HC Deb 19 February 1863 vol 169 cc526-42

said, he rose to move the second reading of the Bill. The policy of the Act which this Bill sought to continue had been discussed a few nights since, when several suggestions, as the House would remember, were made by hon. Members well entitled to speak upon the subject. Their observations were not opposed to the principle or the purpose of the Bill, but were chiefly intended to render legislation upon it more complete. He had promised, at the time, that the suggestions then made should receive the fullest attention of the Government, and that he would take an early opportunity of stating the course it was intended to pursue. As time was pressing, the Act expiring on the 1st of March, it would perhaps be convenient that he should then state what it was proposed to do. The first suggestion was made by the noble Lord the Member for Kings Lynn (Lord Stanley), who, founding his opinion upon what he considered was their imperfect experience of this Act, and the uncertain character of the circumstances that had led to its necessity, recommended that the period of its continuance provided for in the Bill should be shortened. That suggestion was supported by his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), and others, including the hon. Member for North Lancashire, who were of opinion that the whole subject should receive a more de- liberate consideration during the present Session. Since then he had had many communications from the districts most affected, and he had received an important deputation that had waited upon him upon the subject; and he was bound to say there was a general concurrence of opinion that the time should be limited, be as to admit of another discussion. He had not changed his own opinion, because he believed that the more experience they had of the Act, and the more they reflected upon the circumstances which had led to its enactment, the more they would see that a longer continuance would be necessary. But as he believed it would be re-enacted, and not wishing to expose himself to the charge of desiring to save himself trouble, he was not disposed to resist the general feeling in favour of further curtailing the duration of the Bill. He therefore proposed that the Act should be renewed only for the next two quarters, and that about June, when it would expire, the House should have an opportunity of renewing the Act or of allowing it to cease. Another suggestion had also been made, which he thought had received even more general support than the last, and that was that the period for repayment of loans should be extended over a greater number of years. When the power to raise money by loans was first conferred upon the boards of guardians, some apprehensions were entertained lest the power of borrowing might influence the guardians, in their mode of administering the Law, and some persons, indeed, thought that the distress was hardly sufficient to warrant such exceptional legislation, and that it would probably cease before Parliament met again. In that hope they had been disappointed, for the prospects were hardly better than they were at the close of last Session, and in some respects perhaps they were more gloomy, but he was bound to say, from all the information he had collected, that the Act had not had the smallest effect in producing irregularity or rendering the administration of the Poor Law by the guardians more lax. The manner in which the Poor Law had been administered during the last six months had shown no disposition to neglect the rules and orders under which the guardians usually acted, and there had been almost an indisposition to avail themselves of the new powers conferred upon them. Under these circumstances he could not feel any scruple in conferring further facilities upon the ratepayers to enable them better to meet the extraordinary charge thrown upon them by this peculiar distress; and he was ready to accede to the proposition which seemed to unite the greatest amount of opinion in its favour, which was, that the annual instalment paid with a view to the liquidation of the debt should be one fourteenth, instead of one-seventh; or, in other words, that the period for repayment of the money should be extended from seven to fourteen years. He believed that this might further encourage the unions to borrow money where there was an excess of expenditure, or perhaps strengthen the disposition which had already been shown to raise money in that way, rather than by seeking contributions in aid from other unions. There was only one other alteration in the Bill which he would propose, and that was rather the correction of an error in the original Act than any real change. In the 5th section it was provided that unions whose expenditure for the relief of the poor reached 3s. in the pound should not be required to contribute to other distressed unions; but, in consequence of the peculiar wording of the clause, it had been held that they were not entitled to include as expenditure for the relief of the poor contributions which they had been called upon to make to other unions. Such could not have been the intention of Parliament, and he proposed therefore in this respect to amend the section in the original Act. With these alterations, from information he had received, he thought he was justified in believing that those who were most interested in the subject would allow the Bill to be now read a second time, and to pass subsequently, and postpone to a future day any discussion upon other points. Even any discussion on points connected with the particular Bill would, he trusted, not be pressed then, but would be reserved for the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.


