HC Deb 12 May 1858 vol 150 cc496-516

Order for Second Reading read.


, in rising to move the second reading of this Bill, said, that it was with much satisfaction that he could refer to the large number of petitions which had been presented in its favour as a proof of the desire which prevailed throughout the metropolis that it should pass into a law. According to the last return the number of petitions for the Bill was 39, and the number of signatures 42,000, while the total number of petitions against it was four, and the number of signatures nineteen. The principle which it embodied was that of enlarging the area of rating for the relief of the poor, a principle which had over and over again received the sanction of successive Poor Law Boards as applicable to the special circumstances of particular localities. In adopting that principle many hon. Members of that House would no doubt be taking a step calculated to interfere with their own pockets, inasmuch as they resided in those very districts of the metropolis upon which he sought to impose a fair share of the burdens incurred for the maintenance of the poor; but their support of the measure would under those circumstances but furnish a stronger proof than would otherwise be the case of the justice of the grounds upon which the measure was based, and he believed those grounds to be perfectly sound; and the more he had examined the returns upon the subject of poor rates in the metropolis for which he had moved, but which owing to the circumstance that they had been only very recently laid before Parliament he had not had time to examine as closely as he should have wished, the more he felt convinced of the necessity of obviating a state of things under the operation of which the poor in one part of the metropolis were charged upon those who were themselves poor in order that the rich in another quarter might escape their fair share of a public burden. In seeking to enlarge the area of rating he did not wish to lay down as a general principle that in every locality in England such enlargement would be necessary. It was a local question, and must ever depend upon local circumstances. He asked the House to affirm the principle of an enlarged area of rating where it was alleged to be requisite, in order that justice might be done to all classes of rate payers, the Bill might then be sent to a Select Committee upstairs to inquire whether the special circumstances affecting the parishes of the metropolis did render it necessary to take them out of the general scope and operation of the existing law of parochial rating. He wanted an inquiry into the special circumstances which made the poor of one part of the metropolis bear more than their share of the local burdens in order that the rich in other parts of the metropolis might escape with less than their due proportion. There existed in the first instance between those who lived in one part of the metropolis the relations of employer and employed, and in the second place those arising from one class of the community being compelled to reside in a district separate from another. If a man on the verge of destitution were found in the streets of the parish of St. George, Hanover-square, a policeman was ordered to drive him from a locality where it was supposed he could have no business, no residence, and no occupation; but the same man walking in the parish of St. George-in-the-East would be regarded as being in his element, and no attempt would be made by the police to remove him; should he then become chargeable as one of the casual poor, it was there the charge would fall. There were portions of London covered with large houses occupied by people showing every sign of opulence, while there were others in which lived a class of inhabitants who were struggling for the bare necessaries of life. What was the distinction between one place and the other? Was it not purely an imaginary line? Was there any reason why one should have a separate area of taxation from the other? Pursuing their researches further, it would be found, that in this area of wealth and rank were all the employers, and in that area of poverty and wretchedness were all the employed. Why had they, by an artificial law, drawn a line of demarcation, between one and the other? Did not the maintenance of the poor necessarily result from the relation of employer and employed, of masters and workman? The changes which had taken place in London within the last twenty or thirty years showed in a remarkable degree flow that line of demarcation was becoming wider and wider. Many hon. Members who then heard him, could remember the period when the find space at Charing-cross was covered with miserable tenements, all of which had of late years been swept entirely away. In many other parts of the metropolis, houses had been swept away and given place to well-built residences, large shops, and a class of houses totally different from those which had preceded them. In former times they found in all parts of the metropolis, dotted here and there, low neighbourhoods, where the poverty of the district congregated, and there was then to a certain extent a diffusion of poverty throughout the metropolis—not indeed an even distribution of it, but still it was diffused generally throughout certain areas. But what had been done in recent times? Public funds had been appropriated, and that for the comfort and convenience—there was no disguising the fact—of the wealthy classes of the metropolis. Those classes did not like to have such a mass of squalid misery near them, but desired to banish it to a greater distance; and then they talked of improving the welfare and condition of the people by sweeping away the houses. Having done that really for their own gratification, they got rid of the misery which was under their eyes and banished it to some remote district where, so far as they were concerned, it remained forgotten altogether, and where they believed it would never prove a charge to them. It was their duty, however, to follow this misery wherever it went, and to hold themselves, as far as their means of taxation were concerned, liable to contribute to its support equally with the poorer people upon whom they threw the destitution of their own neighbourhoods. Now of late a great change had taken place in the condition of most of the city parishes. The houses there were nearly all let out at high rents for offices, and the workmen and others employed in them had to find residences in remote parishes. The return which had been made showed that in sonic of the city parishes the poor rates had been constantly diminishing since 1830, as, for instance, in the case of St. Michael, Paternoster, where the rates had fallen from 1s. 6d. to 7½d., while the rateable value had only increased from £3,000 to £3,900. The cause for the decrease in the city poor rates was to be found in the fact that the working classes, who were employed in the city were compelled to seek for residences in suburban parishes, and the consequence was that in those suburban parishes the poor rate had been constantly increasing. In the parish of St. Michael, Cornhill, which comprised many banking and commercial establishments, the expenditure for the poor had fallen from £1,100 in 1835, to £880 in the last year. But even in the City of London itself there were some parishes in which it was possible for the poorer classes to find houses, and in those parishes there had been a regular increase in the poor rates. Thus, while the expenditure for the poor in St. Mildred's, Poultry, had diminished from £415 to £247. and the rates had been reduced from 2s. 9d. to 5¾d., the expenditure in St. Nicholas Olave had advanced from £250 to £437, and the rate was 5s. 7d. in the pound. The evils of the present system were felt in all parts of the metropolis. In Fulham there had been an increase in the number of removeable