most unfortunate step on their part. He must express his deep regret at the way in which Mr. Chadwick was treated. That gentleman gave the most valuable assistance to the Poor Law Commissioners, and had furnished them the means of carrying out the law with effect. Notwithstanding this, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester went so far as to say, that, though he was capable of affording the most important service, he was unfit for the situation he held, and ought to be placed in some other position. The grossest injustice had been done to this 878 gentleman, after exhibiting such talent, zeal, and ability in the discharge of his duties. What redress was this gentleman to have for being called an unscrupulous and unfaithful servant? Mr. Parker was also a gentleman that had acted with great zeal and ability in the discharge of his duties —a fact that the Poor Law Commissioners themselves were obliged to bear testimony to; he also was an example of similar bad treatment. He thought that they should refuse their consent to this Bill, if any of these Poor Law Commissioners were to be retained in the new Board. They ought not to refuse the expression of their opinion as to the mode in which these two gentlemen had been treated. It was impossible, after the evidence that was heard before the Andover Committee —it was impossible, he thought, that the Government could propose the retention of the present Poor Law Commissioners as members of the new Board. He should consider it to be his duty, unless he received complete satisfaction of the entire exclusion of these gentlemen from the new Commission, to give his vote in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury.
§ MR. BORTHWICK
was understood to say that, inasmuch as this Bill made the new Board more responsible to Parliament, it was, no doubt, to that extent, an improvement upon the existing law. But that House had a right to say to the Government that it expected a much fuller and more extensive change of the law than was proposed in this Bill. It was a fair question for the hon. Member for Knaresborough, or any other Member, to raise, that this Bill did not go by any means far enough in applying the requisite remedies to the present law. It was one great evil of the present law, for instance, that medical attendance in the workhouses was supplied by contract; and he entreated the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to consider whether, even now, some remedy for this evil might not be made. The hon. and learned Member for Bath accused the hon. Member for Knaresborough of exclaiming generally against the Poor Law; but the hon. and learned Gentleman himself ran into the extreme of so speaking of the law, as to make the people believe that it was the opinion of that House that the law was perfect. The hon. Member for Bath had talked about separation; and on that point he would narrate cases which had fallen under his own personal know- 879 ledge. In a country union a labourer passed an honest, sober, and laborious life; he married, and had one child, a little girl, who was nine years old when his wife died. He took into his house the sister of his wife, who took charge of his home and his child for some time, until at length disease overtook him, and obliged him to have recourse to the union for relief. The workhouse test was applied, and the man and his child went into the house, while the aunt of the child obtained a service in a neighbouring farmhouse. The workhouse was supplied with milk, as it chanced, by the very farmer in whose service the child's aunt was; and by that means she accidentally learnt that her brother-in-law and niece were both dangerously ill. She applied to a particular friend of his, a county magistrate, for an order to sec her brother-in-law; hut he, having declined to act as a guardian, had no power to give such an order. She then went to another friend of his, the chairman of the board of guardians; and he also had no power to give such an order without the sanction of the board, which had sat that very day. If she could attend the next meeting on the following Tuesday, just six days afterwards, she might then get an order. Well, she did attend, obtained the order, and was admitted into the house, when she found her brother-in-law dead, and the child dying. The father had never seen his child when on his death-bed; and the sister and aunt would never have seen either alive but for an accident. That was the evil that hung over every working man in England under the existing law. The supporters of that law admitted the evil, and appointed the Commissioners to remedy that and others; but why not give to some well-defined system the force of law, and leave the Commissioners no choice but to execute it—no power to depart from the principle the House itself had approved? This observation applied also to the clauses about to be proposed by the Government and by other hon. Members, of which notice had been given; but he would ask the House to consider whether it was safe to allow its imagination and fancy to be led away by the eloquence of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, when he declaimed against declamation, and held up the hon. Member for Knaresborough to the odium of the country and of the House as a seeker of popularity? If they were to enter into the question of motives, might not popularity, or something 880 more valuable, he found to influence the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself? He would not, however, condescend, though opposed to the hon. and learned Member for Bath, to seek after his motives. On the contrary, he gave him credit for perfect sincerity, and believed him to have an honest and hearty sympathy for the working classes, though he was unconsciously fighting against their interests, and doing them irreparable injury. But he protested against the hon. and learned Gentleman attributing unworthy motives to those who differed from him in opinion; and could not allow his right to school the Members on his (Mr. Borthwick's side of the House. He would not have risen at all but for the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman; and he had said enough to show that every fact to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded, he (Mr. Roebuck) had misapprehended, and that every argument he had addressed to the House had answered itself.
§ MR. BANKES
said, that it appeared to him convenient to discuss at that stage of the Bill the clauses of which the Government had given notice. [Sir G. GREY: They are not yet before the House.] They were printed; and he maintained that they must be discussed, as an essential part of the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the clauses to which the hon. Gentleman alluded could not be discussed until the third reading.
