HC Deb 30 July 1862 vol 168 cc1006-35

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now taken into Consideration."


said, he had to present a Petition from the guardians of the Union of Chorley, in Lancashire, stating that they had seen the Union Relief Aid Bill as amended by the Government, and thought it would not afford the remedy they required, and praying that they might be allowed a power of borrowing upon the security of the rates for the relief of their poor during the present distress.


said, he rose to move that the Bill be re-committed for the purpose of considering clauses to enable the guardians of unions to borrow money on the security of rates of parishes within such unions. He felt that an apology was due from a Member like himself, unconnected with the manufacturing dis- tricts, for bringing forward such a Motion. But the question was one deeply affecting the prosperity of the whole country, and he thought it the duty of every Member of that House to endeavour to the best of his ability to aid in its right solution. He had no desire to impugn the provisions of the measure introduced by the President of the Poor Law Board; but when the Bill was last in Committee a strong feeling seemed to be entertained by a considerable number of Members, and especially by hon. Gentlemen who might be presumed to know both the state of the manufacturing districts and their wishes in the matter, that the propriety of enabling the parishes to obtain relief by means of loan should be fairly submitted to the judgment of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board had candidly admitted that there were strong arguments for as well as against that proposal; and although, on a balance of those arguments, the right hon. Gentleman had avowed himself averse to granting a borrowing power, yet looking to the increasing anxiety which was likely to weigh upon him during the coming autumn, it was hardly to be supposed that he could very seriously object to being armed with the additional means of meeting the crisis which the present Motion contemplated. Now, since the passing of the Poor Law Act, the functions formerly combined in the hands of the overseers of parishes had been divided between the overseers and the guardians of the union. The overseer collected the rates from the ratepayers, and the guardians spent the money so raised upon the relief of the poor. At the beginning of each quarter the board of guardians made an estimate of its probable expenditure within such quarter, and issued a warrant to the overseers, stating the proportion of the whole sum required from their particular parishes, and the overseers then were bound to levy rates sufficient to meet the demand thus made upon them. If from unforeseen circumstances the guardians found that more money than had been estimated was actually wanted they issued a supplemental order, calling upon the overseers for further sums, or if through distress existing among a portion of the ratepayers the rates were not paid in full, the overseers were obliged to place additional rates upon those who could pay. There were two tests by which the distress of any particular parish might be measured. If it was desired to compare its destitution at one period with its destitution at another, the actual expenditure incurred by the guardians in the relief of its poor was a very fair criterion to take for that purpose. Another test was the amount of the rates levied and collected by the overseer. Under ordinary circumstances those two tests would be expressed by the same figures. Take, for example, a parish with an annual rateable value of £10,000, and an expenditure of £2,000. That would be an expenditure of 4s. in the pound on the rateable value, and in ordinary times would be exactly met by a rate of 4s. in the pound. But under such special circumstances as those with which the House had to deal, where a large portion of the ratepayers were unable to contribute the actual expenditure, and the amount of the rates could no longer be expressed by the same figures, for the deficiency caused by the inability of the distressed portion of the ratepayers to pay must be made up by those who were still solvent. If half the ratepayers only were in that condition, it would require a rate of 2s. in the pound to defray an expenditure of 1s. upon the whole assessments. Now, the Bill before the House took the expenditure of the guardians as the measure of the distress, and its object being to enable the parish to apply to its neighbours for help, it was quite reasonable that there should be one fair and uniform limit which must be overpassed before the impoverished parish could claim extraneous assistance. If the limit were based on the amount of the rates collected, it was easily seen, that when an application was made to neighbouring parishes, they might and probably would have said, "Oh, it is very easy for the overseer of parish A to say he cannot collect the rates; it is a troublesome and disagreeable thing to collect them under circumstances of distress, but we are not satisfied with the statement that this is so;" and thus a wide door would be opened for jealousy and dissatisfaction, which was entirely avoided by his right hon. Friend having taken as the limit the amount of the expenditure, about which there could be no doubt. But, at the same time, they must consider whether the Bill would meet the whole of the difficulty with which they had to deal. The necessity for relieving the distress of the poor was acknowledged and felt by all, but they should also consider the distress of the ratepayers. The limit of expenditure laid down by the Bill was 5s. in the pound, and therefore if one-third of the ratepayers in a parish were unable to pay their rates, a rate of 7s. 6d. in the pound must be levied on the two-thirds of the ratepayers who were able to pay. Further, if, as the President of the Poor Law Board admitted, 50 per cent in value of the ratepayers of Stockport were unable to pay, 10s. in the pound must be raised from the remainder who could pay, before they could come upon their neighbours for help. But that was not all. To the 5s. spent for the relief of the poor must be added the county rate, highway rate, burial rate, and other local rates. The hon. Member for Stockport had told the House, that if the solvent ratepayers of that place were to have no aid given them except under the conditions of the Bill, they would have to raise as much as 18s. in the pound on the value of their assessable property before they would be entitled to relief. That calculation rested on the assumption that only 40 per cent were able to pay; but taking the solvent ratepayers at 50 per cent. they must raise 14s. in the pound before they could derive any advantage from the Bill. And all that must be paid by men whose incomes had been reduced to one-half or one-third of their usual amount. Now, he did not object to the Bill as far as it went, because it followed the old principle of the rate in aid. The application of that principle as far as the entire union was concerned would be accompanied by a check upon abuse and maladministration, although its application to the rest of the county would not be attended with that safeguard. But he thought it incumbent on the House to provide some additional remedies. He would therefore suggest that the board of guardians, upon the application of the overseers, and with the consent of the Poor Law Board, should have a power to borrow to the extent of 5s. in the pound on the assessment of the parish upon the security of its rates—that power to be exercised upon this condition, that the overseers should have already levied to the best of their ability rates to the amount of 5s. in the pound, and paid the proceeds over to the treasurer of the union, in satisfaction, as far as they would go, of the claims of the board of guardians upon the parish. He would further suggest that the repayment of the loans so raised should be spread over a period of five years and be discharged by yearly instalments. He made that proposal in the belief that the pressure, though very severe, would be but temporary, and that at the end of two years, if not one year, these parishes would recover themselves. The Secretary of the Poor Law Board had objected to a loan, because he regarded the distress as but transient, and said there was no precedent for borrowing money to pay for the daily relief of the poor. But he must remind the House that the Irish famine was met by a loan of £10,000,000, to be repaid in subsequent years, out of the revenues of the Irish land. It was true that that loan was afterwards remitted and converted into a gift, but that remission was accompanied by the extension of the income tax to Ireland, and was conceded with the idea that it would make that impost less unpalatable. There could hardly be any better security than the rates of a parish; and although it might be necessary to defer the repayment of the first year's instalment, should the distress unhappily continue, he trusted the occasion for that step would never arise. The hon. Member for Stockport, on the other hand, had opposed a loan, because the distress was likely to be comparatively permanent. If he himself shared that apprehension, he should hesitate to saddle the property of the parish with repayments which it would be unable to meet for a considerable time. But, without speculating on the probable duration of the war in America, he looked to obtaining from India a large share of the cotton existing there, and to the enhanced price of that article stimulating its increased production not only in India, but in China, Australia, South Africa, and other countries. And even assuming that they should not for some years to come get back their former supplies from the United States, was it supposed that the thousands of the unemployed operatives who were now compelled to go to the relieving officer for food would continue to eat the bread of idleness? If they could not get cotton, people would still have to be clothed; there would be increased activity in the woollen and linen manufactories; and a large number of these distressed artisans would find other employment. He therefore trusted that the House would not, for merely speculative and imaginary reasons, condemn thousands of struggling ratepayers in the distressed districts who were on the verge of insolvency, to pay exaggerated rates for the relief of persons who were only a little poorer than they were themselves.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "Bill" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "be re-committed for the purpose of considering Clauses to enable the guardians of unions to borrow money on the security of rates of parishes within such unions, —instead thereof.


