§ MR. CORRANCE
Let me first acknowledge the kindness of the right hon. Member who has afforded me the present opportunity of bringing the matter before the House; nevertheless, in rising to call the attention of the House to this important subject, I must feel conscious of a task beyond my strength, and no less so, that it might have 472 been better undertaken by many hon. Members of this House. My excuse must be that I have waited three years in hopes that this might be the case, and it is under these circumstances that the bounds of prudence have been passed. It has semed to me a strange thing, I confess, that a matter, exciting throughout the country so great and deep an interest, so widely debated, so much discussed, should form so small a part of the consideration of this House. It is true, perhaps, that here and there a detail is altered, or through the increasing discontent of some local body it comes before us in a fragmentary state; but discussions raised upon such issues are never satisfactory, and have a strong tendency to assume a most objectionable shape, a mere question of self-interest or of class, blindly oblivious of the general interests at stake. It will be my endeavour to keep clear of this; to deal honestly and fairly with the question itself, and if, from an admitted incompetency. I fail to solve the grave difficulties of the ease, I may claim, upon such grounds, the indulgence of this House. And now let me leave no doubt upon one point as regards this question, to which I wish to call the attention of the House; I do not believe it can be dealt with in any manner less than complete, and that any reform to be beneficial must be thorough if it is to meet the case. Upon what does the necessity rest? Now, I do not propose to enter at length into statistics, local or general, to prove this part of my case; they are well known, accessible to all, and sufficiently admitted to allow me to assume it as a fact, that the growth and progress of this social malady is both formidable and on the; increase, and upon such grounds to argue the case. A very few figures will, therefore, suffice. Starting from 1834 we find that the expenditure to poor's rate was £6,317,255, while the population stood at 14,322,000. To meet this enormous evil, the Poor Law was passed, and in the next decennial period—namely, up to 1844, we find that, while the number relieved amounted to 800,000. the expenditure had fallen to £4,976,093, while the population stood at 16,410,000. This decrease may then fairly be attributed to the working of the new Act. By the figures for the next decennial period it would seem that a stationary point had been reached, for, 473 in 1854. the figures stood thus—paupers, 884,617; expenditure, £5,232,853; population, 18,617,000; the price of wheat averaging 61s. for the year. But at the end of the next decennial period matters are far worse, for in 1804 the number of paupers were 1,014,078; the expenditure, £6,423,383; the population, 20,881,000; wheat being at 39s. 8d. only. Now this is a most significant fact, and what follows is by no means re-assuring, for in the nest succeeding years—namely, 1865, 1866, 1867 and 1868, the case is no better—until reaching 1867 and 1868, we attain the maximum point of 916,152 average in year 1867, and £6,439,517 expenditure; and 931,546 average in year 1868, and £6,959,810 expenditure; the population standing at 21,429,508, or nearly £500,000 more than at the worst of our previous periods during the old Act. Apparently, then, between 1861 and 1867, while the population increased only 7per cent, the number of in-door paupers increased 9 per cent; while, in the same six years, not regarding the initial year, the poor rate levied increased by £2,382,000, or 30 per cent; and the relief expenditure taken alone, rose in 1867 £1,181,000 over that item in 1861, or by 20 per cent. Now, it may be urged that this is, after all, by no means conclusive as against the action of the Poor Law, and that we ought to rest satisfied so long as the ratio to population does not increase. I cannot agree to this, nor will such an opinion hold good upon a closer examination of this ease. Look at the other circumstances of this case. First, take the price of wheat. According to calculations I have made, the average for the decennial periods, since 1844, run thus—In 1844, average for last ten years, 56s.; in 1854, average for last ten years, 51s. 7¼d.; in 1864, average for last ten years, 52s. 4½d.; or a difference of 3s. to 4s. a quarter, the effect of which upon both rates and pauperism is great. Once more, take the statistics or emigration extending over the same period, and note its gradual increase. Taking the quinquennial periods since 1810 it stands thus—
|1840 to 45||473,640||Average per year||94,728|
|1845 to 50||1,024,146||Average per year||204,829|
|1850 to 55||1,643,945||Average per year||328,689|
|1855 to 60||895,640||Average per year||169,128|
|1860 to 65||773,931||Average per year||154,786|
|1866||209,801||Average per year||209,801|
|1867||204,882.||Average per year||204,882|
|1868||195,953||Average per year||195,953|