§ MR. BANKES
would then discuss the Bill as it stood, though he must state that that was not the Bill. He must also be allowed to state that the course the Government had adopted in introducing the Commissioners first, and then fixing their duties afterwards, was highly inconvenient. With the warning of the Railway Commissioners before him, he must request to be informed what were the duties they meant to assign to the officers they now proposed to create? It was not at all fair or right to call upon the House to pass Bills appointing a large staff of officers without j knowing what they were to do, and what they were to be paid; and for these reasons he thought it highly inconvenient this course should be proceeded with. This subject was not first raised by him; it had been alluded to by the hon. Member for Finsbury, who commenced the debate, and who very properly said that it opened the consideration of the whole Poor Law. The hon. and learned Member for Bath had 881 taken him to task, and had been pleased to say—and he (Mr. Bankes) must say that he laid down rules for the House with a sort of semi-official authority—that it was the mere form or outline of administration or jurisdiction of the law, and nothing else. But if they were to believe the Home Secretary, that was not the case. In the Bill before them other Bills were embodied, after the fashion of the Health of Towns Bill, which swallowed up the Towns Improvement Act and others; and the question they had to consider was not only "what do you propose," but "what do you omit to propose?" In his opinion the proposition now made opened the whole question. It was true that it was stated "This is for the administration of the law;" but it was also for something else. All those clauses which they were forbidden to touch upon that night, though they were printed, must hereafter be discussed; and though it was said that they were then upon the administration of the Poor Law only, it would, when they came to that part of the subject, become of greater importance, because the question would change from the administration to the administrators. The hon. and learned Member for Bath had pointed to the merry countenance of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control, and hoped to see another equally merry face in the President of the Poor Law Board. And here he must remark that it was not the creation of one additional placeman in that House, for the Bill expressly provided for two. As he had said on a former occasion, his constitutional objection to the measure was not with reference to the power of the Crown, but from his fears of the power of party; and he did strongly object to the accession of two more placemen to the strength of any party in that House. The hon. and learned Gentleman had drawn a contrast between the office of the Board of Control and the proposed Poor Law Board. The hon. and learned Gentleman was not so well acquainted with the office of President of the Board of Control as he was, for he had once the honour of being Secretary to the Board. The President of the Board of Control was not a legislator or maker of laws; he was what he professed to be, a controller only of those who did make them. There was a wide difference between his duties and those of the office now proposed. The Poor Law Administrators were still to have the power of creating laws out of that 882 House, in the very chambers of Somerset House, in which they had been made hitherto, and which had been so widely, so universally complained of. They were to be Members of Parliament; and, instead of that doing away with the necessity of their making laws in Somerset House, that they might propose them in the House of Commons, and leave that House to decide upon them, the Bill continued the power of making laws at Somerset House. This was widely different from the Board of Control; the hon. and learned Member for Bath seemed to forget that in his contrast. The President did not make laws: they were submitted to him for his correction; he might give advice, but he could not make laws. There was, therefore, no analogy between the Presidency of the Board of Control and the office the Bill proposed to create. He could not help expressing his surprise at the form of the proposed Commission. It was very well for the government of the distant Hindoo, but not for the English poor. No one had explained that from first to last. It was most obvious that this was the creation of a new Secretary of State, like that for Ireland, and subject to the Home Office. But why did they not give this greater power to the local authorities? and if there must be a President, let him control those authorities. He would throw the trust where it ought to be placed; he would cast the responsibility on the shoulders on which it ought to fall. He did not believe the gentlemen and yeomen of England would be afraid of that trust; and, if trusted, they would act in a manner worthy of them. It was because they were not trusted—that no confidence was reposed in them—that instances such as that of Andover occasionally occurred. If they were trusted, and the measure did not work well, Parliament would at least know where to throw the blame; and if the system did not work, they would know how to try something else, and something surely which would exhibit greater difference in feature and form than the old Poor Law administration, and the one now proposed. The present proposition was so near the old law that the distinction could hardly be discovered: there was nothing essentially different—nothing but the name. What did it signify whether commissioners or president and secretary were the terms used, if their functions were the same?— if they were still trusted with the same dangerous and obnoxious power of having 883 legislation in their own hands? That was the part of the law to be corrected. These were the feelings he entertained with regard to this Bill; and when the hon. and learned Member for Bath said the sole question was between the law now proposed and the old one, he must tell him it was no such thing. The question was, rather, whether the House could not find some third system better than either; and he must say, that the Government had a great responsibility upon it, to give the House so cruel an alternative, between a system which everybody condemned, and another with hardly any difference. That was the predicament in which the House was placed by the Government. The opponents of the old law were guilty of no procrastination. They asked at the earliest period of the Session what the Government intended to do; and they were told that some essential alteration in the law would be made. The Government even hinted that it was not satisfied with the parties who had the administration of that law; but month after month had rolled on, and still the same men continued to be entrusted with the administration of the same law. The end of the Session at length approached, and the Government came down to that House with a law hardly altered in one material respect; or, if altered, those alterations were put in the shape of a rider to the Bill; and he was told that he must not discuss them. Now, this could scarcely be called a fair course with regard to so important a measure. The House and the country had a right not only to something better, but they had a right to ask for the best. And now the Government talked of the pressure of public business and the end of the Session; but what reason was there for a dissolution so immediately? Was it to avoid discussion on so important a Bill? The Government made a merit of its intention to alter this law at the outset of the Session; and at the end of the Session, when their alterations came to be known, it turned out that they had altered nothing that was essential, and that nothing at all was altered for the better. Under these circumstances, though he did not agree with the retention of those who administered the old law, he thought it better that the Bill should be read that day three months, and leave it to the Government to postpone the dissolution if they thought the measure so essential. He would rather act thus than fix on the country for five 884 years a system in which he saw many evils, and which had not the slightest merit beyond a change of persons, and even that was not certain. And now, although he was not allowed to touch on the clauses of which Government had given notice in reference to this Bill, and which, as they were printed and circulated, he supposed they meant to persevere in bringing forward; though, after what had just passed, it was not safe to calculate on their persevering with anything. They might give it up as they had done the Railway Bill; and if that were so, the right hon. Gentleman had better get up at once and say so. That would save the House a great deal of trouble, as they were very long clauses; and he confessed