§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS,
in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that its objects were to provide for the continuance of the Poor Law Board for a limited period, and to introduce some Amendments of the general law regulating the relief of the poor. Had not the Session been so far advanced, and a dissolution so near at hand, he should have submitted to the House a measure of a more extended character; but as the time at their disposal was so short, and hon. Members seemed so disinclined for controversy, he had abstained from introducing matters which might have excited some difference of opinion. At one time there was a great disinclination to renew this Commission. Memorials had been presented a few years ago for limiting the power of the Board, and petitions to this House had complained of the manner in which the Board exercised its authority. This led the House to agree to a very full inquiry into the administration and operation of the law, and, after a very lengthened investigation, the Committee made their Report, having come to the conclusion that not only was it essential to the good working of the law that some system of central supervision should exist, but, rather in opposition to what had been recommended on the part of the Poor Law Board itself, the Committee decided that the time had come when the central authority should be rendered permanent, but not at the suggestion of the Poor Law Board, rather indeed in opposition to a proposal which he himself made to them—that the time had come when the Department which was to have the supervision of the administration of that law ought to be placed upon a permanent footing. Under the peculiar circumstances of the present Session, to which he had referred, and as the country had had but little as yet considered so important a change, he had not thought it right to adopt that recommendation of the Committee, and by this Bill he only proposed to renew the powers of the Board for—a 90 shorter time than usual—for a period of three years, so that in the next or succeeding Session the question as to whether it should be placed upon a permanent footing might be fully considered and deliberately decided. For similar reasons, he had confined the Amendments of the law which he proposed to make under this Bill to those of giving more distinct and effective application to that, the policy of which had already been decided upon by the Legislature, and to give effect to which, indeed, the Poor Law Board had already issued its general orders. For instance, in the 19th section of the 4 & 5 Will. IV. there was the most distinct recognition of the principle of equal respect for different religious professions of the inmates of workhouses, and it was provided that they should have the attendance of ministers of their own persuasions, and should not be compelled to attend the services of a religion other than their own. The Legislature had been consistent on this matter for the last thirty years in all measures that involved the same question. The case of the industrial schools might be mentioned as strictly analogous to the case of the workhouses. In the Industrial School Act provision was made for the distinct entry of the religion of every child in a book for that purpose. In order to carry out the intention of the 19th section of the Poor Law Act, the Poor Law Board had from time to time issued general orders requiring that a book should be kept in which an entry should be made of the religious persuasion of every person who was admitted to the workhouse. These orders had been but very imperfectly obeyed, in some cases they had been entirely disregarded; and the result had been the occasion of much confusion and of much angry controversy between the authorities of the union and the clergy as to the religion of the inmates. The poor among the Roman Catholics stated that their children had been brought up as Protestants, and Protestants had given evidence that where Roman Catholic parents had changed their religion their children were still brought up as Roman Catholics. This arose from the want of a proper system of registration of the religion of the children. The Bill would give the Poor Law Board more power to enforce obedience to their orders in this respect than they at present possessed. The Committee recommended that in the case of workhouses in which there were more Roman Catholic than Protestant inmates, the Roman Catholic ministers 91 who attended them should be paid out of the rates; but, as he desired to introduce nothing novel, or, as he said before, likely to provoke dispute, into the Bill, he had not adopted that recommendation. He had confined his Bill to carrying out the known intentions of the Legislature, as they had been already declared in different Acts. The Bill simply provided for the registration of the religion of the inmates of the workhouses, and the register being made accessible to the ministers of religion visiting the union. Another amendment of the law which he proposed to make was to provide for the better classification of the inmates of workhouses; this was a matter to which the Poor Law Board had always attached the greatest importance, but to which guardians, in consequence of the additional expense which it might occasion, had been indisposed to attend to. Hitherto the Poor Law Board had been powerless in the matter, because there was a limit to the expenditure which they could compel the guardians to incur for this purpose; but a clause in this Bill would give the Board the power to direct the guardians to effect the arrangements requisite to secure a better classification of the inmates. The last clause of any importance was that which enabled the Poor Law Board to dissolve the old incorporations, known familiarly by the name of Gilbert's Unions. Many of these had dissolved themselves voluntarily; others, through some defect in their constitution, gave the Central Board the power of bringing them within their jurisdiction, and only about twelve of them were now left, who administered the law much in the way it used to be done before the Poor Laws were reformed. The only thing preventing their dissolution hitherto had been that the consent of two thirds of the guardians was requisite, which of course, in some cases, it was difficult to obtain, and a clause in this Bill would enable the Board to dispense with that consent in future. He did not mean to say that all the Gilbert's Unions were ill-managed, and any which were well conducted according to the modern system would not of necessity be dissolved under this Bill. The remainder of the Bill consisted only of details of less importance, and which-might be postponed if any real objection existed on the point. They embodied, however, improvements which had been long demanded, and which he imagined would excite no opposition. The Bill contained nothing that was novel in principle, or 92 to the best of his recollection that had not been unanimously supported by the Committee upstairs. He trusted, therefore, the House would be willing to read the Bill a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. C. P. Villiers.)
