§ MR. P. SCROPE
moved the insertion of a clause, enlarging the maximum extent of land which the guardians of any union are empowered to purchase or hire and occupy with their workhouse, from twelve to two hundred acres; and likewise that any buildings hired or erected by them upon or near to such land, be considered a part of such workhouse. Then he contended that there was a degree of harshness in confining a large number of able bodied paupers in a close building, without the opportunity of out-door exercise, whereby their health might be improved, and the country benefited by their labour. There was a union near Manchester, which had often been referred to for its enterprise and good arrangement. The board of guardians had purchased and reclaimed a portion of Chat Moss by the labour of their paupers, and land which was formerly worth nothing was now worth 50s. an acre. What had been done on the bogs in England, might be done on the bogs in Ireland. The difficulty of employing the able-bodied poor in Ireland had been always great. That difficulty would be much increased now; and were they to say that the able-bodied going into the workhouse, were to be confined there in a state of idleness, their country losing their services, 576 and themselves losing their habits of industry? He thought it most desirable that boards of guardians should be enabled to purchase 200 acres of waste land to employ their paupers upon. As soon as one 200 acres was reclaimed, it might be sold, and another lot purchased. Thus would they give to boards of guardians a greatly extended sphere of usefulness, whilst he did not see one principle upon which the plan could be opposed. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the clause be brought up.
§ Clause read a first time.
§ On the Motion that it be read a second time,
§ MR. W. SMITH O'BRIEN
said, he trusted the hon. Member would take the opinion of the House upon this Motion; and if he did, he (Mr. O'Brien) should certainly vote for him. He thought that great good would result in many cases from the adoption of the plan proposed. Small estates in fee would be erected, and the able-bodied pauper would be beneficially employed.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
supported the Motion. Their great object was to make pauper labour productive. If they could make the pauper support himself, and at the same time add to the improvement of the country, they would do much to diminish the evils of the poor law.
§ MR. SHAW
entirely objected to the principle of the clause. He had before opposed the Board of Works being made the public farmers of Ireland. He thought it would be still worse to employ the boards of guardians in that capacity. The great desideratum in Ireland was to teach the labourers habits of independence and self-reliance. How would it be possible to employ paupers to a large extent in the cultivation of the soil, without in the same proportion displacing independent labour. Let the House recollect—he had often repeated the statement in the House, but it was of the very essence of the poor-law question, and bore upon it in almost every shape and variety—and that must be his excuse—that the proportion of labourers in Ireland to those in England, compared with the produce of the land, was as four to one—the average wages as 2s. 6d. a week in Ireland to 10s. in England. Would the hon. Gentleman then inform the Committee how, under such circumstances, the condition of the pauper labourer could be rendered inferior to that of the independent 577 labourer? No one deplored more than he that such was the condition of the Irish labourer; but they must deal with the fact as it existed; and while they endeavoured to employ that surplus labour which caused it on public works, improvement of estates, reclamation of waste lands, and by every other means of independent earning to the labourer, let them avoid such a system as that proposed by the hon. Member, whereby the pauper labourer would be better fed, better housed, and better clothed than the independent labourer, and employed at lazy work, where his wages would not depend upon his exertions, else you would draw off the entire labouring population from free, industrious employment, and demoralise the whole community.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
had seen much advantage derived from the employment of paupers in making clothes, and in similar occupations. Their present difficulty was, that they had a large number of paupers whom they did not know how to employ. He (Colonel Rawdon) thought they might be employed advantageously in obtaining their own subsistence, and he saw no objection to allowing boards of guardians purchasing laud and employing the paupers upon it.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud seemed to think that there was a great inconsistency in Parliament proposing a measure for the reclamation of waste lands, and yet opposing his Motion for the employment of paupers in the manner proposed by him. Now it certainly appeared to Her Majesty's Government that the clause which the hon. Member had proposed, instead of having the effect he conceived, would be the means of increasing pauperism. He was of opinion that to enable boards of guardians to employ paupers in any farm work or reclamation of waste land, coupled with that important provision of the hon. Member's that that land need not be near the workhouse, would only be to provide an extensive system of out-door relief. The hon. Member assumed the fact that they were shutting up in the workhouses a large number of able-bodied men; and he showed how absurd it was for them to do that. Now, the largest rural workhouses in Ireland held about 1,000 persons; but not one-fifth or one-sixth of those were "able-bodied," the great majority being women, children, and infirm persons. It must also be remembered that there was at present a provision by law, by which twelve acres 578 of land contiguous to the workhouse might be used by the guardians for the employment of the inmates of the workhouse; and he was assured that, up to the present time, the guardians had not been able to cultivate even these twelve acres of land, but had been obliged to employ hired labour for the purpose. The fact was, there had been very few able-bodied men in the workhouse; and he hoped and believed that when other sources of work should be opened up to them, there would be fewer still. The present year must not be taken by any means as a criterion. When the Bill for the reclamation of waste lands should come into operation, and other measures of a similar nature, it would not be necessary for the guardians of the poor with their pauper labour to enter upon work which properly belonged to, and should be executed by, independent labour. Upon these grounds he must oppose the clause which his hon. Friend had proposed.
§ MR. SHAW
said, the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) was substantially right. A few of the union workhouses contained more than 1,000 persons; but, on the average the workhouses contained less; for there were 130 workhouses accommodating about 100,000 persons. Of those there were returned 50,000 children under fifteen years of age, being the half. He believed there would be found a fourth of adult young women, who would be driven to ruin if turned out. The remainder were composed principally of the aged, sick, and infirm; so that there were but few able-bodied men in the workhouses; and, even if it were not on principle undesirable, it would be in fact impracticable, to till the quantity of land proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. P. Scrope) to be taken by the guardians, supposing him to confine the agricultural labour to those in the workhouse; but assuming, as he did, that the hon. Member meant to extend it to the class of labourers who might, under that Bill, receive out-door relief, then he repeated that that would tend to pauperise the whole labouring population.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
, in reference to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin (Mr. Shaw), observed, that he thought the strict confinement, the workhouse diet, and the other workhouse restraints, would be quite sufficient to render the condition of the pauper inferior to that of the independent labourer.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
said, that eight 579 years' experience as a member of a board of guardians had convinced him that the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud provided the most wholesome and practically useful method of employing the pauper that he had heard devised. Though the Irish were exclusively an agricultural people, yet there was nothing the poor was so deficient in as a practical knowledge of agricultural pursuits. He thought that deficiency might be supplied by having a farm of a moderate size attached to every rural workhouse throughout that country; and he should make those farms model farms, with the view of improving the general husbandry of the country. He did not see any one mischief that could arise from such a system. As for the paupers being better off than independent labourers, he would observe first, that the Irish did not like restraint. In addition to that, how could it be said, if men would not remain in the workhouse when they had no work to do, that they would remain when work was exacted from them? But suppose the expenditure should prove a failure. There was no risk, and could be no loss. They were not called upon to make any grant; no capital was required. The capital was in their own hands, it was the labour of the poor man whom at present they were supporting. If they failed, no loss was incurred—if they succeeded, a great benefit was to be derived, and he should most certainly vote for the clause.
LORD J. RUSSELL
said: I believe the House cannot make a greater mistake, in considering the Bill before it, than by pursuing the course of my hon. Friend behind me, who would have us consider two or three objects at the same time. When you are considering a matter of public works, it is your duty to make them as effective and useful as possible; and when you are considering a Poor Belief Bill, make it as efficient as possible; but do not aim at the accomplishment of other objects at the same time. My hon. Friend behind me wishes to make model farms—he wishes to establish a great deal of pauper labour under the conduct of the poor-law guardians, and thereby to improve the agriculture of Ireland. Now, I believe that in so doing he would fail in his object. He would neither improve agriculture nor make good model farms. He would have a number of paupers who would be inefficient labourers, employed under unskilful overseers, and would, while engaged in this object, lose the object which he had in 580 view, namely, the relieving in the best possible manner of those people who are starving. When I say, in the best possible manner, I mean by applying a test to those to whom you give relief. I would say to the pauper, "As you are quietly starving,; and have no means of obtaining labour and wages, we will give you food, sustenance, and shelter; but it shall be on a condition that shall show you have no other resources, and are obliged to ask for this support." My hon. Friend says he does not understand why it would be at all better for a man to be confined in a workhouse, than to employ him as a pauper labourer upon farms. The reason is, as we know by experience—by very costly experience, I am sure—that confinement in the workhouse is found to be very irksome to the labourer. He does not resort to it without he is obliged to do so. If he is confined in the workhouse, he is, as it were, in a barrack; he will rather work for the greater part of the day in the fields, and return to the workhouse in the evening; he will not find it so unpleasant a life as the usual life of a hard-worked independent labourer; and he will, therefore, have resort to the workhouse when he is not actually obliged to it by necessity, and we should have evils such as have been pointed out by the Archbishop of Dublin. I do not apprehend so much evil from the working of the proposed system as he has mentioned; but I do not think, if you adopt a clause of this kind, you would give to the workhouse the character which it ought to have among the labouring population. I think the workhouse, under such a system, would become an object of resort to those who are not obliged to resort to it for their sustenance. I must repeat, that I think, when you are considering the question of poor relief, you had better consider what is the best system of affording relief to the poor of Ireland, and that the question of agricultural relief, or the establishment of model farms, should be entirely a subject of a separate measure. I think that you had better confine this measure to that object for which it is intended.
