HC Deb 22 June 1869 vol 197 cc430-47

, in rising to move the following Resolution:— That, in the opinion of this House, a closer and more harmonious correspondence between the Central and Local Poor Law authorities, and, in consequence, a more uniform and efficient system of parochial administration would be established, and the incidence of Local Taxation would be safely rectified if, as in the case of Education, grants, conditional on efficiency, were made from National sources, through the medium of the Poor Law Board. said, that the subjects of local taxation and the administration of the Poor Law had been brought before the House on different occasions by county Members. These subjects had been treated mainly as if they affected agricultural interests only; but he maintained that the rural districts and the large towns had a common interest in both matters. The evils arising in the large towns from the present system of local taxation were so striking that he could not rest satisfied without bringing them under the notice of the House. He was aware that the proposal embodied in his Resolution had been considered in some quarters to be an attempt on behalf of the rate-payers of large towns to escape from the burdens which fairly belonged to them. He could show that that was not the case. He maintained, with the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), that a large portion of the wealth of this country escaped altogether from contributing to local taxation; and that in consequence of that exemption those local rates fell most unequally on different classes of the population of the country. He further maintained that the change in the Law of Assessment joined to the increased cheapness and facility of locomotion, and the want of a uniform management in the administration of the Poor Law, combined to throw upon the large towns great masses of pauperism which had been created elsewhere. The Law of Settlement, combined with those causes, had, however, greatly modified the character of pauperism. He would first ask the House to consider the effect of the exemption of large masses of property from contributing to local taxation. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon, speaking of the landed proprietary, said it was a great hardship that the local taxation should fall exclusively on real property, and that such a system seriously affected the agricultural interests. He (Mr. Rathbone) thought he would be able to show that it pressed with far more cruel injustice upon the small householders of large towns. The principal wealth of our large towns consisted of commercial, manufacturing, and trading interests; but, except incidentally, none of these interests contributed to this taxation. Those classes did not contribute their fair share towards the rates levied for the support of the sickness, accidents, or poverty of the populations of large towns. Nay, more, as their wealth increased, and large towns were extended, those classes escaped more and more from the contributions. They did not pay on their capital, because that capital, consisting mainly of personalty, was not subject to local taxation. Nor did they contribute in the towns on their domestic establishments, because now the merchant, the banker, or the broker, instead of living on the spot where his business was conducted, resided out of town, beyond the area of taxation. The fact that men of the class to which he referred paid so insignificant an amount towards the relief of the poor had, he was convinced, a good deal to do with their withdrawal from a discharge of the duties of Poor Law Guardian. From inquiries which he had made into this subject he found that in the large towns the richer a man was the smaller was the proportion he contributed, and the poorer a man was the larger was the proportion which he paid. A merchant doing a large business in a moderately large office and warehouse only paid rates for those premises, whatever might be the extent of his transactions. Merchants who had made the calculation informed him that the proportion of their income derived from trade on which they paid poor-rate amounted to only from 1½ to 2 per cent, while the proportion of their income on which labourers in the employment of those merchants paid poor-rate was 3¾ per cent. From this it appeared that the proportion in which persons paid in large towns was in almost inverse ratio to their wealth. Upon the class of small tradesmen the poor rate operated most oppressively, and with especial severity upon those who were in the humblest circumstances. It might be said that it was foolish for the mercantile community to be active in promoting a change of system; but the mercantile community were not foolish or short-sighted enough to believe that a system could be good which transferred a considerable portion of the burden of taxation from their shoulders to those of the very poor. As to the argument that the weight really fell upon the owner and not the occupier of property, it was sufficient to point out that the pressure of increased rating always fell first upon the occupier, and it was not till the charge became permanent that, gradually and only partially, the charge was transferred to the owner. Increasing the area of taxation would only meet part of the evil and injustice of this system, and the parishes were already too large for careful or economical management. The very wealthy would still manage to escape