§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
rose to move that the Union Chargeability Bill be now read a second time, and said, Sir, having endeavoured on a former occasion to explain the purport of this Bill, and believing that it has found favour with those whom it concerns, it will not be necessary for me to detain the House at any 278 length on the present occasion. As, however, some opposition seems to be intended, I venture to impress on the House again that there is no new principle involved in this measure, that it is in strict conformity with the principle of the New Poor Law, and that it is only taking another step in the direction in which legislation has proceeded lately. The scheme of the New Poor Law was the adoption of a larger area than the parish as the basis for the management of the poor; a course which had already been recommended by considerable experience acquired in former years, as essential to obtain that judgment and intelligence in the management of the poor, which was rarely to be found in a single parish or township. It was, moreover, recommended especially by the disclosures which took place on the great inquiry into the operation of the Poor Law consequent upon the agricultural disturbances that occurred in 1830, an inquiry which seemed to establish more completely than was ever done before the utter failure of what is called the parochial system. The promoters of the New Poor Law then certainly intended that the union should, in every respect, supersede the parish as well for rating and charge, as for the administration of relief; and their expectation of success was indeed chiefly grounded upon this supersession of the parochial system. But the authors of the Act were defeated in their efforts to carry that measure by views and interests similar, probably, to those which will be represented by the movers and supporters of the Amendment this evening; and the New Poor Law was launched under the obvious disadvantage of being a combination of the two systems—that of the union and that of the parish. This disadvantage having been submitted to, it was feared that the mischiefs of the old law would soon reappear, and the authors of the Act inserted a provision enabling the guardians themselves to constitute the union one parish for the purposes of rating and settlement, should they be able to secure unanimity on that subject at their Board. Expectations, however, were still entertained that there was something wanting in the measure to secure its success; and certainly these expectations were completely verified by the result. The parochial system was, to a certain extent, retained, and the House will easily see why the law failed in many respects in consequence of its retention. While the 279 parochial system existed each parish had in its discretion the entire management of what was called its own poor; and the result was that there were some 15,000 districts each with its own system. Thus every variety of system and practice existed, which were generally alike detrimental to the poor and injurious to property. Under the New Poor Law the guardians by their mode of administering relief undoubtedly prevented some of the more gross abuses of the former system; but in consequence of the parochial liability being retained, and the power of dealing with their own poor being still in the hands of the parish officers, the parishes had the same motive as before for "keeping down their poor" as it was called; or, in other words, for getting rid of their poor. The object of the parishes after the Act passed, was to reduce the number of their poor, in order that they might have to pay as little as possible. The guardians, by their officers, administered the relief, but the parishes paid for it, and were desirous, therefore, of keeping the charge as low as they could. The great source of chargeability for the poor in parishes, springs from their residence in them. The poor may have acquired settlements at some time, owing to their residence there, and then their families derive their settlement from them. It has always been a great object, therefore, in particular parishes, in order to keep down the poor, to prevent them residing in those parishes; and for that purpose their dwellings are pulled down, and no new cottages are built. This is one way of what is called managing parishes. But where the poor have got dwellings in a parish, the next best thing is to get them out, and into a neighbouring parish in order to shift the burden there, and yet not lose the benefit of their labour. That used to be a favourite practice under the old law, and it was the mistake of retaining the parochial liability under the new system that the officers of parishes have the same motive for displaying their zeal and discretion in keeping down the poor as they had before. Many of the complaints, therefore, that are still heard of in the working of the Poor Law are thus to be accounted for, it being still observed that the labouring poor live in wretched dwellings, and sometimes far from the place at which they work, being the only place where they can find habitations, and that the same struggle goes on between different parishes, each trying to 280 get rid of their poor, and varying in success according to the circumstances of the parish. Parishes, it is well known, vary in character almost as their number, and may differ alike in size as in the disposition of those who reside in them. A parish owned by one, two, or three proprietors may be able to get rid of its poor in the way I have described, and an adjacent parish may be in such a position that it cannot help receiving the outcasts from the proprietary parish. Hence the great complaints raised during the last twenty-five years as to the manner in which the poor have been dealt with and the capricious and unjust distribution of the burden of their maintenance, some parishes being compelled to pay far more than they ought, while others are pretty nearly exempt. This, as we know, during that period, has led to Committees, Commissions, Inquiries, and Reports without end, all having reference to the mischievous bearing of the law on the poor, and the evil to those who contribute to their support. As far back as 1839—within five years of the enactment of the New Poor Law—the Commissioners, in their Report to this House, state their regret that no step had been taken for carrying into effect the provision by which, they believed, a great improvement could have been effected in the management of the poor, namely, the provision by which guardians, if unanimous, might at any time constitute the union into one parish. There was a difficulty, no doubt, in carrying out that provision, because as the unions are constituted, there are generally one or two close parishes in them, which have the interest of escaping the charge by confining the area of liability; and as one is quite sufficient to prevent the unanimity required by the Act, one for that purpose would never omit to attend and resist the change, that would distribute the rate more equally. A few years afterwards Sir George Lewis was at the Poor Law Board, and Sir James Graham at the Home Office, and no two men were ever more anxious to prevent the failure of the New Poor Law by bringing about the very system of union rating and union settlement which I am submitting to the House. It is well known that they both deemed it essential to its success. In 1844 Sir James Graham introduced a Bill to do away with parochial settlement; but he was not suc- 281 cessful in his object, and the measure had to be withdrawn. In 1845 he brought in another Bill, for the same object, and to empower the Commissioners to declare the union one parish for the purposes of assessment, and referred in his speech to the very general feeling in the country that that change should be effected. That Bill was not successful; but in the following year Sir James Graham introduced another Bill to consolidate the laws relating to the relief of the poor, and having in one of its purposes, the same end in view as the previous one. On the Order for going into Committee on that measure, you, Sir, if I am not mistaken, proposed, and, I believe, carried, an Instruction directing the Committee to make provision for the adoption of the principle of a union rating and settlement. That Bill was not passed; but in that year a Bill passed to which I referred on a former occasion, by which it was supposed that the late Sir Robert Peel intended to compensate the agricultural interest for the effect produced by recent commercial changes. He had in view, by that means, to remedy the injustice to which they were subject, when people who had been drawn from their villages to the manufacturing towns were afterwards, in consequence of the state of trade, cast back again on their parishes, which, under the old system of that time, would have been the case, but which, under the union system now proposed, would probably never occur. That Bill passed. By it a large number of the poor were declared irremovable, and a new kind of status was given to the poor. Many complaints, however, were made in the House of the unequal operation of that partial measure. The House then acted very much on the principle which is now proposed—namely, of casting on the property of the union the support of the poor of the union. The charge of the irremovable poor was thrown on the property of the union. But so apparent again were the evils of the parochial system of settlement, and so impressed was the House with the necessity of a complete change in that system that, in 1847 a Committee was appointed—a very strong Committee from the names of those who sat on it—purposely to inquire into the effects generally of removal and settlement. That Committee made a most searching inquiry into the matter—I am bound to say not producing much that was new, because the whole subject had 282 been inquired into in 1834; but they showed that the system had not improved since, and that enormous mischief had resulted from the system of settlement and removal, and though the Committee were not able to agree in a Report to the House, they did resolve that the limited area of chargeability for settlement was the cause of great evils to the poor, and ought to be extended, and that the territorial extension which ought to take place was that of the union. They passed that Resolution, and it was then supposed that some legislation would immediately ensue. However, at that time Mr. Charles Buller was appointed President of the Poor Law Board, and he, who had become a convert during the inquiry, was of opinion that such prejudice existed against any change that, unless there was more authority for it than the evidence taken by a Committee that the House was not likely to pass the measure for effecting it, and he appointed Commissioners whom he sent throughout the country to verify the statements made before the Committee, especially upon those details of injury said to be done to the poor by being driven out of one parish and induced to reside in another, where their dwellings were miserable and much overcrowded. These Commissioners were said to be fairly chosen. Many of them were Inspectors under the Poor Law, then in the service of the Government. I presume they were trustworthy and honourable men, because their Reports were especially referred to by Sir Robert Peel and Sir James Graham in the discussion on agricultural distress in 1850, and they spoke of them as persons deserving of credit, and as having presented a strong case for some change in the law. But the evidence collected by these Commissioners went far beyond that given before the Committee. It established beyond question all the evils that followed from the system of parochial settlement—the clearing of parishes, driving the poor out of them, and thrusting them into places already overcrowded, and into dwellings more fitted for brutes than for human beings. Unfortunately, Mr. Charles Buller died that very year; but, before he died he was already so much impressed with the evidence collected that he had given directions that a Bill should be prepared to adopt the union for purposes of rating and settlement in fourteen of the unions of the country. Mr. Baines succeeded Mr. Charles Buller. Perhaps a more cautious 283 man than Mr. Baines never accepted a public Office. He knew perfectly well the difficulties that he had to contend with, and the peculiar interests opposed to him, and he endeavoured by various amendments—and very valuable amendments they were—to mitigate, in some degree, the evils of parochial settlement. After being three years in Office, however, he could not resist the effect of the evidence constantly brought under his notice, of the mischiefs of the system, and he felt bound to bring forward a measure to abolish removals altogether, and establish union rating. But with the view of conciliating some interests in this country, he had, unfortunately, in my opinion, omitted all provision for the Irish poor in England, and in consequence of his having done so his Bill was lost. The rejection of this Bill was made a reason for appointing a Committee to inquire into the system of removals of Irish and Scotch poor. That Committee received a great deal of evidence similar to that which had been given before other Committees, and came at once to a conclusion that the system of making the poor irremovable should be extended—that it was a mitigation of the evils of settlement, and recommended that no poor person, whether English, Irish, or Scotch, after a residence in a union for three years, should be removed by the parish officers. That Committee had the important assistance of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire), whose opinions, doubtless, from what he had seen in Ireland, were most important, and must have had influence on the Committee. One might have expected that legislation then, would have been again attempted, but some interest seems again to have prevailed, and farther inquiry was again called for. There was always somebody who said he was in the dark—always some information was wanted, and some reason or other found for not legislating in this matter. Accordingly a Committee was then demanded to inquire into the working of Sir Robert Peel's and Sir James Graham's Irremovable Poor Act itself; and after sitting for three years the Committee came to a conclusion which, from the nature of the evidence, they could not resist. The hon. Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight) was on that Committee, and requested to be examined by them as a witness, and then detailed at length to them all his views upon the subject, as well what he had written 284 as what he had spoken; notwithstanding which, the Committee came to the conclusion that the Irremovable Poor Act, which the hon. Member very much condemned, was a valuable one, that it had proved beneficial to the poor, and ought to be extended; and they recommended, as the previous Committee had done, that no man ought to be removed after a residence of three years in any union. The House acted on their recommendation, and a Bill to that effect was passed, which has now been in operation about three years. After that another Committee was appointed, with the largest reference that was probably ever made on the subject, namely, to inquire into the past operation as well as the present administration of the New Poor Law. That Committee lasted three years, closing its inquiries last summer, and they also made special inquiries into the subject of inequality of rating, and incidentally into the subject of settlement, and came to the conclusion that they had ample evidence and information on the subject, and resolved that the area of rating ought to be that of the union, and that the poor of the union should be maintained from the property of the union. This is the language of the Committee—Although much of the inequality which has been shown to exist as between parish and parish within the same union will now be obviated by the operation of the Irremovable Poor Act of 1861, and that inequality will be further lessened by the adjustment of the parochial rates under the provisions of the Union Assessment Act of 1862, your Committee are unable to regard that result as furnishing any reason against equalizing the charge of maintaining all classes of the poor over the several parishes of the whole union. On the contrary, it appears to them to have removed one of the greatest obstacles to the adoption of such a measure.The Committee concluded this branch of the inquiry by the following Resolution:—That any measure for extending the area of rating should, in the opinion of the Committee, embrace provisions for making the whole cost for the poor in each union chargeable on the common fund of the union.Now, that is the deliberate Resolution of the Committee which sat for three years, and if the House will look at the constitution of that Committee they will feel, I am certain, that its Members were not likely to be biassed in this matter by any party or sinister motives. The Committee justly observed that the Irremovable Act had 285 cleared the ground for this measure, and had, by causing the rates to be levied upon property in the union according to its value, removed one of the greatest obstacle to the adoption of this measure. I know it has been said that this Bill has been introduced in the interest of the towns as against that of the rural parishes of the Committee. I beg to state, without admitting that it had any such purpose, that this Resolution was not proposed by either the Chairman or any one belonging to the Poor Law Department. It was, in fact, the proposition of a county Member. I was instructed by the Committee to draw up such a Resolution, but knowing the diversity of opinion that existed on the subject, and feeling that on various grounds it would come better from another Member, I gladly allowed it to be proposed by the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Buller), whose recent death we have to deplore, for I believe that a more worthy, or more sensible, or more honourable man has seldom had a seat in this House. That hon. Gentleman was perfectly satisfied with what he had done upon this subject. I communicated with him in the recess, and asked him whether such a measure as I am now proposing would meet the views of his constituents, and whether the public in his part of the world were prepared for legislation upon the Resolution of the Committee. The hon. Member told me that everything that he had seen and heard in his district had confirmed him in the view which he had entertained, and that he was satisfied the public were prepared for legislation upon the subject. In fact, what he stated gave me the impression that, in his opinion, I should not be discharging my duties as Chairman of that Committee, if I did not bring in a measure founded upon that Resolution of the Committee. When the House re-assembled for the present Session, I asked him if his opinion still remained the same, and if he believed the House would carry such a measure, and his answer was that everybody with whom he had communicated seemed to expect it, and was prepared for it. Lest it should be thought that that hon. Member regarded this measure with some favour because he sat on the same side of the House with myself, I beg to say that there was another county Member on that Committee who was most prominent in recommending it. That hon. Member will, I firmly 286 expect, support this Bill, because from what I know of him I do not believe that he would recommend one thing upstairs and then for some reason vote against it in this House. The hon. Gentleman to whom I refer is the Member for South Devon (Mr. Kekewich.) This measure is, as I know, differently viewed by county Members on both sides of the House. It is approved by some, and felt to be irresistible by others. In alluding to hon. Members who had every reason to expect that this measure would be proposed, no one is more prominent in that respect than the Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight). That hon. Member was a great opponent of the Act passed in 1861, and the ground of his opposition was that union chargeability would be the inevitable consequence of the Act founded on the recommendation of the Committee. These were his words—(Q. 6709.) "There is no doubt that the irremovable poor will be in a very short time the rule, and the settled poor the exception. The one is an immensely increasing, and the other a decreasing proportion.And again—(Q. 6777.) "It is absolutely and positively certain that a Union Rate will follow immediately—that it is only a step to a Union Rate.I only refer to the hon. Member to show that he was among those who must have been prepared for this measure, because he resisted the former measure on the ground that this measure would have to be proposed. But, when we are asked to postpone this measure on account of the Irremovable Poor Act, I wish to know, if anybody complains of that Act. No petitions have been presented against it. It is well understood; it has been in operation for three years; and guardians are not of a class who, if they are not satisfied, are apt to be silent, and they are well represented in this House. Not a word has been said against it, for, go where you will, it is acknowledged to be a great improvement of the law. It is, in reality, an act of humanity by which thousands of poor people are allowed to remain in the locality where they have been employed, though, perhaps, destitute for awhile, instead of being sent across the country to some place where they may possibly not be known and most certainly are not wanted. If there be any county entitled to complain 287 of the Irremovable Poor Act it is the county of Lancashire, because when the great distress occurred, according to the former custom, most of the people from the agricultural districts would have been sent back to their villages. Partly, perhaps, from disinclination to such a course, but still more probably from the great difficulty of ascertaining whether they had obtained a three years' residence in the union or not, but comparatively few removals took place. The Irish poor have especially profited by this Act by being suffered to remain in this country; but there have been no complaints that either the Irish or English have not been removed during this period. I do not know what further information is required upon the subject. The Act has done good service to the poor at least; and those who are compelled to support the poor do not complain. The expenditure for the poor has not been greater in consequence of the additional charge to the common fund, and the actual charge per head is less now than it was before this charge for irremovable poor was so placed upon the common fund—meeting in some respects the argument that had been brought against this measure, that the guardians would in administering a general fund be less watchful or become careless of the expenditure. The result tallies more with the experience obtained before with respect to the administration in large districts subject to some uniform control. Their management is frequently more intelligent, and is attended with less expense, and the paupers fewer in proportion to the population than in small parishes or unions. Upon this point there are means for making comparison. For instance, the union of the City of London consists of ninety-eight parishes, and may be compared in this respect with Lambeth, which is a single parish, but which is far larger in area, and far more populous, and it will be found that the pauperism is less, and the expenditure more economical. I do not, however, cite Lambeth especially for comparison. It will be found in other cases of uniform management, however large the district, such as in Paddington, Islington, or Marylebone, that both the expenditure and the amount of pauperism are found to be less than in the City of London, where the parochial division is so numerous. That the expenditure there is felt to be more lavish than it ought to be, and that it is 288 not protected by its parochial system, I presume, from the fact that the City has petitioned in favour of this Bill, which will have the effect of constituting it for the relief of the poor as one parish. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), with a view to facilitate, as he says, the discussion on this Bill, has called for a Return which, judging by the time required for similar Returns, could hardly be available to Members before next year. But, it is idle to say that this Return is necessary to enable the House to come to a decision. The right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, wants to ascertain the difference which will be caused in the charge to each parish by this measure. At the outset, I would, however, point out to him that sufficient information for his purpose is already to be found in the library. We have a Return similar to the one he wishes for, made in the year 1861. The right hon. Gentleman requires it for 1864. But for what purpose does he want it? He has got at present the expenditure and the rateable value of every union. If he wants to ascertain how much in the pound any union or parish has to pay under the present system, he can do so by dividing the rateable value by the expenditure—he would learn then the rate in the pound at which the poor were maintained in any union. If the rate were 2s. in the pound in the union it would be 2s. in the pound in the parish. All these particulars for the year 1856 are in the library. There is not generally much difference in the expenditure and certainly not in the rateable value between one year and another. If the object is only to ascertain this difference, the data we have is sufficient. I have, however, another remark to make to the right hon. Gentleman, when he says that the Return which he asks for is essential to his coming to a vote upon this subject. If this measure professed to be for the purpose of reducing the charge, or for enabling people who had been exempt before to continue so still, or that those who have paid less than they ought should not be asked to pay more, it would, of course, be a very interesting and important matter to know whether the Bill realized the intentions of the Mover. But that is not precisely the object of this Bill. This measure is recommended on general grounds of public advantage, because it will confer considerable benefit to the poor, and be an 289 improvement upon the present system of applying the Poor Law. I do not hold myself bound to consider the various contrivances by which some people have evaded the liability which the law properly attaches to their property, or how far they may be enabled to do so in future. The Return might assist the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps, in ascertaining the difference which the measure would make in those cases. I do not see how that Return would disprove what has been so strongly supported in evidence against the present system, and in favour of the measure both as regards the poor and the property of the country. I think the question must be discussed upon its merits after all; and I contend that there is a vast amount of evidence, as well as of authority, against the bad working of the present system, and that without any reference to the particular payments of the parishes, that some change is rendered necessary. There is, I think, something like general agreement about that; and those who oppose this measure do so, because they think there will be some distribution of the union charges that may not be favourable to themselves or to those they represent, and on this account this measure has been misrepresented—Members may possibly have seen, as I have done, a curious handbill, which has been circulated by the hon. Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight), and which it is said he had sent to every overseer in the kingdom. But the result, I should suppose, cannot have been very satisfactory to him, for a number of these handbills have been sent to me, with letters more complimentary to the Bill now before the House than to the handbill of the hon. Gentleman. I doubt if any vestry or any parish in the kingdom has adopted the proposal the hon. Member has put forth in that handbill. The hon. Member proposes a charge of £2,000,000 upon the Consolidated Fund to indemify, I presume the owners of close parishes, for their future contributions to the poor. It would be asked by many, however, I think, who was to indemnify the general taxpayer for these £2,000,000 a year paid for the benefit of the proprietary parishes who will have to pay, in future, only as their neighbours have always done before? This House would hardly allow compensation to be given to those who would gain by the change. As far as I understand the handbill, the hon. Gentleman admits that one- 290 half the parishes in this country will be greatly benefited by this measure, and he proposes that the general taxpayer should contribute that sum of money towards the indemnification of those who would lose by the Bill. This seems to be the condition upon which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight), would support the Bill; a proposition not very likely to meet favour with the public. The real advantages of this Bill are that it will put a stop to a grave inconvenience to the poor, and will withdraw from their employers, among the ratepayers considerations that are extremely detrimental to the poor, and, in the long run, injurious to themselves and their property. There cannot be the least doubt of the fact, after the evidence which has been so repeatedly adduced, that there is a strong desire in rural parishes to get rid of the poor and to compel the labourers who might become chargeable to reside elsewhere. This is very detrimental to the interests of the poor, who have then to live at a distance from their work, and to get lodgings or houses wherever they can. They find these dwellings in towns and large villages where the rents are high, and with the view to economy they get crowded together in a manner that has a most injurious effect upon them both physically and morally. This is supported by evidence that cannot be disputed. Another result of this parochial system, which has been so much observed upon, is that the employer of labour is always considering what effect the employment he may give to any labourer will have upon the rates—they are always thinking whether the labourer is likely to become a pauper, and not whether he is an able, sober, and industrious man and such as they require for their work. The farmer is constantly under fear of being the means of adding to the rates, and will employ idle, drunken, and unskilful men in preference to the skilful and superior, lest the former should come upon the parish. I firmly believe that this measure would put an end to that system. It has, I believe, been stated, and will probably be stated again to-night, that though all this was true enough some years ago, and that in order to keep out the poor, the dwellings of the poor were pulled down, and that cottages were not built, that the practice had now ceased altogether. Well, there is abundant evidence to show that the practice was in full force in 1851. What the five Com- 291 missioners reported that were sent out in 1848 and 1849 we know; and we know that a gentleman, now a Member of this House, who some years afterwards went through England for the purpose of making observations upon the state of agricultural labourers, as well as the condition of agriculture generally, wrote a series of letters which now forms a most interesting volume, and that he confirmed, as existing then, what they had reported. I allude to the hon. Member for Stirling borough (Mr. Caird), who says in his work—It is the commonest thing possible to find agricultural labourers lodged at such a distance from their regular employment that they have to walk an hour out in the morning and an hour home in the evening—from forty to fifty miles a week. In one county the farmers actually provide donkeys on which their labourers ride out and home to prevent their tiring themselves with walking, so that they may be more vigorous at their work. Two hours a day is a sixth part of a man's daily labour, and the enormous tax he is compelled to pay in labour, which is his only capital. Nor is this the sole evil of the practice, for the labourers are crowded into villages where the exorbitant cottage rents frequently oblige them to herd together in a manner destructive of morality and injurious to health.This was the state of things as it was observed in 1851 by an intelligent Member of this House—and I may add, I think, not disputed by Members of either House of Parliament, for I find that Lord Malmesbury, who was examined on these matters by a witness before a Committee of the House of Lords, said in his evidence—I assume also that the anomaly of our parochial system is acknowledged, its most glaring effects being that the proprietors of close rural parishes can and do transfer their poor population to a neighbouring parish, thereby reaping all the advantage of their labour when efficient without the responsibility of their maintenance when impotent. I do not think I need make any observations upon close parishes. Your Lordships are more aware than any other class of the community what they mean and how they work.These words were uttered in 1851, and I trust hon. Gentlemen will read the Report of that Committee before they think of rejecting this Bill. I should, indeed, have been very glad to think that any person was entitled to say that the same state of things did not exist now. There was a Report, however, laid upon the table of this House three days ago made by a medical gentleman who was employed last summer by the medical department of the Privy Council to inquire into the state of the cottage accommodation throughout the rural districts of the country, and I do 292 not hesitate to say that his Report must make a very deep impression upon the people of this kingdom. I am, indeed, satisfied that it will be read with surprise and sorrow from one end of the country to the other. It is the result apparently of careful investigation. There is no disguise of facts, no concealment of names, or any political object served. Everything is given in detail which relates to the subject, as bearing on the condition of the agricultural labourers and their families. And what is still more important to observe is that, although those inquiries could have no connection with the project of reforming our system of settlement, yet throughout that Report the condition of the labourers and the manner in which they live are apparently forced upon the conviction of the reporter, as being connected with the system of parochial settlement. It is that system which compels them to live in what I may be permitted to call the brutal state in which they are too often to be found. There are detailed accounts of the number of houses that have been pulled down in different parishes, and where, in many cases, the population has also increased and the motive for pulling down of those houses is directly ascribed to the system of settlement. It was from that Report that I made the statement which seemed to excite the hon. Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight) so much—namely, that there were upwards of 800 parishes where the number of houses had diminished and the population had increased. The Report has been presented, but I do not know whether it has yet been printed, and I only refer to it in order to meet the argument which may be advanced, that although these things may have existed in former times, yet that they have now ceased. The reporter seems to have had nothing but a correct statement of facts in view, for I find that credit is given where it is due, where means have been taken by proprietors to provide, better accommodation for the poorer classes than formerly, and this has been done in many places. I hope therefore, that hon. Members will not rashly conclude that this is not a Bill of great importance—that it is a Bill which may be disposed of as other Bills having the same object have been dismissed. I would at least make this suggestion, that as this Report to which I have referred only became known to me when I intro- 293 duced this measure, and as it has not yet been placed in the hands of Members, that the opponents of this Bill will not venture to reject it until they have had an opportunity of reading that Report. [Lord JOHN MANNERS: Postpone this Bill.] No, I cannot do that. There will be plenty of opportunities of getting rid of this Bill besides the second reading. Judging from the eager manner of the noble Lord opposite I am afraid that he intends to oppose the Bill, and that he expects his opposition will be successful. I think really that he and those who think with him might well postpone their opposition until the next stage, when they will have better means of judging of the value of this measure. I believe they will be as much struck with the Report I have referred to as I have been, and they would then have cause for regret, if they had rejected this Bill in ignorance of the real condition of our agricultural population, and which was ascribed by the intelligent men to whom the inquiry was intrusted to the operation of the system which it is the purpose of this measure to improve.
I am not now disposed [to detain the House longer, for I cannot hope to influence them by my own authority or by any further statements that I can make; but I cannot help adding some observations as to the effect of this measure by one who has had great experience in witnessing the operations of the Poor Law, who was one of the original Commissioners for administering that law, though subsequently for a long time absent from England, and who finds the same faults in the system that he observed when he left. I refer to Sir Edmund Head, who before he left England wrote upon the subject and went fully into the question of parochial settlement, and now has republished the article which he wrote before he went to America. [Lord JOHN MANNERS: That refers to a long time ago.] Yes; the paper was written a long time ago, but the writer, finding substantially the same things existing now of which he complained before, republishes his observations, and thereby reiterates his opinion. Sir Edmund Head writes thus in supporting the principle of the measure—All power of limiting the number of cottages, simply for the purpose of avoiding the burden on a particular parish, would be taken away. Two or three proprietors may now combine, but the owners of land in so large an area as an union cannot possibly act upon an experiment of this kind, even if the abolition of settlement and the 294 diffusion of the charge of relief over a wider area should leave them an adequate motive for so doing. The poor man would have a better, chance of living where his work was wanted, and of procuring sufficient accommodation for his family as they grew up. The effect of the present law on his character would cease. Whether he was to be hired by a particular farmer would no longer depend upon the fact whether he was already settled in the parish in which that farmer paid his rates, but on the question whether his own habits and his own industry made him worth hiring. He would reap the consequences of his own conduct, without those consequences being overruled by the accident of his own or his father's settlement. If a good workman and a single man, he would no longer, as now, get less wages; under which disguise many an honest labourer is at present virtually paying what the parish would otherwise have to pay as poor rates, in order to support an idle neighbour and his family at a lower rate than they would cost in the workhouse. Lastly, in case of sickness he would have no difficulty in obtaining relief; the obligation could not be thrust off by an order of removal, nor could he be transferred to some distant parish, in which he knew no one and was known by no one. The scheme proposed has another positive merit. It equalizes the charge on the ratepayers; and no part of the land would escape from its fair share of the burden of the district. Nor is this principle new to the English Poor Law. By the 43rd of Elizabeth the justices are empowered to impose rates in aid of neighbouring parishes; that j is to say, to spread the pressure over a wider surface, when it has become intolerable within the narrower circle,That was the opinion formed by Sir Edmund Head after many years experience of the Poor Law, and which he finds is still applicable to the present state of things. I venture to quote his views as they are identical with my own; and I now confidently ask the House to read this Bill a second time, believing fully that it is calculated to meet the evils pointed out by Sir Edmund Head, and indeed I may say of every other intelligent authority who has paid attention to the subject, and has maturely considered the effect of parochial settlement.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. C. P. Villiers.)
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY,
in rising to move the Amendment, of which he had given notice, said, he had heard with much pleasure the observation of the right hon. Gentleman, who, referring to the hon. Member for South Devon (Mr. Kekewich), said, that he felt convinced that hon. Member would not have proposed a Resolution in a Committee upstairs to the terms of which he would not adhere in that House. Upon hearing that 295 observation, he (Sir Rainald Knightley) felt that he had a right to claim the vote of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, because he was informed that right hon. Gentleman himself had proposed in the Committee a Resolution as nearly as possible the same as the Amendment which he was about to submit. But, before discussing the question of this Bill, he would state briefly the reasons which induced him to interpose his Resolution before the Amendment of which notice had been given by the hon. Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight). In the course of conversation with many Members on both sides of the House, he heard an opinion very generally expressed that this was not regarded as a party question, and he hoped it would not be so considered upon the present occasion. Many Members, he found also, were not disposed to vote for the second reading of this Bill, nor for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, simply because they had not sufficient information upon the subject. They were not in a position to judge of how far certain towns and villages had suffered for the benefit of other places, nor how the evils complained of had been mitigated or were still in existence. In fact, they were voting in the dark. Then, again, with regard to the Union Assessment Act passed three years ago, they had no information, because from the vague and uncertain phraseology of that statute it was not too much to say that no two contiguous unions adopted the same interpretation of it. Having regard to the gross estimated value and gross rental, the widest differences existed as to the deductions that were to be made. Deductions allowed in some places were refused in others. In some unions the deductions upon land amounted to only 1 or 2 per cent, in others the deductions reached 10 or 12 per cent, while in some unions no decision had yet been come to on the subject; in fact, that Act, although passed three years ago, in many places was to all intents and purposes a dead letter. He found, also, that there was a general feeling that a measure of this great importance, affecting as it would the relative value of every acre of land in the kingdom, ought not to be dealt with by a moribund Parliament in almost the last hours of its existence, and that it would be better to remit the whole question to the consideration of the country at the next general 296 election, leaving it for the future Parliament to deal efficiently with the question. Many Members, also, were disinclined to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, not wishing to commit themselves absolutely as opposed to a principle which subsequent information might lead them to approve. He opposed the Bill on two grounds—first, because it would interfere with the rights of property; and, secondly—and it was infinitely the more important ground—because in his opinion it would prejudice the interests of the labouring classes themselves. Taking the least important objection first—in his own parish there was only one single plough field; and the same thing occurred in many parishes of Leicestershire and Warwickshire. These were not close parishes—they belonged to different owners; but the means of employment there being very small the population was necessarily very scanty, and the rates were very low. It would be hard upon the ratepayers of such parishes to call upon them to support the pauper population of distant districts—possibly in different counties—for the area of some unions embraced different counties. With the poor in these unions they would have no connection whatever, and would have derived no benefit from their labour, and therefore the ratepayers would be called on to pay higher poor rates, merely to put money into the pockets of the proprietors in other parishes. This would not be robbing Peter to pay Paul; it would be robbing Peter to make Paul a present of that which he had no right to. Such a measure would affect the small much more than the large proprietors, because where a man owned land in various districts the probability was that he would be assessed at a high rate in some and at a low rate in others, so that a fair balance would be struck on the whole. But to the small proprietors an additional 1s. in the pound would prove an intolerable burden. You had no more right to confiscate the property of these persons for the benefit of other proprietors than Parliament would have to assess the salary of the right hon. Gentleman, or that of any Member in this House, for the purpose of handing it over to other people. He could understand the principle of parochial rating, he could understand also the principle of charging the whole burden of the poor upon the Consolidated Fund; but he did not understand the justice of union rating. As 297 matter of local rating it was too large, for Imperial rating it was too small. Parochial rating had existed from the time of Elizabeth. Landowners had purchased their property subject to these burdens, and therefore no one had a right to complain. Moreover it was but just and right that those who derived benefit from the labour of the working men while in health should support them when they could work no longer. ["Hear, hear!"] He understood those cheers—it was asserted that at present large landowners, by keeping "close" parishes, contrived to shuffle off their responsibilities to the shoulders of their poorer neighbours. This led to the vexed question of "open" and "close" parishes. Now, the proportion of close to open parishes was very small; and was it just to enact a great wrong in ninety-nine cases merely for the sake of rectifying some apparent anomaly in the hundredth case? He would not, however, rest his defence of the present system upon this ground. Taking them as a body, no class of men discharged their duties to those in their employ more conscientiously than landowners did; but, for the purposes of the argument, he would assume that the landlord was a harsh, hard-hearted man, who depopulated his own property and drove all the poor into the neighbouring town on the outskirts of his union, for the sake of relieving himself from poor rates. How did this benefit the large owner and injure the smaller owners? In these discussions you always hoard a pitiful description of the poor labourer, weary and wayworn with having to walk several miles to and from his daily work. [Cheers] He could tell hon. Gentlemen who cheered that this was simply twaddle. ["Oh, oh!"] If the labourer had to compete with other labourers who lived on the estate, no doubt he would be injured; but this was not the case. The tenant-farmer, his employer, was no doubt injured, for he only received three parts of a day's work instead of a whole day's work—the services of a partially-tired man in the place of the services of a wholly fresh one. In entering into his farm, however, this loss was taken into consideration, and the tenant-farmers paid a smaller rate in consequence. ["Oh!"] Thus neither the labourers nor the tenants would be affected; and at the utmost, the landlord was only guilty of an act of suicidal folly, which injured nobody but himself. It might be said that men were not like machines which never grew sick 298 or old, and that landed proprietors had no right to use up the labourer while he was young and when he was old and worn-out hand him over to be supported by the small ratepayers, and that the hardship fell upon the small shopkeepers. At first sight this appeared just; but if hon. Gentlemen looked closely into the question they might find, as he had found, that they had jumped to a conclusion too hastily. The point generally omitted from the calculation was—"Where are the wages spent?" A certain number of labourers was required for the close parish, and every sixpence of their earnings was spent, not in the close parish where they worked, but in the open parish where they lived. The small tradesmen were able to carry on their business in consequence of the money thus spent among them, and derived a benefit more than proportionate to the liability of maintaining these labourers when in poverty. If they looked to the assessments throughout the country they would find that wherever population was the most numerous, property was the most valuable in proportion to the acreage. According to the principles of the political economists the origin of all wealth was labour; and it was the expenditure of wages which produced large towns and increased the value of the land there. The Manchester manufactures occupied precisely the same position in regard to the labourer as the cruel hard-hearted landlord—both employed labour while it was remunerative, and ceased to do so when it became remunerative no longer; but if during the cotton famine the factory hands had emigrated in large numbers, the rates might have been lower, but the manufacturers' and tradesmen's profits and the value of property would have diminished in a far greater degree. His main and chief objection to the measure was based upon the manner in which it would operate on the labouring class. Any one at all acquainted with agricultural matters—and he did not now allude to the President of the Poor Law Board, who knew nothing more of the rural districts than of the interior of Africa, and might never have seen a green field—was very well aware that during a considerable period of the year agricultural labour was not remunerative. During the greater part of the spring, summer, and autumn it was absolutely necessary for the cultivation of the soil; but during the dead months of the winter farmers only employed the labourers because they knew 299 that otherwise they would have to keep them out of their own pockets by means of the poor rate. In every parish with which he was acquainted this course was adopted to a considerable extent, and the poor labourers were maintained in comparative comfort in their own cottages, instead of being sent to the workhouse, which they regarded with the greatest horror and detestation. But if the present Bill passed there would be no alternative. The maintenance of each individual pauper was an important consideration in a small parish, but it was only a drop in the ocean in a large union. The farmer would naturally ask "Why should I keep my own men if, in addition, I have to pay taxes towards the support of the workmen of other people?" And the consequence would be that the union workhouses and the gaols would be filled to repletion, rates would be increased, and the comforts of the poor would be diminished. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the Amendment.