said, he for one was not at all desirous of offering any obstacle to the progress of the Bill. He had stated, on a former occasion, that he believed that a renewal of the Act of last Session was necessary, and he felt bound to tender his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the manner in which he had met most of the objections raised upon the former occasion. But he could not conceal from the right hon. Gentleman that he had not met all the objections to the present Bill. He had, by his Amendments, met two of the chief objections, but there was another with which he had not dealt, which was well worthy of his consideration. Last Session his right hon. Friend said he preferred a rate in aid to a simple loan raised upon the security of the rates of the township or union, because it was more in accordance with the Act of Elizabeth; and the noble Lord the first Lord of the Treasury, said, that as the land in Lancashire had reaped the benefit of its proximity to the manufacturing districts, it ought to be called upon to assist in bearing the burden before help was demanded from any other part of the country. No doubt that was a just principle to lay down; but when the Act came into operation, it was found that the rate fell exclusively upon the tenants and occupiers, and not upon the landlords. His constituents said with truth, that though the farms and houses which they occupied had been enhanced in value by their situation, yet in taking them the occupiers had always to give their full value for them, and all the advantages of situation were considered in the rent. Lancashire farmers were thus in no better position than farmers in any other part of England. It was true that they had a better market for their produce than some possessed. But they paid for that advantage in their rent, and they thought it very hard, therefore, that the distressed unions should come upon them. He hoped that his right hon. Friend would consider that matter well before the Bill came into Committee. He was himself a landlord, and his interest thus lay the other way, but he thought there was much reason in the argument which he had mentioned; and if his right hon. Friend would only accede to the proposal which he had made last year, the objection would be met. There was another matter which, he trusted, would be maturely considered. His right hon. Friend should give more easy powers of raising the money than now existed, and then he should go a little further and enable the unions to take advantage of an Act of 1848, in which the Exchequer Loan Commissioners were empowered to ad- vance money for works connected with the health of towns, and one or two other objects The unions were allowed to raise money for fourteen years, but there was always a disadvantage in getting money in that way. In proof he might state that the banks of Manchester had refused to lend money to the different unions upon the terms of the Act, as being contrary to their principles of business; and the consequence was, that the limits within which the unions could borrow money being contracted, they had to pay a higher rate of interest than would be otherwise necessary. The lowest rate they were paying was 4½per cent; but if they were allowed to borrow under the Act of 1848, they would be able to raise money at 4 per cent. Another grievance was, that unions which had paid a comparatively heavy rate should be called upon to afford assistance to unions which for a number of years had paid a much lower rate. For instance, one union which had to pay a rate of more than 2s. was now called upon to afford aid to unions whose average rate of relief for many years past had been 7d., 9d., 10d., or 11d. Such unions complained that it was very hard that in these bad times they should be obliged to help those who had been so much better off than they were themselves. With regard to the complaint of the occupiers which he had already mentioned, it might be said, "Let the landlords come forward and pay the increased rates." But during the last six months the landlords had voluntarily contributed a rate in aid greater by an immense amount than any rate which they would be called on to pay as landlords. He thought that the rate in aid should in justice cease, and that on the other hand greater facilities should be given to the guardians to raise the necessary funds by loan.