said, he was anxious that the Bill should be made as acceptable as possible to the parties who would be relieved by it. As it was drawn it was, he thought, open to much objection. It did away to a great extent with the motives for economy, and would fail to give the instant relief which the people of Lancashire and Cheshire required, while it imposed a great and onerous burden on those who would have to pay the rate. Lancashire contained 28 unions, with a total of 454 townships. In that county there were at present two unions which were really distressed—namely, Blackburn and Preston, the former occupying 24 townships and the latter 28. The indoor pauperism had increased at Blackburn 356 per cent above what it was at Midsummer of last year; and at Preston the increase was nearly the same. The outdoor relief had risen 399 per cent at Blackburn and 474 at Preston. Then there followed the semi-distressed unions, 14 in number, which were principally engaged in the cotton trade. The remaining 12 unions were agricultural unions. If the Bill passed in its present shape, it would bear harshly upon the 14 semi-distressed unions. The rates in those unions, although not yet particularly high, were rapidly increasing in amount, and the effect of the Bill would be to reduce those unions to one common level of distress. They would be called upon not only to contribute to relieve their own distressed operatives, but they would also be called upon to contribute to the relief of the other distressed unions which might come under the operation of the third clause. He found that before Oldham would be brought under the operation of the Bill, and before it could get aid from the county, it would have to pay a sum of £8,498, in order to bring its present rate up to 5s. in the pound. Bolton would have to pay a sum of £13,799, or a rate of 3s. 6d. in the pound; Chorley, £20,000; Wigan, £8,586; and Stockport, £7,761. Before Stockport would be entitled to receive aid from the county, it must be rated five times above the average of previous years. The boards of guardians of Blackburn, Rochdale, Oldham, Stockport, Wigan, and Chorley, had all sent memorials to the right hon. Gentleman against the Bill as it stood, and he thought the proper course to adopt was to allow parishes, when their rates had risen to 3s. in the pound, to raise money upon security of the future rates. He objected to the Bill that it undermined the principles of local government and of economy, and at the proper time he would propose such Amendments as he thought would be necessary to meet adequately the present exigency.


observed, that the questions raised by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) were substantially the same that the House had considered upon previous occasions—namely, whether the means for relieving the extraordinary distress prevalent in certain districts could best be furnished by a contribution in aid from the neighbouring districts or by a power of borrowing upon the security of the rates. He confessed he could offer no new argument upon the subject; but he did not think that it was necessary to raise the question of borrowing money upon the rates in order to cure the defect alleged to exist in the Bill. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire had said that the Bill took expenditure as the test of distress, but that was no test of what burden particular ratepayers had to bear, as through the insolvency of a portion of the ratepaying body the remainder would have to make up the deficiency. It was true that might sometimes occur, and all estimates of rates were made upon a supposition that a certain portion would not be collected; but the hon. Member was not justified in assuming, in the most extreme case that might occur, that 50 per cent of the ratepayers would be unable to pay. It also frequently happened, that when persons pleaded inability to pay rates, they meant that they could not pay both rent and rates, and very often the landlords, to avoid losing their tenants, continued to arrange for the payment of the rates. But, even supposing that the case which the hon. Member had described should arise, and that some of the wealthier persons in the distressed unions should have to pay more than 5s. in the pound, he could not regard that as anything very oppressive under the present exceptional circumstances. The expenditure at the rate of 5s. in the pound was to be taken for the quarter—that was, a 1s. 3d. rate. Then as to the relative merits of a power of borrowing money upon the rates, as compared with a rate in aid to be levied upon the other unions. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) wished to give power to overseers of a parish, when the pressure of distress was felt, to apply for loans. The guardians would doubtless give their consent to such an amendment, because, mostly representing the other parishes of the union, they could have no objection to allow a particular parish to burden itself with future liablities for present distress. But there was one point to be considered. If a parish were permitted to encumber itself with a load of debt, and was to be charged, in addition to current rates, with interest upon past loans and past repayments, the amount would be so heavy as to induce many persons to leave that parish for others in the neighbourhood; thus casting a heavier burden upon those who remained, including the wealthier classes, who were supposed to be injured by the possibility of being called upon to pay more than 5s. in the pound. Many of the objections that had been made to the Bill appeared to be directed against it in the light of a permanent measure; but it was not intended to be such, and there would be but two quarters in which the guardians would be required to take steps under the Bill. Some arguments that had been adduced appeared to have been based upon an apprehension that parishes might find difficulties in the way of affording immediate relief to the poor, but that was a mistake. The Bill was intended rather to relieve the ratepayers than to provide instant means of relief for the poor, because there was no necessity for the latter provision. The poor were relieved by the board of guardians, and the relieving officer was the officer of the union, and therefore there never could be any want of means for immediate relief; but when, at the end of the quarter, the board of guardians examined the accounts, if they found that for any particular parish more had been expended than had been contributed, then the parish was found to be in debt, and another rate was made to make up the amount. The Bill provided that when, upon examining the accounts, it should be found that any parish had expended more than 1s. 3d. in the pound during the quarter, then the excess should be provided for by calling in the aid of other parishes in the union. No one could allege that that was a very heavy burden to impose. So according to the third clause, the guardians would have to ascertain what they had expended during the quarter, and, if the amount exceeded the rate of 1s. 3d. for the quarter, they would have a right to apply to the Poor Law Board for an order of contribution upon the other unions. As the hon. Member for Oldham had referred to the number of unions that were likely to be distressed, he (Mr. Villiers) thought it might be useful if he were to state what he considered would be the amount of distress that might be expected, and the means of relieving that distress. The cotton manufacture was conducted chiefly in nineteen unions, but in seven of these unions the distress was not likely to be severely felt. In the remaining twelve unions there were 136,644 operatives above twenty years of age, and 91,086 under twenty years of age, making together a total of 227,730 operatives. The number of wives, infants, and others dependent upon these operatives was estimated at 136,644, making a gross total of 364,374 human beings in those districts dependent upon employment in the cotton trade. The total population of the twelve distressed unions was 1,106,839. The proportion of 30 per cent of that population was 332,040 persons, who might be expected possibly to come upon the rates for support if the worst should come. At the present rate of expenditure the cost of supporting those persons would be £864,304 a year. A rate of 6s. in the pound upon £2,629,176, the rateable value of the property comprised in the twelve unions, according to the estimate of 1856, would produce £788,752. In order to make up the amount of £864,000, an additional sum of £75,000 would be required from the other unions of the county of Lancaster. The rateable value of the property in that county, according to the estimate of 1856, since which time the value must have greatly increased, was £7,298,544, and a rate of 2½d. in the pound upon that amount would produce £75,552.


