§ Bill considered in Committee:—
§ (In the Committee).
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, that in conformity with what seemed to be the wish of the House yesterday, he had prepared a proviso to be added to Clause 3, enabling boards of guardians to borrow, as an alternative to seeking contributions in aid from other unions. The proviso was as follows:—that, instead of making such application as aforesaid,such guardians may, by resolution passed at a meeting held after special notice in writing sent to every elected and ex-officio guardian of the union, apply to the Poor Law Board for authority to borrow a sum of money sufficient to meet such excess; and the Poor Law Board may, if they think fit, issue their order accordingly; and thereupon the said guardians may borrow such sum, and shall charge the common fund of the union with the repayment of the same, by equal annual instalments not exceeding seven, and with the payment of the interest from time to time to accrue thereon.
§ MR. W. EGERTON
expressed his satisfaction with the clause, and thanked the right hon. Gentleman for having brought it forward. He thought it perfectly fair that the loan should be raised by the union, and not on the security of the parish rates. In Ashton and Stockport the opinion was in favour of raising money by way of loan, and in those places no difficulty would be experienced in repaying it. The rateable property in Stockport and Ashton amounted respectively to £250,000 and £348,000, and the ordinary rate in one case was 9d., and in the other 1s. 2d. in the pound. On the other hand, in Macclesfield the feeling was against a loan, because there had been considerable distress there for some years on account of the bad state of the silk trade, and there was an apprehension that the money could not be borrowed without much diffi- 1040 culty. He hoped the measure as now framed would be received by the distressed districts in the same spirit in which, it had been discussed.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he did not think the clause would at all meet the requirements of the case. At present the rates did not much exceed from 1s. 6d. to 2s. in the pound. If the clause were carried, the guardians would have no power to borrow until the rates amounted to 5s. What they wanted was, that they should be empowered to borrow before the rates readied that amount. He hoped the limit in the clause would be reduced from 5s. to 3s. It was also desirable that a similar alteration should be made in the 1st clause. The boards of guardians in towns were, generally speaking, opposed to the principle of a rate in aid.
§ MR. PULLER
admitted that the clause, as far as it went, was an improvement, inasmuch as it would enable a union, when its aggregate expenditure had reached the limit which, under the Bill as it formerly stood, would have entitled it to apply for the application of the rate in aid principle, to borrow money upon its own property, thereby preventing other unions from being involved in the same common ruin. He was sorry to say, however, that the clause afforded no relief at all to the separate parishes, or to the individual ratepayers who were now actually in distress. The House had been told of millionaire manufacturers; but what they had to legislate for was the case of those small millowners and tradesmen who had the greatest difficulty in making both ends meet, and whom a very small additional pressure would reduce to a state of insolvency. This he believed could only be done by reducing the rate at which the borrowing power was to commence to 3s., or by placing a limit of 5s. to the rate to be collected from the distressed parish. While prepared, therefore, to vote for the clause as it stood, he should deem it his duty to propose the other clause of which he had given notice to effect the object which he had in view, unless the President of the Poor Law Board were disposed in some shape or other to afford relief to the impoverished parishes and their ratepayers.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, that as the Bill stood, some of the unions would be unable to avail themselves of the borrowing powers before Michaelmas, and some of them would not be able to do so before Christmas.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
was at a loss to understand the grounds of the hon. Gentleman's apprehensions. In some townships the limit had been already reached, and they were entitled to the relief provided in that case.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
observed that a parish could not apply for a rate in aid till Michaelmas next; and it would be the next quarter before the excess would be ascertained, enabling the unions to call on the county.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
wished to know whether this clause would not deprive the distressed districts of the power of availing themselves of the rate in aid in the event of their adopting the borrowing powers.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, that was not exactly so. The object of the clause, which had been introduced into the Bill at the express desire of a majority of the House, was to give the alternative either to go to the unions of the county to meet the excess of expenditure, or to meet it by means of a loan. If they did not like to exercise the borrowing powers, they might avail themselves of the rate in aid; but if they preferred borrowing, the money would be repaid in seven annual instalments, charging the common fund of the union with repayment and interest.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, he thought the borrowing power would be inoperative if it rested, on the same limit as the rate in aid—namely, 5s. He had great objection to the unions coming on the county, not because he feared that the county property would have to contribute to the relief of the distressed operatives, but because it would be a temptation to extravagance, and the county would have no control over the purse of the union. He suggested, that if the limit for the rate in aid were kept at 5s., and that for raising loans were reduced to 4s., the borrowing power might be exercised with great advantage by all parties.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
thought the clause would be wholly inoperative. What was wanted was, that after the rates reached, say 3s. in the pound, a moderate power of borrowing should be given. Such an arrangement as that might carry them through, without going any further at present.
