§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, the law of England was adequate to meet such distress as prevailed in Ireland, and to prevent the sensation which that distress had occasioned. The English Poor Laws gave a species of relief which the poor were desirous to receive; but the Irish Poor Laws gave a species of relief which the poor most unwillingly claimed. Upon financial as well as moral grounds, he preferred the English to the Irish system. The workhouse system was more expensive than out-door relief. In a union in Ireland the total cost was £1,592, of which £630 was expended on the poor, and £962 was expended on the officers of the establishment. Such a disproportion would be exceptional in England and impossible in Scotland. Without opposing the Bill he felt it his duty to enter a protest against the course pursued by the Government.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that it was evident that the opposition to this measure, and that the exaggerated accounts of the distress in Ireland, were carried on chiefly for the purpose of harassing the Chief Secretary for Ireland. By maintaining the present system of poor laws in Ireland, the Bill would maintain that which was one of the greatest boons conferred upon that country for centuries. He could un- 605 derstand that those who would like to see monastic institutions more firmly established, and more widely extended, wished to see the system of out-door relief prevail, and wished also that these institutions might become the distributors of it. Subsequent to the suppression of monasteries in England the country was for some time infested by hords of a demoralized population, which these institutions had reared in idleness; these vagabonds were at first called sturdy beggars, then they were called "staff-strikers," but were afterwards more properly denominated plunderers; and this evil went to such an extent that England had to submit to a kind of martial law. He knew that there was distress in Ireland, but he believed that it was partial, and that the statement of the distress was exaggerated merely as a means of annoyance to the Government. He wished, however, to draw attention to the clauses in the Bill which referred to the relief of orphan children whose parents were unknown. If neither the parents, the guardians, the godfathers, nor the godmothers of these children were known, it was proposed that their religious education should be according to the religious belief of the person who might bring them to the poor-house, although there was no evidence that those persons knew anything of the children except as much as was implied in taking them to the poor-house. Such a provision would cause these destitute children to be scrambled for by persons of different faiths. He hoped that some amendment would be introduced to prevent such a state of things. His own impression was, that as the State has a religion, the children to whom the state stood in loco parentis ought to be educated in the religion of the State.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, he also should support the Bill. At the same time he believed that the Irish Poor Law system was not adequate to the wants of the country.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he could assure the House that he did not feel in the least harassed by what had taken place. The Government would be glad to receive any suggestions for the amendment of the Bill. With regard to the objection of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwickshire, if any better system could be devised he should be happy to adopt it.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2o.