that he could not quite understand one of them, though of course that was his fault. But he defied any one to understand what was its object. But if he were not allowed to allude to these clauses, he would briefly state what he intended to propose. He would put it hypothetically. Should this Bill pass this Session, he should certainly feel it his duty to propose an addition, or rather a substitution, with regard to the tenth clause. The hon. Gentleman here read the clause, and then proceeded to ask how it was possible that such a jumble of bad English could be understood? He believed, however, that it was intended that all the orders and regulations of the Poor Law Commissioners were, until they were rescinded by their successors, to continue in full force. With respect to that intention, it would meet with his most decided opposition; and if the Bill should reach a third reading, he would propose a clause to the effect that in six months from the passing of the Act all the laws and regulations of the existing Poor Law Commissioners should cease and determine; and that the new Commissioners should be responsible for all the laws and regulations made after that time. That would be a more reasonable proposition than that of the present Bill. He saw no inconvenience in its operation; it would give the now Commissioners no great trouble, as they might retain all those of which they approved, and alter those of which they disapproved. At all events, the House would have the satisfaction of believing that the new officers had taken the pains to go through all the regulations; and it would also ensure the House from the excuse on any complaint being made, that it was an order made by their predecessors which they had overlooked. He 885 hoped Government would adopt this clause, or if they did not, the determination that he would himself propose it did not remove his objections to the Bill now proposed. Indeed he felt disappointed, and the country at large joined him in that feeling, that they were to have a measure which bore upon the face of it no one sign of improvement whatever, but the representation of the Poor Law Board in Parliament; notwithstanding which, it allowed them to make laws in secret conclave at Somerset House. On these grounds he opposed the Bill.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
had always objected, and would continue to object, to Poor Law administration by any Government, be it Whig or Tory; being of opinion that the management of the poor was best left in the hands of the persons amongst whom they lived. The present Bill would not be an improvement on the existing system; it would give a mere change of men, not of principle. A few would go out, and a few others would go in. It would be merely "change sides and back again," as he recollected he did when he used to exhibit his humble person in a country dance. He looked upon the present Bill as mere trickery— and holding that opinion he would not give his support to the Government in their endeavour to push it on previously to a dissolution of Parliament. He thought it much better to continue the law they had (though he was far from being a friend to it), than rush into a new one which was not a jot better. The Government had said— "Oh, give us five years' trial of the now Bill." He, for one, would do nothing of the sort, as he looked upon the whole affair as a shuffle, and a very disreputable shuffle too. He questioned very much whether this new measure would not be ten times worse than the old one, and therefore he called upon the House, and those who pretended to have the well-being of the poor at heart, to throw this Bill overboard altogether, and leave it to a new Parliament to decide upon the alterations and amendments to be made. He had his doubts whether a new Parliament, when it assembled, might not be just as muddy as the old; but he cherished the hope that it would make its appearance washed something cleaner. He would support the proposition of the hon. Member for Finsbury, and do what he could to swamp the Bill.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes) had com- 886 plained that the House was not allowed to discuss this Bill on account of the necessity for dissolving Parliament. He must say he had never heard anything which could give the hon. Member any foundation for such a complaint. The hon. Member had, he believed, spoken three or four times since the Bill was introduced, not very briefly— on the occasion of the second reading the discussion had lasted four nights— and to-night the House had been occupied with it nearly five hours, in the absence, he regretted to say, during a great part of the time, both of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire and of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp). The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bankes) had expressed a wish that he should explain the principle of this Bill. He had explained it twice already; and he should think it quite unjustifiable to occupy the time of the House by explaining it again further than to say that the general principle of the Bill was the maintenance of a general central superintending authority, which should be immediately responsible to Parliament. The hon. Gentleman, at a loss for a proper objection to the Bill, was anxious to discuss the clauses of which he (Sir G. Grey) had given notice. He had also himself intimated an intention of moving a clause in the Bill, respecting which he would only say that he regretted the hon. Member had not given twenty-four hours' notice of it, that he (Sir G. Grey) might have had time to consider it. The hon. Gentleman had likewise asserted that almost nobody approved of the principle of this Bill; in answer to which, he (Sir G. Grey) begged to remind the hon. Gentleman of the majorities by which the Bill had been supported in its previous stages.
§ The House divided on the question, that the word "now," stand part of the Question:— Ayes 105; Noes 35: Majority 70.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, T. D.||Byng, rt. hon. G. S.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Cavendish, hon. G. H.|
|Antrobus, E.||Christie, W. D.|
|Austen, Col.||Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Baillie, Col.||Clive, Visct.|
|Baine, W.||Clive, hon. R. H.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Blake, M. J.||Craig, W. G.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Deedes, W.|
|Botfield, B.||Duncan, G.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Dundas, Sir D.|
|Boyd, J.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Brotherton, J.||Esmonde, Sir T.|
|Buller, C.||Evans, W.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Ewart, W.|
|Forster, M.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Fox, C. R.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Parker, J.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Patten, J. W.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Graham, rt hon. Sir J.||Polhill, F.|
|Granger, T. C.||Prime, R.|
|Greene, T.||Reid, Col.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Hastie, A.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Hatton, Capt. V.||Seymer, Lord|
|Hawes, B.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Hotham, Lord||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Lawless, hon. C.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Liddell, hon. H. T.||Thornely, T.|
|Lindsay, Col.||Tollemache, J.|
|Loch, J.||Towneley, J.|
|Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.||Traill, G.|
|M'Carthy, A.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|M'Donnell, J. M.||Trotter, J.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Turner, E.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Monahan, J. H.||Ward, H. G.|
|Morpeth, Visct.||Williams, W.|
|Morison, Gen.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Nicholl, rt. hon. J.||Wyse, T.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Tufnell, H.|
|O'Conor Don||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Arkwright, G.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Bankes, G.||Goring, C.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Borthwick, P.||Henley, J. W.|
|Brisco, M.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Masterman, J.|
|Callaghan, D.||Peehell, Capt.|
|Collett, J.||Perfect, R.|
|Collins, W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Colville, C. R.||Smyth, Sir H.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Spooner, R.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.T.||Stuart, J.|
|Dick, Q.||Thompson, Mr. Ald.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Vyse, H.|
|Duncombe, T.||Walker, R.|
|Etwall, R.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Floyer, J.||Wakley, T.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Ferrand, W. B.|
§ Bill read a third time.
