HC Deb 25 July 1848 vol 100 cc787-808

, on moving the Second Reading, said: As the House was good enough to allow me, at a very late hour of the night, some weeks ago, to bring in this Bill without any explanation, and as the Bill is one of considerable importance to the poor-law unions throughout the country, and in regard to the general administration of the poor-law, I think it would not be fair for me to allow the discussion on the second reading of the Bill to take its course without at the commencement attempting to discharge that duty which I ought to have undertaken when I brought in the Bill. I must begin by saying that it is no anxiety for legislation at this period of the Session that has induced me to bring in four Bills on the subject of the poor-law. I should have felt rather proud if, having devoted myself with due activity to my duties as the head of the poor-law department, I could have referred, at the close of the Session, to proofs that the existing laws were sufficient to carry out the objects of the Legislature for which that department was instituted. I should have thought it perfectly unjustifiable, with only half a year's experience in my present office, for me to have undertaken any large change, on speculative grounds, in the law which I had to administer; and I trust the House will believe that it is only under the pressure of an absolute and urgent necessity that I now call its attention to the subject which I am about more particularly to introduce, with an endeavour to secure its assent to a change of considerable importance. But the House will see, from the statement which I shall make, that it would be impossible for me, with any due regard to my duty, to avoid bringing this matter before Parliament. In the first place, a very important Act, passed last Session, expires in October next. It would be most unbecoming to allow that Act to expire by mere lapse of time without making any provision for those objects which that Act was unanimously passed last year to carry into effect. I am speaking of Mr. Bodkin's Bill in regard to the removal of the poor. The House will recollect that in the year 1846 a very important change was made in the law affecting the removal of the poor—a change which I think was founded on sound policy and with a due regard to the best interests of the poor. It is undeniable that the effect of that Bill has caused a very great shifting of the burdens on the ratepayers. It was contemplated at the time, and the Bill was passed with the intention of making the burden more equal. The effect of it was to cast the burden from one parish to another, so that the charge might fall on those who ought to bear it. At the same time, that increase of burden in some places was not borne very patiently, and last Session a feeling exhibited itself among a large number of Members against the operation of the Poor Removal Act. The matter was referred to the Committee of which I had the honour to be Chairman. We discussed the matter at considerable length. The opinion of the Committee was decidedly against interfering with the principle of that law; at the same time we admitted that there was justice in some of the complaints made against it. The Committee was generally sensible of the very heavy burden which had very suddenly been thrown on particular parishes, and could not forget that when the Legislature made that change it might have been a wiser course to have thrown the burden on a larger area than that of a parish; and as it was an instance of an entirely new burden, we considered that the Legislature should have guarded against creating a pressure upon particular localities. Under that impression a Member of that Committee, whose absence from this House I regret on many accounts, was induced, at the end of the Session, to introduce a Bill which was passed into a law, by which the charge for the persons made irremovable under the Act of 1846 was extended from the parish to the union, and made part of the common establishment charges of the union. Now, it is my intention to propose that the principle of that Act shall he continued, and that the irremoveable paupers shall henceforth, as they have been during the last year, be a charge, not upon the parish, but upon the whole union. Another subject of very great importance has been forced upon my attention since I have been in office. Almost every Gentleman must have heard the complaints that have been made throughout the whole country on the subject of vagrancy; so that I doubt not I shall find a ready acquiescence in the proposition that it is impossible to leave the law of vagrancy upon the footing on which it now stands. I have promised many hon. Gentlemen, whose forbearance towards me I now beg gratefully to acknowledge, that I would not allow the Session to pass without detailing to the House the whole scheme which I had prepared for the purpose of remedying this great evil. But perhaps the House will extend their indulgence to me a few days more, when I tell them that I have prepared a circular letter to the poor-law guardians, by which I hope some stop may be put to that evil. I repeat what I have formerly said, that I don't think it is an evil which can be remedied by an Act of Parliament. I do not think that the principle of relieving vagrancy, as far as it is laid down by law, can be altered for the better, or that its efficacy can be increased. I think that the law is strong enough. What, in my opinion, is wanted, is a different spirit in the administration of the law; and, above all, a different spirit on the part of those who are charged with the enforcement of the law. The whole system of vagrancy having become so intolerable an evil, and so great a scandal to the country, has been very much the result of an injudicious administration of the law for the last seven or eight years. I think no other exposition of the law could be given than that which was given seven or eight years ago. But, the law having been expounded in that way, it has unfortunately created a tendency to a great deal too much laxity in its administration. My opinion is, that while the general right of the vagrant to demand relief remains as it is, it is impossible to remedy the evil by any minor alteration of the law. But I do think that a great and sensible alteration in the extent of the evil may be made by a wiser and more discriminating course in the administration of the laws. It has been my object to induce the officers of the different unions to