§ Order for Second Reading read; Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, he begged to ask Mr. Speaker whether, as the noble Lord the Member for London had expressed his intention to introduce clauses into the Bill to prevent the removal of Irish paupers in the different Unions of this country, and as the title of the Bill was, "A Bill to abolish in England and Wales the compulsory Removal of the Poor on the Ground of Settlement," it was competent to the noble Lord to propose the alterations he had announced otherwise than by an instruction to the Committee? The changes contemplated by the noble Lord would entirely alter the character of the Bill, and it was desirable that the House should know what the objects of the measure really were.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Gentleman had clearly stated the rule of the House, and, if the noble Lord intended to propose the addition of the new provisions alluded to, it would be necessary to move them as an instruction to the Committee.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he thought 1275 there was some misapprehension with regard to the statement he had made. He had not said that it was proposed to introduce new clauses into this Bill, but that, as the construction of the measure would render it very difficult to do so, he would endeavour to effect the object he had stated by another Bill.
I think I have just reason to complain that Members of this House do not now, when the second reading is under consideration, actually know what the Bill is we are discussing. The conduct of the Government in reference to this measure had been as unusual as I consider it blameworthy. This most important Bill had been brought forward on the 10th of February, under the title just read by the hon. Member for Finsbury, and the first clause distinctly limited the abolition of the power of removal to the parishes in England and Wales. Petitions had since been upon that understanding presented for or against the Bill from all parts of the country; but, in the meantime, rumours got abroad that the Irish Members had signed and sent in a paper to a Member of the Cabinet, stating that unless the principle of immovability were extended to Irish paupers in this country, they would feel it their duty to oppose the Bill. [Cries of "No, no," from some Irish Members]. I have not seen the document to which I allude, and therefore I cannot attempt to state literally its contents; but these rumours were so current, that yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) put a question to the President of the Poor Law Board, as to whether the Government were or were not prepared to extend the principle of this Bill to the Irish pauper. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) said he did not know whether the provisions of the measure were to be so extended or not.
§ MR. BAINES
explained that his answer of the previous day was, that the question related to Scotland and Ireland, over which the control of the Poor Law Board did not extend; and that, consequently, the introducer of the Bill, rather than he, was the person to answer for its provisions.
And while this unsatisfactory answer was being delivered in the House, it was announced publicly in both lobbies that Government had acceded to the wishes of the Irish Members, and whatever the precise terms of the arrangement which had then been arrived at, it was clear that it was scarcely fair to the 1276 House to make such alterations at such a late period, for all consideration of the Bill, and each petition, whether for or against it, had proceeded upon the supposition that the status of the Irish poor was to remain exactly as it was at present.
If, after the measure had been so long before the country, so entirely new a provision as that relating to Irish paupers were now to be introduced, I must say, with all due respect for the Government, that they are practising a kind of deception which will make it impossible for the public to be sure from day to day, or even from hour to hour, that measures brought in a shape they might approve may not undergo such a change, at the last moment, as not only to modify but even to change public opinion concerning them. I regret and protest against such a vital alteration in such a plan, at such a period; and I entreat the Government to bring forward, as speedily as possible, the Bill they intend to propose with reference to Irish pauperism in this country. I must remind the House that the question of the abolition of the Law of Settlement was never approached by any Committee or Commissioners without taking into account the question of the Irish poor, and I therefore ask whether this Bill, having originally professed to guarantee the continuance of the present system, the Government could with propriety come forward, even at the second reading, with an announcement that they had changed their minds. The number of orders of removal, according to the last return laid on the table of the House, amounted for England to 4,240, for Scotland to 383, and for Ireland to 4,823; the number of English persons removed amounted to 10,032; the number of Scotch and Irish were not given, but taking only two to each removal, instead of two and a half, as was calculated by Mr. Coode, their numbers would be 10,412; if I add to this one-tenth, instead of one seventh, as I fairly might, for parishes which have sent in no returns, I find that the immediate operation would be to charge English ratepayers with about 11,000 additional paupers, even assuming that no stimulus were given to Irish immigration by the altered Bill before us. Nor would this be felt in only one part of the country, for I find from the same Return that Irish and Scotch removals have taken place from twenty counties in England and Wales. Surely this element in the general scheme 1277 requires, to say the least of it, serious consideration.
Coming, then, to that portion which is as yet before us, I assure the House, that in proposing my Amendment, I have no wish to represent this either as an unimportant or a party question, and I hope, however protracted the discussion may be, Government would find there was no inclination merely to embarrass them. Being a member of a board of guardians in Ireland, and chairman of a board of guardians in Northamptonshire, I have at least experience enough not to dogmatise on subjects like these, which must always be subjects more or less of compromise, and upon which persons with the best intentions may so widely differ. This Bill is only part of a most important question. Whether the poverty of the poor has or has not a claim on the property of the rich, is not here a question;—how far that claim should be extended, what species of property should be exempted, and what subject to it, were not brought under consideration now; there was this proposition, the redistribution of the burden over those classes which were already called upon to bear it; no allusion to any other classes, not even the construction of a machinery which might hereafter be available for the extension of the impost to them. We were told in the Speech from the Throne at the commencement of the Session, that the Law of Settlement impedes the freedom of labour; and that if this restraint can with safety be relaxed, the workman may be enabled to increase the fruits of his industry, and the interests of capital and of labour will be more firmly united. I think, Sir, that if a foreigner visiting this country lately had noticed the enormous works which private enterprise had accomplished, the vast masses of men collected to complete those works, the quiet and orderly manner in which they conducted themselves, their separation without riot or disturbance, their reappearance as if by magic in some distant part of the country, there to engage in similar employments, he must be convinced, that any statement about labour not being free, was, to say the least of it, overdrawn. We have indeed before us at present, in the strikes in the manufacturing districts, a melancholy instance of the disunion existing between "capital and labour;" but I put it to any one, whether that strife between capital and labour has any, even the slightest, connection with the law of settlement and re- 1278 moval. While we find the agricultural poor have endured a period of high prices without the slightest attempt at combinations, without even a murmur, and that the solitary instance of this "disunion" had occurred in the very spot where it was impossible to trace its connection with the operation of the present poor law, surely the evils said to arise under the existing removal law, were not such as to call for its entire abrogation. My opinion is that while there may be defects and abuses in its operation, while there may be faults in its details, and while a reform may be called for in some of its arrangements, there is no case made out for a total repeal of this law, a repeal which, I believe, would not be welcome to the labouring poor. What, to take an illustration from a subject now absorbing all our interest, what had been the humane arrangement made by the Horse Guards for the soldiers' wives and children left here by those who had gone to the East? It provided that the soldiers' wives and children having been deprived of their husbands and their fathers, should, at all events, not be separated from their friends, but should be sent to their respective homes at the expense of the State. They were sent to their parishes, and that was a humane arrangement; but by this Bill the poor man was alone to be relieved at the place of his destitution, and was not to have his feelings with regard to home or friends at all consulted. Was it to be presumed, then, that he had no such feelings? are we to pay no such compliment to the poor? To call every removal a harsh and unkind removal was entirely erroneous; but, except under such erroneous apprehension, how could the House sanction the first part of the present Bill? The second provision of this Bill, namely, that which proposed union rating, was not so intimately connected with the first part as to belong in any way, necessarily, to the same measure; and I think it a great mistake to suppose we cannot remedy the abuses of the present law without, at the same time, destroying the whole parochial system. Now, let me, Sir, consider how this parochial system works in relation, first, to emigration, then to occupiers, and, last, to owners of real property. First, as to emigration—according to the last Poor Law Report, the money spent in 1852 by parishes in emigration was 14,961l., by unions 492l.; the number of emigrants sent from parishes was 3,127; from unions 1279 144. Hon. Members may, therefore, pronounce that, as 144 is to 3,127, so will be the stimulus to emigrating under the proposed, as compared with the stimulus under the existing system. Then as to the occupier—let a labourer come for employment to a farmer, he employs him now for fear of the parish, you say he would not employ him if that parish were the union—and this you boast of!—but why will not the labourer be employed? Because the farmer is to share the increased rate with so many others that he is indifferent to it; or, in other words, that his interest in local management being as nothing, he has no fear of increasing the aggregate of pauperism in the country; but let us hear Mr. Tufnell before the Committee of 1847.Tufnell, 3,075. I have no doubt that at present a vast number of labourers are employed, not because they are wanted, but because they have settlements in the parishes. To employ a man, however, on that ground, is merely a concealed way of making him a pauper, and the effect of a union rate would be to throw a great number of those of course upon the rates (for a short time at least), but that would not necessarily increase the amount of pauperism, it would only display it. At present, we do not know what the amount of pauperism is in the country.At this rate, every Christmas-box, every aid from private charity is blameable, as tending to conceal the pauperism of the country; but how if we conceal it altogether? who would grieve, except a few Commissioners, who never will understand how far better than the prudence of the head is that wisdom of the heart which binds all classes in one bond together? I, therefore, ask the House not to legislate altogether for the strong and the young, for those best able to fight their own way through the battle of life; but, if they found the present poor law—according to the mixed motives which actuate us all, tending to obtain employment from the farmers for the old, the crippled, and the infirm—not to blame altogether—although political economists might—the operation of such a code. Now, as to the owner, for I will take an extreme case, the owner of a whole parish—I am not going to blame or to praise the owners of this class of property, I put their case as a matter of business, as we have been perpetually told that land is a mere manufactory, and is to be treated of, and legislated for, on purely commercial principles—the owner of a close parish has in it now some dwellings, too few it was said, but at all events good dwellings for the poor—the owners 1280 of cottages in open parishes built them badly, and charged a high rent—the effect of the present Bill would be to deteriorate the value of the good, and to increase the value of the bad cottages. As this point is of great importance, I must trouble the House with some extracts from the evidence published in 1847:—The Docking Union Resolution states that they (the poor) are transferred as tenants from the property of a large landowner, where the rents are usually moderate, to that of the small proprietor, with whom the rent is more an object as an income, and, therefore, more frequently high in proportion:—Chadwick, 2,027.G. Pigott, 3,414.—A man finds that cottages bear a very high rent indeed, and will get by accident, perhaps, possession of an acre of ground, and will run up a number of cottages upon that small freehold with a view to investment.3,417. Landed property generally belongs hereditarily to gentlemen, so that the sort of cottages they would build, would not give them anything like a return for the money laid out.Captain Robinson, Rep. p. 81.—'In the towns which are surrounded by rural districts, where this scarcity of cottages exists, cottage property generally finds favour with retired publicans, tradesmen, and builders. They reside on the spot: they look closely after their rents, which, from the scarcity of buildings outside the towns, are exorbitantly high. They generally run up a cheap and inferior tenement, and as their profits are large, they have a strong inducement to multiply the worst description of dwelling-houses for the poor.'—p. 104.Bricklayers and carpenters, in order to find themselves work, buy small lots of ground, and crowd upon them small tenements, run up at the least possible expense, for which they charge very high rents relative to the accommodation provided.'—p. 129.I do not say the owners of these cottages do wrong or right—I pronounce no opinion—but I take the Bill as a proposed remedy for the evil whose existence was admitted, and I ask, how will it advance us one step towards a remedy? Now, let me give a statement, the first put forth by Mr. Commissioner A'Beckett, of the case of a close parish:—Sir Henry Bunbury.—His estate is one of those which have been brought to the very highest condition in cultivation, and in the class of tenantry the estate is prosperous in the highest degree. The labourers rent excellent cottages, with, upon an average, about half an acre of ground by way of allotment, for about from 3l. to 3l. 10s. each. These gardens and allotments appear to be perfectly cultivated, and on the whole the aspect of the place is that of a model.Mr. A'Beckett goes on to give instances of removals from this parish, and the very first two cases are those of W. Buckle and S. Denell. And why? Because their sons were poachers. How will your Bill meet these cases? But apart from poaching 1281 cases, I ask any Gentleman connected with landed property whether he ever remembered a single case in which the owner of a parish, or the two or three owners of a parish, were anxious to enlarge its size. The whole system of rural life—the whole connection between the landlord and the villagers—proceeded on a different principle. The charities, the discipline, the education, in a village tended to prevent the proprietor from desiring to extend the limits of his parish. A large landowner would never build a row of hideous little houses at all; and in the cottages he did build he looked to next to no return for his money, cottages being notoriously, on commercial principles, the very worst possible investment. Well then, again I ask, does any one for a moment imagine that this Bill will induce the owners of close parishes to build?