HC Deb 09 July 1849 vol 107 cc77-89

Bill read a Third Time.

MR. J. O'CONNELL moved the insertion of a clause relating to the appointment of chaplains to workhouses. His object was to provide that the person appointed as Catholic chaplain to a workhouse should be a Catholic priest, and have the attestation of his bishop as to his fitness for the office. He supposed that the Irish Members opposite would not object to have the same rule applied to the chaplains of their persuasion, but, if they had, he was willing to alter the clause so as to make it applicable to Catholics only. It happened unfortunately that a very serious difference had recently arisen between a Catholic archbishop and the Poor Law Commissioners of Ireland, which rendered it necessary that such a clause as the present should be introduced; but he did not rest his case on that circumstance alone, as he thought the want of a clause to this effect a serious omission in the poor-law. He thought the commissioners could not have a better guarantee for the fitness of a chaplain than the sanction of his bishop. In the case to which he had alluded—that of the Catholic chaplain to the Tuam workhouse—a case had arisen during the absence of the archbishop which the commissioners required the chaplain to account for. The chaplain admitted that he was answerable to the commissioners on all civil matters; but as the case in question was one of a purely religious nature, he declined to enter into any explanation, except to his ordinary. The commissioners then dismissed him, and called on the archbishop to express his concurrence by recommending another chaplain. The archbishop refused to do so without investigating the case, and the commissioners then sent an emissary among the clergy of the archdiocese in order to try to find a person who would accept the office, in defiance of the archbishop. The case gave rise to great inconvenience, because the archbishop—bound by a solemn oath to discharge the duties confided to him—could not give way. He wished to confine the authority of the ordinary to strictly religious matters; and if there were any authority in the Presbyterian Church to which their clergy yielded obedience, he would be happy to introduce words that would include Presbyterian chaplains also. The offect of the law, as it now stood, was to make the commissioners a pope and council; and, what was worse, the chief commissioner was made pope for a religion to which he did not belong. He would ask, why should two Protestant commissioners have authority to decide in religious matters affecting Catholics? or why should the third commissioner, who was a Catholic, have a similar power with regard to Protestant chaplains? He submitted the clause for the approbation of the House, with a view to facilitate the working of the poor-law, as well as on the grounds of common sense and common fairness.

Clause brought up and read a First Time.


hoped the House would not be induced to consent to the introduction of the clause, which would not have the effect of facilitating the operation of the Irish Poor Law. If there were one thing upon which the guardians were more jealous than another, it was the appointment and control of their officers, and although it was true the chaplains were appointed by the commissioners, and not by the guardians, still the greatest care had been taken to keep these appointments independent of the bishops. He doubted very much whether the clause, as it was at present worded, would apply to Catholic clergymen at all. He knew, however, that especial care was taken by the Poor Law Commissioners to consult, as far as possible, and in a respectful manner, the wishes of the Roman Catholic bishops or archbishops, who were the ecclesiastical superiors of the clergy about to be appointed. But, if this were carried further, there would be two distinct authorities in every workhouse in Ireland. The Poor Law Commissioners had laid down certain rules respecting the performance of the duties of chaplains, and the clergy must submit to some authority—that proper authority clearly being the commissioners. The hon. Member had alluded to a case in the Tuam workhouse, and had, on a previous occasion, moved for the papers connected therewith; but the hon. Member had not moved, as he (Sir W. Somerville) wished he had, that those papers should be printed. In that case, as in others, the Poor Law Commissioners had not departed from their ordinary mode of proceeding. One of the Poor Law Commissioners (Mr. Redington) was a Catholic, and he would be the last man to do anything disrespectful to the Church of which he was a member.


said, his objection was not founded on the fact of two of the commissioners being Protestants. He should object to the interference of a lay Catholic as much as to that of a Protestant on any question affecting the Catholic religion.


inquired who was to be the authority to decide what questions were "purely civil" if the clause were adopted? He was aware that there would have been great difficulties with regard to the conduct of chaplains in the part of Ireland with which he was connected, were it not that the Roman Catholics there were presided over by so estimable a man as Dr. Ryan. He begged to take the opportunity, while referring to this subject, to thank the noble Lord at the head of the Government for the excellent appointment which he had recently made to the see of Limerick.


wished to know if the commissioners claimed a power to remove a chaplain for carrying out his own religious views and those of his bishop?


said, the commissioners had laid down certain rules for the guidance of the chaplains, and he considered that it was for the commissioners to decide whether these rules were neglected or otherwise.