§ COLONEL ROLLESTON
concurred in the views of the noble Lord as to the desirableness of confining this measure to its original object; but he might observe, that, in addition to the instance which the hon. Member for Strond (Mr. Scrope) had brought forward, there was another union in this country with which he (Col. Rolleston) was acquainted, in which the guardians 581 had employed a portion of their able-bodied men on a farm attached to the workhouse; and he knew that the best results had followed. He was not prepared to go to the extent of the hon. Gentleman; but he should willingly support a modified system of farming in connexion with the workhouses. The union in England to which he alluded, employed between thirty and forty able-bodied persons on their farm, and found the system to work economically and beneficially: not only men, but young women and boys, were employed on the farm. He hoped that steps would be hereafter taken by the Legislature to carry out, on a modified scale, the proposals of the hon. Member for Stroud, as he was convinced that Ireland would be greatly benefited by such a scheme.
SIR W. JAMES
could not accede to the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud, because he believed that it would act prejudicially towards Ireland. It would have a tendency to destroy an independent spirit upon the part of the labouring classes of Ireland. Besides the fallacious scheme of the hon. Member for Stroud, there was another fallacy which appeared to him to be equally dangerous—he alluded to the doctrine which had been laid down as to the duty of the Government to feed the people, irrespective of any effort on the part of the people to feed themselves. But while he said that, he wished it to be understood that he was prepared to second the views of the hon. Member for Stroud on a modified scale, because he considered it to be preferable to what was called the workhouse system of the country—he was convinced that many evils resulted from continual confinement in the workhouses, which became a species of gaol to the people. He would not say that the evils flowing from continual confinement in the workhouse were as great as those which attended confinement in gaols; but, to a great extent, the same evils, the same corruption of morals, certainly did result from the present workhouse system. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State would object to alter the clause as regarded the number of acres to be attached to the workhouses? He would suggest that the number be extended from twelve to twenty-five acres, or some such number. If the ground attached to a workhouse were extended to some such number as twenty-five acres, there would be an opportunity of establishing extensive industrial training schools. 582 He believed that schools of that nature were at present attached to the workhouses in Ireland. Practical instruction in agriculture, &c., might be given to the able-bodied inmates of the workhouses, from which the most beneficial results would flow. At present the boards of guardians were not allowed to exercise sufficient discretion as to the parties to whom they gave encouragement. They ought to be allowed, as regarded employment in the gardens attached to workhouses, to confine their encouragement to persons of good character.
§ MR. LAWLESS
was most anxious to see the attention of the Government directed to the great advantages which might be derived from the establishment of agricultural schools; but he did not think the workhouses were exactly the places to turn into such schools. It had been truly said that the Irish labourer entertained an indisposition to enter the workhouse, and he hoped that such a disinclination would long continue to characterize him.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
said, that some hon. Members appeared to have misunderstood his suggestion. His object was that they should use the capital they were about to apply in the best possible manner. He had no doubt that the labour out of the workhouse would be of a superior description to that performed by the inmates of such an establishment; nor did he suppose that the farms to which he had alluded could be made model farms of the best description. They ought, in his opinion, to make the best they could of the capital to be employed; and he thought, at all events, an option might be given to the guardians to take more land than that which each union possessed at present in any case when the guardians thought fit.
§ MR. CURTEIS
objected to any increase in the number of acres, as he feared that great manœuvring would take place between the guardians if the number were increased; they might play into each other's hands with regard to the purchase of the land. He objected to the clause of the hon. Member for Stroud, as he believed that it would induce a great many able-bodied labourers to apply for parochial relief who would otherwise be content to employ themselves in out-door work without trouble to the unions.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, the proposal of the hon. Member for Stroud was entirely different to that of the hon. Gentleman be- 583 hind him (Sir W. James). He would take into consideration whether it would be prudent to give the boards of guardians power to attach more than twelve acres to the workhouses of their unions; and, if he approved of the proposal, he would be prepared with an additional clause to that effect when the Bill arrived at its last stage.
§ In answer to LORD J. MANNERS,
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that it was intended that three acres should be allotted to each workhouse for the purpose of erecting a fever hospital. Those three acres would be quite distinct from the twelve acres to be attached to the workhouse for other purposes.
§ MR. SCROPE
, in reply, said, that he did not seek by his clause for any increase in the number of acres. He would not trouble the Committee by asking them to divide upon his proposal; but, before he sat down, he wished to say this, that the whole of the arguments on this question seemed to him to consist of the invidious use of the term "pauper labourer;" but he must say, that he thought that pauper labour was better than pauper idleness.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ MR. GREGORY
moved the insertion of the following clause:—And be it enacted, that if it shall be proved, to the satisfaction of the board of guardians, at any time, that any occupier of land within such union, rated at a net annual value, not exceeding 5l., shall be willing to give up possession of the said land, whether held under lease or as tenant at will, and to emigrate, together with all persons who may be dependent upon him for their support and maintenance; and that such occupier shall have been approved by Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, or such person as he may appoint for that purpose, as a fit and proper person to be admitted as an emigrant; and that the immediate lessor of such occupier is willing, upon the emigration of such occupier and his family, and upon the surrender of the land occupied by him, to forego any claim for rent which he may have upon the said occupier, and also to provide two-thirds of such fair and reasonable sum as shall be required for the emigration of such occupier and his family; then, and in such case, it shall be lawful for the board of guardians of such union, upon payment of such last-mentioned sum, to charge upon the rates of the electoral division, and to pay over to such person and in such manner as shall be directed by the Poor Law Commissioners, in aid of the emigration of such occupier, any sum not exceeding one-half of the sum contributed and paid by such immediate lessor as aforesaid, notwithstanding that any sum or sums so charged and paid may exceed in any one year one shilling in the pound on the rates of such electoral division, and notwithstanding that such occupier and his family may not be, nor have been, inmates of the workhouse of such union.He trusted that the clause had been drawn 584 up in such a manner, that it would not meet with any objection on the part of the Committee. He had thought it right that the general board of guardians, and not the guardians of the electoral divisions, should be the arbitrators in every case. He believed that some hon. Gentlemen considered it unfair that so large a proportion of the expenses as two-thirds, should be placed on the landlords; but he deemed it right and expedient that it should be so, because they would be greatly relieved by the removal of whole families at once from their districts. He would not enter into the general question of emigration, as it would be unseasonable to do so at the present moment; and, besides, he had a Motion on the subject on the Votes, which he would bring forward as soon as possible after Easter.
§ Clause brought up and read a first time.
§ On the question that the Clause be read a second time.
§ MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
said, he had a Motion on the same subject upon the Paper, which he thought was preferable to that of the hon. Member for Dublin. If, however, the House preferred his hon. Friend's Motion, he would, of course, acquiesce in their decision, and forbear bringing forward his Motion.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, the Government were not inclined to object to the introduction of the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Gregory's) clause. He did not see any reason why poor parties that were desirous of emigrating from Ireland, should be compelled to remain three months in the workhouse previous to their emigration; he thought that that system involved an unnecessary expense. It was intended hereafter that the parties that applied for funds to enable them to emigrate, should first be approved of by the agents of the Secretary of State as fit parties to be sent out to the colonies. There had been several complaints made very justly by the colonists not long ago, that the parties who were forwarded to the colonics from this country were of the most depraved character; and it was therefore desirable that every precaution should be taken here against such abuses. Parties had hitherto been sent out who were totally incapable, and some of them unwilling, to work. He thought the clause of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gregory) would meet that objection against the present system.