—the only remedy for these evils—evils, let me add, which have been materially aggravated by the operation of the Five Years' Act, the entire failure of which should be a warning against rash legislation upon this subject. Is it possible that we gravely propose to mulct the owner of good cottages for the relief of the owner of bad cottages, and then hope that this very mulct will be an inducement to him to invest more of his depreciated property in this worst possible investment? I deny that this measure will be a boon to the poor, for it will not encourage employment by its first clause, or gain them better dwellings by its second. The right hon. Gentleman has been, on the first reading of this Bill, complimented by some Member opposite on having "grappled with this great subject." I deny that he deserves this eulogy. To have deserved it, before making such vast changes as are now proposed, the right hon. Gentleman ought to have consolidated all the Statutes on this subject. There was the cognate question of assessment, in itself sufficient to occupy a night in its discussion, yet no mention was made of it. Again, why had the right hon. Gentleman eluded altogether any assessment of extra-parochial lands, whose very quantity was unknown, but which could not be less than 200,000 acres? In all parts of the country the ratepayers were aggrieved by the existence in their localities of lands as valuable as their own, in many instances more valuable, which were yet exempt from taxation. Let me read the statement from a Poor Law Boundaries Commissioners' volume:— 1282Francis Howell, Esq., Report, p. 126.—Adjoining Nottingham, and within a quarter of a mile from the market-place, is a very valuable property belonging to the Duke of Newcastle, called Nottingham Park; it is extra-parochial, and consequently exempt from parochial contributions. It is built upon, and the ground-rent of the houses is generally ls. the square yard. These houses are inhabited by the wealthy manufacturers and professional people of the town, whose warehouses, and whose places of business, are in the town of Nottingham. This happy region is looked upon by the ratepayers of Nottingham and Radford—for it also adjoins that Union—with very wistful eyes, and they complain, as I think, with some degree of justice, of its immunity from all burdens for the support of the poor.Then, again, there was the question of the present size of the Unions; every witness who gave any opinion at all on this point to the Committee agreed that the Unions must be remodelled. Mr. Tufnell, Q. 3,126, "Thinks some Unions too small." Mr. Gulson, Q. 1,302, "Thinks that Unions must be remodelled;" and Mr. Pigott being asked, Q 3,614, "Would it be necessary in your judgment to have some revision of the limits of Unions as a preparatory measure?" answers, "Unquestionably so, as I think it (Union rating) would be perfectly nugatory in many instances." Mr. Chadwick says:—Some of the rural Unions are only equivalent to parishes, and there is reason to apprehend, in respect of them, that the circumstances which affect labour prejudicially would still remain in force if they were left unaltered."—Chadwick, 2,041.The 4 & 5 Will. IV. c. 76, s. 32, authorises the Poor Law Board to alter the size of the Unions, but enacted—That no such dissolution, alteration, or addition, shall take place, or be made, unless a majority of not less than two-thirds of the guardians of such Union shall concur therein.As, however, no Union did concur, the march towards centralisation proceeded to the 7 & 8 vict. c. 101, s. 66, which authorises the Commissioners there to divide, &c. "without the concurrence of the guardians of such Union;"And they may, if they see fit, cause a Board to be elected under provisions of said Act, for any single parish separated from any Union, notwithstanding the provisions of any local Act in force in such parish.The Commissioners, in their very last Report, show how well they can use this power without the least reference to the wishes of the guardians or ratepayers.We have deemed it expedient to divide the Anglesey Union, and to form some of the, pa- 1283 rishes separated from it into a new Union, under the name of the Holyhead Union; others of the parishes have been added to the Bangor and Beaumaris Union, while the remaining parishes constitute the present Anglesey Union.We have also combined thirty-one parishes and townships, situated in the neighbourhood of Ripon, with that city, and have formed a new Union by the name of the Ripon Union."—Fifth Annual Report, P. L. B., p. 111.The House would understand that while the system of rating by parishes remained, and the establishment charges were so light, these powers of the Poor Law Commissioners were comparatively unimportant; but how different will be the case when, for the purposes of rating, every Union becomes one single parish! a parish which the Commissioners by a stroke of the pen may divide into as many portions, or attach to as many other parishes, as they think fit. Before, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman brought forward this measure, and before it proceeded any further, there ought to have been laid upon the table of the House a schedule of such proposed alterations, so that the question might be really placed before the House, and that all those hon. Members interested in particular localities might know what they were going to vote for, and how much their rates were to be increased or diminished. Before that schedule is in the hands of hon. Members, I contend that they ought not to place the whole real property of England in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman: this would be the case, because if they did not know how the Commissioners were going to use this power entrusted to them, and there never was a case in which they risked so much, nor an arrangement of complicated legislation which would bestow such large powers upon the Board at Whitehall. I entreat those hon. Gentlemen who might be inclined to vote for the second reading of this Bill, to remember the evidence of all the witnesses examined before the Committee upon this subject, to remember the animus of Somerset House, to remember the jealousy of our Constitution with regard to any interference with private property, and to require information as to what was going to be done with this property before they consent to pass the Bill. Besides, what security had this House that this would be a final measure? It was impossible not to trace in the Bill the band of one whose abilities I do not wish to depreciate, but who has no sympathy with, and does not understand, the people of this country—I allude to Mr. Chadwick. 1284 This gentleman stated distinctly, "I never recommended or relied on anything but a staff of paid officers." It was plain, then, that he put forward this measure as an advance to a national rate, and to that which he said he alone depended upon, "a staff of paid officers." Here the House really had the whole case before them. They could see from this the advance towards absolute power which these gentlemen were making, and hon. Members knew, from the frightful facility which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had exhibited in raising the income tax, how easy it would be to raise a national rate by the same terrible machinery. This, then, was not a final measure, and if the House destroyed local superintendence and local management, the question must thenceforward be discussed on totally different grounds. The struggle once begun would then never stop until the principle was conceded of a national rate, and the subjecting of all kinds of property to it.
Pass this Bill, and there will still exist a fierce battle between "close" and "open" parishes; the "close" parish being funded property;—that "close" parish now employing our brave sailors and soldiers in its defence, ready at their return to cast so many of them, worn out and crippled, on the "open" parish, i. e. the real property of the country, for support, and this battle would continue till Parliament merged these two great parishes into one, and subjected all property to one common burden. I, as one who have nothing but real property, should have all to gain by such an arrangement; but I believe both principles contained in this Bill to be false and perilous, therefore I oppose it. Its first part assumes the poor man to be so low an animal as to be satisfied with food wherever it may be flung to him, and that he cannot have a feeling for his native village home. But does the evidence bear out this? Do we not find throughout, these sharp Commissioners perpetually complaining of the "stupid prejudice" of the poor in favour of their settlement? This aforesaid stupid prejudice I believe to be one of the best affections of our nature—the love of home: do we not share it with them? Why, then, in them should we refuse to recognise its existence? thus drawing another line of demarcation—God knows there are enough already between us and them!—by saying, when once you leave your home, not one shilling shall aid your return to it, but your exile shall be eternal!
1285 And for the second part of this measure, in vain the right hon. Gentleman calls it a final one, in vain he protests against a national rate. There is no medium between a parochial rate and a national one; all intermediate lines are merely fanciful, and the hope of maintaining them is an idle hope.
Norwich, and the Isle of Wight, and Docking, far from being any argument in favour of this great change, are the strongest arguments against it, showing how plastic and pliant our present existing system is. I ask, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw a scheme whose tremendous simplicity accords well with our complex state, and to give us a Bill which may remedy the evils we all of us acknowledge, without involving the greater evils so many of us fear. If inequality of rating be not an injustice, why do you disturb our parishes? if inequality of rating be an injustice, how can you stop at our Unions? and when once you have passed our Unions, can you, after what you have heard to-night from the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), expect that you can stop at this island, while a hundred Members from the other side of the Irish Channel demand equal justice for their poor? Vote for this Bill if you please, but vote for it under no such delusion. I oppose it, not from a desire to embarrass the Government, not from any motives of a party character; but I perceive you are about to let the stream of pauperism flow at will over the whole country, and when those dark waters shall have risen so high as to flood our ancient landmarks, and force you to expedients you yourselves now deprecate, I believe none more than you will regret that you disregarded warnings such as this; none more than you will feel that it was an evil hour in which you unnecessarily attacked the arrangements of property, and unjustly impaired the birthright of the poor.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, that in seconding the Amendment, he must deprecate the matter being treated as a party question; and that the difference between his political views and those of the mover of the Amendment proved that they were not actuated by party views. The Bill had two distinct objects, the abolition of removals, and the alteration of the area of rating. It was, in fact, two Bills; and to give full effect to its provisions a third Bill ought to have been added to it, making it applicable to Ireland. He un- 1286 derstood this would have to be done to enable Ministers to carry the Bill; if so, he hoped it would not be carried. If he were an Irishman he would never support a Bill which made a distinction between England and Ireland. But he objected to this Bill as regarded both countries. He did not wish to see the power of removal taken away, either as between parishes in this country, or as from this country to Ireland. He believed that it would be injurious both to ratepayers and the poor. He saw in it a tendency to bear hardly upon the poor man. The ratepayers in large towns would also find their burdens unjustly increased; for if paupers once knew that they could come and throw themselves on the large towns with no power of removing them, there would be an immense influx of that class, and the amount of local taxation would be greatly increased. The only means which the ratepayers would have of defending themselves would be by a harsher treatment of paupers, thus endeavouring to keep them away. This would make the condition of the latter class worse than ever. Instead of schools and other institutions being established for them, every endeavour would be made to keep down the rates. It was, of course, a hardship on the poor not to be able to go where they liked; but it could never be contended that they should go and claim relief wherever they chose. Giving the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill (Mr. Baines) credit for ability and the most praiseworthy intentions, in dealing with the Poor Laws, he could not but think that he had drawn an exaggerated picture of the effects of the present law of removal. It was not the usual practice, at least not in Marylebone, to remove a pauper the moment he became chargeable to the extent of a single loaf of bread; this was only done where paupers were likely to become permanently chargeable. The right hon. Gentleman had not even stated the law correctly; for a man could not be removed who was chargeable through sickness or accident, unless it were certified to the magistrate that the sickness or accident was likely to render him permanently chargeable. It was said that in some cases removals cost 100l., but he thought these cases were the exception, and not the rule, for he knew that in the metropolitan parishes the average cost was from 5l. to 7l. A man who returned after removal was certainly liable to imprisonment; but this was under the Vagrant Act; and though 1287 it might be a good reason for altering the provisions of that Act, it was none at all for abolishing the Law of Settlement. If the Bill passed, they would have hundreds of thousands of Irish poor coining to this country, and there they would remain. A return of the number of Irish poor relieved in this country in 1847, would show the frightful consequences which might ensue from abolishing the right of removal. There were 7,864 Irish poor relieved in 1847, in the parish of Marylebone; in the parish of St. Pancras, 7,660; in the parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, 11,587. In Liverpool, there were relieved in that year no less than 47,194 Irish poor, and in two parishes of Glasgow, 30,000. The expense in the case of Liverpool, was 20,000l., and in the latter 29,000l. It was true that a famine prevailed at that time in Ireland; but they were legislating for bad times as well as good, and such consequences as those he alluded to should be guarded against. He thought the House ought to have the whole measure before it in order that they might be able to come to a right determination on the entire question. With regard to the substitution of a union for a parochial rating, he believed that that proposition would lead to a confiscation of property in many parishes. He looked upon this measure as the first step towards a national rating. Nothing, in his opinion, was more precious than the right of self-government. It was to the habit of attending to their local affairs that they were indebted for all their greatness, and they should be cautious ere they struck a blow at that system. He, therefore, begged to second the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Amendment proposed—"To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words, 'upon this day six months.'"