Mr. SPOONER moved the following Clause to be added to the Bill:—
Provided always, and he it declared and Enacted, That no rule, order, or regulation of the Poor Law Commissioners heretofore made, or hereafter to be made, prohibiting the granting of relief to any able bodied person, except within the workhouse of the Union, shall remain or continue in force or effect from and after the passing of this Act.
This was the first of three clauses of
which he had given notice. He was induced to propose them for the adoption of the House from the conviction that no rule or regulation of the Poor Law Commissioners ought to be made prohibiting the granting of relief to any able bodied person except within the workhouse of the union. He believed it would be much cheaper in the long run, and that it would tend much more to the comfort of the working classes if work was found for them by the guardians of the poor, than to say to them in substance that, because no one would or could employ them, they should go into the workhouse. He would illustrate his position by reference to a case of a family in which the father and mother and children were all employed, earning something more or less. The father might be suddenly thrown out of employment, either from illness or from dearth of labour, and in consequence might be compelled to apply for relief during the time his labour was suspended. He went to the workhouse for relief; but what was the answer made to his appeal? "No, we cannot give it to you—you are an able bodied man, and we cannot relieve you—you must come into the workhouse with your wife and children." Now, he put it to the House whether the law did not act most oppressively towards this poor man? The labourer might be himself unable to work; but his wife and children were in the receipt of some earnings, and yet, because he applied for relief for himself, he was told that he could not get it unless he was prepared to break up his home and go into the workhouse with his whole family. Such was the present state of the law. He contended that the law, as it at present stood, inflicted a grievous injustice upon the labouring classes of the country. The honest and industrious labourer, who might by some vicissitude or another be thrown out of his employment, was compelled to leave his cottage, to sell off his little furniture, and find an asylum in the union workhouse, and thus become at once a pauper, without the chance of ever again becoming a free and independent labourer. To avoid a continuation of this state of things, he asked whether it would not be better to give the guardians the discretionary power of offering the able bodied pauper labour rather than compel them, in the absence of all local knowledge as to circumstances or requirements of individual cases, to act upon a harsh and stringent rule. The Home Secretary had placed next on that
night's orders the Prisons Bill and the Custody of Offenders Bill; and what did those Bills propose? Why, to take a convicted felon and employ him on public works, finding for him constant food and clothing; and this in the sight of the labourer, who had committed no crime! In respect at once to food and clothing, and education and medical relief, prisons were conducted upon a much more liberal scale than union workhouses, and prisoners were really much more comfortable and not less at liberty than those unfortunate victims whom no fault of theirs had driven to the workhouse. It was said that it would be impossible to find employment in the manufacturing districts for large masses of the population suddenly thrown out of work. True, but neither could they be shut up in prisons. The order then became impracticable, and money relief was resorted to. That could be no reason for applying the order as it was applied in country parishes, where work could be found for the applicants. The system was unconstitutional in itself and was cruel to the poor; it engendered an ill feeling among the labouring classes; they looked upon themselves as hardly dealt with. He felt that this was a very important question to he driven to such a late hour of the night; but he must take the sense of the House upon it, not because he expected to succeed, but in order to have his proposition recorded, and also the names of those who agreed with him. And let hon. Members, before voting, remember the pledges they had given to their constituents.
§ Clause read a first time.
§ On the question that it be read a second time,
§ SIR G. GREY
quite agreed in the opinion of the hon. Member, that the three clauses given notice of by him were most important, and ought not to be adopted without the most grave consideration. They were so important that they ought not to be agreed to merely as amendments to a Bill for altering the administrative body in respect to the Poor Laws. If agreed to at all, they ought to form part of a separate Bill, because they affected an important principle of the Poor Laws. The hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that this workhouse test was first introduced by the Now Poor Law; but in an Act passed so long ago as 1722 that principle was expressly affirmed; and he thought it absolutely necessary to apply this test in respect to many cases of applications for re- 890 lief. He trusted that Parliament was not now disposed to depart from it; and indeed the hon. Gentleman said that he did not expect to carry his Motion, but rather wished to place his own opinion on record. The prohibitory order of the Poor Law Commissioners applied only to the able-bodied, and did not apply to those aged and infirm persons who had been referred to by an hon. Member; and if not the universal, at least the general practice was, that such persons were not compelled to go into the workhouse, though they were in many cases admitted, on their own consent, into the workhouse. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Member would take away all discretionary power on this subject, and that was a principle to which he could not agree.
§ MR. BANKES
supported the Amendment now moved; but he could not support the other two Amendments of the hon. Member which stood on the Paper, as they were prospective.
