HC Deb 08 February 1849 vol 102 cc448-55

SIR W. SOMERVILLE moved the following Resolution:— That the Select Committee upon the Irish Poor Law do consist of twenty-one Members, and that the following Members be Members of the said Committee:—Lord John Russell, Sir James Graham, Sir John Young, Colonel Dunne, Mr. George Alexander Hamilton, Sir William Somerville, Mr. Poulett Scrope, Sir Robert Ferguson, Mr. Charles Clements, Mr. Shafto Adair, Mr. Cornewall Lewis, Mr. William Monsell, Sir Den-ham Norreys, Sir John Pakington, Mr. Henry Arthur Herbert, Mr. John Reynolds, Mr. Sharman Crawford, Mr. William Fagan, Mr. Anthony O'Flaherty, Major Samuel Blackall, and Mr. Augustus Stafford.


said, he wished to increase the number to twenty-two, in order to introduce the name of a Gentleman without whom he thought the Committee would not be perfect.


said, he believed that Committees of this description usually consisted either of fifteen or twenty-one Members. Twenty-one was more than the ordinary number, and he did not think it desirable to add another name.


was not particularly anxious to have twenty-two Members. Perhaps the right hon. Baronet (Sir W. Somerville) would withdraw a name, in order that he (Mr. Henry) might add one. [Cries of "Name."] He moved that Mr. Bright be a Member of the Committee.

After a short pause, the hon. Member withdrew his Amendment.

On the question that Lord John Russell be a Member of the Committee,


said, that as a representative of one of the western counties of Ireland, he felt called upon to express his strong objection to the names which had been proposed to be put upon this Committee. The western districts were especially unrepresented. It was meet that those who were oppressed by the unfortunate working of the system in the country, should have an opportunity of making it known, and endeavour to have all those errors corrected.


said, he thought hon. Members had some reason to complain of this matter. He had no objection to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), or to any other of the Members of Her Majesty's Government, being placed upon the Committee, especially as the noble Lord stated yesterday that he was prepared to explain to the Committee what were the plans which Her Majesty's Government meant to propose for the amendment of the Irish Poor Law. At the same time, he could not forget that the noble Lord also stated, that if the Committee should differ from him in opinion, he would not pledge himself to be bound by their conclusions, but would propose his own plans to the House; so that it was plain the Committee was to be made the authority for the Act if they should happen to agree with the noble Lord; but if they did not, then their opinions were to be altogether disregarded. Now, how was this Committee proposed to be constituted? There was a large proportion of Ministers and of official persons. There was the First Lord of the Treasury, the right hon. Baronet the ex-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir James Graham), the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland; there was the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Clements), who had been an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner; and there was the hon. Member for Herefordshire, who had been one of the English Poor Law Commissioners, and who was now Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. Then Ulster was disproportionately represented on the Committee in the persons of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan (Sir John Young), the hon. Baronet the Member for Londonderry (Sir Robert Ferguson), and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Shafto Adair), who had largo property in that province. The south also was represented by the hon. Member for Mallow (Sir Denham Norreys), the hon. Member for Cork city (Mr. Fagan), while Limerick county might be said to have two represesentatives in the person of its hon. Member (Mr. Monsell), and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford); but the county Clare was totally unrepresented, though a more efficient Member it would be difficult to find than the hon. Baronet (Sir L. O'Brien), who now represented it. Besides, there were two Members placed on the Committee—the hon. Members for Dublin and Mallow (Mr. Reynolds and Sir Denham Norreys)—who were absent from the House. It was necessary that they in the west should have their interests considered, and that they should not be sacrificed to the supposed interests of others. He might also mention, as persons who would have proved themselves efficient Members, the names of the hon. Member for Radnorshire (Sir John Walsh), and the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Sadleir). There was also his hon. Colleague (Mr. Grace), who, as chairman of a board of guardians, had acquired great experience as to the working of the law. Upon the whole, he thought they were entitled to protest against the selection of names that had been adopted.