MR. BANKS STANHOPE
rose to second the Amendment, and said that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board thought it odd that any hon. Member of that House should require more information on this important subject. Well, he (Mr. Stanhope) was one of those benighted individuals. The right hon. Gentleman described to the House in a most touching way the contents of a report of a certain medical officer—he went further, and asked hon. Members not to defeat his Bill without being acquainted with all the particulars. This was what his hon. Friend (Sir Rainald Knightley) and himself asked, though in a different form—namely, that the House would not proceed with the Bill till they had made themselves acquainted with all the circum stances of the case. A considerable change took place in the law not four years ago, when the Irremovable Poor Act was passed, and he did not see how they could well determine what should be the nature of future legislation until the different changes which had already been introduced into the law should have been properly tried. That Act had been successful or it had not. If it had been successful he could not see on what plea it was to be upset. If, on the other hand, it had been unsuccessful, that fact pointed out to the Legislature that they ought to be excessively careful how far they made any such further changes in the law. The effect of the Bill would be twofold. It 300 would change the condition of the poor; it would redistribute the charges on land. He was willing to admit that there had in some places been a want of comfortable cottage lodging for the labourers; but during the last few years he had been living in a part of the country where year by year new cottages were being built. He must say, with regard to landlords, that to put up new and good cottages was simply an act of benevolence on their part. They did not build them as matters of speculation, but, after erecting them in the most commodious way possible, they allowed the labourers to live in them at a low rent. Therefore, unless it could be shown that there was a disposition on the part of the landlords to pull down cottages, and that the consequent evil could only be remedied by this Bill, it ought not to be passed. If the Bill compelled landlords to build cottages, and the poor would be benefited, that might be a great good; but the fact must not be undervalued, that the landlords did look on the poor as belonging to them individually, and that partly from benevolence, and partly from feelings of the pocket as ratepayers, the landlords and their tenants did employ a vast amount of unprofitable labour. Then as to the difference that the new mode of rating would produce in the value of property, one of his tenants had mentioned to him the amount which would fall in addition upon his farm. Well, that meant difference of income to the landholder. Evidence had been given before the Parliamentary Committee, showing what the effect of union rating would be upon the employment of labour in the county of Norfolk, which showed that the consequences would not be beneficial to the labouring class. He understood that the Bill would produce a redistribution of charge between different parishes to the amount of £2,500,000; and surely they had some right to ask the Government for clear information on that point. At present they had only a Return which told them the state of things in 1836. That Return was comparatively valueless, as what was paid in 1836 was no approximate evidence even of what was paid last year. They had a right to know what was paid in every parish in 1864, and what would be paid if that Bill came into operation. He did not think it quite fair to take an individual case, but he was given to understand that the town of Boston would have actually saved nearly 301 £1,000 during the last half year if the present Bill had been law, or, in other words, the charge upon Boston would have been reduced from £1,719 to £760. On the other hand, two rural parishes, situate about six miles from that town, which, as a rule, managed their own land with their own labourers, and which when they wanted extra labourers, got them from other parishes but not from Boston, would under this measure hare had their rates for the same half-year very nearly trebled. That was not a case of close as against open parishes, because in the whole union comprising forty-three parishes, the result of the new Bill would be a decrease in a certain number of parishes of £1,143 of which Boston alone took £959 leaving only three other parishes out of the entire forty-three in the least benefited by it, while all the rest, which were not at all close parishes, would have their rates actually increased in order to relieve a large town of 17,000 inhabitants, which naturally had a considerable poor population. Again, Lincoln had about 20,000 inhabitants. It had been an agricultural town, but was now becoming a great manufacturing one. Agricultural implements were manufactured there to a large extent, and one firm of European reputation alone employed some two or three thousand hands. Well, if in these days of strikes an unfortunate difference between master and men were to arise, these men and their families might be thrown not upon the city of Lincoln, but upon the union of Lincoln for relief; and thus the manufacturing poor would be a burden not to the town where they had earned their bread, and which they had enriched by their industry, but to those parishes which had nothing to do with them. Might there not be other cases in which a burden thus self-created in a town would be thrown upon the county? They were entitled, therefore, to know in what way the Government met points of that kind. Without stating what course he might deem it his duty to take on that question in any future year, he would only add that he should cordially support the Amendment then before the House.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "considering the little knowledge this House possesses as to the practical working of the Irremovable Poor Act of 1861, it is inexpedient, without further information, to legislate on the subject of Union
Rating during the present Session,"—(Sir Rainald Knightley,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR EDWARD DERING
said, he hoped the House would pause before giving its assent to the second reading of this Bill. He agreed with the hon. Member opposite that a measure which must affect the liability of every parish in the kingdom was one of such paramount importance that it ought not to be dealt with until they received information much more accurate than any they now possessed—indeed, it ought not to be dealt with till they had an opportunity of personally consulting those whose interests would be so seriously affected by the change. They must bear in mind that if they once established the principle of union settlement and union rating it would be utterly impossible ever again to revert to the old parochial principle; and, therefore, by legislating in the absence of accurate information they might inadvertently inflict irreparable injury on a large portion of the rural districts. They had been rather taunted for thirsting for more information on that subject; but what information had they received either from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Villiers) or from any papers that had been laid on the table, as to the extent of the change which the Bill would make in the respective burdens of town and country? The right hon. Gentleman was diffuse on many other points; he advanced many arguments in favour of a union settlement which it would be very difficult to refute; but, with regard to the all important point above stated, he had maintained a discreet and almost eloquent silence. If the right hon. Gentleman had spoken as to that, his sense of truth would have obliged him to tell them that the effect of the Bill in all unions which comprised one or more large towns and a certain number of agricultural parishes would be, that the rates would be very much diminished in all the town and proportionately increased in all the agricultural parishes. He was not speaking at random on the point, for he held in his hand a document very much in the nature of that for which the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had moved—namely, a detailed statement of particulars regarding all the parishes 303 included in the Isle of Thanet Union. First, it gave the names of the different parishes, then the rateable value of each, the amount which they contributed to the relief of the parochial poor as distinguished from their contributions to the common fund; and by adding the two together they would arrive at the total expenditure of each parish: and by referring to what the right hon. Gentleman told them might be found in the library—namely, the rateable value of every parish, it was not difficult to ascertain exactly what each parish would have paid during the past year, supposing the present Bill had been the law of the land. That was the practical kind of information which it was so desirable they should have before them. Prom the Return which he was about to quote and which was made up for the six months ending July 1864, he found that in Margate, Ramsgate, and the adjacent urban parishes of St. Lawrence and St. Peter, the saving in their rates during the past year would have been no less than £417; while in the other seven rural parishes composing the remainder of the Isle of Thanet Union there would have been an increase in one of 40 per cent, in another of 50 per cent, in another of 100 per cent, and in another—a type of the class of parishes referred to by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley)—a small parish with a population of only forty-two persons, and without a single pauper, the charge would have been raised by this measure from £7 to £49. He could vouch for the accuracy of that Return, because it was one sent to the Poor Law Board by the authority of the right hon. Gentleman himself. He thought they were entitled to ask upon what principle this shifting of burdens was to be justified. It would hardly be contended that the agriculturalists did not contribute their fair share of parochial burdens. If there were any idea of that sort it ought to be stated openly, and they ought to be put on the same footing as towns were. But no such allegation was made. On the contrary, the 9th clause of the Act of 1861, which made a change in the mode of contributing to the common fund, undoubtedly did operate to the disadvantage of the country parishes. When the Bill was in Committee that was allowed by Sir George Lewis with his usual frankness. In the absence of information they had a right to ask the right hon. Gentleman to suspend the second reading of the 304 Bill until the House was in possession of that information. Returns such as he had quoted could be made out by any intelligent clerk of a union in a very short time; and if they showed that other parishes in the country coincided with the cases he had quoted, he was sure there would be no party in the House who would wish to relieve one part of the community at the expense of another. With regard to the Motion before the House, when they were in possession of accurate information he saw no reason why they should not discuss the general principle of the Bill; but at present they were not in possession of that information. The Bill of 1861, which was of almost equal importance with this, did not go into Committee until the end of June. The recess was now close at hand; in the interval all the accurate information might be obtained which was requisite for a full discussion of the Bill, and hon. Members would have ample time to learn the opinions of their constituents on the measure. If, therefore, it were in accordance with the forms of the House, he should be disposed to move that the second reading of the Bill be postponed until after Easter.
§ MR. STANILAND
said, he did not agree with the hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Dering) that there was any necessity for postponing the discussion on the second reading of this Bill, for, after all, it was only an extension of the Act of 1861, and though that Act had been in operation now nearly four years, there had been no petitions presented against it; so that it might be fairly taken to be approved by the country. The hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) had pointed out that the town which he had the honour to represent (Boston) would be relieved by this Bill of some £1,700 or £1,800 a year of expenditure for the poor. It certainly would have the effect of relieving that town from considerable sums now paid by it; but the fact was that three-quarters of the relief would be in consequence of getting rid of the maintenance of people who came into the town from adjoining parishes. Certainly there was no man who had a better right to be heard on this subject than the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincoln, for there was no man whose estate had undergone greater improvements, who was a larger employer of labour, or whose cottages were in a better condition. He should like, however, to call the hon. 305 Gentleman's attention to a town close to him—Louth—which contained 14,000 people, and which supplied the labour for at least two-thirds of the acreage within five miles of the town. In the parishes around there were scarcely half cottages enough to shelter the people who worked on these estates. The people had to go four or five miles to their work, and to return the same distance at night. There was another small town in the middle of the fen district of Lincolnshire, which contained a considerable population, engaged, within a circuit of five miles, in supplying labour which ought to be resident on the estates. In supporting the second reading of the Bill, however, he wished to state his opinion that the assessment to the relief of the poor was not on an equitable footing. He considered that every kind of property, real and personal, ought to contribute to the relief of the poor. There was no reason why real property alone should be chargeable to the rate. The principle of the statute of Elizabeth placed all property on the same footing. Every man was to contribute according to his means for the relief of the poor. But at the time that statute was passed personal property was comparatively of insignificant amount, and therefore personal property was not assessed. At present the average rate was 2s. in the pound, and the gross charge £6,000,000. A penny in the pound on all property, real and personal, as the Income tax experience taught them, would produce £1,000,000, and if, therefore, all property were taxed, from whatever source it might be derived, a rate of 6d. in the pound would cover all the expenditure. He was quite prepared, either now or in a future Parliament, to vote for a Committee on the subject, and to show that the assessment should be on personal as well as on real property. All who had spoken or written on the subject had come to the conclusion that it was just that personal property should be rated to the relief of the poor, or that the poor should be supported out of the Public Exchequer. But it was urged, on the other hand, that the moment the hands of the guardians might be dipped into the National Exchequer, all motives to economy would be removed. That appeared a startling objection; but he did not think that such would be the case. At present certain annual grants were made out of the public funds in aid of local expendi- 306 ture for particular objects; for instance, one-fourth was contributed towards the payment of the county police, and contributions were also made towards the support of prisoners in gaols, and in neither case was it alleged that there was any encouragement to wasteful or excessive expenditure. It was unfair, therefore, to assume that the guardians of the poor would be made extravagant if such a course were adopted. At all events, it would not be very difficult to devise some check. A grant founded upon the average expenditure of a certain number of years might be made, and if that were exceeded the guardians might be obliged to make up the difference. That, he thought, would operate as an effectual check. Feeling, then, the measure, before the House was not a final one but that it was a step towards making every description of property pay, and towards the abolition of the Law of Settlement, he had great pleasure in giving his support to the Motion for the second reading.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board in introducing the subject, and giving a summary of former legislation in its regard, had made use of the somewhat remarkable expression "that in by-gone times somebody was always in the dark, and could not see the way." But that was precisely the position of Her Majesty's Government on this occasion: and that also was the position in which they wished to place the House; for there never was an instance upon record before now of a Government asking the House to proceed at once to the second reading of a Bill which involved, as this measure did, a large transfer of property upon such scanty information as they at present had on the subject. So much was this the case that hon. Member after hon. Member had risen to show how completely the operation of the Bill would in different localities disappoint the objects and intentions of the right hon. Gentleman. He was able to contribute from his part of the country something towards the stock of information. He was acquainted with a union—Downham—which consisted of thirty-four parishes, of which eighteen would be largely benefited, while sixteen would be losers by the Bill. But the most curious fact was that in this case it was the close parishes that would be the gainers. Now, that was directly at variance with what he conceived to be the right hon. Gentle- 307 man's object. In the Lynn union there were four parishes, two strictly urban and two strictly agricultural; and the effect of the measure would be to throw upon these agricultural parishes, which had no interest whatever in the matter, the maintenance of a large proportion of the poor of the other two parishes. In one case there was an occupier whose poor rates would be raised from £8 to upwards of £130, and that was a transfer of property which he maintained ought not to be made or even proposed without a great deal more information than the House possessed. He did not wish to be understood as saying that they were never at any future time to legislate upon the question—what he contended for was time to obtain ample information before proceeding to legislate. His impression was that the general effect of the Bill would be too much for the benefit of the towns, and too much against the rural districts. That was a description of legislation of which that House had always been too fond, and which he was always prepared to oppose. Another and perhaps the most important point was this—namely, the effect which it would have upon the labouring poor. His own belief was that it would induce occupiers not to employ the labouring poor at times when their labour was not remunerative, but rather to throw them upon the relief. That fact alone, putting aside the question of finance, and taking the whole question upon the ground of humanity, formed a sufficient objection to the passing of the Bill at present. The right hon. Gentleman himself was not prepared to say that the Bill would not have that effect, for, if so, he would have stated it in his very able speech. The right hon. Gentleman had gone to the table and quoted a Report which he had seen, but which the House had not, in favour of the Bill. But surely such a proceeding had never before been witnessed in the annals of legislation. The strongest argument against the Bill was to be found in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman himself. It was not fair to ask the House, with such information as was before it, to come to a decision upon a question not only of great financial importance, but which probably would act most injuriously upon the condition of the labouring poor. Without binding himself for any future time, but merely contending that the present was not the proper moment to legislate, because the House had not sufficient information, he should 308 support the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. HODGKINSON
said, the opponents of the Bill had based their objections to it mainly on the ground that it would effect a redistribution of burdens for parochial relief, and consequently create injustice. It was impossible to deny that the effect of the Bill would be to redistribute the burden of the poor rate to some extent; but so far from admitting that that re-adjustment would be unjust, he contended that it was absolutely necessary for the purpose of remedying an injustice already existing, and which, though partially remedied by recent legislation, still required the enactment of such a measure as this. When hon. Members talked of the shifting or redistribution of the burdens, they ought to bear in mind that burdens might be shifted by various methods, not only by the direct action of the Legislature, but by individuals in their own interests, in their own parishes setting at defiance and frustrating the intentions of the Legislature, or by different circumstances arising not at all contemplated by the Legislature when the burden was imposed. When the burden became shifted by either of these two latter means it was the duty of the Legislature not only to prevent any further frustration of its original design, but to readjust the burden which had become disturbed or disarranged. If hon. Members would carry their minds back to the original design and intention of the Poor Law, they would not fail to see how far in the course of time the gradual operation of the law had departed from that original design. The first Act was the 7th Henry VIII., which created the office of overseer, the contributions were voluntary, and at that time each parish was not dependent upon its own resources for the maintenance of its own poor, for the surplus collections were to go in aid of the less affluent parishes. These voluntary contributions were found to be insufficient, and the next act was a sort of hybrid. The 5th Elizabeth gave power to justices with the churchwardens to assess compulsorily all those who were obstinate and would not give voluntarily. In ten years that Act came to an end. The parochial system was altogether ignored, and a state of things was established almost identical with the condition of things which would be in existence if the present Bill became law. By the 14th Elizabeth the magistrates of each county 309 were required to separate their counties into divisions, and the justices residing in each division were required to levy a rate in that division to be applied to the support of the poor, those divisions being almost analogous to the unions of the present day. That Act was in operation for thirty years. Then followed a great many provisions which remained in existence at the present day. It was impossible for anybody to peruse these Acts of Parliament without being aware that it was the intention of the Legislature that, persons should contribute fairly according to the rateable property they possessed, and not according to particular localities or parishes. The Act of Elizabeth established no law of settlement and gave no power of removal—the right to relief attached wherever the necessity for relief arose. There were various Acts of Parliament between the Act of Elizabeth and the Act of 1834, all having the object of equalizing the rates as between parishes, and the law of settlement was intended to prevent inequality among parishes, though it was quite true that in the course of time its effect had been to provoke the inequality which it was passed to counteract. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley) seemed to grumble that the towns would benefit by this Bill, and escape from part of their present burden. The hon. Member said if the labourers did not reside in the parish where they worked, and became chargeable to that in which they resided, the latter got a quid pro quo in the expenditure of the labourers' wages. The expenditure of a labourer was in bread, bacon, and beer. And who were the producers of those articles? It was said that where the population was, property increased in some places a hundredfold; but if so, the rates would increase also. The hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) asked, if it would not be most unjust if, in case the 2,000 hands employed by a firm in Lincoln required parish relief, the agricultural parishes should assist in supporting them? The hon. Gentleman who used that illustration was rather unfortunate in the instance he had selected, for the large firm in question were employed in making implements in order that the agriculturists might more profitably cultivate their lands. In former days the village blacksmith made their implements, and if he became a pauper they would have been obliged to support him. It had been said by the 310 hon. Member for Northamptonshire that by increasing the area of rating they would diminish the responsibility of the guardians; but if the area was not too large for the purpose of management, how could it be too large for the purpose of rating? A union rate was not analogous to a national rate. A national rate was not the principle involved in this Bill. Some appeared to think that this was a step towards a national rate. But it was nothing of the sort. It was a measure of justice. It restored matters to the original principle that those occupying rateable property whether in one parish or another should contribute pro rata, according to their means, to the relief of the poor. He trusted that the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Northamptonshire would not be adopted, which would be the next thing to rejecting the measure altogether.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he entirely supported the principle of the measure, and could not vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire merely because it would seem a certain Report had not been read by the whole body of the House. This was not a question that had come suddenly upon the country, nor was this a Bill that could be said to be unexpected. The country in fact had long been disciplined into the belief that some such measure must of necessity follow the legislation which had already taken place. The hon. Member who argued against this Bill appeared to think that nothing had been done in the direction in which this Bill aimed, and that this had been the first attempt to equalize the burdens between the different parishes. Why, on several occasions measures have been passed by this House the effect of which would be to shift the liability of property; and notably in 1861 an extensive measure was passed, by which rather more than one-fourth of the union charge was thrown upon the common fund. A still greater change we seffected by the Bill which was passed in the following year; and these combined acts placed nearly one-half of the whole charge upon the common fund. Was it rational, therefore, to think that the House was not prepared for the measure now before it? Ever since the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act, in 1836, we had experienced the disadvantage of the combined parochial and union system. There was hardly a Session of 311 Parliament in which some amendment had not been made in the Poor Law—all arising from these systems not working together for the benefit of the poor, or according to the original intentions. Some parishes remained scarcely chargeable at all for the relief of the poor, and others became less chargeable than they had been; and it had therefore become necessary to amend the law. The measure passed in 1861 was an important one, and, as far as he knew—and he had had as much experience in the working of the system as most country gentlemen—the evils which formerly existed had been much mitigated, and in the unions with which he was connected much satisfaction was felt at the operation of the present law, as being a great improvement upon that which previously existed. The arguments of the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) did not at all apply in this matter. He stated that he was afraid the poor would suffer by this measure, and he wanted to know what would become of the bad labourer. The misfortune of the present system was that it encouraged the employment of the drunkard and the idle person. But this would not be so if the area were not so restricted. The proposed measure would produce a great moral effect; it would not only conduce to the better health of the labourers, but it would have a tendency to discountenance the employment of undeserving men, and at the same time the position of the good labourer would be much improved. The parochial system was a merely nominal affair—parish officers did nothing unless they were instructed by the guardians—the system embarrassed the operations of the board of guardians very considerably, while it in no way added to the benefit of the poor. Having destroyed the parochial system altogether he should be extremely glad to find that the House was prepared to establish an efficient union system. This would be the only solution of the difficulty. They would then have guardians who would have no conflicting interests, but who would go to their boards to carry out a uniform system with a common object, and the important institutions for the maintenance of the poor would be much better carried out than at present. The burdens would be far more justly distributed. He had no hesitation in saying that he would give his support to the second reading of this Bill, and he 312 was extremely sorry that any attempt should have been made to delay such a beneficial measure.