Is the amount of £864,000 to support 332,000 persons for a year?


That is the calculation.


Why, it is but £2 10s. a year, or a shilling a week, for each individual.


said, the calculation was based upon the average cost of relief given to each person now. He had stated those figures in order to show that there were sufficient means within the county of Lancashire to support the poor even in the worst case, and all that was necessary to do was not to allow the burden to become intolerable upon particular districts, but to spread it over a larger area. That was the object of the Bill, which distributed the burden over the whole county. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) appeared to think the estimate for relief was too low, but the calculation was confined to the relief given from the rates. There were other sources of relief; large subscriptions had already been made for the relief of the distress, and he believed that those subscriptions were but beginning. He also believed that all the operatives would not come upon the rates, as some would find occupation in other branches of employment, and some would possess private means. He had been struck with one remark that had fallen from the hon. Member for Herts (Mr. Puller) in reference to the means of employment that might be expected from India, the high price of cotton having had the usual effect of attracting large supplies. He had been considering the question in its worst aspect, and he had reason to fear that the dearth of cotton would be more felt than it was at that moment, but he believed that the worst time would be over in October, as between 300,000 and 400,000 bales of cotton might be expected from India by the end of that month. It was not to be expected that Parliament should do more than was now proposed, and he thought the Government were not to be blamed for not having brought the subject earlier before the House, as it was only within the last three weeks that circumstances had sprung up which had caused a great aggravation of the distress. The export of cotton from this country had proceeded so rapidly, and prices had risen so much, that both circumstances continuing, there was every prospect that other mills would be soon closed; and therefore, to prevent undue alarm, he had stated what would be the case if all the operatives of those districts should be thrown out of employment. The only difference was as to the mode in which the excessive expenditure of the parishes should be met; and when the House had expressed its opinion upon that point, the Government would be quite prepared to submit to its decision.


said, it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. P. Villiers) had very much under-estimated the number of those who might require relief, and also the amount required to relieve them. He (Mr. C. P. Villiers) had said that the number to be relieved would be 332,040 persons, for whom £864,304 would be required. Well, that was just 1s. apiece per week to each person. The object of those who were engaged in relieving the poor in Lancashire had been to prevent them from feeling that they were paupers in receipt of 1s. a week. In discussing the measure it was desirable that each hon. Member should consider what would be its effect in his own locality. Taking Wigan then, the relief being administered by the guardians in that district (both in and out door) amounted to £3,816; while that administered by the relief fund was £6,693 weekly, making a total weekly relief of over £10,000. The actual amount of rating at present was 8s. in the pound; and although that did not yet extend to the sum of 5s. in the pound for the whole year, it soon would, unless the distress was checked. What he complained of, therefore, was, that as soon as the Bill passed, the districts of Preston and Blackburn would come to the right hon. Gentleman, and he would make an order calling upon the people of Wigan, who by enormous exertions had kept their own people off the rates, to assist them in relieving the distress of those two other districts. They were not likely to have the rates raised to 5s. in the pound in Wigan at once, on account of a large portion of the district being of an agricultural character, but they might depend upon it that people would complain if, after having made strenuous exertions to meet the distress in their own districts, and succeeded, they were, in consequence of the success of those exertions, called upon to contribute to other districts. He would also remind the House that the poor rates were not all, but that the people of Wigan were saddled with a multitude of rates to pay for improvements and other things, so that probably the aggregate of the rates came to something like 18s. in the pound. For those reasons he certainly thought that the distressed parishes ought to be permitted to borrow at least a portion of the money required to relieve the existing and the probably increased future distress.


