HC Deb 20 March 1851 vol 115 cc231-3

appealed to the hon. Member for Tipperary to withdraw the Motion of which he had given notice, for returns of certain correspondence on the subject of the employment of paupers in Ireland. He (Sir W. Somerville) wished the Motion postponed until an opportunity were afforded of communicating with the Department to which the Motion referred. He did not know that there would be any objection to produce the papers, but they could not at present enter into the merits of the matter.


considered the matter of so much importance to the owners and occupiers of land in Ireland, that he could not consent to postpone it. He felt it his duty to call the attention of the House to a number of circumstances connected with the present condition of Ireland, and the refusal of the Poor Law Commissioners to allow the board of guardians to employ the paupers in remunerating labour. The Thurles board of guardians, who had in their workhouse 700 ablebodied male, and 1,500 ablebodied female paupers, had been anxious to employ them at some industrial occupations, which would produce some return, and raise a fund for enabling the paupers to emigrate. They had applied to the Poor Law Commissioners for permission to employ the paupers, but had met with a refusal. The Commissioners had alleged, as a reason for their refusal, that the adoption of such a course, whereby emigration was contemplated, would lead to a serious increase of the applications for relief, and enhance the burdens of the ratepayers. The boards of guardians ought to be allowed to employ the paupers in reproductive labour, on account of the present state of Ireland. The ratepayers were borne down by an overwhelming load of pauperism, and were, one by one, becoming bankrupt. The increase of pauperism in Ireland had been most enormous. In Tipperary and adjoining districts, the number of paupers capable of performing industrial labour was 23,154; and of that number there were 10,849 under the age of 15. The taxation had also, of course, increased to a very great extent. In the county of Tipperary, in 1835, there were no poor-rates, but a county cess of 58,780l. In 1849, the poor-rates alone had been 182,212l. 12s. 7d., and the county cess 104,504l. 14s. 8d. In these circumstances, he thought that every facility should be afforded for the employment of the paupers at reproductive labour. An argument used against the employment of paupers was, that it interfered with free labour out of doors. That might be a fair principle of political economy, but Ireland was an exceptional case. There they had no free labour—there they had no labour at all. The inmates of gaols were employed at industrial occupations; and if so, why not also the ablebodied inmates of workhouses?

Motion made, and Question proposed— That there be laid before this House Copies of all Correspondence between the Thurles Board of Guardians and the Poor Law Commissioners in Ireland, between the 1st day of January and the 10th day of March, 1851, relative to the refusal by the Poor Law Commissioners to allow the Board of Guardians to increase the employment of the inmates in remunerative labour: And, Return of the Number of Inmates in the different Workhouses in Ireland, specifying their Ages, between seven and fifteen, fifteen and twenty, twenty and forty, and forty and upwards the different sexes, and the number of ablebodied, and aged and infirm.


did not think that there would exist any objection to the returns moved for; but it would recur to the recollection of hon. Members that notice of the Motion had only been given on Tuesday evening. When the notice had been given, his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland had written to Dublin, to ascertain if there would be any objection to the returns; and it was impossible for them to have an answer to enable them to proceed with the matter that night. He therefore moved that the debate be adjourned till that day week.

Debate adjourned till Thursday next.