the burden. Take the parish of Liverpool; its workhouse, hospitals, and schools, under the management of the vestry, contained at times over 6,000 inhabitants, a number larger than the population of some towns returning Members to that House. Then, again, masses of the population accumulated in towns which were not properly responsible for their poverty. It was often alleged that towns, as they obtained the benefit of the labour of the poor, ought properly to be chargeable with their support; but although a connection was capable of being established between particular trades and particular localities, there was a large amount of pauperism unconnected with special localities which might fairly be considered national in its character, and chargeable, therefore, on the general wealth of the country. The possibility of employment in times of distress attracted numbers to large towns, and that excess of labour, so far from contributing to the wealth of those towns, was sure, sooner or later, to become a burden on the rates. This mass of surplus population had been called our reserve of labour, but these reserves to be of service should be available when wanted. They did not, however, come to the large towns in times of prosperity, but only in periods of distress, when they became not resources of labour, but reserves of pauperism, and from them the large towns derived no benefit. Again, it was impossible in large cities to exercise the same control over able-bodied pauperism which was possible in small towns; and the consequent evils were aggravated by the fact that, in the different parishes, there was no uniform system of treatment for the sick, lunatic, and infirm. It often happened that a poor sickly family, hanging on in the helpless way characteristic of the class to which they belonged, heard at length of some adjoining parish where either private charity or parochial humanity made some better provision for the sick; to this they accordingly shifted and settled down, and, after a twelvemonth's residence, became permanently chargeable, not upon the parish that had neglected, but upon the parish that had done its duty. A man had come from the Isle of Man on four or five different occasions to the Liverpool workhouse to be cured. The Isle of Man, therefore, had the benefit of his health, and the parish of Liverpool the cost of his sickness. He did not advocate a return to the Law of Settlement, because its operation was most oppressive on labour, and most unjust to the landowners and farmers, and also to the parish—that a man should be chargeable to the parish where he was born, and not to the parish where he had worked all his life. Whilst, however, they remedied one injustice, they ought not to inflict another by it on a class still less able to bear it than poor householders of our large towns. He had shown that the present incidence of taxation was doubly unfair. It placed a tax on large towns which did not belong to them, and it distributed it unfairly over the different classes of the population. The waste and demoralization of the present system clearly demanded the adoption of some means for its correction. Want of uniformity of management of the Poor Law system with regard to the sick was antagonistic to good management, and since he had put his Motion on the Paper he had received various communications upon the subject. One guardian wrote to him to complain of the incredible carelessness which prevailed in the collection of rates, adding that in his parish not less than 55 per cent of the rates remained uncollected when the collector closed the rate, which was a great injustice on those who had honestly paid their rates. Another pointed out numerous and serious defalcations on the part of the officers employed by the guardians to collect the rates, which it was urged would be impossible under a proper system of audit. Another showed the wide discrepancies in the amount given in adjacent parishes near him for the relief of the poor, the guardians of one parish expending 1s. 7¼d. per head weekly in out-door relief, while the guardians of another spent 3s. 10¾d., showing that either one parish was making paupers by under-relief, or that the other was doing the same thing by over-relief. He believed both systems were going on in almost every parish in the kingdom, and the sooner it was remedied the better. The rates were said to be kept down in some parishes, not by under-relieving the poor, but by paying the officers so low that men of education and capacity could not be found to do the work. Men who had failed in other departments of life, for the want of those qualities which were most wanted in governors of workhouses and relieving officers, were selected by the guardians for the discharge of those duties. On the master not only the welfare of the inmates but the success of the Poor Law system depended; and incompetent relieving officers relieved those who ought not to be relieved, and in that way a vast number of idle and profligate paupers were relieved who ought not to be relieved at all. The hon. Member said that experience, discrimination, and business habits were seldom to be found in parish officers, be- cause there was no sufficient system of training and no sufficient inducement to competent persons. The deficiency was not supplied by the guardians, who were apt to become wearied and tired of their work just when they were beginning to learn it. The result was that a pauper, if