said, that he had in his possession some information respecting cotton, which might be of interest to the House. The exact amount of cotton coming from India, and on the water according to accounts to the 8th of June, was 405,751 bales. Last year, at the same time, there were 345,394 bales; so that about 60,000 more bales were coming at present for England than last year at the same period. From the accounts he had from India, he thought he was safe in saying that there was yet a larger quantity remaining to be sent from that country than there was last year. There was more at Madras, and more at the shipping ports of South India, which supplied cotton of good quality; and at Bombay there was a large quantity stored at the commencement of the rainy season. He believed, indeed, that there would remain to be shipped about 150,000 more bales before the fair season, and after that period they would receive further supplies. There was, no doubt, a large quantity of cotton in India, and the enormously high prices which prevailed would have the effect of drawing to the ports all that could be collected, for those prices would be so high as to withdraw cotton from local consumption. His information showed that there would not be an absolute dearth of cotton here, but that we might rely on receiving a quantity coming far short indeed of what was required, but enough, perhaps, to prevent persons who might have intended to close their mills from doing so absolutely.


said, that he would not again go over the question as to whether they ought to provide for this relief by way of loan, or by a rate in aid, but he would simply say that since the last discussion on the subject he had been in communication with his constituents, and that morning he had received from almost every quarter of the division which he represented the expression of a wish that the distressed districts should be allowed to relieve themselves by loan rather than by the mode proposed in the Government Bill. He was anxious to correct an error that might be made, if the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman were supposed to be founded on a true basis. In calculating the amount of pauperism which would exist in Lancashire supposing that the whole cotton manufacture was stopped, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Villiers) had left out of sight the other classes who would be pauperized when the factory operatives were out of work. The trade of Lancashire was such that one class never suffered without another; and if 350,000 operatives were unemployed, to that number of persons requiring relief must be added a large proportion belonging to other trades and following other employments. At that late period of the day and of the Session hon. Members would probably wish to go at once to a division, nd he would, therefore, only say that it would be quite possible in Committee to adopt the principle both of a rate in aid and of a loan.


said, he was somewhat astonished at the apologetic tone in which some hon. Gentlemen had referred to their employing a few hours in the discussion of the question before the House. He was free to confess that until the House understood more fully the situation of Lancashire, and what were the state and wishes of its intelligent population, he thought they would do well to discuss the question for a fortnight longer at least. If one thing more than another convinced him of that, it was the speech just made by the head of the Poor Law department. He had been astounded at the calculations of his right hon. Friend. He was sorry to differ from him, and still more to express dissatisfaction with what he stated; but his facts and arguments were most fallacious. His right hon. Friend had put down the number of people employed in the cotton mills and manufactories of Lancashire and those dependent on them at 332,000. Then he had supposed all these operatives to be thrown out of work, and he assumed that they would entail an annual charge of £864,000 upon the rates. This was a very low estimate. Of course the calculation was that private charity would come in in support of the rates; but the fallacy underlying the calculation was, that he assumed that when all the operatives were out of work the rest of Lancashire would remain in its normal condition. Why, the employment of these operatives was a necessary and essential condition to the very existence of Lancashire as a manufacturing county. They were like the mainspring of a watch—when it was stopped, the rest of the works would stop too. All the shopkeepers and warehousemen were dependent on those mill workers; mercantile operations, mines, railways, canals, and endless branches of industry must be suspended or must suffer depression when the cotton manufacture was at an end. As to the resort to the other unions in the county, which was contemplated by the Bill, how could those unions pay any rate at all if their industry were at an end? The whole argument was so fallacious that he should not have alluded to it at all, if it had not shown how much ignorance prevailed on the subject in high quarters. They talked of spreading the rates over the agricultural districts of Lancashire, as though the proportion in agricultural to manufacturing districts was a large one; but, owing to the extent to which the cotton trade was spread over Lancashire, the proportion was really very small, and his main objection to the principle of the rate in aid was, that in order to get assistance for one manufacturing district, they were compelled to raise money from other manufacturing unions which might not be suffering from quite the same pressure of distress, so that all those unions would thus be rapidly brought up to the same level. The state of the case was this:—The rateable value of the whole county of Lancaster was £7,449,000, out of which £3,185,000 belonged to the distressed districts. It was assumed that all the rest of the county was agricultural. Nothing of the kind. The Return, however, did not include Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, Todmorden, Clitheroe, Bury, and several other towns. As far as he could calculate, not a million of the whole rateable value accrued from purely agricultural districts. The Fylde district about Ormskirk was purely agricultural; but if the distress which was feared really prevailed, those districts would hardly furnish a breakfast for the rest of the county. The Union of Rochdale had again and again applied to that House for the power to raise money to meet its own distress. The representatives of the ratepayers there said they could keep their poor from want if Parliament would allow them to deal with their property as they thought best. Why should Parliament oppose the wishes of that intelligent, energetic, and, in their normal state, wealthy population? Only that morning he had received from Rochdale a telegram—"The Bill is at present only a mockery, and is valueless to us. Without borrow- ing powers numbers must be pauperized." Was it not monstrous to postpone the question till the last three or four days of the Session, not even allowing boards of guardians time to meet together and make known their wishes in the form of a letter, but obliging them to telegraph to their representatives what they wanted done? The objection raised against a loan was that boards of guardians would thus tax posterity, and probably waste their resources. But his impression was that they would be quite as liable to waste the money if they obtained it by going to the county for a rate in aid. If they were empowered to borrow upon the security of their own rates, repayment of the loan being fixed at the end of seven or ten years, the consciousness that they themselves would probably have to pay the money would act as a check upon them, and a better guarantee would be given for careful expenditure than if they had a rate in aid from other districts. Assuming that they must have extraneous succour, was it not better that they should fall back upon their own now unproductive capital, which would be sure to become productive again in the course of a few years? The very fact that in ordinary times these parishes paid so little for the relief of distress was a proof of their ability in ordinary times to pay off any loan which might now be effected. These districts were struggling with a difficulty which they believed would be a temporary one, and they asked to be allowed to deal with it in their own way. He might say that the wish of Rochdale on the point was the unanimous wish of Lancashire. He did not indeed assert that there might not be some crochety persons, who concurred in the principle of the Bill. But the general feeling of the county was in favour of the borrowing power, and the London newspapers which, like the Economist, devoted themselves chiefly to the consideration of economical questions, arrived at the same conclusion. Why, then, did they hesitate? Could there be better authority than that of the parties interested? The hon. Member for Stockport was the exception to the rule of those who had advocated borrowing powers. The town clerk of Stockport, whose opinion he (Mr. Cobden) would take in preference to that of any one in the borough, said in a letter that there was great disappointment with reference to the result of the preceding debate on this Bill, and that the hon. Gentleman did not express the opinion of his constituents. The town clerk entered into details to show how the Bill would work, and he concluded by saying— I do hope you will be able to get borrowing powers, even although they may never be used. God help us if Parliament separate without giving full powers! The prospects of this district during the winter are viewed with great alarm. Why should Parliament take upon itself the responsibility of refusing to these intelligent men, who were on the spot and acquainted with the nature of the emergency, the powers they asked for? From what he had heard since the measure was introduced, he had, under the guidance of men who were more competent than himself to deal with the subject, changed his opinion so far that he was prepared, in the name of Lancashire, and not speaking for Derbyshire or Cheshire, to give up the rate in aid altogether, unless they could also have the borrowing power. In the name of the parties chiefly interested he felt authorized to say, that if it was impracticable to grant the option of borrowing—and he was sure it would not be so if they had not been at the end of the Session—they would prefer to have the borrowing power, and not the rate in aid. Therefore, the question he should like to be considered as at issue in the division was, whether the power to borrow should form a part of any measure to be passed, subject, of course, to any conditions they might think fit to impose. He would rather not consider himself bound to the explicit terms of the Amendment, to the mover of which he felt much obliged. Neither did he wish to be bound to the details of the hon. Member for Oldham. But, in taking a vote on the re-committal of the Bill, he wished it to be considered that the question was, whether or not the House would give powers to borrow, subject to such conditions as it might think fit to impose.


