HC Deb 29 June 1864 vol 176 cc449-66

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of the Bill, said, he would show that the principal objection which would probably be urged to the measure—its expense—was unfounded. Very exaggerated estimates had been formed as to the results of the clause introduced at his instance into the Poor Law Act two years ago, enabling Poor Law Guardians to place out deserted and orphan children to nurse until the age of eight years. It was said that the effect of the clause would be to entail an enormous additional expense upon the ratepayer. But the Irish Poor Law Commission in their last Report showed that, instead of the additional expense being of a serious nature, the number of children relieved under that clause for the half year ending September 1863 was 169, which, at an average cost of £5 for each child, gave a total cost of about £800. From that amount must, however, be deducted the cost that would have attended their rearing in the workhouse, so that the increase was scarcely perceptible. The measure he was about to ask the House to read a second time, proposed to deal not with children, but with the able bodied poor; it was purely a permissive measure, and in proof of the feeling of the people of Ireland in regard to the suggestion he would point to the fact that not a single petition had been presented against the Bill, while in that and former Sessions numerous petitions in favour of conferring on the Poor Law Commissioners additional powers had been forwarded. The measure consisted of but a single clause, and with the exception of such verbal alterations as were requisite to make its provisions applicable to Ireland was copied verbatim from the English Act. He desired to take that opportunity of acknowledging the courtesy with which the secretary to the English Poor Law Board had facilitated his labours in drawing up the Bill by enabling him to consult the legal adviser of that Board. The English system had been recommended by competent authorities; the people of Ireland asked for it; and upon what grounds would its extension to the sister country he denied? If the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, or his noble Friend the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas), intended to argue that a harsher Poor Law was indispensable for Ireland, upon them would rest the duty of proving its necessity and of justifying the anomaly. There were three considerations in favour of the measure. The first was that of economy, for the Bill would have the effect of reducing the rates. The House could not fail to be struck with the remarkable fact mentioned in the official Report, that while 4½ per cent of the population in England, and 4 per cent in Scotland, were relieved, in Ireland the average daily number of those whose necessities were relieved was under 1 per cent. Was Ireland, then, so much a richer country than England or Scotland? If not it was clear there was something wrong in the Irish Poor Law. The outdoor relief in England and Scotland was shown to cost very nearly the same—namely, about 1s. 6d. per head per week on the average daily number. In Ireland the cost of workhouse maintenance and clothing alone amounted to 2s. 3d. per head per week, and, adding that to the other expenses, the total amount was about 3s. 10d. per head per week. Thus it appeared that by adopting the English system, more than double the present number could be relieved and an actual saving effected upon the present rates. No doubt, it would be said that if the English system were extended to Ireland more than double the present number would claim relief. But his answer was, that the Bill being only permissive, the Commissioners would at all times have power to check excessive demands; they might, if they chose, relieve double the present number, and then stop short at that point. He did not quite concur with those who thought the North of Ireland the most progressive portion of the country, but, taking one or two unions there for the purposes of comparison with England, he found that in the union of Drumfanahy, county of Donegal, £333 was expended on the maintenance of the poor, £209 in salaries and rations to officers, and £123 in other expenses, making a total of £332 for establishment charges as against £333 spent upon the poor. Sixpence out of every shilling contributed by the ratepayers, therefore, went for staff and expenses. In Stranowar £502 was laid out upon the poor, and no less than £590 on establishment charges, salaries, &c. What was the case in England? Taking that part nearest to Ireland with which hon. Members were best acquainted, he found that in Holy head no less than £9,300 out of £10,000 collected from the ratepayers was spent upon the poor, £156 of the balance even being devoted to the maintenance of lunatics. The proportions were stated to be that in England and Scotland six-sevenths of the applicants were relieved out of the workhouse, while in Ireland only one-thirtieth of the relief afforded was given out of doors. There was another consideration well worthy of attention—that of public policy. The English Com- missioners in their Report gave a very interesting account of the outdoor relief which it was found necessary to give at Birkenhead for a few weeks during the prevalence of excessive frost. The cost was exceedingly moderate, the men were well conducted; and, as soon as the temporary pressure was removed, the men returned to their labour, again to increase the wealth of the community. Many of those dock labourers so relieved were Irishmen. Had a similar frost happened in Dublin the same men would have been obliged to go into the workhouse or starve. The law was clear on that point. They must either have gone with their families into the workhouse, to become, perhaps, hereditary paupers, or else, having once incurred the workhouse brand, they would have fled from the country the moment they got out of doors again. A Member of that House told him he met not long ago a party of