he looked round, could always find some parish in which he could live in idleness. Then, owing to the want of due supervision and guidance, parish after parish made the same costly experiments and blunders, unaware that the same experiments and blunders had been made elsewhere. Nay, the same parish often repeated its own blunders. Half the failures of the Poor Law system would be avoided if the Poor Law Board were in a position to collect, preserve, and re-distribute all the experience that was daily gained and lost in the parishes of this kingdom. One of the worst features of our social system was that the increase of pauperism was contemporaneous with the vast increase of wealth, as shown by the Returns of Income Tax. The increase of wealth during the nine years previous to 1862 was in Liverpool 42 per cent. The Census for the borough of Liverpool showed that, in the previous ten years, the increase of population was a little under 20 per cent. With regard to pauperism, he would take two periods which, following upon years of commercial panic, were periods of distress, and he found that the average number of paupers during the first half of the year 1858 was 30,038, and in 1868, 44,136, being an increase in ten years of 14,098 eases. So that within that interval there had been an increase of 42 per cent in wealth, an increase of only 20 per cent in population, and an increase of more than 43 per cent in pauperism. In the metropolis, during the same period, the population had increased 19 per cent, while pauperism had increased 110 per cent. Evils existed which the present system of Poor Law administration had been found altogether inadequate to remove. In other words, the Poor Law system was a failure in our large towns. It might be said the Poor Law Board ought to remedy this. It ought to collect and disseminate experience, and to counsel, guide, and, if necessary, to control Boards of Guardians. And why had it not done so? It was instituted in 1832, and had to rule with a very high hand. It had to exert a tremendous despotism over the Boards of Guardians, and the consequence was a perfect storm of public indignation. The power nominally placed in its hands broke down when it was attempted to be used in opposition to Boards of Guardians. He referred in proof of this to the evidence given by officers of the Poor Law Board themselves before the Committee which sat on the subject from 1861 to 1864. The present President of the Poor Law Board had stated that the same opposition still existed, with the same results. The Board failed because they could only coerce, because they could only say to Boards of Guardians—"If you do not do this we will, and you shall pay for it." Surely it would be better that the Board should have power to induce the guardians to do what was right. Improvements in the administration of the Poor Law would, in his opinion, check and diminish pauperism to a great extent; but he feared they would after all have to come to a change in the principle of the law. He did not think that a pauper, however indolent or vicious, had an absolute right to relief at the expense of the industry of the country. That rule did not exist in Scotland, and people did not starve there. Speaking from the experience derived from the courts and streets of large towns and the workhouse, he would infinitely prefer—speaking for those he cared most for in the world—that they should be exposed to any amount of physical suffering or to death itself rather than to the degradation and temptation to which they were exposed under the present system in our large towns. The President was the only reality of the Poor Law Board, and he changed not only with every Administration, but with almost every change of every Administration. He had not the slightest doubt that either the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. G. Hardy), or the present head of the Board (Mr. Goschen) would make the present reforms if they remained long enough to originate and carry them out. It was found necessary at first to have Sir George Lewis, Sir George Nichols, and Mr. Lefevre as permanent members of the Board. They all felt grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury and his Colleagues for their vigilant control over the public expenditure; but there was a danger of confining their attention too exclusively to the Imperial taxation and expenditure of the country. There was an equal necessity for vigilant control of local taxation and expenditure. If, as in this matter, education grants were made from national resources, conditional on efficient local Poor Law administration, the proper remedy would, in his opinion, be applied. That would lay under contribution to local rates wealth which was now only subject to Imperial taxation, and would promote harmonious action between the central Board and the local authorities. He would make the Poor Law Board the medium of these conditional grants, and another effect would be to make local management more uniform, because the inspectors' reports would have to be far more carefully made in order to ascertain efficiency, on which the grants depended; and those reports would have to be more carefully studied, so that the conditions were more likely to be learnt on which grants depended. At the same time those grants should not be made in a way that would relieve the local ratepayers from any waste or extravagance on the part of Boards of Guardians. The Boards