said, he did not intend to oppose the Bill. The first clause was necessary, for it would not do to let the Poor Law Board drop all of a moment. But he noticed that the title of the measure being "The Poor Law Board Continuance, &c, Bill," one clause was devoted to the continuance of the Board, and twenty-six or twenty-seven clauses were contained in the et cetera. He would not weary the House by going through the et cetera, but the House and the country had a right to complain that this Bill embodying, in part, the recommendations of a Committee which had sat for three or four years, was not brought forward till after the Whitsuntide recess, when by the issue of the electioneering address of one Member of the Cabinet at least Parliament had been warned that its days were numbered. There was one of the clauses which the right hon. Gentleman had oddly left unnoticed, and this was Clause 19, in which he had taken power to prohibit the Bible in workhouses—at least to prohibit "any religious book"—and he presumed we had not yet attained to that pitch when the Bible or Prayer Book would cease to be accounted a religious book. The right hon. Gentleman, doubtless, would not abuse the power vested in him any more than anybody else, but this was certainly one of the "insignificant details," which deserved a little consideration. Every clause in the Bill did one of two things; either it increased the arbitrary powers of the Poor Law Board, or else it exempted the Board from doing some of those things which had been found necessary to enable the country to administer those arbitrary laws beneficially. Penalties for infringing the orders of the Board hitherto could not be enforced by magistrates at petty sessions till the orders under seal had been circulated to those petty sessions. By this Bill, however, the right hon. Gentleman made it no longer necessary to distribute these orders, but only to send them to the Clerk of the Peace for the county. In the name of common-sense, how were magistrates at petty sessions, in such a county as Yorkshire, to know anything about documents sent to the Clerk of the Peace. He knew 93 from experience that the Poor Law Board were pretty active in laying informations against those who did not obey their rules and orders. Again, it might be very proper that parties should be put under a Poor Law auditor, but why should large villages and towns at present under the Watching and Lighting Acts have their position altered without notice to the parties? Neither they nor the House should be called on to deal post-haste with the provisions of this Bill. The proposal to charge upon the rates the superannuation of the registrars of births and marriages was a totally new matter, upon which they ought to have the opportunity of consulting local opinion. Regarding the persons who were to be subject to the vagrant laws, the provisions were exceedingly vague and arbitrary, and altogether the manner in which the Bill was brought forward was most unsatisfactory. To sweep away the Gilbert Unions without the opportunity of saying a word for themselves was a tolerably strong proposal. He had no knowledge of these unions; they might be either so perfect as to put the guardians of Poor Law Unions to shame, or so bad that they ought to be put down at once. Experience, however, of the working of some of the Poor Law Unions, even in London, had shown that the Poor Law authorities were far from perfect in their own management. As he had stated, he would not oppose the second reading of the Bill, but he reserved to himself the right to take whatever course he thought fit in Committee. If this Bill were really what it professed to be, a continuance Bill, the best course would be to confine its scope to the simple object of continuing the Board for another year, striking out all the other clauses, and leaving to a future Session the consideration of the question whether the Poor Law Board should or should not be rendered a permanent body. There were a great number of questions to be discussed, and therefore it would be a great advantage if the Bill were to be made merely a continuance Bill, and the proposed measure postponed until next Session.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, the right hon. Gentleman had made two bold assertions—namely, that there was nothing in the Bill open to controversy, and that he had the authority of the Committee which sat on the subject for everything proposed in it. Now, he had been a Member of the Committee appointed in 1861 to take the subject of Poor Law Amendment 94 into consideration, and he was desirous of vindicating the conduct of that Committee before the House from the supposition that they were answerable for all the clauses contained in the Bill, many of those clauses being, in fact, the sole invention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board. One of these clauses not only gave the right hon. Gentleman power to forbid the circulation of any religious book in the workhouses, but made any pauper reading any book not authorized by him liable to punishment. He wished to know in whom lay the control, who was the chief censor of this index expurgatorius, and whether the sacred conclave was to be assembled in Whitehall Place. The clause which applied the Vagrant Act to persons relieved out of the workhouse who refused to perform the work required of them was another invention of the right hon. Gentleman, for which the Committee were in no way responsible. The only point upon which the Committee had been thoroughly unanimous was that an end