§ MR. BARROW
decidedly objected to the proposal of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, as introducing an exceptional principle into the law for the whole of 1042 England. He had known the rates rise to 5s. and even double that sum in his own part of the country, in districts which suffered from temporary distress; and there the period of depression, if it lasted only for a year or two, was tided over by the ordinary operation of the law. He saw no difficulty, however, in adopting the suggestion thrown out by the hon. Member below him (Colonel W. Patten), that the power of borrowing, if granted at all, should take effect earlier than the power of coming on the county for a rate in aid.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, that after the decision arrived at by the House yesterday, the simple question now was what should be the figure fixed upon in the first and third clauses as the limit at which the rate in aid and the power of borrowing should arise. He did not deny that there was much in what fell from the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) yesterday as to the unequal operation of a fixed sum upon those ratepayers who were solvent, and who might have to pay a much larger proportion than was intended, owing to the inability of the poorer class of ratepayers to meet the charges to which they were legally liable. He had been informed only that morning, that if the mills at Oldham were closed, as was expected before long to be the case, no less than two-thirds of the ratepayers would cease to pay. Of course, in such a case, the amount for which the rate had been made could not be collected, and another rate would have to be made, which those persons who were still solvent would have to pay. That state of things might go on till the rates were brought up to 10s. in the pound; which would certainly be a hardship. The intention of the Bill was, that the ratepayers should not pay more than 5s. in the pound. He understood the feeling of the House to be that there should be some reduction upon that amount. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) had yesterday suggested 3s. as the limit, and the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson Patten) recommended 4s. as a sort of medium that might be adopted. From the information he had obtained, he thought that 4s. as a limit would operate beneficially; and, if such were the wish of the House, he would not object to introduce 4s. instead of 5s., in the first and the third clauses, as the amount at which, both the rate in aid and the borrowing power should come into operation.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, that that was not the purport of his suggestion. His suggestion was, that the borrowing power should begin at a lower figure than the rate in aid. If both were fixed at the same point, the borrowing power would probably be inoperative. He proposed that 4s. should be the limit for the borrowing power to commence, and 5s. for the rate in aid.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that the borrowing power had been proposed on the preceding day as an alternative to the rate in aid, and it was stated that it would be accepted by a large portion of Lancashire with that condition. But there would be no real alternative in the case if the borrowing power and the rate in aid were to come into operation under different circumstances.
§ MR. GARNETT
thought it desirable that the power of borrowing should be given before the rates reached the point at which the union could come upon the county, otherwise a rate in aid would be naturally resorted to by distressed parishes in preference to raising money which they would afterwards have to repay.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
reminded the hon. Member that a great difference of opinion existed as to whether the borrowing power should be given at all. A few days ago a meeting of the Lancaster Union was held, at which it was unanimonsly agreed that nothing could be more objectionable than to raise by loan money for the purpose of carrying out the Poor Law system, and they had presented a memorial to him to that effect.