said, every one who had had experience in the nomination of a Committee must be aware of the difficulty there always existed in making out a list that should be free from exception; and in the present case the difficulty had been greatly increased. His hon. Friend (Mr. French) seemed to think that every Gentleman who was not on the list was branded with a stigma, as if he were unfit to serve. Now that was not the case. On the contrary, the Government had been most reluctantly compelled, on account of the limited number of the Committee, to exclude many Members from the Committee whose services they were most anxious to obtain; and two days' notice of the Committee had been given in the hope that if exception were taken to any one, some notice of amendment would be given to them. He supposed that no objection would be made to the nomination of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) at the head of the Government. With regard to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham), his great practical experience rendered it a most desirable thing that they should obtain his services. When that right hon. Baronet placed his services at the disposal of the Government, they could not help feeling it as a favour conferred upon the House and the country. The hon. Member (Mr. French) had counted up the number of Ulster men upon the Committee; but he begged to remind him that he had placed the hon. Member for Cavan (Sir J. Young) upon the Committee because of his general knowledge and experience. Though Cavan was certainly in Ulster, yet the administration of the law there was very different from what it was in Londonderry. Of the hon. Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne) he could only say—[Mr. FRENCH: I do not object to the hon. Member for Portarlington.] Very well: Then the hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton) had been selected for his practical acquaintance with the working of the law. The hon. Member (Mr. French) had no objection, he believed, to his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland. He did take an objection to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Poulett Scrope); but looking to the necessary amount of landlord influence on the Committee, he thought it was but fair that the hon. Member for Stroud, who had paid so much attention to the subject, should not be omitted. Then with regard to the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Clements), he had been an assistant poor-law commissioner, and he (Sir G. Grey) had always heard that his district had been remarkably well managed; and, besides, the hon. Member was, in fact, a representative of the west—the county of Leitrim being one of the border counties of Connaught. With regard to the hon. Member for Herefordshire (Mr. C. Lewis), it was thought that his great practical experience in the administration of the English Poor Law, would be of infinite service in the Committee. It was true that there were two Members on the Committee who were not present in the House; but Sir Denham Norreys had written to him to say that he was willing to serve if the House chose to elect him. He admitted that there was some foundation for the objection that there were four Irish Members from the province of Munster, whilst there were only two, strictly speaking, from the province of Connaught. He also admitted that it was intended originally to have made an equal distribution, and that there should have been three Members from each of those provinces. It was strongly pressed that it was desirable to obtain the services of the hon. Member for Kerry, in addition to the services of the hon. Member for Limerick. As to the appointment of the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. Grace), he could only say that he was in the list originally made out, and that he should be happy to have the benefit of his services.


said, it appeared to him that the landed interest of the country was not sufficiently represented. There were only eight Members of counties upon the Committee, and as the landed interest which they represented was the most pressed by the working of the poor-law, he thought they ought to have more representatives. He certainly did not object to Mr. Scrope's name; but as that hon. Gentleman had voted against the Committee last year, he did not think that Mr. Scrope would have consented to serve on a Committee which he had voted against. Other Members were objected to because they entertained decided views in support of the worst parts of the Irish Poor Law. For himself, he did not object, because he thought, however decided a man's views might be, when he came to hear the evidence adduced he would change them. He would only add, that it was not supposed but that every man named on the Committee was fit to be there; but they knew others who were still better qualified. He would not recommend any substitute for them, but he would follow the example of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and say, that if the Committee did not agree with his views, he would dissent from the Committee.


suggested that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) should reconsider the question of limiting the number of the Committee to twenty-one. During last Session there were several cases in which they had imposed considerable inconvenience, upon themselves from restricting the number of Members on Committees. He (Sir R. Peel) knew it had been felt of late years that there was an advantage in limiting the numbers; but there were certain cases of great importance to the country where a great advantage had been gained by extending the numbers. Take the case which occurred last Session, where there was certainly loss occasion than at present for extending the numbers, when twenty-six Members were appointed upon the Bank Committee, and not the slightest inconvenience was felt by extending the numbers beyond the ordinary rule. The Committee attended most punctually, and the greatest attention was paid to the proceedings. Now, if there were any parts of Ireland not fairly represented in the Committee, he thought it would be better to act upon the principle to which he had referred, and have an extension of the numbers of the Committee.


suggested that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) ought to bear in remembrance the first sentence in the first of the three remarkable reports furnished by Mr. Nicholls—that whatever general knowledge or general views might be formed from books and reports, it was absolutely necessary that you should have the advantage of personal examination into the state and condition of the poor of Ireland in order to acquire that knowledge which would qualify you to suggest any practical measure for remedying destitution in Ireland. That was the spirit of the first sentence in the report. He thought they ought not to confine the Members for Connaught to the two smallest divisions of that province, but that it would be advisable also to place on it the representatives of the two largest counties. He thought that these two points ought to be considered in the selection of the Committee. It was also worth remembering that, however important a practical experience in the working of the English Poor Law might be, practical knowledge of the working of the Irish Poor Law was still more important. He felt it as most desirable that Gentlemen placed in the position of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) should be on the Committee, because they combined acquaintance with the practical working of the poor-law in Ireland, and an equal knowledge and experience of the working of a similar law in this country.


said, that the Committee excited a great deal of interest in Ireland, but it was not likely to give satisfaction. It was a question whether it was not better to divide the unpopularity amongst as many as possible. It was very wrong to leave out those important counties, Mayo and Roscommon, in both of which the full working of the present system was very striking. His own opinion was, that it was impossible to amend this law; and the best thing to be done was to place Gentlemen who were acquainted with the various parts of Ireland on the Committee.


also took the liberty of pressing upon the Government the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel), and thus admit several highly respectable Gentlemen who were at present excluded. The Government had honoured him with a request to serve upon the Committee, and he undertook the task most willingly, and would devote his best attention to the subject; at the same time, he felt that all he could do would not be sufficient to press upon the Committee the extreme distress of the western counties.


said, as the Motion stood, the Committee was restricted to twenty-one Members; but if the House would agree to the Committee as now named, he had no objection to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and name some additional Members.


said, as it seemed settled that there were to be additional Members, he hoped the Government would see the desirableness of adding some Scotch Gentlemen to the Committee; and he would also suggest that the predecessor of the right hon. Baronet in the Irish Secretary-ship (the Earl' of Lincoln) should be added to the Committee.


hoped the Government would not adopt the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman with regard to Scotch Members, because the administration of the poor-law there was very different from what it was both in this country and in Ireland.