of Guardians of Birmingham, Liverpool, and Leeds had already proposed to relieve the rate-payers of the exclusive cost of sickness, lunacy, and imbecility. The way it would work would be this—the Poor Law Board would first ascertain what would be a fair amount of sickness which ought to be provided for in each district of the county, and, having ascertained that, they would be authorized to grant to such district a sum in proportion to the amount of such sickness. The grant being fixed, any additional expense, whether caused by a greater number of sick being thrown on the rates through epidemics or by lax management on the part of the guardians, would still be borne by the local rates. An inspection, if it were thorough, would secure that the sick did not suffer from any dishonest parsimony. The principle was capable of being applied to any part of the Poor Law expenditure. He would propose that a grant should always be limited to a proportion of the cost of the expense, leaving the balance, whether reduced by economy or swelled by extravagance, to be borne by the body electing the local managers. The Metropolitan Poor Act of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) carried out this principle in the metropolis by bringing to the aid of particular parishes grants from wider areas. He believed he was not too sanguine in hoping that the remedies he suggested would make taxation more just and administration more efficient, and that it would prevent us being startled by disgusting disclosures, leading to hasty and, therefore, wasteful expenditure. This was not merely or principally a money question. A nation of citizens individually virtuous and industrious could stand very heavy and even wasteful expenditure; but if it tended, as he believed the wasteful expenditure of our system did, to destroy the industry, the virtue, and the independence of the population of that country, it undermined the very foundations of national greatness. He begged to propose his Motion.


, in seconding the Motion, said the principle involved had received the sanction of the Poor Law authorities in Birmingham. And that fact was not surprising, because the two adjoining parishes of Birmingham and Aston—the circumstances of which were nearly identical—were very differently rated to the poor, and the system of management appeared to' be distinct. In Birmingham, however, where there was a greater amount of wealth, and where the proportion of the working class was smaller, the poor rate was nearly four times as great as in the other part of the borough, without any other reason being shown for it than the different system of management. Along with lavish expenditure in the one, there was a greater care for paupers; in the other, along with economy, there was great disregard of the real wants and necessities of the poor living at a distance from the centre of the union. The question was how these evils could be overcome; and the principle involved in the Motion was one which at any rate was well worthy of the consideration of the House. It was that we should look to the central authority for a greater amount of control, believing that the control of the Government would be more wise and efficient than that provided by localities, and that along with it there must ne- cessarily come the supplementing of the rates out of the national taxation of the country. If that were done a great step would be taken towards equalizing the burden of the rates and reducing the amount of that burden. He had no doubt that a properly constituted central Board would very much diminish the existing defective management, whether it took the form of pampering the poor or of starving them, and would, in the same proportion, diminish the enormous evil of pauperism. One objection raised to the plan was that it would relieve local authorities from a responsibility which was supposed to rest exclusively upon them, and that it would induce them to spend more largely because they would be spending other people's money. If the plan were judiciously carried out he did not believe that these results would by any means follow. He had no fear of the results of giving more power to the central authority; for, although the system of centralization had always been looked upon in this country with very great fear and apprehension, they might be dismissed now that we had a reformed House of Commons. They need not now fear any undue exercise of central power; and the wisdom and experience which might be collected in a central Board might be of enormous use if it were diffused all over the country, fertilizing every distant and ignorant union, where everything in the shape of innovation was shunned. He was glad that the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) had brought forward his Motion, the principle of which he hoped the Government would not refuse to take into consideration, and which he trusted would before long meet with a very considerable amount of favour.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, a closer and more harmonious correspondence between the Central and Local Poor Law authorities, and, in consequence, a more uniform and efficient system of parochial administration would be established, and the incidence of Local Taxation would be safely rectified if, as in the case of Education, grants, conditional on efficiency, were made from National sources, through the medium of the Poor Law Board."—(Mr. Rathbone.)


