HC Deb 16 June 1857 vol 145 cc1899-935

, in rising to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the causes of the inequality of the poor rates in the metropolitan district, and whether any measures should be adopted to render the rates more equal, said that he thought it hardly possible to exaggerate the importance of the subject which related to the interests of no fewer than 2,500,000 people, and which would affect property of the annual value of £14,000,000, and to rates upon that property amounting to the sum of £869,000 yearly. Such a question undoubtedly claimed the serious attention of the House and of Her Majesty's Government. He believed it was not the desire of Ministers that this question should be considered upon the present occasion. He should be at a loss to account for that disinclination on the part of the Government if, when the subject was first brought under his notice, he had not been somewhat indisposed to give it his attention; but he must confess that he had acted from an imperfect knowledge of the subject, and he was therefore disposed to believe that any opposition to his Motion might result from the same cause, which he should no doubt be enabled to remove. He admitted, indeed, that he should have hesitated to take up a question of such difficulty had he not been requested to do so by a number of gentlemen who were always entitled to consideration. He alluded to many of the clergy of the Established Church, who had interested themselves in the bearings and details of the subject. Those gentlemen were the ornaments of their profession; they received exceedingly small stipends, and they discharged most onerous duties; they were well acquainted with the poor, and had many opportunities of examining into the condition of the people. If he (Mr. Ayrton) had been applied to by the higher dignitaries of the Church, he should probably have left them with their influence to take care of themselves; but when appealed to by the gentlemen to whom he had referred, he felt himself bound to bring the question under the consideration of the House. Some hon. Members were afraid to touch this subject, because they apprehended it would lead to investigations over a large area under circumstances that would be prejudicial to the landed interests; but he wished it to be distinctly understood that be confined the question, both in principle and practice, to the metropolitan district, which he thought had no necessary connection with other parts of the country. In no other locality would they find such extensive interests as he had described contained within the limits of 150 square miles, embracing 186 parishes. Many circumstances relating to the management of the poor in the metro polls were very different from those which existed in the provincial districts. The inhabitants of an ordinary parish in the country were generally congregated round the church, and separated by a broad belt of land from those of another parish, whereas in the metropolis there was no line of demarcation between one parish and another, and scarcely any one would know the parish in which he lived, were it not for the visits of the collectors of rates. It was true they knew in a general way that there was a parish of St. George's-in-the-East and a St. George's-in-the-West, but one side of a street was in one parish, and the other side in another; houses were built on the very margins, and the whole town was blended, as it were, into one community. Nor was the position of the metropolis less exceptional if regarded from another point of view. If they took any one branch of industry, they would find those connected with it spread over the whole metropolitan area. While the home of the sailor and the dock labourer was in St. George-in-the-East, the office of the shipowner was in the city, and the merchant resided with all his wealth in St. George-in-the-West. So it was with other branches of industry. The silk and velvet produced by the weaver of Spitalfields was worn by the high-born lady of Belgravia or Mayfair, and the shop-keeper who bought from the one and sold to the other carried on his business in Regent Street or Bond Street. The needlework which found its best market in the centres of rank and fashion proceeded from the hands of the sempstresses of Lambeth and Chelsea. Take, again, the case of domestic servants. The domestic servants who required parochial relief did not walk direct from Grosvenor Square to the workhouse, but removed to some remote district, where they became impoverished, and thus ultimately fell upon the rates of a parish far from the place where they had been employed. There was yet another class which was frequently burdensome to the rates, and which was still less agreeable to refer to. He meant the class of illegitimate children. Women in the lower ranks of life sought to hide their shame in the obscure portions of the town—in parishes where the poor-rates were already large, and those parishes had to support them, and ultimately their illegitimate offspring. The rich congregated in particular localities, and because those localities were rich, new houses were constantly being built for the occupation of the rich; but there were other localities where poor people collected, and because they were poor, houses were built for the occupation of that class. It was in the very nature of things that great cities should be separated into quarters. There were quarters for the court and persons of rank, for wealthy merchants, for the manufacturers, and for industrious artizans. It was so in Paris and in every city which he had seen. But the interests of the employers and the employed were mixed up together, and was it fit, he asked, that by some artificial line of demarcation the rich should enjoy their wealth without contributing anything substantially to the assistance of the poor, who were taxed in their own districts for the relief of the poor around them. Legislation, he was bound to say, had tended seriously, but he hoped unintentionally, to aggravate the evil. In the earlier history of the poor laws, the poor acquired a settlement by a service of forty days. Afterwards a year's service gave a settlement, but after some time a law was passed which declared that a man should not be removable if he became chargeable in a parish having been serving in it for five years. The effect of I this alteration was that all domestic servants were remitted from the parish in which they had served to the parish in which, when ill or out of service, they were compelled to reside. A fashionable house was not made a hospital for sick servants, still less an asylum for females in a certain condition. Servants turned out of such a house, were compelled to go into the poorer parishes, and when their small surplus earnings were spent, they became chargeable there and not in the parishes where they had served. The effect of the law was manifested in an extraordinary manner in St. George's, Hanover Square, where, soon after it had passed, the poor rates fell from 2s. 6d. in the pound to 1s. 4d., and ultimately to 5d. There appeared to be great injustice in the operation of the law, and a rigid inquiry therefore became necessary. If he turned to the effects of the state of things he had described on the rating, the anomalies were still more striking. He begged to draw the attention of the House to a comparison between the London Docks and the St. Katherine Docks. Both these companies were great employers of labour; but it so happened that St. Katherine's Dock constituted a parish in itself, while the London Docks formed part of a large parish, in which resided nearly the whole of the labourers employed in the St. Katherine's Docks, The consequence was, that the London Docks contributed very largo sums to the relief of the poor, and the St. Katherine's Docks contributed scarcely anything. He found by the returns that the payments by the London Docks was £19,000 a year for poor rates, and the payment by the St. Katherine Docks was only £714, and this, although the two docks adjoined each other, separated only by a party wall. [An Hon. MEMBER: What is the amount of rating?] He (Mr. Ayrton) could not answer that, for the St. Katherine's Docks rated themselves. The Royal Exchange was one of the most valuable properties in the City; there the merchants congregated to transact their business—connected, for the most part, with the shipping and other industrial interests, and the employers of persons living in the poorer parts of the metropolis. The annual value of the Royal Exchange must be immense, and yet it paid only £70 a year fur poor rates; while the Apothecaries' Hall paid £230 a year. He would take another illustration. The twenty houses on the cast side of Bridge Street, Blackfriars, paid £1,200 a year for poor rates, while Lombard Street, King William Street, and Gracechurch Street, paid only £615 a year. These illustrations were sufficient evidence of the absurdity of the present local rating, it so happening in many cases that a small area, forming in itself a parish, was occupied by banks, insurance offices, and places of that description, without any resident poor, who were obliged to reside in poorer and heavily burdened localities. Thus the employers of labour almost wholly escaped taxation, and industry was left to support its poor. Such extravagant absurdities in the application of the laws demanded the immediate attention of the Government and of the House. He found fourteen rich parishes rated at £172,000 which paid £6,950 for poor rates, while fourteen poor parishes rated at £62,000 paid no less than £11,350 for poor rates. That was an extravagant extent of inequality. The relations of increase and decrease in the rates were no less striking. In many wealthy parishes the poor rates were decreasing, while in the less rich parishes they were increasing, the reason being that particular streets and districts were devoted to particular occupations. Banking-houses and insurance offices attracted similar establishments into their neighbourhood, and these offices took the place of the houses in which the poor had formerly dwelt. These poor persons were thus driven into the poorer localities, and had to be provided for there, to the increase of the poor rates. The rates of some parishes had increased on an average of only 2d. in the pound, while the less wealthy had increased as much as 1s.d. in the pound. He would not trouble the House with all the details that he held in his hand. He did not ask the House to come to a Resolution on the subject, but only to investigate the facts, and to inquire whether, if they were true, they were to be ascribed to causes such as be had suggested. The political effect of the system was, that in those localities where industrious persons resided who were entitled to the franchise from renting a house of £10 a year value, the payment of a rate of 5s. or 6s. in the pound had virtually the effect of increasing the qualification to £12 or £13. If they looked to these heavy poor rates as a charge upon income, what an enormous addition a payment of £3 or £4 a year upon an income of £50 became; while in the wealthy parishes this charge did not amount to more than £5 or £6 on an income of £500 a year. If this were a question of money alone it would be entitled to the gravest attention, for there was no injury more keenly felt by Englishmen than an unjust pecuniary demand upon them. But he had been told by clergymen that the social effect upon the ratepayers in those localities where the rates were so high was of the most pernicious character. When they asked for benevolences for religious purposes the clergymen were presented with the poor-rate bills, and were told that nothing could be given with rates at 5s. or 6s. in the pound, and that they must go to the fashionable parishes at the West End, where people paid only 5d. or 6d. in the pound. Thus the clergy could get neither sympathy nor support for their religious and social institutions, because the ratepayers were subjected to such gross and crying injustice. They were told that the rich, who lived in the lightly taxed parishes, were the patrons of hospitals and charities, and that this or that Peer took the chair at a charitable dinner and gave five or ten guineas to the funds; but casual donations by the wealthy could never be accepted as an equivalent for the injustice of the present system of rating. The total amount of such donations did not perhaps reach a halfpenny in the pound upon the parishes inhabited by the individuals in question, when the lowest measure of justice would exact a payment of 6d. or 9d. in the pound. These were contributions which the law intended to levy, and which these wealthy persons only escaped by its abuses or defects. The intention of the Act of Elizabeth was that the rich should be chargeable for the relief of the poor—not that land and house property should be alone chargeable, but that the inhabitants of the houses and the occupiers of land should be chargeable. The intention of the Act was that the inhabitants should pay as in the nature of a property and income tax for the relief of the poor. At first the poor rate was levied on property of every form: but by the ingenuity of lawyers the construction of the law had been gradually narrowed. If a man trading in a house was to be rated for that house, why should not the hidden property of the wealthy—their money in the funds—be rated? He entirely subscribed to the sentiments contained in the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords in July, 1850. That Committee stated that the relief of the poor was a national object towards which every description of property ought justly to contribute, and that a great injustice was done to the proprietors of land when they alone were compelled to pay according to their property and other ratepayers according to the rental of their houses. A remedy for this defect had been often considered, and when the poor law first came under review that subject engaged much attention. A permissive clause was inserted in the original New Poor Law Act enacting that the area of rating and of poor law management should be extended if the inhabitants of adjoining districts consented. No such consent had been given because people could not be brought to coincide with regard to their relative interests. Though Parliament had not attempted to legislate for the whole country, it had dealt with peculiar and special cases. For a long series of years special Acts were passed from time to time to regulate the rating of particular cities in the kingdom; and the result had been, not so great as might have been expected, but enough to show that he was not now asking the House for the first time to attempt anything novel in regard to the rating of the metropolis. He held in his hand a Report on the law of settlement and removal, and there be found it stated that the saving which would have been realized if the whole of England and Wales had been divided into unions for the purposes of rateing, would in the last century have been equivalent to one quarter of the national debt, while the amount of demoralization which it would have prevented would have been incalculable. Attempts were afterwards made to deal with this exceeding difficult question, previous legislation and the Report to which he had just alluded having failed to bring about any practical results. In 1847 a Committee sat to investigate the whole question, and the result was embodied in a Resolution to the effect that the narrowness of the area of chargeability was one great source of the general evils of administration, that residence of persons likely to become chargeable was prevented within the area, and that it was desirable to extend the area of rating to the relief of the poor. That was a further proof that he (Mr. Ayrton) was asking the House to investigate this question with a view to legislation on principles which had received the sanction of men of great eminence in connexion with the Poor Law. After the Report of the Committee of 1847 the subject appeared to have engaged the serious attention of the Poor Law Board, and the late Mr. Charles Buller introduced a Bill to the House which proceeded on the footing that he (Mr. Ayrton) had already explained. Mr. Buller did not attempt to deal with the whole question, but he put into the Bill a schedule of certain towns and cities in the kingdom, in which all the parishes were to be united into areas of rating. It was satisfactory to him (Mr. Ayrton) to know that he was now following precisely in the track marked out by that distinguished man on that occasion, and sanctioned by the Poor Law Board of that day. In 1854—he passed over some intermediate transactions—the then President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Baines) brought forward another measure with the view to mitigate the evil. That Bill proposed that there should be relief in unions, and that the contributions from parishes which were underrated towards that relief should be gradually increased by 10 per cent until the charge for the poor was uniform throughout the area. He (Mr. Ayrton) had been informed that the Bill in that respect was received with great satisfaction by all those who were familiar with the subject, but because it contained provisions respecting the compulsory removal of the poor it failed to conciliate the support of hon. Members connected with Ireland and Scotland, and was therefore abandoned. He would appeal, however, to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) whether it was not the fact that in so far as it proposed to extend the area of charge it was received with satisfaction by the House. Undoubtedly, up to this time there had been great difficulty in dealing with this question, because it was only in the last Session of Parliament, after years of legislation, that a measure was passed by which extra-parochial places were brought within the jurisdiction of the Poor Law Board. Though this measure applied to the Temple, he might remark that that district was still exempt from maintaining the numerous servants employed there who lived in the adjoining parishes. The question now was, whether some remedy ought not to be applied to the grievous system of injustice to which he bad adverted. It appeared to him that there would be no great difficulty in providing a remedy if there was a disposition on the part of the Government seriously to take into consideration this great and crying evil; and he ventured to say that the Government might have employed themselves to greater advantage in dealing with a question of this kind than by framing half the measures they had brought forward during the present Session, not even excepting the Bill which was to admit a wealthy Jew to a seat in that House. The House would do well to devote itself in preference to the consideration of useful measures of legislation and not to ad captandum subjects for the purposes of merely giving effect to public opinion on questions of an abstract kind. The framers of the original Poor Law Act of Elizabeth foresaw the evils which would arise from parochial rating, for that statute contained a recognition of the very principle for which he was contending, as it embodied a provision that where the people of any parish were not able to maintain the poor within it, the Justices should be empowered to call in aid other parishes within the hundred, and if the hundred were unable to maintain its own poor recourse was then to be had to the county at large. Owing to the use of the words "of ability" the provision had been found in practice impossible to be carried out, and he believed there was only one city in the kingdom (Worcester) where that principle of the old Act was carried into practical operation at the present day. He (Mr. Ayrton) therefore contended that we had already in the statute hook the germ of that kind of legislation which he was now anxious to extend. Why should not the statute of Elizabeth be extended so as to meet the circumstances under which we live, and which had been in some measure foreseen, but not sufficiently provided for, when that Act was passed? This subject, as far as the metropolis was concerned, had already engaged the special attention of Parliament, though certainly not at a very recent period; and an attempt had been made to find a remedy for the evil. In the reign of Charles II., when the Poor Law received great consideration, a statute was passed creating three great corporations for managing the relief of the poor of London—one for the city, another for the outlying districts on this side of the Thames, and the third for the districts on the further side of the river. There was no distinct provision for extending the area of rating. The Act was imperfect; and looking to the times in which it was adopted they could not be surprised that it was not wisely applied or that it had led to no satisfactory result. Therefore the House should deal with this question of the metropolis for the metropolis alone, disencumbered from any general considerations as to the administration of the Poor Law throughout the country. What might be a wise provision for a metropolis so peculiarly circumstanced might be wholly inapplicable to any other part of the kingdom. On that ground he wished that there should be a narrow and special inquiry, and he thought it would be admitted that, even with this limitation, the magnitude of the interests involved was sufficient to engage the attention of a Committee. He appealed, therefore, to the House to say whether he had not stated enough of anomaly and absurdity to demand the careful consideration of hon. Members; and he should feel it his duty to take the deliberate opinion of the House on this most important subject. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for a Select Committee "to inquire into the causes of the inequality of the poor rates in the Metropolitan District, and whether, any measure should be adopted to render the rates more equal."