said, he would deal with this question apart from any party considerations whatever. The Bill was opposed for want of information, which hon. Members could easily obtain by seeking it in the records of the unions to which they belonged. If the information were put before each Gentleman separately with respect to his own union, no doubt he would be able to judge how far it would affect the parishes in the union. It was simply a question of unions. It was impossible to live in a rural distict without taking a great interest in those matters concerning the maintenance of the poor. He had looked into the working of the Act of 1861, and regarded it as a considerable improvement upon the previous law, as it made all the parishes contribute towards the common fund of the union in proportion to the rateable value of the property in the parish, and not in proportion to the money expended in the relief of the poor during any given year. That was a step in the right direction; but the Act did not go far enough in making close parishes contribute to the relief of the poor in their own district. The Bill now before the House was aimed at that particular object, and would more thoroughly carry out the intention of the Act of 1861. Its effect would be to remedy many of the evils at present existing. The employers of labour in close parishes kept their men as long as they were strong and healthy, but the moment they became old and infirm they were thrown upon the rates of those parishes which were already over-peopled and over-rated. In his own union, out of twenty-eight parishes three were what were called close parishes. The rateable value of the three was £8,077 a year. Before the Act of 1861 those three parishes combined only contributed £16 a year to the support of the poor. The effect of the Act of 1861 was that those three parishes contributed just under £200 a year to the common fund of the union. This was about 6d. in the pound on the rates of those parishes; but could this be considered a sufficient contribution for them when there was a parish in the union that was paying nearly 6s. in the pound? He asserted that this was a great and grievous injustice. Nor was this an extraordinary case, for close parishes were to be found in many unions. It was said that there were 313 grass lands in many of these parishes, and that comparatively few labourers were employed in consequence. He should, however, like to know whether an amount of produce that gave a rateable value of £8,000 a year, or a gross produce of about £25,000, could be obtained without raising a great quantity of beef, mutton, dairy produce, and corn, and without employing a considerable quantity of labour? What would be the effect in his union if this Bill passed? The close parishes, which now paid a rate of 6d. in the pound, would, in common with the other parishes of the union, pay a rate of about 1s. 5d. or 1s. 6d. in the pound. That would not be an excessive amount of poor rate for any parish to pay; and considering that there was a parish in the union now paying 5s. or 6s. in the pound, it would not be inequitable if such a uniform rate were distributed over the whole union. It was not unreasonably argued that, under the present measure, it would be to the interest of proprietors to build a certain number of cottages suitable for their labourers, and that the poor would be benefited thereby. An objection had, however, been raised that small proprietors would be stimulated to build more cottages than were wanted, and thus flood the union with labourers. But it was very rare to find a union over-populated. He scarcely ever recollected such a case, for any such district was soon relieved by the excess of labour going to the nearest towns. Another objection to the Bill was that a want of economy would be occasioned by the new system, and that the guardians would not be so careful in administering the union rate, because the money would not come out of the rates of their own parish. He did not see any very great difficulty upon this point. A guardian was now very much interested in keeping down the relief to any poor man from his own parish, and under the new system he might be anxious to give as much as possible, knowing that it would come out of the union fund. But then all the other guardians would be a chock upon the guardians of a particular parish. He believed, too, that parishes would be more interested in sending their guardians to the Board meetings than hitherto, and that there would be a larger attendance than at present. Another apprehension was entertained in regard to labourers not quite able-bodied or strong, who were now employed by the parishes at a moderate rate of wages on the roads, &c., rather than 314 allow them to fall on the rates. It was feared that this class of labourers would be thrown out of work. He did not believe this would be the case, or that the guardians would be so extravagant as to have no regard for the purse of the union. The relief of the poor was so well understood, and had become so much a matter of routine, that things would go on under the new law very much as they did at present. He supported the Bill with great satisfaction, believing that it would be a great benefit to all, except those landlords and parishes which had for ages shirked their proper amount of help to the poor.
wished to know how this measure would affect the existing areas of unions—a subject which had not yet been alluded to. Many parishes had great reason to complain of the way in which they were annexed to particular unions; and although there was a power by law of detaching them and of annexing them to other unions, there were difficulties in the way of such a step for the majority bound the minority, and the authorities in London were usually unwilling to make a change. If the present Bill became law this difficulty would be very much enhanced, and it would be almost impossible for a parish, whatever reason it might have for complaint, to detach itself from the union. In the county of Angle-sea there were, for example, twenty or thirty parishes annexed to unions in the county of Carnarvon, because Anglesea was unwilling to build a union workhouse. He should certainly like to know whether the question of the areability of the unions was to be considered simultaneously with the passage of this Bill. He should be sorry to go so far as to vote for the rejection of this Bill, for Parliament had been travelling in the direction of union rating, and they could not pronounce that to be unjust which had been in practice for some years; but he still thought that those who advocated caution had some reason for what they said. Sums of 1s. and 1s. 6d. in the pound were talked of with a freedom which might make the Chancellor of the Exchequer lick his lips, and which was hardly consistent with the sensitiveness shown by Parliament when 1d. or 2d. in the pound of Income-tax was spoken of. He would point out a manifest evil which would in certain cases follow from the passing this measure. In the case of mineral property, under the operation of this Bill, a dreadful 315 accident occurring in a colliery by which large numbers of persons were rendered destitute might throw very onerous burdens upon a parish which had never derived the slightest advantage from their labour. He feared that very few instances of liberality could be looked for similar to that which occurred in the county of Glamorgan, where a large landed proprietor, and the Gentleman having the largest interest in the works, both Members of that House, took upon themselves the support of all the persons injured by a tremendous explosion in their district. The direct rejection of this Bill might be too strong a measure; but unless he heard something to shake his opinion, he felt inclined to vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire.
§ MR. JOHN TOLLEMACHE
said, he believed the House would act in a much fairer and more straightforward manner if it at once either passed or threw out the Bill. He did not think they required any further information upon the subject. On the contrary, he believed that they were already inundated with information. He felt persuaded that the present Bill was a natural consequence of the passing of the Act of 1846. After the passing of that Act it was perfectly clear that they were moving in the direction of union rating and union chargeability. Under the law as it had since existed, vast numbers of paupers were removed from the townships to which they belonged to adjoining townships, for the purpose of being converted into paupers chargeable on the common fund. There could be no doubt that the present measure would relieve heavily burdened townships at the expense of townships more happily circumstanced. That change would be felt to a great extent in the southern division of Cheshire, which he represented; but so satisfied was he that the Bill was essentially a just one, and that all property in a union ought to contribute to the support of the poor, according to its rateable value, that he should feel it his duty to vote for the second reading in spite of the unpopularity which he knew, from the letters he received, that step would bring down upon him in South Cheshire on the approach of a general election.
§ MR. SCULLY
said, that this Bill so far affected Ireland that if it became law in England a similar measure would have to be brought forward next Session for Ire- 316 land. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Northamptonshire (Lord Henley) that the Bill, instead of leading to any want of vigilance on the part of the guardians, would have an opposite effect; and his experience in Ireland led him to believe that uniform rating would tend greatly to the reduction of rates over the whole union, or electoral division as it was in Ireland. With exceptions such as the hon. Member for Cheshire (Mr. Tollemache) who had last spoken, it seemed to him that Members representing large counties opposed, while those representing boroughs supported, the Bill. His constituents had left him perfectly free to act in the matter as he thought best, and though his personal interests were bound up with the rural districts, he did not think that such considerations as were represented by a few thousands a year ought to stand in the way of adopting a general principle highly advantageous to the public at large. Several hon. Members had advocated the postponement of the measure on account of their want of information; but it was just those hon. Gentlemen who appeared to possess the most intimate knowledge of the subject. He would support the Bill, because he maintained that a man when thrown out of employment ought to receive support from the district to the benefit of which he had contributed his life of toil. It would be difficult to prove the justice of the old plan as between parish and parish in England; but in the case of Irishmen who had been working in England all their lives the principle was still more harsh and unjustifiable.
§ MR. PUGH
said, he would add another county Member to those who supported this Bill. Since it was read the first time he had ascertained that it was cordially approved by the guardians of the union, whose meetings he was accustomed to attend when he was in the country. It was their opinion, in which he concurred, that much time was consumed and even ill-feeling engendered, by disputes between parishes as to the proper settlement of paupers. These disputes would be terminated by this Bill, to the great advantage of the Board, and to the still greater advantage of the poor themselves; for a strong inducement to their removal in certain cases would be taken away. He himself was one of those who thought that the area of chargeability might be enlarged still further than was contemplated by this measure, and that the change would be 317 attended with great benefit to all classes, but more especially to the agricultural interest. That question, however, did not now arise; but he had much pleasure in supporting the Bill, not only on account of its own intrinsic merits, which were great, but because it was a step in the right direction. The measure would tend to remedy evils which were not the growth of yesterday, but of centuries gone by; it would promote good feeling between landlords and tenants, between masters and their workmen, and thus be generally conducive to the welfare of the poorer classes. He had no hesitation in saying that the union with which he was best acquainted would thank the right hon. Gentleman and the Government for the passing of this Bill. It was said by the first Napoleon, writing on the subject of the Poor Laws to the Minister of the Interior—It is melancholy to see time passing away without being put to its full value. Surely in a matter of this kind we should endeavour to do something, that we may say that we have lived, that we have not lived in vain, that we may leave some impress of ourselves on the sands of time.The words of the great were precepts for future ages. He admitted that in the administration of the Poor Laws this country was very far in advance of France—Nos primus equis Oriens afflavit anhelis,Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper:"—yet those words might be applicable to ourselves. If they had had information on this subject enough and to spare—if it were clear that this measure was a good one and fraught with great advantages to the community at large—if they were all agreed as to the object that they had in view, why should they temporize or hesitate when public expediency, public policy, and the interests of the poorer classes themselves imperatively required them to proceed?