said, he believed that questions of that kind sometimes derived great weight and importance from the quarter whence they proceeded; and he, therefore, hailed with satisfaction and pleasure the fact that the representative of one of the largest towns in the country had brought that question forward with so much ability. Although he thought it would be premature for the House to pass a positive opinion upon the very large scheme propounded by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) it was very important that the attention of the country should be fixed upon it; and he trusted, also, that it would receive the earnest consideration of the Government. They all knew that considerable jealousy of the interference of the central authority existed in many parts of the country; but if the aid of the public Exchequer was to be invoked to lighten the pressure of local burdens, the various local bodies must be prepared to submit to a larger degree of central control than they had hitherto been subjected to, in order to secure that the money obtained from the State should be properly expended. The proposition brought before them that night was, he thought, the best solution yet offered of that most difficult problem—namely, how they could reach a large amount of property which had hitherto been un-taxed. The hardship of subjecting one description of property only to local burdens had long been complained of, and the difficulty which had always met them was, how to reach property that was not visible. The hon. Member for Liverpool had suggested a means by which they could accomplish that, and, having once done so, it was to be hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not lose sight of that great principle. The proceedings of the House lately appeared to him to have paved the way towards the attainment of that great object, because they had heard propounded a principle which had rather startled himself, but which had been accepted with great unanimity —at any rate on the other side of the House. He had always fancied that the liability to local taxation attached to occupation, and hitherto that principle had been the accepted principle of the law. But they had lately heard that principle contested, and it had been asserted that the liability ought to attach to ownership, and the moment they found the man the first query that arose was as to his liability to pay. Did anybody think that when once the question of the ability of the owner to pay was raised, the question would stop there, and his ability to pay would rest with the house or a small portion of land? He did not believe it. It would then have reference to what his whole ability was, and his whole property—not a mere portion of it—would be deemed liable to the payment required of him. In that sense he thought he saw an inclination on the part of the House to extend the liability beyond its present limits. He would not enter into the question of the increase of pauperism, or the mal-administration of the Poor Law; but he thought the present system was really an encouragement to pauperism, and the country was awakened to that great and melancholy truth. The hon. Gentleman had perhaps rather weakened his case by mentioning the fact that a guardian had written to him telling him that only 50 per cent of the rates due had been collected. But the hon. Member had stated one maxim which it was to be hoped would be taken to heart by the country at large—namely, that the wealthy merchant in our great towns pays in an inverse ratio to his wealth towards the support and relief of the poor.


My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) has travelled with great ability over a space in which I hope I shall be excused from following him, because I shall endeavour to confine myself to the proposition immediately before the House. I trust also that the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution will content themselves with having so ably stated their views, and not think it necessary to press the Motion to a division. I am glad to think this is likely to be the case, because, under these circumstances, it will be unnecessary to adopt a controversial attitude in considering some of the difficulties of the case. The hon. Member has drawn what I am afraid is too true and too painful a picture of the progress of pauperism in this country. He tells us that it is on the increase, that the poor rates are on the increase, that they fall very heavily on the poor who are just above the grade of pauperism, and that this has a most degrading effect on the whole community. This is a sad picture; but though I tried to find out from the hon. Gentleman's speech what is his remedy, there I confess I am somewhat at fault. I do not understand whether he wants the administration of the Poor Law to be more lenient or more stringent—whether, in his opinion, pauperism ought to be ruled by a more lax or by a more rigid system. Certainly he said something about the system in Scotland, which made me think that he is of opinion that the Scotch system is a more satisfactory one than the English; but I confess that, having listened with great attention to my hon. Friend's speech, I am unable to come to any conclusion as to what would be his test of efficiency, and, until we have such a test, I do not see how we are to arrive at the conclusion which he invites us to adopt. Without we know what his test is, we can hardly deal with his proposal. But, passing over that, we come to the remedy he proposes. I suppose we all agree that those evils exist—that pauperism is increasing, and that the poorest class feels the pressure of the poor rate very severely. But some think that more assistance should be given to the poor, while others hold that independence is the best riches of the working class, and that we should do them more harm than good by further weakening that independence. Looking at the matter as it is now presented to us, I ask, what result would follow from the proposal of my hon. Friend? He wants us to adopt in respect of the poor the system of the Privy Council in respect of education. But if you send down an inspector to give his opinion as to the efficiency of the school, you have a test. In what does the efficiency of a national school consist? In reading, writing, and ciphering. Put a book in a child's hand and you may see whether he can read, put a bit of paper before him and you can see whether he can write; put a slate before him and you may see whether he can cipher. But what does the hon. Gentleman mean by efficiency in the administration of the Poor Law? I cannot grapple with that. Would my hon. Friend make the smallness of the expenditure the test of efficiency? That would make the Government grant depend on greediness towards the poor. Would he make the largeness of the expenditure the test? That would make the Government grant depend on the extravagance of the administration of the Poor Law.