Irish emigrants, a servant girl was with them, and as domestic servants were wanted in Ireland be asked her why she was going to America. She told him she had been forced in a moment of temporary distress to ask for relief. She had been driven into the workhouse, and having the stain of the workhouse upon her she could do nothing but emigrate. The same feeling prevailed among the working population after they had been forced into the workhouse. The people of Ireland were well aware that a different law existed in England. Professor Ingram, of Trinity College, Dublin, said on the subject that one of the greatest evils of Ireland was the disaffection to the Government which undeniably existed, and which it was the duty of the Government to remedy. The Professor asked what must be the feeling of the Irish working man when the law dealt more liberally with the English than the Irish labourer; and he added that it could not be pretended that Irishmen and Englishmen lived under the same law when such a difference existed. The vast majority of the Irish people concurred in opinion with Professor Ingram. Was this a United Kingdom? What was the meaning of a United Kingdom? It was not a mere geographical expression, but indicated a union of laws and institutions, and especially the laws affecting the poor. If the poor of Ireland were more harshly treated than those who live nearer the centre of Government, the loyal attachment to the Government that should exist in Ireland was necessarily disturbed. There remained to be considered the question of morality. He contended that any measure that would substitute outdoor relief for indoor relief would tend to promote morality. He had a mass of evidence in his possession from guardians, and taken before the Committee on the Irish Poor Laws on the subject. He might remind the House of the evidence of Colonel Latouche, of Dublin, who described the horrible treatment that the women and children received in the Irish union workhouses. When he alluded to the subject in the debate of last March he was told that a system of classification existed in most of the workhouses of Ireland. It was not, however, a moral but a physical classification. Young girls who were driven to the workhouse were not forced to associate with women suffering from contagious diseases, but they associated with women of bad character and having illegitimate children with them. He might read replies of the Boards of Guardians to the Sanitary Commission, but it would be enough to note that classification did not exist in the workhouses of Ireland, and that it was operating against the morality of the people. He contended, therefore, that economy, public policy, and morality alike required the measure. But there was a further consideration. There had been debates on the loss of population by Irish emigration, and, although the Government would not consent to express their regret at the decline of the population, the general feeling of all enlightened and sensible men was that the decline was to be regretted. He was convinced that the laws in operation in Ireland for the so-called relief of the poor greatly tended to promote that emigration. The labouring man knew that if he crossed the Channel he would receive outdoor relief if he were sick and out of work. It was the natural right of the poor man to solicit aims, but there were laws in England and Ireland to prevent him from exercising that right, To ask alms was not opposed to the law of God, who told us that we should give alms and that almsgiving was a good deed. But our laws were opposed to the law of God, and they punished the poor man who asked for alms. A certain mode was prescribed in which alms, if they could be so called, were to be given, namely, money was collected in the shape of rates, and they were administered by a Board, and the poor were to receive relief only in the way pre- scribed by such Board. Upon those, there fore, who enacted those laws was thrown the onus of providing the administration of relief, that should, as far as possible, be consistent with the social and moral interests of the poor. The very reverse, however, was the case in Ireland. They compelled the poor to receive relief by entering a prison, and to live on a diet far inferior; to that which he would receive in a common prison. Some of the Irish Judges had remarked that the workhouses must be dreadful places, when offences were committed by prisoners for the purpose of being transferred from the workhouses to the gaols. In May, 1829, the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) speaking of an Irish Poor Law, said that if Parliament established a Poor Law in Ireland it would give a right to able bodied men out of employment to be supported in the same way as in England, namely, by means of outdoor relief. A Commission was appointed in 1834 to inquire into the Poor Laws, and the expediency of extending them to Ireland. Lord John Russell was then at the head of affairs, and his Government, unfortunately for Ireland, reversed the recommendation of the Commission and determined not to extend the English Poor Law to Ireland. Mr. Nicholls, the Poor Law Commissioner, was sent to Ireland, and his Report, written after nine weeks' inquiry, was allowed to upset the recommendation of Irish gentlemen who had known the country all their lives. Lord John Russell, who never touched Ireland but to damage it, passed the present Poor Law, and he would not venture to say how many hundreds and thousands of persons it had driven from the shores of Ireland. That Act was amended by another passed in 1847, and the principle of outdoor relief had been slightly extended in 1862 upon his (Mr. Hennessy's) Amendment relative to orphan and deserted children, which had proved highly beneficial in its operation. He trusted he had shown the House that his measure was recommended by economy, policy, and morality, and he therefore asked the House to give a second reading to his Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Hennessy.)