§ MR. FERRAND
could assure the right hon. Baronet that it was almost a general rule throughout the country that aged and infirm persons should go into the workhouse before they received relief. If this wore not the case, what objection could there be to the insertion of a clause allowing universally out-door relief, as a matter of right, to the aged and infirm poor? It made the injustice greater if some of these poor persons were obliged to go into the work-house to get relief, while others could get it and remain out of the workhouse. He took this opportunity of alluding to the attack made on him by the hon. and learned Member for Bath. That hon. and learned Member had made a great many insinuations against him during the time that he addressed the House. He should like the hon. and learned Gentleman to speak out openly and plainly. He was perfectly aware that the hon. and learned Gentleman did, some two or three Sessions ago, seek and obtain the protection of the House in making these attacks; and therefore it was known that these attacks could be made by the hon. and learned Gentleman with perfect impunity. With respect to what he had said relative to the medical officer, he was prepared to give the name of that gentleman to the Secretary for the Home Department; and it was but justice to say that when the medical gentleman gave him the information, he stated the hardship of his own case, for he said that the drugs he provided for the poor nearly 891 cost the whole amount of his salary. The hon. and learned Gentleman made another attack on him in respect to the statement of a woman having died of starvation. Now, he was prepared to give to the Home Secretary the name of the coroner by whom the inquest was held, and to afford him every assistance to go into the whole case, if he thought proper to do so.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
believed, that the great majority of those hon. Members who were at all acquainted with the administration of the Poor Law would bear him out when he said that the hon. Member for Knaresborough was entirely mistaken in his statement as to the aged and infirm poor being-forced to go into the workhouse. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had acted as chairman of a board of guardians for many years—in fact ever since the New Poor Law was brought into operation—and he could distinctly state that, as regarded that board, the universal rule was this—that under special circumstances only were persons taken into the workhouse; the general rule was that persons above the age of sixty should not be sent into the workhouse. He certainly had himself been a party to ordering persons above sixty, under very special circumstances, to go into the workhouse. It was generally found necessary in such cases that they should have some one to attend to their wants, which could be better done in the workhouse than elsewhere. He knew of no instance in which persons were obliged to go into the workhouse except where the guardians thought that it would be more beneficial to the applicant that he should go into the workhouse.
§ CAPTAIN PECHELL
wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Andover Union Committee had distinctly reported that parties were very frequently compelled to enter the workhouse before they received any relief, and that when admitted they had to perform a portion of hard taskwork (such as bone-crushing). In one instance it appeared that a man had to travel a distance of ten miles, night and morning, to get such employment in the workhouse, for the purpose of procuring sustenance for himself and his wife and family. The Committee recommended the House to adopt some measure to prevent a repetition of such hardships. He conceived that the present mode of administering relief to the poor was not consonant with the feelings of the House; and he felt confident 892 that the attention of the Government would be speedily called to it, with a view of remedying its great abuses.
§ MR. WAKLEY
believed it was a common thing for old persons to be forced into the house; relief was denied unless they went into it. There might be unions where this practice was not adopted; but in many others it existed. Under the 27th Clause of the Poor Law Act, old persons incapable of work who objected to go into the house, must be maintained by the guardians out of it, provided two magistrates would sign an order for relief, one of whom must certify that from his personal knowledge the individual was incapable of working. A case of the kind occurred in the Margate union; an old man, disabled and incapable of labour, applied to the guardians for relief; they referred him to the magistrates. He was assisted before the magistrates by Mr. Waddington, the surgeon. The magistrates granted him an order for out-door relief, and he obtained it for one week. At the end of that time the parish officers refused to continue it. He returned to the magistrates, and they told him he must bring an action against the parish authorities.
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER
said, it was to be regretted that no uniformity existed with regard to the carrying out of the Poor Law. In the most pauperised districts they would find that the law, with respect to the workhouse test, was not carried out with great vigour, whilst in those counties that were better circumstanced the law was stringently carried out. He conceived that the board of guardians should be empowered to deal with cases in such a manner as appeared to them just and requisite. Although he did not exactly agree with the entire spirit of the resolutions of the hon. Member for Birmingham, yet he hoped the Government might be induced to bring forward some measure calculated to remedy the evils to which they referred.
§ MR. ETWALL
said, there could be no doubt as to aged and infirm poor persons being forced to go into workhouses before they received relief. Many such cases were brought under the consideration of the Andover Union Committee. Indeed, it was that very circumstance which had contributed in so great a degree to render the Poor Law unpopular in the west of England.
§ The House then divided on the question, that the Clause be read a second time:— Ayes 37; Noes 109: Majority 72.
|List of the AYES.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Austen, Col.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Baillie, W.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Bankes, G.||Houldsworth, T.|
|Beckett, W.||Mainwaring, T.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Masterman, J.|
|Borthwick, P.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Broadwood, H.||Perfect, R.|
|Brotherton, J.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Collins, W.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Colville, C. R.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Thompson, Ald.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Duncombe, T.||Wakley, T.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Williams, W.|
|Etwall, R.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Spooner, R.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Ferrand, W. B.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Allix, J. P.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Hallyburton, Ld. J. F. G.|
|Antrobus, E.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Baillie, Col.||Hastie, A.|
|Baine, W.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Hawes, B.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Henley, J. W.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Hudson, G.|
|Blake, M. J.||Hume, J.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Lindsey, Col.|
|Boyd, J.||Loch, J.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.|
|Buck, L. W.||M'Donnell, J. M.|
|Buller, C.||Marshall, W.|
|Burke, T. J.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Norreys, Lord|
|Corbally, M. E.||O'Brien, J.|
|Craig, W. G.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Cripps, W.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Deedes, W.||Palmer, R.|
|Denison, J. E.||Parker, J.|
|Denison, E. B.||Patten, J. W.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Duncan, G.||Pusey, P.|
|Ebrington, Visct||Rich, H.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Ellice, E.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Evans, W.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Seymour, Lord|
|Floyer, J.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Fox, C. R.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Stuart, H.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Granger, T. C.||Thornely, T.|
|Greene, T.||Towneley, J.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Trevor, hon. G. R.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Turner, E.||Wood, rt hon. Sir C.|
|Vane, Lord H.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Villiers, hon. C.||Wyse, T.|
|Waddington, H. S.||TELLERS.|
|Ward, H. G.||Tufnell, H.|
|Welleslcy, Lord C.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ Two other clauses proposed by Mr. SPOONER, one to prohibit, prospectively, the refusal of out-door relief; and the other, making it lawful for the guardians to grant relief and work to all able bodied persons out of the workhouse, were negatived.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK moved the adjournment of the House, observing that, as they would have to meet to-morrow at twelve o'clock, and as the clause of which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) had given notice would create considerable discussion, it was too late to proceed that night with the Bill. If they continued the discussion, it would be out of the question to meet at twelve o'clock to-morrow.
LORD J. RUSSELL
objected to the Motion. They were now very near the end of the Bill; the third reading had been carried, and there were some proposals for amendments which there was yet plenty of time to consider. When the House had considered these amendments, and decided on them, they would then be able to say if it was too late to meet at twelve o'clock to-morrow. Having read the Bill a third time, it was really a very strange proceeding for the noble Lord to interrupt public business by such a Motion as that which he had now made. The noble Lord's proposal would put a stop to all business.
§ SIR G. GREY
had no hesitation in saying, that, as the first clause was very generally objected to, and as he had only given notice of his intention to move it on the supposition that it would be acquiesced in, he would not proceed with it.
§ Motion to adjourn withdrawn.
MR. BORTHWICK moved the following Clause: —
Provided always, and be it Enacted, That when any two persons, being husband and wife, both of whom shall be above the age of 60 years, shall be received into any Workhouse, in pursuance of the provisions of the said recited Act or of this Act, or of any rule, order, or regulation of the Commissioners appointed by authority of this Act, such two persons shall not be compelled to live separate and apart from each other in such Workhouse.
He hoped the right hon. Home Secretary would not object to this proposal; for he thought that when the pressure of poverty rendered it necessary for aged married people to take refuge in the workhouse,
they ought not to be required to submit to a painful separation. The 43rd of Elizabeth, and the seven Poor Law Acts previously passed in the same reign, all recognised the principle of providing work for the idle and unemployed, and affording relief to the aged and infirm; but since the establishment of the existing system of Poor Laws, the aged poor had no refuge except the workhouses, where it was alleged the scantiness of accommodation rendered the separation of the married inmates necessary.
§ Clause brought up and read a first time.
§ On the question that it be read a second time,
§ SIR G. GREY
observed, that the aged persons who became the inmates of workhouses possessed far greater comforts than, in their infirm state, and without friends or relations to take care of them, they could obtain out of the houses. The hon. Gentleman who had moved this clause might not be aware that, by an order of the Poor Law Commissioners, the guardians of the poor of any union might now, with the consent of the Commissioners, provide separate sleeping apartments for married inmates, where the construction of the workhouses and the circumstances of the union admitted of such an arrangement. He considered that to make such a rule imperative in all cases would be productive of great inconvenience; because, when parties of the class referred to by the hon. Member for Evesham were desirous of entering workhouses they might be prevented from doing so in consequence of the inability of the guardians to provide proper accommodation. The same difficulty would also arise in many cases when, in consequence of temporary distress, the workhouses were crowded with inmates.
§ MR. FERRAND
must say, in reference to the rule of which the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had spoken, that he never heard of it before. As to the Commissioners giving their consent that the guardians should exercise such a power, no practical benefit would thereby ensue to the poor.
MR. B. DENISON
entreated the House not to agree to this clause, making it imperative on boards of guardians to receive man and wife into the workhouse in the way proposed; for he believed it would lead to the greatest confusion in the various union workhouses. In the part of the country where he came from, old married persons, of 60 years of ago, were hardly ever sent into the workhouse; but he thought that if they were taken in, they should not have the power to obtain apartments for themselves.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
would add his request to those already given, that Her Majesty's Ministers would consent to the adoption of this clause. When he was overseer of a parish, about twenty years ago, an old man applied for relief, and he offered him the workhouse; but his reply was, that "his old woman and he had lived together for forty years, and it would break their hearts to be separated." This he believed to be the universal feeling; and he therefore hoped the Government would accept the clause which had been proposed.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
was a little surprised at the course taken by the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. B. Denison), as he was returned to that House on the strength of the anti-Poor Law cry. The hon. Member said there was scarcely any married persons above 60 years of age sent to the workhouse. If this was the case, then there would be the less difficulty in carrying the proposal of the hon. Member for Evesham into effect, as the cases would be few in which the arrangement would require to be carried out. He denied that there was any proposal in the clause for giving each of the old persons a separate apartment. Looking, at the whole question, he thought there was not the slightest pretence for retaining this, one of the greatest severities inflicted upon old people.
LORD J. RUSSELL
must agree with what had been said, that in some cases this was a great hardship; and he thought the Poor Law Commissioners had endeavoured to meet that hardship by the rule which they had laid down. But, however, if it was thought more desirable to introduce the matter into the Bill, all that he would object to would be the proposal that it should be made imperative on the guardians. He did not think it necessary that the Poor Law Commissioners should give their consent; but he quite agreed with 897 the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire that it would give rise to great difficulty if these old persons could insist, against the will of the guardians, on having separate apartments. If, however, after the clause had been read a second time, the hon. Gentleman opposite would introduce the words "that the guardians should be at liberty to resolve that" these old persons should not be compelled to live separate, he should not object to the clause thus amended.
§ MR. WAKLEY
hoped the Government would agree to the clause as it stood. It was his firm conviction that aged persons had perished from want rather than go into the workhouse. It had been said that in many instances old people were not sent into the workhouse; and he believed the adoption of this clause would strengthen that practice. It would be one of the strongest inducements to guardians everywhere to give old people their choice. He trusted that the New Poor Law Commissioners in embryo would not resist the humane proposal now made.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, it might, no doubt, be difficult to accommodate married people in the workhouses in the way proposed. He agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, in the great majority of cases, these old persons were relieved out of the workhouse; but there were unions where this was not done; and he thought the clause now proposed would be an inducement to the extension of this practice. He therefore hoped that the House would permit the clause to pass unaltered.