said, he must beg to compliment the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just spoken upon the part he had taken during the distress, and the time and attention which he had bestowed upon the work of relief. It was important that the House should consider the circumstances in which the distressed districts were placed, and the prospect that existed of a termination or diminution of the distress. If the calamitous war which unhappily raged in America were to end immediately, of course they would receive a supply of cotton to employ the operatives for the present; but, looking at the uncertain continuance of slavery in the South, the question presented itself whether they could prudently retain so many thousands of people in the cotton trade, expecting their former full and permanent employment at satisfactory wages? Again, if the war should continue, though other countries would send increased supplies of cotton, there was little prospect of a supply sufficient to employ all the operatives as before; and therefore, instead of remaining in hopeless and demoralizing idleness, would it not be kind and wise to recommend some portion of them to look out for other employment? Another question arose whether, if, as was now expected, they were receiving cotton enough to give work for three or four days in the week, the production would not be ample for the consumption of the world, especially as that consumption must necessarily be checked by an increase of price. That was a third reason for seeking other fields of labour for many of the cotton operatives. That the production of our cotton manufacturers had been too abundant was generally admitted. On that point he had received a letter from Calcutta, dated December 8, 1862, in which the writer said— I do not think that people at home take into due consideration the extreme incredulity of the natives here in any representations made to make them pay more than they are accustomed to do for goods of any kind. They have no idea (up country at least) of the extent and reality of the cotton famine; they believe it is all got up by the Feringhees to get money out of them, and they will not give the long prices now asked, unless under very extreme pressure. I believe them to be very much better prepared to hold out for a year than the poor of England are. A decently respectable poor man here will give up to a certain price for cloth enough for a change of raiment, but will rather go without the change— aye, and will rather wear his dhootie for six months longer—than give an anna more for his cloth; and remember that clothing in this country is not such a necessity as in Europe, and that an enormous proportion of those who consume our English cotton goods, are people who will much sooner go all but naked than pay for such cloth a price which makes a hole in the proportion set aside for purchase of food. I mean to say, after this, that consumption has been so very seriously affected, apparently by the high prices, that it is Vain to count upon it with any certainty at all. I believe, from all that I can gather and all I see, that prices will advance very little indeed while the natives know we have such stocks here. Instead of allowing the people to remain in idleness and to some extent in demoralization, it appeared to him they should be recommended to seek employment elsewhere. The supply of cotton from India depended very much on the continuance of high prices. He had seen a very curious document the other day—namely, a bond from the Southern States of America for 50,000lb. of Orleans cotton, at 6d. per lb., deliverable at any port of shipment, free of export duty, forty days after the presentation of the bond. He thought the purchase of such bonds would be a good speculation, and was himself rather tempted to buy one. By these bonds the South was enabled to obtain the sinews of war.


said, he considered the limitation of the Act to six months as very judicious. At the expiration of that period its provisions could be much more satisfactorily discussed, after the information and experience which its full operation would afford. He fully concurred in the objections which had been urged to the working of the rate in aid. He had presented a petition from the board of guardians of Wigan, where the local contributions for the distressed unions had been extremely liberal, where the rates had been kept down below the maximum of 3s. in the pound, and where they had hitherto been able to keep their people as well, if not better, than those in other towns of Lancashire. But they now found themselves called upon, being a distressed union themselves, to pay for other distressed unions. This was felt to be a very considerable grievance by the small class of shopkeepers, whose poor rates would be increased; and the hardship was felt all the more because the cotton business in Wigan was comparatively very small. He trusted that the right bon. Gentleman would turn his attention to this subject.


said, he wished to call attention to the sixth clause of the Act of last Session which constituted a special grievance on some of the unions in Cheshire. It declared that where the union applying for aid shall extend into two or more counties, the contribution in aid shall come from that county in which the greater part of the union is situated; and where the union required to contribute shall be situated in two or more counties, it shall only contribute in that county in which the greater part of it shall be situated. Now, any one reading the clause would imagine that the contribution was to come from the county in which the largest portion of the rateable value of the union was situate. That was the reasonable construction; but, to the surprise of many unions, the Poor Law authorities held that geographical area, and not rateable value, decided the liability. In that way Cheshire was called upon to contribute to Ashton-under-Lyne; and that was a hardship which called for immediate remedy, as there was an enormous extent of rateable value in Ashton, far exceeding that in Cheshire. During the last three years the town he had the honour to represent (Macclesfield) had paid higher rates than any district in Lancashire or Cheshire. The town was principally dependent on the silk manufacture, which had been unusually depressed, so that for the last three years the poor rates in Macclesfield had been nearly 4s. 6d. in the pound; and now, after paying all their own burdens without obtaining relief from other unions, they were called on to contribute their quota to the relief of the district of Ashton-under-Lyne. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour to meet the grievance of such a case.


