§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Three years shall be substituted for Five in 9 and 10 Vic. c. 66, s. 1, and Residence in a Union shall be equivalent to Residence in a Parish),
§ MR. LOCKE
moved at the end to add "and for this purpose the area subject to the provisions of the Metropolis Local Man. agement Acts shall be a union." This subject had been brought before the consideration of the House so long ago 403 year 1857 by his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets, who, like himself, represented a large class whose interests had materially suffered by the changes that had taken place in the Poor Law, in his Equalization of Rates Bill. The present Bill, however, made no attempt to grapple with the subject. His proposition, therefore, was that the area of rating should be extended so as to include the whole Metropolis, and that the Metropolis for the purposes of this Act should form one union. The Present state of things was this—that the poor had been removed from the richer to the poorer parishes; so that it had come to pass that in these parishes the poor were supporting the poorer. In the city of London, for example, where the great merchants carried on their business the parishes were charged with the support of comparatively few poor, though the labour of the working classes living in other districts was of the greatest advantages to them. In the same way the great employers of labour in other parts of the Metropolis were freed in great measure from the support of the poor. If it could be shown that this discrepancy arose from the effects of legislation, he thought it was not too much to ask that legislation should be called in to alter it. Now, so long ago as the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Bill, an alteration was made in the law of settlement; and a large amount of extra taxation was created. Part of the law of settlement was that of hired servants. Where a person bound himself for twelve months as a servant to another, by the performance of that service for a year and by forty day's residence in that parish he obtained a settlement. This state of the law was altered, mainly, he believed, from the reluctance of agricultural employers to hire labourers for a twelvemonth and thus enable them to obtain a settlement in the parish. It was altered for the purpose of enabling the working man to go from one parish to another without gaining a settlement. His opinion was that the law of settlement ought to be abolished. But, if so, the present parochial system could not be maintained. What was the present state of things? Take the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square; a man might hire himself, and pass the best years of his life in that parish, but he could gain no settlement there; he must look for his settlement in one of the poorer parishes. The 404 dwellings of the poor were swept away in the richer parishes, where improvements were constantly made in the beauty, health, and convenience of the dwellings. Thus the servants of the richer classes were driven to settle in the poorer parishes, and the burthen of the rates was greatly increased upon them. And what happened then; Parliament again stepped in and said that where a person had an industrial residence in a parish for five years, and fell into want, he should be irremovable from that parish; and the present Bill proposed to substitute three years for five. He thought this would act well in the rural districts; but it was not applicable to the Metropolis. It would act with peculiar hardship upon the parishes of the district which he represented, particularly those of Bermondsey and St. George the Martyr, Southwark. The latter was a union of itself, and by this Bill they were imposing a new liability on the parish, without giving them any corresponding advantage whatever. This was a gross injustice. The poor of the Metropolis were as much entitled to consideration as those of any other part of the country, and, therefore, he proposed that the Metropolis should be dealt with as other parts of the country were, and that it should be formed into a union by itself. He proposed that "the charge of all the persons who might become chargeable under the Act within the limits of the Metropolis as defined by the Act for the better government of the Metropolis should be defrayed by all the parishes in the Metropolis as if the same were a union, and that the Poor Law Board should issue such orders as might be required for apportioning such charge and levying the contributions required for the payment thereof." This latter proposition, however, which he might call the machinery for carrying out his object, he would not move for the present, but would content himself with moving that the whole area of the Metropolis should be formed into a union.
§ MR. AYRTON
suggested that the additional Amendment should be moved as a separate substantive clause.
§ MR. WARNER
said, he wished to see the operation of the law of settlement readjusted, and referred to its unfair operation on the city of Norwich. The first 405 clause of the Bill would increase the evil in such towns as Norwich, inasmuch as the poor would be forced into those towns while they worked in the parishes in the neighbourhood. He did not think the Amendment of the hon. Member for Southwark would meet the case of London, much less the case of country towns. He was in favour of the Bill generally, but was opposed to the first clause.