hoped his hon. Friend would not press for a division, as the sense of the House was so clearly against him. He should be exceedingly sorry to give a vote apparently in opposition to the authorities of the Church to which he belonged, and to his hon. Friend; but still he should feel bound to vote against the latter part of the clause. There would be a great difficulty in drawing a line between civil and religious matters; as, for instance, the celebration of divine service was a purely religious question, and still, if a chaplain neglected that duty without cause, it was clearly a case in which the commissioners ought to interfere.


also hoped that the hon. Member would not divide, as the votes would be misunderstood in Ireland. He believed the word "ordinary" in the clause would not apply to Roman Catholic bishops. The House would not wish to leave the dismissal of the chaplains of workhouses in the hands of any bishops, whether Catholics or Protestants. He thought the present practice was found, upon the whole, to work conveniently. One case of dispute had indeed arisen in Tuam, but the House ought not to legislate for that single case. All that the House knew of that case was, that Dr. M'Hale had differed from the Poor Law Commissioners respecting the dismissal of a chaplain; but further than that the House knew nothing.

Motion made and Question put, "That the said Clause be now read a Second Time."

The House divided:—Ayes 3; Noes 74: Majority 71.


then moved a clause to enable justices of the peace, in cases where tenants of premises for a term not exceeding a month, at a rent not exceeding 1l. per month, hold over the premises after the term had ceased, or notice to quit had been served upon them, to order a constable to take possession of the premises; provided always that no such entry should be made on a Sunday, Good Friday, or Christmas-day, or at any time except between nine in the morning and four in the afternoon; and, also, that nothing therein contained should be deemed to protect any person by whom the warrant for taking possession should be sued out from any action which might be brought against him by any such tenant or occupier in respect of such entry and taking possession, where such person had not, at the time of suing, lawful right to the possession of the premises.


supported the clause.


said, that the clause was totally foreign to the purpose of the Bill; the clause was to facilitate ejectment in certain cases, and had nothing to do with the relief of the poor. If the clause was added, the title of the Bill ought to be altered.

Clause negatived without a division.


then moved a clause, which he contended was strictly within the purviews of the Bill, declaring that when a party in possession of more than a quarter of an acre of land applied for relief upon a certificate of the guardians to that effect, it should vitiate the tenure of his land.


called attention to the fact, that by the present law the poor-law guardians were prohibited from affording relief to any persons who were in the occupation of more than a quarter of an acre. To ask the guardians, therefore, to certify that they had given relief to persons in possession of more than a quarter of an acre, would be requiring from them a certificate that they had violated the law. That could not be expected of them, and therefore he must oppose the clause.


supported the clause, because if some such provision were not adopted, the landlord could not cultivate the land which his tenant had deserted without being liable to be prosecuted for trespassing on the land.


opposed the clause as an attempt to make still more stringent the provisions of a law which was too severe already.


supported the clause, as he had known instances of laud being deserted by the occupiers who received relief, and when the landlords proceeded to cultivate the soil the same occupiers came forward to claim their land so cultivated, and said, here is our lease, and we have never been put legally out of possession.


was certain that the clause would not keep a tenant to his surrender, as assumed by the hon. Baronet. The clause would enable the landlord to come in, and over-ride the lease if he were so minded.


said, his hon. Friends who had opposed the original clause saw the evils which that clause had produced, but they did not see the greater evils which that clause had prevented. He was satisfied that if an unlimited right to relief had been given, without requiring a surrender of land, the Consolidated Fund itself would not have satisfied the claims which would have been made. The doubts which had arisen respecting the working of the quarter-acre clause, as it was termed, had been brought before an eminent barrister, Mr. Henn, who gave it as his opinion that a legal surrender of the land was not necessary; that all that was required was cessation to occupy. But other doubts had since sprung up, and he thought it was the duty of the House now to clear them up. He hoped the Government would come forward and settle the law upon this subject.


said, this was a new ejectment clause. He thought the evil of the quarter-acre clause was that persons applying for relief were required to surrender the whole of the land they occupied, with the house they lived in: he did not think the operation of the law would be so much complained of if parties were only required to surrender the surplus of the land they held, and were allowed to retain their house and a quarter of an acre.


said, that the language which had been used in that House upon the subject of Ireland by the hon. Member for Stroud, had done more to sow dissension in that country between landlord and tenant than anything else. He hoped Her Majesty's Ministers would grapple with the landlord and tenant question, for under the existing law ejectments were constantly taking place. There was in the sixth report of the Committee on the Irish Poor Law a passage bearing on the subject which was worthy of the consideration of the House and of the Government.


said, with regard to the dispute between the hon. Member for Clare and the hon. Member for Stroud, he must say that though the hon. Member for Stroud might sometimes be misinformed, there was generally a strong foundation for his facts. All the evidence that had been laid before the Committee of which he was a Member confirmed this fact, that the wretched condition of the peasantry in the west of Ireland was to be attributed to the couduct of the Irish landlords—to their exaction of largo rents, which had reduced the peasantry to the lowest description of food, and that in the smallest quantities.


said, it was clear that the clause would not meet the circumstances of the case.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the said Clause be now brought up."