said, that the measure was at first intended to last for another twelve months; but the right hon. Gentleman had since consented, not in accordance with his own judgment, but in deference to opinions expressed in that House, to curtail its operations to the next six months. He considered the proposal to extend the term for the repayment of the money borrowed by the union a very hazardous one. Great anxiety, too, had arisen in those unions which were to be made liable to the support of distant districts under the question of the rate in aid system; and that anxiety would naturally increase for the future if, as there was reason to apprehend, the contributions of individuals for the mitigation of the distress were greatly to diminish. The Poor Law must have broken down in the most disgraceful manner but for the £800,000 contributed by voluntary subscriptions to the relief of the distress. Under the circumstances, it was astonishing that the Legislature were so supine. It could not be expected that the sufferings of the manufacturing districts would terminate in six months; and therefore the general Poor Law ought to be at once dealt with in a comprehensive spirit. The people of Lancashire felt that the present distress was a great national cala- mity, and that the Consolidated Fund ought to bear its pressure. ["No!"] Why should they wait for an emergency like that to teach them the common principles of justice? If the maintenance of the poor was to be regarded as a national charge, it was not right that the property of Lancashire should be borne down while other districts were comparatively unaffected. There were gross inequalities in the taxation of different places for the relief of the poor, and an undue burden was thrown upon the poorer parts of that metropolis, while the richer parishes were allowed to escape their fair contribution. The whole question of the Poor Law ought to receive the attention of the Legislature, and be dealt with in a large and statesmanlike spirit. In Committee on the Bill the Government should be urged to extend the principle of the rate in aid to the entire country.


said, he saw no necessity for pressing on the measure with undue haste. Before being passed it ought to be well considered, and the country should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon it. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would consider the Amendments he proposed to make in the Bill previous to its going into Committee. Great hardship was inflicted on unions in the county of Chester by the construction put on the Rate in Aid Act of 1862, as described by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. E. C. Egerton). Cheshire had been called upon to contribute upwards of £8,000 towards the union of Ashton-under-Lyne, which lay partly in Lancashire and partly in Cheshire. The portion of the population of that union which belonged to Lancashire exceeded 80,000, while that which belonged to Cheshire was about 50,000; and the greater proportion of its rateable property was also situated in the former county. He thought greater facilities should be given to unions for borrowing money. The rate in aid was vicious in principle, calculated to produce a reckless expenditure, and tended to check private benevolence. If, however, there was to be a rate in aid, he could not see why it should be confined to the two counties in which the cotton distress prevailed. It there were a rate in aid, the proper course to adopt, he thought, would be to make it a national rate, and he would further express a hope that the President of the Poor Law Board would give greater facilities of borrowing to the Unions, and that the Exchequer Loan Commissioners would be enabled to make advances at a moderate rate of interest. If that were done, the unions might be placed in a position to tide over the difficulties of the present crisis without having recourse to a rate in aid, which in itself was open to objection. He would, in addition, simply ask the right hon. Gentleman not to hurry the Bill through, but to allow the country full time to consider its provisions.