administer the law with proper spirit and discrimination—taking upon themselves the responsibility of refusing relief where undoubtedly it ought not to be given. I have assured them that if they will administer the law in a discriminating and honest spirit, I will take upon myself the responsibility of whatever they may do that shall tend to prevent the increase of so monstrous and formidable an evil. I will lay a copy of my circular letter before the House. There is one question respecting vagrancy which has been forced upon my attention from all parts of the country, and with respect to which it is necessary to make an alteration in the law—I refer to the incidental charge of vagrancy. That charge is now thrown upon the parish in which the vagrants apply for relief. In 99 cases out of 100 the applications are made in the single parish in which the workhouse is situated, or in which the relieving officer happens to live. I have received loud complaints against this portion of the working of the poor-law. The ratepayers on whom these applications are made say it is by no act of theirs that the workhouse happens to be in their parish; it is by the act of the union; neither is it by any act of theirs that the relieving officer has his residence in their parish; he is employed and appointed by the union. It generally happens that the relieving officer lives in the principal town or village of the union for general convenience, and yet the whole charge of vagrancy is thrown upon that one parish. I need not attempt to impress upon the House what an extraordinary expense this must entail upon that particular parish. It is astonishing the number of shifts that are resorted to by the different parishes to relieve themselves of these burdens, and to throw them upon their neighbours. All the arts and contrivances of a regular warfare are easily and speedily acquired and put in motion. In one town in the west of England it was found extremely inconvenient by one parish to have these applications made upon them by vagrants. The relieving officer resided in that parish. It was therefore arranged that he should be provided with a house rent-free. They got him a house, but it was on the other side of the street, and in a neighbouring parish. The relieving officer went to his new domicile, and he instantly transferred to the new parish the whole burden of the vagrants. This expense is a very severe charge upon the particular parish, and a very unjust charge. But there is another great evil, and that is that the whole administration of the poor-law is now in the hands of the board of guardians. It is they who appoint the officers and regulate the mode in which relief is to be given. But the board of guardians, as a board of guardians, has no interest in preventing vagrancy—it all falls on the parish. But the parish cannot appoint the officers, nor can they improve the present system that regulates vagrancy; the result therefore, has been very severe to individual parishes, particularly in the north of England, where the evil is very much felt, and where the ratepayers are willing to go to any expense to suppress vagrancy. But, with all their willingness, they have felt themselves unable to do it, because, at the union board, they have been outvoted by the guardians who represented parishes that are not at all interested in putting an end to vagrancy. I think, therefore, that upon these two grounds—first, the injustice of the burden, and, secondly, the necessity of imposing the administration of the law on the shoulders of those who alone have the power of putting down vagrancy—it is absolutely necessary that the charge of vagrancy should be made a union charge. The question then arises as to the mode of assessing that charge. The charge in each parish was made a part of the establishment charge. Now, hon. Gentlemen are aware of the mode in which the different parishes make their contributions to the establishment charge of the union. They are made without any reference to the amount of the rateable property in the parish, but entirely in reference to the average of its past expenditure. At the period of passing the new poor-law it was settled that the expenses of certain establishments should be borne by the different parishes of a union in common; and it was settled that those establishment charges should be contributed to in proportion to the expenditure on the poor and the sick in each parish, on the average of the three years immediately preceding the passing of the law. The average so taken is called the average of the parish. According to the proportion of that amount each parish contributes to the establishment charges of the union. Now, it does appear to me that to throw the charge of irremovable paupers and labourers into the calculation of these proportions, is quite contrary to the principles of justice. The principle upon which the establishment charges are placed on the averages is this—that when a workhouse was built and officers were appointed for the relief of the poor of a union, it was but fair that each parish of that union should contribute to the expense in proportion to the number of paupers which it brought as inmates of the workhouse, or which were subject to the care and superintendence of the officers. But the charges for irremovable paupers and for vagrants have nothing to do with the proportion of the pauperism of each parish. Suppose, for instance, parish A has been exceedingly well managed—its pauperism very small, and its average consequently very little—then suppose parish B to be ill-managed, or by some unfortunate circumstance its pauperism to be very great, its charge for relief very heavy, and its average very high, and consequently its contribution to the establishment charges twice or three times the amount of parish A. Now, all the relative rates imposed on account of the establishment charges on these two parishes are on a scale of strict justice. But when a heavy charge for vagrancy falls on a third parish—parish C—or when a heavy charge on account of persons who have become irremovable in parish C are thrown upon the union altogether, what equity is there then in this proportion of the establishment charges? It is fair to call upon me to contribute twice as much to those charges if my pauperism requires twice as much help from the establishments; but it is perfectly unfair to say that for that reason I am to be charged twice as much, because my parish has all the vagrancy of the three parishes—a matter