§ MR. KNIGHT
said, he thought the city of Norwich had no reason to complain. It appeared that the rateable property in Norwich had increased within a short period from £70,000 to £290,000. What Norwich was suffering from was the circumstance of so large an area being included in one rating. Norwich, in fact, was calling upon the county to pay the wages of its workpeople. There was no ground why Norwich should seek to extend its area of rating.
§ MR. DODSON
contended that though a poor man worked in one parish and lived in another, the latter parish had the benefit derived from the expenditure of his wages, and when he needed relief it was but fair that that parish should give it. He admitted that while the area of rating might be made too large, it might also be confined within too small bounds. The best arrangement was that by which localities having a community of interest were united for the support of the poor. He could not assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Southwark, which he believed would prove injurious to the poor themselves and to the poorer parishes by taking away all inducements to economy.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, he should despair of getting through with this Bill if they were to enter upon the discussion of all the points raised. The Bill was a very simple one, the result of investigations before Committees, and founded upon the recommendations of a Committee. The Bill was one that related to the whole country; but the hon. Member for Southwark proposed to introduce a totally new and distinct question—namely the equalization of rates in the Metropolis. If his object were carried out a new administrative machinery would be necessary for the Metropolis. Indeed, it would require a new Bill altogether, and one of considerable complication and difficutly. He hoped the House would not agree to his Amendment, therefore, but would proceed with the real objects of the Bill, which would be highly beneficial to the landed interest.
§ MR. BENTINCK
thought the right hon. Gentleman was too sanguine if he expected that discussion on a question of this sort would be limited within a very small compass, for it was impossible that a Bill like this should not lead to long and desultory discussion. He was opposed to this Bill, because it would relieve the pressure upon the urban parishes at the expense of rural districts, and because the extension of area for rating purpose would lead to waste and extravagance. He trusted that at any rate the Bill would not be allowed to pass in its present state.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman reminded him of the contest as to whether a shield was made of gold or silver, the fact being that the shield was looked at from two different sides by different persons. The hon. Member looked to one side of the Bill and he (Sir George Lewis) was looking at another, when he said it would be favourable to the landed interest. The part of the Bill he referred to as favourable to the agricultural interest was that which changed the period of irremovability from five to three years, and that which extended the area of irremovability from the parish to the union. ["No, no!"] He said "Yes," and it was to relieve the agricultural interest that the principle of irremovability after five years' residence was introduced by Sir Robert Peel. The part of the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman referred was, no doubt, the 9th Clause, which changed the mode by which the payment to the common fund was to be calculated. He was ready to admit that that change would be to some extent unfavourable to the rural parishes as compared with the urban; but it would only be unfavourable to the extent of the change made by the calculation being based on the rateable value instead of according to pauperism.
said, the right hon. Gentleman forgot that the whole amount of the rate would in many cases be doubled. The right hon. Gentleman asked them not to discuss the Bill, but to go on agreeing to its provisions. No doubt it would be easy enough to get through the Bill by reading its enactments, but it was much more important for the constituents that they should carefully consider the results, and he contended that they had not sufficient information to enable them to judge how the Bill would work. It was certain that it would work with great 407 capriciousness, and if they proceeded with the Bill they would be taking a step in the dark. The present system of dealing with the poor was not a good one; but he did not think the Bill raised the question in a large spirit. He would recommend that the Bill should be put off till another Session, and that in the meantime the Government should prepare tables that would show them clearly what the probable consequences would be. It would be a great boon conferred upon the country if they could get rid of the question of settlement altogether by the adoption of some satisfactory rule of action. If they could be relieved, for example, from the risk of persoms coming back upon them from distant countries there would be a greater likelihood of coming to an agreement as to the mode of adjusting the burden. He would give no opinion as to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Southward, though he thought that that hon. Member was pursuing a very reasonable course when he did what was in his power to relieve his constituents of the heavy charge which would be thrown upon them.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
considered that the principle of the Bill had been sufficiently discussed on a former occasion, and hoped the Committee would confine itself to a consideration of the clause now before them. He objected to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Southwark, because he believed it would be impossible to carry out the principle of union rating on so large a scale as the Metropolis. Aboard of guardians for the whole of the Metropolis would be necessary, and he asked how such a board, having to deal with nearly 3,000,000, people was likely to work? He by no means thought that the injury to the poorer parishes which the hon. Member apprehanded would follow from the operation of the Bill, and trusted that the clause as it stood would be agreed to.
§ MR. BARROW
entirely apporved of the Bill. He thought the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Southwark disposed of itself, when it was remembered that he proposed that the 3,000,0000 of inhabitants should be included in a single union. He thought it quite right that irremovability should depend upon a reasonable period of industrial residence, and was inclined to think that the reduction from five to three years would have a very limited operation.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the hon. and learned Member for Southwark had proposed that addition, with the view of raising the question whether, if Parliament unduly increased the burden on certain parishes, it should not also provide a remedy? The Government had undertaken to consider the whole question during the recess and to do justice to the whole community; but, instead of that they had brought in a Bill which they thought did great injustice to the parishes which he and his hon. and learned Friend represented. Poor people entering the Metropolis from the west were not allowed even to rest in one of the richer parishes; but were obliged to "move on" till they came to some district like Southwark, and there they remained and became chargeable. It was no answer on the part of the Government to say that they had not considered this subject. If they had not they ought—what was expected from them was a Bill which shouldmeet the wants of the whole population of the country, and if they had not so sufficiently considered the question, thet was a good reason either for withdrawing the Bill or adopting Amendments proposed for others. All that his hon. Friend desired was that, inasmuch as the working man laboured in one parish while he resided in another, the two parishes ought to be rated for his support when he became chargeable.
§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
regarded the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Southwark as impracticable and unjust. He would suggest that the hon. and learned Gentleman should withdraw his Amendment and bring up a clause on the Report embracing the machinery by which he proposed to work out the object of his proposition. When at the Poor Law Board he had made an effort to carry out a scheme for the better relief of the casual poor of the Metropolis by dividing it into five or six districts, but he found that not above three or four of the parishes had the slightest desire to comply with the object he had in view. This showed the difficulty of dealing with so vast a field as the Metropolis, and he believed that in edeavouring to carry out the object of the hon. Member the difficulties would be insuperable. With regard to the clause, he agreed in the principle which it set forth. He was in favour of removing every inpediment to the free action of the poor man, and would not object to two years instead of three, 409 for he thought the smaller the number of years that were fixed the better. He did not agree with his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire in the views he took of the Bill. He thought it required some amendment, but, on the whole, he believed it would be a great boon to the poor man. He thought it was based on a great principle of justice, and should give it his hearty support.
§ MR. WALTER
merely rose to express the hope that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) would be satisfied with the discussion of this question that had taken place, and not press his Amendment to a division. His hon. and learned Friend was perfectly justified in bringing the question forward. There was great force in the arguments he had used to show that the change proposed by this Bill would aggravate the burden now borne by his constituents. But, whatever justice there might be in the abstract in the principle he advocated, it was clearly impossible that it could be tacked on to a clause in a Bill of this kind. Even if the Amendment were to be adopted, there was no adequate machinery by which it could be carried out. He was not prepared to go all the length the hon. and learned Member proposed in regard to an adjustment of the Metropolitan districts; but it certainly appeared to him that there was great room for improvement, and that the subject would be a fair one for a committee of that House to consider, or for a separate Bill introduced by the Government. With regard to the particular clause before them, the tendency of that clause was to effect a movement in the direction which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) thought most desirable—the gradual abolition of the law of settlement. He (Mr. Walter) believed that was a consummation to which they were gradually tending. In proportion as they extended the principle of irremovability they weakened the law of settlement. The principle of the law of settlement was more a ratepayer's than a poor man's question. The question was not so much what particular parish a poor man was to have relief from, as it was certain that he must have relief either in one parish or another, as on what parish the burden of his relief was to fall, and that was an object of interest to the ratepayers. But the question of irremovability was a poor man's question; and the more it was carried out the more it must tend to that 410 abolition of the law of settlement to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire had called their attention. The incidence of taxation had always been one of the most difficult questions in social science, but, however much people might differ as to the shoulders on which taxation fell, one thing they all agreed upon was, that it was desirable to throw the burden on other shoulders than their own. As he thought the Bill would diminish this selfish tendency of our nature he cordially gave it his support.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, that the object which the hon. and learned Member for Southwark and the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had in view was to equalize the poor rates. Now, there was a great difference of opinion upon that subject, and he believed a majority of the ratepayers of the Metropolis would be proved to be against the hon. Members upon that point. But it was most unfair that a question of such vital importance should have been brought forward thus suddenly.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
concurred in the general principle of the Bill, but he thought its details demanded the most ample discussion when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire, with al his vast experience, declared himself quite in the dark as to the operation of the measure. With regard to the law of settlement, he thought it was a step in the right direction. The changes, however, which the Bill proposed to make in the apportionment of the charges would seriously affect many of the agricultural parishes, and would materially add to the rates. This question would require careful consideration when they came to the 9th Clause of the Bill. He thought the principle of the Bill a good one, and though he could not give his consent to the whole of the details he should be very unwilling to offer any opposition to the Bill passing.
