HC Deb 01 April 1856 vol 141 cc309-14

in rising for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the removal of Scotch and Irish paupers, said, in 1854 a Select Committee of that House was appointed to inquire into the operation of the existing law upon that subject. Arising out of the discussion of the general question, or of the removal and settlement of the poor, came the preliminary difficulty of the removal of Irish and Scotch paupers, which was referred to that Committee. The Committee sat during the Session of 1854, and was reappointed last year; they took a great deal of evidence, and finally came to a Report, upon the recommendations of which the present measure was generally founded. The House was, no doubt, aware of the general principle on which poor removals were conducted. Every poor person, whether born in England, Ireland, or Scotland, when he claimed relief from the poor rates on the ground of destitute circumstances, if he were not settled in England, or if he had not resided for five years in the parish where he claimed relief from the rates, was liable to removal—if an Englishman to the parish where he had a settlement, and if an Irishman or a Scotchman to the country of his birth. The Act of Parliament—the Act 8 & 9 Vict. c. 117—which dealt with Irish and Scotch removals, was passed eleven years ago, and pointed out a mode of proceeding with that class of paupers totally different from that which was pursued with regard to English paupers, When a Scotchman or Irishman became chargeable to the poor rates, and applied for relief to a relieving officer or an overseer, he was liable to be taken before two justices of the peace without summons. Their duty was to ascertain that he was born in Scotland or Ireland, that he had not obtained a settlement in this country, and that he had not resided for five years in the parish where he claimed relief. They then made an order for his removal, and the pauper was committed to the charge of the officer to whom the warrant of removal was given. In this metropolis, from which, exclusive of Liverpool, the largest number of these removals took place, he was taken to a sort of depôt upon the banks of the river, near Wapping, and periodically, once or twice a week, a lot of these poor persons were shipped off to Scotland or Ireland. Paupers so removed were taken to particular ports specified in the Act, eight in Ireland and nine in Scotland, and there deposited and left to shift for themselves. There was no practical appeal against the decision of the magistrates as to the removal of these paupers, for the nominal appeal given by the Act was so ineffective, that the only attempt which had ever been made to take advantage of it had broken down. The process he had described was not only unnecessarily cruel to the paupers, but was also unjust to the places where they were disembarked; because, in a very large number of cases, the port at which they were landed had no more obligation to maintain them than the parish from which they were sent away. The pauper, necessarily in destitute circumstances, was tumbled out of the steamboat at a place where he probably was as much without the means of obtaining relief as he had been in the parish from which, he had been removed, and he therefore had to be relieved at the cost of the ratepayers of that place. It appeared from the last return, that upwards of 5,000 Irish removals had taken place in the year ending in March, 1854, and the evidence taken before the Committee showed, that out of this number about 1,200 applications for relief had been made at the workhouses of the ports in which the paupers had been deposited. The remainder must, therefore, either have begged their way to their homes, or have remained in those parishes in a state of destitution. He did not mean to assert that all Irish and Scotch paupers who applied for relief in England were treated in this manner, for it was right to say that a very large number of Irish poor were relieved by the English parishes without being removed, and it was stated before the Committee that many of the London parishes had made a rule of never applying for orders of removal in such cases. But no doubt the law gave rise to great injustice and hardship, for which the Committee in their report endeavoured to provide a remedy. There seemed to be no reason why an Irish or a Scotch pauper should not be treated in the same way as an English pauper who had no settlement in the parish where he applied for relief, and he accordingly proposed to assimilate the procedure in the manner recommended by the Committee. When a pauper was liable to removal from one parish in this country to another, the parish where he was receiving relief was obliged, before he could be removed, to send a notice to the parish where he had a settlement, together with a statement of the grounds of removal. The pauper could not be removed until twenty-one days after that notice had been given, and the parish to which it was sent was entitled to examine the evidence taken before the magistrates, who had granted the order of removal, and then, if they thought fit, they had an opportunity of appealing to the quarter sessions of the district in which the removing parish was situated against that order. If an appeal were prosecuted, the pauper could not be removed until it had been decided. This system, mutatis mutandis, he proposed to adopt in reference to Scotch and Irish paupers. He proposed that if, after investigation, the magistrates should adjudicate that a pauper was a native of a parish or union in Scotland or Ireland, or had resided there for five years before coming to England, notice of his chargeability should be sent to such parish or union; that such parish or union should then be entitled to give notice of appeal, within thirty days, and also to examine the depositions upon which the order of removal was founded; and that if an appeal took place, the pauper should not be removed until it was decided. The pauper would not be turned out at the first port at which the vessel conveying him happened to arrive and left to shift for himself, but would be sent to the workhouse of the union upon which he was chargeable. He had, in substance, embodied the recommendations of the Committee in this Bill, and he trusted that it would get rid of the hardship and cruelty to which the present law sometimes gave rise, and effect a substantial improvement in the administration of the law respecting this branch of the administration of relief to the poor. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Laws for the removal of Poor Persons, chargeable in England, who have been born in Scotland or Ireland.


said, that having had much experience in the removal of Irish poor, he thought the right hon. Gentleman would have much difficulty in finding out the places in Ireland to which paupers belonged. They seldom bad any difficulty with English poor, but with regard to Irish they had generally to obtain other evidence. There was, of course, seldom any mistake as to the country; but the difficulty of finding out to what part of Ireland persons ought to be sent would prove almost insuperable. He should not, however, oppose the introduction of the Bill.


thought that the right hon. Gentleman the vice President of the Board of Trade might place English and Irish paupers upon the same footing with respect to removal, without the qualification of the words mutatis mutandis. He must also remind the right hon. Gentleman that he would find some difficulty in introducing—as his speech implied that it was his intention to do—the law of settlement into Ireland. Such a law would be an entirely new feature hi the system prevailing in that country. With reference to the application of the Bill to Scotland he should merely say, that its operation would be very partial, inasmuch as very few Scotchmen were found to be destitute in England, whatever they might be in their own country, nor would he find many instances of a destitute Englishman in Ireland.


said, he thought that the Bill was of a somewhat more extended character than the speech of his right hon. Friend would lead the House to anticipate, inasmuch as it was evident from that speech that the right hon. Gentleman meant to introduce the law of settlement into Ireland. With respect to the question of appeal, he should like to know in what way Irish and Scotch appeals were to be tried in this country? He might also observe, that the measure was one of such great importance that it was extremely desirable it should be submitted to the investigation of a Committee of that House. It was only by that means that the complicated details of the subject with which it proposed to deal could be satisfactorily disposed of.


wished for an explanation as to the effect which it was proposed to give to a five years' residence, to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie) had referred.


said, he understood his right hon. Friend to say that, unless an Irishman had, by five years' residence in this country, obtained the privilege of irremovability, he was liable to be removed to Ireland; and that that was the law there would, he believed, be no question. As to the observations of the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Jolliffe), that this Bill would introduce a new principle into the Poor Law in Ireland, he (Mr. Baines) apprehended that such would not be the case. As the law now stood, and had stood since 1845, it was the duty of the justices, before making an order of removal, to ascertain, as far as they could, from what place in Ireland the person to he removed came, and to order his removal to the port nearest to that place. It was, therefore, perfectly clear that it was the object of the Legislature that the pauper should be put in the way of getting as near as possible to that which was the natural place for the relief of his destitution. As to appeals, they would be tried in the same way that English appeals were now tried—at the quarter sessions of the districts from which the paupers were removed; the only difference would be that Irish unions would be the appellants, and English unions the respondents. Some such right of appeal existed under the law as it stood; but at present there were many practical difficulties in the way of working these appeals, and the object of this Bill was to remove those difficulties and to render efficacious what had hitherto been only a nominal remedy. He did not anticipate that the Bill would be of so complicated a nature as to render necessary its reference to a Select Committee. On the contrary, he hoped that its provisions would be very simple, and that it would remedy a great amount of injustice to which Scotch and Irish poor were at present subject.


approved the Bill, as far as its provisions had been indicated by the right hon. Gentleman, but thought that it would not remove all the evil which was complained of. Something ought to be done to render the acquirement of a settlement in England by Irish paupers more easy. It was very hard that an Irishman or a Scotchman who had resided in England for twenty-five years, during nearly the whole working portion of his life, should not, as regarded the relief of his distress, acquire the same rights in this country as were enjoyed by Englishmen. No measure would do full justice to the Irish poor which did not provide them with a ready means of acquiring a settlement in England. A certain duration of residence— say five years—should be held to confer the right of irremovability; and anything short of tins would be inadequate as a measure of relief.


while commending the Bill and expressing his gratitude for its introduction, denied the accuracy of its description as an embodiment of the recommendation of the Committee which sat last year. That Committee suggested a diminution of the period and an enlargement of the area of residence, two principles which might with great propriety be recognised by the present measure.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. BOUVERIE, Sir GEORGE GREY, and Mr. BAINES.

Bill read 1°.