§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, that in rising to move that the House go into Committee on the Bill, he trusted that be might be allowed to make one or two observations, inasmuch as he had been charged, without due foundation, firstly, with not having made a sufficiently full explanation of the objects of the Bill, and, secondly, with having made it at a very late hour. He would appeal to the House 2040 not to allow the measure to be lost, inasmuch as it was likely to mitigate the sufferings and miseries of a very unfortunate class of our fellow-beings—perhaps even to save their lives. He understood there were Members who intended to impede the progress of the Bill, chiefly on the ground that it involved a new principle which they thought dangerous, and which, if carried out, would, they said, impose a burden on property from which it had hitherto been comparatively exempt; and they said that with that novelty in the measure it ought not to be passed at so late a period of the Session. He would not deny that if the principle of the Bill were new there would be something in the argument, but there was no novelty in the principle, and the statement was, therefore, unsupported by the fact. It was stated that the measure threw the charge of that class of persons upon the whole property of the metropolis; that that had never been done before; and that such a precedent was extremely dangerous. There was, however, an Act of Parliament which embodied the very same principle for the support and relief of the same class of persons, and it was because there were provisions in that Act which could not be carried out that he brought in a measure to supply its defects. The measure to which he referred was the 7 & 8 Vict., which was brought in in consequence of a general desire in that House to remove what was felt to be a scandal and reproach to the metropolis—namely, that people wandering about without a habitation or settlement suffered the extreme consequences of want, so that everyone was shocked by the scenes that took place. There was a strong feeling that something ought to be done, and a Bill was introduced and passed to carry out the principle that the metropolis ought to bear the burden of the support of these wayfarers. That Bill divided the metropolis into six districts, and applied the principle of the equalization of rates to the relief of that class of the poor. Rich parishes were combined with poor ones, and inquiry was made how the rates thus required could be levied equally. That Act, the 7 & 8 Vict., now existed, and embodied the principle to which the hon. Member for Westminster objected. When an attempt was made to enforce the provisions of that Bill, however, objections were made by the guardians, the overseers, and the ratepayers. They found that the machinery was cumbrous and costly—that the Bill required 2041 the creation of six great asylums, which were supplemental workhouses, and hardly adequate for the relief of the class of persons in question. These asylums were a great distance from each other, and from the relieving officers, and it would be necessary to keep up great establishments in them all the year round, while it was only at one period of the year that there was a great demand for admission. The Bill was so distasteful to the public that they refused to apply it. A Committee of that House inquired into the subject, and, by a majority of one, passed a Resolution recommending the Poor Law Board, which had the right of enforcing the Act, not to carry it into effect. Notwithstanding that, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wilts (Mr. S. Estcourt), when he was President of the Poor Law Board, again tried to enforce the Act, but found that it was impossible. The question was brought before the Committee which sat to inquire into the general operation of the Poor Law, and they, after careful and deliberate inquiry, came to the conclusion that the reason why the parishes did not make adequate provision for that class of the poor was the unequal distribution of the charge, and therefore they proposed the remedy which was embodied in the Bill before the House—namely, that the charge-should be made equal, that a common fund should be created from which these per sons should be relieved, and that thus no parish should have an inducement to refuse to relieve them. That was important when they considered the nature of the opposition which was about to be offered. If the measure had originated with him as a private individual, or, indeed, as President of the Poor Law Board, there might have been some force in the objections which were about to be raised; but he did not think that the authority of those who were about to raise those objections would outweigh that of a Committee of which such sound Conservative authorities were members as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts, the hon. Members for Devonshire and Cheshire, he believed the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, the hon. Member for Petersfield, and the hon. Member for Whitehaven, all of whom had voted for the proposition which was embodied in the Bill. The whole opposition to the Bill arose from a fear that it might be a step towards the equalization of the 2042 rates throughout the metropolis. One objection would be that it contained no clause, such as was recommended by the Committee, giving to the Poor Law Board power to enforce upon parishes an effective provision by means of wards and buildings for the lodging of the poor. Such a power was already contained in the 4 & 5 Will. IV, but it was limited by a proviso which had reference to the expense, so that beyond a certain amount it was impossible to exert that authority. Under the Bill before them there need be no apprehension as to the expense, because the fourth clause cast the expense of providing wards or buildings, as well as that of maintenance, upon the new common fund. He did not believe that that was an honest objection, because it was impossible to tell exactly where the wards would be wanted, or what number might be