The difference between the first five years after 1840 and the last three (1866–7–8) being more than double in amount. Surely this fact is worth something against the account. The increase of friendly societies is also an auxiliary which we must not neglect, and upon comparison with the former period they stand thus—In 1844 their members were 2,500.000; 1864, 3,500,000: capital, 1844, £10,000,000; 1864, £20,000,000. These are computed, upon no mean authority, to save £2,000,000 rates. And if, to such facts, we add the progressive increase of national wealth, surely this steadily maintained ratio of misery can scarcely be held to convey satisfactory assurance of a healthy social state, nor can we dispense with the obvious duty of an examination of the circumstances under which this has taken place. And now, assuming these to be facts, ought we to feel any possible satisfaction at the rate with which pauperism has decreased? And ought not our attention to be next directed to the laws? and to the alteration of the law which has taken place? First, as to the laws themselves, let me honestly confess that, while they appear to me to have been carefully devised to meet circumstance of an exceptional class, and while they appear to me to have been applied with judgment and admirable tact to meet an almost desperate case—that while nothing appears to me more admirable than the principle upon which the application of those laws took place under the given conditions—it is impossible not to recognize the fact that the greater part of the desired effect had been actually produced within the first ten years after they came into operation, and that notwithstanding the successive acts of legislation since introduced, the subsequent operation of the Act has proved by no means capable of meeting the requirements which exist. Now, in connection with this, there is one really remarkable fact, which I recommend to the attention of hon. Members of the House. For the first ten years these Poor Laws were not only grossly unpopular, but they were exposed to all the opposition which party feeling could bring to bear against them. At that time—namely, 1844, this feeling would seem to have died out, and, just at the very period when it is probable we had derived the ultimate amount of good which the system was capable of yield-
ing—just at that time, I say, instead of seeking out the new line of natural development, the old opponents of the measure settled down into contented inertia and unprogressive belief. First, let me call attention to the original Act, and the circumstances it was framed to meet, they were almost desperate, no doubt. In some parishes the system of rates, in fact, constituted a system of communisees of a distinct class, and labour, relief, and wages came out of a common fund—the rate. The whole character of the people was depraved, no doubt, and the essential function of the Poor Law was to create a more wholesome public feeling, as well as conditions of a corresponding class. The one enemy to the honest labourer was relief; I put hon. Gentlemen in mind of this, lest, under other circumstances, they form erroneous ideas as to this. The principles were sound principles, and the laws were sound laws to meet what they met. The question I shall raise is not this—it is whether, when the conditions were much changed, and the remedy had administered to the disease, it was politic to continue the dose? Now I do not think it will be disputed that, if the disease was very malignant, the treatment was drastic enough. Dependence upon rates was the evil, and it was by no means over rose beds that the patient was led back; it was by the sternest of masters, necessity, that he was to be taught. Utter destitution was to be the qualification, and the House the test. In 1809, under Article III., we find it laid down—
That the fundamental principle with respect to the legal relief of the poor is that the condition of the pauper ought to be, on the whole, less eligible than that of the independent labourer. But an inmate of a well-appointed union-house lives in rooms better ventilated, more spacious, and better warmed. His meals are better and more regularly served. He is more warmly clad, and he is better attended in sickness than if he was in his own cottage. Moreover all these benefits are supplied to him with perfect regularity and without any forethought or anxiety on his part.
Thus far relief in a public establishment violates the principle above adverted to, and places the pauper in a more eligible position than the independent labourer. The only expedient, therefore, for accomplishing the end in view which humanity permits is to subject the pauper inmate of a public establishment to such a system of labour-discipline and restraint as shall be sufficient to outweigh in his estimation the advantages which he derives from the bodily comfort he en-
joys. This is the only mode, consistent with humanity, of rendering the condition of the pauper less eligible than that of the independent labourer, and upon this principle the English union-houses have been organized.