§ MR. S. O'BRIEN
was quite satisfied with the expression of the right hon. Gen- 585 tleman's sentiments with regard to the clause before the Committee; he thought that from the words "it shall be lawful," it would appear that it would be compulsory upon the guardians to act. He thought it would be better to add, after "it shall be lawful for the guardians," the words, "if they shall think fit;" and at all events words ought to be inserted which would remove all doubt upon the subject.
§ SIR G. GREY
considered that the words "it shall be lawful," implied a discretion in the guardians; but he had no objection to the addition proposed by the hon. Member for Limerick.
§ MR. P. HOWARD
inquired if the right hon. Baronet intended that these parties should be allowed to emigrate wherever they thought fit, or only to our own colonics.
§ MR. GREGORY
observed, that the persons about to emigrate must be approved of by the Secretary of State for the Colonies; and it was quite clear that the Secretary of State could not accede to any system of deportation. With regard to the clause of his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick, it opened at once the question of a system of colonization.
§ MR. P. HOWARD
suggested that, after the word "emigrate," should be added, "to any British colony." If a party emigrated, and the cost of emigration was defrayed from his own resources, he ought to be at liberty to go where he liked; but if he went out assisted by the resources of the public, then he ought to go to a British colony.
§ Clause read a second time, and with amendments added to the Bill.
§ MR. GREGORY
rose to propose the following Clause:—And be it further Enacted, That no person who shall be in the occupation, whether under lease or agreement, or as tenant-at-will, or from year to year, or in any other manner whatsoever, of any land of greater extent than the quarter of a statute acre, shall be deemed and taken to be a destitute poor person under the provisions of this Act, or of any former Act of Parliament; nor shall it be lawful for any board of guardians to grant any relief whatever in or out of the workhouse to any such occupier, his wife, or children. And if any person having been such occupier as aforesaid shall apply to any board of guardians for relief as a destitute poor person, it shall not be lawful to such guardians to grant such relief, until they shall be satisfied that such person has bonâ fide, and without collusion, absolutely parted with and surrendered any right or title which he 586 may have had to the occupation of any land over and above such extent as aforesaid, of one quarter of a statute acre.In proposing the above clause, he wished not to be understood as having changed his opinion as to the principle of out-door relief; but the House was so strongly in favour of it, that it was impossible longer to resist, especially when he found that that feeling in favour of it was more than reciprocated out of doors. Under such circumstances, it would be most wise in him and those who thought with him to abstain from further interference with the progress of the Bill; on the contrary, their duty was to endeavour to have the measure so fenced and guarded that fraud and imposture might not be encouraged. In consequence of the circumstances of Ireland, and the lax discipline which prevailed there, nothing ought to be left indefinite or undetermined. Some limit must be fixed where destitution might be said to cease, and out-door relief to end. It was impossible to define who was destitute, to gauge the amount of misery which constituted destitution; but it was clearly in the power of the Legislature to enact and to enforce that possessors of property beyond a certain amount should not be entitled to relief out of the public purse. It was to guard against such a contingency as persons of this class receiving public relief, that he brought forward this clause—that persons should not be encouraged to exercise the double vocation of pauper and farmer. Since he gave notice of his intention to move this clause, he had been in Ireland. He consulted persons the most intelligent and the most conversant with the condition of the people, and was by them assured that the limits of holding which he had formerly designed, "half an acre," was by far too extensive; and that there was no chance of the law working satisfactorily if persons holding more than "a quarter of an acre," were allowed to apply for relief. He accordingly inserted "quarter of an acre" in the clause. That was the quantity of land which it was stated was fitting for the labourers to hold in the Commons Enclosure Bill. In the original draft of that Bill, "half an acre" was the quantity defined; but subsequent inquiry and consideration induced its promoters to fix it at a quarter of an acre. Notwithstanding his repugnance to the general principle, he must admit that the able-bodied labourer had some claim for outdoor relief. And suppose, for instance, 587 the case of a labourer who worked hard all his life, increased the productiveness of the soil, and realized large property for the owner; accident, sickness, old age, or misfortune, placed him in destitution; his habits, feelings, instincts, were averse to the workhouse; in such a case who would say it might not be judicious to administer outdoor relief, even where he might have a little garden and cottage? But the case was different where a man held a large piece of land—half an acre, one, two, or three acres—he was no longer an object of pity. He did not come before the public in formâ pauperis—he had not given up his holding—he had not done that which, by the bankruptcy law, would entitle him to his certificate. When he did so he would be entitled to relief the same as any other destitute person, but not until then. For these reasons he trusted the House would sanction the clause.
§ MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
said, that as he understood the Government were determined to accede to this clause, it would be useless for him to remonstrate against it. There were many instances, however, where it would operate harshly. If a man was only to have a right to out-door relief upon condition of his giving up his land, a person might receive relief for a few weeks, and become a beggar for ever. He thought this was a cruel enactment, and should therefore enter his remonstrance against it.
§ MR. CURTEIS
opposed the clause. It was restricting relief to the poor of Ireland, which relief might be sadly needed by that very class against whom this clause was intended to operate. He hoped the Government would not give it their sanction, as he could assure them the provision would be most unpopular in this country. The clause was meant to benefit the Irish landlords—a class which deserved little sympathy from the House or the country. What was a quarter of an acre of land? The peasant grew potatoes on it. Suppose his crop failed him; he must, in such case, give it up and go into the workhouse, or starve. It might be that the poor man, having a lease, would not surrender it. What then—must he hold it and starve?
§ SIR G. GREY
had always understood that these small holdings were the bane of Ireland. The Government had given this subject much consideration, and were of opinion that great evil might ensue from an indiscriminate relief of all possessors of small holdings; they thought it would not 588 be judicious that all such persons should be classed under the head "destitute persons," and entitled to the relief which was only meant for those who were really so. It was an ascertained fact, that among persons seeking for relief on the public works were the holders of small farms, many of whom gave up the cultivation of their own little holdings in order to earn 6s. a week under the Government system. It would be unwise to allow persons who held a considerable quantity of land to receive relief—it would be an encouragement to such persons to abstain from honest industry, and to throw themselves on the poor rates for support. At the same time it would be hard to say that those who held but a small garden and a cottage should, in no case, be recipients of public charity. Cases might arise where such was extremely desirable; but, as a standard must be fixed somewhere, he was disposed to agree with the hon. Member for Dublin, and support the clause. As, however, its immediate operation might press with hardship, owing to the present unfortunate condition of the country, he should move that some words, giving the clause a prospective operation, be inserted; say, for instance, from the 1st of November next.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
thought the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Curteis) did not very clearly state what the feeling of the people of England was upon this subject. It surely could not be in favour of a law which would press with greater severity on the poor man than the English Poor Law, but rather the reverse. Now, this law was much less stringent; for whereas the English law would allow no labourer to be relieved who possessed anything more than his working tools, this measure, adapting itself to the circumstances of Ireland, would afford out-door relief to the man who held a cottage and a quarter of an acre of a garden. This provision he (Mr. Newdegate) thought was merciful and wise.
§ MR. BELLEW
was of opinion that the clause would most essentially aid the well working of the Bill in Ireland, and would tend to the gradual absorption of the small holdings now so extensively held, as well as the conversion of masses of starving peasantry into useful and well-paid labourers. Without such a clause, the poor law would tend rather to retard than to expedite this happy result.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
objected to carrying the clause so suddenly into execution. Its consequence would be a complete 589 clearance of the small farmers in Ireland—a change which would amount to a perfect social revolution in the state of things in that country. Such a change might be desirable, if effected by degrees; but to introduce it at once would have the effect of turning great masses of pauperism adrift on the community—a catastrophe which would undoubtedly not be without its effects in this country. He might as well take the opportunity, while upon his legs, of setting right the hon. Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) as to the operation of the English Poor Law. By that law it was not imperative upon the pauper receiving relief to part entirely with any property which he might possess. The matter was left in a great measure to the discretion of the board of guardians to be guided by the peculiar circumstances of each individual case.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
, admitting that some limitation was necessary as to persons holding small farms and receiving public relief, yet could not agree to this clause, which was too imperative in its restrictions. If a man were to build a cottage on a small holding, it would be very hard, if under the pressure of sickness or some other calamity he should be obliged to part with his little property. He thought that under such circumstances relief might be afforded as a loan charged upon the property of the recipient. At all events, relief ought to be discretionary with the board of guardians. He should divide the House against the clause.
§ MR. M. BELLEW
said, that where the poor were afflicted by sickness, they could apply to the hospitals or dispensaries, which were admirably managed and generally well supported.
