HC Deb 27 February 1854 vol 130 cc1354-5

On the Motion that the House go into Committee of Supply,


said, he wished to make a short statement in reply to the observations which fell from the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) on Friday evening, with respect to certain proceedings which had taken place in the metropolitan districts in connection with the removal of paupers to Ireland. Some of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman were of so startling a character, and bore so harshly upon the conduct of the parochial officers in the metropolis, especially those in the parish of St. Pancras, that he had considered if his duty, as a representative of one of the metropolitan boroughs, to inquire into the subject, in order to ascertain whether the facts were really such as the hon. Gentleman had represented them to be. He was informed that the statement made by the hon. Gentleman, so far as the parish of St. Pancras was concerned, was wholly without foundation; and although he did not blame the hon. Member for bringing the subject forward, yet he could not help thinking that those persons who had supplied the hon. Gentleman with the extraordinary cases of hardship and oppression which he had narrated to the House should have been more careful in their inquiries, and more accurate in their information, before they called upon him to bring the subject under the notice of Parliament. It was very inconvenient that those statements should be made at a time when the House was about to go into Committee of Supply, and thus obstruct the public business. The hon. Member was reported to have said:— One poor woman—Anne Harris—not the Mrs. Harris of the novelist, but a Mrs. Harris of real life—had resided seven years in St. Pancras; but about three months since her husband broke his leg, and was obliged to go into Middlesex Hospital, and a few weeks since she applied for and obtained relief for herself and her children, born in the parish. The mother and children entered the workhouse, and on recovering from the sickness caused by the privations they bad undergone, she asked for her discharge. The parish authorities were too glad to have her at their mercy, and the poor woman and her children were sent off to Ireland, without the knowledge or consent of the sick husband, then lying in the hospital. What were the facts of the ease? No such a person as Mrs. Harris existed; and at the time when it was said she was re- lieved in the workhouse, there was no man of the name of Harris in the Middlesex Hospital. About the period referred to a woman of the name of Macarthy was removed to Ireland by the authorities of St. Pancras; but she was a woman of abandoned character, unmarried, and with two illegitimate children. During the last few years the expense of removing paupers from St. Pancras to Ireland had been only 21l. 13s. 2d. per annum, though the parish contained a population of 667,000 souls. He did not intend to enter into a defence of the conduct of the officers of other parishes; but if the statements which the hon. Member for Durgarvan had made with respect to the other metropolitan districts were no better founded than those which he had put forth in regard to St. Pancras, he could tell him that they were not of any value whatever.


said, he would not take the recommendation of the hon. Baronet with regard to the statements which, in the exercise of his discretion, he should bring forward. The hon. Baronet had so confused and thimble-rigged his explanation—one moment the pea being here and the next moment there—that it was difficult to understand. One moment, this Mrs. Harris was a woman of infamous character, and another of no character at all. [Laughter.] He asked the hon. Gentlemen who laughed whether they could say there was no difference between "no character at all and an infamous character?" There was a great difference in politics between the two, and he thought there was also in morals. The authority upon which he had made the statement was the declaration of the woman herself made before a magistrate of the county of Cork, a copy of which had been forwarded to him by the clerk of the board of guardians, whom he had requested to furnish him with cases bearing upon the Motion he had given notice of bringing forward. He did not mean to say that the woman was really a Mrs. Harris, for in Ireland it was no uncommon occurrence for a married woman to give her maiden name. Therefore, though the declaration was made by Anne Harris, that was no reason for saying that she was not a married woman, and a woman of good character.