required in any one parish. Indeed, some of the parishes which discharged their duty most efficiently had no wards. There was a variety of ways in which these people might be provided for; and if the liability to relieve them was fixed upon the parishes they would soon find some means of doing it, so that we should not be shocked by hearing of people starving: in the street. If, however, the objection was persevered in, it might be met by au Amendment of a single line which he had ready, providing that no union or parish should have the benefit of the Act which did not comply with the requirements of the Poor Law Board. Another objection which might be urged against the Bill which proposed that the Metropolitan Board of Works should collect the rates by which the fund was to be raised, was that that Board had by a small majority expressed their wish to have nothing to do with the matter. He never supposed that they would desire to have anything to do with it. He did not believe a word of what the hon. Member for Westminster said about their being an ambitious body who were anxious to extend their jurisdiction, and whom it was necessary to watch. The casting upon a machinery or a public body the duty of collecting a rate which was not strictly applicable to the purposes for which they were originally created was not new: in principle. The overseers and guardians at present collected, under the title of poor rate, a great deal of money which was not expended upon the relief of the poor. He had not consulted the Metropolitan Board upon the subject, but as a matter of courtesy he informed them of 2043 what he was about to propose, and said that he hoped they would not object to perform the merely ministerial act of collecting the sum of £5,000; and he believed that they were men of so much patriotism and good feeling, that if this duty were cast upon them they would not shrink from its discharge. It could give them no trouble, and they might be performing a great act of humanity by lending themselves to that purpose. To the objection that it was late in the Session, he replied that the Bill was a very short Bill, and that unless a factious opposition was raised to it there was plenty of time to pass it. Last year the Session was, he believed, slightly prolonged in order that a measure for the better protection of game might be passed, and he saw no reason why, if necessary, a similar prolongation might not be submitted to in order to enable the Bill before them to receive the sanction of Parliament. As to the incidence of the rate, in nine cases out of ten there existed arrangements between landlords and tenants by which the latter paid the sewer rate. It did not matter who paid the rate; it must come out of the rent. It was not, however, correct to say, that at present the cost of the relief of the poor was entirely defrayed out of sums raised by rates paid by the tenant. The State contributed to the payment of masters of workhouses and schools, of doctors and auditors, and when paupers were sent into the lunatic asylum or as vagrants to prison they were supported out of the county rate. He could not help thinking, under those circumstances, that it was extremely desirable that the facilities proposed by the Bill should be conferred, and he trusted that goodwill would be brought to bear upon the discussion, and that a great scandal would not be allowed to continue.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. C. P. Villers.)
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, he was sorry he could not agree with his right boil. Friend in thinking that the mode in which the Bill was introduced or the time at which it was brought forward were not open to objection. He was ready to admit that the existing state of things required that some remedy should be provided, but his right hon. Friend did not appear to him to have a full appreciation of the great difficulties with which the Question was beset. He wished briefly to remind 2044 the House of the circumstances under which the present proposition was made. It professed to be founded on the recommendation of a Committee which sat three years on the Poor Law administration of this country, but he would endeavour to show that it did not precisely conform to those recommendations, The Committee reported on the 31st of May, and their Report was ordered to be printed on that day; but from that time until about a week ago the House had received no intimation that it was the intention of the Government to legislate on the subject. It was not, indeed, until his hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Lyall) had asked a question with regard to it, that the right hon. Gentleman had announced that he had a Bill already prepared. In accordance with that announcement the Bill was introduced on the 19th of July, at a late period of the evening, as he was informed, for he did not happen to be present on the occasion. And what, he would ask, followed? Instead of affording a little time to those interested in the question to consider the measure, the second reading was moved on the following day, at an advanced hour of the day, There was some reason for complaining, therefore, that his right hon. Friend had rather stolen a march on the House in introducing a Bill of such importance at the end of the Session, and pressing it on for discussion in the very week when it was understood the sitting of Parliament was about to terminate. The Bill was, he maintained, one of the most important in its principle and operation which had in the present Session been submitted to the notice of the House. It involved a problem which was, perhaps, about the most difficult of solution of any connected with that difficult branch of administration with which his right hon. Friend had to deal. The evil against which it was directed no doubt existed in the great city, or rather, he might say, the immense mass of cities to which it applied. There was, it must be admitted, in the metropolis a wandering, houseless, destitute population, for which there was no adequate provision. About twenty years ago an