said, he very much regretted that his hon. Friend had thought fit to revive a question which had been amply discussed in an early part of the Session, when it was shown to the satisfaction of the House that the subject had also been very fully discussed and considered by the Committee on the Irish Poor Laws two years ago. That Committee expressed what might be fairly regarded as an almost unanimous opinion against the views and principles which the hon. Member had laid down. He would not detain the House at any length, because in the early part of the Session he had expressed a conviction that nothing had happened in connection with the operation of the Poor Law system to contradict or invalidate the opinion so authoritatively expressed by the Select Committee. The hon. Member tried to make the House believe that he merely wished to assimilate the law of England and Ireland. The whole spirit and working of the Irish Poor Law was essentially different from that of England. The English law was intended, in the majority of cases, merely to assist in the relief of the poor, and did not pretend actually to support the person. But the relief given to the poor of Ireland was absolutely complete; it extended to their clothing, lodging, food, maintenance, and went even to the education of the children of the paupers. It was not fair, therefore, to compare the English with the Irish law. But was not the hon. Gentleman aware that complaints were made every day of the working of the English system? Were there not paragraphs and letters in the public papers complaining of the insufficiency of the relief given in this city? It was true the hon. Gentleman had copied part of the words of a clause found in the English Act, the 4 & 5 Will. IV. That clause, however, was passed, not with the view of establishing, but with the entirely different object of limiting and arresting the evils of outdoor relief in England. The Poor Law Commissioners also issued a prohibitory order, which positively arrested, in four-fifths of the unions of England, the operation of the clause which the hon. Member wished to make general throughout Ireland. This order declared that every able bodied person requiring relief should be, in the unions named in the schedule, wholly relieved in the workhouse of the union, together with his wife and family. A few classes of applicants were alone excepted—the sick and infirm, those suffering from accidents, and widows with one or more legitimate children. Therefore the hon. Gentleman's measure would, if it were adopted, have a far wider operation than the English Act, unless it were accompanied by a like prohibitory order. The hon. Member, however, had not disguised his object, for he had distinctly contended that the poor had a right to relief, and he would acknowledge that right without any limitation whatever. He wished, therefore, to extend the powers of his Bill to every union in Ireland. He had also endeavoured to show that the Irish Poor Law was harsh and unsuited to the wants of the poor. The allegation was strongly urged before the Irish Poor Law Committee of two years ago. It was stated that there was no doubt a great dislike on the part of the labouring man to go into the poor-house, but the charge of harshness in the administration of the law was not proved in the slightest degree. It was shown, on the contrary, that the poor who came under the operation of the Poor Law were as well and as kindly treated as the circumstances admitted. Still a Poor Law must of itself be somewhat uninviting, and it behoved those who were intrusted with its administration to take care that no encouragement should be given to idleness, and that persons who could support themselves were not induced to claim relief from the rates. The Boards of Guardians in Ireland possessed, in fact, certain limited powers of granting relief, but they were seldom exercised from the feeling that they would lead to danger and waste. He believed that it would be impossible to carry out any system of outdoor relief in Ireland without great risk. The evils of such a system would be, in fact, so great that they would have the effect of rendering the Poor Law system unworkable. The whole system would come to a dead lock, and the poor would ultimately become the victims of the attempt made to promote their welfare. The hon. Member had spoken of public opinion in Ireland being on the side of his Bill. He believed, on the contrary, that it was almost entirely arrayed against such a proposal. The Poor Law Guardians already had the power of extending the system of outdoor relief to widows with two or more children, to the sick and infirm, and those who were disabled by accident and temporary illness. The guardians, however, in the interest of the ratepayers as well as the poor, rarely availed themselves of the powers they possessed under the present law. The elected guardians shared the opinions of the ex officio guar- dians on the subject, and as a class they were almost unanimous in their indisposition to extend outdoor relief to the poor. The hon. Member had referred to Scotland in support of his Bill, but an extraordinary number of abuses and malversations had been shown to exist under the system of relief as it existed in that country. Hundreds and thousands of persons were receiving relief who were in no wise entitled to be considered paupers. Workhouses were now rising in every direction in Scotland, and attempts were being otherwise made to remedy the evils arising from indiscriminate outdoor relief. The hon. Gentleman asserted that every man had a right to ask alms, but that was a principle which was not likely to command the assent of Parliament, which had always enforced the operation of the mendicity laws. The Legislature was always threatened with disaffection in Ireland as the penalty for passing or for not passing this or that measure. He did not believe that the Irish Poor Law system had been the cause of disaffection in that country, The Irish people recollected the magnificent grant of £8,000,000 voted by Parliament for the relief of the famine, and the action of the House towards Ireland could never be quoted as a justification of disaffection. He believed, indeed, that no I such feeling existed in Ireland. Believing that the Bill would be injurious to Ireland, he had therefore to move, That it be read a second time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Lord Naas.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, if his hon. Friend were as well acquainted with the condition of Ireland as he was with the forms and proceedings of the House of Commons he would never have brought in that Bill. If passed into law, its effects would be disastrous to the small farmers of Ireland, and most injurious to the class whom it was the object of the hon. Gentleman to benefit. The small farmers holding some only four acres and others about sixteen, or on average ten acres, would be destroyed by the Bill. The poor in Ireland were, on the whole, very well taken care of. In 1862 the total sum raised for their support was £779,682 on a valuation of £12,000,000. The dreadful occurrences which happened every day in England could not possibly occur in Ireland from the way in which the Poor Law there was managed. They never heard in Ireland of whole families dying of starvation, such as might be read of in The Times of that day, as happening in this country. And the reason was because the Irish Poor Law gave the poor man in distress, no matter whether he came from the extremity of the earth or was an inhabitant of the district, a right to immediate relief; he was not bandied about from one workhouse to another, but the relieving officer was bound to see that relief was given without stint, and that everything was done which could and ought to be done. There were, no doubt, many unions in Ireland in which the system was not well carried out, but that was not the fault of the law, which established local administration, supplemented by Government supervision. The law, if properly administered, was humane and just. There was a great difference under the present system in the rates as they fell upon the towns and upon the country districts. When the town was taxed 4s. or 5s. in the pound, the adjacent country district might have to pay only 5d., 6d., or 7d. In the county of Tipperary, which might be considered as an instance of good management, where, for the most part, the proprietors were resident, and which he believed might be looked upon as a fair sample of what Ireland in the course of years might be expected to be, Clonmel paid in one part 4s. in the pound, in another 3s., while an adjoining district, which threw a large proportion of the paupers into the town, paid only 7d. But, if outdoor relief were to be given, it would be the entire destruction of the property of the towns, which, in Ireland, from the fact that they had newsrooms and mechanics' institutions, were the nucleus of civilization. His hon. and learned Friend had argued that the effect of giving outdoor relief would be to diminish the expense. But that could not possibly be the result, because the establishments of the workhouses—medical officers, masters, relieving officers, &c, would have to be kept up. Any Irish gentleman who recollected 1848 must know that while the people hated the workhouses, they delighted in outdoor relief, whether they wanted it or not. And when a magistrate remonstrated with one of them, and said, "Is it not a shame for you, a man who has money in the bank, to look for outdoor relief?" the reply was, "Oh! your honour, why wouldn't I get it as well as another?" In fact, they thought they had a right to get a portion of that to which they themselves had contributed. A gentleman in Cork had called his attention to the fact that some of his own tenants were applying for relief—men who did not want it, but got it for their aunts and other relatives, and he put a stop to the practice. But he knew cases of men who had £1,000 in the bank receiving relief. That feeling was as strong as ever, and he should oppose the second reading of the Bill.


