HC Deb 23 February 1865 vol 177 cc596-8

asked the President of the Poor Law Board, Whether his attention has been drawn to the acts of illegality brought home to the paid officers of the Greenwich Union in connection with the cases of Mary Moriarty, Julia Harmon, and others; and, if so, whether any and what official cognizance has been taken by the Poor Law Board of the conduct of the officers concerned; and, whether the circumstances connected with these and similar cases of removal to Ireland do not call for an Amendment of the Law; and, if so, whether the Government are prepared to propose such Amendment without delay?


said, the hon. Member had moved for papers relating to these two cases, and they would very shortly be laid on the table of the House, but he was enabled to answer a great portion of the questions at once. The attention of the Poor Law Board had been drawn to this particular case, and he was able to tell the hon. Gentleman, as the cases involved some harshness and inhumanity to some poor persons, that it arose from violation of the law, and not from defect of the law. The House was aware that of late years there had been an earnest wish on the part of the Legislature to mitigate the hardships attending the removal of the Irish poor, and that there had been several Amendments of the law for that purpose. The law a short time since enabled overseers of any parish in England to deport Irish paupers to the shores of Ireland and there deposit them. In 1862 the law was altered, and the overseer was obliged to convey the pauper to the union house nearest the place of destination, and to be liable for the expense of conveying him to that destination. This was not found to answer; and, in 1863, it was enacted that the paupers should be conveyed under the charge of some efficient person, who if he neglected to do so was liable to a penalty of £10, or six months' imprisonment. The particular cases in question arose in consequence of the parochial authorities having neglected to observe the last enactment, and thinking they satisfied the law by removing them to the coast. There was more than one violation of the law, because it was provided that women and children should not be deck passengers in the winter. In this case a woman and child were placed on deck, in December, to be taken to the city of Cork, though their destination was beyond it, and the relieving officer gave the woman an adequate sum to convey her onward. She was conveyed to Cork. When the authorities of Cork saw that her destination was Killarney they sent her back to England and took the proceedings pointed out by the Act. The officer was convicted at the Middlesex Sessions, but was found to be only another pauper, who had been employed by the relieving officer, and it became absurd to think of his paying either £10 or his being imprisoned; but the Assistant Judge who presided did offer the severest reproof possible to all those who had been concerned in the affair, especially the guardians, for having allowed it; warned them against its recurrence, and that he should say, if such a thing occurred again, that they would be utterly unworthy of their position as guardians of the poor. The guardians admitted the justice of the Judge's observation, and passed a resolution shortly afterwards precluding the possibility of its recurrence. He trusted, therefore, that the hon. Member would see that the present law was calculated to protect these poor people when they were removed, and that when it was violated due notice was taken of the offence by the authorities here. The hon. Member asked about another case. With regard to that one, he had not yet received the depositions from Ireland, but he knew that it was one of precisely similar character. The poor woman had been illegally treated, and redress had been given in consequence. Any further particulars with respect to it he should be able to give at a future time when the papers were before the House.