§ Mr. CRAWFORD
said, he rose to move the second reading of this Bill, which was intended to obviate a great public scandal. The City of London Union consisted of ninety-eight parishes, in most of which the rates were collected by the overseers, while in others they were collected by individuals employed for that purpose. Amongst those persons a Mr. Manini had been engaged to collect the rates in nine parishes of the union. In December, 1857 Manini absconded, having with the aid and connivance of one Paul, a clerk in the office of the Guardians, embezzled a sum of £26,000, and a rate had been made with the consent of a large majority of the guardians, distributing the loss over all the parishes of the union. One of the parishes, that of St. Stephen's, Coleman Street, objected to the rate, and a case was laid before the Court of Queen's Bench. The four Judges of that court were unanimous in favour of the legality of the rate; but upon appeal to the Court of Error, it was held by the Judges of the Exchequer Chamber that the rate was illegal and invalid. The law being in this doubtful state, the guardians had introduced this Bill, which would have the effect of authorising a rate being made for the purpose in question, and throwing the charge for making good the delinquencies of Manini upon the union in general. He understood that the Bill was op- 394 posed partly on the ground that this sum was chargeable upon the nine parishes only with which Manini was connected and not upon the whole union. But the fact was that, whilst Manini was the officer of the nine parishes in question, the guilty party, through whom he was enabled to carry out his design, was an officer of the union. The whole of the ninety-eight parishes were represented by the poor law authorities, and the accounts had been regularly passed, and a most remarkable feature of the case was that these fraudulent accounts, extending over a number of years, purported to have been duly audited by an individual representing the poor-law authorities. The deficiency comprised £11,000 due to various parishes, for payments on account of rates in advance, £1,500 owing for butcher's meat, £1,500 for bread, £3,000 due to the contractor for maintaining the pauper lunatics of the union, besides other considerable sums. Judgments had already been entered up against the union by some of the creditors, and the effects of an execution upon the property of the union would be very injurious. The guardians had therefore met, and had decided by a majority of forty-six to three to introduce this measure. He thought sufficient reason had been shown to justify the interference of the House, and he called upon them to give this Bill a second reading, with a view to strict inquiry into the facts before the Select Committee on the Bill.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. ALDERMAN COPELAND
said, he rose to oppose the second reading of the Bill. He could well understand that the guardians by whose neglect these frauds had been facilitated, were willing parties to the Bill, but if such a principle as was involved in it were admitted at all, a Bill must be brought in, not for the City of London Union only, but for the country in general. He could name a great number of parishes in which collectors had absconded, and in which the rate-payers of the particular parishes had been compelled to contribute over again. He held that no public scandal would be avoided by the Bill. He had no sympathy with the creditors who from 1843 to 1856, instead of receiving the cheques of the Board of Guardians were content to take Paul's cheque on account, when if any one had 395 named such a transaction to one of the Guardians, the whole mischief would have been prevented, and £26,000 saved. It must be recollected, further, that a Court of Error had decided against the validity of the charge upon the whole union. On the part of the poor-rate payers of the parishes of the city of London, many of whom could ill afford to pay the rates to which they were now liable, he must protest against a Bill which would materially enhance the weight of their local burdens, and he should move that it 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 put, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question.
§ The House divided: Ayes 57; Noes 89: Majority 32.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.