The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 97: Majority 74.

SIR A. B. BROOKE moved the insertion of a clause to alter the liability of lessors for rates in respect of tenements not exceeding the value of four pounds, to a value not exceeding two pounds. He was certain from his own experience that the present clause operated very injuriously, and gave much dissatisfaction. He thought the alteration he proposed would very much mitigate the mischief complained of—the extent of which might be conceived when he stated that the number of 4l. holdings in Ireland was 493,783. The valuation of 4l. was so far injurious as it prevented occupiers from endeavouring to raise the value of their land above the value of 4l., as they would, in such case, be liable to the poor-rates. He trusted that Government would take this most important matter into its favourable consideration.

Clause brought up and read a First Time.


said, that the clause having been only that day printed, he had only just seen it. Now it appeared to him that it went much further than the hon. Gentleman had expressed an intention of doing, he having said that his object was merely to reduce the limitation from 4l to 2l. No doubt some hardship arose out of the 4l clause; but the hon. Gentleman's arguments tended rather to support a Motion for the repeal of the clause altogether than for its reduction in terms from 4l to 2l He could not assent to the hon. Gentleman's proposition.

Motion made, and Question, "That the said Clause he now read a Second Time," put, and negatived.


then proposed a clause to alter the present deductions of poundage from tithe rent.

Clause brought up and read a First Time.


said, that there really was very great difficulty attending the subject. But it was not a new subject of consideration for the House. When the present existing Poor Law Amendment Act was passed in 1847, a proposition similar to that now made by the hon. and learned Gentleman was made. But, after considerable discussion, the House agreed, in preference, to adopt a proposition of his (Sir G. Grey's), to place the tithe-owners in Ireland upon precisely the same footing as they stood in England. A clause to that effect was agreed to, and it was even assented to by the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of the city of Dublin, who then represented the University. But during the progress of the Bill through the House, after the clause had been seen in Ireland, the opinion of the clergy was collected, and they were decidedly against it. They preferred the law remaining as it stood, and the clause was accordingly withdrawn. So that it was upon the suggestion of the clergy themselves that the law upon that point remained unaltered. He (Sir G. Grey) was not prepared to say that the landlords did not in some cases obtain an unfair advantage under the law as it stood, but he did not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman's clause would cure the defect. He would be ready to attend to such a proposition as that which had been assented to by the hon. and learned Recorder of Dublin, namely, the placing of the tithe-owners in Ireland upon the same footing as those of England; but there were so many and so great objections to the clause proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman that he could not assent to it.


could not accept the offer of the right hon. Gentleman. From the evidence of most intelligent witnesses examined on this subject, it appeared that it would come to the same thing in result whether what was required to be done was effected, as proposed by the clergy, by a separate rating, or in the way proposed in his (Mr. Napier's) clause. The two sorts of tithe property in England and Ireland were very different, as regarded the subject before the House; and, in order to rate the clergy separately in Ireland, they must undo what was done by the Tithe Rent Charge Bill, and then they would have the old state of things brought back again which the clergy had given up twenty-five per cent of their property to get rid of. This was not a question between the clergy and the poor; and the clause he proposed would not make one 1l. of difference as to the amount of the poor-rate. He contended also that it would prevent many inconveniences to the landlord, in which opinion he was most completely borne out by the evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Lords, by whom this question was gone into very fully. The injustice of the Bill in this respect was so apparent, that it had even received the condemnation of many Roman Catholic proprietors. His proposition would render the law consistent with itself, and would prevent the Bill from making the Tithe Rent Charge Act a nullity. He therefore trusted that the House would permit the introduction of this clause.


supported the clause, and thought the Irish landlords should vote for it, if they wished to do justice to the tenantry and the clergy.


did not mean to say that the clergy had not some grievance to complain of; but it fell very far short of the half-rate which the hon. and learned Member wished to deduct. If, therefore, he pressed his Motion, he (Sir J. Young) should feel hound to vote against it.