§ MR. FLOYER,
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken (Mr. Pugh) had not gone into any details as to the effect of the measure which would induce him to take the same view as the hon. and learned Gentleman did. The hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Scully), following the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, said that the Bill would lead to more vigilance and less expenditure, and the right hon. Gentleman, in support of his view, referred to the example of the great metropolitan unions. That example rather alarmed him. He thought that if hon. Members would take 318 the trouble to examine the Reports and Returns which were to be found in the library, they would see that the metropolitan unions held a position which was not only very alarming, but which was also entirely distinct from that occupied by the country unions. In the latter it would be found that of the relief given to the poor about three-fourths, or even a larger proportion, was distributed to the poor out of the workhouses. In the case of the metropolitan unions, however, it would be found that two-thirds, or nearly that amount, was administered in the shape of in-door relief. This was a practice which he hoped would not be extended to the country unions. No one could help noticing that in the course of the debate it had been remarked by many hon. Members that the poor exhibited the strongest disinclination to going into the workhouses. He believed that that feeling was not confined to the country poor, but that it prevailed equally among the poor of the metropolis; and, if that were so, it was easy to understand how much suffering, how many broken ties, had been caused by the fact that the great bulk of relief given in the metropolis was given in the workhouse. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, in introducing the Bill, had put the question very fairly as resting mainly upon its effect upon the poor. Of course the other question of how it would affect the ratepayers could not be left entirely out of sight, but it was known that there was a reciprocity of interest; that what affected the poor affected indirectly the ratepayers, and vice versa. The right hon. Gentleman, in considering the question as it affected the poor, dwelt upon the great evils of removal upon the labouring classes. Upon that point he did not entirely disagree with the right hon. Gentleman, as in many cases removals were productive of much hardship. But that was not universally the case. In many instances removal was really an advantage to the poor. In the country there were what were called "good parishes," and if the right of removal was taken away the poor affected would consider that they had been deprived of an advantage, He would, however, concede that removal was generally an evil to the poor. But what was the case as to that question of removal? At the time of the passing of the original Poor Law Act, in 1834, the amount of expenditure for orders of removal and the carrying out of such 319 orders was £250,000 a year. Now, by the last Returns laid upon the table, it appear ed that the whole expenditure for removals over the whole kingdom was less than £20,000. And with what proportion of even that comparatively insignificant sum did this Bill propose to deal? Taking the number of orders of removal—the cost of which he had just mentioned—at about 6,000, the whole number of orders granted between parishes in union was only about 500. Therefore, this Bill would deal with only one-twelfth of that sum of £20,000. As regarded the interests of the poor, he could not admit that any great advantage would follow from altering the present law as it affected the question of settlement. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had told them that the present law operated prejudicially upon the labouring classes because it tended to prevent the free circulation of labour and to discourage the construction of cottages. Upon the question of cottage accommodation it was said that landlords would not build cottages because they feared that the occupants of cottages, if built, would become chargeable to the parish. But was that a fact? The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of residence as making a man chargeable upon the parish. Having had considerable experience in the administration of the Poor Law, he must say that he had never known that bare residence made a man chargeable upon a parish. Residence must be connected with property or renting; and as in the latter case the renting must refer to a house of at least £10 annual value, it was not often that a mere agricultural labourer obtained a settlement by that means. So, again, labourers did not usually possess sufficient property to give them a claim on settlement. How, then, would any labourers who might inhabit the new cottages which for argument's sake it might be assumed were built in a country place—how would such persons become chargeable upon the parish? It was well known to all cognizant with the subject that the ordinary cases of application for relief were sickness or old age and consequent inability to work. Suppose the ease of a labourer who had come to reside in one of the cottages he had just supposed to have been built by, according to some notions, the foolish landlord—but as he would rather think by the wise landlord—suppose such a man became ill and applied for relief. If it were a case of mere 320 temporary sickness, as in nineteen cases out of twenty it was, the relief according to recent legislation was charged upon the funds of the union, and thus there was no burden upon the parish. Again, in the case of old age—and of course it must be assumed that the proprietors of the cottages would not in the first instance select aged and infirm tenants; but if after a time a man occupying a cottage became disabled, and applied for relief, the charge would in that case also fall upon the union. Then he would ask what reason was there for landlords to abstain for building cottages? It could not be because the occupants of those cottages might become burdensome to the parish. Therefore, the notion of the law of settlement having any effect upon the building of cottages was nothing but a simple delusion—a remnant of old ideas, and not applicable to the present state of things. It was true that in former times, when it was competent to show that the person who claimed relief was settled elsewhere, there was a reason for not unnecessarily introducing labourers into a parish. But now the burden was the other way, and unless it could be shown that the applicant for relief actually belonged to the parish the charge of assisting him during a temporary sickness or in old age would, if he had not lived three years in the parish, devolve upon the union funds. The right hon. Gentleman also invited the House to agree to the second reading of the Bill on the ground that it would be carrying out the principle of the Poor Law Act of 1834, and completing the scheme then intended to be carried out, but which untoward circumstances had delayed. Let the House consider the wide difference between the circumstances of the year 1865 and those of the year 1834, when the original Poor Law Act was introduced. It would be no injustice to the authors of the law to say that their leading principle was that all relief should be given in the workhouse alone. But what was the case now? As he had stated, in the country unions, holding a distinct position from the metropolis, the great bulk of relief was given out of the workhouse. Another great principle of the founders of the Poor Law Act of 1834 was that a broad distinction should be drawn between the independent labourers and those in receipt of relief. But now a very large proportion of relief was given I to men who were partially disabled, to 321 persons who worked in summer but could not work in winter, to those who were able to work at one time but not at another. The consequence was, that while under the original system the management of the Poor Law could be safely intrusted, in a great measure at least, to the masters of workhouses and relieving officers, there now existed the very strongest necessity for careful personal local supervision. Unless there was that local knowledge which a guardian, who was generally one of the principal persons in the parish, could bring to bear, it was impossible the Poor Law could work effectively; much less could it work charitably; and it was because of the absence of a guardian who knew the poor, and who was conversant with their wants and circumstances, that there was a deficiency in one of the great means by which it could be ascertained when relief ought to be given, and when it ought to be withheld. That was the circumstance, then, to which he attributed the great distinction which prevailed between the working of the Poor Law in the country and in the metropolis. It was impossible for the guardians in the metropolis to know the circumstances of the poor who applied to them for relief, and the result was that they were obliged to have recourse to harsh and, in many instances, he was afraid, severe tests, in order to learn whether want really existed. Now, the tendency of the present Bill would, he thought, be to diminish that personal local supervision which the country had hitherto enjoyed. A guardian up to now had a particular interest in looking after his own poor; nor did he deny that he had an interest also in looking after the rates in his own parish—he was bound to do so in the interest of the ratepayers as well as in that of the poor. But if that inducement for his presence were taken away, he doubted whether Boards of Guardians would for the future be found to be composed of the best men. Should that turn out to be the consequence of the proposed alteration, it would, in his opinion, very seriously impair the good working of the law as it at present existed. He had, he might add, heard a great deal said of what had been done for the benefit of the poor; but he was not aware that any hon. Gentleman had dealt with the particular question—what the poor thought on the matter themselves. It would not, indeed, be becoming in him to stand up in that House and profess any special knowledge 322 of the feelings of the poor, but he could say—and in that statement he felt satisfied he would be borne out by those who attended the Boards of Guardians—that among those who applied to those Boards for relief, the first object was in many instances to know to what parish they belonged. There was in the case of several poor people a strong feeling upon that point, nor was he prepared to contend that in that respect they were wrong. If a poor man's parish were taken away from him, what did he get in return? The right to obtain relief from the union. But the union was the creation of the Legislature. "A breath hath made it and a breath might take it away." The only symbol of the union to the poor man was the workhouse. He deemed it something better to be able to look to his parish. There, at all events, the parish church stood as a sign of better things, with all its associations. If he were removed to his parish, he would be sent in all probability to that which was the place of his birth—his home—the place where those who were best acquainted with him resided; and some reason was thus, he thought, furnished why the House should pause before accepting the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Besides, he concurred with many hon. Gentlemen in thinking that the information possessed on the subject was in several respects insufficient; and, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself had betrayed his sense of that fact, because, while referring back to authorities of some twelve or fourteen years ago, which related only to the disadvantages and evils of the Poor Law, he had spoken in an earlier part of his speech of recent legislative alterations, which had, he said, been attended with success. But if those alterations had been successful, why, he should like to know, was the House now invited to change them? Was it not desirable that some further delay should take place before such a step was adopted? For his own part, believing that it had been shown that the poor had no great interest in the contemplated alterations, that they would be attended with no great benefit to them, and that the House was not entitled to make a great shifting of the burdens of taxation for the relief of the poor—under such circumstances he should have much pleasure in voting in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. THOMPSON
said, he was an ad- 323 vocate of the principle of union rating; but if this Bill were passed in its present shape it would occasion a large transfer of property; and before they proceeded further with it the House should be in possession of information showing the nature and extent of such transfer. In most changes of the law, the effect of the change has to be guessed at, but in this case Returns might easily have been prepared by the clerks to the Boards of Guardians, showing the exact amount of the burden which would be taken off one parish and laid upon others. As the Government had not laid such information before them, Members had been obliged to procure for themselves such information as they could. He had Returns before him from two unions in his own neighbourhood. The first was called the Great Oaseburn Union, in which there were forty-two townships. If this Bill were carried into effect, one of the parishes in this union would suffer an increase in the rating of 114 per cent, another of 145 per cent, a third of 160 per cent, and a fourth of 166 per cent. On the other hand, in one parish there would be a diminution of the rating to the extent of 1s. 1½d. in the pound, being a reduction of three-fifths of its present amount. This might not appear to involve a very important alteration; but, as the poor rate was now levied upon the actual value of property, 1d. in the pound of poor rate was upon real property, the same thing as 1d. in the pound of income tax. In the Knaresborough Union very much the same consequences would result from the adoption of this measure. In many cases there would be an increase of 6d., and in one a decrease of 7¾d. in the pound. Now suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his forthcoming budget were to propose to take off the whole of the 6d. income tax, that measure would be hailed with surprise and satisfaction. On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman proposed to add 6d. to the income tax in the time of peace and with an overflowing exchequer, his announcement would occasion a sensation of a very different character. But if the right hon. Gentleman were to propose to take sixpence in the pound off one man's property without receiving any consideration for so great a boon, and to add this sixpence to another property, the owners of which had done nothing to justify this increased burden, he (Mr. Thompson) would ask what chance such a measure would 324 have of passing through its very first stage? Yet this Bill would do even more than this, relieving property in one parish he had quoted to the extent of 13¾d. in the pound at the expense of the neighbouring parishes. The great change in the incidence of the poor rate which would be occasioned by this Bill would take place in the towns. The agricultural districts would not be greatly affected except that they would all have to share the burden thrown upon them by the reductions in the towns. It was well known that towns were rated higher than the country, which arose from the magnitude and variety of business carried on in the former, from the small shop-keeper to the large manufacturer who employed hundreds of hands. These hands when disabled by age or infirmity, were thrown on the rates, whilst the profits of the business which brought them together were not rateable, and, therefore, contributed nothing towards their support. If, then, this surplus taxation were to be transferred from the towns to the property in the country, he thought it would be better to go back at once to the ancient principle of every one contributing according to his ability, being that which was the foundation of the original Poor Law. Such a principle would be far more just and more statesmanlike than that recognized by the present Bill—namely, the principle of transferring the burden of the poor rates from the owners of real property in towns to the owners of real property in the country. Although more heavily taxed the value of real estate increased more rapidly in towns than it did in the county, and, therefore, being of a more elastic character, it was better able to bear the burden of supporting its own poor. And further, in the purchase of town property the large amount of the poor rates had been taken into consideration, so that the purchaser was not entitled to complain of them as though they were lately imposed. It was important in determining whether the Bill should be postponed or not until next Session to see what the effect of such postponement would be. One of the principal objects of the Bill was to relieve the poor man from the annoyances to which he was subjected by removal and the parishes from the expense incurred by them in litigation resulting from such removals, and recollecting that recent legislation had greatly diminished the number of such removals, and that this 325 Bill did not affect the removal of paupers from one union to another, he believed that the poor man would suffer little or no injury by the postponement of the present Bill to another Session. If the right hon. Gentleman were to introduce a Bill that would limit the term of residence that should render the poor irremovable, to, say twelve months, he (Mr. Thompson) would give it his cordial support; but it was so undesirable to be always legislating upon this subject, that he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would, in case of the Amendment being carried, withdraw his Bill for this Session. If the House were then furnished with Returns showing the effect of the late Act which shortened the term of industrial residence and also showing the exact nature of the changes which would be made throughout the country by the operation of the Bill, as well as those Returns of a very interesting nature to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, but of which the House was not yet in possession, hon. Members would be able, between this and next Session, to obtain such information upon the question as would enable them to approach it in the ensuing Parliament with a thorough knowledge of all its details. Among other matters which would require attention was the rectification of the union boundaries. The present unions were not constructed with the view of forming areas for raising large taxation, and before bringing in a Bill of this kind they should be reconsidered and rectified. Some of them had been originally Gilbert unions, and were both inconvenient and ill-shaped. The union in which he resided was shaped as much like a star-fish as anything else he could think of. A great deal had been said about close parishes, and they had frequently been made the subject of sensation speeches, but very few had ever seen them, if the description given of them in this debate was a true one—namely, that they drove the labourers miles from their work, and compelled them to herd together in the suburbs of towns, to the great injury both of their health and morals. All he could say was, that in the northern counties, with which he was connected, there was great difficulty in getting labourers, and so far from driving them away they wished to encourage them. He knew instances where labourers had declined good comfortable cottages close to their labour, because they preferred living in the village in order that 326 they might have the advantage of the shops and the help one neighbour gives to another. As chairman of the North Eastern Railway, he had had a Return made of all the cottages occupied by the labourers of the company in Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire, in order to ascertain the real state they were in, together with the number of rooms in each House, and the number of lodgers, if any, in each house. The company owned from 1,100 to 1,200 cottages, almost all of which had two or three good sleeping-rooms; and much to his annoyance he found that in some cases the father, mother, and two or three children slept in the sitting-room down stairs from choice rather than occupy the comfortable bedrooms upstairs; and so far from these houses being crowded, very few of them had lodgers. Therefore, it seemed to him, the allegation that labourers were driven to herd together in towns at a distance from their work was unsupported by facts, although exceptional cases of the kind might occur. Would not the stream of labourers leaving the towns in the morning and returning to them in the evening attract attention, if the statement were true that while they worked in the country they lived in the towns? But who ever saw such a thing, except in the case of a few Irish labourers engaged in harvesting or in hop picking? In conclusion he again expressed a hope that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Villiers) would withdraw for this Session the measure he had introduced and would give them the Returns he had asked for.
said, having had occasion to address the House in the early part of the last Session on moving for leave to bring in a Bill of a similar purport to that now before them, and having been induced to withdraw that Bill on the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board that the subject would shortly be brought under the consideration of the Government, he wished to express how much he was gratified at the prompt manner in which this assurance had been carried out, and how ardently he hoped that the Bill now before them would pass successfully through the different stages of Parliamentary inquiry. After the able and clear exposition of the evils attending on parochial rating given by the right hon. President it would be presumptuous of him to occupy much of the time of the House by making any 327 statement of his own. As he stated last year, twenty years ago he filled the office of Chairman of the Board of Guardians of the Aylesbury Union, of forty parishes, which were entirely agricultural, and during the time he held that office he had the means of ascertaining and convincing himself of the very many evils which attended the existing system of parochial rating. Some of those evils had been since removed, but the most mischievous of them still remained, which was the main cause of the depopulation of many agricultural villages, and greatly aggravated the hardships endured by the agricultural labourer, Out of the forty-two parishes comprised in the Aylesbury Union he selected four of the exclusive kind, containing in the aggregate nearly 5,000 of the best acres in the county. These parishes in 1851 contained a population of 163, but in 1861 it had decreased to 126, being at the rate of about 25 per cent in ten years; but the aggregate population of the union had in that period increased 2 per cent; so the decrease was not owing to any emigration from the district. Now the only way to cure the evil was the adoption of union chargeability. Now practical farmers had assured him that to cultivate good land properly it required three able-bodied men to every 100 acres, and one able-bodied man in a population of five had always been considered a good average. It would, therefore, require nearly 150 men to cultivate the lands of those four parishes; but the whole population being only 126, they could only furnish twenty-five, and above 100 must be sought for in other parishes. The cause of that state of things was notoriously the desire of parishes to shift the burden of supporting the sick and infirm from their own shoulders. But the effect was to produce both physical and moral degradation among the labouring classes. There were some gentlemen who supposed that union rating must be attended with a diminution of the value of the land in exclusive parishes; but, from having paid great attention to the subject, he was fully convinced that such would not be the case. They all knew that the great burden of the rates was produced by the necessity of supporting the sick and infirm, and any system that was calculated to diminish the number of that unhappy class of persons must in proportion diminish the amount of rate to be raised. On this point he would read an extract of a letter from Mr. Ceely, a 328 medical gentleman of great eminence residing in the town of Aylesbury—In the course of more than forty years' professional observation I have very often had to deplore the effects of the additional toil imposed upon agricultural labourers who have to travel two, three, and four miles night and morning to and from the seat of their employment. I have witnessed many cases of severe and protracted illness, premature infirmity, and even death induced by this cause. There can be no doubt but that a labourer's services are more valuable and his health better preserved when he resides within the precincts of his labour. I should advocate union rating on this very ground.He had been in communication with many farmers occupying lands in those exclusive parishes, and they all deplored the inconvenience that they were subjected to from their labourers living in distant parishes. The habit of early marriages was so prevalent with the poor that it was almost impossible for them to have any but boys and very young lads residing in their houses to act as labourers, and very few of these were to be trusted in looking after cattle and the other necessary duties of a farm. It was notorious that the cultivation of land in those parishes was far inferior to that of other parishes, especially in draining and fencing. But a right hon. Gentleman gave it as his opinion, when the Bill was first presented to the House, that it would cause an increased demolition of cottages. On what grounds the right hon. Gentleman had founded his opinion he was at a loss to conceive. From his own observation, and the opinions of all the practical men to whom he had spoken, he had arrived at a directly opposite conclusion, and he had presented a petition from Aylesbury, signed by every member of the Board of Guardians assembled on a particular day, in favour of the Bill. He had been assured by many farmers that if some general measure of union rating became law they would willingly assist their landlords in building cottages by digging stone and carting materials, whereby half the cost might be diminished. Those farmers were of opinion that any slight increase of their rates would be amply compensated for by the advantages attendant on this measure. One of the evils that had grown out of the present system was the existence of a class of low speculative builders, who boasted that in building tenements for the poor, they could in ten or twelve years reimburse themselves both the principal and interest of their outlay. This could only 329 be done by screwing enormous rents out of the labouring poor, who with diminished wages, arising from their inability of giving a full day's labour to their employers, were obliged to submit to the extortion. He must remind those hon. Gentlemen who desired a great extension of the elective franchise that the bettering the condition of the labouring classes was essential to the success of their measure, for it would be unsafe to intrust men with the elective franchise who were treated as outcasts to be driven from the parishes where their families had resided at the first convenient opportunity. It was a very agreeable thing for a gentleman to have on his property a pretty and pleasant village in which here were no poor people—it was a sentimental thing to take ladies to view such a charming sight; but we must not forget the 15,000 parishes of England, in so many of which there was no resident proprietor. He hoped this Bill would become law, for he was convinced that it was one which must tend to better the condition of the labourer.
§ SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
said, he was glad one hon. Member of the House had been found beside the right hon. Gentleman himself, who was entirely in favour of the Bill, for the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was the only speaker in the debates who had not made objections to the proposal of his right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board. It was of much service that great social questions, like the present, should be discussed in the tone and temper which had been shown on the present occasion. He regretted he could not agree to the Bill which had been laid on the table. There were two aspects in which the measure had to be viewed—first, whether it would be to the financial advantage of the ratepayers of the country, and next, what was of paramount importance—whether it would be for the benefit of the poor. A good deal had been said about the residences and habits of the agricultural poor, and the question whether the poor were decently located, had been frequently discussed in that House. The right hon. Gentleman took power in the Bill—a proposal in which he (Sir John Trollope) agreed—to prevent the removal of the poor from one parish to another in the same union. But in all well-managed unions this had been hitherto practically the case. In the union in which he (Sir John Trollope) lived he could not call to mind a single removal 330 under the order of the justices—and for this reason, that if poor became chargeable to a union a communication was made to the officials of the union to which he legally belonged, and the latter accepted such if there was a valid reason for the removal. With regard to the law of settlement it would be better, instead of this sweeping measure, if the right hon. Gentleman would take power to abolish the law of settlement and the power of removal altogether, and let the poor man and his family be chargeable wherever he was found in a state of destitution. If that were done a most painful process would at once be got rid of. But this Bill would disturb the relations of property, and introduce contentions between town and country. The hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Staniland) had presented a petition in favour of this measure from his constituents. But by was that? Simply because it would give them a boon of £2,000 in remission of poor rate. But he himself (Sir John Trollope) had presented petitions from the rural parishes of the Boston Union in entirely the opposite sense, simply on he ground that that £2,000 would be cast upon them. They took an entirely financial ground, and discussed the question, not as it affected the poor, but as it affected themselves. If this measure were passed into law, the President of the Poor Law Board would have to undertake what had just been hinted at by the Member for Whitby (Mr. Thompson), a revision of the whole boundaries of Poor Law Unions, which, like parochial boundaries, might be said to be altogether arbitrary. That was another reason why this Bill should be deferred for another year. The question opened out such a vista of difficulties that it really would be advisable for the Government to withdraw the measure, and allow it to be discussed in another Session. It was often said that a great reason for extending rating to unions was that better residences for the poor would then be provided. The hon. Member who spoke last said that gentlemen often built fancy cottages, and pretty dairies, which they took the ladies who visited them round to see; but for many years it had been the practice on all well-managed estates to build good substantial cottages. The late Dukes of Bedford and Northumberland ad built cottages—not show places, but good substantial residences for their labourers—not by dozens or scores, but by hundreds; and their example had been largely followed. But 331 unfortunately, many properties were held by people who were not in a condition to do this—some were in the hands of minors, some of trustees, and some were in Chancery, where cottages were more likely to be pulled down than built. An hon. and learned Friend on his right (Mr. Malins) seemed to dissent from that, but he was afraid it was only too capable of proof. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that a Report would soon be before them as to the miserable condition of the cottages of the agricultural population, which would perfectly appal them. In his experience, he certainly had never heard a Minister of State, in the right hon. Gentleman's position, quote a Report which had never been published. The right hon. Gentleman said it was on the table. Well, he could not see it, nor did he think any one was in a condition to have read it, not having been printed or distributed to Members. But had a similar inquiry been instituted as to the condition of the dwellings of artificers and labouring men in large towns? However limited might be the accommodation of the cottages of the agricultural poor, they were far exceeded in squalor, dirt, and misery, by the dwellings of the poor in the great cities, where storey upon storey, whole families lived, slept, and cooked in the same room. He ventured to say that such were the habits of cleanliness and decency among the agricultural poor that nobody need fear entering their dwellings from a dread of filth or contamination. Speaking for himself, he had never pulled down a ruinous cottage without building two in its stead, and he believed that was the practice largely. He had everywhere seen springing up new cottages, not such as were run up of flimsy materials, by speculators, and let at a high rent, but built by landowners who deemed it their duty to see their labourers properly housed. This could not be done by legislation, it must be left to the right feeling of those who were connected with these classes. The hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Staniland) was for going into the first principles of rating; and no doubt wealth flowed now in very many more and different channels than in the reign of Elizabeth. There were not then the mining interests which were exempt from poor rates; there was not that great bulk of personal property which was now exempt; nor was there the commercial and manufacturing wealth of which England was so proud. That was not taxed for the relief of the poor, 332 but only the warehouse in which it was stored. The moment the manufacture became unprofitable the key was turned in the door, and the landowners were taxed to support the poor who were thus turned from work. The hon. Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight) would include them all in his net, and would place a large proportion of the charge for the poor on the Consolidated Fund. He (Sir John Trollope) would object, however, quite as much as the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this, because then all control over the expenditure would be lost. As to the question whether this Bill ought to be taken without further inquiry, he had not only presented petitions, but he had received many more letters from persons asking to have the Bill adjourned, that they might consider it, and make up their minds whether they should petition or not. Then there was the grave question to be considered, if the right hon. Gentleman threw the rate upon whole unions, where would he stop? The right hon. Gentleman told them of the effect which this Bill would have on the City of London—on the ninety parishes of the City, where all the warehouses and palaces were, and where nobody dwelt—why should he not include the whole metropolis? No doubt many of the poor parishes would not be at all sorry to be thus joined on to the rich. To throw the burden on the Consolidated Fund would take the control of the relief of the poor out of the hands of those who administer it gratuitously, and place it in the bands of paid officials, and open the way to all kinds of jobbery. But if the question was to be enlarged as regarded country unions, why not apply the principle on a larger scale? Then it would not become a question of a double or treble income tax; but perhaps, after all, it would approach far nearer to a measure of justice than the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. NEATE
said, there were numerous cases in which injustice was wrought which the present Bill would cure without introducing any injustice to other classes. One point where the injustice existed was when those who had given their labour to fertilize the land in one parish were sent to encumber the rates of others; and if there was a transfer of liability effected by this Bill it was a just transfer, which gave to those who suffered from it no right for a moment to stop the progress of this measure, for the law of this country did not sanction the existence of a right which 333 grew out of a wrong. There was a precedent for this Bill in the legislation of 1846, when a great transfer of burdens took place. That transfer, as effected by the 9 & 10 Vict., was for the benefit of the country at the expense of the town. It increased very largely the burdens of the manufacturing towns; but nothing was heard then about the injustice of this transfer of burdens. On the contrary, Sir George Lewis admitted that it was a transfer, and no objection was taken to it on that ground; and the same view was adopted, and its justice shown by Mr. Pashley in his book on the Poor Law. In the present case it was not right that the burden of supporting the poor should be thrown upon parishes where they did not work, but happened to reside. No doubt, some injustice would arise if an agricultural parish were tacked on to a town parish. But this difficulty—which might probably be got over—should not deter the House from adopting a reform in the interest of the labourers—in all legislation of this kind there would be cases of individual hardship, but there would be great benefit to the whole class. It was probable that the measure might lead for a time to a considerable increase of paupers. No doubt, the parochial system put a pressure upon owners of property to give employment to labourers in order to avoid the necessity of supporting them out of the rates. He thought, however, that a measure which was clearly for the benefit of the most industrious and competent labourers must be for the benefit of the whole class, and for those and other reasons he should give the second reading of the Bill his most hearty concurrence.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
I hold in my hand a letter that in itself gives sufficient ground for the postponement of this Bill. I do not in any way ask for further information, but on the information we have, there is a necessity for certain preliminary steps before the Bill is allowed to pass. I do not oppose the Bill on the ground that has been alleged—of injustice to certain parishes. I believe there is a certain amount of injustice of a temporary and partial character, but I believe that no great measure of this kind can be passed without temporary and partial injustice. Acknowledging that injustice fully, I weigh against it the great benefit to the poor and the public, which I conceive to be contained in the measure. But in order to bring in a Bill of this kind, which, 334 after all, does not press for immediate passing, there is no need to create more injustice than must necessarily attach to it. I have here a letter from the guardians of three rural parishes seven miles from Birmingham, united with Aston, which is half Birmingham, in one union. The result of the Bill in this case would be, without some preliminary arrangement, that the town would swamp the rural parishes, and there would be an equalization of the rate on a most unequal area. There would in this case not only be the injustice of the town burdens being spread over the union, but also the injustice of the exemption for stock-in-trade lightening the common burden in the quarter to which it specially belonged, but there would also be the further advantage to the town of the exemption from rating of iron mines. This is no solitary case, but there are many where a preliminary adjustment of the boundaries of unions should take place before the Bill could pass. There is another question—whether we should not, before so legislating, consider the exemptions themselves, and whether they cannot be amended or abolished. I see another disadvantage in the Bill as it is proposed to be applied to unions of town and country parishes. The extension of the area of rating will lead the guardians of individual parishes to be negligent, and leave the matter in the hands of the most active representatives of the union, and the guardians of the towns, in the cases I have referred to, will probably have almost the whole management of the unions in their hands, and will use it to the advantage of the town parishes. On these grounds I feel, allowing the advantages of the Bill, I may fairly vote with those who seek its postponement. I do not deny that the present law frequently drives the poor of the agricultural districts to live in the towns at a distance from their work, and quite as much drives the workers in the towns to reside in the rural districts. I know such is the case in Staffordshire and Warwickshire; in these cases the Bill would be an advantage, and would give the labourer greater freedom to reside near his work, or where he pleased. I only ask a postponement of the Bill, not opposing it; and without agreeing with the views of the Mover of the Amendment for the reasons I have stated, I feel the Bill ought not to pass until the boundaries of unions, and special exemptions, have been properly adjusted.
§ MR. WARNER
said, he was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Trollope), the ex-President of the Poor Law Board, express himself so strongly in favour of the abolition of the Law of Settlement, and he entirely agreed with that right hon. Gentleman; but he could not understand how the hon. Baronet justified his own proposition that the Bill would unsettle the rights of property. It seemed now to be well understood, after the discussion which had taken place, that the reason of the opposition to the Bill was not the want of information, but the desire to maintain the parochial system in the relief of the poor. Now, he believed that it had been proved by overwhelming evidence that the parochial system was inadequate for the relief of the poor with justice to the ratepayer, and that some change was necessary. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Floyer) had with remarkable candour admitted that his opposition to the Bill was founded upon prejudice; and he told the House that while he was not prepared to speak positively of the feelings of the poor on this subject, he believed the poor man would prefer the security of the smaller and poorer area to that of the larger and wealthier, for the reason that the parish church was a more agreeable object to the eye than the union workhouse. There were in truth only two possible grounds on which the present parochial system could be defended—namely, the sentimental one taken up by the hon. Member for Dorset shire, and the other was that of vested rights. But there was no foundation for the doctrine of vested rights as applied to the case of one parish being more lightly rated than another. Parliament had never recognized any such rights, and had never scrupled to interfere with peculiarities of that kind. The Act of 1846 was a great interference, by which a tax of £5,000 a year was laid upon Norwich, the city he represented. On another occasion Norwich, which was a union of itself, came before Parliament for an alteration of its Act; and when it was found that one part of the city had been exempted from poor rates, Parliament did not scruple to alter that arrangement. It was not considered a vested right. Parliament had never refused to set aside these so-called vested rights when called on to do so by the general interests of the country. The parochial system had always been oppressive to the poor man; it had been 336 proved over and over again to obstruct his freedom in going about to get work; and it had prevented proper cottage accommodation being provided. It was equally burdensome to the ratepayers, taxing one district higher than another, and being full of anomalies. This Bill was a step in the right direction, well following up the important measure of two or three years ago, and he hoped that Parliament would pass it, and at the same time express an opinion in favour of a more extensive change, he would not say to the extent of national rating, but to county rating, which was not too large.
§ SIR WILLIAM MILES
rose to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, if, after the debate they had heard, he intended to press the Bill to a second reading? He would also ask the right hon. Gentleman, was he (Mr. C. P. Villiers) not originally, before the New Poor Law passed, one of the Commission of Inquiry? And had he not on every occasion since he had been in Parliament done everything he could to promote the principles of that Poor Law? And was not that Poor Law passed by a species of compromise? Did the House carry out all that the Commission of Inquiry recommended? He (Sir William Miles) believed that the Commissioners were one and all for a system of union rating; but how long a time elapsed after the passing of that Poor Law Act before they had the first Irremovability Bill? How long a time elapsed before any progress was made towards union rating? The right hon. Gentleman had given one instance, in which he said union rating had been carried out successfully; and that no doubt was true, but there were special reasons for that success. But what he and the country wanted to know was whether the House was to be called upon to affirm the principle of this Bill which totally altered every incidence of rating, which put on country parishes the burden of the towns, and that too upon the imperfect information they had before them? He had called on the right hon. Gentleman for certain information, and had proved to him how easily it could be obtained; but not a single atom, except to prove his own ease, of that information, had the right hon. Gentleman laid on the table. It might be said that it should have been moved for; but they were convinced they should get what they required in ample time, and no doubt would have done so had not the second reading been 337 pressed with indecent haste; and, under these circumstances, if hon. Members did their duty to their constituents the Government would never dare to press such a measure as that they had now produced. The right hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had given a startling instance in the ease of Birmingham, in which injustice was done to rural parishes by having thrown upon them a mass of town pauperism; and he (Sir William Miles) could furnish similar cases in Somersetshire and Gloucestershire. He had always been a supporter of the present Poor Law, and he believed that when it passed in 1834 it almost saved the country from a servile rebellion. But there were many difficulties in the way of its being made a perfect measure; there were corporations for the relief of the poor; there were Gilbert Unions, in different parts of the country; and there was the greatest difficulty in arranging the parishes in proper groups for unions. It happened that the Poor Law Inspector sent down into Gloucestershire and Somersetshire to arrange the unions consulted him (Sir William Miles) as to what should be done with the parishes contiguous to the city of Bristol. The city, incorporated in the time of Charles II. for the relief of the Poor, now contained about 65,000 inhabitants, whereas the borough of Bristol contained 165,000; so that this small incorporation had pushed out all its paupers into parishes outside its boundaries. As Parliament had not done away with these incorporations, it was necessary to decide where the parishes contiguous to the Bristol corporation should be placed, and they were placed with the different agricultural parishes adjoining in Somersetshire and Gloucestershire. There was one parish on the Somersetshire side which, with a population of 21,000, was attached to 27 agricultural parishes, this parish of Bedminster paid at present one-half of the Poor Law charges; but under the present Bill it would pay only one-third, and the difference would fall upon the agricultural parishes. On the Gloucestershire side there was the Clifton Union, with 93,000 inhabitants, including a number of suburban parishes. By some Returns which he had obtained he found that, by the present Bill, the payment of half the pauperized district of St. Phillip's would be thrown upon the rural parishes. Was that fair? He would ask the right hon. President of the Poor Law Board if he 338 had lately looked at the Resolution passed unanimously in the Committee of 1847, of which they both (Sir William Miles and Mr. Villiers) were Members, presided over by the lamented Charles Buller, then first Commissioner of the Poor Law Board? The Committee went very fully into the evidence as to removals and settlement; and with regard to those rural parishes which were combined in so extraordinary a manner with the urban parishes, their unanimous conclusion was as follows:—That with a view to render the working of union rating more just and equal, it would be desirable to facilitate in certain eases the alteration of the limits of existing unions in England and Wales.He must repeat his wish that the right hon. Gentleman, in bringing forward the present measure, had given them the information they required, and at the same time had been prepared to make the alterations necessary before such a measure as that now under discussion could hope for success. He was about to abolish the Gilbert Unions, but he feared to touch the incorporations for relief of the poor, because that would bring him in contact with the metropolis. Why not proceed on a sound and fair basis, doing away with the Gilbert Unions and the incorporations for the relief of the poor, and, having reconstituted the unions as they should be, then go on to the consideration of union settlement? This was neither a rich man's question, nor an urban, nor a rural question; but the great point was—what was best for the interest of the poor man? He agreed with the hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) that if they wanted to benefit the poor man they should do away with settlement and removal, and nothing would give him more real satisfaction than to see them relieved from the dependent misery which sprung from these laws.