§ Question proposed—"That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. KER SEYMER
said, it was somewhat new to see a Member for a metropolitan borough seconding the Motion of a county Representative. It was evident from this, that the question would not be discussed on party grounds, but he thought the fact might suggest some misgivings on the part of those county Members who were going to oppose the Bill. He had certainly hoped that, in making a change of such magnitude as was involved in the present measure, some little breathing time should be allowed 1288 them before they were called on to consider the application of the principle of the Bill to their Irish fellow-subjects. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had intimated, in reply to the question which had been put to him that evening, that it was intended to introduce a similar measure with regard to Ireland; but that fact would not prevent him (Mr. K. Seymer) giving his support to a Bill which he considered to be for the advantage of the English labourer. He thought the period had arrived when the British labourer must be set free from the trammels in which he was now held. At present a labourer, on finding himself not doing well in his own parish, left it to seek work elsewhere. He went to another parish and obtained employment, but at the expiration of a short time he fell sick, and was removed to his own parish. Having recovered his health, he would return to the place where he had found work before. Misfortune, perhaps, again visited him, and he then became, according to the present law, a rogue and vagabond, or an idle and disorderly person, and liable to be sent to prison. He had seen several letters from English emigrants to Australia giving glowing descriptions of the country and the gold regions, but they contained no remittances. If the English labourers followed the noble example of the Irish in this respect, there would be such an exodus from this country as would surprise many. With regard to the objection that the Bill would interfere with the parochial system, he thought that a good deal of confusion prevailed on that point. The parochial system, for church purposes, was invaluable; but it did not follow from that, that it was equally good for affording relief. The clergyman, or the squire, or the squire's lady, did not ask a man about settlement when they were giving relief. That was solely reserved for the overseers. He would go further, and say that the tendency of the parochial system was to pervert the best feelings of their nature. In his part of the country, where coals were comparatively dear, a subscription had been entered into to supply the poor with coals, but some persons threatened to withdraw their subscriptions if they were given to the unsettled poor; and those who acted thus were by no means hard-hearted men. He believed that, in consequence of the present law, for one man who left his settlement and was returned to it a pauper, 100 were prevented from leaving home in 1289 search of work. In the petition from the parish of St. James, Westminster, one of the objections urged against the measure was, that it would confer on the most worthless people of society the right of choosing their own residence. But they forgot that by the present law the good labourer was as equally prevented from choosing his place of residence as those whom they called the worthless. In the petitions from St. Pancras and Marylebone, it seemed to be assumed that if this Bill passed, the labouring class of this country would all become like vagrant gipsies. He denied that any such result would follow. It was a libel on the people of this country to say so. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to be misled by the precedents of former time. The system of clearances would not occur in this country. One of the worst results of the present system was, the effect it had on the character and position of the labourer. At present, in confined parishes, the employer could make little distinction between the labourer of good character and the labourer of indifferent character; he must employ him without asking many questions. The present system, also, induced the farmer to employ as many labourers as he possibly could, in order to prevent them from being a burden on the rates, the tendency of which was to reduce the general level of wages. [An HON. MEMBER: Dorsetshire.] An hon. Gentleman cried out, "Dorsetshire," but he begged to tell him that Dorsetshire was not the only county in the West of England where wages were low; and, if wages were low in Dorsetshire, he believed it was owing to the operation of this very law. The farmer of this country was exposed to competition with all the world; and, if the principle of buying cheap and selling dear was the true one, why should the farmer be blamed for buying his labour cheap? He was not in favour of low wages. On the contrary, he would do everything possible to raise wages, but the tendency of the present law was to keep them down, Mr. Franklin, a very intelligent person, who gave evidence in favour of the present law, said that it had the effect of forcing persons to exert themselves in order to find work for the labourers, and that if it were altered, he, for one, would set up machinery. He believed that if he did so, he would find that in the end he would be obliged to employ as many, if not more, labourers than he did at present; because every process by which 1290 machinery was substituted for the sinews of the labourer, in the rougher descriptions of work, called forth a higher quality of labour on the part of the men, and therefore a higher rate of remuneration. He believed that the effect of the alteration of the law would be to make the whole Board of Guardians more careful with respect to the cases of relief that came before them. He saw no reason for the supposition that the present alteration would ultimately lead to a national rate. With regard to the question of rating, he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) made a concession with respect to the time. He would suggest that it should be extended to fifteen or twenty years, instead of the time proposed in the Bill. Whilst in favour of the measure on the whole, he must protest against the injustice of rating real property only in respect of occupation for the purposes of the poor-law. He was aware of the difficulty of altering the system, but, if that difficulty was insuperable, it ought to be considered in adjusting the general taxation of the country. He would only say this in conclusion. Let not Gentlemen be disappointed if they did not see an immediate improvement in the condition of the labourer. Let them not be surprised if unforeseen evils should arise, because it was impossible to uproot any long established system without producing some evil; but let them endeavour to meet those evils by appropriate remedies, and not by recurring to the cruel 'principle of removal.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, that the difficulty he felt in speaking of this Bill arose from its being only a fragment of a great measure, or, perhaps, one of several measures, the co-operation of all of which was necessary to produce the end which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) proposed to attain. He had every disposition to receive with respect any proposition coming from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board; but (perhaps from the power of association, which they all knew was very strong) he (Mr. Drummond) could not detach this measure from the first dread which he felt at that great alteration of the Poor Law which took place in 1834 or 1835, when, among the arguments used by the Government of the day, it was gravely contended that every institution whatever, which tended to the relief of the poor, including even almshouses, hospitals, and infirmaries, was a positive evil. And he 1291 could not help remembering that all the promises made by the Government to the country at the passing of the new Poor Law had been grossly broken. When the Poor Law Commissioner visited his (Mr. Drummond's) neighbourhood, he put this question to him pointedly, "What are you going to do after you have pulled down the workhouses, almshouses, &c., and established one great Union, with persons of reduced circumstances, who have, perhaps, formerly lived in affluence?" and the answer distinctly given was, that provision should be made by which those persons would not have to associate with their inferiors, not inferiors in point of wealth, but in point of education, habits, and so forth. Now, he need not remind the House that nothing of the kind had taken place; and he knew at this moment the widow of a lieutenant colonel of Marines, who was an applicant for admission to a London Union workhouse, and who was only deterred from entering it by the dread she felt of being obliged to hear the language of those unhappy persons with whom she would have to associate. The language of all the petitions that had been presented on this subject manifested an ardent desire for the relief of the ratepayers; but the way in which he looked at the measure was altogether as to how it would affect the poor, and whether it would benefit them, or the contrary. He held in his hand a copy of a petition which he presented in 1834, and to every word of which he then and still subscribed. He could say now, as he said then, that the poor had a right to relief, which was prior to the right of the ratepayer to the property for which he was assessed. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last surely must be aware that the parochial system of this country was intimately bound up with the relief of the poor. He must know that it was to the parish, as a religious segment, that the poor were specially committed. Some supposed that the right of the poor arose in the time of Elizabeth, but the fact was it arose from the common law long before a Statute was in existence; the common law referred us precisely to the parishes, and there was no true reform which did not revert to first principles, instead of overthrowing and destroying them, and inventing a new system. By the common law it was ordained that the poor should be sustained by the parsons and rectors of the parish, and the parishioners, so that none of them should die for want of sustenance; and it was also 1292 ordained that if poor people, to avoid famine, stole victuals to sustain their lives, or clothes to prevent themselves from perishing of cold, they were not to be adjudged to punishment, if it were shown that they could not obtain those articles by other means. Blackstone said that the only reason why this was not still in force in his time was because the Statute law provided a sufficient means for the sustenance of the poor. Now, this system had been nearly put an end to, and he (Mr. Drummond) believed that this Bill would have the effect of cutting away the only remaining connection between the Church and the poor. The Bill would have many effects which were not now foreseen. The plan to make all labourers casual poor must drive the labourers to the towns, because there was continually increasing work in the towns, but there was not in the rural parishes. He remembered that the cry about close parishes originated in the Edinburgh Review, which was commenced by a parcel of impudent young Scotch lawyers. Than this cry, nothing was more inconsistent with the facts as they practically existed. In his own neighbourhood he knew of gentlemen who were continually building cottages, for which they could get no rent. The thing was very charitable and benevolent, but, politically speaking, exceedingly absurd. The case in the close parishes that he had seen was always this:—the land had already been all cultivated, and there were no means by further cultivation of employing more people, so that the new cottages were completely surplusage, and no wonder their owners could obtain no rent. Notwithstanding this, it was said that close parishes were kept up by pulling down the labourers' houses, and forcing the men into the adjoining parishes, where they would become chargeable. It was now said that the labourers should have residences provided for them near to their work. Well, was the House going to adopt the Scotch system? Any hon. Gentleman who had read the last number of the Proceedings of the Royal Agricultural Society, would find that there was annexed to every farmhouse in the Lothians of Scotland a range of cottages. But pray what did the word "cottage" there mean? Was it a scene of Arcadian virtue and felicity? There was a single room, in which all the members of the family—father, mother, brothers, and sisters—were obliged to herd together like so many pigs. Sometimes, indeed, in the towns, there were a "but" and a "ben," 1293 or two rooms; but in most cases, he was sorry to say, there was only a "but," and no "ben." In addition to this, there were certain miserable hovels called "bothies." In these Scotch bothies the labourers employed in agriculture all the year round were housed, and 'into them also came the extra labourers who had left the mining districts, and also the Irish, and there they were all put, the Scotch into one "bothy," and the Irish into another, crowded together in a manner which could not be properly described without the use of language unfit for that House. Yet this was the way in which they talked of "freeing" the labourer. Again, it was absolutely necessary that we should look at the manner in which the Poor Law in Scotland was carried out, which was a very different law from that which prevailed in either England or Ireland; otherwise, if care was not taken we should have the pauper population of Scotland flocking to this country, and casting themselves upon it for support. A favourite phrase with those who called themselves political economists was that, if settlements were done away with, the inequalities of the labouring population in different districts "would find their own level." People who talked thus were generally wrong in their major premise, or they begged the question. The very illustration they used was a fallacy, because they talked of labour finding its level like water. In the first place, it was not true that water found its level, or how came it that the great Pacific Ocean was several feet higher than the Atlantic? A poor man in the south of England, hearing of work in Hull, for instance, could no more remove his wife and family there than he could take them to Australia. Again, there was such a thing as labour being congealed as well as water, and then it would not find its level. Congealed labour, ex necessitate rei, could not possibly, from circumstances, free itself, do what they would. There was another great fallacy with the political economists relating to machinery and the division of labour. The division of labour was an admirable thing certainly, but admirable for the consumer and not for the labourer. Was it a good thing for the poor man that he should know nothing in the world but to point a pin?—was it a good thing for another man that he should know nothing but to head a pin?—or for a third, that he only knew how to silver a pin? Just as labour was subdivided, so articles were cheapened, but 1294 the working man was worse off. He might illustrate this by an anecdote. A gentleman told him (Mr. Drummond) that when distress prevailed in Lancashire some time ago, a number of weavers came to him for employment in agriculture, and to keep them from begging he set them to digging; but his bailiff said that he had better give them ls. a day to keep them out of the way, for they would do more mischief than they were able to do good. Now the Poor Laws were the Magna Charta of the poor. It was these alone that they knew as being to them the constitution of this country. The Queen, the Legislature, and the Government were to them embodied in the magistrate, the constable, and the Union; and beyond these they knew nothing. If, on the examination of this Bill, and several other Bills which the right hon. Gentleman must introduce, he (Mr. Drummond) found that the labourers were to be benefited, he should give the right hon. Gentleman his support; but if this was to be a question of mere saving to the ratepayers, he would vote against this species of legislation.
§ MR. RICE
said, his own experience of close parishes was that the owners of those parishes pulled down the houses of the labouring poor where they existed, or did not build them when they were needed, and where they did not exist. One great benefit of uniting the parishes into Unions for the purpose of settlement would be, that landlords would be induced to build cottages for their labourers. At present it was known that many labourers had to walk several miles every morning to their work, because they could not obtain cottages in the parishes where their labour was expended. There had hitherto been an abundance of labour in the country, but there was every prospect of there being a deficiency. If so, landlords would be glad enough to build cottages to keep men near them to perform their work. He supported the present Bill on another ground—namely, that it would do away with that unjust provision of the law which required a man to reside five years in a parish before he obtained a settlement. A further benefit that would result from the Bill was that it would suppress vagrancy, which the present state of the law very much tended to promote. The Bill would make the area of relief coextensive with the area of administration, which he considered to be a very desirable enactment. It would be not only a great advantage to the poor, 1295 but to the ratepayers themselves. In some agricultural districts the labourers were paid 15s. a week, while in others they were paid only 10s. and 1ls. Now, he believed that all this would find its level when the wants of the labourers were made known. What objection would there be in communicating from one parish or district to another what the wants of each district were, so that labour and wages might in that sense find their level? To both districts a benefit would accrue—both labour and wages would be equalised. There was nothing more true than that a fair day's work should have a fair day's wages; but it was equally just that for a fair day's wages should be given a fair day's work. He believed that this Bill would have a tendency to produce both those results, and he should therefore give it his cordial support.
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER
said, he would state very shortly the reasons which induced him to give his opposition to the Bill now before the House. Having carefully examined this measure, and having, ever since the introduction of the present Poor Law, paid some attention to the practical working of the Law itself in his own district, he felt convinced that this measure, instead of being a benefit to the industrious poor, would be a very material injury to them. It appeared that the object of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) was, by equalising the poor rates over the Union, to abolish the system of compulsory removal of the poor which now prevailed; but he (Mr. Christopher) confessed that he thought the enactments in this Bill would be calculated more to benefit that class who had no fixed place of residence, and who wandered over the country, and might obtain a settlement in any parish they chose, rather than to benefit those industrious classes whom he had no doubt the right hon. President of the Poor Law Board sincerely desired to serve. Indeed, the class which he (Mr. Christopher) thought would be most benefited by the measure would be that roving class whose labour competed most effectually with that of the industrious poor resident in the different parishes of the country. Speaking of the agricultural districts, and putting aside the propriety of compelling one parish rated at 10d. or 1s. in the pound to bear the burdens of the adjoining parish that might be rated at 5s., he would confine himself now to the probable effect of the measure on the 1296 industrious poor themselves. A great deal had been said during this discussion about close parishes and open parishes, but he (Mr. Christopher) had seen more employment for the industrious poor in close than in open parishes; and his own impression was, that the present mode of administering relief compelled the open parishes to employ those poor which would be chargeable to the whole Union if the Bill passed, inasmuch as there would then be no such motive for employing them. He (Mr. Christopher) remembered once having seen from twenty to twenty-five able-bodied men, with large families, belonging to an open parish, come up and demand relief in a period of agricultural distress; and there was no remedy but to send them to the workhouse. What was the effect of this? The rate of maintenance in the workhouse was so high that the men did not remain there above a fortnight before the parish to which they belonged found it much more economical to employ them and to give them moderate wages than maintain them entirely in the workhouse. Now, if this Bill had been in operation at that time, these persons would have been chargeable on the whole Union, and it would not have been for the interest of their parish, as it was now, to take them out of the workhouse and employ them; but they would have remained shut up as inmates there during the whole of the winter, or whilst the agricultural distress lasted. They would have lost their little property. They would have felt that they had no parish, and nobody to look after their interest; and it was not likely that the Union would have employed agents to transport them from one end of the kingdom to the other in quest of labour. Nothing could be a greater degradation to industrious people, and nothing was more disliked by them, than an enforced residence in a workhouse. The agricultural labourer was not a person so easily moved as hon. Members seemed to suppose. He had relatives, connections, and attachments in his own locality, and it would scarcely be practicable to remove him and his family from Cornwall to Northumberland, or from Northumberland to Cornwall as some imagined. He (Mr. Christopher), therefore, held that this Bill treated the whole system as a theory, without regard to its practical working. With regard to the alleged deficiency of cottages in the close parishes, he would remark it was notorious that wherever cottages were required they would be sure 1297 to be built for the benefit of the persons who owned and occupied the land as well as for the good of the labourer. He would admit that it was a hard case that when an individual had acquired an industrial residence of five years in a particular parish, he should be removed to a great distance; but that evil might be remedied without having recourse to such a sweeping and wholesale change as this Bill. They might easily make these persons removable to any parish in the Union, or to an adjoining Union, and allow persons belonging to a parish at a greater distance to become chargeable where they were, until their settlement was ascertained by law. At present many Unions at a distance paid for paupers resident in other districts. This would be an easier and a simpler remedy than that proposed by the Bill, as well as more effectual. Allusion had been made to what would ensue to the rights of property if this Bill should pass. Now, would it be possible to have a uniform scale of rating for property? This could not be left to parishes. The operation of the Bill was to be spread over ten years; but still it would be impossible to leave the rating of property wholly to parishes. It was a serious question as to the principle on which a general valuation should be based. He apprehended it would be a very expensive operation, and might introduce a system of expense which he, for one, until he heard some satisfactory explanation as to how it was to be carried out, was not prepared to encounter. The hon. Member for Dorset-shire (Mr. K. Seymer) had said that the Bill would set labour free; but his (Mr. Christopher's) opinion was, that, instead of setting labour free, it would force a number of deserving men to be inmates of the workhouse, and the consequence must be that, from the number of persons in the workhouses, they would be obliged materially to increase the size and staff of the workhouses. No greater evil could exist in any district than to force able-bodied men willing to work into the workhouses, because they could not find labour. Another very material objection which he had to this measure was, that he thought it would materially interfere with the rights of property. He did not know what might be the case in many of the manufacturing districts, where the system of rating was nearly uniform over the whole district; but there were other districts, in which there was a great inequality with regard to the value of pro- 1298 perty and the mode of rating it. He would take the case of the town of Boston, which consists of one parish, containing about 20,000 inhabitants; and what was the case there? The rate is there from 5s. 6d. to 6s. in the pound, while in the adjoining parishes it is about 10d. in the pound. The pauper population of Boston are not of a very creditable description. So far as the agricultural districts were concerned, they would rather those persons were removed; and what right had Parliament to compel these agricultural parishes to contribute to the support of these vagrants? It might be said that the operation of the measure would be extended over a period of ten years, and that it could not be a great hardship; but it was to the principle that he objected. The hardship also was great, because whether a man was robbed of his property at once or ten years hence, if he were alive, the effect would be the same. A person about to purchase property always considered what were the rates in the parish. If he found that in a rural district the rates were 5s. or 6s., of course he would not desire to purchase property there, but would prefer to purchase it where the rates amounted only to 1s. in the pound; and after making his purchase in the parish where the rates were 1s., was it right for an Act of Parliament to lay additional taxation upon him, by raising his rates by a measure of this kind, 2s. or 3s. in the pound? He was convinced that in agricultural districts the measure would inflict a grievous wrong upon the industrial poor themselves. The circumstance of maintenance in the poor-house being high forced the parishes to get employment for the poor, but they would cease to employ them when their maintenance was scattered over forty or fifty or sixty or eighty parishes; and the consequence would be that they would have many of the able-bodied and industrial poor passing the winters, and a great portion of their lives, in the workhouse, instead of being employed, and receiving a fair day's wages for a fair day's work. He objected to it still Rather, because it introduced a system that would remove the ancient landmarks of the constitution of this country. If they destroyed the parochial system in regard to the relief of the poor, they might destroy it in other respects. It should be upheld as constituting that system of self-government on which they all prided themselves in this country. His opinion was, that if they extended the system of relief over whole Unions, they 1299 would destroy a wholesome practice; and for that, and the other reasons he had stated, he was prepared to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Stafford).
