§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. S. ADAIR
begged to move the Second Reading of the Poor Relief (Cities and Towns) Bill. Its object was to render more equitable the distribution of the charge for relief of the poor in the case of cities and towns comprising several parishes. It was proposed that the majority of the guardians of any union comprising a city or town of more than one 186 parish, with a population of more than 20,000 persons, should have power to adopt a resolution directing that all the costs and charges for the relief of the poor should be paid out of a common fund, to be raised by a common rate, and that such resolution should come into operation when approved by the Poor Law Commissioners. A measure having the same object had been introduced in 1848; and the distinction between it and the present Bill was, that under the one the Commissioners were to effect the combinations ex proprio motu, whereas the guardians would themselves originate the proceedings under the other.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
MR. T. EGERTON
thought the Government ought to take up the subject; but he recommended the withdrawal of the Bill now, otherwise he should feel obliged to move that it be read a third time that day three months.
§ MR. BAINES
said, that while the preamble was confined to the case of cities and towns, the enacting part of the Bill applied to the guardians of any union comprising a city or town, so that a union consisting of a great number of agricultural parishes, but comprising a city or town, would come under its operation. The whole question of union rating would be opened, which, bound up as it was with the question of settlement, offered far too extensive a subject for discussion at this period of the Session. A Committee of the Lords had been considering the whole subject of rating. He had not had any opportunity of seeing their report, but the evidence taken before that Committee ought to be fully weighed. He hoped the hon. Member for Cambridge would not press the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
wished to call the attention of the House to the severity with which the existing law pressed on landowners and small farmers. As an illustration of the inequality of the present mode of levying the tax, he might instance that there were 24 parishes paying at the rate of ½d. in the pound, 38 paying ½d. in 187 the pound, and 30 paying ¾d. in the pound, 8,093 paying between ¼d. and 1s. 6d., and 6,227 from 1s. 6d. to 14s. In the different unions in the city of London, the disparity was equally startling and unjust. It was stated in the report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the law of the chargeability of the poor and the law of settlement, that in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and other counties, the labourers were compelled to walk from 25 to 30 miles per week to and from their work; and the city of Norwich had justly complained that it had to provide habitations for the labourers of many miles round. The fact was, that many landowners had altogether destroyed the cottages upon their property in order to escape the rates, and to throw them on the adjacent towns. Some parishes had, he knew, by this means reduced within the last few years their rating to the poor by one-sixth. The inequalities of the present system were much to be deprecated, and if the hon. Member for Cambridge divided, he should vote with him for the second reading.
MR. V. SMITH
said, that as this subject was intimately connected with the larger questions of settlement and rating, he expected to have heard the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board undertake to bring in a Bill upon those subjects in the next Session. The report of the Committee upon the law of settlement showed the existence of evils which were a disgrace to the country, yet nothing had hitherto been done to remedy them. The question of rating had also been submitted to a Committee of the other House—the evidence before which, although not yet presented, he thought would furnish the right hon. Gentleman with a valuable mass of information for his consideration during the recess. He was aware that the Poor Law Board never was so popular as at the present moment; but he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not hesitate to risk that popularity, if necessary, by dealing with these important matters at the earliest possible period next Session.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that his right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board had said nothing whatever against the principle of the Bill. He had only expressed a hope that the House might not not be driven to a decision upon it at the present time, and that it might be withdrawn, because the whole subject was under consideration, with a view to the introduc- 188 tion of a measure in the course of the next Session.
MR. S. ADAIR
said, he was satisfied with the discussion which had taken place, and he was willing to withdraw the measure.
MR. T. EGERTON
expressed his satisfaction at the course taken by the hon. Member for Cambridge, as an opportunity would he afforded next Session for considering the whole subject.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill put off for three months.