said, he thought that both the last speakers had very much exaggerated the dangers of the measure. The principle of the Bill was purely permissive—it gave the Commissioners power under certain circumstances to order outdoor relief to be given to persons who under the present law would not be entitled to obtain it. The debates which they had had night after night in that House were sufficient to show that the Poor Law as at present administered was not capable of meeting the distress. The chief objection to the Irish Poor Law system was, its undue severity of operation, and strict adherence to the rigid rules of political economy. He would ask what would have been the state of England if in some periods of severe distress, such as had occurred in 1841 and 1848, no relief was to be given except in the workhouses? Would it not have required a large standing army to prevent outbreaks? There were many parts of Ireland where the poor were suffering severe hardships, but where there were no resident landlords or wealthy charitable people to relieve them, and where, therefore, the want of some such law as that proposed by the hon. Member was felt. There was very much less to fall back upon in Ireland in times of distress than in England. The noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth had adduced the case of Scotland as furnishing an example of the abuse of outdoor relief. But such abuse occurred chiefly in places where there were no workhouses, and therefore no means of applying the workhouse test. In Ireland, on the other hand, there were ample facilities for the application of the test. When it was first proposed to introduce the Poor Law system into Ireland there were the greatest objections to it, and the greatest fears were expressed as to its probable working. He believed that in the old times more landowners in Ireland were ruined by the indiscriminate charity they had to bestow in consequence of there being no Poor Law than were ruined by personal extravagance, and he was convinced that it would have been far better for Ireland if she had got the Poor Law system 100 years before, and, holding that the fears which were entertained of the effect of the introduction of outdoor relief were equally unfounded, he was prepared to give his cordial support to the Bill.