, in seconding the Motion, said, that he thanked the hon. Member for having brought the subject under the attention of Parliament, it being one which demanded the most serious consideration, as it affected many thousands of Her Majesty's subject. He (Mr. Townsend) had ample personal experience of the serious evils which attached to the present state of the poor law, more particularly in districts very nearly bordering on the metropolitan, and his constituents were deeply interested in this question. The very best sites at Deptford, Greenwich, and Woolwich were occupied by the Government dockyard, victuallingyard, and arsenal, establishments which, while they monopolized nearly the whole of the valuable river frontage of those three towns, to the exclusion of merchant shipping, did not contribute one farthing towards the poor rates of the parishes in which they were situated. Moreover, vast numbers of the workmen who bad been employed in those establishments during the war were suddenly discharged on the return of peace, and became a burden, together with their wives and families, upon the unfortunate ratepayers. For a series of years past the poor rates of the parish of St. Nicholas's, Deptford, had averaged 10s. in the pound per annum, the amount already levied for the current year being 5s. 3d. The Government from time to time made additional purchases of land in the parish of St. Nicholas, and if this system went on the rates borne by the property left chargeable, instead of stopping at 10s. in the pound, would swell to 200 and 300 per cent on its value, the effect of which must be to shut up hundreds of houses. That parish was chiefly inhabited by small shopkeepers and artisans, and the rates could only be recovered in five cases out of ten by issuing distress warrants and selling' up the poor ratepayers. The evil caused by such a state of things was a crying one, and was aggravated from the circumstance that other parishes paid little or no rates at all. From what he had read and heard of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and what he had seen of him since he had the honour of having a seat in the House, he believed that he would apply a remedy to this state of things.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the causes of the inequality of the Poor Rates in the Metropolitan District, and whether any measures should be adopted to render the rates more equal.