§ MR. YOUNG
wished to know, supposing the principle of the hon. Member for Rochdale to be adopted, where it was to stop? A man in the situation put by the hon. Member would be worth property to the extent of 30l. or 40l.; and certainly no such person ought to be flung as a burden upon ratepayers, themselves removed but one step from destitution.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
explained. The principle of the English Poor Law was as he had stated. It was only left discretionary with boards of guardians to dispense in particular cases with the letter of the enactment.
feared that the clause would be the means of producing very much oppression in Ireland.
held it to be quite right 590 that a man occupying half an acre of land should be obliged to give it up before receiving relief from the public. If there was anything which raised his hope of an Irish Poor Law being attended with advantage, it was this clause, the operation of which would tend to the conversion of small farmers to better paid labourers. He repeated that it was in this clause that he saw the prospect of a decided advantage to the people of Ireland.
§ MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
said, it would be perfectly impossible, unless they placed the limit of relief somewhere, that any hope could be justly entertained that the agriculture of Ireland would prosper—that a system of money wages would be introduced—that the labourer would be independent—and the farmer enterprising; or that the landlord would invest his capital in the land.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
said, the difference in the circumstances of England and Ireland were not sufficiently regarded. In England the landlord built a cottage for the labourer—in Ireland he built it for himself; and the effect of this clause would be to enable the landlord, if he chose, to take possession of the poor man's property.
§ MR. GREGORY
must say that some hon. Gentlemen maintained the right of the poor to relief to an extent so extensive that they seemed to look on the property of Ireland as exhaustless. Many hon. Members insisted that the operation of a clause of this kind would destroy all the small farmers. If it could have such an effect, he did not see of what use such small farmers could possibly be. He should of course adopt any reasonable amendment that was proposed; but if some such clause as he had submitted was not carried, the cry of the "poor man's guardian" would be raised in every electoral division in Ireland, and the proper working of the Bill be thereby greatly impeded.
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
looked on that clause as a valuable alteration. It might not give complete, satisfaction at first; but he was sure that before many years it would be found most useful. It would prevent that description of applicants who were neither labourers nor farmers—who were without the industry of the labourer, or the skill of the farmer. The hon. Member for Dublin had not perhaps taken the precise quantity of land as the groundwork of his clause, which he (Mr. O'Con- 591 nell) should have selected; but to the principle he gave his decided support.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
It might be a question how far such a clause as this affected the rights of descendants. Such a case was an extreme one; but it might occur, and should be considered.
§ MR. ARCHBOLD
felt bound to support this clause. To show the abuses which it was calculated to check, he might mention the fact that he knew a man holding twenty acres of land who applied for employment on the public works, A man holding ten acres of land had been admitted, and be believed was still employed on them. Men who retained these small holdings, and yet sought relief, were a nuisance, and the sooner they were deprived of their land the better. He did not wish that they should be harshly dealt with; but they ought not to be allowed to receive relief and yet retain their holdings.
§ MR. SHAW
, in deference to the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh, said, that the holder of one-fourth of an acre was required to give up his land before he acquired any right to relief; but to say that the descendants of a man so circumstanced could be affected in their rights of property, would require a considerable stretch of the imagination.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
wished to know whether the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department had formed any proximate estimate of the number of persons who were now receiving relief, but who, if this clause came into operation, must be left destitute, if they did not consent to give up their holdings?
§ SIR G. GREY
had not made any such estimate: but he was satisfied that the effect of the clause would be to diminish the number of applicants for relief, and would have the effect of separating the really destitute from those who were in possession of land, but who really derived no benefit from it.
§ MR. ALDERMAN HUMPHERY
thought a quarter of an acre in the proposed clause should be changed to five acres.
§ SIR G. GREY
was afraid his hon. Friend did not clearly see the effect of his own Amendment. All holders of land up to 4¾ acres, would, according to such an amendment, be enabled to obtain relief without selling their land. His hon. Friend seemed to forget that a quarter of an acre was the minimum quantity of land designated; 592 and the holder of two, five, or ten acres was of course compelled to sell his land before he could establish any claim to relief.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
must still express a hope that the clause would be reconsidered. When a man was starving, and was not allowed to endeavour to subsist by begging, it was left in the power of the guardians to refuse relief until they were satisfied that such a claimant had given up all the small holding he might possess. He thought such a provision inconsistent with the principle of the Bill—that all the destitute should have a right to relief.
§ The Committee divided on the question that the Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill:—Ayes 117; Noes 7: Majority 110.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Archbold, R.||Hawes, B.|
|Arkwright, G.||Heathcote, Sir W.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Heneage, E.|
|Henley, J. W.|
|Baillie, W.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Balfour, J. M.||Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Bateson, T.||Hope, Sir J.|
|Bennet, P.||Hope, G. W.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Howard, P. H.|
|Bernal, R.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Botfield, B.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Brisco, M.||Kemble, H.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Ker, D. S.|
|Brotherton, J.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Bruen, Col.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Buller, C.||Lawless, hon. C.|
|Buller, E.||Layard, Maj.|
|Busfeild, W.||Lefroy, A.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Macnamara, M.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||M'Donnell, J. M.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Maitland, T.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Craig, W. G.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Dick, Q.||March, Earl of|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Disraeli, B.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Drax, J. S. W.||Moffatt, G.|
|Duncan, G.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Dundas, Sir D.||Morris, D.|
|Finch, G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Forster, M.||O'Brien, C.|
|Fuller, A. E.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||O'Conor Don|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Grey, rt. hon, Sir G.||Ord, W.|
|Grogan, E.||Patten, J. W.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Perfect, R.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Pulsford, R.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Rice, E. R.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Tufnell, H.|
|Sanderson, It.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Shaw, rt. hon. F.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Somerville, Sir W. M.||Ward, H. G.|
|Stuart, W. V.||Wyse, T.|
|Stuart, J.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Strutt, rt. hon. E.||Young, J.|
|Tancred, H. W.|
|Thornely, T.||Bellew, R. M.|
|Tollemache, J.||Gregory, W. H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Escott, B.||Williams, W.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||TELLERS.|
|Humphery, Ald.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|M'Carthy, A.||Curteis, J.|
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ MR. W. S. O'BRIEN
rose to move the following Clause:—Whereas it appears that in the formation of electoral divisions pauperism has been so allocated, in respect of the property liable for its relief, as to cause the pressure of poor-rate taxation to be very unequal: be it therefore enacted, that the Poor Law Commissioners shall revise and reconstitute the electoral divisions of the several unions in such a manner as that the pauperism of each district shall bear to the property liable for its relief as nearly an uniform proportion throughout each union as circumstances will allow.The disproportion between the rating area and the amount of property in the electoral divisions was very great, as compared in the various electoral divisions. In some cases the poor rates were 1s. 6d., and in the adjoining division but 2½d. in the pound.
§ SIR G. GREY
replied, that the inconveniences to which the hon. Member referred could be remedied by the Commissioners, who had power, under the existing law, to make regulations to obviate local grievances. It was, therefore, not necessary to insert an additional clause for that object. Disproportion of areas and rated property did no doubt exist; but it was impossible to lay down any general principle for the division of the country into districts which would bear an equal proportion of rating in every care as compared with the population.
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
could assure the Government there was nothing which created such dissatisfaction and caused such obstacles to the effective working of the system, as the disproportion between population and property in the existing divisions of the country. The electoral districts were laid down hastily and without sufficient care to observe a due propor- 594 tion in this case; and it would be well if Government would instruct the Commissioners to revise them.
§ Clause negatived.
§ MR. W. S. O'BRIEN
then moved the following Clause:—Whereas much inconvenience has been found to result from the great size of several of the unions of Ireland: be it enacted, that the Pool Law Commissioners shall revise and re-constitute the unions, so that no union shall contain more than 150,000 acres.The size of the unions as they were at present constituted, was, in many instances, so great as to produce the most serious inconvenience, and to obstruct the operation of the system of relief. In one case the boundary of the union was thirty miles from the workhouse; and the distance which the guardians had to go in order to attend board meetings, and inquire into cases requiring relief, was so great as to render it very inconvenient, if not impossible, to attend to their duties.