I said that the grant should be fixed, and not proportionate to the expenditure.


I thought the amount of the grant was to depend on the efficiency; but whether there is more or less efficiency, there is not to be more or less grant. Is the administration of a workhouse to be considered efficient if it contains a great number of paupers, or is the management to be most efficient where there are the fewest paupers? If the hon. Gentleman would not apply either of those tests, is the system to be considered most efficient where most is done to protect the paupers and to make them comfortable and happy, or where the paupers are under the most rigid rules of government? What is to be our guide in this matter, or how are we to know on what principle the money shall be given? These questions will have to be considered, and some definite criterion of efficiency laid down, before we can advance a step. At one time uncertainty of somewhat the same kind as that which would arise here was experienced in the case of the education grants. Before the change was effected which established the system of deciding by results, the inspector visiting a national school, judged by was called the "moral atmosphere" of the school. That was the test in the case of schools; but we have no test here, and before we advance we ought to be told what the test is to be. Passing from that point, there are other considerations which render it impossible for us to decide on adopting the hon. Gentleman's proposal. Is this plan to be limited to England, or is to extend to the three Kingdoms? because, if it is to be made the rule in the three Kingdoms, we must bear in mind that there is a different system of Poor Law in Scotland from that which exists in this country. If there is not to be an entire change, what is to be the general criterion of efficiency? Then, as to expenditure; the Privy Council Grant amounts to one-third of the whole expenditure for education. Now, if the same ratio is to be adopted in the case of the grants proposed by the hon. Gentleman, we shall have to make an Imperial contribution of £3,000,000, the total expenditure for the administration of the Poor Law being £9,000,000. Again, why should the principle, if it be a good one, be limited to Poor Law expenditure? Why should it stop there? Why should it not extend to the outlay for highways. I think an inspector might have great difficulty in deciding as to deficiency in the case of Poor Law administration; but the thing would be easy enough in the case of highways. If a road overturned your gig and threw down your horse, you would know it was a bad one. If my hon. Friend succeeded, his principle would have a very wide extension, and the expenditure would be proportionately great. Now, first consider this question—where is all this money to come from? As I have stated £3,000,000 would be required for the contribution in aid of poor rate; but, if all the local taxes were brought within my hon. Friend's principle, the third of £20,000,000, or something like £7,000,000, would be required. It may be said that this money should relieve local taxation, but where are we to get it? The hon. Gentleman has said, and with great truth, that the poorer classes already contribute too much to the poor rate, but will you relieve the poorer classes of the people by increasing the burden of Imperial taxation from £48,000,000 to £55,000,000? Where would that money be got? Would it be got by taxation on the necessaries of life? And is that the assistance to be given to the poor? I can imagine nothing more cruel. I now turn to the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell), and ask him whether the adoption of such schemes as this, supported on grounds such as those which he has put forward in support of them, would not be likely to eventuate in additional taxation on realized property? If increased burdens be placed on the poor, does not the hon. Gentleman think that the ingenuity of some persons will be directed to placing what he and his friends would consider to be intolerable burdens on realized property? But there is another difficulty to which I wish to call the attention of the hon. Member for Liverpool. It is the habit in this country to place the administration of the Poor Law in the hands of persons who have a local interest in the application of the funds. They are responsible for the application, and that is the system which has been at work in this country for nearly 300 years. Now, I can understand persons who complain of the many grievous evils that are connected with the local administration of the Poor Law, and who, in their impatience of those evils, would prefer a system of Imperial taxation—I can understand them saying—we will have efficiency, at any rate, even if we have to give up local administration and adopt Imperial administration. Either of these two principles I can understand. But what I cannot understand is the mixing up of the two together with just enough of local government to thwart the influence of Imperial efficiency, and with just enough of central assistance to render the local administrators still more lazy and careless. I can understand the system of official responsibility, and I can understand the system of local responsibility. But a system of responsibility which is neither the nor the other, I cannot understand. It would add to the burdens of the country by what it took out of the central fund, while, in all probability, it would leave the burden of the local rates as grievously offensive as ever. These are the difficulties that occur to my mind. I do not say they cannot be met. I have spoken without any possibility of preparation, and I am afraid without very much knowledge of the subject; but I venture to think that my hon. Friend has not furnished us with a criterion which is necessary before we could think of adopting his proposal; and, therefore, I hope he will be satisfied with having stated his views in an able speech.