should be put to this system of half and half legislation, that the House of Commons should make up its mind no longer to continue the system of prolonging the existence of the Poor Law Board for three or five years at a time, but should decide once for all whether the Board should be done away with altogether or should be made a permanent institution. The proper course open to the right hon. Gentleman was to have brought in a simple continuance Bill this Session, so that when Parliament next met the question might have been fully discussed, and the recommendation of the Committee that the institution should be made a permanent one have been adopted or rejected. Both the Committee and the House had good reason to complain of the time which had been chosen by the right hon. Gentleman for bringing in the Bill. The Committee sent in its Report in May of last year. The right hon. Gentleman delayed the bringing in of the Houseless Poor Act—one of its recommendations—until the last fortnight of the Session, so that it was impossible that the provisions of the Bill could be properly discussed, and he now asked them to pass the present Bill under almost similar circumstances. He concurred with the right hon. Gentleman as to the general principle of the Bill, but he could not approve his bringing the matter before the House, founded as it was upon an incorrect—he said it without meaning any offence—statement. The 95 principle of the creed register was most warmly contested; and, although the Roman Catholics carried their point, the masters of all the London workhouses opposed them most strongly, and he complained that the right hon. Gentleman had not fairly represented the feeling of the Committee upon the subject. One of the difficulties they had to contend with was the education of pauper Roman Catholic children with Protestant children, and the Committee adopted a conciliatory clause, under which Roman Catholic children could have been educated in the school with the consent of their parents; but the right hon. Gentleman had omitted any conciliatory provision of the kind from his Bill. As there were so many questions of importance to be discussed, and as at that period of the Session it would be ridiculous to try to amend the Bill, he called upon the right hon. Gentleman to turn his Bill into a simple continuance Bill, so that the matter might be fully gone into in the course of next Session.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he thought that the objections taken by the noble Lord were perfectly just. The Bill had only been placed in the hands of Members on Friday. There were a number of unions who were opposed to many of its clauses. The Government would gain nothing by pressing the measure. The guardians and not the Poor Law Board would have to carry it out, and time till next Session ought to be given to allow of its provisions being considered by the country.
§ SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
said, he thought that the reason urged by the hon. Member for Perth ought to have weight with the Poor Law Board. Many of the Boards of Guardians met only once a fortnight, and could not therefore be acquainted with the nature of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman by his proposition to take power to coalesce a number of parishes, giving them only one guardian, was interfering directly with the principle of the Poor Law, which was, that representation should be according to taxation. Many parishes with the smallest population had a large amount of rateable property, but power was taken by the Bill to suppress by the veto of the Poor Law Board the representation of those small parishes, except as annexed to a larger and more populous parish. This was a power which the country would hardly be prepared at so short a notice to sanction. He thought time ought to be given, and that the Bill should be a simple continu- 96 ance Bill. If the obnoxious clauses were not withdrawn, it would be his duty to propose that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. NEATE
said, he cordially concurred in the suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman should make the Bill simply a continuance Bill. There was one matter which ought particularly to he kept in mind, and that regarded the medical profession. The medical profession ought to have an opportunity to bring the grievances which, rightly or wrongly, they held themselves to suffer before the House, and which, if the present opportunity was refused them, could not be afforded them. The condition of the vagrant or casual poor also was one which required revision. It was most desirable that the Poor Law Board should have powers to enforce uniformity of treatment; and that the poor should not have to go from one place to another in order to obtain better treatment. It was understood in the late debates that a Committee would be appointed next year who would take into consideration the power which the Central Board possessed of deciding as to the limits of unions. The result of the inquiries of such a Committee might be a modification of that power of the Central Board. He did not say a word against the principle of making the Poor Law Board a permanent one, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman ought to be content with the triumphant majority by which his Union Chargeability Bill had been carried in another place, and take this continuance Bill for one year only, in order to give the next Parliament an opportunity of considering the many important questions that had been raised.