§ CAPTAIN PECHELL
contended that there was no difficulty in keeping the aged poor without separating husband and wife, as was shown in the case of the Gosport workhouse, where they were kept in cottages built round the workhouse.
§ DR. BOWRING
thought it would be highly inexpedient to leave the the matter to the boards of guardians. The separation of old married people was the most unpopular part of the New Poor Law; and the inconvenience would be great if the boards of guardians in one district decided that these parties were to be separated, and in another they were not to be separated.
§ MR. BORTHWICK
replied, and with every respect for the suggestion of the noble Lord, he must press his Motion to a division. He trusted the noble Lord would not oppose it.
§ Clause read a second time.898
LORD J. RUSSELL
thought the discretion might very properly be intrusted to boards of guardians, and should, therefore, move an Amendment to that effect. After the word "Act," he moved the insertion of the words, "that boards of guardians should be at liberty to resolve," &c.
§ MR. BANKES
said, if the noble Lord was prepared to give the boards of guardians discretion in all cases, he would not oppose it; but as they were only allowed discretion in this obnoxious case, he must oppose it.
§ MR. ETWALL
believed there was no instance on record of a board of guardians making such an application as that alluded to by the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire; or that if they did make it, there was no case in which it had ever been carried into effect.
MR. B. DENISON
remarked, in reply to the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, that on contesting the West Riding he certainly did say that the Poor Law required amendment; and he could appeal to the Votes whether he had not since supported Amendments calculated to mitigate its severity. He thought the present clause, as it stood, objectionable, and should vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
thought it was a lamentable prospect for the hon. Member for the West Riding that he should have to appear before his constituents with this statement hanging round his neck. He hoped the noble Lord would not persist in his Amendment.
§ On the question that the words proposed by Lord John Russell be inserted, the House divided: — Ayes 55; Noes 70: Majority 15.
|List of the AYES.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Antrobus, E.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Austen, Col.||Greene, T.|
|Bannerman, A.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Hallyburton, Ld. J. F. G.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Hawes, B.|
|Burke, T. J.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Loch, J.|
|Craig, W. G.||Marshall, W.|
|Deedes, W.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Denison, J. E.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Denison, E. B.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||O'Brien, J.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Parker, J.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Ponsonby, hn. C. F. A. C|
|Evans, W.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Fox, C. R.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Shelburne, Earl of||Vane, Lord H.|
|Somerville, Sir W. M.||Ward, H. G.|
|Sotheron, T. H. S.||Wood, rt. hn. Sir C.|
|Stanley, hon. W. O.||Wyse, T.|
|Strutt, rt. hon. E.||TELLERS.|
|Talbot, C. R. M.||Tufnell, H.|
|Thornely, T.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Allix, J. P.||Granger, T. C.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Hall, Col.|
|Arkwright, G.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Baillie, W.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Baine, W.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Bankes, G.||Hudson, G.|
|Barkly, H.||Hume, J.|
|Bernard, E. G.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Beckett, W.||Masterman, J.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Blake, M. J.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Palmer, R.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Broadwood, H.||Perfect, R.|
|Brotherton, J.||Rushleigh, W.|
|Buck, L. W.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Collins, W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Colville, C. R.||Spooner, R.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Stuart, H.|
|Cripps, W.||Thompson, Ald.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Duncan, G.||Turner, E.|
|Duncombe, T.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Etwall, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Fielden, J.||Williams, W.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Floyer, J.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Fuller, A. E.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Borthwick, P.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Henley, J. W.|
§ On the Motion that the clause be added to the Bill,
§ SIR J. PAKINGTON
said, that every one acquainted with the practical administration of the Poor Law must know that it was absolutely impossible, with any regard to decency, that any such regulation could be carried into effect. Under the old system the separation of the men and women was found to be necessary, and had been generally adopted. The only feasible argument in support of it was, that it would compel the guardians to give out-door relief; but if the Government meant to acquiesce in that alteration they should do it openly and directly.
said, that he had done that which was very unusual with him, viz., voted against the noble Lord on the common-sense view of the subject. In so 900 doing he desired that the practical effect of the clause should be to relieve these poor people out of the workhouse; and, as that was the practice now, he could conceive no harm from adopting the clause. It was reasonable that a great distinction should be made between the aged and infirm and the ablebodied poor.
LORD J. RUSSELL
hoped the House had well considered the clause, which, by the division, he understood the House to approve of. He wished, by his Amendment, to leave the practice as it stood before; and therefore he had adopted the principle of one of the present regulations of the Commissioners, giving the guardians a discretion as to the separation or non-separation of man and wife. But if the clause were to be agreed to without any such limitation, he was not certain that it would have the humane effect intended. Unquestionably the permission to numerous married couples to live together in the workhouse, would be attended with considerable inconvenience. The guardians would decide that they should be relieved out of the workhouse; and if so, he was not sure that with regard to very aged and helpless couples living alone in a miserable cottage, they might not be more comfortably situated in the workhouse than out of it; and this clause did not compel the guardians to receive them into the workhouse; it only obliged them to permit their living together, which might have the effect he had just mentioned. As the House had expressed its opinion, he did not think it desirable to take another division then, although if the House should think proper to divide again, he could not take upon himself the responsibility of agreeing to the clause as it stood.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
MR. BANKES moved the following clause: —
Provided always, and be it declared and Enacted, That no rule, order, or regulation, of the Poor Law Commissioners, shall remain or continue in force or effect beyond the period of Six Months from and after the date of the appointment of the President and Commissioners under the provisions of this Act.