Now it is impossible to read this without a feeling almost of terror at what might be the effects of its application upon a wholly dependent class. No doubt the work was written and the system devised by humane and enlightened men, but who could foresee the effects of such words upon men of a rougher mould and of a less discriminating class? It has been accused of producing acts of inhumanity, and in isolated instances this no doubt has been the case, but as a general rule great discretion has tempered the application of the rate. Nevertheless, when we remember that under these sweeping conditions were and are included every inmate of a union-house, I think that we must begin to doubt whether such a system can be applicable to all times and all circumstances alike. Now, when I say this I would not be misunderstood. No one who has deeply studied this question can doubt the difficulties with which it is beset. No one who has read the able Reports of the Commissions, from 1834 to 1844, can doubt the soundness of the principles upon which they framed their Reports, least of all myself. And no one more readily recognizes the depth of Bent-ham's summary of this. He writes thus—
But compassion is one thing, and relief efficacious and unmischievous is another, The one may be bestowed in any quantity; the other should never be attempted to be bestowed, especially at the expense of the community, until after the most strict and comprehensive inquiry whether the undertaking lies within the sphere of practicability, and whether the removal of the evil be not inseparably connected with more extensive, and not loss permanent, evil.
Let us give full scope to tills, and recognize all the ultimate consequences which may proceed from ill-directed attempts at relief. Acknowledge the necessity for inquiry into the conditions which exist, but do not, I say, rest satisfied upon less than conclusive evidence, that your present system contains a panacea for all evils which exist. Recognize, at least, the fact that it is simply repressive, and its operation purely mechanical; that it admits of few distinetions—that all are paupers who come
under its scope—and that the test applied alike to crime, to sullen idleness, and to misfortune, or unsuccess is the test of utter destitution and the union-house. Now, the only justification for such a system must be complete and final success. If this is not attained, then the failure is gross, and it becomes actually mischievous and intolerable from that point. In a recent treatise upon friendly societies (Charles Hardwick) this is well put—
Extreme privation," he says, "has ever a powerful effect in the deterioration of the moral sentiment. Hope speedily forsakes the mind, and despair lays its benumbing hand upon the once thrifty and industrious man. He gradually submits to be pauperized; he has forfeited his most cherished treasure—the sense of self dependence—and habitual pauperism is but too often the stopping stone to crime.
Surely there is force in this, and if we recognize, as I think we must, the insufficiency of our system, there should, at least, he a searching investigation upon this point. But it will doubtless be said that these laws are not inelastic, and they have already suffered considerable changes in important respects, and that, as now administered, they are essentially different from that contemplated at first. Well, this is the case, but if it proves anything—it proves that the experience of actual practice is against the theory upon which these laws were built. It is true that since 1844 about forty such amendments have been passed, and to them I propose to apply the test of success. The laws relating to irremoveability and chargeability are by far the most important in their effects. But there have been some others calculated to produce remarkable results, which from being permissive have fallen dead. Of these I will presently say something; but let us take irremoveability first. Concerning this we have several successive Acts—namely, 9 & 10 Vict., 1816, by which the term of five years was set. Then comes 11 & 12 Vict. c. 111. by which it was amended. After this, 24 & 25 Vict., 1861, c. 55, shortening the term to three years; and subsequently 28 & 29 Vict, 1865., c. 8, which once more reduced the term to one year. Concomitantly with this was widened the area of relief under successive Acts. By 10 & 11 Vict., c. 110; 11 & 12 Vict., caps. 110, 111; 12 & 13 Vict. c. 103, s. 16; and 22 Vict. c. 29.