§ MR. WALTER
said, he did not intend to occupy much of the attention of the House, but he wished to vindicate his right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board from the charge of indecency which had been brought against him by an hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to the hasty manner in which the second reading of that Bill was being proceeded with. If there was any subject which could be said more than another to have been before the country long enough to be thoroughly understood by all who 339 were interested in it, it was this very question of union rating. He believed there was not a farmer in the country—certainly not in the county which he had the honour to represent—who had not already formed his opinions on the subject; and he was bound to say, to the credit of his own constituents, that it was not on the part of the farmers that he had generally found any objections raised to the measure. He must also notice an observation made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire (Sir John Trollope) who had expressed some surprise that so few speeches had been delivered in favour of that Bill. Surely it was very natural that this should be the case, because the Bill was one of so simple and so logical a nature in itself that he thought the onus probandi certainly lay upon those who objected to it. The measure was founded on very simple, very logical, and, he might almost say, unanswerable premisses. Its principle was, that the area of rating should coincide with the area of management. He supposed there was not a Member of that House who would dispute the converse of that proposition—namely, that the area of management should coincide with the area of rating. He would suppose that a certain area of rating was laid down, whether in the case of a county or any other territorial division. Surely no one would contend that the area of management ought to be of a different character, be it larger or smaller, than that of the area of rating; and, therefore, he thought that the onus probandi rested upon those who held that the area of rating should not be coincident with the area of management. He had always been in the habit of looking with some jealousy on the proceedings of Boards of Guardians. He seldom went near them, and he did not like them; and that on account of this very defect in the existing law, which the Bill proposed to remove, because they had the management of an area to which they did not in their capacity as managers contribute in an equal proportion. It appeared to him that a Board of Guardians was the nearest possible approach which the laws of this country permitted to the principle of Federal union adopted in the United States. It was a sort of mixed system which was never found in the long run to answer. A Board of Guardians met to administer two distinct descriptions of funds; the one the common fund, to which they all 340 contributed in common; the other a separate set of funds, contributed by the different parishes. In fact, it was very much like a pic-nic, in which everybody put his finger in his neighbour's pie, whether the one which he brought himself was a good or a bad one. He remembered on one occasion being anxious as a magistrate to obtain a small modicum of relief for a poor old woman in his own parish, but the whole posse of guardians came down and denied her that relief; and he was obliged to use his authority as a magistrate, in conjunction with one of his Colleagues, in order to obtain it for her. That was the way in which he had observed Boards of Guardians act; and he was, therefore, anxious, if they were to have the union system, that the area of rating should be made to coincide with the area of management. He believed that all the objections which had been taken to that Bill resolved themselves into two classes, the one consisting of objections which concerned the ratepayers, and the other of objections which concerned the poor. As regarded the ratepayers the only objection worth of notice was that which related to the redistribution of taxation. It was impossible to deny that in any case where taxation was to be redistributed some instances of hardship and apparent injustice must occur. But any hardship which might be occasioned under the present Bill was as nothing compared with what must happen in any national financial change whatever. There had been a vast redistribution of taxation of late years, and many persons had been compelled to contribute in a much larger proportion than before. What, then, was this trifle of £2,500,000 compared with the vast sums involved in the changes which had been made in the proportion between our direct and indirect taxation? But, as his hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire (Sir William Miles) had said just now, this was not so much an urban or rural question as a poor man's question. And now just one word upon the bearing which it had on the interest, not of the ratepayer, but of the poor man. The whole question of the area of rating was intimately mixed up with the question of settlement. His hon. Friend was for abolishing settlement altogether. He (Mr. Walter) did not believe either in the possibility or expediency of such a plan. He did not believe that 341 settlement could be abolished without having recourse to the most desperate of all remedies—a national rate. For what was the whole theory of settlement founded upon? Was it not that a man's title to relief within a particular area should depend upon the locality in which he worked? Was not that the foundation of the whole? Why, then, should a settlement be unional rather than parochial? For this reason—that parishes, being so unequal in size and so different in circumstances, did not afford the poor man that protection which he ought to have unless his right to relief was to depend upon his place of work, and not his residence. Hon. Gentlemen all knew that the present law must operate as a premium for driving people from their place of work and compelling them to reside in distant parishes. That was the natural operation of the law. He did not think it was greatly abused at the present day. He could himself bear witness to the great growth of cottages in many places, and he believed that country gentlemen were becoming much more strongly alive than they had been before to the importance, not only to the poor man, but to themselves, of having good cottages upon their estates, and having their labourers as close at hand as possible. But there was no doubt that the natural tendency of the law, as it at present stood, was to offer a premium for obtaining work, not from one's own, but from some other parish in which the poor man might reside, and that was a great argument for an alteration of the law. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Floyer) had stated that since the Act of 1861 there was no longer the same inducement to landlords to pull down cottages which there had been before, because the mere fact of a poor man's residing in a cottage did not enable him to acquire a settlement. But the hon. Gentleman forgot to mention that, though the labouring man who lived in a cottage of less than £10 could not himself acquire a settlement, any children born to him might; and, therefore, the same motive existed for preventing him from obtaining a residence in the parish as before. As the House was anxious to come to a division he would not detain them by any further remarks. He would merely say that he should certainly give his hearty support to the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he was 342 quite ready to admit the great advantages which would result in an administrative point of view from the adoption of a larger area of rating than the present one. It would be a step in the direction of centralization, and, as the Poor Law system was founded upon that principle, great advantages from simplicity and facility of management would obviously be the result. But such advantages might be too dearly purchased, and as they were not at all aware of the price which they would have to pay, he should on that ground alone support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire. He would indeed go a step further, and say that he should vote for the Amendment not only on account of insufficient information, but because the attention of the country had not been called to the magnitude of the change proposed. It had been truly said that the country was well informed on the subject of union rating; but they were not well informed concerning the particular subject before the House, and there were two reasons for the general ignorance and apathy which prevailed on the subject; the one was the title which the right hon. Gentleman had given to the Bill, and the other the nature of the speech by which it had been introduced. If it had been called a Bill for the abolition of the parochial system and for the substitution of union rating, the country would have been greatly alarmed; but when the right hon. Gentleman called it the Union Chargeability Bill, the nature of the proposed enactment was not understood. Upon the introduction of the measure the right hon. Gentleman entered into a long statement of the evils of the law of removal and settlement. But this Bill would do nothing to relieve the poor man from those evils. It was perfectly true that removal from one parish to another within the same union was even now almost obsolete; but did the right hon. Gentleman propose to abolish the power of removing a man from one union to another? So far from it, that there were two clauses in the Bill for rendering a man liable to be punished as a rogue and vagabond if he returned to a union from which he had been removed. A union rating would no doubt go far to remedy the evils of close parishes. That he was willing to admit. But in the unions of the county which he had the honour to represent (Hampshire) it was not the fact that the towns would in all oases be re- 343 lieved at the expense of the country parishes. On the contrary, there were two remarkable instances in which the towns would have to pay a larger sum than at present, and, therefore, he was not willing to argue this question as one of pounds, shillings, and pence between town and country. The union in the county of Norfolk which had been referred to as showing the advantage of a number of parishes being absorbed into one union did not apply, inasmuch as that was a union which though consisting of eighty-six parishes contained only 17,000 inhabitants altogether, the population of the largest parish being 1,625, and any variation in their rating that might have existed previously to the formation of the union was exceedingly small. The abolition of the old law of parochial settlement was a very serious question, and ought not to be entertained by that House, unless the whole country was aware of what was going on. He should, therefore, support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet.
§ SIR ROBERT CLIFTON,
who rose amid loud calls for a division, said he would not give any factious opposition to the Motion, but having looked carefully over the Bill he did not exactly understand its operation. There was one point which had not been mooted, and it was this—if a sum of money had been left in charity for the relief of the poor of any parish, how would the trustees be enabled to use that money in paying the rates as now proposed? It might be said that the trustees of the charity would have only to apply for powers to the Charity Commissioners. But he thought the trustees would be very unwilling to go either to the Court of Chancery or the Charity Commissioners. Some clause should be introduced giving the trustees powers to dispense this money, which had been entrusted to them by the patriotism of some members of the parish.
said, with reference to the complaint of the want of information, that the President of the Poor Law Board had stated that the House had all the information they could have if they waited. Now, he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman had been quite candid with the House in this matter. He quoted, he said, the Return of 1861. The House would recollect these were the words of the right hon. Gentleman; but the right hon. Gentleman knew as well 344 as he did that that Return only contained information up to Lady-day, 1856. Now, was that fair dealing on the part of a Minister? What had happened since? All the great bearing of the Union charge and the irremovable charge had occured since. Had he quoted from that Return, the right hon. Gentleman would, no doubt, have got up and asked what was the use quoting from a statement of nine years ago. But the right hon. Gentleman would not give any information at all. He said they might go and count it up in the library; but the right hon. Gentleman had all the information in his Office. [Mr. VILLIERS intimated dissent.] He shook his head. If not, if the right hon. Gentleman had not got it in his office, how could they have it in their library? He took the liberty of saying that he believed the right hon. Gentleman in his office had the information of what all the parishes were rated at two years ago and the expenses of each parish last year; it would, therefore, have been easy to calculate the result, which was the information desired; but it did not answer his purpose that the House should have that information. The question had been argued on three grounds—on what was called the completion of the Poor Law system, and to remedy its deficiencies; on the question of benefit to the poor; and the third was on the question of shifting burdens. He would take the last of these first. Every hon. Member who had spoken in favour of the Bill placed the question of shifting the burdens on the grounds of justice. They all said it was just to equalize the burden. Some hon. Members who used that argument had been open and candid with the House, and said it was a step in the direction of a universal charge and a national rating. But he would call the attention of those who had not gone that length to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board. He said a few years ago to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, "you say that an Irremovable Bill would be sure to lead to an union rating—take that step and it will lead to a national rating." On the same principle, now, might it not be said that this Bill would lead to a national rating? The hon. Member for the city of Oxford (Mr Neate) talked a great deal of equalizing burdens, and said there could be no right founded on a wrong—no length of time would sanction an inequality of this kind. But did not 345 that apply to all other descriptions of property after the lapse of a certain number of years? The land tax when it was made permanent some seventy or eighty years ago was supposed to be equal upon all land, that was no longer the case. Why, upon the hon. Gentleman's principle should not the land tax be equalized again? Why, then, was Lancashire to pay only a halfpenny in the pound, and Oxford 1s.? Where was the justice of that? If they were to begin equalizing, why not equalize that as well as other burdens? Then as to the shifting of burdens, no doubt all those questions were questions of degree. Statements were made in that House, perfectly true, no doubt, in the belief of those who made them, but they had no opportunity of testing them. What did the noble Lord the Member for Northampton (Lord Henley) say? He said there were three parishes the valuation of which was about £8,000 a year, and the additional burden on them would be £400 a year. Now, an additional burden of £400 a year was equivalent to a capital sum of £12,000. That was the extent of the penalty imposed on those parishes. Then the noble Lord said if they put that fine of £12,000 on those parishes, if they impoverished them by lessening the value of their property by the amount of that fine, the inhabitants would immediately set to and build cottages. And—still more extraordinary—the noble Lord added, the larger inhabited parishes, being relieved of the rates to that extent, would also be tempted to build more cottages; there would be an absolute superfluity of cottages, and they would get no rent for them. That struck him as a very curious argument. He had looked a little into his own union. He took it on what the right hon. Gentleman said was a sufficient return, and he, at least, was bound by it. He should have told the House, but for the language of the right hon. Gentleman, that the return was that of 1856, and he could not tell what changes had taken place since, but the right hon. Gentleman said they wanted nothing more. There were ten parishes taken out of the union in which he lived; five of them were small, and five large. The gain in rating the five large parishes would be £1,400 a year; capitalized, that would be £43,000. The loss in the small parishes would be £600, which represented a capital of £19,000. That was a very serious shifting of burdens. He did not pretend to 346 say that would be the case now; but that was what the right hon. Gentleman told them they ought to rely on. It so happened that the right hon. Gentleman spoke a good deal about Reports. Among others he quoted Mr. Pigott's Report. One of these parishes, Sydenham, happened to be quoted by Mr. Pigott as a close parish. It was one which would gain very much—as much as any—by this shifting of burdens. Much had been said of the cock-and-bull story of pulling down houses. He believed such statements were utterly unfounded. If they could thoroughly test them he believed none of them would hold water. The fact was that all the rural parishes were breeding parishes, and their population was increasing. On the other hand, such places as Liverpool did not breed, and if it were not for the influx of fresh blood from the country in a given number of years the population would come to an end, like the New Zealanders; it would either die out or work itself out. The rural parishes, on the contrary, retained the same number of people that they had always had. They did not want more, and in fact as the tendency of improvements in agriculture was to enable them to cultivate the land with less labour, if the parishes kept the same number as formerly they had as many as they wanted. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted a return of Mr. Pigott's who made some strong observations on the inconveniences of settlement, in which he (Mr. Henley) quite agreed. He said that in these close parishes there was about one person to five acres of land. But the land could not in such a case be said to be very much stripped of the labouring population, especially when a large proportion of the land in these parishes happened to be grazing land. As to the shifting of burdens, he (Mr. Henley) bad looked through all the Returns, and in all the unions with which he was acquainted there would be a great shifting of burdens. In some the rates were 1s.; in others, 4s Therefore, it was not a question of a few pence, and in the south of England the transfer would in some cases be very heavy. The right hon. Gentleman took the House through the various attempts and failures in carrying into effect the scheme he now proposed. The right hon. Gentleman in particular spoke very strongly of the attempt made in 846–7; but he might have reminded the House of 347 the real reason for stopping then. Hon. Gentlemen would recollect how Ireland in the famine, and the distress that followed, prayed for smaller areas, and how from certain districts the complaint arose that they could afford no assistance in the way of labour, because they were swamped by the large areas. He was thankful that now the burden for the relief of the poor in Ireland was limited to almost nothing. It had been said that in the north of England they were very often hard driven for labourers. In the south he knew the labour had been scarce during the last three or four years in harvest time. If, however, a time of pressure should come, then every union would be exactly in the same position as every large parish. Every one knew that in a large parish if any great number of people were out of work they could not be set to work because people could not agree. One was willing to employ them, and another was not; and the farmer who was willing found he could not afford to have both a heavy rate and a heavy Saturday night, and he was therefore obliged to reduce his labourers to meet his rate. That was a matter which ought not to be lost sight of. He would now say a word on the way in which this Bill would affect the poor. The President of the Poor Law Board quoted the Reports and opinions of Commissioners; but all those Reports and opinions went to the whole question of removal, and not merely to removals within unions. Doubtless there could be no advantage so great to the poor man as to be able to go where he pleased and get the best price for his labour, with the same chance of obtaining relief wherever he might go. That would be a great advantage to the poor man; but he very much doubted whether the limited provisions of the present Bill would be of any appreciable benefit. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Floyer) stated that there were upwards of 6,000 removals altogether; but the removals within the unions which this Bill would do away with would only amount to 366 altogether, and that was a very limited amount of relief. Besides, although 366 orders of removal might have been made, they did not know that a single person had been removed under them; because, although the overseer of parish A might get an order for the removal of a pauper to parish B, yet very often the pauper was not removed. The relieving officer relieved 348 the man and put the relief down to parish B, and the pauper remained where he was. Another phase of this question was that which regarded employment. If you took 100 labourers anywhere and gave them 6d. a day, about thirty would earn 8d. 30 more would earn 6d., and the rest only 4d. If they took the labourers from seventeen to seventy-five there would be pretty nearly the same division. But if a union rating were established the elderly men would not be employed as they were at present. The farmer would employ the young men who could earn most, though they might not be so moral as their seniors; and he would ask why he should take a labourer half worn out. The weaker man, though not a bad man, would naturally get less and less employment and ultimately would have to go into the house. He ventured to say that in all the close parishes he knew—those which were called close parishes—containing twenty, thirty, or forty cottages, half of them were occupied by elderly men, widows, and that class of persons who were not the most profitable persons to live in a parish as far as their labour went. The new reading of things was that these people should be swept out. There would be no failure in their New Poor Law because the system they wanted to introduce was the system which was said to approach perfection—namely, that which existed in London. That meant that all the poor were to be relieved in the workhouse. That was what they called the perfection of the system. He had no doubt that many would starve sooner than accept it. It would reduce the rates—no doubt about that—and then the right hon. Gentleman would magnify it, and say, "See what we have done." The right hon. Gentleman had talked about the failure of the Poor Law owing to the parochial system. He (Mr. Henley) wished he had also enlightened the House a little about the failure of the Poor Law in the metropolis, where people died in the streets, so that the right hon. Gentleman was obliged to bring in another Bill that Session for the protection of the houseless poor of London. Why was that Bill brought in? Because the Poor Law Board knew perfectly well that their system in London did not relieve the poor. The country parishes had no refuges for the destitute like those in the metropolis; but London had a poor wretched class which the Poor Law that they called perfection did not reach, and 349 all knew that but for these refuges, these poor persons would die in the streets. Yet this was the system they want to extend to the country. They all knew that so long as there was a parochial system that state of things could not exist in the country. The people in the parishes at present followed the poor to the union where they went for relief, and there would be a clamour if the guardians were too hard upon them. The real reason why the Poor Law authorities wanted to break up the parochial system was because they knew they could not squeeze the poor and put them under the grindstone as they had done in London. The majority of the poor in London were relieved in the workhouse, while in the country the majority were relieved out of the house. When the small parishes in England were made into unions it would be impossible to say that there would be any difference between them and one large parish, as far as the poor who lived in them were concerned. So far from the proposed measure inducing people to build cottages, he believed it would be a direct inducement to pull them down. He thought so for this reason:—At all the meetings where these questions were discussed, landowners were asked why they did not build cottages on their farms as well as cowhouses and pigsties. They knew that a very limited number of cottages attached to each farm was sufficient for the farmers' purpose. The cottages attached to a farm generally accommodated the carter, the milkman, and the shepherd, and these men who attended to the cattle were all the farmer cared to have living on the spot. All the other work he got done more economically by the piece, and it was perfectly immaterial to him whether the labourer walked a hundred yards or a mile to perform his work. The practice of attaching cottages to farms and letting them with the farms would increase, and these cottages would be filled by the young and able-bodied labourers, while the old and worn out men would in a few years have to find their way to the union workhouse, there to spend the remainder of their days. He could not see in the natural working of human events how it was to be otherwise. But at present the labourers generally lived in their cottages to their death. We might also be quite certain that if we put an increased burden upon many of these parishes, the ratepayers would endeavour to recoup themselves by a saving 350 of expense in some way. One shilling in the pound additional rate was tantamount to a double income tax; at least, he knew that in many counties this would be the case. Hon. Members had talked of the shifting of the burdens which took place when the Irremovable Poor Act was passed. No man doubted that the passing of the Irremovable Poor Bill conferred a great boon on the poor. The expense of the operation of that Act was put upon the parishes, and it was quite right that it should be so placed, and no one grumbled at it. The expense was originally charged upon the common fund, but was afterwards altered. No new burden of this kind, which was felt to be a great benefit to the poor, would be objected to, even if it did increase the rates; but when they came, without any reason whatever, to upset an old settled law, which had had the sanction of 300 years' legislation, there was ground for the inquiry, where were they going to stop if such a course were adopted? They knew the pressure that there was towards equalizing the rates in the metropolis, and there was not a single argument that could be used for equalizing the rates in the country unions that did not apply to the metropolis. When we had equalized the rates in these unions in London upon the plea of justice, would we say it was because some unions were paying twice as much as others? Immediately the rate was equalized throughout the country we must come to a national rate. Who did they expect would object to a national rate? People would feel that the proposed measure would do a great injustice, and, though it might be said it was proposed for the sake of convenience of ministration, they could not say it was for the advantage of the poor. If we could not do away with removal altogether, it would be an advantage to the poor; but this miserable measure for doing away with removal within unions would be no boon at all. It was a mockery and a delusion to call the measure now before the House a boon to the poor, and once the people experienced the effect of the "shifting of burdens," nothing would prevent them going directly for a national rate. The question had been raised, why did we exempt stock in trade from the poor rate? There was no answer to that question. It was originally intended that all property should contribute to the maintenance of the poor; yet, why did coal mines pay while iron mines were 351 exempt? He did not know that any reason could be given for this, except that it had the sanction of 200 or 300 years. If they perpetrated the intended injustice, how could they resist a national rate? It might be said that a general equalization of the rates would lead to an expensive and wasteful administration, but there were people who thought that there would be a wasteful administration even in the unions. What would be said to those who had injustice done to them through this measure? "That we could not provide the proper machinery." It was our business to provide the proper machinery, if we broke down that which protected from this injustice, and it was no answer to say that they would not carry that injustice to its natural end. There was one other matter to which he wished to call the attention of the House, and that was a curious statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, in introducing this Bill. He said the charge for the irremovable poor was 52 per cent on the whole cost of the relief of the poor. But he (Mr. Henley) ventured to think at the time that that amount included the establishment charges, and this turned out to be so. In the union in which he lived the expenses for the year up to Michaelmas, exclusive of the county rate, were about £8,000; the common charges—the irremoval poor and charges of the establishment—amounted to about £2,600, being 30 per cent. The charge for irremovable paupers was only 11 per cent, and the charge of the irremovable poor, as compared with that maintenance, simply was 15 per cent. That was very different to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. But that was not all—it was a very odd statement altogether, but the words were the more remarkable from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had the Return in his hands, as well as other Members of the House, and that Return showed that the irremovable poor in the year 1863 amounted to 36 per cent, and in 1862 to 31 per cent. One would have thought that was pretty well; but what did the Return contain besides? Why, it contained also the percentage in the different unions. In the unions in the county of Oxford the charge was 17 per cent; in the South Midland, 18 per cent; and in the union where he lived it was 15 per cent. How then did this extraordinary result come up? Why, in the North Western Union—that was to say, in Lan- 352 cashire—the relief to the irremovable poor was twice as much as the settled poor, thereby disturbing the average. It was hardly fair of the right hon. Gentleman to make such a statement. He would not say that he deluded the House, because everybody who knew anything about the matter knew that there must be some mystification with regard to it. The Return was now in the hands of Members, and showed the whole amount to the irremovable poor as 36 per cent, while in all the unions it was but 17 or 18 per cent. Lancashire and Yorkshire, from the peculiar circumstances of the time, had disturbed the whole calculation, and had brought out an average which was wholly deceptive to speak of as an average. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman showed the inconvenience of Members of the Government quoting from papers which were not in the hands of the House. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have got into a habit of doing so. When he brought in his Bill he adopted this course; he had done the same that evening, and, perhaps, when the papers, which were stated to be now upon the table, were procured, some curious results would be ascertained. He repeated that it was not fair to quote from papers—he saw that the right hon. Gentleman had just got his paper back—of which the House knew nothing. In the North Western Union the average was now only 69 per cent, while in the metropolis it was 63 or 64 per cent; and, mind you, he believed that this paper took in the establishment charges, though these were not shown upon the face of it. If that were so, it afforded no test at all. He must repeat the protest uttered by every Member who had spoken in that debate against the unfairness of quoting from papers which were only in the hands of the Government, because they were bandying assertions from one side of the House to the other as to matters which they were not in a position fairly to argue. He had heard nothing in the course of that debate leading him to believe that the benefit to the poor would be at all commensurate to the inconvenience arising from the shifting of the burdens under the present Bill—so far as they knew what that shifting would be. These were all questions of degree, and a moderate shifting of the burdens might not be objected to where the imposition of serious changes would be strongly resisted. The hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. 353 Walter) had said this question had been before the House for many years. Everybody knew that; but when it had been so long the pet child of the Poor Law authorities, it was strange that it had never been passed before. And now it would certainly be more fair to all parties that they should know exactly what the incidents of the Bill were before they were called on to pass it. If persons knew everything that was going to be done at the time a law was passed there was no soreness, no heartburning, no unpleasant feeling afterwards. The principle in this country was that all supported what they believed to be right, and when the majority prevailed the minority were satisfied. But that would not be the case if the minority were able to say to the majority afterwards, "You passed this measure blindfolded. You did not know what you were doing. You did not know whether you were putting 3d., 6d., 1s. or 2s. in the pound upon your neighbour." Heartburnings, they might depend upon it, would be pretty strong. There could be no great gain in hurrying this matter. He believed that if the right hon. Gentleman were to set his shoulder to the wheel, having the information already in his office, it might be placed upon the table of the House after Easter. If this wore done they could all act with their eyes open. In the meantime he should cordially support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Northamptonshire.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had had personal experience in the relief of the poor, which enabled him to confirm the statements of his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) as to the evil which must ensue from increasing the area of chargeability and management. In the year 1860, the district which he represented, from Coventry to Atherstone, was plunged into distress by the operation of the Treaty with France upon the riband trade. The relief committee, with which he had acted, had for some time more than 20,000 people to sustain, whose maintenance the Poor Law organization was totally insufficient to supply. When the relief committee commenced its labours they had neither the benefit nor the guidance of those Acts which were subsequently passed with respect to the cotton districts. They had, therefore, to deal with the matter, looking first to the Poor Law organization, and then to the administration of relief from 354 funds contributed by the public—for the difficulties in administration they had to deal with did not include the raising money by taxation. They had merely to look the matter in the face, and ask themselves how they could administer to those who were destitute the means of a livelihood in a spirit of wise and discriminate charity. Did they find the parishes too small for the purpose? On the contrary, in order to bring personal knowledge to bear on the administration of relief, they found it absolutely necessary to break up the large parishes into minor districts. Nor was this the case only in Warwickshire. When the distress in Lancashire and Yorkshire came on, the rules upon which the relief committees had acted in Warwickshire were sent to Manchester. Did the relief committees of the cotton districts attempt to administer relief there by unions? Not at all. Did they attempt it by parishes were they were populous? Not at all. They were obliged to break up large and populous parishes into smaller districts before it was possible to bring the personal knowledge of those who were in distress, and the benevolence of their richer neighbours, to bear upon the administration of the funds with due discrimination, wherever the aggregate or areas of the population to be supplied with necessaries were so large as they are, in many large parishes. Now, here they had a case in which it was not a question of raising money in a district, but only a question of how the sums already in hand should be administered, and large areas or aggregates of destitute persons were found totally unworkable; how much more difficult would it become to act fairly and justly in these large areas when the operation of relief included not only the expenditure of means but the collecting them. In the district he had mentioned, and in which he (Mr. Newdegate) resided, the system the relief committees adopted was attended with success, and they closed their accounts to the satisfaction of the county. But they attained that success by acting upon precisely the opposite principle to that of the Bill then under discussion; the vicious character of the principle of the Bill was illustrated by the failure of the Poor Law throughout the metropolis. At that moment in London they were about to consider a measure to supplement their Poor Law, which had failed from the excessive size of the areas of population over which it extended. Here, 355 then, was a measure which virtually sought to break up the parochial system of England, that had lasted 200 years, in order to entail upon the whole country the embarrassments from which they had hitherto been unable to relieve London, because the parishes of London were too large and too populous for parochial administration. The Bill would inflict heavy burdens on many parishes, and supersede the old system of charitable relief to the infirm, a system, the success of which depends upon personal knowledge of the applicants for relief—a system wanting, he was sorry to say, in the metropolis. It would do away with that true charity, and with that division into districts, without which the distress of Lancashire and Warwickshire never could have been reached. And why were they asked to do this? In deference to a system of centralization—to the dictation of the Poor Law Board, which for years had never lost sight of the one object of superseding the parochial system, which lay at the foundation of our institutions. And the House was asked by the hon. Member for Aylesbury to pass this measure with a view to an extension of the franchise, he (Mr. Newdegate) would like to know how the extension of the franchise could be safely accomplished when the old links which bound individuals to localities, and thus afforded means for their identification, were swept away? He asked the House not to sweep away the very basis of the suffrage by blotting out the system and the means through which the men to whom they might hereafter intrust that suffrage might be traceable and should be known.
§ MR. KNIGHT moved the adjournment of the debate. ["No, no!" and "Divide!"]
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
hoped that the House would divide upon the measure, as it had been fully and thoroughly discussed.
§ MR. ALGERNON EGERTON
seconded the Motion for the adjournment, because he thought the House was not in possession of sufficient information on which to come to a decision. He hoped the second reading of the Bill would be adjourned until after Easter. He had received a communication from the guardians who were in the habit of meeting in the county which he represented, stating that they were anxious to discuss the measure, but that they had not had it brought under their notice hitherto. ["Divide, divide!"] 356 He would call the attention of the House to the fact that a great measure affecting the administration of the Poor Law was passed in June of the previous Session; so that there was ample time for legislation upon the subject.
§ MR. FERRAND,
who also rose amid loud calls for a division, complained that the right hon. Gentleman who had introduced the measure had not considered the case of the manufacturing districts. Many manufacturers had been driven out of Bradford on account of the immense expense to which they were put, and by this measure these gentlemen would not only have to contribute towards the maintenance of the poor in their own districts, but would be also included in the list of those who supported the poor of the populous town, of Bradford.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Knight,)—put, and negatived.
§ Original Question and Amendment again proposed.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 203; Noes 131: Majority 72.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday, 24th April.358
|Anson, hon. Major||Carnegie, hon. C.|
|Anstruther, Sir B.||Castlerosse, Viscount|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Cavendish, Lord G.|
|Bagwell, J.||Childers, H. C. E.|
|Baines, E.||Churchill, Lord A. S.|
|Baring, T. G.||Clay, J.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Clifton, Sir R. J.|
|Bazley, T.||Clive, G.|
|Beaumont, S. A.||Cobbold, J. C.|
|Beecroft, G. S.||Coke, hon. Colonel|
|Berkeley, hon. C. P. F.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Bernard, T. T.||Collier, Sir R. P.|
|Black, A.||Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.|
|Blake, J. A.||Cox, W.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Craufurd, E. H. J.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Crawford, R. W.|
|Brady, J.||Dalglish, R.|
|Bramley-Moore, J.||Davey, B.|
|Bruce, Lord O.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Dodson, J. G.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Duff, M. E. G.|
|Buckley, General||Duff, R. W.|
|Bury, Viscount||Dunbar, Sir W.|
|Butler, C. S.||Dundas, F.|
|Buxton, C.||Egerton, hon. A. F.|
|Caird, J.||Egerton, E. C.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Enfield, Viscount|
|Ewart, J. C.||Neate, C.|
|Fenwick, E. M.||North, F.|
|Fenwick, H.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Finlay, A. S.||Ogilvy, Sir J.|
|Fitzroy, Lord F. J.||O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.|
|Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.||Padmore, R.|
|Forster, C.||Paget, C.|
|Forster, W. E.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Fortescue, rt. hon. C.||Palmer, Sir R.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Gilpin, C.||Papillon, P. O.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Paull, H.|
|Glyn, G. G.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Goldsmid, Sir F. H.||Peel, rt. hon. F.|
|Goschen, G. J.||Peto, Sir S. M.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Pinney, Colonel|
|Gower, G. W. G. L.||Pollard-Urquhart, W.|
|Greaves, E.||Portman, hon. W. H. B.|
|Greene, J.||Powell, F. S.|
|Greenall, G.||Pritchard, J.|
|Greenwood, J.||Pugh, D.|
|Grenfell, H. R.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Gurdon, B.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Hadfield, G.||Rogers, J. J.|
|Hanbury, R.||Rothschild, Baron M. de|
|Handley, J.||Russell, H.|
|Hankey, T.||Russell, A.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Russell, Sir W.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||St. Aubyn, J.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Salomons, Mr. Ald.|
|Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.||Scholefield, W.|
|Henderson, J.||Scott, Sir W.|
|Henley, Lord||Scrope, G. P.|
|Hennessy, J. P.||Scully, V.|
|Hibbert, J. T.||Seely, C.|
|Hodgkinson, G.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Smith, A.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Smith, J. B.|
|Ingham, R.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Jackson, W.||Staniland, M.|
|Jolliffe, rt. hn. Sir W. G. H.||Stanley, Lord|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.||Stansfeld, J.|
|Kinglake, A. W.||Steel, J.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Stuart, Lt.-Colonel W.|
|Lacon, Sir E.||Sturt, Lt.-Colonel N.|
|Layard, A. H.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Lanigan, J.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Lawson, W.||Tollemache, J.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.|
|Lefevre, G. J. S.||Turner, J. A.|
|Legh, Major C.||Turner, C.|
|Lewis, H.||Vandeleur, Colonel|
|Locke, J.||Vernon, H. F.|
|Lowe, rt. hon. R.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Lyall, G.||Vyner, R. A.|
|M'Cann, J.||Waldegrave-Leslie, hon. G.|
|Maguire, J. F.||Waldron, L.|
|Malcolm, J. W.||Walter, J.|
|Martin, P. W.||Warner, E.|
|Martin, J.||Watkin, E. W.|
|Merry, J.||Watlington, J. W. P.|
|Miller, T. J.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Mills, J. R.||Westhead, J. P. Brown|
|Mitford, W. T.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Moffatt, G.||Whitbread, S.|
|Moor, H.||White, J.|
|Moore, C.||White, hon. L.|
|Morris, W.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Morrison, W.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.||Woods, H.|
|Wyndham, hon. H.||Brand, hon. H. B. W.|
|Wyndham, hon. P.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E. H.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Hodgson, R.|
|Bathurst, Colonel H.||Holford, R. S.|
|Beach, Sir M.||Holmesdale, Viscount|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Hood, Sir A. A.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Hotham, Lord|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Hubbard, J. G.|
|Benyon, R.||Hunt, G. W.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Johnstone, J. J. H.|
|Beresford, D. W. P.||Kendall, N.|
|Biddulph, Colonel M.||King, J. K.|
|Blackburn, P.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Bovill, W.||Knight, F. W.|
|Boyle, hon. G. F.||Knox, Colonel|
|Bramston, T. W.||Langton, W. G.|
|Bremridge, R.||Lefroy, A.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Legh, W. J.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Brooks, R.||Long, R. P.|
|Bromley, W. D.||Lygon, hon. F.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Malins, R.|
|Bruen, H.||Manners, rt. hon. Lord J.|
|Burghley, Lord||Miles, Sir W.|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Butler-Johnstone, H. A.||Mordaunt, Sir C.|
|Cairns, Sir H. M'C,||Morgan, hon. Major|
|Cartwright, Colonel||Morritt, W. J. S.|
|Chapman, J.||Mundy, W.|
|Cholmeley, Sir M. J.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Cole, hon. H.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Cole, hon. J. L.||North Colonel|
|Cubitt, G.||Northcote, Sir S. H.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Packe, Colonel|
|Dawson, R. P.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Dering, Sir E. C.||Parker, Major W.|
|Dickson, Colonel||Patten, Colonel W.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Peacocke, G. M. W.|
|Du Cane, C.||Pease, H.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Peel, rt. hon. General|
|Duncombe, hon. W. E.||Percy, Earl|
|Dunne, Colonel||Pevensey, Viscount|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Powys Lybbe, P. L.|
|Edwards, Colonel||Quinn, P.|
|Egerton, Sir P. G.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Egerton, hon. W.||Rolt, J.|
|Fane, Colonel J. W.||Rowley, hon. R. T.|
|Farquhar, Sir M.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Fellowes, E.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Ferrand, W.||Selwyn, C. J.|
|Fleming, T. W.||Smith, A.|
|Floyer, J.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Forde, Colonel||Surtees, H. E.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Gen.||Taylor, Colonel|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Thynne, Lord H.|
|Gard, R. S.||Tomline, G.|
|George, J.||Trevor, Lord A. E. H.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Trollope, rt hon. Sir J.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Vansittart, W.|
|Gore, J. R. O.||Vyse, Colonel H.|
|Grey de Wilton, Visct.||Waterhouse, S.|
|Hamilton, Major||Welby, W. E.|
|Hardy, G.||Whiteside, rt. hon. J.|
|Hartopp, E. B.||Williams, F. M.|
|Harvey, R. B.||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Hervey, Lord A. H. C.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||TELLERS.|
|Henniker, Lord||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Heygate, Sir F. W.||Stanhope, B.|