attempt was made to deal with the very same question. Sir James Graham introduced and carried a Bill which had the same object as that before the House, but which was of a character far more judicious and better prepared. His right hon. Friend had quoted that as a precedent for the measure 2045 which he proposed, but there was a very broad distinction between the two proposals. The Bill of Sir James Graham established districts for the relief of the poor, and the relief was to be dispensed by those who collected the rates out of which it was to be administered. There was to be a Board in each of those districts, selected from the Board of Guardians, which was to be intrusted with the management of the asylums constituted under the Act. Those who were taxed were those who had the administration of; the relief; but his objection to the me a-sure before them was, that it proposed to intrust the numerous bodies throughout the metropolis connected with the relief of the poor with the administration of funds collected from the whole of the metropolis. There were thirty-eight of those bodies, and the rental of the area which would come under the operation of the Bill was between £12,000,000 and £13,000,000, or not far short of the rental of the whole of Ireland, and every one of the bodies ill question would have the power to give relief without stint to the casual poor. [Mr. C. P. VILLIERS: No, no!] He certainly read the Bill in that way, and the auditor would have no check on the administration of relief or the discretion of the guardians in granting it. It should under those circumstances be borne in mind that those for whom provision was sought to be made was not a limited class which could be dealt with as a constant body. Indeed, the great difficulty in the matter was that indiscriminate relief had a tendency to increase the numbers of the vagrant class, and thus to throw an additional burden upon the country. Mr. Buller in 1848 published a minute on the subject of vagrancy, which was well worthy of the consideration of the House, and in which, he stated that it had a tendency, as it were, to spring from the ground under the operation of a system if indiscriminate relief, until at last it became overwhelming in its extent beyond all contemplation. There was, he might add, a curious instance given in one of the early reports emanating from Mr. Commissioner Hall, in which a case of great alleged hardship on the refusal of relief to a pauper boy was brought before the magistrates, who indulged in sonic severe remarks on the conduct of the officials by whom the relief was refused; the consequence being that the provisions on the subject were relaxed; and as a result, as 2046 Mr. Hall stated, 15,000 persons applied for relief in eight weeks, and the evil at last became intolerable. The truth was the House, in dealing with the subject, were like the knights fighting about the two sides of the shield. There were two distinct classes by whom relief was sought. Everybody was disposed to look with sympathy on the case of the honest mechanic out of work, or that of the widow and of the orphan children who had nobody to succour them. But there was a very different class—a squalid lazzaroni class—who were always ready to live on charity; and in the minute of Mr. Buller, to which he bad already referred, he found the rapid increase of vagrancy in England and Wales reported at the time to exist—attributed principally to the system which had been adopted for the relief of the casual poor. There might, no doubt, be an attempt made to grapple with what was unquestionably a great evil, lint then the subject was surrounded by immense difficulties which gentlemen coming from all parts of he country had a right to expect sufficient time would be allowed as far as possible to solve, and which should not be sought lo be disposed of in the last week of the Session by means of a measure which was to be shoved through Parliament without discussion, while those who objected to that course being taken were charged with factious opposition. His right hon. Friend said the Bill was founded on the Report of the Committee which he had mentioned, but the fact was that that Committee recommended a good deal more than he proposed. They passed the following Resolutions:—In order to secure sufficient and convenient moans for the relief of the casual and houseless poor within the metropolis, as defined by the Metropolitan Local Management Act, it is expedient that the charges incurred for the support of such poor should be paid out of a rate assessed on the annual rateable value of the whole of the said metropolis. That, in the opinion of this Committee, the machinery adopted under the Metropolitan Local Management Act might be made available for raising the amount of such charge, and your Committee recommend that authority be given to the Metropolitan Board of Works for such purpose.Then they go on to say—That the Poor Law Board be empowered to prescribe and enforce all necessary arrangements for providing the requisite accommodation in the several unions and parishes, and otherwise carrying the foregoing Resolutions into effect. That, with the view of suppressing vagrancy as far as practicable, the Committee are of opinion that the central authority, when invested with ade- 2047 quate power for that purpose, should direct Boards of Guardians to provide suitable and sufficient wards for the reception of the wayfaring and wandering poor, and that the regulations for their management and relief should be on a uniform system throughout the country.[Mr. C. P. VILLIERS: This is a recommendation only for the metropolis.] Just so, but it was a matter which affected not merely the metropolis, but all the districts of the country, and what he dreaded was, that by removing from the local Boards all motive for strict—nay, he would even say scurvy and stingy administration of relief—there would be an indiscriminate and lavish distribution which, instead of a godsend, would be a curse to the poor themselves. He hoped his right hon. Friend would not reek on him among those who he seemed to think were ready to give a factious opposition to the Bill; on the contrary, he should be willing to lend him all the assistance in his power to pass a satisfactory measure. It was only because he believed it to be impossible to pass a satisfactory measure at that period of the Session, and because he believed his right hon. Friend, by passing a Bill in a hurried way, was incurring a great risk, in which he should not be willing to share, that he begged to move that the House go into Committee on the Bill that day month.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day month, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Edward Pleydell Bouverie)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LYALL