with which I have nothing on earth to do. Upon the parish which is already heavily burdened, you place a double charge for the expenses of the union establishments; while the parish the burdens of which are comparatively light, you hardly charge at all. I have, accordingly, found that this part of the Bill has given rise to a good deal of complaint. But this point is so well stated in a paper which I have received from a gentleman whose merits are acknowledged by all who know him, and who, I believe, is well known to you, Sir—I mean Mr. Hawley, who was formerly a magistrate in Hampshire or Surrey, and who has been for some years a poor-law inspector in the north of England—that I cannot do better than read it to the House. That gentleman says— As the Act 10 and 11 Victoria, cap. 110, will expire on the 1st of October next, when the charge for the relief to the irremovable poor will be again thrown on the parishes of their residence, the Legislature, when that time arrives, would no doubt consider it expedient to renew its provisions, in the absence of any intention of introducing the Bill now under consideration. Of the justice and policy of that Act there can be no doubt—the dissatisfaction created by the retrospective effect of the 9th and 10th Victoria, cap. 66, created universal dissatisfaction in all the larger towns in the country, which was only allayed by distributing the burden which it bad imposed on individual parishes over the whole union, and fixing the charge on the establishment; the relief thus afforded to the parties most aggrieved has not, however, given general satisfaction, and the ratepayers in the largest and most pauperised parishes, where the averages have been increased by bad management and profuse expenditure, object that they are unfairly called upon to bear a disproportionate share of a charge for paupers belonging to parishes with which they have no connexion, and in a mode which inflicts a species of penalty for internal mismanagement by means of a foreign impost. It is, indeed, evident that the levying of contributions from the union fund, in such cases, upon the principle by which that fund is now created, is a grievous evil to the contributors, and some modification of the existing mode of raising it would probably have been demanded in the event of the revival of the Act above referred to in its present shape. The plan proposed by your Bill for the remedy of the evil appears calculated to give general satisfaction; and no method for creating a union fund for the payment of this charge, as well as for that for the relief of vagrants, can be better devised than that of an uniform union contribution, assessed, not in reference to past payments, but on the rateable value of every parish. Upon those grounds I propose that a union fund, for the support of these vagrants, should he raised by equal contributions from the rateable property of the union. This change, which I think is absolutely called for by justice, with respect to vagrants, will establish for the first time a uniform union rate. It will be a great inconvenience if there are two principles of contribution to a common fund in the union—one on the principle of a uniform and equal rate of assessment, and the other upon the old system of averages. That, however, would not decide the question whether, upon a fair consideration of the subject, the establishment charges ought to be maintained upon their present footing? The next question to consider is, whether two kinds of union rating ought to be kept up—one upon an equal assessment of property; the other upon the old system of averages—or whether, once for all, all union charges should be put upon a uniform system. When the Poor Law Bill was passed it was impossible to frame the rating upon any other system than that adopted. To have done so would have been too great an interference with property, and would have cast upon the union the burdens which were caused solely by the mismanagement of particular parishes. But does justice require that the present system should be maintained after fifteen years' experience of union government? The question is very different, considered with regard to the period when the poor-law was introduced, and the present time. At the former period whatever evils and burdens existed, had grown up under parochial management; and it might fairly be said to different parishes, that undue burdens which might have accrued under their administration should not be thrown upon the general fund. But how stands the case now? The administration of the poor-law has been taken out of the hands of the parishes. The ratepayers and the parish officers have nothing to do with the administration of the law; it has been in the hands of the union officers; and now particular parishes can no longer be considered altogether responsible for the whole of the burdens which they may bring upon the union. Besides, the establishment charges are not of such a nature that they ought to be thrown upon particular parishes in proportion to their paupers respectively? They are of two kinds. The first is the expense of building the workhouse and maintaining it; the second is the salaries of the officers. The expense for the building of workhouses is for the most part at an end—the outlay is already made. Nevertheless, wherever there are the remains of such an outlay, I provide for it in the Bill by a section enacting that every parish shall pay its share of any debt still due for the building of a workhouse. As regards the second establishment charge, the salaries of officers, can it be maintained that the services of these officers are required in proportion to the pauperism existing in each parish? I think not. Take, for instance, the clerk to the guardians; his duties are with the guardians in respect to all the parishes alike, such as the general correspondence with the Poor Law Board, the attendance on meetings of boards of guardians, making out returns to Parliament—all these matters have reference to un-pauperised as well as pauperised parishes, and are services to the union generally, and not to particular parishes. Take another class of officers—the medical officers. Practically, what has medical relief in this country come to be? Can it be said to be a mere poor-law charge? I think not. I believe that the general system of the administration of medical relief has got very much to be a system of relief by parishes to the working classes of the country, and that it will not be found in