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
Sir, I hope I may be excused for saying a few words on the subject. I think that this House, I think that this country, I think that the owners and the cultivators of the soil in this country, above all, I think that the working men of this country, owe a deep debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for the task he has undertaken. Sir, I appeal to the common sense of every one, if both the cultivators and owners of the soil—those whose object it is to make a profit by raising as much produce at as small a cost as possible, and those who are entitled to a certain share in the profits of cultivating the soil—are not much benefited by a Bill which frees them from a very damaging restriction in the choice of labourers, which the law, as it now stands, imposes on them. I ask if any more seasonable boon could be conferred on those who, perhaps not without some reason, complained of the difficulties in which they were involved by unrestricted competition, than by allowing them unrestricted choice in labourers. The agriculturists complained, not unjustly, of the difficulties which they had to encounter, fettered as they still were by many restrictions in contending with the farmers of other parts of Europe who were not so fettered—in short, they used to complain, not without reason, that free trade as yet was only one-sided; that, though they were exposed to foreign competition, their own industry was anything but free. Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman proposes to free them from one of the greatest fetters by which their industry has been cramped. Sir, I would ask any unprejudiced person, could our cotton, or silk, or cloth manufacturers have commanded the markets of the world if they had been subjected to a law which virtually limited them in their choice of labourers to the dwellers in one small locality, and often obliged them to take even the weakest, the laziest, and the most unskilful of these? Yet such, Sir, has been shown to be the present effects of law as regards our agriculturists, who have now to contend with the corn growers and cattle dealers of the richest soils and finest climates of Europe. Again, Sir, I think that a great boon will be conferred on the labourer by opening and 1300 extending the market for his labour—by allowing him some chance of rising to be something more than a mere pauperised workman, the situation in which the present laws almost compel him to remain. Sir, I think that we have abundant evidence to show that the effects of the law as it now stands as regards both the farmers and the workmen are such as I have described them to be, and require that some effort, at least, should be made to remedy them. I think that the principal objections which I have heard 'urged against the Bill of the hon. Member come under three heads: 1st, the diminishing the individual responsibility of landowners in looking after the labouring classes on their property; 2ndly, the increase of rates, and the consequent derangement of existing interests that may be caused by the change proposed by the right hon. Gentleman; and lastly, the difficulty of removing the Irish poor. With respect to the first of these objections, I think that the time is now gone by when any patriarchal supervision of the labouring classes can be continued; whatever advantages this system may once have had, and I do not wish to undervalue or to depreciate these advantages, I think that they are utterly inapplicable after Parliament in its wisdom has been pleased to sanction unrestricted competition. I think that this system of patriarchal government, this stimulating the landowner to provide for the labourers on his estate, has, wherever it has been carried on to any extent, produced effects that have been injurious and most demoralising to the labourers themselves. Sir, it is evident that the effects of a system which stimulates the farmers and landowners to look after the labourers in their immediate neighbourhood must be to cause them to employ their labourers as much out of charitable motives as for the sake of profit—in short, to a great extent, to find the pay for the labour, and not the labour for the pay. And, Sir, I believe that the experience of all who have employed labourers in this manner themselves, or watched the effects produced by this charitable employment, will bear out the truth of the assertion, that where labour is given for the pay, and not the pay for the labour, inefficiency is a matter of course. The effects, then, of this patriarchal system, which encourages people to find employment out of charitable purposes, must be to produce and encourage inefficiency in the bulk of the labourers. The more inefficient the work- 1301 men are, the more likely will they be to get employment to keep them off the rates—the more they do to keep themselves off the rates, the less will others do for them. The more industrious, the more frugal, the more independent they are, the less likely they are to get employment. Sir, I think that a very striking portraiture of the fruits of this system is thus' given by Mr. Carlyle:—Incompetent Duncan M'Pherson, the hapless incompetent mortal to whom I give the cobbling of my shoes, and cannot find it in my heart to refuse it, the poor drunken wretch having a wife and ten children—he withdraws the job from sober, plain, competent, and meritorious Mr. Sparrowbill. This discourages Sparrowbill, teaches him that he may as well drink, and loiter, and bungle—that this is not a scene for merit or demerit at all, but for duping, and whining, and flattery, and incompetent bungling of every description.Perhaps you may think this mere German humbug, of no possible utility in practical life. Sir, I appeal to every country Gentleman in the House, who has attended to the affairs of his own parish, if facts that have come under his own notice do not abundantly bear out this somewhat fantastically expressed, it may be, but nevertheless singularly veracious representation of Mr. Carlyle. I could refer to the evidence of farmers, clergymen, and Poor Law Commissioners in abundance to corroborate it. Hear the opinion of Mr. Pashley, Q.C., who has perhaps written the best treatise that we possess on Pauperism and the Poor Laws; whose extensive researches, and whose ample information on the subject, render his opinion peculiarly valuable. Sir, I find that Mr. Pashley says,—The selection of labourers during the winter is made with a mere view of keeping down the poor sates, and in total disregard of the character and skill of the candidates for work. A single man, of unblemished reputation, an excellent workman, is certainly the first to be thrown out of employment, especially if he should have saved as much as will keep him for two or three months; and the ill-conducted spendthrift, who has a wife and family, will as certainly have employment given to him, in order to save the parish from a heavy weekly charge for so many months in the Union workhouse."—Pashley on Poor Laws and Pauperism.Does not this exactly bear out Mr. Carlyle's portraiture? I appeal to the experience of every one in this House if such is not the case in almost every parish in England—certainly in every 1302 parish where rates are levied for the support of every able-bodied poor. Sir, there are two such remarkable specific instances of the practical results of this system mentioned by witnesses examined in the inquiry of 1833, that I cannot avoid referring to them. A gentleman examined before that Committee stated that he once congratulated his bailiff on the prospect of inheriting a small property in right of his wife. The man's answer was, "It will do me no good, for I shall the less be able to get employment." The other is that when the clergyman and several neighbouring gentlemen were endeavouring to establish a savings bank in the parish, the clergyman addressed his congregation after service, urging them to make provision for age and want. He said, that one or two persons asked him afterwards, whether their savings would not be more for the benefit of their parish than of themselves, and that such, in a very short time, became the conviction of the whole body. He himself was forced to acknowledge that this reasoning was too true. Such, Sir, are the effects of this individualising the duties of property—this encouraging the landowners to look after the poor on their estates, this stimulating the farmers to find employment—in short, of this patriarchal system of Government which hon. Gentlemen are anxious to have continued in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Truly, its effects seem to be to discourage industry and frugality, and to encourage idleness and extravagance. Oh! but, perhaps, it may be said that these evils are the inevitable effects of any system of Poor Laws, and that if the argument is good for anything it ought to be for abolishing a State provision for the poor altogether. Sir, I acknowledge that, to a certain extent, every system of Poor Laws may be said to encourage improvidence and idleness, or, to speak more correctly, not to discourage improvidence and idleness to the extent that they would be discouraged, did no such provision exist, inasmuch as any law which is enacted for the avowed object of preventing death by starvation, and warding off extreme destitution, diminishes the penalty affixed by nature to these vices, by snaking them cease to be capital offences against the law of nature. But, I ask, may not these evils, even allowing them to be, to a certain extent, inevitable, be considerably aggravated by the mode of administering the law? Now, Sir, I do think that the law, in its present state, does 1303 very much discourage the actual penalties that, concomitant with any law to prevent destitution or starvation, might still be affixed to idleness and extravagance. Sir, I think that it will be allowed that the penalties which are still actually attached to pauperism—the penalties which are still undergone by those who are at any time supported by public charity must vary very much according to the feelings, the character, and the previous position of the recipients. To a labourer or an artisan who has attained a comparatively independent position—to one, for instance, who has been foreman in a factory, or receiving more than ordinary wages in consequence of the degree of skill which his labour requires—to one who has risen to a position which has enabled him to enjoy somewhat more of the comforts and decencies of life than is enjoyed by most agricultural labourers, and to entertain a certain degree of selfrespect—to one, in short, who has something to lose, it is often sorely grating to apply for parochial relief. I believe that the sufferings to which men are sometimes exposed in this manner are among the sorest to which humanity is subject, and which many men would almost sooner die than undergo—in short, we know that some do actually commit suicide from the fear of being obliged to do so,—and that they do entail a severe penalty upon improvidence and idleness. But the necessity of applying for relief entails no such penalty on those who all their lives have never been more than one degree removed from pauperism—all of whose relations, and all of whose associates, have probably at some period of their lives applied for parish relief—whose constant condition in life has been oscillating between that of a pauper and the lowest description of an agricultural labourer, whose wages, perhaps, do not enable them to command any more of the comforts or enjoyments of life than is afforded by the parish relief—who, perhaps, have never known the feeling of self-respect. I ask you, Sir, is not the penalty affixed to idleness and improvidence reduced to a minimum in the case I have last described? And is not the effect of the law which it is sought this night to amend, to keep as many as possible of the agricultural labourers in this state? In short, if I may use the language of Bentham, is not its effect to maximise the number of those to whom the penalties of idleness and im- 1304 providence will be minimised? Am I, then, correct in asserting that the effects of this law are to render as great as possible the evils that appear to be more or less inseparable from any system of Poor Laws? Sir, another, though, I acknowledge, perhaps a less important consequence which results from this law, is the encouragement which it appears to hold out to proprietors to clear their estate of labourers—to cause them almost to annihilate the cottage accommodation for labourers near the probable scene of their work, and to drive them into the purlieus of the villages, thereby entailing on them the extra labour of walking several miles to the scene of their labour, and forcing them to reside in scenes anything but favourable to their morality. Sir, I have read with some attention the pamphlet of my hon. Friend—as I hope I may call him—the hon. Member for Worcestershire. I acknowledge that his researches have led me to think that the effects of the encouraging to clearing, which certainly appears to be given by the present law, may have been exaggerated; but still I cannot help thinking that the clearing system, and the forcing of labourers into villages, has, in some degree, been caused by this law; and that, as far as it has existed, its effects have been most pernicious and most demoralising to the labourer. My hon. Friend has referred to many places where this practice has not been carried on, to any great extent at least. If he will allow me, I will refer to one where it has been carried to a great extent, which I have no doubt is only a specimen of many others. I find in the evidence of the Poor Law inquiry of 1833 the following statement:—Castle Acre is what is called an open parish, and is owned by several proprietors, while the neighbouring parishes are closed ones. The proprietors of the last not only allow no new cottage to be built, but even let the old ones fall into decay; their resident population is therefore greatly reduced, as the labourers are forced to leave them, and come and reside in Castle Acre. Thus, while the adjoining parishes there have not hands enough left to cultivate the soil, Castle Acre is over-stocked with inhabitants, who do not properly belong to it, who are, generally speaking, the worst characters in the parishes whence they come. The competition of these new-corners raises the house rent throughout the parish; and, as