said, that although he concurred in many of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he did not agree with his observation that there was no urgency in the case. On the contrary, the Committee of which he had been a Member thought it a subject which deserved the early consideration of Parliament. Some time back the right hon. Gentleman, in reply to the hon. Member for Norfolk, stated that the subject would require several Bills, and that no general Bill would be introduced by the Government during the year. After the harrowing cases of distress amongst the poor of London during severe winter weather, of which they all had read in the newspapers, it would not be a comforting reflec- 2048 tion at Christmas that a Bill providing relief had been opposed and thrown out. The Bill did not involve the principle of an extension of the area of rating generally, nor of an extension of the area of rating in the metropolis. Twenty years ago the Act of the 7 & 8 Vict, recognized the principle of general rating in each of the six districts of the metropolis on the rateable value, on the ground that the relief of casual poor was on a different footing from the relief of the resident poor. The 7 & 8 Vict, could not have been a very good measure, as it had proved unworkable and had been a dead letter. He thought the time had arrived when Parliament ought to pass a workable measure for the relief of the casual poor, and he would suggest that the Bill should be restricted in its operation to one year. Perhaps, however, that might not be necessary, inasmuch as the whole system of the Poor Laws must come before Parliament next Session, as the Poor Law Commission would expire in 1865, unless renewed by Parliament.
§ MR. BRISCOE
said, he felt great apprehension lest the Bill, instead of alleviating the misery of the vagrant population, would be the means of increasing it. The cases of starvation reported by the press had not been among the casual and the vagrant, but among the resident poor, who were unwilling to enter a workhouse, and would have been saved by a modicum of out-relief. The Bill would increase the number of vagrants. The proposal to put the relief of vagrant and casual poor in the metropolis on the general fund would be an invitation for all the beggars in the country to flock to the metropolis. He remembered asking a party of beggars, having the appearance of bricklayers and bricklayers' labourers, where they came from. They replied, "Windsor." "But," said he, "why come to London?" "Oh," was the reply, "we can get at any workhouse a night's lodging and some food, and then we chance it for the day." This the Bill would increase. Besides, it would have the effect of superseding all voluntary charity. Therefore, he should support the Amendment; and he hoped that the President of the Poor Law Board would consent to postpone the Bill for the future consideration of the House when it again opened.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, he wished to say a word, as he believed he was the only Conservative Member present who was on the Committee, and who was 2049 in favour of the principle of the Bill. As such he felt he had a right to complain of the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman, for he had placed him and those who were in the same situation in a painful dilemma. Had the Bill been introduced at a period of the Session when it was possible to consider it properly, he would have given it his heartiest support. There was an enormous evil to be remedied. Every winter most frightful cases of death from destitution were recorded in the newspapers, causing the deepest dissatisfaction with the working of the Poor Law, and numbers succumbed to disease brought on by want, whose deaths never got into the papers at all. If they did not give some power to the guardians to relieve this distress next winter, a fresh contingent would be added to the tale of persons whose fate was already laid to the charge of Parliament, who had suffered them to perish in spite of the professedly humane principles of the English law. That was a terrible responsibility to impose upon them. It was an awful alternative to have to choose between disregarding the ordinary form and rules of the House, and passing a Bill on a novel principle, which might produce evils they could not foresee, as they had not time to consider it adequately, or encountering the responsibility of having contributed to the starvation of their fellow creatures. The right hon. Gentleman had no right to place that terrible alternative before them. Under these circumstances, knowing as he did how great the evil was, he hesitated to vole against the Bill. No other compromise appeared to be open to them, under the difficulties of the case, than to ask the right hon. Gentleman to allow the Bill to terminate in February or March next, 30 that it might be in force during the winter. He hoped they would not be held to pledge themselves to any principle in agreeing to that temporary remedy for the evil which pressed upon them so. Next year they could discuss the questions and settle the basis on which it should rest, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would assent to the proposal.