§ SIR G. GREY
objected to the introduction of a territorial standard, which might be found inconvenient in its application. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not press the clause.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said, there were 130 unions in Ireland, the average of each of which was 227 square miles, so that some of the people, if they had occasion to go to the workhouse to ascertain if they could have relief, would have to travel, there and back, 24 miles. In others they would have to travel 21 miles. It must be admitted that this was a most enormous grievance, and nothing made the poor law in this country more unpopular than the large size of the unions. The Ballina union was past endurance. It covered 792 square miles, and the workhouse was situated at one side of the union; and the result was, that a person might have to travel in going to it, there and back, 46 miles. This grievance, which affected guardians as well as the poor, called loudly for redress, and he thought it would have been a great advantage if Her Majesty's Ministers had taken the opportunity of increasing the number of workhouses on a very great scale. If they had increased the workhouses to the same extent in Ireland as in England, it would have been of great benefit, and would have carried out the poor-law system upon a more wholesome principle, without demoralising the people, whilst it would have saved upwards of 4,000,000l. sterling this year. He did not 595 mean by building palaces like some of the workhouses, but buildings upon a cheaper scale. If this had been done, thousands and tens of thousands, he believed hundreds of thousands, might have been kept at far less expense, without the jobbing attending employment upon public works. Upon this subject he had consulted Mr. Gulson, who, of all the Poor Law Commissioners, was the best acquainted with Ireland, and who had constructed houses for the reception of fever patients at a very small expense. By a return which had been circulated on Saturday last, he saw that the expenditure upon public works in Ireland, exclusive of draining, for the whole year, would be no less than 13,142,000l., expended in the course of the year. The expense of the staff in the course of one year was 1,193,000l. Now, he was in a condition to show that if the Government had extended their works, and had erected 400 workhouses upon the principle adopted by Mr. Gulson, capable of containing 400,000 pauper families, which, reckoning 5½ in each family, according to the census of Ireland, would have made 2,200,000 persons—if this had been done, it might have been accomplished at an outlay of 800,000l. Then, taking the rations published last week, the whole of these people have been subsisted at an expense of 7,204,166l. 13s. 4d. [Laughter.] Yes, the Chief Secretary for Ireland laughs! He thinks it a very good joke to throw away millions of the public money. There never was a Government that lavished the money of the country in the way in which it has been lavished by the Chief Secretary for Ireland; and then he thinks it a good joke when a Gentleman gets up and shows to him that 4,000,000l. might have been saved under a different administration from that which has been adopted by the Government, for which he is responsible. He took (the noble Lord continued) the rations as they were promulgated last week by the Irish Government, and, upon that footing, that 2,200,000 persons, reckoning 400,000 men, 400,000 women, and the remainder children, might have been subsisted for 7,204,166l. According to their own reports, the expense of necessaries and clothing amounted to 3d. a head; that, he was assured, was a very high estimate, considering there were so many children. But, taking it at 3d., that would add 1,430,000l. to this expense. Then the land would have to be purchased for the sites of these 400 workhouses, which, 596 according to the average paid for the sites of those now existing, viz. 50l. an acre, would entail a cost of 160,000l. But it would only be reasonable to take the interest of money at 3½ per cent for the land, which would give about 5,600l. for interest. In like manner, it would be only reasonable to take for the outlay of the 800,000l. for the workhouses 6l. 10s. per cent, which, for twenty-two years, would give an annual cost of 52,000l. per year. But there were other expenses connected with the workhouses; there were masters, matrons, physicians, apothecaries, clerks, relieving officers, porters, nurses, and, more important still, schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, chaplains of the Church of England, priests of the Roman Catholic Church, and ministers of the Presbyterian religion—all these matters he had taken into consideration, and, according to the payments made to these various persons under the present law, he found that the whole of these upon the staff, with 400 new workhouses, containing each 5,500 inmates, would cost no more than 142,000l. a year. So that the maintenance of a staff of this description, consisting of 5,200 persons, would cost but 142,000l., whilst the staff, under the present system, consisted of 11,587 persons, and cost 1,193,000l. a year. Thus, upon the staff alone, there might have been, effected a saving of 1,050,000l. a year; whilst, taking the whole charge together, these 2,200,000 persons might have been as well subsisted, clothed, and educated, as they now were for 8,823,766l., instead of the lavish expenditure of 13,143,500l. upon useless works—works worse than useless, because the people had been employed upon spoiling the roads. He, therefore, had shown that by his scheme of erecting 400 new workhouses, they might have had 530 unions and 530 workhouses, instead of 130 unions and as many workhouses, which would not only have added to the comforts of the poor, and brought the workhouses within three miles and a half of every inmate of the union, and within the same distance of every guardian to overlook them, and have thus brought all official persons under close and immediate supervision, but it would have saved, at the same time, no less a sum than 4,319,736l. in the course of a single year. They would also have had this security—they would have ceased to demoralise the peasantry who could get labour elsewhere, for they would not have consented to come 597 into these workhouses; and none but the destitute, the sick, and those incapable of getting work, would have entered them. There would, at the same time, have been no quitting the cultivation of the land for the sake of getting small wages upon the public works. The land would have been tilled, and the people saved from dying; whilst the children would have been improved in their morals and habits, and in every respect the condition of the people would have been raised. "I am perfectly certain (said the noble Lord) that if you had had recourse to this system, we should not have heard of the thousands, the tens of thousands, or the hundreds of thousands—but we cannot learn from the Government how many hundreds of thousands they are, who have perished. It is the only subject of secrecy with the Irish Government. We can learn the number of bushels of potatoes, and the quarters of wheat and of oats that have been thrown on the coast of Ireland; but there is one point upon which alone the Irish Government are totally ignorant, totally careless, or else are determined to keep this country in darkness; and that is the mortality that has occurred during their maladministration of Irish affairs. Yes! they shrank from telling us. They are ashamed to tell us. They know that the people have died by thousands; and I dare them to ask—I dare them to inquire what the numbers of the dead have been—dead, through their mismanagement; dead, chiefly through their principles of free trade. Yes, free trade with the lives of the Irish people, leaving the people to take care of themselves when Providence has swept the food from the face of the earth—leaving the people, in a country where there are neither mills, nor stores, nor granaries, to perish. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: No, no!] Ay, the right hon. Gentleman may cry "No, no!" why does he not give us information, then? If he does not shrink from telling us the truth, why does he not give us the information which he now conceals from us, and then we shall know what the effects of his administration have been? How was it possible that a people suddenly deprived of their food, in a country where no description of food was allowed to cross without an escort, where no food grew amongst them save grass for cattle, and where the only food fit for man was stored in granaries by corn dealers who were attempting to feed the people with a now species of grain, to which they were not 598 accustomed—how could such a people procure corn from their own resources? It was out of the question. And when the Government knew in the month of August that the potato crops, to the value of 16,000,000l., had been swept away from a people who had no money to purchase other food with—potatoes being the labour coin of the country—how was it possible there should have been any other result than that that should happen which has happened, and that there should die such a number of persons as has never before been paralleled in any Christian country? ["Oh, oh!"] Oh, you groan, but you will hear again of this. The time will come when we shall know what the amount of the mortality is, and though you Gentlemen may groan, and wish to conceal the truth, yet the truth shall and will be known; the time will come when the public, and the world itself, will be able to estimate at its proper value your management of the affairs of Ireland."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said: I beg to remind the Committee that the clause upon which they have to decide, and upon which the speech they have just heard is, I suppose, to be considered a commentary, is to this effect:—That whereas it appears that in the formation of electoral divisions pauperism has been so allocated as to cause an unequal pressure of the poor rate: be it enacted that the Commissioners shall reconstitute the divisions in such manner as shall proportion the pauperism of each district to the property thereof.Now, I am far too anxious that the Committee should proceed to the consideration of the important Bill now before them, to be tempted, even by the extraordinary project which the noble Lord has brought forward as a panacea for all the evils that afflict Ireland, to enter into any discussion. But the noble Lord has thought fit to make an assertion which I owe it to myself, to my own character, and to the character and feelings of the Government with whom I act, to make some reference to. The noble Lord has said that the Government were indifferent to the sufferings of the people of Ireland; and he has added that we were anxious to conceal the truth from the House and the country with regard to the effect of our measures. Sir, I shall content myself with giving to that assertion of the noble Lord a contradiction as explicit, as direct, and as complete, as my respect for this House will allow me. I will not be tempted by the tone which the 599 noble Lord has adopted, to pursue this discussion. I feel too deeply the responsibility which rests upon me as a Minister of the Crown to lose, I trust, my temper in discussing a question of this infinite importance. In the present condition of the people of Ireland, no provocation shall induce me to do so. But I feel that, after having heard such an assertion as that which the noble Lord has made, I could not and ought not to have said less to the noble Lord than that which I have said. I apologize to the House for having interfered even for a moment with the business of the Committee, when that moment has been spent in a reply to such a speech as that which we have just heard from the noble Lord. I trust that we shall now return to the subject more calmly; and I hope that our future discussions with regard to Irish subjects—and I must say that, during the present Session, those discussions have, for the most part, been conducted on all sides with an entire absence of party feeling, from all inflammatory language, and with a careful and cautious desire to abstain from anything that might increase the difficulties of the Government, or produce excitement elsewhere,—will be resumed with a due sense of the magnitude of the responsibility that attaches to them, and that the same spirit which has hitherto been shown will be persevered in. I can assure the House of this, that if I have said anything that for a moment might be supposed to indicate a different spirit, it has been wrung from me by the charge that has been made by the noble Lord against the Government with which I am connected, and which I felt it impossible to sit silently by and hear without expressing my remonstrance against it.