said, his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan had endeavoured to establish an analogy between the clergy and a landlord in occupation, and he had argued, that because the landlord in occupation pays the entire poundage, it is therefore just that the entire poundage of the poor-rate should be deducted from the clergyman or other owner of tithe rent-charge. But he (Mr. Hamilton) must maintain that no such analogy exists. He had always understood that the principle on which the constitution of poor-rate in Ireland was settled in the original poor- law, was that the tenant should pay one-half of the poor-rate poundage in respect of his profits as occupier; and, that the landlord should pay the other half—it being deducted by the tenant—in respect of his rent or advantage as owner. Obviously the owner of tithe rent-charge has none of the profits of an occupier; and, therefore, the analogy does not hold in that respect. Besides, none of the incidents of occupation belong to tithe rent-charge. The clergyman or tithe rent-charger has no advantage from the improved value of the land. He has no power of controlling the expenditure of the rates, or of keeping down pauperism; or, as a rent-charger, of giving employment. In none of these respects does any analogy exist between him and the landlord in occupation. It should also be remembered that he is rated on a gross, while the landlord in occupation is rated on a not and low valuation. He was glad, however, to find that his hon. Friend admitted that an injustice and hardship existed. He (Mr. Hamilton), on a former occasion, had given several instances of the immense injustice of the present system upon the incomes of the clergy. He would only trouble the House with one in addition, and he used it as an illustration of the system. He hold in his hand a statement of the particulars of a parish with a population of 1,231 members of the Established Church. The income of the clergyman was, from rent-charge, 104l and glebe, 11l. 3s., in the whole 115l. 3s. From this there were necessary deductions in the shape of payments, which the incumbent was compelled to make. Instalment to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for advances made to his predecessor for building or repairing the glebe house—a charge on the benefice towards a perpetual curacy, and other items amounting to 35l. 8s. 4d., leaving the incumbent's actual income at 79l. 14s. 8d. Now, what would the House suppose the deductions made by the landlord during the year 1848 on account of poor-rate on this 79l. 14s. 8d. to have been? It was no less than 71l., leaving the incumbent of this populous parish with an income for his support out of his benefice of 8l. 14s. 8d., being a sum not equal to the salary of his clerk or sexton, and making no allowance for cost of collection, schools, or charities. His (Mr. Hamilton's) Colleague had argued the question so ably that he did not think it necessary to trouble the House further. He would only say that if the clause should not be adopted, he trusted the Government would not allow a case of such admitted injustice to remain without redress, and that they would propose some other remedy.


agreed that it was a hardship that this particular charge should be liable to a greater amount of rate than any other charge. If the hon. and learned Gentleman divided the House he would vote for the clause; but in case it were lost, he thought that they would do well to adopt the suggestion thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary.


remarked that it was the friends of the Church who were always ripping up this subject. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Mallow, be believed that that hon. Gentleman was a tithe-owner himself, and he thought that he was now very much in the position of a man becoming his own counsel. The hon. and learned Gentleman proposed to take from the shoulders of the Church the poor-rate, and to place the burden on other parties, the consequence of which would be a great increase in the liabilities of the landowner and occupier. There was no property so much exempt from taxation or from other liability as the Irish Church.


said a few words in explanation.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the said Clause be now read a Second Time."

The House divided:—Ayes 50; Noes 125: Majority 75.