they are at the mercy of those who have land at Castle Acre, they are forced to pay exorbitant rents for very wretched dwellings. From these two causes, namely, the excess of labourers in Castle Acre, and the defect of them in neighbour- 1305 ing parishes, sprang the gang system of employment. The neighbouring occupiers wanted hands, and applied to a person in Castle Acre to supply them. This was easily done, owing to the great number of persons living there all anxious for employment. As the only object of the gang master is to fulfil his contract, he regards the labourer solely as a living instrument, valuable only in proportion to its available power; hence all sorts of characters from all the neighbouring parishes are mixed up in the gang, male and female. The necessary and inevitable result of this system is that three-fourths of the girls become prostitutes.Here, then, is a specimen of the result of patriarchal government in the nineteenth century. Here is the effect of continuing a law for the purpose of stimulating landowners to do their duty. And can it be supposed that this Castle Acre, in the county of Norfolk, is a solitary specimen? Is there any county, is there any division of a county, that will not furnish its Castle Acre? Hear also what the concluding observation of the gentleman is whose account of Castle Acre I have quoted:—I believe that those who first unintentionally and unknowingly caused the mischief can alone cure it: I mean the neighbouring landowners. If those 103 stranger families who now swell the amount of crime and misery at Castle Acre were living in their own parishes, Castle Acre would not now be reproached as the roof of all the scrapings in the country, its own native population would be uncontaminated by the refuse of other parishes, the gang system would naturally cease, and Castle Acre would no longer be what it now is—the most wretched rural parish I ever saw anywhere.Sir, the present age is fruitful in philanthropic associations and plans of benefiting the labouring classes. Who has not watched with interest the efforts of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury to provide secure investments for the labourers? Who has not received papers innumerable containing schemes for improving their dwellings? Sir, whatever opinions may be entertained of any single plans for such schemes, I am sure there is no one who does not wish well to the object they have in view. What then shall we say to those who really and sincerely do wish well to these objects, and yet continue a law which manifestly tends to counteract them—a law which has, I think, been shown to discourage frugality and saving in the labourers, and to encourage landowners to pack them in crowded dwelling-houses in insalubrious situations. Really, while this law continues, the benevolent gentlemen, who are the promoters of these schemes, seem almost to 1306 undergo the classical punishment of being condemned to keep pouring water into a cask which continues to run out by a hole underneath; and they surely ought not to oppose the efforts of the right hon. Member to stop the hole which has hitherto rendered their efforts vain. Sir, I have heard many of those who hold a different opinion on this subject from that which I maintain, refer to the state of Ireland when the present Poor Law was enacted in 1847, and quote the almost unanimous demand of the owners of property to have the areas of taxation narrowed, for the sake of individualising as much as possible the responsibilities of property. But, Sir, I think that the very peculiar and exceptional state in which Ireland was at that time might very well have required some sort of exceptional legislation, and the very circumstance of the state of the country at that time being so exceptional, may very well justify a presumption that the legislation that was required to meet it must have been exceptional also. Sir, at that time the root which was the principal article of food of three-fourths of the people, had been annihilated by a mysterious visitation of Providence; it was absolutely necessary that a large portion of the population should be supported by charity in some form or other, whether administered in direct alms or in the wages of labour given from charitable motives; it was in this case thought desirable that the people should be employed for merely charitable purposes, and for this reason many thought it expedient that the owners of the soil should be stimulated as far as possible by motives of self-interest to give what charity employment, if I may use the expression, they could; and that this stimulus could not be better applied than by narrowing the area of taxation, and so individualising the responsibilities of property. But, Sir, this forcing farmers and owners of land to employ people out of merely charitable motives, though it might have been required in the then peculiar state of Ireland, is essentially an unsound and vicious principle. I have already alluded to the demoralising effects that it has produced, and cannot but produce, and I trust I have shown that the very reasons that might have made it seem to many requisite for Ireland at the time—namely, that circumstances had pauperised nearly three-fourths of the population—ought to make us fearful of continuing it, unless we wished the people to remain pauperised. If we wanted any further proof of 1307 these evils, we have only to refer the very instance now quoted to confirm the inefficiency of labour given for merely charitable purposes. Does not every evidence we have of the mode in which money was spent on the roads, or in the Labouchere drainage, bear testimony to the saying, that when labour is given for the pay, and not the pay for the labour, inefficiency is a matter of course? But it would be needless to dwell on this subject in the presence of many Gentlemen who have so long been crying out day and night, "Restore us our ten millions." Let us then take warning by the way in which the ten millions were then squandered away; and if we do not wish a large portion of the agricultural capital of this country to be year after year squandered away in the same manner, in employing pauperised labourers, let us get rid of the system which forces the cultivators of the soil to have a great part of their work done by labour of this description. Sir, I own that it is with great pain that I touch upon the last of the objections raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite, namely, that which relates to the removal of Irish labourers. I deprecate and regret the tone which has been used regarding them. Really, Sir, to hear the tone of hon. Gentlemen, one would think the immigration of Irish labourers was a pure and unmitigated evil—that the only effect produced by it was the displacement of English labour—that they did nothing but take the bread out of the mouths and the wages out of the pockets of English labourers, and added nothing to the wealth or the wages-paying fund of England. Why, Sir, where would have been the great wealth and great capital of England at this instant, if there had not been a constant immigration of labourers from Ireland? Could England have attained her manufacturing superiority if she had not been able to command an abundant supply of cheap labour from Ireland? Could the English, unaided by the Irish, have constructed their vast system of railway communication? Where would have been all the capital now represented by the railway shares, if it had not been for the Irish labourers? Where would have been the wealth of the hon. Member for Sunderland? Does not all this wealth and all this capital add to the labour-employing fund of the country, and react upon the English labourers themselves, the very parties who may fancy themselves injured by the competition of the Irish? Are 1308 there not many English who are clerks in railway stations, superintendents, inspectors, engineers, and in other such places, who would not have been in these situations of comparative independence, if Ireland had not found labourers to do the rough work? Sir, those Irishmen who used to complain of the impossibility of any trade existing in Ireland, in consequence of its inability to withstand English competition, were constantly told that the great manufacturing seats of industry in England were as open to the Irish labourers as to the natives of Dorsetshire and Devonshire; that the proportion of food grown in Ireland and sent to England was not greater than that sent from the agricultural to the manufacturing districts of England; and that, if England took Irish food, it also supported Irish labourers. Are we now to have the Irish labourers, who have added so much to the wealth of England, and whose claim for employment and support is admitted to be as good as that of the English labourer, subjected to hardships and rough treatment, from which the English labourers are exempt? Have they no claim for support on the vast amount of wealth which they have helped to create? Is the relation between the two countries to be brought to this—that England is to be the seat of wealth and industry, and Ireland to be the charnel-house of worn-out and debilitated paupers? Sir, I do sincerely hope that Gentlemen who are anxious that the union between the two countries should be complete—who wish that all reminiscences of bygone differences and jealousies should cease—will reflect seriously upon the consequences that must flow from such language—upon the irritation that it is likely to produce. I do hope they will let the Irish see that, if they are exposed to the disadvantages which a union with and centralisation in a larger and wealthier country undoubtedly entails upon them, they are nut to be debarred from its advantages—that, if part of their wealth is absorbed in that of England, the enjoyers of that wealth are not trying to shrink from the duties as regards them.
§ MR. BUCK
said, he thought the measure, if adopted, would afford an inducement to persons to leave their homes who would take advantage of its provisions in a way that would cause the increase of vagrancy and add to the taxes upon the ratepayers. He believed it was one of the most unjust propositions that could possi- 1309 bly be brought forward. He had received an analysis from a noble Lord the chairman of the Union next to the one with which he was connected, and on carefully looking into what would be the change in the Union to which it had reference, if this Bill were passed, it would almost justify the strong expression that it would amount nearly to an entire confiscation of some of the property. It would appear that an agricultural parish that had to pay last year 211l. would have to pay 361l. if the proposed change were made, and the increase would be in that proportion throughout. He believed the measure would not be for the benefit of the labourer, and that it would be much better to leave him to the good feeling of those who would look after him than legislate in the way they were doing, whereby they were throwing such an unjust burden on that class of property which was taxed much more than any other.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
said, that it had been remarked that this measure should not be discussed as a party measure; and he was very glad they had come to that way of thinking, because he recollected the course that had been taken on a number of occasions, when he had been obliged to rise in the House on that very subject of amending the Poor Laws. Much praise had been given by the hon. Gentleman, who had moved the Amendment, to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, and in that praise he concurred, though certainly it was an uncommon thing to give praise to the Poor Law Commissioners. He must, however, state that he felt great pain in opposing the right hon. Gentleman, for he had always experienced the greatest courtesy from him; but he felt he must still continue to carry on the war against the Poor Law Board, which he had done for the last eighteen years. The Poor Law Commissioners had been sent to scour the country in order to get up evidence to please the political economists, who had completely earwigged his right hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech laid great stress upon several cases which bore with peculiar hardship on the removal of the poor, and no doubt the Commissioners selected those cases of evidence which they thought would give most pleasure at Somerset House. But it ought to be remembered that there was hardship in every case of removal, and that it was not confined solely to the re- 1310 moval of paupers. He was glad, however, that it was not proposed to interfere with local Acts, or with the parishes which had been incorporated under Gilbert's Act. He could not see any advantage that would occur from the adoption of this Bill. If they agreed to take charge of the poor belonging to Ireland and Scotland, though the principle in itself might be good, yet its tendency would be to divert the stream of emigration which at present flowed into Australia and Canada, and to divert it wholly into this country. Why, he believed that with the present development of the railway system, they would have persons taking trips with day tickets, and making choice of the parishes which would suit them best. He could state that the guardians of the poor in Brighton were opposed to this Bill, as they had been opposed to the five years' Bill of 1846. The effect of that Bill upon the poor rates in Brighton was this, that 430 families, containing 1,203 individuals, who had no previous claim to the parish, were relieved in one week in January, 1847, at a cost of 110l. 10s. If that was the case under the Bill of 1846, he wondered what the effect of this new Bill would be. As to the present law of settlement blocking up labour, he would take the evidence of Mr. Lumley, Secretary to the Poor Law Board, who said he did not think that the law of settlement would prevent people from moving about in search of work, or that it was any impediment to the free circulation of labour. He would remind the House that, although this was said to be a question specially affecting the interests of the poor, still there were many persons only one remove from poverty who paid rates, and their interests ought to be consulted as well as those of others. Painful as it was for him to differ from the right hon. Gentleman, he could not avoid giving his strongest opposition to the second reading of this Bill.