§ LORD GEORGE CAVENDISH
held it to be very desirable that the guardians should be able to resort to a loan at a lower point of the rates than that at which they could apply for a rate in aid. He would give the borrowing power when the rate reached 3s. in the pound.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
thought this was a ratepayers' question only. The Members for the localities affected were in favour of borrowing, while the Government recommended a rate in aid. He had voted with the Government on the previous day, and did not think that the decision of the House did more than indicate a difference of opinion in the country as to the merits of the respective plans. The question they had to consider was, in what way they should, or should not, give the borrowing power. If they were willing to do so, it ought to come into 1044 operation before the power of applying for the rate in aid.
said, the advocates of borrowing powers had shifted their ground since yesterday. At first the representatives of the manufacturing districts simply asked that the power of borrowing should be an alternative to calling for a rate in aid; and it was stated, that if it should be given as an alternative, many of the distressed parishes would avail themselves of the provision. Not one of them suggested that money should be raisable by loan at an earlier period than that at which a rate in aid should be demandable—namely, when the poor rate was 5s. in the pound. But now they asked that borrowing might be resorted to when it was 4s. in the pound. The Government had come forward with a proposal in accordance with the generally-expressed wish of the House; and now it was said, that the proposal could not be adopted unless the terms at which the borrowing powers should come into operation were lower than those at which the rate in aid should be levied. Of course it was much easier to borrow than to make a rate in aid, and it was not surprising that there should be great unanimity of feeling, among those parishes which were likely to be called upon to assist the distressed districts, in favour of borrowing.
§ MR. DISRAELI
thought that the Committee were placed in a very inconvenient position. They were called upon to discuss a proposition which they had had no opportunity of considering. He thought more time was required to deliberate among themselves, and that it would be more for the advantage of their legislation, as well as for the convenience of the Committee, if the noble Lord at the head of the Government would consent to postpone the decision upon this question for a short time.
§ MR. DEEDES
remarked, that on Wednesday the simple question of giving the alternative of borrowing powers was agreed to by the House, but the terms of that, alternative were not discussed. Surely, if the alternative power of borrowing were given, it ought to be put in such a shape that it would work; but he thought it would be wholly inoperative if it were not to take effect until the rate in aid could be applied for. He hoped the Government would reduce the limit at which the borrowing powers should commence.
§ MR. HIBBERT
was of opinion that 1045 the borrowing powers should come into operation at a smaller amount than was stated in the clause. He thought, if it were allowed to come into operation at 3s., it would give prompt relief to those ratepayers who would be unable in the course of a few weeks or months to meet the demands of the tax collectors upon them.
§ MR. GARNETT
said, he was ready to admit, with the Lancaster memorialists, that as a general rule it was not desirable to resort to a loan in the administration of the Poor Law; but he was prepared to depart from that principle in the extraordinary circumstances with which they had then to deal.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, it appeared to him that the Government were carrying out the decision to which the House had come on the preceding day, that the borrowing power should only be given as an alternative.
§ MR. AYRTON
thought that the Government were not doing what they professed to do. There would be no practical alternative if the borrowing power could only come into operation at the same time as the rate in aid. The proposition of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire was that the borrowing power should commence at a lower point. It would be utterly futile to suppose that the people of Lancashire would borrow money when they could obtain it without incurring the obligation of a repayment. What was meant by the representatives of the distressed districts when they asked for the alternative power was, that they would not go on the other fund if they were allowed, to borrow before the rates had reached such an enormous amount as would reduce a majority of the ratepayers to insolvency. The proposition now submitted by the Government was really not an alternative. It was idle to suppose, that if people could get what they wanted from the pockets of their neighbours for nothing, they would be content to impoverish themselves by borrowing at probably heavy interest. What they really did say was, that if they waited until the rates reached the fixed sum of 5s. in the various parishes, a large portion of the ratepayers themselves would be reduced to a state of insolvency; but they were perfectly content if they could be relieved before the rates were allowed to reach that oppressive rate, by being permitted to borrow on the security of the property they possessed; 1046 and they not only believed that by so doing they would relieve the existing distress, but when the season of prosperity returned they would be able to repay the whole amount of the loan. He denied that the present mode of dealing with the subject was a simple application of the Poor Law to existing circumstances; on the contrary, they were importing an entirely new principle into the law—in fact, making a new law. The exercise of the borrowing power was, in his view, the most consistent with justice and principle; for by spreading the burden over a period of years, the tenants would, in many cases, be enabled to make fresh arrangements with the landlords, and impose upon property its due share of the burden. The Government proposition left the matter exactly where it stood on the previous discussion, and afforded no alternative whatever.