§ MR. REPTON
was extremely sorry to observe the course that had been taken by the noble Member for Lynn, in the speech he had just delivered. He admired the Government for their endeavours to ameliorate the unhappy condition of Ireland, and offered them the humble tribute of his praise for their good, hearty, and, he believed honest intentions towards the people of that country.
§ MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
wished to place on record his opinion on this subject, and therefore should not withdraw the clause.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
confessed that, ex- 600 cited by his argument, the noble Lord, perhaps, might have used language stronger than he had intended; but he concurred with the noble Lord in this—he did think that the Government were grievously impeded by an adherence to the principles of political economy, in the first instance, in dealing with the calamity in Ireland. He could not, therefore, concur with the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Repton) in the encomium which he had passed upon the Government; but he would admit that the Government had made great exertions afterwards to free themselves from the embarrassments in which they were involved by having at first adopted those principles. At the commencement of the distress, he thought there had been a most unfortunate delay on the part of the Government, in coming forward to protect the people from this calamity. He would give the Government every credit for being taken by surprise at first; but he could not exonerate them altogether, and could not account for the fact except by attributing the delay to the stringent principles of political economy which were then adhered to, and which every humane man must be rejoiced to see had been since abandoned.
§ Clause negatived.
§ MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
then proposed a clause for the permanent establishment of relief committees in each electoral division; a clause to the effect, that workhouses should be provided by a national rate; a clause for a uniform valuation of rateable property; a clause rendering jointures, rent-charges, and other annuities rateable; and also a clause empowering guardians to put out to nurse orphans and deserted children not above 13 years of age: all of which were negatived.
MR. V. STUART
moved clauses to enable guardians to attach buildings or wards as infirmaries, where no infirmary was within six miles of the workhouse, and to enable the guardians to defray the expenses of conveying persons requiring surgical assistance to hospitals, and maintaining them there.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
thought the clause would prejudice the full consideration of the subject of medical charities, and interfere with private subscription.
§ Clause negatived.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
Sir, it will not be necessary for me to detain the Committee for any long period in offering for their consideration the two clauses of which I have given notice. It has been the univer- 601 sal expression of every Gentleman took part in these discussions, that we ought, as nearly as possible, to assimilate the Poor Law of Ireland to the Poor Law of England; and the object of the first clause, of which I have given notice, is to liken the Poor Law of Ireland to the Poor Law of England. My object is to throw the entire rate upon the occupying tenant. This is the rule in England; and I believe that every gentleman conversant with the working of the English Poor Law knows that if it were not the case—if there were not those strong excitements to the ratepayers, and to those who employ the poor, at once to economise the rates, to prevent lavish expenditure, and to give profitable employment to the people, and thus, by employing the people profitably, keep them off the rates, the land of England, far richer than the land of Ireland, would be consumed by the poor. Therefore, the first clause which I propose to insert is, that for the future, holding sacred all existing interests—preserving all existing contracts as they are—to prohibit the occupying tenant, who, by the Irish Poor Act, is obliged to pay the rate—my object, I say, is to prohibit the ratepayer from deducting any part of the rate so paid from the lessor. The provision, therefore, is, that in all leases hereafter to be made, and as regards all tenants at will after the 1st of January, 1849, the occupying tenant shall pay the rate. I assume that the consequence of this provision will be that an equitable arrangement will hereafter take place between the occupying tenant and the lessor, and that henceforth every occupying tenant will reduce the amount of rent by the probable extent of the poor rate which the landlord would have to pay if the law as it at present stands had continued to be the law of Ireland. Irish Gentlemen are well acquainted with the provisions of the Irish Poor Law; but I had, perhaps, better explain the difference between it and the English law. By the English law, the occupying tenant pays the rates, but by the Irish Poor Law Act the occupying tenant does not pay the entire poor rate. He deducts a portion of the rent, amounting to half the rate he himself pays on the poor-law valuation. It is necessary to explain that the poor-law valuation in Ireland is estimated according to the net value, and it is paid after deducting all the probable charges for repairs, for maintaining the hereditaments which he holds, insurance, and every charge except tithes. The practical 602 result is, that the valuers for the poor-law assessment are glad to set the lease at three quarters of the rackrent; so that while the rental of Ireland is 13,000,000l., the presumption is, that the rackrent is 17,000,000l. sterling at the very least. The effect of this is, that while, nominally, the occupying tenant pays one half of the rate, the landlord practically pays two-thirds of the rate. Thus the inducement of occupying tenants to keep down the rate is much diminished. His poor relations get more by a high rate, than he loses by paying his proportion of it. Now, Sir, seeing that Ireland has only on the one hand 15,900 houses possessed by gentry, clergy, and farmers, whose rental is above 50l.; and on the other hand upwards of a million, inhabited by five and a half millions of people, a large proportion of which live in mud houses or cabins, which consist of a single room without windows or door, it must be apparent to the House that unless the most energetic measures are taken to watch the expenditure of the poor rate, it will, in fact, amount to confiscation. If I assume, as I think I safely may, that the expenditure now going on under the name of public works, will, in truth, be converted into poor-law relief, after the passing of this Bill; and when I reflect that they are spending at the rate of upwards of 13,000,000l. per annum, while the assessed rental is but 13,178,000l.; and consider all the other circumstances on which Irish property is placed, I do not exaggerate in the least when I say that her poor rate will be more than 20s. in the pound; therefore, it is of the utmost importance for us to guard in every way the expenditure of out-door relief from any unnecessary claims. I will not quote in proof of this more than one example. It happened in Queen's County, at Ballybogue, under the Poor Relief Act—called in Ireland Sir James Graham's Act—passed in the 9th of Victoria, chap. 2, by which power was given to employ the people on public works, charging the payment thereof on the cesspayers, a presentment sessions was held. Considerable distress existed in the parish before this expedient was adopted; at the sessions it was agreed, in preference to public works, to try to employ them in useful and productive labour. They did so, and though the cesspayers had to pay for the maintenance of the poor, they had the advantage of having their fields cultivated and improved. The Labour-rate Act 603 passed by the noble Lord came into operation in the month of October, and then a change took place. By that Act the burden of employing the people was taken off the shoulders of the cesspayers, and placed on the landlords. Another presentment took place at Ballybogue East in the month of October; and there was no reason to suppose the distress was greater than in the month of April, when the first sessions was held. But then the cesspayers had changed their minds. They said then there was great distress, and they made presentments for the employ of 2,000 persons. The same persons who had decided to employ the people themselves in the month of August, decided also that they were extremely distressed in the month of April; while the fact was, that if the farmers and cesspayers had employed the people as they had done before, there would have been no necessity for public works; and for the 1,000 persons they had provided for, 1,500 were employed on the public works, and none in the cultivation of the land. When this was explained at the sessions, a titter ran round the assembly which plainly said, "They pay this rate, while we had to pay for the labour we employed." That is a practical example of the benefit to be derived from throwing the burden on the tenant. It may be truly said, that the landlord ought to do something; but what can 16,000 persons, the number of the landlords do, compared with 500,000 or 600,000 tenant-farmers? These are the reasons which have made me think that it will be for the benefit of all parties to throw the responsibility on the ratepayer; the effect of which will be, instead of having no interest in keeping down the rate as now, he will bargain with the landlord for a lower rent, and have both that and lower rates. All he can save out of the poor rates in employing the poor in the cultivation of land, will also be so much gained. In proposing this Amendment, I am only acting up to the principle laid down by the noble Lord who introduced this measure, in proposing to go into Committee of the whole House upon it, namely, "If we propose a rate, and say that the destitute must be paid out of that rate, every one will have an object in keeping down that rate." That is the object of the clauses I now propose. It is that the ratepayers shall have the greatest possible interest in keeping down the rate. The noble Lord acknowledges it is difficult to prevent 604 abuses in the distribution of out-door relief; and it appears to me totally out of any one's power to prevent them, unless the great mass of the ratepayers are interested in their prevention. I think I ought to have the support of a considerable portion of Her Majesty's Ministers on the present occasion. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a late discussion, said three times over in the course of his speech, that their great object ought to be to assimilate as near as possible the poor law in Ireland and that of England. Under these circumstances I have a perfect right to claim the vote of the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who made a similar remark. Sir, I am aware that there will be objections raised to these clauses by the hon. Member for Limerick, whom I regret not to see in his place. His objection, I am told, is, that the clauses bear too bard on the middleman. I am bound to admit that they may bear hard on the middleman. I will assume, for instance, the case of an estate of 400 acres, in which shall be interested four landlords besides the occupiers. The head landlord A, receives 100l. a year from B; B, in his turn, receives 200l. a year from C; C receives 300l. from D; and D gets 400l. a year from the tenant. A, the landlord, lets the estate on a lease of 99 years; B for 21 years; C for 14 years; and D lets it to the tenant yearly. One of the effects of these clauses, if they he carried, supposing these relations to continue, would be, that the occupying tenant would pay, supposing the rate to be laid on, the 8s. in the pound which the poor law allows for the present expenditure; and I fear 8s. in the pound is lower than it will be this year or the next. The effect will be, that if the rates be paid by the occupying tenant in the first instance, he will deduct from D 80l., or one-half; D deducts from the landlord over him 60l. C. 40l., and B 20l. By my clause the occupier will be discharged from deducting anything at all, and he will be compelled to make a new contract with D, and so will the others. And arguing on the same grounds, he would have to pay no less than 80l. out of the rates, and the others in proportion. This would certainty fall exceedingly heavy on the occupier and the middleman; because the only way in which he would be able to contend against this increased demand would be by carrying out the original intention of his lease, and him- 605 self becoming the occupying tenant, in which case the remainder of the contract would remain untouched by my clause; one set of tenants would be done away with—one class of middlemen (and the middlemen are by universal consent looked upon as the curse of Ireland) would be done away with; and instead of having a miserable set of poor tenantry under him, he would be obliged, either by himself or others, to cultivate his land, or employ others to cultivate it—he would be obliged to employ those who have been well described to-night as being neither farmers nor labourers, the one being without capital or skill, and the other without industry—to become regular labourers in his service. Therefore, I contend, that though the effect of my clause would be to cause this hardship on the middleman—on him who though he took a lease on an understanding that he should occupy it himself—yet it would have the good effect of obliging him to fulfil the duties of an occupying tenant. Sir, I think I need not trouble the House any further as regards that first clause. I hope I have made myself clearly understood as to the operation of that clause, and that I have kept nothing back. I now go on to the second clause. The object of the second clause is to reduce the number of little ratepayers, from whom it is very difficult to obtain the rate, and by reducing the number of those small ratepayers, to diminish also the inducement to sub-let farms. It is undoubtedly within the knowledge of all the Irish Members, that when the Poor Law for Ireland (the 1st and 2nd Vic. c. 56) was first passed, all the occupiers paid rates; but in the course of a few years it was found extremely difficult to collect the rates from some of those occupiers; and the 6th and 7th Vic. c. 92, was passed, by which the rates levied on all the occupiers up to 4l. were thrown upon the landlords. It will be also in the knowledge of English Gentlemen, that it is a common practice in many of the towns in this country to relieve the ratepayers under 6l., and sometimes under 8l., from the payment of those rates, and to throw the burden on the landlords. The intention of this law was to reduce the number of ratepayers from whom the rates in Ireland were collected, from 1,339,792 to 585,723. The effect of the clause which I propose for insertion in the Bill, will be to still further reduce the number of ratepayers by 76,527. There will still remain 509,196 occupying tenants. I do not wish to conceal it from 606 the House, that the change proposed will have the effect of throwing, to a certain extent, the burden of the rates upon the landlords; but on the other hand, it will have the effect of reducing the number of the lowest class of ratepayers, and of raising the general character of the ratepayers that remain; and I hope it will also have the effect of improving the character and station of the guardians to be elected by them. All must depend upon the conduct, the exertions, and the independence of the guardians who are hereafter to control the expenditure of this enormous sum of money. I think, Sir, I have now explained the intent of both the clauses that I have proposed to introduce into this Bill. I believe, in common with every gentleman both in and out of the House, that this Bill is a terrible experiment. I feel that there is too much reason to fear that the effect of this poor law must be something very like a confiscation of property in Ireland. And, when I saw that the existing workhouses contained 111,000 paupers, whilst there were 708,000 more employed on the public works, I did feel that my right hon. and learned Friend (the Recorder for the city of Dublin) was thrown upon the horns of a dilemma by the noble Lord opposite, when he asked—"If you do not agree with our plan, what plan have you to propose in return?" I, for one, hoped that other means might be found to employ the people of Ireland. I do not share with my right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder of Dublin, the blame of not suggesting some other measure for the employment of the people of Ireland. I did hope that there would be, in addition to that which I proposed, many other measures, on a great scale, and of a similar description, proposed by Her Majesty's Government, for the purpose of giving profitable employment to the people of Ireland. But that is not the case. I must deal with the matter as I find it; and I find it in this position, that there are 780,000 heads of families, representing at least 2,500,000 persons, for whom no means of subsistence can be found, unless this measure of out-door relief be carried. I felt that, if I acted upon what might, perhaps, be the true principle of refusing out-door relief, and seeing that the workhouses were already crammed, I must shut out all those persons from any relief whatever. If I said, "I have not room to put these starving people in the workhouse, and yet I will not give out-door relief to 607 the able-bodied," I felt that I should be passing a sentence of death upon 2,000,000 of people. And anxious as I am by every possible means in my power to protect the property of the Irish landlord, yet if the naked question is put to me in all its hideous ugliness, "Will you consent to confiscate the property of those 16,000 gentlemen, or will you pass sentence of death upon 2,000,000 of people who live in mud cabins without chimneys or windows?" I must say that the interests of property must give way to the greater interests of humanity. But, Sir, whilst I must say I feel it my most bounden duty, by every means that lies in my power to preserve property, as long as I am able, from any unnecessary waste, I do hope that in proposing the clause of which I have given notice, I shall go some way, at least, towards attaining the other object of providing for the poor. The noble Lord concluded by moving the following clause:—And be it enacted, That, save as hereinafter provided, it shall not be lawful for any occupier of rateable property holding under any lease or agreement to be made or entered into after the passing of this Act, nor for any tenant at will, or from year to year, after the 1st day of January, 1849, to deduct from the rent to which he may be liable in respect of such property, any amount whatever in respect of any rate which may be imposed at any period subsequent to the date of such lease or agreement, or subsequent to such 1st day of January, as the case may be.
§ Clause brought up, and read 1°.
§ On the question, that the Clause be read a second time,
§ Sir G. GREY
thought it would be very unreasonable to place the whole burden of the poor rates on the occupying tenant, and at the same time he had a great objection to increase the burden on the landlords. He entertained the strongest conviction that under present circumstances it would be inexpedient to adopt the proposition of the noble Lord. He did not agree in the statement that the 700,000 or 800,000 persons now employed on the public works were all heads of families, neither did he believe that they would be all thrown on the poor rates for subsistence when those works were completed. It was mischievous to hold out any such expectation to them. The object of the Legislature should rather be to stimulate them to raise themselves by increased activity and industry from their present deplorable condition. He could not consent to throw upon the occupying 608 tenant the whole burden of the rates, nor did he see how doing so would have the effect of lessening the amount of those rates.