The name of Lord John Russell was then agreed to, as were those of Sir James Graham, Sir John Young, Colonel Dunne, Mr. George Alexander Hamilton, and Sir William Somerville.

On the name of Mr. Poulett Scrope being proposed,


repeated his notice, that when the additional Members were nominated he would move that Mr. John Bright be one of the number.

MR. GROGAN moved, that Sir Lucius O'Brien be substituted in place of Mr. Poulett Scrope.


explained, that the Member could not move any name in substitution; he must confine himself at that stage to objecting to any Member nominated.


than moved, that Mr. Scrope's name be omitted.

The House divided on the question, that Mr. Scrope be one other Member of the said Committee:—Ayes 119; Noes 44: Majority 75.

List of the AYES.
Abdy, T. N. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Adair, R. A. S. Humphery, Ald.
Anson, hon. Col. Kershaw, J.
Armstrong, Sir A. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Lacy, H. C.
Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Bellew, R. M. Lewis, G. C.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Lockhart, A. E.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Mackinnon, W. A.
Blackall, S. W. M'Gregor, J.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Maher, N. V.
Bramston, T. W. Meagher, T.
Brotherton, J. Mahon, The O'Gorman
Brown, H. Maitland, T.
Brown, W. Mandeville, Visct.
Bunbury, E. H. Mangles, R. D.
Butler, P. S. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Callaghan, D. Melgund, Visct.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Milner, W. M. E.
Caulfeild, J. M. Milnes, R. M.
Charteris, hon. F. Monsell, W.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Morris, D.
Cockburn, A. J. E. Mowatt, F.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Norreys, Lord
Cowper, hon. W. F. Nugent, Lord
Crawford, W. S. O'Brien, J.
Dalrymple, Capt. O'Connor, F.
Drummond, H. Paget, Lord C.
Duncan, G. Palmerston, Visct.
Dundas, Adm. Parker, J.
Du Pre, C. G. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Ebrington, Visct. Pinney, W.
Ellis, J. Power, N.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Rawdon, Col.
Frewen, C. H. Rich, H.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Romilly, Sir J.
Glyn, G. C. Russell, Lord J.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Russell, F. C. H.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Sandars, J.
Granger, T. C. Scholefield, W.
Greene, J. Seymer, H. K.
Grenfell, C. W. Seymour, Lord
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Sheridan, R. B.
Grey, R. W. Simeon, J.
Grosvenor, Earl Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Smith, J. B.
Harris, R. Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.
Hastie, A. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Hawes, B. Stuart, Lord D.
Headlam, T. E. Tancred, H. W.
Heathcoat, J. Tenison, E. K.
Henry, A. Thompson, Col.
Heyworth, L. Thompson, G.
Hobhouse, T. B. Thornely, T.
Howard, Lord E. Townshend, Capt.
Trelawny, J. S. Wyld, J.
Williams, J. Wyvill, M.
Willoughby, Sir H. Young, Sir J.
Wilson, J.
Wood, rt. hon. Sir C. TELLERS.
Wortley, rt. hon. J. S. Tufnell, H.
Wrightson, W. B. Hill, Lord M.
List of the NOES.
Archdall, Capt. M. Grattan, H.
Arkwright, G. Greenall, G.
Bennet, P. Gwyn, H.
Beresford, W. Hamilton, J. H.
Bernard, Visct. Hamilton, Lord C.
Bourke, R. S. Herbert, H. A.
Bowles, Adm. Hill, Lord E.
Brisco, M. Hood, Sir A.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Hornby, J.
Burke, Sir T. J. Mullings, J. R.
Carew, W. H. P. Napier, J.
Christy, S. Newry and Morne, Visct.
Cole, hon. H. A. O'Brien, Sir L.
Corbally, M. E. St. George, C.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Spooner, R.
Dick, Q. Taylor, T. E.
Drumlanrig, Visct. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B. Verner, Sir W.
Duncuft, J. Waddington, H. S.
Dunne, F. P. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Floyer, J.
French, F. TELLERS.
Fuller, A. E. Grogan, E.
Grace, O. D. J. Stafford, A.

CAPTAIN TAYLOR moved that the name of Mr. Cornewall Lewis be omitted.


defended the nomination of Mr. Lewis, as that Gentleman had lately written a book upon the subject, which showed great acquaintance with the matters that would come before the Committee.


contended that this was not entirely an Irish question; and be thought the real ground of complaint was, not that there were too many, but that there were too few English Members on the Committee. If any additions were to be made to the Committee, he would endeavour that some independent English Members should be added.


said, that some objections had been made to Gentlemen holding strong opinions; but he must observe, that there were others who held opinions as decided in an opposite direction who were selected Members.


then withdrew his Motion, and the Committee, as originally proposed, was appointed.