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that the principle of permitting the distressed districts to borrow money had been admitted on both sides of the House, and the Government had presented a clause having for its object to give the power as an alternative. The question now before the Committee was, that the clause be read the second time. By doing so the Committee would affirm the principle; afterwards it would be perfectly competent to introduce amendments as to the way in which the power should be exercised.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire that the Committee was not in a position to decide the question at the present moment. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton) said, that when the representatives of the distressed districts advocated the alternative power, the proposal was understood to be, that after the rates had reached a uniform sum, that boards of guardians were to have the alternative either of borrowing the money or applying for a rate in aid. But he must remind the Committee, that when this Bill was first brought in by the Government, they themselves put the limit in a very different form to what they had since stated it. In the first instance, the power was not to be exercised until the rates had exceeded two-thirds of the previous rates—that then, and then only, they would be entiled to succour from other sources; but that had been altered, at the instance, he believed, of an hon. Member connected with the agricultural districts—and very properly altered—and now the 1047 provision in the Bill was that the rate should be 5s. before the additional relief could be obtained. His case was, that the Buffering manufacturing districts would be received before this limit was reached. Why was such a limit imposed? Certainly not in consequence of anything urged by the manufacturing districts. He presumed that the fixed limit was rather adopted at the instance of the agricultural districts—and he did not in the least blame them—which naturally wished the distressed unions should give strong proof of their desire to help themselves before they obtained help from their neighbours. But the fact was, that the ratepayers of these districts were somewhat in the position of a strong man who was suddenly paralyzed, and who did not want to be troubled and pressed with burdens until he had somewhat recovered his strength; and all that they asked the House to do was to grant them permission to deal with their own property. In his opinion, the best plan was to leave it as much as possible to the districts themselves to deal with the question. Take the case of Rochdale. The value of the assessable property of Rochdale was something like £3,000,000. The outside sum they would probably require to borrow was from £15,000 to £25,000, and there could be no doubt whatever that they would be able to borrow the money on the security of that property. Why should they not be allowed to borrow such a fractional sum as that in their own way and at their own time? He would give the communities that stood in need of this legislation the fullest scope as to the time at which they should borrow, limiting themselves as to the amount and time of repayment. Therefore there was not the least desire in the world to call upon the counties to assist them, provided they were allowed to assist themselves by borrowing before they were ruined by the excessive raising of the rates in their own districts. For his part, he was not opposed to the principle of a rate in aid, and he would leave that just where it stood at present, and permit the people to ask for a rate in aid when their rates reached 5s. in the pound; but he would not torment them now by coming with the whole routine of the Poor Law cut and dried to apply as a plaster to their wounds, when all they wanted was the simple power to help themselves out of their own resources, which would infallibly prevent the rates ever rising to such an extent that the 1048 powers to exercise a rate in aid would probably be required. They could not stand out for a principle on one hand, when it was acknowledged upon all hands, that they had departed from it on the other. He did not attach much importance, it was true, to the provisions empowering the raising of a rate in aid being left in the Bill. He would rather that there was no limit at all: the guardians were not going to ruin themselves—they were too shrewd for that; but he did trust the Government would not trammel the people by withholding the borrowing powers until the rates had reached 5s. in the pound, and then offering them the alternative of relieving themselves by a loan or a rate in aid.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, that it appeared to him that the hon. Member for Rochdale was inconsistent either with himself or with those who thought they agreed with him. All that he wanted, he said, was that the people of Lancashire should have power to deal as they pleased with their own property in relieving the poor; and he said that the boards of guardians were composed of sturdy and independent men, who wished to relieve the poor out of their own resources without calling in the aid of the resources of others, and that if Parliament would give them the opportunity of borrowing, they would exercise it at their discretion and thus relieve the poor. That was the course of the hon. Gentleman's argument yesterday. But in the argument which he had just addressed to the Committee, he said that if they gave them the alternative only upon equal terms of borrowing out of their own property for the relief of the poor or of obtaining a rate in aid, they must assume as a matter of course that they would elect for the rate in aid, and that in order to induce them to avail themselves of their borrowing powers they must enable them to do so when the rates had reached 3s. or 4s. in the pound; because if they could not exercise it until the rates reached 5s. in the pound, it was obvious that they would resort to the pocket of their neighbour. These two arguments were entirely inconsistent. If it were true that the guardians really wished to borrow on their own property for the relief of the poor, it was quite unnecessary to hold out any inducements to them; and if, on the other hand, they would go for a rate in aid from their neighbours without an in- 1049 ducement to borrow, it was quite clear they had not the strong desire to borrow which was attributed to them, and that they were not the sturdy and independent persons described; but like everybody else in every other county in England, except Lancashire, if they had the alternative between borrowing on their own property and going to their neighbours, they would prefer to go to their neighbours. They must, indeed, suppose that the boards of guardians in Lancashire were made of different stuff from those in any other part of the kingdom if they were to be expected to prefer taxing themselves when they could obtain a subsidy. It was perfectly clear that unless his right hon. Friend could compel them to borrow, they would avail themselves of the rate in aid. If the House wished that unprecedented course to be adopted, they must take away all alternative power, and say to the manufacturers that they should be compelled to borrow and have no extraneous relief.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that the right hon. Baronet must have been in the clouds studying astronomy, and could not have heard his remarks. He never made use of one of the arguments ascribed to him. He did not contend at all for the right of the ratepayers to tax the counties until they had given proof of their desire to do all they could to help themselves. What he said was, that the Government had altered the original Bill, at whose representation he was not aware, because not one of the manufacturing constituencies had asked for it. He believed the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn had been one of the first to suggest a fixed point instead of a multiple rate. Of course, it was perfectly right that the agricultural districts should exact some conditions before they allowed the manufacturing communities to come on them in aid for the relief of their poor. Instead of insisting on the Government going back to the original point of an excess of two-thirds over the average expenditure, these "sturdy and independent" people in the manufacturing districts professed their willingness to give up a rate in aid altogether, and asked only to be allowed to manage their own affairs in their own way. The object of the right hon. Baronet's remarks, no doubt, was to create a schism between the two parties who had beaten the Government yesterday—the Gentlemen opposite who represent the agri- 1050 cultural interests, and those who represent the manufacturing interests. There was no reason, however, for any such quarrel, for the manufacturers had no wish to come on the tenant-farmers of the Fylde or Ormskirk for the support of their poor. All they asked was to be disembarrassed of these conditions, and to be allowed to help themselves, by borrowing before the rates were raised and the distress increased to such an extent as to inflict ruin upon a large class of the ratepayers.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the hon. Member had forgotten what had passed with reference to the surrender of the multiple rate. It had been given up, not in consequence of any pressure exercised privately upon the Government, but at the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel W. Patten), and of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) who, though Member for King's Lynn, had a great interest in Lancashire. They quoted figures that were quite irresistible. They showed, that if the principle of a multiple rate were retained, a parish where the rates, owing to its prosperity, had only been sixpence in the pound, when their rate reached ten-pence would be entitled to come for a rate in aid upon neighbouring parishes where the rates had been perhaps 2s. 6d. or 3s. in the pound; while a much poorer parish, having ordinarily heavier rates, would not be able to receive assistance till its burdens had been enormously increased. He (Sir G. Grey) did not wish to discuss this question as one of any particular union interest. The practical question before the Committee was simply the second reading of the clause, and that he thought they might without further discussion agree to. It would then be competent for any hon. Member to move amendments to it.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, that he had approved, and did now, of a multiple rate, but he yielded, because he understood that the Government were pressed upon that point from other quarters.