said, that he still objected to the borrowing power, as he believed that the cotton famine was something more than a mere passing cloud. The cultivation of cotton had not extended in India—the only place from which there were any hopes of obtaining supplies. In The Times of that morning there was a letter from Mr. Saunders, a gentleman employed by the Indian Government to inquire into the growth of cotton in India, and he complained that the Manchester people had not sent agents to India to stimulate the growth of cotton, and consequently that there had not been any extension of its cultivation. Persons were too apt to look at Indian questions from a European point of view, whereas India required to be dealt with differently from other countries. If we wanted a supply of corn or cotton from America, a rise in the price in this country created a competition of buyers in America, and insured an increased supply; but in India they were not certain of getting cotton if even buyers went up the country and offered high prices to the ryots, with money in their hand. The cotton-growers in India were mere labourers, and were so poor that without the aid of the village banker they could neither purchase seed nor pay their rent. The consequence was that the growers were bound to the bankers, who purchased their crops at their own price. The ryots regarded strange purchasers with suspicion: they felt no security, that if advances were made to them one year, they could be certain of obtaining them whenever they needed; while they could always depend on the assistance of the village banker, whose father and grandfather advanced to their father and grandfather. No doubt this difficulty might in the end be overcome, but "while the grass grows the steed starves." He was anxious that some means should be adopted with a view to encourage the ryots to extend the cultivation of cotton. They now usually got for it from 1d. to 1½d. a pound from the village banker. What was wanted was an increased price secured to the grower to encourage increased production. In the present difficulty of obtaining a competition of buyers the only course appeared to be for the Government to compete with the banker by offering to give 2d. to 2½d. per pound for clean cotton, and to take it for three years in payment of rent, whereby large quantities of the staple might be secured. But then it was said, "Oh, this would be contrary to sound principles of political economy. Would you have the Government turn cotton-buyers?" Now, in the first place, in great emergencies Parliament often disregarded what were called sound principles of political economy. It was a sound principle that no able-bodied man should subsist on the labour of others; but in the Bill before them there was a departure from this principle. They were justified in departing from ordinary principles in order to meet great temporary difficulties. Nothing could be more sound than that a bank should pay its notes in specie on demand; but that rule had been departed from twice in the case of the Bank of England. In the next place, while the measure which he recommended would have greatly extended the cultivation of cotton in India, Government would not have had to buy a single pound of the staple. Cotton was now selling for 1s. 2d. and 1s. 3d. a pound; there was no chance of its being worth less than 2d. to 2½d. per pound; and Government might therefore have made the offer with the greatest safety. Notwithstanding all that had been said, he was still of opinion that it was a most injudicious course for Lancashire to borrow money on a short term of five or seven years. His constituents, however, did not ask for so short a term; they wished to borrow of the Government for twenty years, and he did not think that the Legislature was prepared to allow them to borrow for any such period. If a distressed district borrowed money for a short term, he feared that there was no prospect of its being able to repay it within the period fixed without serious embarrassment. It was on these grounds that he opposed the borrowing power.


said, he felt, that in the exceptional condition of the Lancashire population, their case was entitled to exceptional consideration. He thought that the emergency could be met by no ordinary means, and that it was possible that national aid would have to be extended to the distressed districts. He rose, however, to call attention, not only to the peculiar emergency in which they found themselves, but to the political and social condition in which so large a mass of their working population were placed. Their entire reliance was upon one staple article—cotton; and when that failed, no other resource was left them to earn their bread. Such a condition of their industrial population was, he ventured to say, a very unhealthy one, and not unattended with danger to the state. With regard to the social condition of that population, he had read a statement in The Times that since the women in the manufacturing districts had been thrown out of work the longevity of the infants had very much increased. In regard to the present emergency, all parts of the country sympathized with the distressed districts, and would heartily support any measure which might be adopted for their relief.


said, the hon. Member for London and the President of the Poor Law Board had held out hopes that this country would receive large quantities of cotton from India. Whether these hopes would be realized or not the House had no means of judging. He was, however, of opinion that there were sufficient grounds for believing that in some localities, at least, the present distress would in a short time be alleviated by employment, and on that ground he thought it wise that the Lancashire people, who were the best judges of their prospects, should be allowed to decide in what manner the temporary distress was to be met. The hon. Member for Rochdale asked that Lancashire might be allowed to meet the temporary distress with loans; and it was much better to adopt a plan which would not crush the householders, but enable owners of property to distribute the burden, so that that which had increased in value by the operatives' exertions might bear some part of the burden. He thought that in the districts in which the distress was proved to exist the House ought in the first instance to give the owners of property the power to meet it by loans.


said, that the further the discussion went, the more convinced must every one feel, not only of the importance of the subject, but also that Parliament was legislating to a great extent in the dark. Statements, supported by figures, had been made by the Government as to the amount of distress which was likely to ensue, but they had been met with a most positive contradiction by an hon. Member who said that he spoke for all Lancashire. He would not pretend to decide between the two authorities, but it was quite clear that the House was almost without any information necessary for legislation. There was no reliable information before the House later than 1856 as to the amount of rate which was paid in each parish—a point on which it was essential that they should be informed before they could form any accurate estimate as to the proper mode of relieving this distress. Under that state of circumstances he should support the proposition of the Government. Two plans had been laid before the House—one by the hon. Member for Hertford- shire, the other by the hon Member for Oldham—of both of which the hon. Gentleman who spoke for Lancashire spoke disdainfully, and to neither of would he bind himself in any way. The House was asked to assent to vague and general plans for borrowing, and nobody could tell the House how the money was to be borrowed, on whom it was to be charged, or in what proportion. It might be that the people of Lancashire were calling out for borrowing powers because they thought that it would confine the relief to a more limited area; but until some definite scheme was laid before the House, it was impossible to tell how the burden was to be borne—by the parish, the union, or by the whole county. All who had supported the scheme had spoken in the most general terms. It had been said that without these borrowing powers it would be impossible to meet the distress, but he could hardly give credit to that statement. Take a parish rated at £10,000 a year. A 5s. rate in that parish for one quarter would be £625. Nobody had assumed that more than half the ratepayers would be able to pay the rate, and he could not believe that a parish of the rental of £10,000 would not be able to raise a second sum of £625 within the quarter without borrowing. It had been said that the measure would fail; but even if it did, the Government would be able to call Parliament together in the autumn, and to propose another scheme for the relief of the distress. Theirs was the responsibility; for, with the limited information which had been laid before the House, it was idle to say that the House could be responsible. In a case of such magnitude it was best to stand upon an old principle, and to adapt that principle, as far as could be done, to the necessities of the case. If the measure should fail to meet the distress, the responsibility of calling Parliament together to propose a new scheme would rest with the Government. But, with the imperfect information before it, it would be unwise of the House to introduce into the Poor Law an entirely new principle—that of borrowing money for the relief of the poor. That was a measure which ought only to be adopted in the last necessity, and nobody had yet said that the distress was at present overwhelming. For these reasons he should support the proposition of the Government.


said, that in all the communications which he had received from his constituents in North Cheshire the necessity of granting borrowing powers was insisted on—not borrowing powers as contradistinguished from the measure proposed by the Government, but as an appendix to it. In that feeling he entirely concurred, and he hoped the Government would consider whether they could not amend the measure so as to carry out the desire of the manufacturing districts. At present he did not think that the House was called upon to pledge itself to any particular plan. All that they had to decide was whether they would recommit the Bill; and, if they decided to recommit the Bill, it would then be for the Government to propose such a plan as they might think best for appending to it the desired borrowing powers. He hoped the Government would not spoil the effect of what they had done by refusing to take the course proposed.


Sir, I hope the House will come to a decision on this question now. The issue, as I understand it, for the House to determine under the form of the recommittal of the Bill, is whether they will adhere to the principle of a rate in aid as proposed by the Government, or whether they will recommit the Bill for the purpose of introducing into it, jointly or separately, the principle of raising money by loan. It is a very plausible thing to propose to raise money by loan—it is the easiest way of getting money if you shut your eyes to the subsequent repayment; but I should wish the House to recollect that it would be introducing a totally new principle into the Poor Law. There is no argument that I have yet heard in the course of this debate in favour of that proposal which would not apply to any period of distress in any part of the county. All the arguments I have heard used in favour of raising money by loans would apply now equally to other parts of the country where the rates are higher even than the maximum proposed by my right hon. Friend as the starting-point for the extension of the rate in aid, and which would be the starting-point for the borrowing of loans. There are many parishes in other parts of the country where the rates are already higher than that limit. I believe there can be no worse principle in political or domestic economy than to borrow money to pay current expenses, and that is what we are now asked to do. We are asked to enable these parishes to incur debt for the purpose of meeting current expenses. Is that necessary? If it could be said that there was no other mode of meeting the emergency, you might be asked to ignore the general principle in order to provide for a particular case; but it is demonstrable that the wealth of Lancashire and Cheshire is amply sufficient for any demand which a rate in aid would make upon it. The hon. Member for Rochdale has put the rateable income of Lancashire at £7,000,000. I believe it is nearer £10,000,000 or £11,000,000, and that, after making any deduction you may please for those who may be unable to pay their rates, is amply sufficient to provide until the 1st of March for any demands made by a rate in aid spread over the county. The real truth, when you come to examine this proposal, is that you are to exempt the rich, to throw the whole burden on the poor. ["No, no!"] Yes, you are to exempt the county which is rich, and to throw the pressure of the whole burden, present and future, on the parishes and unions which, by the fact of a loan, are assumed by the argument to be in a state of poverty, and unable to pay their expenses. In the counties whose case we are now discussing immense sums of money have been made; manufacturers have realized enormous fortunes, which fortunes they possess still. An hon. Gentleman says they have invested them in mills, but they have accumulated much larger sums than are invested in mills. There are enormous capitalists in those counties, some of whom, I am sorry to say—although they have a starving population at their gates and anticipate the worse distress coming on—have actually, for the sake of profit, sold and sent out of the country the very material which they ought to have used to supply the mills and to support the people. Are these people to be exempted? Why should they not be called on to contribute to alleviate the misery they see around them, when they have ample means? But not only have these manufacturers made enormous fortunes, but all the landowners have profited greatly by the prosperity of the cotton manufacture in the county; and nothing can be more just than that the whole county at large should, in the ultimate resort, be called on to contribute to the support of these people out of employment. It is amply proved that the county is able to do so. That it is able is a fact so clear and so well known that no human being has been able to deny it. It may be a very convenient thing to localize the burden and fix it on the parish, but I do not think it is a fair proposition. I think it is fair that the current expenditure of the county should be borne by the contributions of the county, instead of introducing into your Poor Law a new principle of borrowing money for current expenditure. I should really hope therefore that the House would adhere to the Bill as it is, and negative the proposal of my hon. Friend.