said, he had to tender his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board for the zeal and courtesy which he had brought to bear on the discharge of the duties of his office, so far as they related to the distress in the manufacturing districts. He (Lord E. Howard) had been horror-struck at having heard the hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel W. Patten) declaim against a rate in aid. Nor was it to be wondered at that such was the case, inasmuch as he happened to live in a union in which, unfortunately, the destitution was so great that the relief of the poor was provided for only at the enormous rate of 24s. in the pound. In that union, indeed, scarcely anything worth while could have been effected but for the splendid liberality which had been manifested in all directions, but which it would be too much to expect would be continued for any lengthened period. What then, he would ask, was to be done in localities so situated, of which there would be many if the war in America were not before long brought to a close? He, for one, saw no resource under the circumstances save a rate in aid judiciously administered. It was, he might further observe, on the frugality and honesty of the inhabitants of the manufacturing districts—those qualities which were so much held up to the admiration of the country—that the rates in the North were now levied. Their burden fell most heavily on the man who, having bought a cottage, which was, perhaps, for part of its value mortgaged to a building society, had no large margin to spare even in ordinary times, but who in times of exceptional pressure found himself in the greatest possible difficulty. The small shopkeeper, too, who had saved money barely sufficient to set himself up in business and to support his family in tolerable comfort, felt their weight most sorely, while the small farmer on the hillside, who held some twenty or twenty-five acres of land, and who now could find no market for the produce of the few cows he happened to possess, would be exposed to utter ruin if the rates were long to continue at their present high level. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board was therefore, he thought, entitled to the gratitude of the country for having extended the short term originally embraced in the Relief Act to fourteen years, and he should wish that the right hon. Gentleman would also see the expediency of lending Government money to the distressed districts. He knew an instance in which £50,000 had been lent to a Railway Company whose line ran through an impoverished locality, to carry on the works there; and if that was done then with the object of affording aid where it was needed, why should not a similar course be pursued with advantage in the case of Lancashire? Only the other day money had been borrowed in the county for the relief of the poor at the rate of 4 per cent, and negotiations were entered into for the loan of several thousands more at the rate of 4½ per cent—a large sum to pay in the shape of interest. Now, the Government would, he could not help thinking, confer a great benefit on a district so situated by the simple process of lending them money at the rate of 3¼ or 3½ per cent, or some rate so small that they would not suffer a loss by the loan. He was glad, he might add, that the present Act was to be renewed for a shorter period than twelve months, because long before the expiration of that time they might see a better or a worse state of things prevailing in Lancashire, and because he did not believe the wisest man in the country could predict what its condition would be—he would not say six, but even one month from the present time. The manufacturers of Lancashire might just then have a small supply of cotton, which enabled them to employ a certain number of hands, though at a loss, but they would soon work that supply out; and when they required more, they might at any moment find the price so advanced by the speculators of Liverpool as to render it impossible that their trade could be continued. So it would be with the large imports of cotton expected from India, which, judging from the experience of 1862, would be so spread over the year as to afford great room for specu- lation. Those things being taken into account, it would at once be seen how critical was the crisis which the House had to meet, and he for one thanked the President of the Poor Law Board for the spirit in which he had dealt with it.


said, that his constituents felt themselves aggrieved by the operation of the Act, but he hoped that their opposition, would be mitigated by the announcement that the Act was to be continued for only six months, and that the time for the repayment of loans was to be extended from seven to fourteen years. He thought that it was worth the consideration of the Government whether they should not themselves make loans to boards of guardians.


said, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board had not acceded to one of the two suggestions which he had made the other evening—that of empowering the Government to lend money to the boards of guardians. The feelings of the different boards of guardians were decidedly in unity upon that point, having found very great difficulty in borrowing money from private sources. There were some other points which deserved the consideration of the House—one was with respect to the time when the borrowing powers should commence, and another with respect to the time when the rate in aid upon other unions should commence. The borrowing powers in the Act of last Session commenced after the expenditure had exceeded the rate of 3s. in the pound. Now, it was felt to be a very great hardship in many unions that they were obliged to expend an amount equal to the rate of 3s. in the pound before they were enabled to get any relief under the Act; and it would be a very great relief if the borrowing point were reduced from the rate of 3s. in the pound to 2s., for the rate of 2s in the pound was fully equal in pressure to a rate of 3s. when the Act of last Session was passed, considering the means of those who had to pay. The other point was with respect to the rate in aid. Last Session he had felt a strong aversion to that principle. He was in favour of liberal borrowing powers. But he would be sorry now, after they had brought the rate-in-aid clause into operation, to see it struck out of the Bill. He would, however, offer the suggestion to his right hon. Friend, whether it would not to some extent do away with the hardship imposed upon many contributing unions if the point at which the rate in aid should commence were raised from 5s. to 6s. He trusted the House would be inclined to give liberal powers to Lancashire, as she had not come thither asking for national aid.