§ MR. KENDALL
said, he must apologise to the House for obtruding himself upon their attention; but as he had given the subject great attention, and as he had for many years acted as chairman and vice-chairman of a Poor-Law Board, he ventured to offer his opinion to them. He felt convinced that the operation of this Bill would cause a great increase of expense to the ratepayers; but that expense, he believed, would be cheerfully borne if the many evils of the Law of Settlement were redressed. He could not be 1311 blind to this fact, that the moment the law was passed, thousands of men would not do another atom of work. He alluded to those men whose love of locality was so strong, that they would rather go to the workhouse where they lived than go abroad in search of employment. Still he had witnessed so many of the miseries of forced cases of removal, that he would be very glad to see the Law of Settlement abolished; therefore this part of the Bill met with his approval. There was one evil in forced removals which had not been talked of—the moral evils which it gave rise to, and the frightful temptations to perjury which it occasioned. He had seen parties who, up to that time, had borne a fair character; he had seen the struggle carried on in their mind between the love of home and the love of truth; he had seen the love of truth give way, and then he had seen the clever attorney break down their statements on cross-examination, and extract the truth from them as it were piecemeal. Another fact of the evil was, that it fell heaviest upon the weaker sex. If a man lost his wife, he generally contrived to get along in the world notwithstanding; but if a woman lost her husband, she was sent to her husband's parish, among scenes and persons whom she had never before seen or heard of. From his own experience, then, he was strongly in favour of the abolition of removals. But there he would stop. He was not in favour of extending the area of rating from parishes to Unions. At present every case underwent a careful and rigid scrutiny. But if the area of rating was extended over the whole Union, the attendance of the guardians would be few and far between, vigilance would be relaxed, and that necessary scrutiny would not take place which ought to be observed; and wherever that was the case, they might depend upon it that the impostors would flourish, while the deserving poor would suffer. Anything more dangerous than the Union plan of rating, he could not conceive. As an illustration of its working, he might mention the case of a friend of his who purchased an estate in a parish where the ordinary rate of assessment was 1s. in the pound, while in the parish immediately adjoining it was 4s. If these two parishes were joined, as they would be under the new Bill, his friend, in the course of the next four years, would have to pay 7½ per cent more than he was now called upon to pay—that was to say, 1312 his property would be confiscated to the extent of 7½ per cent. But there could be no doubt that, in a short time, the rate of assessment would be increased over the whole Union, so that he might set down the confiscation at 10 per cent. Nor was this the only form of the evil; for in East Cornwall, which he had the honour to represent, the following would be no uncommon case:—Suppose that there was a union of agricultural parishes, and that in one of them a mine was discovered. Immediately the other parishes would be drained of their population to supply the demand in this mining parish; and at the end of ten years, in all probability—for these mines were soon exhausted—the parish would be left with an enormous population, without employment, and 19–20ths of that burden would be thrown upon those parishes which had suffered in the first instance. He thanked the House for the kindness with which they had listened to him whilst giving a few practical hints, and he trusted other hon. Members, of as humble pretensions as himself, would follow his example, and impart that practical knowledge to the House which they claimed from their intimate acquaintance with the affairs of the districts in which they resided, and with which, as country gentlemen, and magistrates, and landlords, they were conversant.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he was of opinion that this measure should be treated as one exclusively affecting the interests of the poor, and also that it should be divested of all party feeling. As a proof that he wished so to treat it, he would begin by saying that he agreed with the hon. Gentleman opposite, who expressed his regret at the course Her Majesty's Ministers had taken in the alterations they had made in the Bill. If those alterations were determined on, they should have been introduced from the first; and he, for one, had such confidence in his right hon. Friend's (Mr. Baines') mature judgment, that, without meaning any disrespect to his Colleagues, he had no hesitation in saying he preferred it to that of any other Member of the Government. He hoped, however, that the announcement which had been made would not influence the votes of that evening—that it would still be considered as a Bill affecting England and Wales alone, and that they would leave for a future opportunity the discussion of the Irish part of the subject. Further, that if hon. Members were prepared to vote for the abolition of the 1313 Law of Settlement, they would at least agree to go into Committee, even though they were opposed, as the hon. Member for East Cornwall (Mr. Kendall) was, to the increase in the area of assessment. The Law of Settlement was in a very curious position in this country. With regard to that law, no one could tell why it was passed in the reign of Charles II. The preamble itself was a strange one, and was wholly inapplicable to the present state of society. It stated that there were many persons who squatted in waste places and burned down woods, and that therefore it was desirable to have them fixed in one place. But there was no such thing now. There was no disposition to squat, there were few uninclosed places, and there was no desire to burn down woods. Ever since the law was passed its alteration or abolition had been the object of every statesman who spoke, and every philosopher who wrote upon the question. Until the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Mr. Knight) published his pamphlet, no "great authority" had appeared on the other side whatever. He considered that hon. Member an authority, because he appeared to have applied himself diligently to the subject, but he did not think the hon. Gentleman had dealt fairly with the evidence of the Poor-Law Commissioners, who were all against the Law of Settlement, as well as the Committee of this House that sat in 1847. It had been said that under the present system labour was free. Now, he denied that labour was free, because the labourer was dogged and marked, and care was taken that he was confined to one particular place. It was very well to talk of the "parochial tie;" but, so far as his own experience went, this "parochial tie," particularly in some agricultural districts, was really a prison tie. It had been said that the parochial clergyman and his wife when they administered relief did not inquire where the man came from. He could not accede to the justice of this observation, for he believed that in nearly all cases the first inquiry would be whether the applicant belonged or not to the particular parish. He had even known the same distinctions applied to education. A gentleman might wish to send a sharp clever lad to school, and doing so, the first question was, "Does he belong to our parish?" He had himself found these things great grievances among the common people; and he was satisfied, from what he had seen and heard, that a 1314 change was necessary. A case had occurred in his own neighbourhood. A most intelligent labourer was about to emigrate to Australia; he asked him why, as he had good wages and was comfortably off. "Because," he answered, "I have been a slave for twenty years." He (Mr. V. Smith) was shocked at this expression, and, on further inquiry, the man told him he had resolved to emigrate, because he found he could not move off the estate. This was a practical evil, which the measure new before the House would stop. Although there was plenty of work in one county, and plenty of labourers in another, and though the labourers were nominally free, yet they were not so practically, and therefore could nut avail themselves of the best return for their labour. To a certain extent he was aware that such an alteration as that proposed was a speculation; but seeing the evils which the present system engendered, and looking at them as they existed, they could only hope that the remedies provided by the measure for future times would have the effect which they all desired, and he was glad to observe that this desire animated all who had engaged in the debate. He did not believe in what had been said that the power of removing the poor to the place where they were born caused no pain, or created no evils, for he thought that the removal of every poor person, perhaps to a place where they were entirely forgotten, must have the effect of creating great pain and suffering, particularly as they were oftentimes "carted" off and sent away compulsorily. When, therefore, the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) spoke of its being a happiness to be sent back to their native parish, he (Mr. V. Smith) would ask, did he ever see any happiness existing under such circumstances—circumstances which induced the Poor-Law authorities to look upon the poor with much detestation, and as a nuisance, rather than with feelings of pleasure? He regretted having to say that he thought the Poor Law checked private charity to a great extent; for what could be said of that kind of charity which was doled out at the instance of avarice? A charity which paid sixpence at a time present, to avoid having to pay a shilling rate at a time future, could not be spoken of as a virtue. It was such evils as these that made it desirable to get rid of the practice of removal altogether; and one of its attendant benefits would be the getting rid also of litigation—a point which had 1315 hitherto been somewhat overlooked. He especially recommended to the consideration of hon. Members the enumeration of the evils attending the Law of Settlement made by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baines); but passing to the other topic, he begged to say that he should support the extension of the area of chargeability for the reasons which had been impugned by his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Stafford). The misfortune of the open parishes was, that it was the interest of the owners of close parishes to draw their supplies of labour from the open parishes. It had been said that the common law of supply and demand would regulate the amount and remuneration of labour. No doubt; but if proprietors could get their supplies of labour without paying rates or keeping residences, they would do so, and of course they would have an advantage over men who had not the same facilities. He did not mean to say that in so doing landlords acted harshly towards the poor in their parishes; for a man might be charitable, yet not be willing to see his parish overloaded with rates. However, it was extremely expensive to build cottages, and every one knew that they did not pay. He held that every farm ought to have a sufficient number of cottages upon it to accommodate the labourers to whom it gave employment. Union rating, perhaps, would not prevent the erection of cottages; but it would relieve landlords from the interest which hindered them from building. The evil of close parishes was, not so much that cottages had been destroyed, but that none were built. He considered that his right hon. Friend had done well to take Unions as the area of chargeability, for they were, generally, of such an extent, as very seldom to be in the hands of one proprietor or owner, whilst they were not so large as to prevent the attention and responsibility of guardians. The guardians, he believed, did now watch over the establishment charges just as vigilantly as over parochial rates. For these reasons he should give his cordial support to the Bill.
said, the hon. Member who moved the Amendment had mentioned that the Irish Members had met, and agreed to an address of remonstrance to the Government that Ireland was not included in the Bill. This was quite true; and he contended that the Members for Ireland were perfectly justified in this course. For some time past, the course of legislation in that House had been directed towards the purpose of 1316 placing the two countries upon the same footing with regard to taxation. If this principle, which had been carried (as he conceived) to an extent that was unjust towards Ireland, were admitted, he thought that the present demands of the Irish Members, that the measure of justice which this Bill demanded for England should be extended to Ireland, ought to be supported and recognised. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston) had frankly acknowledged the justice of the case. The Irish Members had met, and drawn up a statement of the grievances caused by the removal of Irish paupers from England; and this statement they had trusted to the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord C. Hamilton); and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton replied that he had laid the claims put forward by the Irish Members before the Cabinet, and that the Cabinet had unanimously decided that those claims were irresistible. But, after such an admission, he (Colonel Dunne) had been very much astonished that evening to hear the noble Lord who represented the Government in that House say that this subject would be dealt with in a separate Bill—that there were difficulties in the way of introducing it in the present measure which had induced him to decide upon moving for a separate Bill. This was perfectly delusive, and it was not consistent with the representations made by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. The English Members were divided on the subject of this Bill as regarded England, but they were nearly unanimous in their objections to extending it to Ireland. However just many of them thought it to restrain the powers of transporting paupers from one parish to another in England, they did not seem to think it equally so to restrain that of sending to Ireland a pauper who probably had spent his best years and exerted his best energies in the unwholesome factory districts of Manchester and Preston, who perhaps had married in England, had children born in, and lived in England the greater part of his life. They did not think it unjust to send such a pauper to some Irish port, and leave him friendless on the shore of a country with which every tie of relationship had long been severed. It was certain that, if Ireland was not included in the present Bill, another Bill for that purpose would be unanimously rejected. This being beyond all doubt, he called upon the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) to redeem the pledge which had been 1317 given. It would not, he was told, be competent for him (Colonel Dunne) to move an alteration in the title of the Bill at the present stage; but he should be quite in order, if in Committee he moved to introduce the word "Ireland" into that title. The Irish Members could hardly, under present circumstances, tell what the Cabinet would do; still, they expected, if the Cabinet were so unanimous as the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had declared them to be, that one of the Members of the Government would on Monday move an instruction to the Committee to make the alteration which they desired. If so, the Irish Members would feel themselves entitled to vote for the Bill; but if they got no such pledge, then they would vote against it. He had already stated that his own conduct would be guided by that of the Government in putting in or omitting the word "Ireland." There was no party question involved in this measure; the Irish Members were only watching over the interests of Ireland, just as the English Members said they were watching over the interests of England. The Irish Members, he believed, were unanimous in their feeling as to this Bill; they did not tie themselves to Union rating or any other detail, but they felt that the Government ought to do them justice in respect to it; for it must be obvious to the whole House that they would not be doing their duty to their country if they did not, at this opportunity, use every exertion to obtain an abatement of the cruelty of removals. They would act very foolishly if they permitted the Government by their assistance to carry this Bill for England, with the certainty that, when a separate Bill was brought in for Ireland, where the popularity of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton could not press it; unless, therefore, Ireland was included in the present Bill, Irish Members should oppose it. By so doing, they were not placing themselves in opposition to English interests; they were only pursuing a strictly legitimate course, for all they required from the Government was, to do that justice which they had recognised as being due. He must, however, say, that at present he could not think the noble Lord the Member for London had redeemed the promise made by the noble Lord the Home Secretary.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, the question introduced into the debate by the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down was one of great importance; and he hoped 1318 that before the end of the debate, the Government would make a distinct statement of their intentions. On the solution of this question depended not only the votes of the Irish Members, but the votes of a great many English Members too. It was quite clear that the proposition which had been unfortunately raised for the introduction of Ireland, could not, in form, be included in the present Bill; but, on the other hand, the question which agitated hon. Members was this—"Although not in form, is not Ireland substantially a part of this Bill, and by voting for the second reading of this measure, are we not necessarily pledged to support the other proposition?" He repeated that this was a very unfortunate question. He regretted that it should have been raised, for the present Bill as it stood was quite important enough to require the serious consideration of hon. Members, without this additional weight being thrown upon them. With regard to the Bill as it stood, there had been an extraordinary variety of opinions expressed as to its probable effects. But the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire, the mover of the Amendment, had made one observation relative to it, which he considered unjustifiable. He said, that in opposing the Bill he was advocating the cause of the poor. Why, every Gentleman advocated the cause of the poor; but that was not the question. The question was, whether the poor would be benefited by the Bill or not. It had been described as a law to prevent industry, and to stop the poor man from returning to his native place. But there was not a single word in it to prevent industry or to stop the poor man from returning to his native place. He had had considerable practice at sessions, and he must say that he had never seen any great advantage in the law of removal. The fact was, that under the existing law of removal the poor were not removed; they did not receive the great advantage of going from place to place, and enjoy the satisfaction of returning to their native village, for their native place doled out its funds to the parish wherein the poor were located, and thus removal was in most cases prevented. He, therefore, was in favour of the principle of the first clause of the Bill, which provided that in future there should be no power of removal. He disliked, however, the second clause, because it had a tendency to perpetuate the present mode of rating. It amended the distribution, but it recognised, sanctioned, and en- 1319 couraged a belief that the present mode of rating would be continued for ten years. Now, he distinctly objected to this, because it was contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and repugnant to the Act of Elizabeth. The principle of that Act was, that the wealth of the country should be rated for the necessary relief of the poor, and not a portion only of that wealth, as under present circumstances is the case. Government must grapple with the whole question of rating fully and fairly. They must say, "We will rate property wherever and whatever it is—whether lands, houses, funds, or mortgages." He would not go into this question of how this object was to be achieved; but until the Government dealt with it they would never equalise rating. The mode of distribution proposed in this clause being perfectly fallacious, he objected to it altogether.