§ MR. KNIGHT
said, that in one respect the Bill flew in the face of repeated decisions of the House. There was a clause in the Bill which would materially interfere with a very useful Act, the General Lighting and Watching Act, under which small towns and large villages had been enabled to form little municipalities for the purpose of effecting certain improvements. There were 300 or 400 of these little municipalities, all of which would be astonished to find themselves deprived of the powers which they possessed under that Act if this Bill passed. Nothing was so offensive to the Poor Law Board as the existence of such little municipalities, and it was their earnest wish to get them under their thumb. It was a perfectly wanton thing to introduce 97 a clause which would so seriously affect the rights of those little municipalities. The House had repeatedly decided that this Board should look after the poor and nothing else; and if they became a permanent Board he feared—from this perfectly wanton attempt in a continuance Bill to get hold of these 400 little places —that there would be great difficulty to keep it in the right path.
said, unless the right hon. Gentleman would be content to pass simply the first clause, and to leave the other clauses to be dealt with by the new Parliament—clauses which it had been truly said the guardians had had no opportunity of considering—he would move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.
§ LORD EDWARD HOWARD
said, his right hon. Friend (Mr. C. P. Villiers) was rather hardly dealt with. Some blamed him for doing too much, and others for doing too little. He himself was inclined to blame him for doing too little. Having had some experience of the working of the Poor Law Board during the severe distress in the manufacturing districts, he could wish the Board to be permanent. But his right hon. Friend did not take steps to make it permanent. That showed his right hon. Friend's modesty. He (Lord Edward Howard) was one of the original sinners in this matter. In 1860 he took the liberty to make a Motion, which, to a certain extent, was the cause of the appointment of the Committee. That Committee sat in 1861, in 1862, and every year down to last year, with the exception of one, and his right hon. Friend was not forgetful of the recommendations of the Committee. This was another instalment of them, and after the long consideration of the matter upstairs he hoped it would be adopted. Instead of blaming his right hon. Friend they should rather urge him on. He was thankful to his right hon. Friend, for half a loaf was better than no bread, and he did not think that any argument had been adduced to-night which should prevent his right hon. Friend from going on with the Bill. How did hon. Members know that they were so near the end of the Session? There were some forty or fifty orders on the paper to-night, and all those orders could not be got rid of in a hurry.
said, he had been glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. P. Villiers) state that the measure provided for the better classification of the poor within the workhouses, but having 98 carefully looked through the Bill he had been unable to find anything in it which would tend to that effect.
§ MR. ARTHUR MILLS
said, that the Bill, though containing valuable elements, omitted two-thirds of the recommendations of the Committee which sat for three years; and he thought that more time ought to be given, in order to do justice to the subject. He hoped proper Medical Inspectors would be appointed to workhouses.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he thought that the President of the Poor Law Board was scarcely justified in asserting that this measure contained very little more than the powers of the existing Act. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. P. Villiers) asked the House to enact into law very stringent regulations, and he did not make any provision for supplying petty sessions with copies of the Bill, if it became law. He proposed to increase the direct power of the Poor Law Board over the Guardians, and the House was asked to do this without notice of their intentions to the Guardians, who would naturally view such a course with extreme jealousy, which would not be diminished by the introduction of the clauses for teaching children. This clause was introduced at the instance of the noble Lord (Lord Edward Howard), the only Member who had spoken in favour of the Bill, and who, he supposed, must be taken as an exponent of a certain class of Roman Catholic opinion. Recently the noble Lord wrote two letters to certain parties in Liverpool—letters which were published in the Roman Catholic newspapers; and in them he stated that he was urging upon the Legislature to intrust the education of the Roman Catholic