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he quite concurred in the noble Lord's suggestion, though he could not concur with the Mover of the Amendment as to the difficulties which might result from the passing of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouveric) had stated that there would be no check upon the expenditure, but if he had looked into the Bill he would have seen 2050 provision was made by the first clause that on the part of the Poor Law Board the same checks that were now applied to the relief of the poor should continue, and thus that one uniform system must be adopted throughout the metropolis. He believed that the whole amount that would have to be raised by the Metropolitan Board of Works under this Bill would be about £6,000 a year, and when they considered the large area over which the authority of the Board extended, a rate of a farthing in the pound would answer all purposes. Were they, then, to talk of the lavish expenditure of money that might take place, and the number of vagrants that might come into the town? The argument of the hon. Member for West Surrey, when he observed that the measure would do away with private charity, applied to any poor law; but his belief was, that however the public arrangements for the relief of the poor might be enlarged, there would always be ample room for the exercise of private charity. When he first had a seat in that House the Member for Kilmarnock was President of the Poor Law Board, and looking at the right hon. Gentleman's career while he held that office, be could not discover that he ever did anything to ameliorate the condition of the poor, but, on the contrary, every proposition with that object had always been received by him with steady opposition. If on the present occasion the right hon. Gentleman, instead of opposing the Bill upon its principle, had brought his experience to bear to remedy its defects when they got into Committee, he would have taken a more worthy course. The Bill would do something to remedy those terrible stories which always appeared in the winter season, and if it was defective its faults might be remedied next year.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the Question was, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock's Amendment, and not his past career at the. Poor Law Board. The Bill involved two important principles— the extension of uniform rating, and the transfer of the Poor Law affairs to the Metropolitan Board of Works. [Mr. C. P. VILLIERS: No!] He could not but regard these principles with apprehension and doubt. His noble Friend the Member for Stamford had described in touching terms the great evil which required to be remedied; but the greater the evil the more inexcusable was it in the right hon. Gentleman not to have brought forward the Bill at an earlier period. The Bill involved 2051 principles for the discussion of which the House had a right to expect time and opportunity, and it was neither decorous nor courteous to submit such a Bill in the very last week of the Session, when it might have been introduced at any time during the last three months. It was a dangerous precedent, which they ought to discourage. He felt the difficulty pointed out by his noble Friend, but he thought they had a right to look to the President of the Poor Law Board to prevent the recurrence of the evils in question during the winter, and to introduce the Bill at a proper time next Session.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he had no wish to raise a factious opposition to the Bill; but he thought the House had a right to find fault with the President of the Poor Law Board for not having allowed more time for the consideration of the Bill, seeing that the Committee had reported so far back as May. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil) as to the awkward position in which the House was placed. It was easy to say that those who objected to the Bill were wanting in proper feeling towards the casual poor, but there was no ground whatever for that assertion. The right hon. Gentleman urged that there was nothing for it but to bring in a Bill of that kind, the District Asylum Act having failed; but the reason why that Act failed was because it was permissive merely, and the right hon. Gentleman should have introduced a Bill to make it compulsory. That Act, as he believed, worked very well, till one Metropolitan Union made an objection, and directions were thereupon given that no further steps should be taken in the matter. He could not help suspecting that the Bill before the House was an attempt to get in the thin edge of the wedge, and that sooner or later it would be sought to have a district rating for the whole of the metropolis. One great objection which he had to the measure was that under it the money would not be expended by those who paid and who had an incentive to check its improper application, Moreover, the Bill went in direct opposition to the 90th clause of the Metropolis Local Management Act, which expressly provided that the Metropolitan Board of Works should have nothing whatever to do with the funds raised for the relief of the poor; and he was glad that that Board had upon consideration decided, by however small a majority, against its being mixed 2052 up with this matter. It would be much better for the Poor Law Board, if it had the power, to compel Boards of Guardians to do their duty. Without denying the claims of the casual poor upon their commiseration, it should not be forgotten that there was one class of vagrants in all parts of the country, and especially in the metropolis, between whom and the really deserving it was necessary to discriminate. He alluded to the class of sturdy beggars, who had a strong repugnance to work for their living; and it would, he thought, be dangerous to teach such persons that they had only to come up to London to get food and lodging for nothing. Indeed, he did not see why if that Bill was really good for the metropolis it should not be good for Liverpool, Birmingham, and other large towns. In conclusion, he firmly believed, after the discussion which had taken place in that House, that no Board of Guardians would dare to neglect its duty in this matter.