said, the statements of the noble Viscount were so contrary to the facts, and calculated to throw so much undeserved odium on the cotton manufacturers, that they ought to be refuted at once. The noble Lord said the proposal to raise money by loan was to exempt the rich and throw the whole burden on the poor, and that the manufacturers, who had accumulated large fortunes and sent their cotton out of the country, would thus escape all contribution. But the Bill before the House would not touch the money of the manufacturers at all. Not a single farthing would be raised on these enormous fortunes, except they happened to be invested in mills. The fact was that in their assumed justice and humanity the Government were going to exempt the owners of property altogether from any contribution; for what they proposed was that the rate in aid should only continue six months; so that the charge would fall with enormous severity on the occupiers, and most heavily of all on the tenant-farmers, who would have to pay an income tax of ten per cent on their incomes, while the landlords would not pay one single farthing. He supported the proposal for a loan, because it was the only mode by which property could be made to pay, and by which the gross injustice which was about to be inflicted on the tenant-farmers could be avoided. The only mode of adjusting the charge between the occupier and the owner was to diffuse it over a period of time, which the proposed plan would effect; but, as it stood, the measure would work the grossest injustice.


said, he could not help remarking the extraordinary discrepancy between the language of the Poor Law Board in introducing the Bill and the tone just taken by the noble Viscount. The right hon. Gentleman at the commencement of the discussion told the House that the Government were ready and anxious to take the view of the House on the subject—in fact, almost shirked the responsibility of pronouncing an opinion on the measure himself; but now the noble Lord got up, and, in the strongest manner, denounced the attempt to incorporate the principle of loans with the principle of a rate in aid. He could not understand on what principle it could be concluded that those who were to have the power of raising the money, and who would have to repay it, would not raise it and expend it in the fairest and most judicious manner. By the proposal before them the House was not pledged to any specific plan, and he should therefore support it.


maintained that he, on the part of the Government, had given a decided opinion from the first. He all along said there were two propositions before the House, and gave his reasons for the adoption of a rate in aid; but announced, that if the House adopted a different plan, the Government would not think it fatal to the Bill. His announcement was consistent with the statement just made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government.


said, the simple question the House had to decide was, whether the amount required for the ordinary wants of the poor was to be taken from borrowed capital or from the natural resources of the district. He felt satisfied that the unfortunate state of distress in Lancashire was much more likely to be aggravated in six months than mitigated. He confessed he was utterly at a loss to understand where the money was to be borrowed to meet the emergency, as some hon. Members advocated the adoption of the principle of a loan. He should certainly support the proposition of the Government, believing it to be the soundest that could be suggested under the circumstances.


said, he should not have risen had he not felt it a duty to protest against the spirit in which the question had been treated by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The fact that manufacturers had made large fortunes was no reason why the burden of relieving the present distress should be thrown entirely on the occupiers. Many manufacturers who had made large fortunes in the county had taken themselves and their fortunes out of it altogether—and how could they be touched? The real question was, whether by raising that year, and in future years, rates of enormous severity, they would reduce a great number of the smaller ratepayers to pauperism, or whether they would take the advice of almost all who were most interested in the question, and borrow the money now needed and repay it when that prosperity returned which every one anticipated. He agreed entirely in the observations which had just been made by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 88; Noes 95: Majority 7.

Words added.


said, that as both the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board had promised to give the most favourable consideration to any expression of opinion on the part of the House, he would suggest that Her Majesty's Government should, after the division which had taken place, take the matter in hand, and endeavour to carry out the wishes of the House. He feared some danger in any individual member proposing resolutions, and he thought it would be much better if the Government endeavoured to give effect to the views which the House had just expressed.


My right hon. Friend stated, and I also said the same, that however strong our opinion in favour of the plan which we proposed, should the House express a different opinion, the measure was too important in its nature to be thrown over the recess. The House having decided upon another plan, I think it will be better for my right hon. Friend to propose some measure for the consideration of the House, embodying the views which have been expressed. In that case I do not think it can be ready to-morrow morning, but the House at its meeting to-morrow afternoon will receive the proposal of my right hon. Friend.


The clauses which will be necessary are very important, as they involve the machinery by which the very important determination of the House is to be carried into effect. If the Government can produce them to-morrow in a satisfactory form, it will be very creditable to them. But I hope the House will not be called upon hastily to give its decision upon clauses which they have had no time to consider. I would suggest that we should not be asked to decide until Friday.


Sir, I take the first opportunity, when the forms of the House permit me to speak again, to say a word in reference to a remark which fell from the noble Lord. It is one of greater scope and tenour than might be supposed from the levity with which it fell from the noble Lord's lips. The noble Lord alluded to rich manufacturers with starving people at their doors, who, unmindful of their fate, have been sending cotton abroad at a profit, instead of working it up in their own mills. Any one connected with Lancashire—and I speak in this matter for all parties—knows that 99–100ths of the manufacturers and spinners in that district have been working their mills and factories at a loss for many months—some of them at a very great loss. I read a letter the other day from a gentleman who is engaged largely in the trade, and who stated his own case. He held a stock of cotton for which he could have obtained £20,000 profit, if he would have sold it; but he preferred to employ his own workpeople, by which he lost £20,000. I do not say this to the credit of cotton spinners or manufacturers alone. There is nobody of any feeling, situated as they are, who would not do the same thing. There is no landowner or farmer who does not in rigorous times employ his people without any view to profit. But for a Prime Minister, dealing with a general argument, to allow a remark to fall from his lips so calculated to produce envenomed feeling between two classes whose mutual relations are, in a time of great distress, exposed to peril—for a Prime Minister to use such language as that, is highly to be reprobated. Not only is it an unjust aspersion upon one class, but it is tainted with that habitual incorrectness and recklessness for which the noble Lord is so remarkable. I would add my recommendation to that which has just been made that this measure be dealt with carefully and cautiously. I would suggest, that if borrowing powers are to be introduced, the Government in framing clauses to give effect to the decision of the House should bear in mind what has occurred. If the Government carry their own spirit into the formation of the clauses, most likely the House will have a Bill brought before it with which it could not deal, and we may have to adjourn from day to day without coming to any definite conclusion. The spirit in which the Amendment has been carried, is this—that it is desirable to allow the population in Lancashire to tide over the present difficulty, on the assumption that it is a temporary difficulty, and that it is desirable in their interest that they should be allowed to take measures as promptly as possible, before that ruin has come upon them which would prevent their retaining a position from which they may rise again when the arrival of the raw material of their industry enables them to set to work. I therefore would suggest, that there should be no limit at all as regards the height of the rate when borrowing powers are to come into operation, or that the limit should be as low as would not prevent any union at the present moment resorting to those powers. If that is not done, great distress and ruin will be caused in these districts. I should prefer to see the original principle of a multiple of former rates. The position of the different parishes and unions in the north of England is so very diverse that no fixed sum can be suitable for all cases. I would advise that every confidence should be shown in the people. Leave them to deal with their own affairs, for you may be assured that they will act more wisely in the matter than you can, and therefore let them have as few restrictions to tie them down as possible.