By the 24 & 25 Vict., the period of three years was substituted for that of five, specified in 9 & 10 Vict.; and residence of any person in any part of the union has the same effect in reference to the provisions of the said section as residence in the parish. By 28 & 29 Vict., s. 17, one year was substituted for three. What has been the effect of these successive enactments? Now, there are some reasons why we should not pass by these important Acts without challenge, and as I thought myself, perhaps, the strongest might have been found in a debate which recently took place in this House. Reviving some arguments, the speaker seemed to hold that some evils of a local nature had been produced or increased under the operation of statutes of a different class, and by the direct pressure of landlords upon labourers, by which they were forced to quit their houses, the burdens of others had been increased. Now, upon a perhaps more general, and I trust impartial inquiry, I cannot arrive at that conclusion myself. I am far from denying that, by absence of cottages, and under pressure arising from the fear of rates, such a congestion may, in the immediate vicinity of a large town, have taken place; but let the hon. Gentleman remember this—that such circumstances cannot operate beyond the neighbourhood of the town to any great extent, and as a disturbing element its force is not great. Let him remember that we live tinder the influence of far greater natural causes, the action of which, as it seems to mo, he has neglected to trace, and that the very action of that measure which he thinks remedial might absolutely and actually accelerate the movement he wishes to check. That it has been found so in England I have no doubt, and that the relaxation of the restrictive laws has given an impetus to the movement they were meant to check I can give the House some evidence of this under some Returns lately made to this House. In the metropolis the total number of male paupers was as follows:—In 1858, 71,515; 1859, 79,716; 1860, 88,118; l861, 96,884; 1802, 113,389; 1863, 103,628; 1864, 99,090; 1865, 101,666; 1866, 108,610; 1867, 132,499; 1868, 163,179. In other large towns we find similar results—
Now what are these natural causes? They are not far to seek. In the first place, during the last ton or fifteen years agricultural employment has diminished, under changed cultivation, under the employment of other power, and the burdens of parish rates. Of this it is also easy to give proof. Since 1831 it has stood thus—In 1831 there were employed in agriculture, 1,076,000; 1841, 1,214,000; 1851, 1,623,000; 1861, 1,547,000: between the last-mentioned periods there was a decrease in thirty out of forty-two counties, and in six only was there any considerable increase; while in the remaining six the numbers were stationary. Once more there is the difficulty of procuring casual work, which is especially felt among the younger labourers; and also that agricultural labour is not fitting for the weak. Persons of bad character also seek the refuge of the towns, and help to swell the list. Then there are the inducements of charities and the like, and the result is, I think, well put in some words I have lately read, namely—
The cause is not far to seek. It lies in the difference between town and country life. In a country parish imposition is next to impossible. The lazy labourer—the bad bargain—is soon known. His neighbours are the last persons to waste their money in misapplied charities; but in London the tracts occupied by the metropolitan pauper class are so many vast jungles. The country offering but a doubtful claim of legal relief only, and the metropolis a certainty of charitable doles, to London he comes, and in London he stays.
Now, against this what was the former check—namely, the power of removal, and settlement confined to one place. I do not say so as an advocate, but it was so, nevertheless. And when I hear hon. Gentlemen who have, perhaps, little studied this question in a general sense, advocates of changes, upon the ground of some special interest or class, I feel inclined to laugh, if, on the other hand, it was not so sad that the poor should be made the sport of conflicting elements such as this. Such, however, is the history of these Poor Laws throughout, and, if I quote the words of a writer in the 18th century, they would seem applicable to every epoch since. Roger North says—
The rates in Colchester amounted to 50 per cent. That one thought alone occupied the ratepayer of all classes, and all his ingenuity was employed to evade or utilize his share of the rate. Whatever public interest existed was absorbed in the struggle between houses and land, and while they inflicted upon each other the heaviest penalties, these belligerents with equal selfishness and folly sacrificed the poor.