said, the feeling of the House seemed to be so adverse to the Bill that he trusted the hon. Gentleman would not press the Motion to a division. It was quite evident that it was the opinion of the House that, after the recent legislation with regard to the Irish Poor Laws, it was inexpedient to proceed as the hon. Member now desired. The hon. Gentleman's complaint was, that the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland was not sufficiently elastic, and he wanted, therefore, to assimilate the law of the two countries and to give power to the Commissioners to issue orders to the guardians to give outdoor relief. But that would be a fundamental change in the Irish system. The hon. Gentleman, referring to the Act of 1862, which he (Sir Robert Peel) had the honour to get passed, said that it was only a trifling modification of the system. But could that be called a trifling modification which had raised the numbers who received relief under it from 3,000 to 10,000. It had been well pointed out by the noble Lord the Member for Cocker-mouth, that the 4 & 5 Will. IV. c. 56—which the hon. Gentleman cited in support of his present Motion—was intended to check the abuse of outdoor relief. When the hon. Gentleman said that public opinion had expressed itself strongly on the question, and that a number of petitions had been presented in support of the principle of his measure in 1861, 1862, 1863, and 1864, he (Sir Robert Peel) took the liberty of saying that during 1863, after the passing of the Act of 1862, no petitions had been presented on the subject. And the petitions which had been presented during the other three years did not ask for an assimilation of the laws of the two countries, but had been mainly with respect to the payment of certain salaries, the superannuation of Poor Law Officers, and the re-adjustment of Poor Law taxation. The hon. Gentleman referred to a petition presented in 1862, signed by the Roman Catholic bishops, and insinuated that he (Sir Robert Peel) told the House that it was not competent for them, that it was out of their province, to petition Parliament on the subject. The hon. Gentleman must have misinterpreted what he said, because, considering the position of the Roman Catholic bishops with respect to the poor in Ireland, they, of all others, were the persons who ought to petition. He certainly had not intended by any word which he used on that occasion to convey a different opinion. With regard to the superannuation of the workhouse officers, as his right hon. Friend (Mr. C. P. Villiers) had passed a Bill with respect to English officials, he (Sir Robert Peel) trusted that next Session the House would give him an opportunity of passing a similar measure for Ireland. Out of forty-three petitions presented from Ireland this year on the subject of superannuation allowances, &c, there was only one from the county of Wexford—and that had been going the round of all the unions of Ireland—which prayed that the English Poor Law might be assimilated to the Poor Law in force in Ireland, which was the entire reverse of the system which the hon. Gentleman wished to introduce. The present law was, in fact, quite sufficient to meet the wants of the people of Ireland. As to the charge that the system was not elastic, when he could show that, in 1849, 1,210,482 persons had received outdoor relief in Ireland, that in 1859 the number was reduced to 5,455, and that in 1864 it was 10,000, he thought he was fairly entitled to call the system elastic. He trusted, therefore, the House would not concur in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. The first clause of the Bill would give the Commissioners power to issue orders to the guardians to give outdoor relief. But the Commissioners did not want that power, for they believed the local guardians did their duty, and it would be an invidious thing to impose on them the task of making such orders. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the dietary in Ireland as lower than in England or Scotland. But, from an interesting Return moved for by the hon. Baronet the Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce), it would be seen that the quantity and the quality of nutriment, as ascertained upon analysis, allowed to each pauper was superior in Ireland to what it was in England. The hon. Gentleman had said that the introduction of outdoor relief would be productive of economy. But how did the case stand? The population of Scotland in 1862 was 3,062,294, and the total expenditure for the relief of the poor for the year ending May, 1862, amounted to £726,517. In Ireland the population in 1862 was 5,798,564, and the expenditure for the poor, inclusive of medical relief, was £685,647, or £40,870 less than in Scotland, although the population in Ireland was nearly double. Therefore they had in Ireland a much more economic system than in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman endeavoured to show that the workhouse system was productive of emigration, and that it did not pay sufficient regard to the social and moral wants of the poor. But every one who knew the interest which that question had excited in the House also knew that they were desirous to work the system with as much humanity, efficiency, and at the same time regard for the rights of property as was consistent with the wants which it was sought to relieve. He trusted, therefore, the House would not pass the measure.