many parishes that the honest and independent workman who has suffered from long and severe illness is able to pay for medical attendance out of his own means; on the contrary, generally he has to apply to the parish for medical relief. In that case this item of expense affects the unpauperised equally with the pauperised parishes. It seems, therefore, that the medical charge is one which ought not to be in proportion to the number of paupers in a parish. One charge, obviously parochial, is the salary of the master of the workhouse. Now, on what principle do Gentlemen regard the workhouse? As a test of pauperism? Do they think that a person seeking parish relief is deterred from it by going into the workhouse? It appears to me that an un-unpauperised parish derives more benefit from the existence of a workhouse than the pauperised parish itself. In fact, a line cannot be drawn as to the amount of services rendered by the different officers in the different parishes; and in fairness and policy the charge of their salaries ought to be borne by the union generally; every parish in the union and every ratepayer in each parish contributing, not according to the burdens upon each particular parish, but in proportion to property and the amount of means he had to bear the general burden with. This would be an important step towards putting an end to the system of averages, under which have grown up the most intolerable frauds. Unfortunately, in the administration of the poor-law, reduction in charges has not always been obtained by very legitimate means. Last Session a good deal was heard about an abuse which prevails widely over England, and is one of those intolerable grievances which, if allowed to go on, will bring the whole system of the relief of the poor about our ears. I allude to the system of clearing parishes, in cases in which one person is the proprietor of the whole, or nearly the whole, of a parish, and in which, instead of legitimate means being taken for the relief of the poor, or endeavours being made, by giving them employment or otherwise, to lessen the burden of paupers, the shorter and simpler method is adopted of shifting them to other places; and, by allowing cottages to fall down, or by pulling them down, to drive them into parishes where property is more divided. This evil has agitated the country, caused complaints against the whole system of the present law, and given rise to demands for changes so large and extensive as materially to interfere with the effectual administration of the law. Anything tending to this evil must be put a stop to. In truth, the whole system of averages is one of fraudulent squabbling. In some places the whole burden is sought to be shifted upon others. In other parishes they made private rates; two or three occupiers agreeing that they should support the paupers without letting them go into the workhouse, and levying private rates for that purpose. Under this system great frauds are perpetrated, and the averages unduly diminished. The Poor Law Commissioners have struggled against these frauds, by directing an assistant commissioner to take all these private rates into account. I have also discouraged them as much as possible, and I would rather put the law on a different footing altogether, than allow the evils to be remedied according to the equitable notions of any irresponsible gentlemen whose equity might degenerate into caprice. These are the grounds upon which I propose to make the third change contained in this Bill, and to place the establishment charges, as well as the other charges, on a common footing, and to raise a common union fund by a general union rate, apportioned on the property of the whole of the union. The difficulty with those who wished to establish this union rate had been the great want of uniformity in the present assessment of property to the poor-rate; and when the question was before started this was put forward as an insuperable objection. If property in one parish be assessed at a rack-rent, and property in another parish at only half its value, it is obvious that the one escapes its legitimate burden. [An Hon. MEMBER: That would be contrary to the Parochial Assessment Act.] But there are difficulties in the way of enforcing that Act, and in many instances it has not been acted upon. It would not be doing justice to ground the rate upon the parochial assessments. In the Bill I first brought in, I endeavoured to guard against this evil by allowing each union to form its own rate; and I did so under the impression, from all that had passed in the Committee, and all that I had heard from other quarters, that there was no other general contribution on which parochial property was fairly assessed. I have, however, made some inquiries as to whether the present assessment for the county rate might be made the basis of uniform union rating, and have received some information on the subject from the reports of inspectors whom I desired to inquire in what counties there had been a recent valuation made under the County Rates Act; in what counties such an one had been actually ordered, or was in progress; and whether a rate of such standing had been modified in such a manner as to give general satisfaction. I do not insist upon the positive accuracy of this information; but I find there are only four counties in England, and six in Wales, in which a proper county rate does not exist, or is not in process of being made. The English counties are Buckinghamshire, Shropshire, Suffolk, and Westmoreland. Of the first two I am not sure; and in fact the only county of which I am very sure is that unhappy and benighted county, Suffolk. But even there the straw was beginning to move, and the country gentlemen had discussed the subject at their quarter-sessions, and the effect of certain charges thrown upon the county rates had been to compel them to think of forming a new, just, and satisfactory valuation. My wish is to elicit from Gentlemen whether they can impugn the probability of the county rate being a satisfactory basis for the union rate. I propose by this Bill, as a general principle, that the union charges should be based upon the valuation of each parish in the union to the county rate; and I propose to establish an uniform union rate, upon which these three charges shall be thrown—establishment charges, vagrants, and irremovables. Questions of details will be more advantageously discussed in Committee; but I wish to call the attention of the House to the 5th