§ MR. KNIGHT
said, he had long since been of opinion that the Law of Settlement was injurious to the poor; but subsequent reflection had led him to arrive at a contrary conclusion; he therefore could not give his assent to the Bill, seeing that it took away that law which had been as it were the title-deed of the poor to relief for the last 200 years. He did not blame the right hon. Gentleman at present at the head of the Poor Law Board for this Bill, for he was bound to say that his administration of the Poor Law had given entire satisfaction throughout the country; but he also felt persuaded that this measure was the first step towards the establishment of that dominant bureaucracy which Mr. Chadwick recommended to the Committee of 1847. It was the product of that harsh and starving party who, in 1834 and 1835, asserted that all charity was wrong, and that harshness and severity were the proper treatment for the labouring classes. Mr. Senior, one of the most active of the old Poor Law Commissioners who held these principles, advocated most strongly, before the Committee of 1847, the abolition of settlement. That gentleman had actually given it as his belief that "what were called severity and harshness in the administration of relief were by far the best things for the labouring classes." Then, again, Mr. Chadwick, another distinguished advocate of the same doctrine, had stated that—By the abolition of settlement, and by doing away with local administration, he would reduce the gross expense of the poor-law system by 1,000,000l., out of the 5,000,000l. to which it 1320 amounted, while he would increase the allowances to the officers.The establishment charges of the system were at present about 750,000l.; and as it might fairly be supposed that Mr. Chadwick would raise those charges to 1,000,000l., it followed that he would reduce the 4,250,000l. at present devoted to the relief of distress by not less than 1,250,000l. Mr. Pashley stated that 3,000,000 persons were annually relieved, of whom 1,000,000 were children, and 300,000 able-bodied adults receiving temporary relief, leaving 1,700,000 crippled, disabled, or infirm persons. Now, who could wish to take away from these at least one-third of the relief they now received, or who could suppose that the poor would be benefited by such a measure? This Bill was in fact the result of a struggle on the part of property to get rid of the burden and of the duty of maintaining the poor, which had been imposed on them for 200 years by the Settlement Act; for the fact was, that for the ninety years before that Act was passed, the poor could get no relief—their right to it was only a joke. Now when, in 1832, property struggled to get rid of the poor, it was perfectly justified in doing so, because, under the system previously in force, the able-bodied poor could insist on relief, whether they worked or not; but that injustice no longer continued. The workhouse test had enabled property to throw off the burden of maintaining these people; a great migration had taken place from the agricultural counties of Somersetshire, Devonshire, and Dorsetshire, to time manufacturing districts; and at this moment the poor rate was little more than one shilling in the pound upon the rental of England. Indeed, during the last seventeen years it had only once risen to ls. 3d. in the pound—the sum which it reached within thirty years after the Act of Settlement was passed. Under these circumstances, he contended that property was not justified in throwing off the burden of maintaining the aged, disabled, and infirm. This measure was not the emanation of the present, but the old Poor Law Commissioners, who long contended for the total abolition of out-door relief, on the gound that harshness and severity in the administration of out-door relief was by far the best method of consulting the interests of the poor. To show the spirit with which those whom he regarded as the real authors of this measure were actu- 1321 ated, he would refer to their evidence before the Committee of 1847. Mr. Coode stated, in answer to the question whether the abolition of the Law of Settlement might not lead to a great migration of poor into certain parishes, answered that this might be met by additional care in the administration of the relief. Mr. Gulson stated that its effect might be that some work might be taken from those who now received it because they had a settlement; but then he said that the work would be done by better workmen, and that the poor who were thrown out of work would get a fair amount of relief. But the Poor Law was not intended for the benefit of able-bodied workmen, but for that of the poor, for whom it was to find food and employment. It was evident to such of them as now received employment on account of their settlement this measure would be an unmitigated hardship. Sir George Nichols was another strenuous advocate of this measure. What were his feelings towards the poor? He told the same Committee that there was a strong feeling at the time the new Poor Law was passed that relief should be confined to the workhouse; and that the then Poor Law Commissioners worked strenuously for three or four years to reduce out-door relief. If he (Mr. Knight) recollected aright, they continued their exertions without, in fact, effecting much reduction, until they were pulled up by the Andover Committee. He believed that if the theories of Sir George Nichols had then been carried out, the people of England would have been driven into rebellion, for he did not think that it was possible that the poor should have been forced into the workhouse or left to starve. The next thing to consider was, what had been the effect of the Law of Settlement? The best way to decide that question was to compare the condition of the poor 200 years ago, when that law was passed, with what it was now. It must be recollected that before that law was passed they had as full a right to relief as they would have if the present Bill passed; and yet such was then their condition, that it was said that some remedy was wanted to prevent them from perishing, old and young, for want of such supplies as were necessary. On the other hand, in 1835, Mr. Senior, in his preface to the foreign communications appended to the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners, stated that their result was to show that the labour- 1322 ing classes of England were in a more favourable condition than those of the continental countries as to the money rate of wages, as to the quantity of produce which they received for their labour, and (with the exception of Norway) as to the rate of mortality. He believed that the enactment of the Settlement Law had been a great element in this enormous improvement. Such had been the result of the present law; what would be the effect of the Bill now before the House? If it were passed, and trade became dull in the manufacturing districts, and the people seemed likely to be out of work for some time, the guardians of those Unions might, by severity, drive them by fifties and hundreds into the agricultural Unions, which, not being able to receive them, must, in their turn, repel them by corresponding harshness. Again, suppose such a strike as that at Preston occurred; the leaders of the work people might ascertain what workhouses were empty, might send there the whole of the surplus population-of the district where the strike occurred, and thus commence the fight against the masters, after having quartered their army on the country. The Law of Settlement had defended the poor against property, and had prevented those clearances which had taken place to so large an extent in Ireland and Scotland, for want of such a protection to the labouring population. In one parish of Sutherlandshire, in consequence of these clearances, the number of houses had been reduced between 1801 and 1841 from 286 to forty-three, and the population had diminished within the same period by more than 1,200 persons. The decrease of houses and of population was in this instance attributable to the fact that the parish had been turned into six sheep farms. A settlement combined with the right to relief had prevented clearances in England. Before settlement was established, clearances went on and evictions took place to an immense amount in England. The fact was that the great object of settlement was to stop clearances, and it did stop them in England. God forbid that property should ever be allowed to shake off that liability to which it had been subject for 200 years—the support of its settled poor, and that it should ever again acquire that tremendous power which it exercised so ruthlessly before settlement was established. There was another paint of great consequence, namely, district chargeability, of the trial of which they had abun- 1323 dance of examples. He contended that no instance of Poor Law had yet been known in any part of the world in which district chargeability had been successful, unless it had been in certain neighbourhoods in which the rich knew all the poor whom they employed. Although every argument in favour of Union rating must be theoretical, there were many instances of the trial and complete failure of district rating. By the 14th of Elizabeth the chargeability was on petty sessional divisions. The consequence was that the poor could get no relief, and they starved. It was found that a Poor Law established upon the principle of district rating was wholly useless. Sir Francis Bacon brought in a Bill to prevent clearances, on which occasion he stated, that clearances had been more rife and more cruel within the last few years than ever they had been before, and that that was in consequence of the system of district chargeability. Then it was that the 39th of Elizabeth was passed, which changed that system. He would mention another instance of the failure of district chargeability. By the 39th of Elizabeth the system of district rating remained in force in the large parishes in the north of England, and that system was continued for some sixty years, but it totally and entirely failed. The poor were driven in every direction, and were left to starve. The remedy adopted was the Law of Settlement, and the abolition of district chargeability, with the division of the large parishes into small townships. One consequence of this arrangement had been, that for the last half century these townships had been more lightly rated than any other part of England. A third trial of district chargeability had been made in the present reign. In 1838, when a Poor Law was first introduced into Ireland, district chargeability was established, but it was soon discovered that the areas of rating were too large, and within ten years it was found necessary to reduce the extent of the districts. That reduction was attended with the same beneficial results which had been experienced in England, and the Poor Law of Ireland had since been a real working institution. It was the forced employment of the poor in England that prevented such an unhappy state of things arising in this country as had so long prevailed in Ireland. Had there been a Law of Settlement in Ireland when that law came into operation in England—and had every township in Ireland been obliged to feed or employ its own po- 1324 pulation, nearly all the crime and misery which had prevailed in that unhappy country would have been prevented. Much had been said respecting the restriction of the area of labour. In Ireland the area of labour was open enough, and when property in that country became divided into small portions, and either the employment or the feeding of the poor was rendered compulsory, employment would at once begin. If there had been a law in Ireland which recognised the full right to relief of the poor, at the same time that settlement was established in England, he believed that those fearful stories of Irish clearances, which for 150 years had disgraced humanity, would not and could not have taken place. He believed, also, that absenteeism would have been absolutely stopped by such a law; for if the poor had had a legal and recognised claim to a large portion of the income of every landowner, he could not have deserted the country, and gone to Paris or Rome, and left the poor to starve. In England, when a poor old and infirm man was in want, he could get from his parish something to support himself and his family; but when a poor man was in that condition in Ireland there was nothing for him but to lie down in his cabin and die. The law came upon him for everything that he had—for his rent and his tithe; but it gave no compensating provision to him in his hour of need. The poor man in Ireland had not got hold enough on the soil to enable him to become as quiet and contented a man as the English pauper. We might talk of the unruly Irish poor, but history told us that the English poor were far more unruly and rebellious than the Irish were before settlement was established. Let them take away settlement, and drive an Englishman from place to place, and they would find him a more savage and turbulent animal than ever an Irishman was. The consequence of the law in Ireland had been, that they had had to keep 40,000 policemen and soldiers to garrison the property of Ireland against her poorer classes. The effect in England of settlement was, that it settled the people on the soil, and gave them a right to share in the property of the soil to an extent limited only to their wants, and prior to the property of the landlord, and of which the landlord could not deprive them. In Scotland there was also a right of settlement, but as the able-bodied were not entitled to relief, the settlement was to a great extent useless. In a village in Scotland some time ago the 1325 owner of some cottages, desiring to get rid of the tenants, engaged a ship to take between 200 and 300 of them to America, but when the ship arrived sixty refused to go. Their houses were then pulled down, and many of the homeless and friendless cottiers, becoming frantic with grief, were driven to seek for shelter in the neighbouring quarries and among the rocks with which the district abounded. Now, had those poor persons lived in England, instead of the Highlands, they would all have been on the poor-roll and been entitled to relief. In the west of Ireland there were whole streets unroofed. Why? To prevent the people who were being cleared taking refuge in them. He might go on, but he thought he had proved that settlement was an advantage to the poor. With respect to close parishes being relieved, as it was said they were, at the expense of open parishes, the evidence was very strong to show that the parish in which a man lived was that which was benefited by his labour. Taking the property assigned to the income tax as a criterion, it was proved by unquestionable statistics that the rates of increase in populous and open parishes had been very much larger than in those which were called close. With respect to the equalisation of the poor rate, the question was whether it was required. He found, on looking into the matter, that an immense equalisation had been going on since the French war—that, in fact, everything which they proposed to do by this Bill had been doing itself by degrees, and the country had been making great progress in this matter in a quiet way without any disturbance. Since the recent alterations of the law the number of removals had diminished from 33,000 to 11,000, and in the same way the equalisation of the poor rate had been going on. In the year 1815 the difference between the highest rated county and the lowest rated county was 3s. 11¼d. in the pound. Sussex, which was then the highest, was rated at 5s. 0½d. in the pound, and Northumberland, which was the lowest, at 1s. 1¼d.; in 1851 the highest was ls. 11d. and the lowest was 1s. 1d.; so that they would see that the process of civilisation had been gradually going on. Much had been said about the evils of a national rate, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board had admitted them, at the time of introducing the Bill. If they were to have a national rate, let them have a real national rate, let the maintenance of 1326 the poor be thrown on the Consolidated Fund, and the Poor Law abolished. This, however, was not the object of this measure; it did not propose to throw the bur-then of providing for the poor upon all property equally; but if it should be passed, and should continue for ten years, they would have the same local taxes levied all over England, and administered by paid officials. With greater county Unions, such as Mr. Chadwick had described, and such as they would ultimately come to if this Bill should pass, it would be impossible for the unpaid guardians to devote their time to the relief of the poor and the administration of the law. Property would lose its influence, the energies of the population would be crippled, and nothing could stave off that state to which France, by a system of centralisation, had already been reduced. The inequalities of the present system were far more tolerable than those which would be introduced if that system should be broken up. At present, if a man bought an estate, the average amount of the local burdens was matter of calculation between himself and the seller, and the price was fixed with reference to these burdens. The inequalities of the parochial system, therefore, were not hard to bear; but if they broke up that system, they would introduce inequalities which would be most unfair, and would, therefore, be hard to be endured. People could hardly realise the immense amount of property which would change hands by this compulsory process of equalisation. An addition of 2s. in the pound to the rate of a parish would take every tenth house and every tenth acre from the present proprietors, for the benefit of the poor, and he contended that no case had been made out which could justify such a proceeding, and that all the arguments and all the statistics which had been brought forward in support of it had broken down.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he had very few words to say upon the present occasion, but after what had passed that evening he was unwilling to give his vote, as he intended to do, in favour of the second reading of this Bill, without making an observation or two upon an incidental question which had been raised in the course of that evening's debate. Assuming that the only question now before the House was the second reading of the Bill, he was prepared to give his cordial assent to it. He believed that the Bill was founded on the only 1327 sound principle upon which that amendment of the Law of Settlement could be effected which had been so long and so earnestly desired. It was founded on an accumulated mass of evidence which deserved the greatest attention on the part of the House and of the country; and the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had proved that it was supported, also, by opinions of the highest authority. He had proved that it was not a hasty measure, and that the proposals which it contained were not now made, for the first time, by his (Sir G. Grey's) right hon. Friend—for the hon. Member had brought before the House a long array of names of persons whose opinions upon this subject were entitled to the greatest weight, and whose opinions he had shown to have been that any alteration of the law must be based upon the principles of this Bill. These principles were two in number—one the abolition of compulsory removal, and the other the extension of the area of rating for the relief of the poor from parishes to Unions. With respect to the first, he was not going to repeat the arguments which were used by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baines) at the time of introducing the Bill, or he might show that it was a measure calculated greatly to benefit the labouring population of this country. He was content, however, to let this rest on the opinion known to be entertained by the labouring population themselves. He had been astonished to hear the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford), who had moved the Amendment to the second reading, coming forward, as he said, as the chairman of a board of guardians, and speaking of this power off compulsory removal as a boon and a privilege which the poor enjoyed, and which was going to be taken from them. He (Sir G. Grey) should have thought that every one who had had experience of the working of the Poor Law had been aware of the great disinclination which the labouring poor had to subject themselves to this compulsory removal, and of the great difficulty, in consequence of that disinclination, of eliciting from them, when they came to be examined, such facts and evidence as would justify the making of the order. He believed that this Bill, so far as it related to the labouring classes, would materially conduce to their comfort and advance their welfare; and he was therefore prepared to give it his cordial support. The second part of 1328 the Bill stood on a different footing. It proposed to extend the area of chargeability from parishes to Unions, and that was a question in which the poor were not so much interested as the ratepayers themselves. Admitting that the evils resulting from close parishes might have been exaggerated, he did not think it would be denied that there were close parishes, and that, with the present area of rating, the pressure of taxation, for the purposes of Poor Law relief, operated most unequally in many instances. He believed that the most effectual relief for such inequalities would be found in adopting the principle of this Bill, and gradually extending the area until it arrived at the point at which it aimed—a Union rate. In taking that course, they made no approach towards a national rate, nor did they impair the principle of local self-government, which would be recognised if this Bill should become law to the same extent as it was now. The tendency of recent legislation had all been in this direction, and he did not think anybody regretted it. Paupers who had become irremovable by reason of residence for five years, under the Act which had already been referred to, were chargeable, if he did not mistake, upon the Union, and not upon the parish, in the same way as vagrants and casual poor, as well as the establishment charges, and he did not know that any evil had resulted from making the maintenance of these classes a Union liability, or that there had been less vigilance or circumspection on the part of boards of guardians in consequence. He might refer also to the fact, that the Committee of 1847, differing upon some points, unanimously expressed their conviction that the law of compulsory removal was a hardship on the poor, that it impeded the free circulation of labour, and that it inflicted a great hardship on the employer, by unduly restricting his choice. These evils had been overlooked by hon. Gentlemen who had opposed the measure, and he had not heard any way suggested in which it is proposed to remove or mitigate them. He should, therefore, he repeated, give his cordial assent to the second reading. But another question had been raised, wholly distinct from the principle of the measure itself, and which he regretted to think was likely to be prejudicial to it. It appeared from the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne) that the Cabinet had been unanimous in their promise that there should be 1329 engrafted on this Bill an abolition of the compulsory remoyal of Scotch and Irish paupers to Scotland or Ireland, whatever their numbers, or whatever the circumstances under which they might have come from Scotland and Ireland to this country. He must confess that, if this had been the decision of the Government, and if they felt themselves bound—and, as the hon. and gallant Member, though he hoped he spoke without authority, and under some mistake, had said they were—to support such a measure, as a corollory to the Bill, or as part of the Bill, he should feel himself bound, much as he valued its provisions, to withhold his assent from it. He had seen too much, when he held the office of Secretary of State, of the inconveniences which were experienced at Liverpool, and Glasgow, and Bristol, and other places in the Bristol Channel, from the immense number of Irish paupers who at that time were sent over at 6d. or even 2d. per head in the steam-boats, and landed on the shores of this country wherever the steam-boats happened to carry them, not to have a lively sense of those evils. It was pressed upon the Government at that time to take some steps to put an end to the immigration of Irish paupers, but they declined to interfere to prevent the free passage of Her Majesty s subjects from one part of the United Kingdom to another; and they told the applicants that the remedy was in their power to remove Scotch or Irish paupers improperly thrown upon the shores of this country. This might be a proper matter to consider separately from the Law of Settlement and Removal in England, but he protested against its being mixed up with it. Irishmen and Scotchmen living in this country had, in common with Englishmen, the benefit of irremovability after five years' residence in the same parish. If it was wished to extend the privilege of irremovability beyond this, let them consider the subject separately, and not mix up with this measure a matter which would be fatal to its success. He could only hope that the tone in which the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington had spoken was not authorised by the communication which he had stated he had received, and he should certainly very much regret if the Government risked the loss of this valuable and important Bill by the adoption of any provision such as that described by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ MR. PACKE
said, he rose to move the adjournment of the debate, for he thought that the Government had not given suffi- 1330 cient information to the House as to what their intentions were with regard to the very important question of the removability of Scotch and Irish paupers. The hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington (Col. Dunne) had stated that, in an interview which the Irish Members had had with the Government, they had been given to understand that the abolition of the removability of Irish and Scotch paupers would be embraced in this Bill. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London had, however, stated that, the principle of the abolition of the removability of Irish and Scotch paupers being the same as the principles of this Bill, the Government had acceded to it, but it would be embodied in a separate measure; while, on the introduction of this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board had stated, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole), that it related solely to removability on the ground of settlement in parishes in England and Wales, and did not enter at all into the subject of removability of Scotch and Irish paupers, which rested on a totally different principle. From such conflicting declarations it was impossible to understand what the real intentions of the Government were, and he therefore hoped that the debate would be adjourned until the Bill to meet the case of the Irish and Scotch paupers was laid on the table.