He wished the whole responsibility of the future administration of the law thrown upon the new Commission.
§ Clause read a first time. On the question that it be read a second time,
§ SIR G. GREY
thought the clause unnecessary, because, should the new Board continue to act upon the rules and regulations after their appointment, they must be 901 held as having adopted them; and, as a matter of course, responsibility would be involved.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 71: Majority 36.
|List of the AYES.|
|Allix, J. P.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Heathcote, J.|
|Arkwright, G.||Hudson, G.|
|Baillie, W.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Baldwin, B.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Borthwick, P.||Perfect, R.|
|Broadwood, H.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Collins, W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Colville, C. R.||Spooner, R.|
|Duncombe, T.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Etwall, R.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Fielden, J.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Wakley, T.|
|Floyer, J.||Williams, W.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Fuller, A. E.||TELLERS.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Bankes, G.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Henley, J. W.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Hume, J.|
|Antrobus, E.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Barkly, H.||Loch, J.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Marshall, W.|
|Blake, M. J.||Masterman, J.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Burke, T. J.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||O'Brien, J.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Craig, W. G.||Parker, J.|
|Deedes, W.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Denison, J. E.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Denison, E. B.||Rice, E. R.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Rutherford, A.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Duncan, G.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Evans, W.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Fox, C. R.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Gill, T.||Thornely, T.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Granger, T. C.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Greene, T.||Ward, H. G.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Wood, rt. lion. Sir C.|
|Hallyburton, Ld. J.F.G.||Wyse, T.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||TELLERS.|
|Hawes, B.||Tufnell, H.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
was anxious to have the salaries to be given under the Bill specified, and he also wished that a Secretary to the Commission should vacate his seat on accepting office. There was no 902 use in denying but that the Bill would give two new Parliamentary places to Government, which they would always be able to command; and he was opposed to such places being made without rendering it imperative on Members accepting them to vacate their seats. He should, therefore, move the insertion of the following words after the word "England," in the 22nd line of the first page: "And also in the same manner to appoint such Secretaries as from time to time may be deemed requisite." His object was to give the appointment of the Secretaries as well as of the Chief Commissioner immediately to the Crown, so that a Member accepting the appointment would by so doing forfeit his scat.
§ Question put that the words be there inserted.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the Government followed the usual course in not inserting the salaries in the Bill. When the Poor Law Commissioners were appointed, it was arranged that their salaries should come annually before Parliament; and the same course was taken in the present instance. All Boards were given a power to appoint their own Secretaries; and Her Majesty's Government saw no reason why the usual rule should be departed from in this instance.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 32; Noes 71: Majority 39.
|List of the AYES.|
|Allix, J. P.||Henley, J. W.|
|Arkwright, G.||Hudson, G.|
|Baillie, W.||Hume, J.|
|Baldwin, B.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Bankes, G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Blake, M. J.||Perfect, R.|
|Borthwick, P.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Broadwood, H.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Colville, C. R.||Spooner, R.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.T.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Etwall, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Fielden, J.||Williams, W.|
|Floyer, J.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Frewen, C. H.|
|Fuller, A. E.||TELLERS.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Duncombe, T.|
|Halsey, T. P.||Ferrand, W. B.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Carew, W. H. P.|
|Antrobus, E.||Corbally, M. E.|
|Barkly, H.||Craig, W. G.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Deedes, W.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Denison, J. E.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Denison, E. B.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Dickinson, F. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Burke, T. J.||Duncan, G.|
|Dundas, Adm.||O'Brien, J.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Parker, J.|
|Evans, W.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Ferguson, Sir E. A.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Fox, C. R.||Rice, E. R.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Gill, T.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Granger, T. C.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Greene, T.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Hallyburton, Ld. G.F.G.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Hawes, B.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Thornely, T.|
|Howard, hon. C.W. G.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Loch, J.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Marshall, W.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Masterman, J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Wyse, T.|
|Monahan, J. H.||TELLERS.|
|Morpeth, Visct.||Tufnell, H.|
|Nicholl, rt. hon. J.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ MR. WAKLEY moved the substitution of the word "one" for the word "five," in the 20th line of the 26th Clause. His object was to bring the entire question under the consideration of the new Parliament by limiting the duration of the Bill to a single year.
§ Question put that "five" stand part of the Bill.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 26: Majority 45.
|List of the AYES.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Gladstone, Capt.|
|Antrobus, E.||Gower, hon. F. L.|
|Baldwin, B.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Barkly, H.||Granger, T. C.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Greene, T.|
|Blake, M. J.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Hallyburton, Ld. J.F.G.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Hawes, B.|
|Brotherton, J.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Burke, T. J.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Hume, J.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Craig, W. G.||Loch, J.|
|Deedes, W.||Marshall, W.|
|Denison, J. E.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Denison, E. B.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Duncan, G.||Nicholl, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Dundas, Adm.||O'Brien, J.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Parker, J.|
|Evans, W.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Fox, C. R.||Rice, E. R.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Gill, T.||Kutherfurd, A.|
|Seymer, H. K.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Shelburne, Earl of||Vane, Lord H.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Ward, H. G.|
|Somerville, Sir W. M.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Sotheron, T. H. S.||Wyse, T.|
|Stanley, hon. W. O.||TELLERS.|
|Strutt, rt. hon. E.||Tufnell, H.|
|Thornely, T.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Allix, J. P.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Arkwright, G.||Henley, J. W.|
|Baillie, W.||Hudson, G.|
|Bankes, G.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Borthwick, P.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Broadwood, H.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Colville, C. R.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Spoonor, R.|
|Duncombe, T.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Etwall, R.||Williams, W.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Wakley, T.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Ferrand, W. B.|
§ Bill passed.
§ House adjourned at half-past Two o'clock.