§ MR. HARVEY LEWIS
said, that feeling strongly that in a rich and prosperous community no person should run the risk of starvation, he regretted that the Bill had not been introduced at an earlier period of the Session. The Bill was founded upon a wrong principle, and was opposed to the whole of their legislation for relief of the poor. He denied, therefore, that those who opposed the measure were fairly open to the charge of factiousness or hard-heartedness. Nothing could be more objectionable to the ratepayers of the metropolis than the proposal to give such powers to the Metropolitan Board of Works as were contained in the Bill. It was wrong to impose on that Board duties inconsistent with those which they were elected to perform. Their hands were already full and they had solemnly expressed their aversion to have these foreign duties imposed upon them, which they could not perform with satisfaction to themselves or to their constituents. Not only did the Bill do so, but it sought to apply funds raised for one purpose—the sewage of the metropolis—to another, the relief of the poor; and it involved the proposal of shifting the burden of supporting the poor from the occupiers to the owners of property. Marylebone parish contained one-twelfth of the valuation of the metropolis; and if the entire relief for houseless poor was to amount to £6,000, that parish must pay fur its quota, £500, though it might not be called upon to relieve houseless poor to the 2053 extent of £100 a year. Thus that parish would suffer by the change to the extent of £400 a year. But the metropolis ought not to be singled out for the application of a measure of this kind. If it were a good one it ought to be applied to the entire country, and ought not to be brought in at a time when Members were out of town. The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil), who was a Member of the Committee on the subject, suggested that the measure was only to continue in operation until March next, when the severity of winter should be over, and he (Mr. Harvey Lewis) objected to a measure of this kind being made permanent.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the objection to the measure seemed to be directed more to the manner in which it was proposed to be administered than to the raising of the funds from the entire metropolis. It was an objection, however, based rather on sentiment than on principle, and was worthy rather of the vestry room than the House of Commons. It was said that if relief were expanded the number of destitute poor would increase. But would it be for a moment contended that the present state of things should be allowed longer to exist over another winter. The floating poor were of necessity driven eastwards — the residents of the West End were relieved of their presence—they said they were willing to contribute to their support, and if they were sincere in their profession they ought not to object to the Bill. The houseless poor did not belong to east or west, but were the common charge of the entire metropolis, and any measure which made the metropolis support them was a proper one, and did not at all interfere with the principle that every district should provide for its own poor.
§ MR. C. S. BUTLER
said, he should support the Bill. It was to be regretted that more time had not been allotted for consideration, but he hoped that another winter would not be allowed to pass without some-measure to afford relief to the destitute classes in whose behalf the Bill was introduced being adopted. He had communicated with the various Boards of Guardians in the eastern districts of the metropolis, and they were in favour of the Bill, and were anxious that it should become law.