said, that the suggestion for a fixed rate before the power of a rate in aid was given was owing to a remark made by an hon. and gallant Friend, who said that he should like to have some effective test before the rate in aid came into operation. But he had himself always been of the opinion, for which other hon. Members were now contending, that independent of a rate in aid, and previous to its being brought into 1051 operation, a borrowing power should be given.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, it was not in consequence of his not having listened to the debate, but because he had listened to it, that he had made the remarks commented on by the hon. Member for Rochdale.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
Well it would be recollected at any rate that he had said there was an inconsistency between the arguments of the hon. Gentleman and of those who thought they were supporting him. Originally the debate turned wholly upon the assumption that the two powers should be co-ordinate, and nothing at all was said respecting the priority to be given to the borrowing power before the rate in aid. The object of hon. Members, as stated by themselves, seemed to be simply to give an alternative power, and that seemed to be generally acquiesced in by the House.
hoped that before the House was called on for a decision, the matter would be made more clear than at present. The whole scope of the argument hitherto had gone, in a faint kind of way, to show the necessity of coming upon a larger area by giving an increased power of borrowing; nothing had been said yet as to what was to become of the unfortunate parishes. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire had clearly seen this and had given to a single parish the power of borrowing, as well as to the union. Suppose the rate in a particular parish got up to 4s. or 5s., the parish might be entirely ruined before the union reached the point when it could borrow. If there was to be a borrowing power, it ought to be given as much on behalf of parishes as unions. In some of the Lancashire unions they would find the rates 3s., and in others 3s. 6d. in the pound, and yet the parish in which the rates were lower might be far more distressed than that in which they were higher, if they did not give some relief to the individual parishes. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had spoken of this being a new Poor Law generally, and he agreed that it would be a much greater innovation in the law to call upon the union to borrow money to relieve the poor without reference to the burdens of any particular parish than had ever before been attempted. In point of 1052 fact it seemed to him to be adopting the principle of union rating at once. The word in the Act of Elizabeth was when the parish was "unable," and the utmost which the Government could do was to define what should be "unable." The Bill said, that when the expenditure was 5s. in the pound, that should be the test of its being "unable." He did not understand from what took place yesterday that the House was pledged to the same limit for borrowing as for rate in aid. The proposal of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire was generally disclaimed by the Lancashire Members; and not having a definite proposition before them, they were dealing with the matter in a very unsatisfactory way. He did not see why they should drive particular parishes to a state almost of insolvency as regarded a considerable portion of the ratepayers, and compel them to come to a rate in aid, when they permitted unions to resort to borrowing, in order to prevent their coming to a rate in aid.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he had induced the hon. Member to alter his Amendment to meet the views which had just been stated by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that the borrowing power should be exercised by the union when any particular parish was rated up to the amount of 3s. in the pound.
§ MR. AYRTON
On the union. He would remind the Committee that, apart from the question of a fixed amount, the deliberate proposition of the Government was that relief should be available when the rates were two-thirds in excess of the average of the previous years. The Return showed that an addition of two-thirds would bring the highest rate in the distressed unions to 2s. 2d.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, the same principle applied. The Government had arrived at the conclusion that legislation was necessary when the rates reached 2s. 2d., and he suggested to fix the amount at 3s.
said, that the Return was for the unions; and if they looked at the rates of the respective parishes, they would find that many parishes were very much higher than that average.