On the Question that this Bill do pass,


said the Bill was divided into two parts, the latter part coming strictly within the title which had been given to it, while the first part did not come within the title, being less calculated to amend the law than to introduce into it two new and vicious principles. Against the first clause of the Bill a majority of the Irish Members had recorded their strongest protest; and against the second clause a majority of two to one had also recorded their votes. Whatever there might be inhuman in the operation of the Bill, therefore, and however unjust and impolitic the second clause might be, for that inhumanity and injustice Irish Members were not responsible. He was not prepared to say that from the third clause to the end of the Bill considerable improvements had not boon introduced into the present poor-law; but he must say that the principle of the maximum rate had been entirely forgotten from the moment they had introduced the margin relating to the debts. How, after the sixpenny rate in aid, the Government advances, the outstanding debts, and the emigration rate, they could talk of a maximum rate, he did not understand. The hon. Member for Manchester had given them most valuable aid in Committee, but he bad never come forward to give them any assistance in the debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, too—he who had early in the Session propounded a scheme so magnificent that none of them could understand it—he who so readily catched hold of the imagination of an imaginative people—who felt that there was an absolute necessity to introduce capital into Ireland, did not, by his presence in these debates, show that he had any conviction of the intimate connexion that subsisted between every clause of this Bill and the introduction of capital into Ireland. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon did the Irish Members the honour and himself the justice of bestowing his patient attention to the discussions in Committee on this question, and the Irish Members were much obliged to him for it. In order not to let the capitalist purchase land unawares, let them consider how under this Bill his property would be taxed. By the first clause there was a maximum rate of 5s., and he might possibly purchase under the delusive belief that that maximum would not be exceeded. Imagine him then to be called upon for an 8s. rate. "Why is this?" he asks. "I thought I was not to pay more than 5s.?" "Yes," is the answer, "but in Committee Parliament found it necessary to include the debts of the union, which require a rate of 2s. 6d. additional, and then there is a 6d. for a rate in aid, and that makes the 8s." But beyond this he will be called upon for 2s. 4d. rate for promoting emigration. "But," says the purchaser, "I don't want to send out emigrants." "No," is the reply, "but one-half of the electoral division have refused to pay their rates, and the board of guardians have therefore determined to send them out as emigrants, and you must pay a rate of 2s. 4d." Thus 10s. 4d. for rates was arrived at. Of course the purchaser now thinks that he has arrived at the end of his liabilities; but not so. Another collector arrives and demands a rate of 2s. more in the pound. "What is this?" asks the purchaser. "Why," says the collector, "the maximum rate has been reached, and the Poor Law Commissioners have a right to collect 2s. in the pound, and they have accordingly imposed that rate upon you." Thus, instead of 5s. being the maximum rate, 12s. 4d. would be the actual amount of the charge upon the land purchased by the English capitalist. The maximum was a mere delusion, and was used in the Bill as an engine for a union rate, and to enable the commissioners to levy a tax of 10 per cent upon the whole rateable property of Ireland. This was the justice of the Whig Ministry towards the property of Ireland; and, so far as the liberties of the country were concerned, the same Ministry had taken care of them by suspending the Habeas Corpus Act.


wished to say two or three words in reply to the hon. Member who had just sat down. He was obliged to plead guilty as to his absence while the measure was being discussed, and the chief reason why he had felt less disposed to take part in the discussions in the House was this—that, after having sat in the Committee, he was as much in the dark on the subject, if not more in the dark, than he was when the Committee commenced its sittings. If, then, he had voted on the various clauses, he must have voted in deference to authority on one side of the House or on the other; and under these circumstances he had not meddled with the Bill in the House. He had doubts so strong as to the propriety of a maximum rate, that had he been present he should certainly have voted against it, because the sum fixed by the Government was much smaller than in his opinion it was desirable to fix. If they were to have a poor-law on the principle of the one in England, then the principle of a maximum rate was a very hazardous one, and if tolerated at all it should be fixed so high that it would not be likely to be easily reached. He was willing, too, that it should be temporary in its duration, in order that it might not be made a precedent for the adoption of the same principle hereafter by other parts of the united kingdom. Had he been present, he would have voted with those who opposed the maximum rate. On the general question of the Bill itself, he was of opinion that the result would be nil, or next to nil, in Ireland. It would not remedy the complaints made relative to the poor-law; and indeed it was impossible by any shape of a poor-law whatever very materially to diminish the pressure which the pauperism existing in Ireland was bringing on the Irish proprietors. He thought the Irish proprietors in that House, instead of making pauperism bearable, which it never could be in Ireland, ought to look to the source whence it sprung, and to the measures which might remove it, for the feeling of the people only tended to destroy, and did not in any sensible degree stimulate, industry. Efforts should be made to withdraw from dependence on those who were employed, vast numbers of those who were unemployed. He confessed that he looked to other measures which had passed, and were passing, infinitely more for any advantage to Ireland, than he did to the present Bill. He should be glad if he were mistaken, and if the Bill made pauperism bearable by the complete emancipation of the soil; and he should vote in its favour, because there seemed to be nothing better to propose instead of it.


had one word to say to the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman he knew had paid great attention to the evidence; and he appealed to him, and challenged any other hon. Gentleman, to show one single sentence of the evidence in favour of the principle of a union rating. But English Members had forced upon Irish Members that principle of a union rating, though it had been admirably argued against by the English commissioner. It was a principle against which the most distinct evidence was given by Mr. Twisleton.

Bill passed.

The House adjourned at half-after One o'clock.