said, that before he adverted to the subject which the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets had brought under the notice of the House, he must take a preliminary objection to the appointment of a Select Committee on so important a question in the present Session, A similar objection had, indeed, been urged that evening to a previous Motion for a Select Committee; and, although—as the hon. and learned Member had put it with great force—this was a subject attended with many anomalies which might well deserve investigation, yet it should be remembered that the House was not capable of discharging an unlimited amount of business. Having only a limited amount of time and a limited number of Members at its command, it could get through only a certain quantity of work, and could conduct only a certain number of inquiries. They had now arrived at the 16th of June, and probably before two months had elapsed, this Session would either have actually come to, or be approaching its termination. At the present moment there were eighteen Committees on private Bills, on which ninety hon. Members sat; twelve Select Committees on public questions absorbed 160 more Members; while, in addition to these, sixty-four more were engaged on various standing Committees, giving a total of 340 Members on Committees. In fact, it might fairly be reckoned, that on the whole, 250 Members were, more or less, actively occupied upon Committees now sitting. Besides this, there were forty-six election petitions, something like thirty of which would probably be proceeded with, and the Committees to be appointed to try them would require 150 more Members, who would have to sit daily from eleven o'clock till four. [Mr. MALINS: Not all at the same time.] Certainly not; but if the hon. and learned Gentleman had as much experience of Election Committees as be (Mr. Bouverie) had, he would know that hon. Members who had been engaged in such labours for several weeks consecutively were not likely to give a close attention to other inquiries. This, therefore, raised the total number of Members already required for Committees of all kinds to 400. Were they prepared, then, on the 16th of June, to add to the number of their Select Committees? But if this inquiry were granted, was there any reasonable prospect that so important and extensive an investigation could be brought to a satisfactory conclusion during the present Session? It was no easy matter at the end of a Session to secure a good attendance of the Members of a Committee, even on the most interesting subjects, for it should be remembered that their attendance was not compulsory. The consequence was, that the few Members who did attend, finding that a quorum could not be formed, determined that no satisfactory result could be arrived at during the then Session. He undertook to say, that that would probably be the result of the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets; but he admitted that such an objection as that was a merely temporary one, and did not at all touch the merits of the question, which was, undoubtedly, one of a most important character. In fact, the hon. and learned Member himself had not fully stated the importance and extent of the subject under discussion, nor did he appear to him (Mr. Bouverie) to grapple with its difficulties. He had no doubt mentioned a few of the anomalies of the parochial system, but by a most wonderful effort he jumped from a statement of them to the conclusion that there ought to be something like one great union in the metropolis for the purposes of poor law administration. He (Mr. Bouverie) could not see any connection between the hon. and learned Gentleman's statements, and the conclusions at which he wished the House to arrive. The hon. and learned Gentleman had entirely failed to establish the proposition with which he set out—namely, that the metropolis was a special case, and was distinguished from the rest of the kingdom. He (Mr. Bouverie) joined issue with the hon. Gentleman, especially on that point. The metropolitan district was divided for poor-law purposes into thirty-eight different districts, some of them consisting of parishes and some of unions, each managing separately its own poor. Of these thirty-eight districts twenty-seven were in Middlesex, two in Kent, and nine in Surrey. Of the twenty-seven in Middlesex, ten only were unions of various extent, and comprising various numbers of parishes, but all the remaining seventeen were single parishes, managing their own poor, and many of them having a large property, an immense population, and a large and powerful administration for the relief of the poor. Most of the ten unions in Middlesex to which he had adverted, consisted of a very small number of parishes—two of only two parishes, two of three parishes, one of five, one of four, one of six, one of seven, one of nine, while one—the City of London Union, which he admitted was an anomaly—consisted of no less than ninety-eight parishes, some of whom were excessively small. Of the two separate administrations in Kent, one consisted of four parishes, and the other of seven. Of the nine in Surrey, one consisted of only two parishes, one of three, one of six, and the remaining six were all single parishes, and each administered its own affairs. The total population comprised within the districts which were subject to these separate poor-law jurisdictions was 2,500,000, and the average daily number of paupers to whom they had to administer relief was 105,000. The estimate of the expenditure for that relief during the year ending Lady-day, 1856, was £875,000, and the net rateable value of the property which contributed to the relief of that army of paupers was £10,900,000. The proportions which the metropolitan district bore to the whole of the country were as follows:—Its population was about an eighth of the whole population of England and Wales, its pauperism one-twelfth, its property about one-tenth, and its expenditure on account of the poor about one-seventh of the entire pauperism, property, and Poor Law expenditure of the country. These figures alone would show to the House the difficulty and importance of the subject they were asked to deal with. The truth was that London was a vast province covered with houses. It was not a great town in the sense of Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, or Norwich, but a province, to a great extent, the extremities of which had no connection with each other. In the Metropolitan District were comprised the parishes of Chelsea, Hammersmith, and Fulham on the one side, which had no more connection with the Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, and Deptford, on the other side, than Bath with Bristol, or Liverpool with Manchester. The grievance of which the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets complained was that these parishes and unions were rated unequally. He (Mr. Ayrton) assumed the proposition that the poor rate, like all taxes, ought to be equally imposed, and that everybody ought to bear it in proportion to his means. It did not require a Select Committee to ascertain whether there was any inequality in the present system. He (Mr. Bouverie) admitted that there was considerable inequality. In fact every one well knew that such was the case. Many of these parishes were small and had scarcely any poor, and there was the greatest possible variation in the amount of the value of the property in the different parishes. The moment that a local administration existed there must be inequality in the amount of the rating, unless they could secure that the various districts, having separate administration of the poor rates, should have the same number of paupers, the same cost of maintenance in each and the same amount of property in each. He wished to point out that the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets had not suggested any change which would effect an improvement on the present system of administering the laws for the relief of the poor with reference to the levying of rates. He had not shown that any change with respect to the area of taxation would improve the condition of the poor, or introduce a better system of administering relief to the sick, the infirm, the aged, the disabled, or the lunatic. He had not touched those subjects which were material in a discussion of this nature. All that he had referred to was an adjustment of the burden, he had, no doubt, shown the inequality of rating in the various parishes, but the House should bear in mind that it was, in fact, the owners and not the tenants of the houses so rated who practically and in the long run paid the rates for the relief of the poor. All those houses were rented subject to the burden of which the hon. Member complained. Everybody knew that there was a great difference in the rating of two districts in the west of London—namely, Chelsea and St. George's, Hanover Square, the rating in the former being Is. 10¾d., and in the latter 6¾d., a difference of nearly three-fourths. It was very well known that a house within a few yards of one of the same quality in the adjoining parish would let for a different rent according to the difference in the rates upon the two houses, but that the rent and the rates added together made the same amount, the owner of the one dwelling receiving a lower rent because the rates in that parish, were higher. This showed that, in fact, the rates came out of the pocket of the proprietor, and were not paid by the occupier; and if this were so, as he thought had been fully acknowledged during the discussions which took place in this House some years ago on the subject of local rating, then the proposal to readjust the burden of the poor rates was simply a proposal to shift the charges upon property from one district of the town to another. Now, though there might be good public reasons for making that readjustment, he contended that the mere fact of there being an inequality furnished no reason fur making it, inasmuch as property had no doubt been purchased and inherited subject to this burden. But what he particularly wanted to call the attention of the House to was that there existed no specialty whatever, as the hon. and learned Member contended, in the case of the metropolis as compared with the other parts of the country. Public feeling on this subject, the existence of which he (Mr. Bouverie) did not deny, had, he believed, arisen in consequence of the recent increase of poor rates throughout the Metropolis. But there had been a like increase of rates in the west as in the east end of the town; it was a, mistake to suppose that that increase had been confined to the latter. Taking at a venture four western parishes and contrasting them with four in the east of London, it was shown most conclusively that during the last few years the increase in the amount expended for the relief of the poor was as great in the one case as in the other. Thus, in Kensington, the poor rates had increased from £9,930 in 1853 to £16,523 in 1856; in Chelsea, during the same period, from £16,093 to £19,831; in St. George's, Hanover Square, from £14,097 to £21,315; in St. James's, Westminster, from £15,929 to £18,020. On the other hand, in St. George's-in-the-East, the poor rates had increased from £19,145 in 1853 to £25,691 in 1856; in Limehouse, from £5,703 to £7,781; in Shadwell, from £3,421 to £5,058; and in Wapping, from £1,083 to £2,430. These figures proved that there was no specialty as between the east and west. He