Clause, concerning which there has been some excitement. I beg the House to observe that this clause is purely an exceptional one, which has been suggested as a means of putting an end to a mischievous doubt that existed as to the effect of the Poor Removal Act. The clause is merely declaratory, and explains the law as it now stands. It has been suggested, however, that it would have a particular effect in the case of Irish vagrants, which I do not contemplate. But if hon. Gentlemen will leave this clause entirely out of their consideration while discussing the Bill, I shall be prepared in Committee to meet objections to this particular clause, either by modification or the introduction of other clauses. The clause, however, is not necessarily involved in the principle of the Bill, which can be discussed without reference to it. But, besides this objection in detail, I anticipate a grave objection to the principle and object of the Bill. It will be said that this measure cannot be discussed without looking to the general question of substituting union rates for parish rates. It will be contended that I have admitted the principle of union rates; and, to quote language which has been used to me in private, that I have let in the small end of the wedge. But if sentiments such as that were to prevail in these days, we should be likely to bring all our old institutions about our ears. If the reasons I have stated justify the principle of union rating to the extent to which I propose to carry it, the House should not be deterred from doing what is right on a practical question by the fear that the principle might be carrried too far, and applied to cases to which it ought not to be applied. Those Gentlemen who resist the application of a good and just principle, fairly admissible in a particular case, because they dread ulterior consequences, are very likely to raise up a feeling in the community which will lead to that very principle being rashly and too hastily applied. When those who so much fear to let in the small end of the wedge succeed in resisting it, the result generally is that the wedge was often forced in butt-end foremost. By what I am about to say I fear that I shall lower myself in the opinion of many enlightended reformers in this country. [HABEAS CORPUS (IRELAND) SUSPENSION BILL.—The right hon. Gentleman was here interrupted by the Usher of the Black Rod, who summoned the House to the House of Lords, to hear the Royal Assent given to the above Bill. On the House returning, the right hon. Gentleman resumed.] I fear that after this short respite I must continue the humiliating confession which I was about to make when I was cut short by the Usher of the Black Rod. I should willingly avail myself of any opportunity to avoid making such a confession, but I fear I cannot. I fear, then, I shall lower myself in the opinion of many good practical reformers by admitting that I have not yet become a convert to the doctrine that it would be advisable to substitute union or any other system of chargeability upon a larger area for the old system of parochial chargeability. No doubt the opinions I had formed on this point were somewhat shaken at the period of the inquiry before the Committee on the Law of Settlement last year; but, great as some thought were the evils of the present system, I confess I was not prepared to encounter what I believe to be the great risk of substituting union for parochial chargeability to the poor. It appears to me to be of the greatest moment in the administration of the poor-law to render the condition of the poor in every part of England peculiarly a matter of interest, as well as a matter of feeling, to those who by property or by vicinity have influence over that condition of the poor; and I should be very loth to assist in any change which would at once deprive the proprietors and occupiers of estates in parishes of that interest they now have in upholding the condition of the poor. I admit all the evils so forcibly brought before the House by the evidence taken by the Committee on the Law of Settlement. I think the present law of settlement and power of removal of the poor involve great hardship; I trust that a long time will not elapse without Parliament relieving the poor from that great evil; and I feel confident that Parliament will be able to remove it. But, I still believe that that change, so bettering the condition of the poor, may be made without interference with the general principle that the charge of the resident poor should be thrown upon the particular parish in which they have resided for a length of time. But at the same time, whilst I approve of the principle of parochial rating, I do not mean to say that I can contend with a growing feeling against it, entertained by men of great practical good sense in this House and in the country most interested in a proper system of rating, who are friendly to an extension of the area of chargeability; I cannot struggle against such a feeling unless I could succeed in putting the law of parochial chargeability upon a just and satisfactory footing. It is not enough to say that we dislike union rating, or national rating, or any other mode of rating; we cannot disguise from ourselves that there is a general feeling amongst boards of guardians and through the country—except in the large towns, and in the open and populous parts of the Country—in favour of union rating; that there is a desire to remedy the evil of the present system, which is charged with so much injustice and cruelty, by extending the area of chargeability, and I think you cannot uphold the principle of parochial charge-ability unless you modify it so as to reach the evil, and satisfy the just claims of the country. I have thought it to be my duty to read every thing which appears in every country newspaper I can get hold of which has any relation to the general state of feeling with regard to the administration of the poor-law; and I have found that there is a very strong and prevalent feeling, and a general opinion throughout the country, that there is a great objection to the existing area of rating. There is a very wide opinion prevailing in favour of a union rating, and there is a growing opinion, I regret to say, in favour of what appears to me a dangerous and impracticable scheme, namely, a national rating. I admit that, upon abstract principles of justice, a national rate may be defended; but you cannot attempt to carry such a principle into effect without opening a door to serious evils; without doing one of two things—either you must allow every board of guardians to dip its hands into the pockets of the country, careless of the amount of charge, knowing that the Consolidated Fund would be able to pay; or you must do away with all local control over the funds, and let the national rate be administered by national administrators alone. I trust that these considerations will induce Parliament to resist a national rate. I cannot disguise from myself that there is a very great and popular agitation going on in the country for the purpose of inducing Parliament to adopt a national rating. I am sorry to say, that in many country gentlemen and farmers I have found a fatal tendency to favour a chargeability which I consider national. Upon these grounds, I propose to the House to adopt a modified system of union rating. I do not want to abandon the principle of parochial chargeability; but if you wish to uphold the principle, there should be the means of throwing the charge over as largo an area as the union, where, upon principles of justice and policy, the charge should be borne by all parts of the union. Another part of the Bill relates to extra-parochial places charged with the support of the poor. I cannot help thinking that abuses have arisen from this cause; and, at all events, it appears to be a matter of complaint throughout the country. In some of these extra-parochial places—such as cathedral closes and small farms—the number of paupers may be small; but where half a parish, as in Leicester, inhabited by knitters, is extra-parochial, a number of these men, when out of work, will walk over the boundary into the adjoining parish, which will be encumbered with them. I wish to make these extra-parochial places chargeable for their own poor, unless the ratepayers prefer to be joined to a parish. I trust the House will consent to the second reading of this Bill; and I think the principles of the Bill will receive the general assent of the country. I move that this Bill be read a second time.


was sure the House would share with him in the feelings of thankfulness they owed to the right hon. Gentleman for the clear and lucid manner in which he had gone through the whole of this difficult, complex, and intricate subject, and the frankness with which, it appeared to him, he had stated his views and that of the Government, upon a subject which was at once difficult, and interesting to all persons in the community. He could not, however, agree altogether in some of the principles which the right hon. Gentleman had laid down, and he would point out what seemed to him some inconsistency in those principles; but if he differed from the right hon. Gentleman in the result which he thought his measure had a tendency to produce, it was not from disrespect to his judgment. He (Mr. Henley) perfectly concurred with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that a greater principle than the mere question of pecuniary interest was involved in this subject. If they looked to the proceedings of the last fourteen years they would perceive the effects of the parochial system, from which he had never been able to see any possible reason for departing, unless we adopted a national rate. He was a member of the Committee which sat last year with respect to this subject, and his views were based upon what he had heard in evidence before that Committee. The burden of the support of the poor was thrown upon some descriptions of property with an inequality which was very considerable, and showed the absolute necessity of a proper assessment. Why should not one description of property be as heavily taxed as another for the relief of the poor? It was, in his opinion, very difficult to say why a coal mine should be taxed, and a lead mine exempted. The right hon. Gentleman had attempted to generalise the question, but he had produced no argument to show that a wider area ought to be adopted with regard to assessment; and it therefore did not appear why a pauper, who resided in parish A, should be supported by parish B. This was a measure of a most important character, and one which could not possibly be remedied by tinkering and tampering constantly with it. The right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with extra-parochial property, had exemption in the inns of court. Why so? They had several servants to attend upon them, and provide for their luxuries; but those servants generally lived in other parishes, so that the mode of treating them approached pretty nearly to the clearance system. Upon what principle, then, was it that the right hon. Gentleman could exclude the inns of court, and heavily tax other possessors of property? He did not see any reason why one species of extra-parochial property should be treated differently from another. The old system had been objected to, and it had its faults; but the new system appeared to work well for some time, as "a new broom sweeps clean." However, it soon appeared, that when destitution of a certain description was complained of, and when numbers of destitute persons were found going about the country, and when the newspapers complaining of it made the circumstances more generally known, a different mode of treatment was adopted for town and country. A great increase of vagrancy had taken place after the passing of the Act, to which he had alluded. Now, vagrants deserved a very peculiar treatment in matters of legislation and police, for there were many causes in operation which would tend to cause the practice of vagrancy, and induce persons to adopt it as a profession; and, on the other hand, deserving and suffering persons might become vagrants under the pressure of distress. One class of vagrants learned at tramp-houses all the arrangements which regulated the workhouses, and they went out to beg with this feeling, that if they did not obtain money enough for the day, they had a refuge in the workhouse. Many of the cases of distress were simulated, but many were real, for there was unfortunately a great deal of real distress abroad. The worst feature in the simulated distress was, that it was the poor who suffered from it, for they were more disposed to relieve the distresses of the poor than the wealthy. They were near distress, and pitied it; whilst the wealthy, being better informed, were more cautious and chary in the disposal of their relief. The present system of relief by relieving officers had this defect in the rural districts, namely, that