§ LORD FERMOY
said, that whether the proposed legislation was good or bad it was at all events hasty, and hasty legislation was always open to objection. He agreed in 2054 the principle of the measure so far as it declared that provision ought to be made for the homeless poor. But was there no alternative to passing the Bill? He maintained there was. The central authority had power enough by the present law to compel recusant Boards of Guardians to provide refuge wards for the homeless poor. His constituents had done this, and public opinion in the metropolis was in favour of that course. Let the right hon. Gentleman try the power he had, and he would find it unnecessary to pass such a Bill as that before the House for one winter. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that every Member of the Committee was bound by its recommendations. Now, he must say, while he felt bound by the Report as a whole, he objected to piecemeal legislation. The Committee had certainly agreed to the principle of the Bill; but they did not stop there. They proposed, by the power of the central body, to compel all Boards of Guardians throughout the country to deal liberally with the casual poor; but the right hon. Gentleman brought in a Bill to deal with the metropolis, and ignored the whole country. Was that fair to the metropolis? The result of not providing for the casual poor elsewhere would be to send them in greater numbers to the metropolis. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have dealt with the whole country in a comprehensive way, instead of which he had brought in a limited and one-sided measure, which he felt perfectly free to vote against. He advised the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the present Bill, and let the country consider the whole subject in the recess; and when a general measure was introduced next Session it would probably pass without much altercation.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
said, he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had consulted any of the parishes in the metropolis with respect to the Bill, and what answers he had received. On the general question it was impossible for any one who lived in the metropolis, or read what appeared in the newspapers, not to feel that something should be done to relieve the casual poor. It was no party question. It was one of simple humanity. Still the principle of the measure was so important, and the opportunity for considering it so brief, that he hoped the Bill would be limited to the mouth of March next.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, he would 2055 answer the Question put to him by the hon. Baronet, Whether he had taken any steps to ascertain the feeling of the metropolitan districts with respect to this Bill? Distinctly he had done so; and with respect to the lateness of the period when the Bill was introduced he might say, the Report of the Committee was made on the 31st of May; it was printed and delivered on the 18th of June. He did then take the course which the hon. Baronet seemed to think he ought to have done—to ascertain what the opinion of the metropolis affected by the Bill was, and as soon as he had ascertained that he gave notice of the Bill; at least he announced his intention in reply to a question put by the hon. Member for Whitehaven. He took steps to legislate on that portion of the Report which he thought most urgent. He had not during the course of the discussion been able to collect any real objections to the Bill. The existence of the evil which the Bill was proposed to remedy had not been denied, nor had it been urged that the Bill was not likely to meet those evils. He had not heard a single Member say that the Bill did not fairly represent the Report and the recommendation of the Committee, or that it would not have the effect of preventing those shocking occurrences which they all regretted so much. All that they had heard was that it had been introduced at a wrong time, and there never was a measure against which its opponents upon other grounds failed to urge the same objection. One objection to the Bill was an apprehension as to what might follow. [Sir MINTO FARQUHAR: What were the replies of the parishes?] He believed that only one out of the whole of the metropolitan parishes was unfavourable to the measure. The hon. Member for Marylebone (Mr. H. Lewis) appeared to object to the Bill on account of an apprehension as to the increase of cost, but he might mention that a portion of the hon. Gentleman's constituency, the in-habitants of St. Pancras, an important district of the borough, had, as far as he could gather from their communications, highly approved the Bill. They had passed a resolution and appeared to be unanimously in its favour, but thought that the district was hardly large enough, and that it ought to be a police district. The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Fermoy) had given notice of his intention of moving an Amendment with that object. It had been urged against the Bill that 2056 it would afford increased temptations to vagrancy, but he could not perceive anything in the mode of relief which could possibly lead to that result. The hon. Member for Westminster (Sir John Shelley) objected to the Bill because he believed it would attract vagrants from the country from the circumstance that no one would be turned away. He did not, however, regard that as a result which was likely to follow. He had believed it to be better to bring in the Bill late in the Session rather than not at all, and, as he was confident in the success of the experiment, he was willing to agree to the proposal which had been made to limit the operations of the Act to the first of April next. That limit would cover the period within which the shocking cases which had been referred to would be likely to occur.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, that he would withdraw his Amendment upon that understanding, but he must insist upon satisfactory evidence being adduced to show that the Boards of Guardians possessed proper places for the reception of the casual poor previous to the reimbursement of their expenses by the Metropolitan Board of Works.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow at One of the clock.