said, he had understood the noble Lord to say that the House by the recent Vote had decided upon the principle of a loan instead of a rate in aid. He (General Lindsay) certainly did not understand that it was a question of alternative of either of the two propositions. If he were under such an impression, he should certainly have voted in favour of the Government proposition.


said, that the spirit in which the House had voted might be collected from the clauses which appeared on the votes, and also from what had taken place in the course of the discussion. It certainly was not intended to interfere with the provisions of the Bill as proposed by the Government, but merely to admit the alternative of dis- tricts raising money by loan. In that spirit he would undertake to prepare a clause, which need not be complicated, as the principle was clear. It would be in the hands of hon. Members in the course of the day, and the House, he should think, would be prepared to discuss it in the course of the afternoon.


I hope the Government will not listen to the blandishments of the hon. Member for Rochdale, and allow the unions to borrow, without reference to the excess over ordinary expenditure. It is a tempting bait and is always coming into view as a way of getting out of a pecuniary difficulty. Two things are mixed up together. One is the distress of the labouring classes, and the other the pressure upon the ratepayers. The distress of the poor is used as an argument to shift the burden occasioned by their distress. No doubt it is true that a sudden pressure on the poor rates falls hardly upon the ratepayers, and that the class which is bordering between pauperism and solvency is driven by it to the wrong side of the fence. All our sympathies and all our pity must be for that class. But, besides being a most dangerous thing in principle, in the long run the burden will fall more heavily upon that class if the unions are allowed to borrow in the first instance, and to accumulate a large mass of debt upon the rates, than if by hook or by crook the unions endeavour to raise by rates the amount of current expenditure. I wish to quote the opinion of a Gentleman, whose opinion the hon. Member for Rochdale will respect. It was expressed in the course of a debate in 1849, when it was proposed to levy a rate in aid over all the unions in Ireland to relieve the distress in the western portion of the kingdom. The Gentleman, whose words I will quote, referred to the case of Stockport, and I may say, not without authority, that the distress in Stockport in 1842 far exceeded any distress which now exists, or is likely to exist, in Lancashire. That Gentleman, speaking in 1849, said— I allude to the case of Stockport in 1842. Owing to a variety of circumstances—I won't go into the question of the corn law, as that is settled—but owing to a variety of circumstances, from 1838 to 1842 there was a continued sinking in the condition of Stockport—its property depreciated to a lamentable extent. One man left property, as he thought, worth £80,000 or £90,000. In two years after it sold for little more than £20,000. Since that time the son of one person, then sup- posed to be a person of large property, has had relief from the parochial funds. In 1842 the amount of the poor rate averaged from 7s. to 8s. in the pound. From November 4, 1841, to May 30, 1842, the rates levied were 6s. in the pound, realizing the amount of £19,144. From January 28, 1843, to August 2 of the same year, the rates levied were 7s. in the pound, and the amount raised £21,948. And bear in mind that at that time Stockport was in process of depopulation—many thousands quitted the place—whole streets were left with scarce a tenant in them—some large public-houses, previously doing a good business, were let for little more than their rates; in fact, Stockport was as fair a representative of distress amongst a manufacturing community as Mayo, Galway, or any western county of Ireland, can be at this moment of distress amongst an agricultural community. … Well now, all this suffering was going on—the workhouses were crowded, the people emigrating, there was a general desolation; and had it not been for the harvest of 1842, which was a good one, and the gradual recovery of trade which followed, nothing in Ireland could be worse than the condition of Stockport would have been. What was the result? Property was so much depreciated that it changed hands. Something like half the manufacturers failed, and, of course, gave up business altogether. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport purchased property in that borough at this period, and since then he has laid out not far short of a hundred thousand pounds, in a very large manufacturing establishment in that town. In fact, the persons who are now carrying on the manufacturing business in Stockport are of a more substantial character than those who were swept away by the calamities of 1842. Well, it is a very sorrowful process. I can feel as much for those persons as any man; but we must all submit to circumstances such as those, when they arrive. There are vicissitudes in all classes of society, and in all occupations in which we may engage; and when we have, as now, in Ireland, a state of things—a grievous calamity not to be equalled under the sun, it is the duty of this House not to interfere with the ordinary and natural course which circumstances take upon such occasions, and not to flinch from what is necessary for the safety of the people from any mistaken sympathy either with the owners of cotton mills or the proprietors of landed estates." [3 Hansard, civ., 172, 173.] Those were the observations of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and I think it clear that the hon. Gentleman's opinion is radically opposed to the opinion of the hon. Member for Rochdale.


remarked, that the opinions of the hon. Member for Birmingham were overruled by Parliament in 1849.


Yes; as far as rates in aid.


I should like to know from the noble Viscount clearly what is to be the course of business in reference to this Bill. I think the House is not in a fitting disposition to decide upon the question until they have had a fair opportunity to consider it.


What we propose it to meet to-morrow afternoon. My right hon. Friend will then have proposals to make to the House. The House can deal with them as they think fit, and proceed with them on Friday.


said, he wished to ask, in the event of the Bill being re-committed, and the measure passing through Committee on the following day, what course the Government intended to take on Friday?


That will be stated to-morrow. It depends on the course of business.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill re-committed, for the purpose of considering Clauses to enable the guardians of unions to borrow money on the security of rates of parishes within such unions: Bill considered in Committee.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.