§ MR. G. H. MOORE
said, that he would speak strictly to the question of adjournment. He thought that the intentions of the Government on the subject of the Irish poor should be at once specifically understood. He would not make any statement with respect to the Irish poor. He believed that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had stated that the claims of Ireland were irresistible; but to-night the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had stated that Ireland was to be included in a separate and distinct measure. He should vote for the second reading, but only on the understanding that Ireland would be engrafted in Committee in the provisions of the Bill.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would tell the House what was the course which they proposed to take in reference to this measure, or whether another measure would be introduced which would proceed, if not concurrently, at least conjointly with it. The question was one of great importance. It had not been made a party question, for both sides were anxious to settle this most 1331 interesting social matter, affecting as it did the poor of the United Kingdom. The House, therefore, ought to understand what was proposed to be done with respect to the Irish and Scotch poor, and he believed that great dissatisfaction would be felt if the Bill were now pressed forward.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, that he had not had the advantage of seeing his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, on account of his illness, subsequently to the communication which he had made to the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, and which he (Sir J. Graham) believed had been made within the last forty-eight hours. He was decidedly of opinion, considering the time at which they had now arrived, that it was indispensable that the debate should be adjourned, and he must express his hope that the House would not consent to a later adjournment than Monday next, when the Bill would be placed first on the Orders of the Day. He hoped that his noble Friend would then be in his place to state accurately what had passed. As he understood the principle of the measure they were now discussing, destitution should constitute the sole ground for relief. If the House sanctioned that principle by agreeing to the second reading of the Bill, it would then be necessary to consider the case of the Irish and Scotch poor. The Government was of opinion that it would be inexpedient to include the case of the Irish and Scotch poor in the present Bill. If claim for relief were to rest merely on destitution, it would be necessary to prepare some very detailed regulations on the subject of the Irish and Scotch poor, which would require very mature consideration, and would be more conveniently included in a subsequent measure. But that measure had not been matured or prepared. It would not be possible for the Government to make the necessary provision for the Irish and Scotch pour in this Bill, and therefore he conceived that another measure would be necessary.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, there was one point which had not been adverted to in the course of the debate, which appeared to him to be of great importance. The Bill, if he recollected right, was introduced on the 10th of February, and the interval which took place between its introduction and the second reading was intended for the purpose of enabling the country to form an opinion upon its merits. Now, the country had, as might be expected, given much time and consideration to so import- 1332 ant and interesting a subject, and numerous petitions had been addressed to the House, expressing the opinions of Boards of Guardians and other persons in reference to the Bill, but it could not but be seen that the data on which that opinion was formed and given had been completely changed in character and in element, by the course which the Government had now indicated, but not pledged themselves to adopt. Under these circumstances his impression was, that the Bill should be postponed for a longer period. The matter however, was, in the hands of the House. This had not been made a party question, and he was satisfied that whatever resolution the House might come to, it would be a temperate and wise one; but at the same time it was of great importance that when the subject had been for six weeks before the country for the purpose of eliciting its opinion, the representatives of the public should not find, when the Bill came before them again a measure entirely different from that which was first introduced. Under those circumstances, he thought the adjournment of this debate ought to be fixed to a later date than Monday, in order that the House might have the time to consider the measure under the altered circumstances in which it now stood.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he wished to explain the nature of the communication which he had received from the noble Lord the Home Secretary. After the Bill was introduced it had occurred to a large number of the Irish representatives to consider the position in which Irish paupers would be placed by the operation of the measure. A meeting of Irish Members was accordingly held, at which it was resolved to endeavour to extract from the Government an expression of their opinion as to what it would be necessary to do to meet the altered position in which Irish paupers would be placed by the Bill. It was thought better that their statement should be reduced to writing, so that there should be no possible misunderstanding, and he (Lord C. Hamilton) was deputed to present the memorial to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department. His Lordship, at the end of several days, wrote back the Mowing answer:—The memorial which you sent me was taken into consideration by the Cabinet yesterday evening, and they were of opinion that the case set forth is irresistibly established, and that justice requires that the wishes of the Irish Members should be complied with. I will send the papers 1333 to Mr. Baines, and he will communicate with you as to the best manner of carrying our common object into effect.He had heard it said that there was a compact between the Government and the Irish Members on this subject, but he wished to repudiate this in the strongest terms, and to state his confident conviction that the noble Lord had never entertained any such idea, and that there was not the slightest foundation for the statement that Her Majesty's Government had tried to make a bargain with the Irish representatives. The memorial to which he had referred was as follows:—We, the undersigned, being representatives of Irish constituencies, have observed that the effect of the Bill recently introduced by Mr. Baines for the purpose of preventing the forcible removal of paupers from one Union in England to another will be to annul the law of settlement in England, except in certain cases; and that, if the Bill should pass into a law, cases of destitution in England will be relieved and chargeable in the Unions where the destitution occurs; and the law, as regards England, in this particular be thus assimilated in a great degree to the law as regards Ireland. But we observe that while it is thus proposed to abolish this forcible removal of paupers from one union to another in England, the Bill makes no provision to prevent the forcible removal of paupers from Unions in England to Ireland. This forcible removal of paupers to Ireland has not only long been a matter of great complaint and practical injustice to Unions in Ireland, but has entailed upon the paupers removed the utmost hardships and sufferings, attended, in some cases, with loss of life. This evil, scarcely tolerable, while there existed a law of settlement and of removal in England from one parish or Union to another, would become intolerable if the law of the two countries should be so nearly assimilated, and the forcible removal of an English pauper from one Union to another in England no longer permitted. The undersigned, therefore, feel it their imperative duty very respectfully and earnestly to invite the attention of Viscount Palmerston to this subject, and to express to his Lordship their strongest conviction that the Irish pauper in England should be placed precisely on the same footing as regards removal, with the English pauper in Ireland, or the English pauper in England.To Viscount Palmerston," &c.He hoped the reading of this correspondence entirely cleared the question from any supposition that there had been any bartering by the Government for the votes of the Irish representatives, a measure he was sure the Government would be incapable of proposing or the Irish representatives assenting to. The memorial was signed by sixty-seven of the Irish Members.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he could not refrain from noticing the extraordinary course taken by the Government on this 1334 question—a course which appeared to him to be most embarrassing to all who were disposed to support the measure before the House, and most unfair towards the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of this Bill, who, he thought, had the greatest possible right to complain. So far was he (Sir J. Pakington) from having had any disposition to make this a party question, that he came down to the House fully prepared to give his support to the whole of the Government Bill, supposing and believing that the whole of their plan was before him. He could not, however, refrain from expressing his surprise at hearing, for the first time this evening, when they were assembled there to consider the second reading of this highly important Bill, that Her Majesty's Government intended to adopt a plan—or, at least, some plan—with regard to Irish and Scotch paupers, which must have a most material bearing upon the plan before them. He would remind the House not only of the interval of time which had passed since the introduction of this Bill, but of what occurred upon the debate on that occasion. The Bill, as his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) had stated, was introduced on the 10th of February, upon which occasion the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord C. Hamilton) had alluded to the subject of Irish paupers, and several other hon. Members had pressed upon the Government the difficulties attending that portion of the question. He (Sir J. Pakington) was one of those who did so, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) would remember that his advice to him then was to consider at once how this Irish portion of the subject should be dealt with, because it had become evident, from what had passed that night, that it would be impossible to finally settle the question, without settling that part of it at the same time. Weeks had passed away since then, and it was certainly the duty of the Administration, in dealing with a question of this magnitude, to have availed themselves of that interval (even if they had not thought of it before) immediately to determine upon the course they would take with regard to it, and to give Parliament fair and ample notice of their intention. That had not been done. The House was told to-night, for the first time, that Government intended to grapple with this portion of the subject, but they were not told when it was intended to do so. Now, entertaining a sincere and deliberate conviction upon the general subject, he wished to guard himself upon this, 1335 portion of it. He thought, under all the circumstances, that the proposal made by his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe)—that the further progress of this Bill should be suspended until the intentions of the Government were laid before the House—was a perfectly fair proposal. He (Sir J. Pakington) desired it to be understood, however, that in giving his support to that proposal he meant nothing hostile to the Bill in the shape in which it now stood.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
said, he thought the subject should be adjourned to the earliest possible period, believing it to be of the greatest consequence for this House and the country to know as soon as possible what were the intentions of the Government upon it. He was one of those who had come down with the intention of supporting the measure before the House as far as its principle was involved; but as a representative of a part of the west of Scotland which would be very materially affected by the propositions of the Government, it was impossible that his vote might not be influenced by the consideration of these particular points. It might be possible to deal with the question of Irish paupers in this country, to meet "the irresistible case" to which reference had been made in such a manner as to reconcile it with the principle of this Bill; but if that were so, the House should be put in possession of what the measure really was, and it would be very convenient that the two measures should be brought forward together. He was happy to see that the House was disinclined to treat this as a party question, and he hoped, under the circumstances, that the debate would be adjourned to the earliest day consistent with the business of the House.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that if the question were pressed as to the day to which the adjournment should take place, he should vote in favour of the adjournment being fixed for Monday next.
§ Motion made; and Question proposed—"That the Debate be adjourned till Monday next."
§ Amendment proposed to leave out the words "Monday next," in order to add the words "Monday, the 24th day of April next," instead thereof.
gave notice that he would move that it be an instruction to the Committee to insert the words "Ireland and Scotland" in the Bill.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, that the notice of the hon. and gallant Member implied the necessity for reading the Bill a second time, and hon. Members would then have the opportunity of discussing the question of Irish and Scotch paupers upon that motion. It was said that this was not a party measure, and it was most desirable to avoid all party spirit. That was precisely why he ventured to suggest that the proposal to adjourn the debate to Monday was nut unreasonable. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London, representing the Government in that House, had attended at very considerable inconvenience in the early part of the evening. He had been indisposed throughout the week, and was obliged to leave before the debate was closed. Both the noble Lord and his noble Friend the Home Secretary, who had had more direct communication with Members on the subject, would be in their places on Monday. Surely the debate might be adjourned to that day without binding the House to come to any decision on the second reading. He objected to the adjournment of the question for so long a period as the 24th of April. It was impossible for the Government to frame a measure with respect to Ireland and Scotland until the Government could ascertain the change which was to take place in the principle of relief. It was proposed by this measure to do away with settlement, and rest relief on general destitution. When the opinion of the House should be ascertained, it would then be time enough to consider the alterations that would be necessary in the present measure.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, if the debate should be adjourned until Monday, no inconvenience would be experienced, as a further adjournment might then take place if it should be found necessary.
§ Question put, "That the words Monday next' stand part of the Question."
§ The house divided:—Ayes 132; Noes 121: Majority 11.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.