HC Deb 06 May 1864 vol 175 cc143-7

said, he rose to move— That it was not just to charge on the poor rate in Ireland the expenses connected with the registry of voters and of births and deaths; and that it be an instruction to the Committee appointed on the subject of taxation in Ireland to consider how such expenses may be more equiatbly charged. He did not intend to give any opinion as to the quarter from which the money to pay those expenses ought to be procured. He would leave that to the Committee; bat he might observe that in Ireland the poor rate was unequally assessed, and that he could not understand upon that principle, land, and land alone, should in Ireland be assessed for poor rates. Land ought to pay its share, but the entire burden ought not to be cast upon it. When he saw the many large manufacturing establishments in the country which, to a certain extent, might be said to create pauperism, and which owed their prosperity to the labour and intelligence of the working classes, he thought it hard that when they could no longer get anything out of their workpeople they should be allowed to throw the burden of maintaining them upon the land. He had no wish to relieve landowners from their share of the expense of maintaining the poor, but, under the present system, many persons had to pay poor rates for property of which they were only the nominal owners. It was impossible not to consider, in connection with that question, the emigration that had been going on in Ireland. He could not agree that that emigration had been caused by the peculiar nature of the tenure of land in Ireland. There were several causes at the root of it, but the most important of them was, perhaps, the liberal wages which the emigrants expected to receive in another country. Bad advisers led the ignorant peasantry to believe that if they went to America they would find that wealth, and honour, and luxury they could not procure at home. They had been induced by those advisers to go to America, and when they got there they were placed in the front ranks of the army, only to perish on the field of battle. He believed that England in her harvest times would feel the want of Irish labourers, but he denied that population was a necessary element of wealth to a country. In 1846 the population of Ireland was eight and a half millions. Even then Ireland could not be considered as nearly in so prosperous a state as either Scotland or England. In England there were two and a quarter acres for each person, in Ireland two and a half, and in Scotland seven and a quarter; and the valuation per head, according to the last census, was £5 10s. in England, £2 10s. in Ireland, and £4 10s. in Scotland. The Returns from the registries were valuable as matters of scientific research and as statistics, but as such they were of imperial rather than of local benefit, and the expense of obtaining them should form an item in the annual Estimates. He regretted to see the bone and sinew of a country leaving it. England would suffer more from the emigration from Ireland, than Ireland would. In former times England had done everything to discourage the trade of Ireland, and it was not unlikely that the day was approaching when that policy would re-act against herself. It might be said that he was seeking to disturb a new Act. His reply was, that the Act was passed under a misapprehension. When the House passed the Act, it was told by the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Robert Peel), that while the poor rate in England was 4s. in the pound, in Ireland it was only 2s., and that consequently there would be no hardship in adding five-sixteenths of a penny to the Irish rate. The fact was, however, that the poundage upon land in England was 1s. 0¼ d; in Scotland, 1s. 1¼ d; and in Ireland, 1s. 0½ d. If capital were assessed to its full value, the poundage in England would be 5½ d.; in Scotland, 6¾ d.; and in Ireland, 7½d Moreover, the right hon. Baronet omitted to inform the House what a heavy expenditure — amounting in the aggregate to £20,000—would be thrown upon the Irish Boards of Guardians for providing the machinery of registration. It might also be said that the law was the same in all the three kingdoms; but the fact was not so, for in England and Scotland, where the poor rate was or might be levied on means and substance, the assessment rested upon a broader basis than in Ireland. He hoped that if the right hon. Baronet could not accede on the part of the Government to that part of the Motion which asserted that it was not just to place those charges upon the poor rate, he would at all events agree that it should be an instruction to the Committee on Irish taxation to inquire into the matter involved in the second part. Small as the sum annually asked for to pay for the registration of voters was, it gave rise on each occasion that it was brought forward to more ill-feeling than any other money question which came before Boards of Guardians.


begged to second the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is not just to charge the Poor Rate in Ireland with the expenses connected with the Registry of Voters and Births and Deaths; and that it be an Instruction to the Committee appointed on the subject of Taxation in Ireland, to consider how said expenses may be more equitably charged." —(Sir Hervey Bruce,) —instead thereof.

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


remarked, that the hon. Baronet, in referring to emigration and other kindred subjects, had travelled beyond the limits of his notice. There was nothing exceptional, as regarded Ireland, in charging the poor rate with the expenses connected with the registration of voters. In England the expense was borne by the local taxation; in counties by what was called the public stock of the county; and in boroughs by the poor rate. Neither was there anything exceptional in the manner in which the registration of births and deaths was charged on the poor rate in Ireland. A feeling seemed to have grown up of late that there was something unfair in putting this expense on the poor rate. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast, however, appeared to have informed the Belfast Board of Guardians that there was something exceptional in these expenses being placed on the poor rate, and they had sent circulars to the greater number of Unions throughout Ireland, calling attention to the subject. He had received a letter on the subject from the Kilkenny Board of Guardians, and it was evident that they derived the information which induced them to make representations to the Government, from Belfast. They took an entirely wrong view of the matter. In concert with him, the Poor Law Commissioners in Dublin had written a letter pointing out that these expenses were paid in Ireland as in England, partly by local and partly by general taxation, and the hon. Baronet, therefore, was under an erroneous impression in supposing that there was anything exceptional in the manner in which those expenses were charged in Ireland. As to the rate for the relief of the poor, it was heavier in England than in Scotland, and heavier in Scotland than in Ireland. As to referring the subject to the Committee—they had already before them the prospect of a long and arduous inquiry, and it would be hardly fair, without their consent, to extend the range of their duties. He would consult with the Chairman, and if the Committee were willing to undertake that new duty, the Government would have no objection.


said, that subject was regarded with great interest in Ireland. A strong impression was growing up there among the people that they were grievously overtaxed, and that the Government was perpetually bringing in new Bills which in some way or other increased their taxation. At the same time, when any proposition was made to treat the poor more liberally in Ireland, the Government pointed at once to the present amount of the poor rates as an argument against any such reform. He was by no means satisfied with the arguments of the right hon. Baronet. The truth was, that those various extraneous charges on the poor rate in Ireland constituted a fraud on the poor. He believed it was perfectly competent for the Committee upstairs to inquire into that question without any instructions, and, under the circumstances, he would advise his hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion.


said, he would withdraw his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.