said, the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) had stated if his hon. Friend knew as much about the condition of Ireland as he did about the forms and proceedings of the House he would not have brought in that Bill. But he begged to say that his hon. Friend was in constant communication with the bishops and other dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, who, of course, knew the condition of the Irish people perfectly well, and therefore he was quite sure that his hon. Friend was as well acquainted with the state of Ireland as he was with the forms of that House. The hon. Member for Clonmel had argued that the Bill if passed would lead to a vast increase of expenditure. But it appeared while the Union expenses in Clonmel amounted to 2s. in the pound, in Tipperary, where the amount of outdoor relief was considerably greater, the poundage was only the same, and in the whole of Munster the average was only 1s.d. That showed that if more outdoor relief was given in the Clonmel Union the expenses probably would be less. He denied altogether the justice of the statement of the hon. Member, that the disposition of the Irish people was to take relief, and that respectable families would get relief for their aunts and other relatives. The hon. Gentleman also said that he knew a man who had £1,000 in the bank who yet took relief. But, though there might be an exceptional case, any person who knew anything of Ireland must know that to take poor relief was the very last thing an Irishman would consent to do, because from that moment he would feel himself degraded. His only regret with regard to the Bill was that his hon. Friend had not proposed to give to the Board of Guardians themselves that permissive power in regard to outdoor relief which he proposed to give to the Poor Law Commissioners. He trusted that the Chief Secretary for Ireland would not persist in his opposition to a Bill the object of which was to place the Irish poor on the same footing as the English poor.


said, that he had on a previous occasion dissented from the proposition for a total assimilation of the Irish Poor Law to the English Poor Law, yet he admitted that crises might frequently occur in which a more extended power of giving outdoor relief, or a means of adapting the mode of relief to peculiar circumstances which might arise, would be desirable in Ireland. The Bill before the House went to that extent only, it being a measure simply to invest the Poor Law Commissioners with a discretionary power to make modifications in the prescribed mode of relief. If the Bill should go into Committee, he would move an Amendment giving to the Boards of Guardians a discretion to carry out those modifications or not, for he thought that to the local administrators should be left the power and responsibility of administering such a law.


said, he had at first experienced difficulty in understanding upon what principle the Bill was founded, and how it was to be carried out. Some light, however, had been thrown upon the Bill by the speeches which had been made on that occasion. It appeared that the Bill had been blindly copied from an English Bill which was passed under totally different circumstances. The intention of the Bill was to extend outdoor relief in Ireland, while the intention of the English Bill was to limit the powers of Boards of Guardians in certain cases. The hon. Member for the King's County sought to give to the Poor Law Commissioners power to make orders to extend the system of outdoor relief in Ireland; but the power given to the Boards of Guardians to suspend those orders for thirty days amounted to a complete suicide of the Bill itself. The only cases he could conceive in which the Poor Law Commissioners should be expected to make provision to extend outdoor relief were cases of severe famine, pestilence, and general fever; and it certainly appeared a mockery that the guardians should have the power of suspending, under such circumstances, the orders of the Commissioners for a period of thirty days. It had been stated that there was a universal desire in Ireland to extend the system of outdoor relief. He respectfully denied that there was even a general desire for this change; on the contrary, the Boards of Guardians were at the present time unwilling to act upon the powers they had in that respect. By the original Poor Law Act, every destitute person, wherever he might happen to be in Ireland for the moment, was admissible into a workhouse; and by the amended Poor Law Act very large and extended powers were vested in the Boards of Guardians to give outdoor relief in cases where that mode of relief was most required. The extension of outdoor relief would greatly deteriorate the habits of the people, would destroy the small class of farmers by increasing the rates to a degree impossible for them to bear, and would thus tend to compel many persons to quit the country.