said, the subject was one of great interest to the county which he had the honour to represent, which must be his excuse for troubling the House on this occasion. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured to lead the House away from the true meaning and purport of the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Rathbone). For himself, he had always regarded this as more a town than a rural question, and as one affecting the small rate-payers rather than the rich; and it was in that point of view he wished to argue the question to-night. But the right hon. Gentleman said that this was a plan to mix up central with local administration, and that the thing was impossible. But they all knew that that was the system now in existence. The Government sent down inspectors who exercised a most scrupulous superintendence over the proceedings of the local guardians. He was, therefore, astonished how the right hon. Gentleman, possessed as he was of so much wide and varied information, could stand up and say in the face of the House, that there could be no mixture of central superintendence with local administration. He wished to lead the House back to consider the real question—the question how this system affected the towns rather than the country. The right hon. Gentleman asked if a grant was to be made in aid of the local rates, from what source that grant was to come? He would meet that question by saying that as the wants of the country had been caused by Imperial legislation, the local rates ought to receive aid from the Imperial funds. ["Divide!"] He must remind the House that this was a question requiring much deliberation, and that it was not to be settled by howling him down. A Report of the Lords' Committee on Parochial Assessments, said that the relief of the poor ought to come out of every description of national property. It was also the opinion of the Judges that all things which were charged for the Imperial revenue, ought to be taxed for the relief of the poor. It was therefore not right to say that one kind of property only ought to be taxed for relief of the poor. The cases of hardship arising from the present system were greater in towns than in the rural districts. From inquiries he had made he ascertained that in one manufacturing town (Trowbridge, in North Wilts) the rates varied from 4s. 8d. in a good year to 10s. in a bad one, and in another populous town (Westbury) things were still worse. Cases such as that of an old woman aged seventy-four, whose husband had recently died, being summoned for 8s. 3d. arrears, was really a reproach to our legislation. At Bradford, in Yorkshire, again, a gentleman had built twelve almshouses for the relief of as many aged women, and endowed them besides with a annuity for each. These almshouses cost £10,000 to build, and although some of the occupants had previously been relieved at a cost to the parish of 6s. a week, the authorities actually rated those buildings. If he was asked what was the remedy for this state of things, his answer would be the property of the nation—the income tax. £100,000,000 only of property were rated for the poor—whilst £300,000,000 of property were rated for the income tax. A rich man who died lately, owned property in the funds that yielded £28,000 a year, and that fund contributed nothing to the poor rate or to the various local burdens, whilst the owner of it enjoyed all the protection of the police, the county prison, the Militia, and the various institutions which are maintained by local rates, to which he contributed absolutely nil in respect of that property. Surely no one could justify that and call it justice. He believed that much good would be done to the working classes, as well as to the revenue of the country, if those classes were relieved from the rates which they now paid, and were charged a moderate amount of income tax proportioned to the wages which they earned.


said, he would withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.