the officers had such distances to travel, that they frequently arrived at the place in the evening where the poor were awaiting relief, and being jaded and tired from their day's occupation, they did not pay sufficient attention to the claims of the applicants. He thought that the decision upon the applications for distress ought to be more a matter of police than at present. There was another very important subject which he would direct the attention of the authorities to, and that was the fact that the mode of instructing the officers of the workhouses in the discharge of their duties was not judicious. However feeling a man might be, he might become case-hardened by practice and custom, and the effects of that should be carefully guarded against. It was far easier to deal with cases one by one than when they were met with in large numbers. At present the vagrant could go from one workhouse to another; and he thought that the charge ought to be thrown on a larger area as regarded vagrants. He would furnish an example of his view in this respect. We stopped crime at the public expense, and though vagrancy was not crime, it was akin to it in its relation to public expenditure. If a man were to go from Liverpool to London, and on the way should require public relief, why should one parish afford that any more than another? Why should the relief not be afforded from a general public fund? There was one peculiarity about the centralised system, for it broke down the desire which the parishes formerly had to prevent expenditure; whereas formerly they felt how directly they suffered from the expenditure for the relief of the poor. It ought to be recollected that the present system had broken through a system which had been in force and operation for 300 years. He would remind the House again of the inequality of obliging a man with 100l. a year to pay 25l., whilst a man with a similar sum in the funds paid nothing to the poor-rates. Having by those establishments very considerably benefited the highly pauperised parishes, and having reduced their rates by twenty, thirty per cent, and in some cases even more than that, it was very hard to turn round and say—you shall be equally taxed for the maintenance of those establishments which you do not want with those who do want them. In his consideration that was an unjust principle. The right hon. Gentleman stated the case as if he were laying the tax for the first time; but he ought to have considered that these parishes have borne the expense of expensive establishments, which were of no service to them, and they had thus considerably reduced the rates in the highly pauperised districts. The right hon. Gentleman next referred to the workhouses. Gentlemen were accustomed to say that the workhouse afforded a great test and means of distinguishing between the industrious destitute and the idle vagrant. The poor-law guardians were in the habit of putting forward this doctrine; but let them take the case of an idle man, and they would find that the workhouse, so far from being a test, enabled him to defy them. Take the ordinary rate of wages, say 10s. a week, with a family of six persons, the whole amount of wages does not exceed, if it reaches, 20s., and that only if they are all employed. On this he is able to support the family; but if he goes into the workhouse, you cannot maintain him under 18s. a week. If he is put out of employment, he does not care—he will not stir himself to seek it in another place; off the fellow marches to the board of guardians; he is received as a destitute poor person; in he goes to the workhouse, the parish is put to the expense of 18s. a week until it is sick of it, and perhaps takes him out. Now, he begged the House to remember that these were not imaginary cases; he himself was aware of many such. The power of getting relief under this system afforded an absolute premium to the idle and the dissolute. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but any person acquainted with these matters would bear him out in the statements which he had made. He next came to the question of rating, which was no doubt one of immense difficulty. The conduct of the right hon. Gentleman clearly proved it to be such, for notwithstanding the great attention which every one was aware he bestowed upon the subject, although the Bill had only been a short time ago introduced to the House, yet nevertheless since its introduction the right hon. Gentleman had entirely altered his views upon the matter. Even as it now stood, as altered and amended, he was of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman had only partially escaped from the difficulties which surrounded him. The right hon. Gentleman admitted in argument that if he had persevered in his former proposition, that he would have subjected the unions to the expense of a re-rating; and he was so persuaded such would be the case, that he introduced an alteration. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to apply a partial remedy, and that remedy was county rating. No one would deny that county rates are unequal. No one believes that they are equal. It is almost impossible to arrive at an equal rate over the whole county. He believed that if they were to make extensive inquiries among the ratepayers of a county, they would find that the good sense of the ratepayers, knowing the difficulty of the subject, had acquiesced in the rule, where they were aware that endeavours had been made to put the rating upon a footing of equality. It would be impossible to make it equal: when the surveyor had gone half way through the county, different circumstances would arise, and he would have to begin again. Again, different men formed different estimates of the value of property, and that was the reason of the inequality which prevailed in the system of parochial assessment. These are the difficulties which stand in your way, and you will be resting on an unsound basis if you think county rating is equal. The right hon. Gentleman has stated, that he will take county rating as his basis, save when the union ran into two counties; but he had not given the House any information as to the reasons upon which he arrived at that determination. The right hon. Gentleman should have stated to the House what number of unions did run into two counties. For all they knew to the contrary, the number of unions which did so formed the great proportion; he believed, however, that they were as one-fourth to the whole