§ MR. SHAW
was astonished that upon no stronger grounds than those stated by the right hon. Baronet, the Government should resist the reasonable proposition of his noble Friend—to assimilate in the important respect then under consideration, the English and the Irish law. The House had forced upon Ireland the evil, and would it refuse them the advantage, of the English Poor Law? His noble Friend's calculation—with his known eminence as a calculator—might well alarm all Irish interests—for what said his noble Friend? That the rate would be eight shillings in the pound, and upon a rental of 13,197,000l., be a charge of 5,278,800l. He (Mr. Shaw) would not be tempted back to the principle he had so anxiously contended against on a former evening, of out-door relief to the able-bodied; but when his noble Friend said that it became a question which he would sacrifice, the rentals of the landlords, or the lives of the population, and he could not hesitate between them—so, for his part, would he say—sacrifice the few, by all means, to save the many—provided only you could show him that by sacrificing the one you could save the other. But according to the showing of his noble Friend himself, that was not in the nature of things. You were only deluding the people by a promise which could not be realized. But, supposing the rate to be eight shillings in the pound, the right hon. Baronet said, how monstrous to throw that on the tenant! But did not the right hon. Baronet know perfectly that it was the landlord who would virtually pay it: the clause was to be prospective in its operation; and, as every landlord in England knew, the tenant would, of course, agree to pay so much the less rent by whatever would be the probable average charge for the poor rate; but then the great advantage was, that the occupying farmer would have the whole interest in keeping down the actual yearly rate, for as much as it exceeded the average would he lose, and in the same proportion that it was under it he would gain—he, too, being in the position to influence the amount by the employment of labourers, and a daily watchfulness over the rate. Then, when the right hon. Baronet boasted that they had granted the increase of ex-officio guardians, because the Irish landlord was more burdened than the English; his 609 answer was, that even in that respect they had refused them the full benefit of the English law; for in England all the justices were ex-officio guardians, and in Ireland it was still only part. When his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire first declared that he was willing to take the English law in its entierty, he (Mr. Shaw) dissented—because they had not in the Irish law either the right to relief, or out-door relief to the able-bodied; but now that they had inflicted those principles on them in Ireland, he agreed with his hon. Friend they had given them the bad points of the English law—let them also give them the good. Above all others, that of securing, that while in the cud the landlord paid the average rate which was alone under the law chargeable upon his net rent—still, that by making the occupier wholly liable to the actual annual charge, you interested him to the utmost to watch over the administration of the poor law. At the commencement of the Session, the clamour in that House and that country was—extend the English Poor Law to Ireland. He then on behalf of Ireland demanded, in the conclusion of his speech as he had at the commencement, that as the House had given them the evils of the English Poor Law, they would at least let them also have its advantages.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
moved that the Speaker report progress. ["No, no!"] All the Orders of the Day had yet to be gone through.
§ CAPTAIN HARRIS
thought that the noble Lord at the head of the Government wes entitled to much credit for the manner in which he had grappled with the very difficult subject of providing parochial relief for the poor of Ireland. He could not but express the surprise which he felt at the statement that it would prove ruinous to Ireland if out-door relief were allowed to the able-bodied labourer, whilst in England that system was found to work most economically and beneficially.
§ SIR W. JOLLIFFE
, amidst cries of "Question," approved of the proposals of the noble Lord. He thought that the greatest possible good would result from making the occupying tenant liable to the rate.
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
felt it to be his duty, as an Irish Member, to say, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin, that the Irish people had not called for a poor law. Under the 610 plan proposed by the noble Lord, he was certain that more evil would be done to Ireland than all the good which they had attempted to do this Session.
§ MR. SCROPE
had never heard such outrageous amendments as the clauses proposed by the noble Lord. The whole of the tenantry of Ireland would be taxed for the relief of the poor; but the administration of that relief would be left entirely in the hands of the superior landlords. Such a proposition would be only sanctioned in an assembly of landlords.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
protested against the introduction of the proposal of the noble Lord, which would take the people of Ireland completely by surprise. Although the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin knew that the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland were very different to those in England, he had yet said that it was but right that the Irish Poor Law should be assimilated to the English Poor Law.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 75; Noes 79: Majority 4.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, T. D.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Harris, hon. Capt.|
|Antrobus, E.||Heathcote, Sir W.|
|Baillie, W.||Henley, J. W.|
|Barkly, H.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Baring, T.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Bateson, T.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Bennet, P.||Holmes, hon. W. A.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Hope, G. W.|
|Brisco, M.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Jones, Capt.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Ker, D. S.|
|Cardwell, E.||Knight, F. W.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Lefroy, A.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Lennox, Lord G. H. G.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Liddell, hon. H. T.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Lindsay, Col.|
|Cripps, W.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||March, Earl of|
|Disraeli, B.||Masterman, J.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Mundy, E. M.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Finch, G.||Newry, Visct.|
|Fuller, A. E.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Patten, J. W.|
|Gladstone, Cant.||Reid, Col.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Rolleston, Col.|
|Grogan, E.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Halsey, T. P.||Stuart, J.|
|Sutton, hon. H. M.||Vyse, H.|
|Taylor, E.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Thompson, Ald.||Young, J.|
|Vesey, hon. T.||Jolliffe, Sir W.|
|Villiers, Visct.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Aldam, W.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Lambton, H.|
|Archbold, H.||Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||M'Carthy, A.|
|M'Donnell, J. M.|
|Bannerman, A.||Maitland, T.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Marshall, W.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Moffatt, G.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Buller, C.||Morris, D.|
|Christie, W. D.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Collett, J.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||O'Conor Don|
|Craig, W. S.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Dodd, G.||Perfect, A.|
|Duff, J.||Phillpotts, J.|
|Duncan, G.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Rich, H.|
|Dundas, Sir D.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Dundas, hon. J. C.||Russell, Lord E.|
|Escott, B.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Evans, W.||Sheridan, R. D.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Gore, hon. R.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Thornely, T.|
|Hawes, B.||Warburton, H.|
|Heneage, E.||Ward, H. G.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Wilshere, W.|
|Hollond, R.||Wyse, T.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Howard, hon. E. G. G.||TELLERS.|
|Howard, P. H.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Tufnell, H.|
§ MR. SHAW
then proposed to bring up clauses for the relief of the Irish clergy from the very unjust pressure of the poor law, as it affected their incomes under the existing law. The Government had agreed to those clauses. They were not everything he had desired; but as they were the best he could succeed in obtaining, with the consent of the Government, and it was in vain to divide the House againt the Government, he was obliged to be satisfied. They at all events recognised the principle, that the tithe-owner should be charged upon his net and not upon his gross income; and although the Government refused some of the deductions he sought, yet these clauses would remove a great injustice, and place the tithe-owner upon the 612 same footing in respect of the mode of calculating his net income as the landlord stood, namely—the rent for which, one year with another, their incomes would let from year to year—all rates, taxes, costs of collection, &c., being assumed for the purpose of the estimate to be paid by the tenant. As he had stated the case of the Irish clergy at considerable length before, and he was now proposing those clauses with the assent of the Government, he would bring up the clauses without further observation. The right hon. Gentleman moved the following clauses:—
- "1. And whereas under the provisions of the said recited Act, the tithe composition, or rent-charge in lieu thereof, is liable to be rated only as and with the hereditaments upon which such composition, or rent-charge, is charged, and it is expedient that such provisions be amended: be it, therefore, enacted, that in all rates made for the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland, after the 1st day of November next, all tithe composition, or rent-charge in lieu thereof, shall be a rateable hereditament, and shall be separately rated as such.
- "2. And be it enacted, that the rate made upon such rent-charge, or composition for tithe, shall be made upon the person in the receipt or enjoyment thereof, and shall be payable by him, and may be recovered by all the ways and means by which any rate made on any lessor may be re-covered.
- "3. And be it enacted, that from and after the 1st day of November next, every rate made for the relief of the poor in Ireland shall be a poundage rate made upon an estimate of the net annual value of the several hereditaments rated thereto: that is to say, of the rent for which, one year with another, the same might in their actual state be reasonably expected to let from year to year: the probable annual average cost of the repairs, insurance, and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain the hereditaments in their actual state; and all rates, taxes, and public charges, being assumed for the purpose of estimating the net annual value to be paid by the tenant.
- "4. And be it enacted, that in every valuation to be made for the purposes of poor-law assessment by the Commissioners of Valuation in Ireland, under the Act passed in the 10th year of Her present Majesty, entitled 'An Act to amend the law relating to the valuation of rateable property in Ireland'—tithe composition or rent-charge in lieu thereof, shall be separately valued, and the said Commissioners shall cause every rateable hereditament to be valued on an estimate of its net annual value, to be ascertained, as hereinbefore by this Act is provided; and every rate which, under the provisions of the said Act of the 10th year of Her present Majesty shall be made by any board in guardians on the valuation furnished to them by such Commissioners of Valuation, shall be made upon the person liable to be rated in such rate, according to the laws in force for the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland, anything in the said last-mentioned Act to the contrary notwithstanding.Provided that nothing herein contained shall be deemed to authorize the separate rating of tithe 613 composition, or rent-charge in lieu thereof, for the purposes of any county cess or grand-jury rate, or any other rate whatsoever to which such tithe composition or rent-charge is not otherwise rateable by law.
§ MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
objected to the clauses being then proceeded with. They were of too important a nature to be hastily discussed, and should have been printed in the usual manner.
§ Clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed. Bill as amended to be reported.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Two.