said, that he accepted with satisfaction the proposal of his right hon. Friend to extend the time during which the repayment of loans might take place; but as the discussion had taken a hostile tone towards another part of the Bill, which might probably increase the intensity of the opposition out of doors before they met again, he would say a word or two with regard to it. He was not last year at all enamoured of the rate in aid. What he then desired was that greater facilities of borrowing should be given to boards of guardians. He still entertained that opinion, and he believed that it was shared by all the boards of guardians in Lancashire. They were thwarted, however, in that wish — not so much, he believed, by his right hon. Friend, who, in his political career, had never been much afraid of a reform or an innovation, as by the Board over which he presided, which had a great objection to any change in its traditional policy of a rate in aid. Had the desired facilities for borrowing been given, he did not believe that the rate in aid would have been called into action, or that the question would have arisen to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson Patten) had devoted so many remarks. That hon. and gallant Gentleman had complained of the inconvenience which this rate in aid occasioned to occupying tenants whose rents had been fixed without any anticipation of such an increase of poor rate. That was an evil which was not very easily remedied, but it might in some degree be met—not altogether without difficulty, however—by the adoption of a clause enabling them to charge the whole or part of the increase of rate upon the landlord. That to which he particularly wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman was that the principle of a rate in aid was inherent in our Poor Law legislation; that it was part of our Poor Law code, not so much in the interest of property as for the protection of the rights of the poor. A part of a county might arrive at such a state of pauperism that it could not support its poor, and in that case it must call upon the rest of the county for assistance. That might be considered as part of our Constitution, and must be preserved as an alternative. They could not dispense with it, whatever checks or guards they might surround it with. If a district of Lancashire became utterly pauperized and property valueless, the people could not be allowed to starve; but he did not contemplate the possibility or necessity of that, provided there were no obstacles thrown in the way of the guardians for an easy mode of borrowing money. The manufacturing districts of Lancashire were quite in accord with the agricultural districts in the opinion that facilities should be given to borrow money rather than resort to the rate in aid, because with liberal borrowing powers, with free borrowing powers, and with the aid of the great fund in hand, it was likely that every union in Lancashire would, for the next twelve mouths, be able to maintain its poor without applying to the rest of the county. Why, then, as he said last year, should any restriction be, for twelve months at least, placed in the way of these unions borrowing money to meet their difficulties? In Rochdale, a borough which was not so badly off as some others, because there was in it some production of flannel, 20,000 were receiving relief, at the rate of about 2s. per week per head, which amounted to about £100,000 a year. The yearly value of the rateable property of Rochdale was £225,000, and taking this at a very low estimate would be worth £3,000,000. Finding itself, with all this property, in a dilemma, which they hoped would prove hut temporary, and naturally wishing to relieve itself from so unpleasant a position, how was Rochdale to act? How would an individual act? Because that was always the best test in such matters. How would an individual act with £3,000,000 of property unencumbered and wanting £100,000 on an emergency during the next twelve months? Clearly, he would borrow the money. It would be a legitimate transaction, and he would get the money on easy terms. Then, why not allow Rochdale to do the same? The guardians of Rochdale had been unanimous in their wish to he allowed to exercise unchecked control over their property in that way. What said the Legislature, however, on the subject? It said, "Before you can borrow you must have paid poor rates at the rate of 3s. in the pound per annum for the preceding quarter." That in round figures, taking Rochdale as an illustration, meant this —that before that union could borrow £5,000, it must have raised in poor rates £9,000. Now, that in the present condition of that Borough, amounted to a sort of slow torture. He then in the name of that union, with an assessed rental of £225,000, worth at least £3,000,000, asked the House to let those people do what they like with their property for another twelve months. No, he did not say even with the whole of it; he repeated the suggestion he made last year—let the House insert in the Bill, if they would, a limitation as to the amount which might be borrowed, and let it be in proportion to their rateable property. As in the case of Rochdale, which would be an illustration of other unions, let them insert, if they would, a clause restricting the borrowing powers of that union during the next twelve months to the limit of 50 per cent on the amount of the assessed annual value of their property; in other words permit Rochdale to borrow, during the twelve months, £100,000 upon the security of their property, worth £3,000,000. He asked again, in the name of common sense and humanity, by what conceivable stupidity could anybody step in and say, "No, they shall not borrow until they inflict upon themselves this pecuniary fine just at a time when so many are unable to pay it." What was the effect of levying those rates? In Oldham, they had heard, that for every rate they levied they squeezed out of existence 4,000 ratepayers; that was they compelled 4,000 ratepayers to go to the magistrates, plead poverty and their inability to pay. It was all very well for the rich to write out a cheque for the amount of the poor rate; but by every rate levied they were driving into the ranks of pauperism a large number of ratepayers. Now, he asked his right hon. Friend to shake off altogether the influence of those hereditary red-tapists with whom he was associated, and take the matter into his own hands. Let him meet the Members who represented the manufacturing and agricultural districts of Lancashire, and let them talk the matter over, and arrange it upon a principle of common sense before the House went into Committee upon it. If the right hon. Gentleman would only consult his own excellent sense and his courage, then he would no doubt deal with the matter in a way acceptable to the manufacturing districts, by which they might avoid the difficulty which the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel W. Patten) referred to in the operation of the rate in aid, and thus perhaps enable the parties interested to carry themselves through that great calamity in a way the least hurtful to themselves and the least injurious to their neighbours.