number. [Mr. BULLER: I believe that they are only one-tenth.] In the southern part of the county where he lived, there were four unions, and three out of the four ran into two counties. At all events, they ought to have been informed what proportion they bore to the others. He considered, in highly-pauperised parishes, where the duties of the officers were proportionally greater than in the others, the salaries of the medical staff, the relieving officers, and the clerks should be augmented. The right hon. Gentleman had made a very strong statement to the House upon what he called the clearance system; but he did not think the facts of the case warranted him. In his opinion, the real state of the case was, that no additional buildings had been erected to meet the wants of an increased population. But the House should remember that the clearance system involved the actual pulling down of dwelling-houses without building others for the accommodation of the increasing population. But the want of additional buildings to meet the exigency of the increase arose from the fact that sufficient accommodation already existed for those engaged upon the land; and they had it pretty substantially demonstrated that decreasing the population would not generally increase the wages of those so employed, as there were ordinarily a certain number of labourers permanently employed, whoso wages would not rise or fall, or be subject to such fluctuation. He thought, therefore, that the term was inadvertently used. He believed he had stated the real cause of the congregation of the poor to the larger towns, and be was certain that if they took the population returns, which gave the number of houses in the country, they would find that in the great majority of cases no decrease bad taken place. He wished also to say a few words respecting private rates and highway rates. He considered that some misunderstanding might arise if the matter were allowed to rest under the sweeping condemnation placed upon them by the right hon. Gentleman, when he was alluding to the fact of some of the poor being maintained by private and highway rates. In the part of England where he lived, a great deal of misery had been alleviated by the means of these rates, which had been thus so unscrupulously condemned. The House should recollect the very stringent nature of the orders of the poor-law guardians. Take the case, for instance, of a poor man, with a wife and four or five children, unable to get work. Under any circumstances his wages would have been, when in employment, eight or nine shillings, and in winter even lower than that. Some persons think that if these persons go into the poor-house, that they would be provided for; but inquiries had sufficiently demonstrated that if the poor were thus drafted off the land, the wages of those who remained would not be increased. The great number of persons who accept the relief afforded by the officer, which averages from 3s. to 3s. 6d., were condemned to sit at home, and almost starve upon it, while by the help of these rates the poor man was enabled to earn from 6s. to 7s., and thus was enabled to maintain himself in a state of comparative comfort. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman contemplated this class of cases when he gave utterance to his sweeping denunciation. The House should not be inveigled by the soft persuasion of the right hon. Gentleman, that this was a little measure. Why, as sure as six and six make twelve, the principle of the Bill would be extended far beyond what might be now contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman might not be the person to extend it; but there were others who would be glad enough to avail themselves of it. Great alterations of the present kind should not be made bit by bit; if they were to be made, they ought to be considered as a whole, and treated as such. Of this he was sure, if there was one mode more than another by which they could shake confidence in the acts of that House, it would be by going on year after year shifting these burdens from one class to another, and thus interfering with the value of property in no slight degree. By this perpetual shifting and changing, they produced a soreness in men's minds, which at some time or another would drive them to make an organic change in order to get at the end of the chapter; and the end of the chapter would be the imposition of a national rate. The Removal Bill, introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, was one of those by which he expected, in some sense, to equalise the burdens which pressed upon the agricultural interest; that was a measure, be it remembered, which the agricultural interest did not demand; on the contrary, they were averse from it; but the ink is scarcely dry which printed that Act of Parliament, before you come down to the House with an Act to undo all you have done before, and to inflict an additional burden upon the agricultural interest by making them sharers in that which heretofore had been borne in a larger proportion by the towns; and the Removal Bill, held out as an advantage to the agricultural interest, made the lever for depriving them of one, and for charging them with additional burdens. He had listened with great attention to the right hon. Gentleman; but he must confess that he did not see any good or sufficient reasons for the Bill. He did not see why the parishes which had been most relieved should throw off their shoulders the burdens rightfully laid on them, and burden those parishes by which they had been assisted. Nor did he see any reason why the Removal Bill, enacted for one purpose, should be made the lever for another; neither did he see any force in the reasons by which the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to justify this shifting of burdens; or, dealing with the question of vagrancy, why it was not put under the provisions of some establishment competent to deal with it, and why they should not have a national charge for it, and treat it as all other crime was treated. They would never be able to draw a distinction between the vagrant and the really destitute poor, unless vagrancy was treated as an offence. These were the reasons why he could not consent to support the Bill. He thought it would be opening the doors for the entrance of future evils—breaking down the whole parochial system. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Debate adjourned.

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