poor, since 1853, from 252 to 4,267, and the cost had extended from £354 to £3,277, and in St. Andrew's Holborn the rate had increased from 2s. 3d. to 4s. 7d., while in the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, the amount expended for the poor remained the same as in 1830, noth withstanding the enormously increased value of property there. Was this a state of things which the House was disposed to continue? If they were satisfied that it would stop where it now was, there Might be some ground for not entertaining the question; but the fact was that it was a growing evil, and the larger the metropolis became, the greater would the evil become. It was natural that the rich should desire to live by the side of the rich; and to compel the poor to live by the side of the poor, and unless the area of rating were enlarged, the greater would be the charge upon the poor, and the lighter would be the share of the rich in that burden which they ought to bear. Those who could best pay were gradually relieving themselves from the burden, and those who could least pay for it were gradually finding the burden increasing upon them. In truth, this question should have been considered before the law of settlement, which depended on hiring and service, was altered; for as the law formerly stood, a hiring of forty days or a year in St. George's, Hanover Square, would have given a right to relief in that parish. He therefore asked the House to read his Bill a second time with the object of inquiring into the subject, and an investigation by a Committee would show that, by the change in the law, those who were best able to contribute to the relief of the poor in the metropolis were exempted from the burden, while its principal weight was borne by those who were least able to sustain it. It might be said this was a measure that would affect property, but so did every change in the law relating to poor rates, of which there had been many. He denied that it was a question affecting property, or that the amount of poor rates was much considered in the rentals demanded for houses in the metropolis. The charge was a charge upon the tenant, and in fact poor rates were paid out of income, and it could not be expected that a man with £50 or £60 per year would consider it just that he should be called upon to pay as much out of his income for the support of the poor as another man who had an income of £600 per annum. The present state of things produced great discontent, and, notwithstanding all the sophistries of the poor rates being a charge upon property, those who were called on to pay the rates considered them as a tax levied upon themselves. Some persons who objected to the measure he proposed contended that it was a movement for the relief of taxpayers only, and that it was not required to protect the interests of the poor. If a tax was unjustly levied he conceived it was the duty of Parliament to rectify it, and he must confess he doubted the sympathetic regard for the poor of those who had contrived to shift the burden of supporting them from their own shoulders to those of less wealthy and less influential classes. He was, however, prepared to prove that this was really a poor man's question. He found that the deaths from privation were registered in increasing numbers. In 1848 the number of deaths from want and privation was 222, which had been gradually increasing, until in 1855 it was 460; in 1856, 414; and in 1857, 416. It appeared, also, that the parishes in which deaths front want were most frequent were those in which the rates were highest and where the severity of their pressure caused an indisposition, if not impossibility, to meet the full demands of the suffering poor. He contended, therefore, that all those deaths should be laid at the doors of the wealthy inhabitants of the metropolis, who were only paying 6d in the pound for the relief of the poor. The people would argue as be did, and if justice were not done upon this subject they would hold the wealthier classes responsible for the neglect of that poverty which the humbler ratepayers were unable to relieve. The amount of money expended in the metropolitan parishes was not a full measure of the severity of the pressure, for in many cases the burden was so great that the number of those who were unable to pay the rates demanded of them exceeded that of the poor who were relieved by the rates. This could easily be shown by a return of the summonses issued for non-payment of poor rates. Under such circumstances it could not be expected that a man who was called upon to pay 5s. in the pound would be satisfied while his wealthier neighbours in another parish were only paying 7d. in the pound. The enormous pressure of the rates had a tendency to produce a disinclination to assist in works of charity, as every clergyman in a heavily rated parish well knew and it was the knowledge of that fact which had led every minister of the church in the poor parishes to come forward and petition the House for a change in the existing law. In the heavily rated parishes men became deaf to the appeals of humanity, because by the prostitution of law those who were best able to pay were exempted front the greater portion of the charge. Such opinions might be despised, but it was not wise to allow men to think that they were suffering injustice at the hands of a certain number of wealthy noblemen and gentlemen. The people would make themselves heard, but it might be in a manner that was not to be desired. Their plain sense of justice would prevail against all the cold philosophy of their opponents. In order to give the House an opportunity of doing justice in this matter he asked it to give a second reading to the Bill before it. Last year he asked for a Committee to inquire into the subject, and was then told by the late President of the Poor Law Beard that there could be no inquiry as there was no Bill. He now brought in a Bill and asked for inquiry, but he was told there could be no inquiry because there was a Bill. The facts he had cited were not to be frittered away in that manner. The House must deal speedily with the subject, and he should leave it in the hands of the President of the poor Law Board. He was met last year by the statement that whatever inequalities existed no remedy could be found. He believed he had a remedy, but an objection was taken to his plan of enlarging the area of rating upon the ground that it would lead to a lax administration of the Poor Law. He believed his Bill dealt with that difficulty most effectually. He proposed to allow the entire administration of the Poor Laws to remain exactly as at present, leaving full responsibility upon the local officers; but to give to a new tribunal the power of examining the accounts before sanctioning any contribution in aid of the parish expenditure. He conceived that the knowledge that such an investigation would take place must lead to increased caution in the expenditure, and any parish which was refused a contribution, and had to make a special rate on account of the extravagance of their officers, would very soon take steps to prevent a recurrence of such extravagance by removing the officers and replacing them by more prudent and cautious men. The tribunal to examine the accounts of the parishes he proposed should be formed from the justices of the peace, preferring them to Government officials. The Bill was so framed that, should perfect equality in the rates be deemed inexpedient, it could be altered to meet that view; but that was a matter of detail which would not affect the question of the second reading. He had stated the reasons for and the nature of the Bill, which he left in the hands of the President of the Poor Law Board, warning him that he would incur a most serious responsibility by refusing to entertain a question of such great importance to the inhabitants of the metropolis.

Motion made and Question proposed,— "That the Bill be now read a second time."


, who was at times inaudible, was understood to say, the hon. and learned Gentleman had told him that he now threw his Bill into his (Mr. Estcourt's) hands, accompanying that statement with something like a threatening attitude. He should have been much better satisfied if the hon. Member had given him the Bill in its natural shape, without charging it with something like fulminating powder, and using language partaking of the character of menace. When the hon. and learned Gentleman said the deaths in certain parts of the metropolis were attributable to the rich paying small rates, and that men had escaped liability by the prostitution of the law, he (Mr. Estcourt) was at a loss to know to whom, or to whose conduct, those expressions could be fairly applied. The hon. and learned Member had also said that he found considerable difficulty in laying his case before the House, because within its walls were to be found men who, for the most part, resided in the richer parts of the metropolis, and to whom the Bill would therefore naturally be objectionable. He would just say, that if the hon. and learned Gentleman, like him (Mr. Estcourt), had had the advantage of sitting in that House for more than twenty years, he would have paused before he drew such an inference, and would have known that to hold out a threat of any kind in that assembly was rather calculated than otherwise to prevent the realisation of his object. He (Mr. Estcourt) must say, from his experience of the temper and disposition of that House, that he did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman could point to a single instance in which they had made a sacrifice of principle, in order to save their own pockets. When the hon. and learned Member asked leave to bring in this Bill, hon. Gentlemen who had had much more experience than he (Mr. Estcourt) in the administration of the Poor Law thought it would be better, if the Government disagreed from the principle of the measure, that they should oppose it in limine. But it seemed to him that if it should turn out that the complaints on which the Bill was founded were shared in by any large number of the people of the metropolis, and that there was something like a prima facie case for entertaining it, it was desirable that the House, and also the Boards of Guardians and the parochial authorities who would be affected by its provisions, should see the measure which proposed to remedy the alleged hardships. Several petitions had been presented in favour of the Bill of which the hon. Gentleman had taken advantage, and he (Mr. Sotheron-Estcourt) would take the same advantage of the chief allegations contained in petitions that had been laid on the table of the House against the Bill. It was said that the rates ought to be administered by those who had local knowledge, and after careful investigation; that the parties who furnished the funds ought to have the administration of them; and that the Bill would give that power to an irresponsible body. It was also said, that power was given to Boards of Justices to disallow charges, although those charges might have been allowed by the guardians of the Union, by the Poor Law Board, and by the district auditor. It was likewise alleged that the Bill would cause litigation; that it would check economical management, and encourage wasteful expenditure, and that the existing inequalities in the rates were in many instances caused by local mismanagement. It was added that the poor rate was a house tax, affecting only the owner; that the Bill treated the relief of the poor as a question of arithmetic; and that the population was drawn into particular localities because of certain employments being found in those localities. He had gone through the principal of those allegations, and he put it to the House whether every one of them might not be reasonably sustained. How, he would ask, was the basis contemplated by the Bill to be determined on which the proposed equalization of poor rates was to be attained? It was determined by an assessment, and when that basis had been so determined, the amount expended by each parish or place within the metropolis in the relief of the poor during the preceding year was to be estimated, and at the end of each year an average was to be struck; and in order to equalize the difference of expenditure, some parishes were to recoup the amount which other parishes might have spent in excess. That part of the Bill was therefore of a retrospective character, and certainly laid down a different principle from that which he understood the hon. and learned Member to say had been the model which he originally intended to follow—namely, the rate-in-aid of the 43rd of Elizabeth, by which statute a rate-in-aid could be applied for and granted prospectively, in order to enable a parish to relieve its poor. He (Mr. Estcourt) thought, therefore, he was justified in saying that the tendency of that portion of the Bill would be positively to encourage a wasteful expenditure. He objected, in truth, to the whole principle of the Bill; for the fatal blot on it was, that those who would have to contribute the money would have no share whatever in its expenditure. If he could have concurred in the principle of the measure he should not certainly have had any objection to referring it to a Select Committee; but inasmuch as he was opposed to its principle, he could not assent to its second reading. The hon. and learned Member said, truly enough, this was a question of taxation, but the mode in which he sought to apply that taxation was utterly at variance with the constitutional principle for which they had always contended in England. What was it that made the difference between a "benevolence" under the Stuarts and a lawful tax in our day? Why, a benevolence was exacted by arbitrary authority, without any concurrence of the person who had to pay it, whereas a legal tax was voted by the representatives of the people and the expenditure was under their control. He contended, therefore, that the constitutional principle was violated by the Bill under consideration, for its whole machinery was framed with a view of raising at the end of every year a sum of money from certain parishes without their consent, in order to put it into the pockets of other parishes. He would now call attention to the general state of the metropolis with regard to rating. The average amount levied in the metropolis and expended in the relief of the poor from the year 1850—the return going no further down—to the year 1857, was 1s. 6d. and eight-tenths in the pound, while the average for the whole of England was 1s. 7d. and a fraction. He found, also, that the average pauperism in the metropolis was three and nine-tenths for every 100 of the population, and in the whole of England it was four and six-tenths for every 100; showing that the pauperism in the metropolis was less than that of the whole kingdom. Again, he found that the population of the metropolis in the last fifty years had trebled itself, and that the property had also been trebled in value during that period. The amount raised from poor rates in the metropolis was in 1803 £457,840; and in 1857, upwards of £875,000, being nearly double; so that during the last half century the property in the metropolis had trebled in value, and the rates had been doubled. In 1803 the average amount of poundage raised in the metropolis was 3s.d., and in 1856 it was only 1s.d., or less than half what it was at the former period. He knew the hon. and learned Member would say that he had nothing to do with the average amount of poor rates in the whole metropolis, inasmuch as he spoke of particular localities which were borne down by the weight of the rates. He (Mr. Estcourt) had taken from a Return, printed on the Motion of the hon. and learned Member himself, those parishes which had been selected by him as instances of the great pressure arising from the increase of rating, and he would state the result, comparing the years 1840 and 1857. He would give the sums actually expended in the relief of the poor in each of those years, and also the amount of poundage, and the figures would prove that, with about two exceptions, the poundage had not materially increased, while in several cases it had actually slightly decreased, In the parish of Bethnall Green the amount expended in 1840 in the relief of the poor was £10,368, and in 1857 it was £22,030. The rate in the pound on the gross rental was in 1840, 1s.d., and in 1857 1s.d., showing an increase of about 6d. in the pound. He did not deny that if he was an inhabitant of Bethnal Green he would grumble if he had to pay that additional 6d., but still the case was not one of very great hardship. Again, in St. George, Southwark, the sum expended in the relief of the poor in 1840 was £12,725, and in 1857 it had risen to £16,942. The rate in 1840 was 3s.d., and in 1857 it had increased to 5s. 11¼d. That was certainly a very hard case. The next was St. Botolph, Whitechapel, where was in 1840 the sum expended in the relief of the poor was £2,209, and in 1857 £2,496; the rating being in 1840, 1s.d., and in 1857, ls. ld. In Shoreditch the sum spent in the relief of the poor was £19,138 in 1840, as compared with £36,453 in 1857; the rating being in 1840, 1s. 10¾d., and in 1857, 1s. 8d. In Mile End, Stepney, the rate was in 1840, 1s.d. in the pound, as compared with 1s.d. in 1857; in Ratcliff it was 2s.d. in 1840, and 2s.d. in 1857; in St. Paul's, Shadwell, it was in 1840, 2s.d., and in 1857, 2s.d.; in Wapping 1s.d. in 1840, and it sunk to 1s.d. in 1857; in All Saints, Poplar, it was 9¾d. in 1840, and 1s. 5d. in 1857; in Bow it was 1s.d. in 1840, as compared with 1s. 7½d. in 1857; and in St. Leonards, Bromley, it was 1s.d. in 1840, and 1s.d. in 1857. He had taken these cases as appearing to him most favourable to the Bill; but he must say, with the two exceptions, there was scarcely any such increase as to require the interference of the House. Hon. Members could not omit from their consideration the specific Peculiarities of the different districts. Why did the parishes of St. George, Southwark, and Bethnall Green complain? Because they were inhabited by workmen who at particular periods of the year were thrown entirely out of work. They were often employed not merely by the day but by the hour, and were turned off when the work was done. This naturally produced a considerable amount of pauperism, but there was no provision the Legislature could make that could deal with such an evil. Any attempts of the kind would only end in disappointment, and be deemed an unjustifiable interference between the employer and the employed. The matter was one considered so unattainable by any process of legislation that Parliament had most wisely avoided all such questions. The principle was adopted that the poor man should be relieved from the rates of the parish in which he resided, and the boundaries of the several parishes were taken as they had existed for a great number of years. Parliament had never given a direct sanction to an increase of the area of taxation for Poor Law purposes. He knew that such an increase had been attempted by recommendation of a Committee, and by a Bill brought into that House; but it had been found that there was a general feeling in the House against disturbing those boundaries, which had long been recognised, and in conformity with which property had been rated from time immemorial, but to interfere with employers and employed. He would warn the House against disturbing the old parochial boundaries which had been known and recognized for bought and sold. The hon. Member complained of the demolition of houses, which he said had driven the poorer classes to find dwellings in the subjects of the additional charge in respect of the casual poor; of the removal of the poor; and of settlement by hiring and service having been done away. But in respect to those matters his (Mr. Estcourt's) department was far from being justly chargeable with neglect. He (Mr. Estcourt) could assure the House and the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward this subject, that he was not chargeable with anything like want of attention, much less contempt, to the arguments brought forward in favour of a change by that hon. Gentleman and by various parties who had done him the honour of waiting upon him in reference to this matter. It had been a matter of painful interest to him to be told, as he had been, of large numbers of houses which, if put into the market, would not find purchasers, and of the case of Deptford, when nearly half the parish was exempted from sharing in the common burdens, because of its being Crown property. The first ground of complaint was in respect of the demolition of houses. Now that was a question of property with which, in his opinion, that House could not interfere. What could they do? Could they say to any man, "You shall not take down your House. You shall not offer to sell either to the country or an individual an area upon which you have a certain number of houses." If they adopted such a course as that they would in the first place interfere with private property, and in the second with public improvements. The second complaint was in regard of the additional charges for casual poor. By an Act passed in 1844 the Poor Law Board was empowered to form districts for the relief of the casual poor. Why the provisions of that Act had not been put in operation to a greater extent in order to mitigate the burden now complained of he could not say; but should he have the honour of remaining in his present position he should apply himself to seeing what might be done in that direction next winter. The next question was as to the law of hiring and service. Hon. Members would recollect the lengthened debates that had taken place in Parliament, and the valua- ble Reports that had been laid before them on that subject; and the result was a feeling that the system was injurious to the poor. He did not think that this was a point which should be entered on again. The last point was, he believed, on the removal of poor. The Act relating to that subject passed in 1846. It was therefore a piece of comparatively recent legislation. Besides it had been contended that the operation of that Act had been made much more extensive than was ever contemplated by those who introduced it; and he thought the House ought not to shut its doors against an appeal founded on experience of the working of a recent Act of legislation when it was manifest that the intentions of Parliament had not been carried out. He thought therefore that this subject was a fair one for inquiry. Having viewed the Bill of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets as to its parochial effects, he should now ask the House to regard it in a national sense. He would ask, if they were to establish the principle of union for the entire of the metropolitan parishes how long could they hope to continue to limit such a system to the metropolis? Would they not, before a very distant date, have to extend it to the entire kingdom, and have a uniform rate throughout the country? It was urged that the uniformity need only extend to parishes in which there was an identity of interests; but then arose the question, in what was this identity to be taken to consist? Could it be contended that the interests of the inhabitants of the parish of St. George-in-the-East were identical with those of St. George-in-the-West, or that the interests of the gardeners at Fulham were perfectly similar to those of the long-shore men in the City districts of the Thames? His opinion was that they ought never to extend the area beyond the limits in which they could have a representative body with similar interests. The moment they went beyond those limits they would enter on a career which could not be circumscribed except by the boundary of the whole kingdom. The effect of the uniform system proposed by this Bill would be had in an economical point of view. The Bill would remove the inducement which parishes had to keep down their own expenses. The hon. and learned Gentleman argued that a parish was merely an imaginary division, and that there would be therefore no great difficulty in extending it, but the House must consider that the boundary, not only of every parish, but also of every man's estate, was just as much imaginary. Up to the present moment the law had defended the parish and the estate from intrusion quite as efficiently as though the great wall of China had been built round them, but if the tax-gatherer were once allowed to put his foot over that boundary he could never be compelled to draw it back again. He should always raise his voice against any attempt to destroy the parochial character of the poor-rate, for it was mainly because of the narrowness of area incident on the parochial system that this country had been able to make what was, after all, a magnificent provision for her poor. He had not shrunk from making such admissions as the truth of the case would allow; for instance, his opinion was that Parliament had taken a wrong step in altering the five years' residence; but believing that the principle of the Bill was a direct violation of the first principles on which all taxes ought to be levied, he felt it his duty to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that the regret which he had felt at not being able to vote for this Bill was very much lessened by the tone which had been adopted by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) in moving the second reading. He and his colleagues represented rich as well as poor parishes, but the hon. and learned Member was very much mistaken if he thought they were not willing to use every effort consistent with justice to lessen the frightful pauperism which undoubtedly existed. Though not denying the accuracy of the hon. and learned Member's figures, and allowing that there was great inequality in the assessment of the poor rate, he could not, in justice to all the parishes of the Metropolis, sanction this Bill. The machinery of the Bill was not even calculated to carry out the object at which it aimed. If passed into law, it would have the effect of altering the value of private property all through the Metropolis. If a uniform rate were established for the Metropolis, the same principle must necessarily be conceded to the whole of die country; and, after the masterly speech of the President of the Poor Law Board, it would be presumptuous, to attempt to prove the policy or the expediency of such a proposal. Had the hon. and learned Member simply moved for a Committee of inquiry he would gladly have supported him; but as he had introduced a Bill which was most unsound in principle, inasmuch as it advocated in its worst form the doctrine of centralisation, and practically destroyed local self government, he felt bound to give it his opposition.


said, the Bill was exactly the reverse of the Act which he had been instrumental in passing when in office, for the creation of a Metropolitan Board of Works, the chief principle of which was local self-government. The principle of this Bill, on the contrary, was centralization, and he should therefore give it his strenuous opposition. After the able speech of the President of the Poor Law Board, it was unnecessary for him to go into statistics to prove how unfounded were the premises of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets; but if the hon. and learned Member supposed that because there had been no agitation in the Metropolis against the Bill, that therefore it was popular, he was entirely mistaken. It was its absurdity that had allowed it to pass by the ratepayers at large. His constituency had consulted him on the subject, and the advice which he had given them was not to trouble their heads about petitioning against it, for its principle was so absurd and preposterous that the Government would be sure to oppose it, and the House of Commons to throw it out.


said, that as his name was on the back of the Bill, he could not be expected to admit that it was either preposterous or absurd; but he would remind the right hon. Baronet that very many people entertained the opinion that the very notable Bill of his to which he had alluded had lamentably failed, from the fact that those who were in authority under it did not venture to lay an improvement rate on many parishes of the Metropolis, because they were already so heavily and unequally assessed to the poor rates; while on the contrary, he (Mr. Locke) contended that the great body of the ratepayers thought such a measure as that now proposed essential for the Metropolis. The hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets was charged with menacing the House. Was this the first time the House had been menaced? Had not the corn laws been repealed in consequence of a menace? The right hon. gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board had said that this was the first time a menace had been held out to the House.


I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. I did not say that.


Then I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman did say.


I said that I had never known a menace to succeed with this House.


was happy then to be able to afford the right hon. Gentleman an instance of successful menace in the House of Commons in the case of the repeal of the Corn Laws, and of another in the case of Roman Catholic Emancipation. It was said that this Bill was opposed to sound principle, but principle was a very peculiar sort of thing. What was principle to-day with the President of the Poor Law Board was not principle yesterday with the late President of the Board of Works. That right hon. Gentleman (Sir B. Hall) had no hesitation whatever in laying an equal tax on the Metropolis when the object was to build a bridge or carry out any Metropolitan improvement; but when it came to levying an equal rate to support the starving poor of the Metropolis, he suddenly found out that it was quite opposed to sound principle. The number of parishes in the Metropolis was 184; and on a careful examination of the rental, the income tax valuation, and the poor rate assessment in each, it would be seen that, if this Bill were passed, the average rate all over the Metropolis would be somewhere between 1s. and ls. 6d. in the pound, which could not harm any parish. Thousands and thousands of people had petitioned in favour of this Bill. What bad been the case on the other side? If ever there was a measure of any importance against which the petitions had been remarkably few, it was this. The right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall) had accounted for that by saying that he had bid the people not to petition against it, as its innate absurdity would defeat it. Now, it was a curious circumstance that there was a petition from Marylebone against the Bill —that showed the respect paid to the advice of the right hon. Baronet in his own borough. There had been a meeting called in Marylebone in favour of the Bill, but none had been held there against it, though it was notorious that it was not difficult to get up a meeting of any kind in that borough. So great was the parade of names at some of the Marylebone gatherings, that he (Mr. Locke) had supposed that many of the speakers were myths till he met them face to face. Public opinion had been expressed strongly in favour of this Bill, and the parochial clergy had borne testimony to the necessity of a change in the law. He had himself had representations from parish after parish, which bore out this view of the case. What were the arguments they had been met with? The sacredness of parishes. That was one argument; and the next was that there would be a lavish expenditure. Whatever that expenditure might be, it would at least be justly levied. As he understood, the expenses fur the whole year would have to be sent to a board of magistrates. Was that board able to meet the case? They were already intrusted with the making of county rates, and therefore interfered with the sacredness of parishes, because that power extended over the whole county. When the rates were brought before them, it was provided by this Bill that, if it appeared that some parties were unable to maintain the poor in a proper way, the expense of additional relief was to be divided among the other parishes. What in that course was bad? Up to a recent period the whole management of the poor was in the hands of the magistracy. What was the Court of Quarter Sessions? Had not the magistrates, from time immemorial, had to deal with questions of poor rates and settlement? Why then should people cry out when it was proposed to give them this power, seeing that at present they had the decision of all cases relating to the rating a the poor in quarter sessions? It appeared to him that such a board was a proper one for this purpose; but even if it were not, that was no reason why the Bill should not be read a second time. The real question was, had they made out such a state of existing destitution in some poor parishes as justified their calling upon others for aid? The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. S. Estcourt) said that, if a Committee had been proposed, he would have consented to it. Well, then, let the Bill he read a second time and sent to a Committee. A case for inquiry had been made out, and they might as well go into a Committee with a Bill to legislate upon, as to go into an indeterminate inquiry which would be altogether unsatisfactory to the Metropolis. He did, therefore, call on the President of the Poor Law Board, and the House, not to reject the appeal of the thousands of poor persons who had presented petitions to the House, but to give them an opportunity of proving the allegations they had made, in order that some relief might hereafter be afforded them.


said, he should vote against the second reading of this Bill, which violated the just principle on which that House acted in levying taxes. That principle was, that those who were responsible for the expenditure of a tax should at the same time have the privilege of levying it. This Bill would give to those who did not pay rates the power of expending their neighbour's money, and if such a measure were ever passed it would give to the magistrates the power of expending the rates for their own pet schemes. Reference had been made to the union of parishes for the purposes of lighting and paving, as a precedent. He thought it a landmark to be avoided. Under that Bill many parishes were now rated considerably beyond the expense of lighting and paving their own parishes, and the vestry clerk of one metropolitan parish, with a population of about 15,000, told him that his parish had been put to an annual additional expenditure of £1,000 merely in consequence of its union with another. It was sail that persons lived in one parish and carried on their business in another. It was true that they did so, but though they paid a small rate for the parish they lived in, they paid a large one for the parish in which they conducted their business, so that the one counterbalanced the other. Moreover, it was not the fact that petitions had been sent up by all the poor parishes of the metropolis, because he had himself presented a petition from St. John's and St. Margaret's, one of the poorest metropolitan parishes, against the Bill, on the ground that it took away all parochial control over the management of the rates. On the whole he saw so many objections to the principle of the Bill that he must give it his opposition, but if there was any fair mode by which any inequality of rating could be removed, he should have no objection to adept that mode.


said, that he had felt rather inclined to support the second reading of the Bill, not with the intention of committing himself to the principle, but with a view of having the matter referred to a Select Committee; but, after hearing the discussion, and the fair speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Estcourt), he put it to his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Ayrton) whether anything would be gained by referring the matter to a Select Committee. The metropolis was anything but unanimous in its favour, and if it were polled he believed that the majority would be against it. No doubt there were parishes that were gorged with poor, and that felt the burden of poor rates severely, but the other parishes would not like to have this money taken from them and administered by irresponsible hands. On the whole, therefore, he would appeal to his hon and learned Friend not to proceed further with his Bill.


said, if the hon. and learned Gentleman had confined himself to an inquiry a great many Members would have gone with him, as they did on a former occasion. There was one serious question that ought to be inquired into—he meant the case of parishes where there were Government works. He alluded particularly to Woolwich, where the rates pressed most heavily, the Government occupying a large portion of the land and paying no rates.


said, that after what had fallen from hon. Members in the course of the debate, he would respond to the appeal of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) by saying that it was not his intention to press this Motion to a division. The President of the Poor Law Board had put the question upon the ground of the necessity of a local supervision of local funds, and he could not divide against such a principle as that; but he hoped, however, in another Session to introduce a measure which would effect the object he had in view of enlarging the area of rating, while, at the same time, it would avoid the question upon which the right hon. Gentleman was at issue with him. No one, in his opinion, could compare the condition of the two parishes in which the London and St. Katherine's Docks were situated without being impressed with the necessity for some change. The labourers employed in the St. Katherine's Docks lived in the parish in which the London Docks were situated, and the latter parish was assessed to the support of the labourers employed at both docks, while the parish in which St. Katharine's Docks were situated, escaped. These were scandalous evils, but at present he had no option but to consent to the withdrawal of the Bill. Still he certainly should introduce the question again and again, until the relief which he sought for the poorer parishes was obtained.


said, he would recommend his hon. and learned Friend to apply his mind to the subject of rating, not merely in the metropolis, but throughout the country. If his hon. and learned Friend would consider whether the area of rating might not be extended, he would deserve the thanks of the country, and his next Bill would be more comprehensive and better considered than the present.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Order for Second Reading discharged.

Bill withdrawn.