could show, also, that in almost all the large towns in England and Wales there had been the same increase. In a list of fifteen towns which he held in his hand, including Birmingham, Bolton, and other places, there had been within the last four or five years, with only one exception, which could be easily accounted for, a great increase in the poor rates, equal and quite analogous to that which had taken place in the metropolis. These facts proved that the causes which had operated to increase the rates had been national causes—including the rise in prices, the increase of population, the diminution of employment, and all those things which tended generally to create paupers. Then, again, there was nothing like the inequality of rating in the metropolis which existed in other districts. In the city of London, where great inequalities certainly existed, the highest rating in any one parish was 5s.d. Now, he had in his hand a list of twenty country parishes, most heavily rated for the relief of the poor, the lowest rating in which list was 5s. 10d., and the rates went on up to 5s. 11d., 6s. 2d., 6s. 5d., 7s. 2d., 7s. 7d., 8s. 4d, and in one unfortunate parish in the county with which he was connected, namely, Hendon in Wilts, they amounted to 9s. 10¾d., in the pound. Then, again, taking the case of unions, the highest rated of all the metropolitan unions was Bethnal-green, which was a single parish conducting its own affairs independently, and. was rated at 3s.d. in the pound. St. George's-in-the-East was rated at 3s. 2d., and the rate in the Eastern parishes varied from 3s. to 2s., and some were even lower than that. What did they find, however, in country unions and towns? At Plymouth the rates for the year ending Lady-day, 1852, were 3s.d. per head of the population, while in Exeter they were 1s.d. The return from which he was reading did not give the rate per pound, but the rate per head of population. At Melksham, in Wiltshire, the rates were 3s.d. per head, while at Chippenham they were 1s.d.; at Bury St. Edmund's they were 2s. 6d. per head, while at Sanford, also in Suffolk, they were 11½d; at Petworth, in Sussex, they were 3s. 11¾d.; while at Brighton they were 1s. 4d. At Anglesea they were 3s. 7d., while in a neighbouring parish they were only 1s. 2d.; and there were a number of other instances of unions, situated in the same counties, showing greater differences even than these. What he wished should be seen, therefore, was, that as regarded both the increase and inequality of rates, no distinction was to be drawn between the metropolis and other districts, and that the measure proposed for the metropolis must, if they were to act upon any general principle, also be applied to the rest of the country. From the Returns, which were accessible to every one, it appeared that there was always a fluctuation in the amount of poor rates, that there was a sort of cycle, a series of years of high rates followed by years of low rates, and, as far as he could make out, the maximum had now been attained, and there was a tendency to decline both in the amount of pauperism and in the charge upon the poor rates. From a Return recently laid on the table, it appeared that there had been a diminution in the expenditure for in-door and out-door relief of £118,770 during the half-year ending Lady-day, 1857, as compared with the like half-year in 1856, and during the same period there had been a decrease in the number of out-door poor to the amount of 131,015. He should also state, with reference to the question of burdens upon property, this very material fact, that, in spite of the increased charge upon what were called the poorest parishes, the value of property in them had gone on constantly improving, and the valuation for the poor rate and the assessment for the income tax showed a constant increase even in the parishes most affected. The truth was, that in the west-end of London one great reason of the lightness of the poor rate was the immense addition that was being made to the number of houses, so that, although the aggregate amount raised at the west-end had gone on augmenting, the rate in the pound had not increased, owing to the additions continually made to the class of property chargeable with the rate. He had explained to the House that the metropolis stood exactly in the same position with reference to this question as the rest of the country, and that if they dealt with the metropolis they must be prepared to deal also with other portions of the country. But the hon. and learned Gentleman had hinted at no remedy; he had shown the evil, he had pointed out the anomalies, but he had not suggested the iota of a remedy. When persons complained of an existing system, they should always be prepared to propose a substitute. It was very easy to make out a case against any tax, and almost against any law, but, as practical and sensible men, they must consider what it was proposed to substitute as a remedy for the existing evil, and what objections there would be to the substitute. Now, what were the possible substitutes for that system to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had called the attention of the House? The first was union rating. The hon. and learned Member claimed the support of the late lamented Mr. C. Buller to his views; but Mr. Buller's notion only went to the length of union rating and no further. Mr. Baines's proposal of 1854, also, was only a proposition for union rating; but that was a system which would afford no remedy for the grievances which were urged in the metropolis; for how by any possibility could the wealth of the west be brought to contribute to the poverty of the east by any plan of union rating? It was true, that for the City of London a union rating might be of great advantage to the poor parishes, and he should be glad to see it adopted for the City of London; but that would be a distinct measure for that portion of the metropolis alone, and would not touch the general question. What was the next substitute? Would throwing the metropolis into large districts be of any avail? He believed not, for they would still meet with this difficulty—that in the east, where the poor were accumulated, the property was of small comparative value compared with the number of poor, while in the west the property was of high value and the poor were few; so that no possible allocation of districts that they could adopt would effect the desired object. It would be impossible to get anything like an equality of rating in that way, and therefore the grievance would be practically untouched. What was the next remedy? Would a common purse—a common fund—for the whole of the metropolis answer the purpose? Was it proposed for the whole of this great metropolis, for this province, with its 2,500,000 inhabitants, and its £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 of rateable property, to have one common purse, to be dipped into by every one of the existing local administrations? To such a proposition he apprehended the House never would consent, for no more certain plan could be devised for the utter demolition of the entire property of the metropolis. If all these substitutes failed, then they were reduced to the adoption of one great Poor Law administration for the metropolis. Now, he asked the House fairly to work out the results involved in such a proposition. How were they to get a proper Board of unpaid Guardians to administer the law for a population of 2,500,000 souls—a population larger than that of any county in the kingdom? What imaginary number of unpaid guardians would undertake the responsibility of conducting that administration, and what amount of time and attention would be sufficient on the part of any conceivable body to carry on the affairs of such a vast concern? Well, if that would not do, were they prepared to have one great paid administration for the relief of the poor in the metropolis, such as they had in Paris? Was the metropolis to give up the management of its parochial affairs, and to throw the whole into the hands of a great paid centralized body? Then, it appeared to him that there was no other alternative—no possible conceivable remedy to the extent that was desired for the evil that existed. The claim for an equalization of rates in the different parishes of the metropolis was based on the present inequality, and it was said that, if the rate was equalized, a general rate of 1s.d. over the entire metropolis would be sufficient for the purposes of poor relief. But, suppose that we had the metropolis under one system of administration, with a rate of 1s. 7d. in the pound, what should we say to those other largo towns, that were rated much higher than that?—to Liverpool, for example, rated in 1856 at 1s. 10¾d. in the pound; Manchester at 2s.d., Birmingham at 2s.d., Norwich at 4s. 10¾.d, and Bristol at 2s. 9d. Exactly the same cry which had been raised for justice by certain districts of the metropolis would be raised with unanswerable force by the heavier rated districts in the country, if the rate in the metropolis were reduced to an uniform 1s.d. He did not know what the House might be prepared to say on the subject, but he spoke his own sentiments, as well as those of the Government and of persons who had closely investigated this question, when he stated his belief that a national rate would never be maintained for any length of time as a provision for the poor of this country. In recent times we had had two little specimens of something like a national rate; we had a short experience in Ireland during the famine, ten years ago, which had proved anything but satisfactory, and there was also a brief experience in Paris, in 1848, at the time of the ateliers nationaux, which was even more discouraging in its results than the experience in Ireland. He had endeavoured to point out as clearly as he could what would be the tremendous and almost insuperable difficulties in the way of affording satisfaction to those who were anxious for an equalization of rate in the metropolis. Union rating might seem a minor matter, and he had before, and did now, express his general approval of that proposition; but the experience of his predecessor in office was not such as to encourage him (Mr. Bouverie) to entertain any confidence that a proposal for union rating could be carried through the House. The preliminary difficulties respecting the removal of Irish and Scotch paupers which presented themselves were the cause of the shipwreck of Mr. Baines's Bill, and when he (Mr. Bouverie) attempted last year to remove those difficulties, he was met with such an opposition as drove him entirely from the field. If the attempt were made again, the same difficulties would present themselves, and the question would be again raised how they would deal with the removable poor that came from the sister kingdom. He proposed last year, in conformity with the Report of a Select Committee, to deal with the Irish and Scotch poor exactly on the same footing as the English poor, but he met with an amount of opposition which he did not doubt would be repeated again on a similar attempt being made. That was merely a necessary approach to the system of union rating, and when the difficulty was so great in dealing with a mere outwork of the system, there was very little probability of success in dealing with the system itself, unless a whole Session could be devoted to the subject. For the reasons he now stated, he should certainly propose to the House to negative the Motion.


said, that he had listened attentively to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, which had almost led him to the conclusion that there should be an equality of rate throughout the country. The question under the consideration of the House was one of great interest to his constituents, he should therefore support the Motion for a Select Committee, to inquire into the operation of a law which has been found to be unequal and oppressive. The great objection to the present system was, as his hon. Colleague had stated, that the poor rates fell with greater severity on the poor and densely populated districts of the metropolis than on the rich parishes, the wealthy inhabitants of which contribute very little towards the maintenance of the poor. He could not understand upon what principle the poor and hard-working inhabitants of Bethnal Green were compelled to pay at the rate of 4s. in the pound, and the inhabitants of St. George, Hanover Square, only 6¾d.; but the grievance did not end with the inequality of the rate. Let the House observe the inequality in the assessment: Bethnal Green was assessed to the property tax under schedule A at £128,927, the rateable value assessed to the poor rate being fully equal to that sum; but the figures are very different with reference to St. George's, Hanover Square. In that favoured parish the value of property assessed to the property tax was, £1,097,580, while the rateable value of property assessed to the poor was only £694,380. There were many other instances of the same nature. Shoreditch, Paddington, St. George's in the East, and St. George's, Southward, sufficiently evidence the great inequality that prevails in the rating of the metropolitan parishes. He would only trouble the House with two. The parish of St. George in the East, a very poor parish, was rated to the poor at 3s. 4d. in the pound. The parish of St. George the Martyr, also a very poor parish, was rated at 2s. 11¼d. These parishes were both densely occupied by a poor and industrial population. Then what was the amount of Poors rate levied on the wealthy inhabitants of Paddington?—7¼d. only. In making these statements, it was not his wish to complain of the wealthy classes who were always willing to assist their poorer brethren; he was sure they would not be disposed to perpetuate this anomalous state of things. It was good to be generous, but justice should take the precedence. It had ever been a recognized principle that the rich should maintain the helpless poor, that is, that the property of the rich should be taxed according to the ability of its occupier to pay; but, really under the present state of the law it was the poor, the very poor, who were adding to the abundance of the rich. What his hon. Colleague now asked for was, simply a Committee of Inquiry; he was not asking that the poor should be placed in a more favourable position than the rich; the inquiry he sought was, is it just in principle that all who reside in this great metropolis should pay alike? He trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not deny his hon. and learned Colleague's reasonable request, for he (Mr. Butler) thought that, whenever large masses of their fellow-subjects complained of a grievance, it was their duty to inquire how far their complaints were well founded. And with reference to this part of the subject, he would say in so far as his (Mr. Butler's) own constituency was concerned, it was due to the assiduous labours of the clergy (by whose efforts and sacrifices the poor had been cheered through much misery) that the House had not the matter pressed upon its attention in a more serious form. It had been alleged in general terms, that the subject was beset with difficulty, and that the guardians might use too freely for the benefit of their own parishes the joint fund. He (Mr. Butler) entertained a better opinion of the gentlemen who acted in the performance of a gratuitous public duty as guardians of the poor throughout the metropolis; but he would not regret a little more liberality in this respect, if it would lead to a better and more generous treatment of the poor. In St. George's, Hanover Square, the weekly allowance was 2s. 6d. and two loaves; while in St. George's-in-the-East it was very little over 1s. and one loaf. Surely there could be no justification of such a marked difference; but, unfortunately, the increase in the number of poor told with sad effect in the eastern parishes, the numbers being double what they were twenty years ago. In the comparatively small parish of St. George alone, the increase being from 2,014 to 5,104, and the rates from 6d. in the pound per quarter, to 1s. 3d. in the pound per quarter. Why was this? simply, because all who live in the parish are poor and receive no aid from parishes in which all who live are rich. He also wished to advert to another subject, which was very intimately connected with the question under discussion—the law of settlement and removal of the poor. He (Mr. Butler) thought that the great expenditure consequent upon the removal of the poor, and the costs of litigation between opposing parishes might, at all events, in so far as the metropolis was concerned, be materially diminished, if not abolished: the subject was one that deserved much thoughtful consideration. His hon. Colleague had adverted to the fact that there were many thousands, he (Mr. Butler) had been informed between 40,000 and 50,000 servants residing in the parish of St. George, Hanover Square. They are there maintained during service, their residence benefits the parish, but their settlements are not in St. George, Hanover Square, but in some distant and perhaps heavily burdened parish to which, after service, they return to add to its misery and increase the rates; but he would not trespass further upon the attention of the House. His constituents were deeply interested in the matter, and as well on this account, as because he felt that a strong case had been made out, he had addressed these few observations to the House. He sincerely hoped that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would consent to the appointment of a Committee.


said, that as the representative of a constituency which was much interested in this question, he wished to address a few observations to the House. In the first place, he would observe that the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board were no answer to the proposition that there should be a Committee appointed. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to him to resolve itself into two parts. The right hon. Gentleman had first raised a preliminary objection which had been urged on so many occasions and for so many purposes that he (Mr. Locke) did not think it possessed much force—namely, the difficulty and inconvenience of appointing a Committee during the present Session. He thought that plea was frequently put forward when inquiry was proposed on subjects which it was not thought convenient to investigate, for he did not find that such an objection was taken to the appointment of Committees of Inquiry with reference to questions which were interesting to hon. Gentlemen who sat upon the Treasury Benches, but which he would venture to assert were not superior in importance to that now under consideration. This question not only affected the well-being of the poor throughout the metropolis, but the general interests of the country, and he thought sufficient reasons had been shown for granting a Committee. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie) also objected to the Motion on the ground that no special case had been established; but, instead of meeting the arguments of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets with regard to the different unions and parishes throughout the metropolis, he had taken a trip down into the country unions and said, "Oh, if you accede to this proposal you must apply a similar law to the country at large. ["Hear!"] Well, if he (Mr. Locke) interpreted the cheer which followed that objection rightly, it meant that, notwithstanding the alarm with which the right hon. President of the Poor Law Board regarded such a change, if it were shown that the proposition of his hon. and learned Friend were just in the case of the metropolis, Parliament would not object on the score of expense to the general application of the principle. His hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Ayrton) did not attempt to enforce any crude notions of his own; but, in urging the equalization of poor rate throughout the metropolis, he referred to the 43 Eliz., which provided that when any particular parish was unequal to support its poor, the magistrates of the county should be enabled to call in the assistance of the hundred, and, in the event of the hundred not being able to supply the deficiency, the aid of the county at large. From the very commencement of the poor laws, a law such as was now sought to be applied to the metropolis was contemplated, and subsequent legislation had not repudiated the principle. By the 9 & 10 Vict., c. 66, s. 1, the principle had been established of making paupers irremovable after five years' residence, and in a subsequent Act the principle was recognized of widening the area of taxation, by providing that the relief of such persons should be borne by the union and not by the particular parish in which the claim to relief might, in consequence of such residence, happen to arise. Now, what was the evil which his hon. and learned Friend wished to remedy? Why, at that moment poverty was taxed for the support of poverty. In some parishes, as for instance that of Bermondsey, the inhabitants of the workhouses were better off than the persons who were compelled to contribute to their support, while in Belgravia, covered by magnificent houses, erected by the labour of these poor men from Bermondsey, the poor rates were little felt. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board had stated that there was no connection between the different parishes of the metropolis. Now, the whole object of his hon. and learned Friend's (Mr. Ayrton) speech had been to show the intimate connection between them. Had not his hon. and learned Friend cited the case of the poor milliner who supplied the clothes of the rich lady; of the poor workman who had built the houses in the wealthy districts; and of the great city merchant, who employed numbers of workmen in loading and unloading his ships. The fact was, the speech of his hon. and learned Friend had been unanswered. And when the right hon. Gentleman referred to the subject of an equalization of rates throughout the country, he could only say that that formed no part of the present question. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that if the rate were equalized throughout the metropolis it would amount to 1s.d. He believed himself that it would not exceed 1s.d., but, even if it amounted to the larger sum, would it be such a dreadful thing to the aristocratic inhabitants of Belgravia to raise their rates from 5½d. to 1s.d.? They would not feel it, and it was paying them a bad compliment to suppose that they would be unwilling to be taxed in an equal proportion with the less wealthy inhabitants of the metropolis for the support of the poorer of their fellow creatures. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to answer the statement that some parishes were heavily rated by referring to the charge on the whole of the union, and endeavoured to show that one parish which was rated at 5s. 6d., while the average rate of the whole union was 2s. 6d., had no grievance to complain of. He confessed he could not understand the force of that argument. He would state some of the benefits that would result from the equalization, of the poor rates. If the system of an equalization of rates were established, one result would be to get rid of many of the difficulties connected with the law of settlement. A great portion of the expense which was incurred in litigating appeals was incurred by contests between neighbouring parishes to avoid maintaining each other's poor. By a general assessment that expenditure would be wholly got rid of, so far as it might be incurred between parishes situated in the metropolis. Another advantage would be an immense saving in the payment of officials. The President of the Poor Law Board had asked the hon. Mover what his plan was, and had gone on himself to point out several impracticable and undesirable schemes as the only mode of effecting a change in the present system. If, however, the Government really turned its attention to this subject, he (Mr. Locke) had no doubt but a measure could be devised which would satisfy the just demands of the metropolitan parishes. One objection to a general assessment which had been urged by the President of the Poor Law Board was that it would destroy all local supervision, and that the guardians would be lavish of the public money; but judging from the results of the present system that consequence was not likely to follow. At present the Boards of Unions were composed of guardians selected from each of the parishes comprised within the union, and it was not found that they were at all lavish in dealing with the funds of each other's parishes. This opinion was confirmed by the Report of Mr. G. A'Beckett, who was employed in the year 1850, to look into the administration of the poor law. The subject was one of great importance, and he hoped the Government would assent to the appointment of a Select Committee, and he had little doubt but that a suitable plan could be framed. For instance, he might suggest a Board of Supervision, composed of one member from each board of guardians, who should examine the accounts, leaving each parish, as at present, to fix the amount that would be required for the following year, which should be checked by the supervising body. It was not, however, for him to point out any perfect plan—that was for the Select Committee

FiveYears ending Bermondsey. Bethnal Green. St.George's,Southwark. Lambeth. Poplar. Shoreditch. Fulham.
1820 13,234 8,723 13,014 35,544 10,064 17,840 13,016
1825 15,248 9,006 12,598 31,671 9,587 17,131 12,598
1830 17,751 14,381 13,546 31,973 9,606 26,041 13,546
1835 16,420 17,537 16,005 36,441 10,389 20,207 16,205
1840 12,021 10,155 10,935 21,473 7,323 17,622 10,935
1845 14,433 13,003 12,065 33,767 12,061 20,669 12,065
1850 14,545 12,638 15,157 39,707 14,224 18,567 15,157
1855 11,928 13,655 14,482 37,109 13,860 24,443 14,482
1856* 17,538 20,661 17,213 49,995 13,113 38,711 17,213
*Single year.

The value of the property in those parishes had increased between 1815 and 1856, in Bermondsey, 5 per cent; in Bethnal Green, 88 per cent; in Southwark, 62 per cent; in Lambeth, 194 per cent; in Poplar, 115 per cent; in Shoreditch, 112 per cent; and in Fulham, 131 per cent. The increase of the value of the property was far greater in each of these parishes than the increase of the poor rate. The reason that the poor rates appeared to be so low in certain parishes in the northern and western portions of the metropolis, was not because they paid less poor rates than formerly, but because a great deal of land to consider—and he hoped the Government would yield to the wishes of the metropolis, and give an opportunity for such consideration.


thought he could show by a few figures that the complaining parishes had really not so much to complain of as hon. Members seemed to think. He had gone back to 1815, and taken out the amount of poor rates paid by several of the "poor parishes," as they were called. He had then drawn a line every five years, and made an average of the annual amount paid in each quinquennial period. He found that the average of the poor rates, although it had varied, had not increased much between 1815 and 1856, while the amount of property upon which property tax was levied, and which paid the poor rates, had increased considerably. Within the last two or three years the heavy pressure of the war, high prices, and dear money, had caused a considerable increase in the rates, which, however, he was glad to hear from the President of the Poor Law Board had reached its maximum. He found the average amounts paid in the periods he had mentioned were as follows:—

which a few years since was let at agricultural prices, had now become building land, and was rated accordingly. The enormous increase of the real value of the property from which the rates were raised had thus reduced the apparent rating, while the amount paid for the support of the poor was not reduced. The poor parishes, therefore, had no more ground of complaint against the rich parishes than one man had to complain of another being richer than himself. If it could be shown that there was a rapidly increasing poor rate in the poor parishes, and if that increase could be traced to some operations going on in the other parishes, then a ground of complaint might be laid. On a comparison of the rates in the pound paid by each county in England, in the years 1815 and 1851, calculated on the annual value of real property assessed to the property tax, he found that in the county which was most highly taxed in 1815 the reduction which had taken place up to 1851 amounted to 3s. 6d. in the pound, while in the county, which was the lowest taxed, the reduction had only amounted to ¼d. Sussex, which in 1815 was taxed at 5s. 0 ½d. in the pound, in 1851 only paid 1s. 6d.; and Northumberland, which, in 1815, paid 1s. 1d. in the pound, in 1851 paid 1s. 1d. The comparison of the other counties gave the following results:—

Counties. Rate in the Pound paid for the Relief of the Poor. Reduction of Rate in the Pound
1815. 1851.
s. d. s. d. s. d.
Sussex 5 1 6 3
Kent 3 7 1 2
Bucks 3 2 1 1
Berks 3 1 1 6 1 7
Oxford 2 11¾ 1 1
Bedford 2 11¼ 1 5 1
Essex 2 11 1 7 1 4
Southampton 2 10¾ 1 1
Suffolk 2 9 1 1
Hertford 2 1 5 1
Northampton 2 1 1
Norfolk 2 7 1 1
Surrey 2 1 1 6
Wilts 2 1 8 0
Hereford 2 1 1 2
Dorset 2 2 1 7 0 7
Leicester 2 0 11½ 1
Worcester 2 1 0 11½ 1
Warwick 2 0 1
Cambridge 2 1 4 0
Durham 2 0 0 1
Huntingdon 1 11½ 1 0
Devon 1 11¼ 1 4 0
Nottingham 1 11¼ 0 11½ 0 11¾
Stafford 1 11¼ 0 1
Chester 1 10¾ 0 1
Gloucester 1 10¼ 1 4 0
Monmouth 1 10 0 11¾ 0 10¼
Middlesex 1 0 1
Salop 1 9 0 1
Cornwall 1 1 0
York 1 0 10¾ 0
Rutland 1 0 10¾ 0
Derby 1 0 6 1
Somerset 1 7 1 0
Lancaster 1 0 10¼ 0
Westmoreland 1 0 10 0
Lincoln 1 3 0 0
Cumberland 1 2 0 0
Northumberland 1 1 1 0
In short, he might state that the highest rates had been reduced most, the lowest reduced least, and thus an equalization of the rates had been going on in a most remarkable manner.


denied that this was exclusively a landlord's, and not an occupier's question, as had been asserted by the right hon. President of the Poor Law Board. He was acquainted with several of those metropolitan parishes in which the ratepayers were crushed by the weight of their rates, and he knew that in those parishes people would not build houses, fearing that the rates would prevent them obtaining tenants. In the long run the result was, that the demand for houses exceeded the supply, and thus rents rose, so that it was a question, after all, in which occupiers were very deeply interested.


said, he had presented petitions urging this subject on the attention of the House. The figures quoted by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Knight) had nothing to do with the question. They related only to the absolute rating; the question was as to relative rating. Now, the sole question was, whether there was a case made out for inquiry. He was of opinion that there could be no doubt that the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets had fully made out a case for an inquiry. Notwithstanding the refinement of the right hon. President of the Poor Law Board, people would still continue to look upon London as one great town, and few would be able to reconcile themselves to the anomaly of residents in one parish paying 3s. 8d. in the pound, while their neighbours in the adjoining parish only paid 6d. In 1854 he heard with great interest the then President of the Poor Law Board bring forward a formal proposition to enlarge the area of rating, and he never heard a case made out more satisfactorily. Was the present President of the Poor Law Board opposed to an enlarged area of rating? What was the present proposition but one to carry out an enlarged area of rating, affecting as it did the most important district in England? The right hon. Gentleman said that this was entirely a landlords' question, but, on the contrary, he maintained that it was a ratepayers' question. In the metropolis we were the inhabitants of one great town, and the poor should be considered the poor of that town, and not of any one or more districts of it. There should be an enlarged area of rating, in order that there might be an equality of payment. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that if this equalization took place, the average rate would be 1s.d. in the pound. The hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets had named a much lower figure, but at all events the rate would be greatly diminished in the poorer parishes. The Government could not deny with justice that this at least was a case for inquiry, and he trusted, therefore, that they would consent to the appointment of a Committee. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulty of getting a Committee, considering the number of private and election Committees sitting; but he could see no real difficulty in the case, as not one-fourth of those appointed to the Election Committees would be sitting at the same time.


The hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) has asked the Government to consent to the appointment of a Committee on this subject, but I am prepared to say that, even if the hon. Members of this House were not fully occupied already in the labours of Committees, no sufficient ground has been shown for the inquiry that he presses the House to undertake. In the first place, what facts are there that this Committee can ascertain which are not perfectly well ascertained already by means of reports of Committees and statistical returns in possession of the House? This is not a question relating to the relief of the poor. Nobody maintains that the pauper has any interest in the result of the inquiry now proposed. This is a ratepayers' question. It is a question as to the distribution of the relief of the poor over the metropolis; and we have on the table of the House ample returns to show the manner in which that charge is now distributed, so that every hon. Member can ascertain for himself what is the poundage, not only in each union but in each parish, and can ascertain besides the amount of expenditure for the relief of the poor divided under its different heads. Therefore, with the knowledge which we possess of the metropolis, and with the materials we have at our command, we are able to form an accurate judgment on the question. What could a Committee ascertain beyond these facts? They may ask what are the occupations of persons in a particular parish. They may ask whether the ratepayers of a particular, parish belong to a certain class, and whether or not the ratepayers in another parish belong to a different class; but beyond that the inquiries of a Committee will throw no more light on the matter, and, therefore, I repeat, that without delegating their consciences to the opinions of a Committee, the hon. Members of this House are perfectly able to arrive at a sound conclusion upon this question. That is any first reason for objecting to the appointment of a Committee. But I object to it also on the ground taken by the President of the Poor Law Board. Unless the House is prepared to consent to the principle of a national rate, unless they are prepared to say, we will throw the whole expenditure for the relief of the poor into hotch-pot; unless they are prepared to say, we will levy the whole rate of this kingdom on the principle of an income tax, and we will destroy the whole local administration, as well as the whole local rating, and vest it in the Government alone; unless they are prepared to go that length, or, at any rate, to entertain that principle, then I say they are not justified in appointing a Committee for the purpose proposed by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets. I ask that hon. and learned Member to look, not at the amount of the relief of the poor—because that is not the question with regard to the metropolis—but to look at the poundage rate in each parish, for it is on that the question must be tried. It is the percentage charge on rentals, or the profits of property liable to the rate that we have to consider; and I deliberately maintain it cannot be shown that any great inequality exists between the different parishes of the metropolis. If we take any county in the kingdom we shall find as much inequality between the different parishes as there is between the different parishes of the metropolis; nay, if we go beyond that, and compare the counties of the south of England with the counties of the north, we shall find a much more striking difference between those different parts of the country than between the different parishes of the metropolis. I will take the union of Whitechapel, so much referred to by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, the union which contains the London Docks and the St. Katherine Docks. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated the sums paid for the relief of the poor by the two Dock Companies, but he did not state—and it is a material question—what is the assessment of the two, what is the value of the two establishments. Every Gentleman knows that these two docks are of great value. I do not know what is the value of the London Docks, but they embrace an enormous mass of buildings, considerably larger than the St. Katherine Docks, and unless the hon. and learned Member can tell us what is the percentage on the buildings he gives us no material information to guide us. I have the rate-book of the Whitechapel Union, including the county and the police rate, and therefore to give these will strengthen the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman, as these are in addition to the poor rate. There are seven or eight parishes in the union, and the average given for all the parishes is 2s. 3d. in the pound. The first is 3s. 11d., the second is alow-rated parish, being only 9d.; the third, 2s. 11d.; the fourth, 2s. 2d.; the fifth, 2s. 9d.; the sixth, 1s. 1d.; the seventh, 2s. 1d.; and the eighth, 2s. 6d. If any one will take the parishes of a country union he will find among them inequalities quite equal to those. Looking at the rates for the different London parishes, I am prepared to maintain that there is between them no inequality which cannot be paralleled by the country unions, and therefore, if we lay it down as a principle that the inequality which exists in the metropolis justifies an equalization of poor rates we must be prepared to extend that principle to the rest of the country. Much has been said as to what would be the average charge upon all parishes if this equalization was carried into effect. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) placed it at 1s. 7d. in the pound; the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets at about 1s. 1d. How is that average obtained? By taking the present amount of the charge for the poor, and distributing it among the different parishes. That assumes that the charge for the poor is a fixed and permanent charge, like that for the army and navy. Let me remark, however, that there is nothing which is more uncertain, more fluctuating, or more liable to be increased by maladministration than the charge for the relief of the poor; and if by removing the check of local management, if by centralizing the administration in the hands of the Government—because to that you must inevitably come—if by instituting a system like that of the public works in Ireland, or the national workshops in Paris, you increase the charge for the poor; if these 107,000 paupers of whom my right hon. Friend spoke are converted into 200,000 or 300,000—a change which might very rapidly be made under a vicious system of relief, instead of an average charge of 1s. 7d., you will have an average charge of 3s. 4d. in the pound, and the lowest taxed parishes under your amended system will pay higher rates than those levied under the present system in the most heavily charged parishes. That is the consequence which the House must be prepared to face if it unhappily listens to this project for the equalization of the rates, attended by the necessary consequence of the abolition of the local and parochial check, and the substitution of central management by the Government.


fully admitted the value of local management, and was convinced the present system of management was the best for the poor. The change in the administration of the poor law since 1836 had been for the benefit of the poor; it was better administered by Boards of Guardians than by overseers. A single fallacy had prevailed throughout the whole of this debate. The real truth of the matter was that this was a complaint of relative injustice between the parishes. The increase and decrease in the rates were owing to the alteration of the law made in 1834. Before that year the charge for the poor depended mainly on the right principle that the employer of labour should pay the cost of maintaining that labour in the event of its falling sick or into distress. That principle of the law of settlement threw the support of the labour on the parish where it had been employed; but a change was made in that system, by substituting a settlement by residence, instead of a settlement by labour, and herein lay the fallacy to which he had referred. The reason why the rate of St. Georges's, Hanover Square, had fallen from 1s. 6d. to 6d. in the pound was this: all the servants in St. George's who had acquired a settlement under the old law had no longer a claim under the existing system. Hence it was also, that the labourers who worked at the St. Katherine's Docks, but lived in the parish in which the London Docks were situated, became chargeable to that parish, and not to the one in which they worked. It was to this that the attention of the Government ought to be drawn, as the real remedy for the evil would be found in an alteration of the present law of settlement.


said, an unfavourable allusion had been made in the course of this debate to the city which he had the honour to represent (Norwich); but he had no hesitation in saying that the management of the poor law in that city was as perfect as in any other city in the country. The rates of Norwich had increased of late to 7s. in the pound, whereas the rates of the neighbouring parishes had fallen to 1s. or 1s. 3d. in the pound. In fact just in proportion as the rates had increased in the parishes of the city the poor in the neighbouring parishes had diminished; and he concurred with the last speaker, that the only remedy for this state of things was an entire reform of the law of settlement.


said, he intended to support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, but he should do so for reasons widely different from many which had been advanced in its favour. As one of the representatives of Middlesex, he had sought information upon this subject, and found, wherever he had sought it, in books and blue-books, the greatest mass of confusion, and perhaps quite as much of the confusion in the Report of the Committee of 1847 as anywhere else. All the authorities on this subject were against a national rate, or against any proposition for such an equalization in rating for the Metropolis as was now sought. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), who had once been President of the Poor Law Board, had opposed it on the ground that it would lead to the greatest carelessness and extravagance in the administration of the rates, and ultimately, if persisted in, to the destruction of self-government and local administration. In those sentiments he entirely agreed. But he did not on that account see any inconsistency in the present Motion. The abolition of the law of settlement, and the law for settling the charge for the irremovable poor on the different parishes of a union, had had the effect of casting the burden upon the poorer parishes, and relieving the richer parishes. He thought it was quite well worth inquiry whether that law did not operate altogether in a different manner in rural and in urban parishes, and whether something might be done to amend it. Besides, it was shown that at present large properties like the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange almost altogether escaped rating, while many small buildings in their immediate vicinity paid large sums of money. And the same was the case with regard to the Government Dockyards. There men might be collected when their labour was required, and then when it was no longer needed, they might be cast upon the neighbouring parishes, upon which the burden pressed with great severity, and by which they might be almost reduced to a state of insolvency. He thought it unfair that Government should possess this power—a power which had been used with terrible effect in the parish of St. Olave's, Deptford. It was another anomaly which might be removed. Something had been said in the course of the debate about rich, people expelling poor persons in great numbers from the parishes in which they resided, or in which their property was situated. He did not think anything of the kind could be proved, although it was, no doubt, the fact that when neighbourhoods became overcrowded, numbers of the inhabitants were obliged to go elsewhere. And this must be the case, for unless room were made they would be eaten up with fever. He thought, however, that the anomalies he had mentioned in the operation of the existing law furnished sufficient reason for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the means by which they might be removed or alleviated without recurring to anything like an equalization of the poor-rates or a centralization of their administration, and he should therefore vote for the Motion.


in reply, said it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Poor Law Board, had entirely mistaken the question. He (Mr. Ayrton) had regarded it as a case specially confined to the Metropolis. It had been said that he could find all the information necessary in the printed papers. He, however, said there was not a particle of information as to the causes of the inequality of the rates, and it was on that that he founded his Motion. It was a Motion to inquire, not into the fact of the in equality, but the causes of it. His object I being not to legislate, but to inquire, he thought it sufficient to show that there were causes which made persons chargeable in one parish, while those who made them chargeable were resident in another. He would not trouble the House with other topics, but he would make one remark as regarded the inconvenience of appointing more Committees. In a few days most of the Committees now sitting would have finished their labours, and with regard to the election Committees there would be only a few sitting at one time, consequently no difficulty would be found in selecting a sufficiently large number of hon. Gentlemen to institute an inquiry into the causes of the inequality of the poor rates in the Metropolitan District. The House ought not to be frightened by the bugbear of too many Committees, advanced by the Government. It was only the other evening that a hon. Gentleman obtained a Committee of fifteen Members to investigate a subject which could have been inquired into by a third of the number. The Government put fifteen Gentlemen upon a perfectly useless Committee, and then, when he brought a subject of real importance before the House, he was told that it could not be investigated, because so many hon. Members were engaged in other inquiries.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 81; Noes 123: Majority 42.