said, he felt the full force of what had been urged in favour of the giving of liberal borrowing powers. He was sorry to say that he had been engaged in the administration of relief in a district where the rates had been not merely 3s. in the pound, but 8s. and even 9s.; and therefore he was in a position to estimate the weight of the pressure upon the manufacturing districts. The suggestion he wished to make to the right hon. Gentleman was, that the borrowing powers should be resorted to a certain point before the rate in aid was brought into operation. The reason was the difficulty which had been found, in the administration of relief, to prevent the relief, whether contributed by the bounty of the public or the rate in aid, if that money was not raised by the locality immediately distressed, being subjected to the abuse of the old Poor Law—that was the payment of the money in aid of wages. He was sorry to say that his own experience had brought him face to face with that difficulty, to obviate which he had made the suggestion. Now, with respect to the rate in aid, if they once threw that upon the owner instead of the occupier, they would plunge at once into the difficulty of a maladministration of that fund, because the owners, being few in number, and exercising little influence upon the administrative body, they would find the old abuse growing up, and money distributed in aid of wages. Once get into that system, and there was no remedy: they never knew to what extent their expenditure would go, and could not tell at what period it would stop. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in the event of the Bill being amended, he would be prepared, upon evidence of the existence of sufficient distress, to admit other districts than those of Lancashire, Cheshire, York- shire, and Derbyshire to come within the provisions of this Bill?


said, he thought there was great force in the arguments of the hon. Member for Rochdale, that unions should be left to the exercise of their common sense in such great difficulties as presented themselves at the present moment. It was not the amount but the principle of a rate in aid which was objected to in Derbyshire. A great number of the old-fashioned cotton mills, which were worked by water power, had succeeded in keeping their hands employed upon the Indian cotton, and they naturally objected to being called on to pay a rate in aid of other mills, where, either the machinery was more expensive and could not be readily converted, or where, perhaps, equal efforts had not been made. It was worth while considering whether in the present emergency the same facility of borrowing money from the public funds should not be given to some of the most distressed unions which was extended to the landlords for the improvement of their estates shortly after the passing of the free-trade measures.


said, he wished to ask when it was intended to go into Committee on the Bill?


On Monday next.


said, the interval proposed was much too limited.


said, the Act, which it was proposed by the Bill to continue, expired on the 1st of March. He hoped the House would allow the Continuance Bill to be passed with as little delay as possible, and after the experience of a few months they would be in a better state to discuss the general question. If Monday was too soon, he hoped there would be no objection to fix Thursday next for going into Committee.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday next.