children to the Roman Catholic priesthood. In these letters the noble Lord very candidly told the Roman Catholic priesthood that the state of morality among Roman Catholics of Liverpool particularly, and other large towns, was not such as would commend the effect of their exertions to the Legislature, and yet he now advocated this Bill for committing the education of Roman Catholic children to them. This Bill contained another blow at the parochial system—of which, though the Poor Law Board was jealous, the House was not— power was sought to suppress the representation of any parish of small population in the Board of Guardians. Step by step the Poor Law Board was inducing the Legislature to strike down the parochial 99 system which had proved so beneficial to the country. He thought that Members ought to be allowed the opportunity of consulting their constituents as to whether that entirely uniform system which the right hon. Gentleman was so bent upon carrying out was acceptable to the country. There had been strong objections to what was termed ticketting Dissenters, and yet the proposal was to ticket Dissenters in workhouses. This required more consideration than the right hon. Gentleman seemed willing to permit, in his haste to pass this Bill. He joined in the all but unanimous appeal which had been made to the Government to content themselves with a simple continuance Bill, and not to thrust upon the country, without due notice, provisions which would create difference of opinion and the greatest dislike among all classes.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he must blame the Government for introducing this Bill at so late a period of the Session. The House and the country had not had proper opportunity for considering the changes in the law proposed. He was disappointed not only at what the Bill contained, but at what it did not contain. He regretted to see the Poor Law Board disposed more and more to grasp the powers that ought to be left to Boards of Guardians, and he was disappointed to find that the Poor Law Board had not thought that a greater liberty might be given to the Guardians. After thirty years' experience Boards of Guardians might be presumed to know their business. They ought to have some real power over their servants, but they could not appoint the lowest of their officers without a reference to London. They could not appoint a cook, a nurse, or a porter; they could not fix or alter their salaries, or dismiss them, without referring the matter to London. The right hon. Gentleman might have relaxed some of the more stringent portions of the central administration, for it did not become either the dignity of the Poor Law Board, or that of the Boards of Guardians, to hold the reins so tightly over the latter. The House ought to have a fuller opportunity of considering these changes in the law.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that at this moment there were thousands of Catholic children in workhouses in England taught by Protestant teachers and clergymen. The Roman Catholics regarded that as a great grievance. The Select Committee recommended that little children in workhouses, up to the age of twelve years, should be removed to schools where they 100 could be taught by teachers and clergymen of their own denomination. The Committee also recommended that in workhouses in which there were many Roman Catholics, a Roman Catholic chaplain should be appointed, but there was no such provision in the Bill.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he thought it would be better for the interests of the poor, the Poor Law Board, and the public, that the Government should merely propose a continuance Bill for one year, and leave the larger question to be dealt with by the new Parliament. The medical treatment of the poor was a subject which called for inquiry, but no mention was made of it in the present Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he must decline to follow hon. Members through the several clauses of the Bill It must be apparent to the Government that the Bill was too wide to be dealt with at this late period of the Session. There were many provisions with regard to lighting and watching, and the union of parishes which, he thought, would come as a surprise upon the country. It was based on the Report of the Select Committee, and yet not a clause of it came up to the recommendation of the Committee. The Committee disapproved of the construction of the Poor Law Board; but there was no remedy in the Bill. Though there were parts of the Bill with which he concurred, he could not concur with other parts. He thought that children of the Roman Catholic religion should be educated by those in whom they had confidence. He would recommend all the clauses except the first to be dropped.
