HC Deb 17 July 1868 vol 193 cc1421-5

Order for Committee read.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 3 (Poor Law Board may appoint Officers when Guardians make Default).


said, that nothing could be more objectionable than giving the Board the power of taxing the country.

MR. P. A. TAYLOR moved an Amendment to the effect that the Board should not insist on the appointment of a chaplain, when the duties of that officer were efficiently performed without payment.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided always, That the Poor Law Board shall not insist upon the appointment of a chaplain wherever the duties of that officer shall be efficiently performed without payment."—(Mr. P. A. Taylor.)


said, the Amendment would deprive the Board of a power it possessed already. The clause did not design so much to invest the Board with new power as to give it the means of enforcing the power it was already in-trusted with. If the guardians failed to appoint any necessary officer the Board could apply for a mandamus to compel them to do so. That might be argued, and a return made that the guardians could not find a proper person, and the thing might go on for a year or two, so that practically the law could not be carried out. Last Session a power similar to that sought to be conferred by the clause was given to the Board within the metropolis, and therefore the Board was only asking for that power in the provinces which it already possessed in London. He could not understand why a chaplain should be the only officer who should be expected to perform his duties without security that his salary would be paid.


said, that at Leicester the duties of chaplain were duly performed by voluntary officers; and the question was whether in such a case the Board should have the power of appointing an officer who must be paid?


said, the Board had the power already, although they had been compelled to resort to it in only one instance, in which the guardians refused to appoint a chaplain; and even the language of the proposed Amendment would leave the Board judges of the necessity just as much as they were now.


said, these remarks seemed to show that it was unnecessary that the clause should apply to chaplains at all, although there might be strong arguments for passing it as regarded other officers, such as schoolmaster, schoolmistress, medical officers, and nurses. The office of chaplain was of a different nature, and it would have been well to have raised the question separately. On the Report he should propose to define the offices to which the clause applied.


said, so far from there being no difficulty with regard to the appointment of chaplains, it happened there was at present a London case before the Board. A chaplain was absolutely necessary, and but for the power already possessed by the Board in London the case could not be dealt with.


said, he did not see why the discretion sought should not be vested in the Commissioners, and why they should be under the necessity of applying for a mandamus.


said, he wondered that gentlemen could be got to undertake the duties of guardians if all the discretionary power was to be exercised by the Board.


said, there was a workhouse in Ireland in which, though there was only one Protestant pauper inmate, a Protestant chaplain attended, and was paid a salary.


said, he did not require the example of Ireland. After the description given of that country by a distinguished Member of the House of Commons, and after what they had heard of it that night from an Irish Gentleman, he had no desire to see England assimilated to Ireland. He remembered to have heard a Chief Secretary for Ireland state that the power of appointing chaplains was given to the Irish Poor Law Commissioners because it was necessary, owing to the circumstances of the country, that they should have a veto in the matter. It required the power of the Government to cope with that of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland; and there had been instances in which vacancies had been created in chaplaincies against the will of the Government, owing to the opposition of that hierarchy.


said, he thought the Secretary to the Poor Law Board ought to give the Committee some information as to whether the question of the appointment of chaplains was really involved in this clause.


said, it was agreed that the appointment of paid nurses was desirable in country workhouses. He thought, also, that where the great majority of the inmates of a workhouse were of one religious persuasion, a chaplain of that persuasion ought to be appointed to attend them and be paid for the discharge of that duty. There was a Liverpool workhouse in which, he believed, the great majority were Roman Catholics, and a Roman Catholic chaplain was paid £300 a year for attending that institution. If the majority of the inmates of a workhouse were members of the Established Church, and the guardians should refuse to appoint a chaplain for them, he believed it would be the feeling of the House that the Poor Law Board ought to have the right to interfere, in order that the inmates might be provided with the consolations which the visit of a clergyman of the Established Church would afford them.


asked whether red tapeism was to step in where religious consolation was afforded by voluntary efforts?


In such a case the Poor Law Board would not for a moment think of interfering.


said, that propositions to alter our Poor Law arrangements proceeded year after year from the permanent staff of the Poor Law Board.


said, that in an omnibus Bill like the one now before the Committee, one found it difficult to discover in which of the clauses the important principle of the measure was really contained.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 27; Noes 77: Majority 50.


then proposed at the end of the clause to add these words—"Provided always, That nothing herein contained shall relate to the appointment of chaplains."

Amendment proposed, at the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided always, That nothing herein contained shall relate to the appointment of chaplain."—(Colonel Stuart.)

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 25 Noes 73: Majority 48.


stated that he had by mistake given his vote in the last division in the opposite way to that which he intended, and he was proceeding to explain how the mistake occurred, when—


interposing, informed him that the rule of the House was that if an hon. Member went into a Lobby his vote was counted with that Lobby. The hon. Member might set himself right by stating that he had made a mistake, but beyond that the House could not enter into the consideration of the matter.

On Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"


said, he would divide the Committee against the clause, which contained a principle against which the country was now in arms—namely, a great increase of the rates. The House had of late years been too ready in increasing the rates. When a question of increasing the general taxation was raised the House took alarm, but when the local rates were concerned the case was quite different. When hon. Gentlemen went to the elections he believed they would be asked whether they had voted for or against clauses in Bills largely increasing the rates.


said, that the country objected to giving the Central Board power over the rates, because the rate-payers had not the opportunity locally of being heard on the subject. He should oppose the clause.


said, that the grand principle of improvement in Poor Law administration was not to strengthen the power of the guardians but of the Poor Law Board. The guardians frequently refused to perform their obvious local duties, to the injury of the sick, the poor, and the lunatics, and to the oppression of the medical profession, which performed the most important duties to these suffering and unprotected persons. In all these matters the central authority was more to be depended upon than the local Boards. He preferred the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. P. A. Taylor), but, as the Committee had negatived it, he should give his strong support to the clause.


said, that, as he did not wish to see a national poor rate, he should vote against this clause, because local administration was the only ground on which a national rate could be resisted. Every step they were taking in setting up and strengthening a central administration was breaking down the local rate. What had occurred this Session? There had been Motion after Motion to bring different species of property into assessment which now paid nothing, and how much longer would the House be able to resist these Motions if the pressure of local burdens went on every day increasing? This clause authorized medical men to correspond with the Poor Law Board in London, but not through the guardians. A wholly independent management would thus be set up. After a very short time he believed the new system would break down, and then the poor would be worse cared for by the central authority in London than by the local Board of Guardians.


said, he should support the clause on the ground of economy, because there was no economy like employing properly-qualified and properly-paid persons. The system of employing pauper nurses and pauper assistants had let to great abuses and great peculation.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 29: Majority 42.

Clause added to the Bill.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

House adjourned at half past Two o'clock.