§ MR. KNIGHT
thought this Bill placed a greater burden upon the rural parishes than existed at present. He considered that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman was very much to the purpose, and he thought it had hardly obtained the reception which it deserved.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he was satisfied, from the tone of the discussion, with the admission that the principle of his Amendment was a just one. He was prepared to bring forward a machinery for working out the 411 proposal, but as it seemed to be the wish of the Committee, and inasmuch as legislation on the subject was expected to emanate from the Poor Law Board, he would withdraw his Amendment.
should be glad to have more information before coming to a decision whether or not this Bill was founded upon the principles of justice.
§ Amendment, by leave,withdrawn.
§ MR. WARNER
repeated his objection to the first clause, that these unions in the neighbourhood of close parishes would be seriously affected by it, and he expressed his intention to divide the Commitee upon he clause.
§ MR. KNIGHT
proposed to introduce after the word parish in line 12, the following words:—That five years' continuous residence in any parish shall confer a settlement therein, and four year's continuous non-residence in any parish shall forfeit and extinguish all claim to a settlement therein.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Paupers upon the Common Fund made perpetual),
§ MR. AYRTON
objected to the passing of the Act in perpetuity. He moved the omission of the words making it perpetual.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 9 (Contributions to the Common Fund to be calculated according to the annual Value of rateable Property),
§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
proposed to insert the words—Upon an assessment calculated by adding to the annual value of the lands and hereditaments in each of the parishes, as hereinafter described, a sum equal in pounds sterling to the amount in numbers of the population of such parish, according to the last census.At present the common fund of each union rested union what was commonly called averages. These averages were directed to be altered from time to time by the Poor Law Board. They represented the amount of pauperism in each parish. Now it was manifestly unjust to take the state of a parish twenty-five years ago as the standard of what it was to contribute to 412 the common fund. According to his proposal, not only the value of property but the amount of population would enter into the calculation. He was quite aware that when the unions were in good circumstances his Amendment would make no difference. But where a combination of parishes was to be found in indifferent circumstances, it would take effect. He trusted the alteration would lead to the adoption of the parochial instead of union rating. He considered that the system of parochial rating was the cardinal point on which the question of economy turned.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, he had had calculations made as to what the result would be with regard to payment if the element of population was added to the rateable value, and he found that there would be very little difference indeed. Seeing, then, that his right hon. Friend and himself agreed in principle as to having the contributions on the rateable value of the property assessed, he would leaved it to the Committee to decide the questions that remained between them. If the Committee were willing to accept the Amendment he was not prepared to offer any objection, though he thought it was calculated to produce complications and difficulty.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
thought that the effect of this mode of legislation would be to cast upon the rural districts those charges which should be borne by others.
§ SIR BROOK BRIDGES
contended that this clause was so important that it needed more discussion than could be given to the at that late period of their deliberations.
§ House resumed; Committee report Progress; to sit again on Tuesday next at Twelve of the clock.