said, he regarded the present Bill as intended to introduce the small edge of the wedge with the view of ultimately assimilating the Poor Law in Ireland to the Poor Law in England. If it were desired to destroy the Irish farmer and to increase emigration tenfold, all that was necessary was to follow the course which the hon. Member for the King's County called upon the House to pursue. Mr. Senior, one of the Poor Law Commissioners, had stated that to introduce the English Poor Law into Ireland would increase the rates to an enormous extent, and be a great national calamity. The evidence of all experienced men was to the same effect, and he contended that the course recommended by the hon. Member for the King's County was not in accordance with the wishes of the intelligent classes in Ireland. The hon. Member had startled him by declaring that the authority of the noble Lord at the head of the Government was in favour of the present proposition; but he found that the noble Lord's speech, to which reference was made, was a dia- tribe against the introduction of Poor Laws into Ireland at all, as Poor Laws put hastily into operation might make Ireland one vast poorhouse. He had also cited the commission of which Drs. Murray and Whately were members, which sat nearly thirty years ago, as favourable to his views, but that Commission recommended that Poor Law relief should not be given to the able-bodied. The Irish Poor Law Guardians had at present the power of granting outdoor relief in certain cases; and he had himself proposed in the Limerick Board, which was composed of ninety guardians, one-half of whom were elected by the ratepayers, that they should afford outdoor relief to the families of persons disabled by accident or sickness, and who would be actually under the eyes of the guardians in the workhouse hospitals; but the proposition had been ignominiously scouted, and he had never seen a stronger opposition than that which it had met from the elected, as well as from the ex officio guardians. As to the question of economy, did the hon. Member believe for one instant, if the great majority of the persons requiring relief were to be relieved out of the workhouse that the cost would not be trebled or quadrupled? At all events, the ratepayers in Ireland believed that such would be the case.


said, that it was a very strong argument against the Bill that it would give to a board in Dublin and not to the local authorities, who knew the necessities of their districts, the power to make the proposed extension in outdoor relief. The assertion that people going into the workhouse for relief received thereby a moral stain which never could be effaced was totally unfounded, for he knew that in his part of the country the most respectable farmers continually applied to the workhouse to obtain young girls for the purpose of employing them in work at their farmhouses. He would certainly give his vote against the Bill.


said, that he was in favour of the principle of the Bill, but from the tone of the observations which had already been made in the course of the discussion he did not believe that it would be carried, and he, therefore, suggested that the hon. Member for the King's County should not press the measure to a division.


said, he wished to direct attention to two petitions—one from Limerick and the other presented by the hon. Member for Roscommon, praying that in certain cases outdoor relief might be given in Ireland as in England. Those petitions proved that there was a wish on the part of a large number of persons for a more liberal administration of the Poor Law in Ireland. He intended to vote for the second reading of the Bill, on the one ground that he was in favour of an extension of the Poor Law by which relief could be afforded to a greater number than received it at present. The details of the Bill might be considered in Committee, and no one would be bound to them by voting for the second reading. The number of persons receiving relief could not be taken as any indication of the real state of the country. By granting outdoor relief more extensively much might be done to preserve the status of the lower classes of the population, for when a family had gone into the workhouse, its self respect was destroyed. No moral stigma ought to attach to those who became inmates of the workhouse, but it could not be denied that there was a social brand upon them. He wished they could get rid of the fear of outdoor relief, which he believed would prevent instead of causing poverty.


said, he objected to the Bill, because it would take the administration of the poor rates out of the hands of the local authorities, and rest in a Central Board of Commissioners at Dublin.


in reply, maintained that his Bill was identical with the English law in regard to outdoor relief. As to petitions on the subject he found that in 1862 there were 339, each containing a prayer for the assimilation of the law of Ireland to that of England in respect to outdoor relief. He had been supported by the majority of Irish Members who had taken part in the debate but—["Divide!"] Well, as there seemed to be a desire that he should go to a division he would do so.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 24; Noes 201: Majority 177.

Words added.

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

Bill put off for three months.