said, he had moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he had not understood the hon. Member to go the length of moving the Amendment; but if the hon. Member stated that he had done so he should accept his statement.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Packe.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, he thought that the only way of dealing with the 101 objections urged against the Bill was to read it a second time, and allow them to be considered in. Committee. He hoped hon. Members would make some allowance for him if he confessed that he was puzzled to understand what was really meant by the opposition that had been offered to the Bill. It was argued on the one hand that the Bill did not follow the recommendations of the Committee, and it was contended on the other hand that it went too far in following those recommendations. As he understood him, the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) said that the recommendation of the Committee in respect of the children of Roman Catholic parents was not adopted in the Bill; neither did the Bill give full effect to the recommendations generally as to Roman Catholics in the workhouses. Now, what ground had the noble Lord to complain of this, when his noble Friend the Member for Arundel (Lord Edward Howard) expressed himself satisfied with the good intentions, as he said, of the President of the Poor Law Board, and was satisfied that I had proposed all that could be carried, and gave his support to the Bill? The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) was the Member of the Committee who had proposed to have paid priests for the workhouses; and it was true he (Mr. Villiers) had not adopted that recommendation because he felt sure that it would create great difference of opinion, as very different views on this subject were held by guardians throughout the country, and it would be inconvenient to have those discussed at the present time; but, as he thought there would be little difference of opinion with regard to the registration of the different religions of the inmates, he had embodied that recommendation in the Bill. The noble Lord told the House there was a recommendation of the Committee, that when the parents of Roman Catholic children in a workhouse wished those children to be placed in Catholic schools it should be obligatory on the guardians to comply with that wish. The Committee never had recommended anything of the sort. They had recommended something much short of that; that orphan children might be sent to these schools, after application made to the Central Board; but, as he thought there would be a difference of opinion on the point, he had not adopted their 102 recommendation. What they had recommended was, that the Poor Law Board might receive an application to them from the friends of the children, and on their being satisfied that there was reasonable ground for conceding it, that all orphans under twelve years of age not belonging to the Established Church, might be ordered to be sent to schools of their own denomination, which had been certified or licensed by the Poor Law Board, and where the managers were willing to receive them. But what had that to do with the question that it should be made obligatory on the guardians to send Catholic children to schools whore it was the wish of their parents they should be so placed? He had been astonished, also, to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Neate) assert that the Committee, having given their attention to the medical question, it should have been dealt with in this Bill. The fact was the Committee did consider that subject deliberately, and reported that there were no sufficient grounds for materially interfering with the present system of medical relief.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, the hon. Gentleman complained of this omission in the Bill, and I repeat that the Committee reported that there was no sufficient ground for changing the present system of medical relief. This, then, furnished no ground for postponing the Bill. Two clauses had been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley), and if the House thought they were objectionable, he was perfectly willing to withdraw them, seeing that they did not result from the inquiry before the Committee. One was the repeal of the clause in the Act requiring copies of the Poor Law Board's orders to be sent to clerks of petty sessions, and providing that certain orders should be sent to the clerk of the peace. The reason this clause was inserted was because it was an expense, and that the clerks of the petty sessions generally concurred in saying that there was no kind of use in sending those orders there; and, with regard to the other clause, providing that the accounts under the 3 & 4 Will. IV., the General Lighting and 103 Watching Act, should be rendered subject to audit, frequent representations had been made to the Board urging the insertion of such a provision. There was no immediate necessity, however, for the clause, nor did he attach much importance himself to Clause 11, which was inserted only because it was supposed to be a matter of great convenience to small townships that they should in future unite with others for the purpose of choosing a guardian, and had no other purpose whatever in view. The two clauses which seemed particularly offensive to hon. Gentlemen opposite, were, first, the one by which the Board would be able to acquire power at once to establish a better classification in workhouses, which in certain respects were extremely defective, and that which enabled them to dissolve some of the Gilbert Unions. Now there had been much complaint as to the classification now existing in workhouses, which confounded the good and bad together; and, as to the dissolution of the Gilbert Unions, though that is to be opposed now on the ground of private interest, it was especially from the opposite side of the House that complaints to him of their inconvenience had proceeded. The Poor Law Board did not desire to extend their power, they repudiated the idea altogether, but it was the deliberate opinion of the Committee that more power ought to be given to them for certain purposes. The Board were encumbered with power already—but further power and control had been forced upon them. He hoped the House would go into Committee, and then any clauses which might be deemed really objectionable to discuss at this time might be withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT GALWAY
said, he thought the Gilbert Unions ought not to be dissolved without proper warning to those bodies.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, that constant notice had been given in answers to questions this Session, that the subject would be dealt with in this Bill. With regard to better classification it had not only reference to classify the vagrants and casual paupers in the workhouse, but to empower the Poor Law Board to order any Board of Guardians to provide for a somewhat better classification of the inmates of all kinds.
said, the clause enabled the Poor Law Board to put its hands into the pockets of the ratepayers, for the erection of additional buildings, to any extent it thought proper. There were some absurd provisions. Under this Bill 104 a child twelve years old was to be at liberty to choose his religion with the consent of the Poor Law Board. Thus a child in Yorkshire might become a Mahomedan or a Mormonite under the sanction of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, that what the right hon. Gentleman was referring to was provided for by his predecessor in the last Government, and was the law at present.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
said, that if, as the hon. Gentleman intimated, all the clauses of the Bill were to be withdrawn one after another in Committee, it would be better to withdraw the Bill at once and bring in a simple continuance Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 76; Noes 69: Majority 7.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday.