HC Deb 03 April 1856 vol 141 cc436-8

said, he would now beg to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the laws relating to the relief of the poor. In the first place, he proposed, by the Bill, to do away with the large number of parochial places which were scattered throughout the kingdom, and in which, though they had a considerable population, no rate was raised for the relief of the poor. In those places cases of the greatest hardship arose from their being unable to relieve necessitous persons. Taking the last Census as the basis of his arrangement, he proposed to add those places to adjoining parishes, or to make them independent parishes for the purposes of the poor rate. There was another point of considerable importance in the Bill; he proposed to take power to dissolve the Gilbert Unions, which existed in some counties as long ago as 1835. A Committee made a strong Report against the continuance of those unions, in consequence of the abuses connected with them, and the time, he thought, had now arrived when they might be advantageously dealt with, with advantage to the public and also to the unions themselves. Another part of the Bill had reference to the appointment of the district auditors of poor-law unions. Those auditors, forty-nine in number, were each appointed to separate districts, consisting of a certain number of unions. Originally they were appointed separately for each union; but, in 1845, a Bill was passed providing that each district should be regulated by the amount of population. At that time the auditors were paid out of the poor rates of the union; but, in 1846, it was proposed—he believed, as a kind of compensation to the landed interest for the repeal of the Corn Laws—that they should receive payment out of the Consolidated Fund. That payment, which amounted to between £13,000 and £14,000 a year, therefore, now came out of the national Exchequer, but the appointment of the auditors remained vested in the chairman and vice chairman of the different boards of guardians belonging to the unions comprised in the district. Now, he thought that those who paid ought to appoint; and, as the central Government paid those officers, who exercised most responsible functions—and, in point of fact, formed the pivot upon which the whole administration of the Poor Law turned—it was highly desirable that they should be appointed by the central authority, who was responsible for the administration of the Poor Law. He proposed, as vacancies arose, that power should be given to make larger districts, and that the appointment of auditors should be vested in the Poor Law Board. A Committee had made a strong recommendation in favour of that arrangement. He also proposed to place the appointments of registrars of births, deaths, and marriages under local Acts, with whom the Poor Law Board had nothing to do, in the hands of the guardians belonging to the different unions.


said, he felt it was rather difficult to determine why the Bill was not incorporated with that introduced the other evening. It would certainly have been very desirable had such been done, for they had already multiplied the statutes relative to the Poor Law to such an extent that it was almost impossible to unravel them. He wished to give timely notice to the right hon. Gentleman that he should endeavour to induce him to carry out the recommendation of the Committee which sat in 1854, and again in 1855, namely, that the area conferring the right of irremovability should be extended from the parish to the union.


said, he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, both with respect to this Bill and the Bill introduced the other evening, that it was desirable in all fresh legislation in regard to the Poor Law, to keep in mind the probability, at no distant period, of the consolidation of the law as affecting every part of the United Kingdom. He wished also to remind the right hon. Gentleman that two years ago he had moved for a return relating to the local averages struck by the Poor Law Board. Now that return was proposed to be laid before the House on the 10th of April, 1854, and ordered to be printed on the 11th of April, 1854; nevertheless, it was not yet in the hands of hon. Members.


said, he begged to thank his right hon. Friend for the very valuable measure he had introduced, and especially for having had the courage to deal with the Gilbert Unions, which had so long stood out, but which would now be brought under a system which had worked well wherever it had been established. He thought the proposal for limiting the number of the auditors and employing their whole time was also a useful one.


said, he must dissent from the feeling of admiration expressed so generally relative to the Bill. He certainly was very sorry that an attempt was going to be made to subject property which, in consequence of coming under the denomination of "royalties," had been hitherto exempt from poor rate, to the burden of that tax. He happened himself to be an owner of such property, and he could say that his ancestor had paid a higher price for it in consequence of its exemption from poor rates. And now were they to come down and tell those who had bought their property subject to such conditions, that without any equivalent being offered, they were henceforward to contribute equally with others to the support of the poor? He could only say that, after all, a measure of the kind was but carrying out what appeared to him to be the avowed and distinguishing policy of the present Government—namely, the policy of confiscation.


said, he quite agreed with his hon. Friend that the terms of praise in which the Bill had been spoken of were rather too unqualified. He also thought there was much injustice indeed in taxing the species of property referred to by him. Again, he objected to the appointment of auditors being vested in the Government; for although those functionaries were to be paid out of the public Exchequer, still the taxation which they would have to overlook would be raised entirely from the ratepayers.


said, he would admit that to tax property coming under the denomination of a "royalty," upon which no population existed, might involve a hardship; still he would remind hon. Gentlemen that where a population did exist such an exemption was exceedingly odious, and amounted to a great hardship upon the poor as well as the ratepayers generally.

Motion agreed to.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. BOUVERIE and Mr. GRENVILLE BERKELEY.

Bill read 1o.