§ MR. PULLER
understood the feeling of the House yesterday to be in favour of 1053 giving the unions power to borrow, not so much because the unions would prefer borrowing, but because if they did not borrow, they would come on the neighbouring unions and drag them down to the same state of distress and insolvency in which they were themselves; and if the House were still of that opinion it was a cogent reason why the power of borrowing should be put at a lower degree than the power of applying to other unions. The hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets was quite right in saying that the addition of two-thirds on the rates of previous years would not raise the rates as high as 3s., and therefore the Bill as originally brought in would, with two or three exceptions, have enabled parishes and unions to have obtained aid, and at an earlier period than they would be able to do under the Bill as it now stood. Under all the circumstances the matter was of easy solution, if instead of 4s. in the first and third clauses, 3s. was inserted, and the limit for applying for aid was put higher than 5s.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, it was true that the Bill as originally drawn did fix a much lower test than that which had been proposed since; and it was with some reluctance, and only after a strong statement of facts, that he had consented to the adoption of a single figure in lieu of the multiple rate. Some parishes were rated very high. In one township the rate was 4s. 10d.; and under the Bill, as it originally stood, they would not have been entitled to relief until they had exceeded that amount by two-thirds. In the progress of the discussion a great deal of information had been elicited as to the state of the distressed districts, and it certainly did seem that the rate of 5s. was too high. Accordingly he had offered to reduce it to 4s. Since then an hon. Member had suggested that there was a general impression that there was not to be an alternative to borrow or to receive contributions in aid, but that where a borrowing power was given a lower test would be taken. It had been said that these distressed parishes would rather borrow than go to their neighbours. It was further said that by exercising a power of borrowing the distressed parishes would get relief easier and sooner; and many seemed to think that they ought to have the resource at their command. He could assure the hon Member for Rochdale that the opinion in 1054 the manufacturing districts on this subject was not so unanimous as he supposed. He (Mr. C. P. Villiers) never remembered a greater difference of opinion on any question. There was a difference of opinion in the press, and a journal which represented the more advanced party in Manchester, the Examiner and Times, said, "that both plans were good; they would be pleased with either; but was it not possible to combine both?" There seemed to be no very strong opinion in favour of any particular mode. He had understood it to be the view of the hon. Member for Rochdale that the test of excess for contribution in aid should be higher than he (Mr. Villiers) had proposed, and that it should be kept at 5s. It seemed to him (Mr. Villiers) that the opinion of the house was that there should be a difference between the two tests; and that the test for borrowing should be lower than that for the rate in aid. If he (Mr. C. P. Villiers) had adhered to his original proposition, that of two-thirds in excess of previous years, the test for borrowing would have been lower than 5s.; and he had no objection now to accede to the proposition of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert), that when the aggregate rate in the union was in excess of 3s. on the annual rateable value, then they should have the power to borrow. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) had pressed upon the House the point as to the inability of some of the ratepayers to pay the rate, stating that if the rate were at 3s., it would practically amount to 5s. upon those who could pay. Therefore, as that objection was in accordance with his (Mr. C. P. Villiers's) own original idea, the matter would stand thus—that whenever the guardians should find that the expenditure of the parish should have exceeded 3s. in the pound, then that they should be entitled to receive that excess from the common fund; and that whenever the guardians should find the aggregate expenditure of the union to exceed 3s. in the pound, then that they should have the right to ask the sanction of the Poor Law Board to borrow; then, as to clause 3, that the rate in aid should remain as it stood, at 5s.
Proviso agreed to; and added to the Bill as a new clause (Clause D) as follows:—
If the Guardians of any such Union shall find that the aggregate expenditure in and about the Relief of the Poor of the whole Union for the Quarter ending at Michaelmas or Christmas next
shall have exceeded the Rate of Three Shillings in the Pound per Annum on the rateable Value of the Property comprised within such Union, such Guardians may, by Resolution passed at a Meeting held after special Notice in Writing sent to every elected and ex-officio Guardian of the Union, apply to the Poor Law Board for Authority to borrow a Sum of Money sufficient to meet such Excess; and the Poor Law Board may, if they think fit, issue their Order accordingly; and thereupon the said Guardians may borrow such Sum, and shall charge the Common Fund of the Union with the Repayment of the same, by equal annual Instalments not exceeding Seven, and with the Payment of the Interest from time to time to accrue thereon.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ In reply to Sir JOHN SHELLEY,
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, it was proposed to take the report of Amendments to-morrow at the morning sitting; and if the House would permit it, the third reading in the evening.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow, at Twelve of the clock, and to be printed. [Bill 247.]