And such, I say, if we only take partial views of this question, will ever be the case. But it has been argued from another side I know, and volumes of philanthropy have been expended in its behalf. I think that these have been equally futile. In the first place, such relaxations have been claimed as a poor man's right, and it has been stated as a hardship that any conditions were annexed for relief. The view has been adopted by writers of eminence, such as George Goode, and is worthy of consideration on this account. Why, the very foundation of such a claim is the conditional nature of the ease, and these conditions we have a right to exact. What possible right can one man have to another's goods, or to eleemosynary support? Nor is such a right conferred by law under any statute or Act. Quite the reverse. The Act of Elizabeth prescribes the condition of the case in a manner the most precise, and that condition was settlement and work. The elementary principle was this. Nor can I believe that if society ever relinquished such a safeguard that it would tend to the poor man's good, for it would become an inducement to become demoralized and base. He must feel the degradation of relief. On the other hand, what is the fact? That the helpless mass gravitates to the town, and within
that town what takes place? The union houses are made almshouses; the able-bodied become vagrants; and the children Arabs in the streets. But it may be objected that these are, no doubt, evils incidental to the existing state of things, and it by no means follows that a remedy can be devised which will not perhaps aggravate the disease. If I venture to enter upon this ground, it is not because I am unaware of the danger of the attempt. Every one has his pet remedy, his general panacea. One says emigration, another national workshops, a third subdivision of land, and if we add a humane baby-farming society to the list, the new light for the regeneration of society would seem complete. I shall not venture to differ with such, but merely state my opinion that they might fall short of the requirements of the case. On one point only shall I venture to express an opinion, that I do not think it would be safe to trust to the temporary relief afforded by emigration as regards ourselves, and it is not hopeful as regards those sent out. It can only act as an auxiliary at all events. For an effectual remedy we must look deeper than this, and recognizing the disorder as one of a moral nature, we must lay the axe to the root. The first duty of those who would prescribe must be to know the patients; who are they in this case? They come under the common head of paupers, but they are of a widely distinct and different class. They come under four subdivisions at least, children, aged, sick, able-bodied. Let me very briefly show the present state under the existing law of each of these classes. It seems to me the children merit our attention first, not only for the hopes they may inspire of an honest and honourable future life, not merely because of the whole social structure these form the base, but no less so because we are confronted with a sad and instructive fact that, even in numerical proportion, these are the important class. Out of a total of able-bodied paupers of 477,169 we find no less a number than 391,539 charged as children under sixteen in receipt of relief. Out of this number 56,500 are within the house, and 34,266 are receiving instruction within the union school. Now concerning this large and important section among those who receive out-door relief, what do we know? That is the first question I must
ask? I can obtain no information, save that they are in receipt of relief, paupers in fact. What an admission is this, that we relieve 323,475 children per annum without knowledge of their social state; whether they are at work, or play, or the commission of crime we know not. Are they apprenticed, to what industrial occupation do they belong—ignorance is our lot. The existence of such a fact alone would send any system into unutterable contempt. How can you deal with pauperism upon such a footing as this? There is no information upon this point, but we can obtain a glimpse or two which may suffice. From the Leeds Mercury, March 2, 1869, we find that between 10 o'clock and 11.30 (school hours), there were counted in the streets 5,507 of these deserted ones; of these 2,561 were English and 2,946 Irish; of the former 1,274 and of the latter 2,329 had no shoes; many of these were found in the streets after 11 at night. A walk through Westminster to Vincent Square will furnish pretty much the same result within the very shadow of this House. In the country one or two facts are also significant as regards this class. I allude to the utter failure of 18 & 19 Vict., called Denison's Act; to what conclusion would this conduct? We know that such children cannot pay school pence. Their education must be a charitable one, it can come from no other source. What provision is made for this? The inference is painful from this, that here is the recruiting ground of pauperism and crime, the source from which the devil's regiment of the line fills up its wasted ranks. But this is only a part, and there are 56,500 more within the walls of the house. In union schools 34,266 are receiving education, which to some may appear a satisfactory fact; before, however, we admit this, it is necessary to ask what sort of an education this is, and with what moral and intellectual results. Against these union schools grave charges have been brought, and well-qualified persons have never favoured them much. In 1839 we find the Poor Law Commissioners speaking thus—
An investigation of the circumstances of the children in the various workhouses, and of the means of affording them adequate instruction, soon convinced us that the instruction of pauper children must remain imperfect so long as the children of each union are reared in the union school.
At the same date, we find Mr. C. Tufnell speaking to the same effect, namely—
Under the old system of the Poor Law, it is well-known how frequently a family which once became pauperized remained so for ever after. In education within the house, there is considerable danger of moral contamination from residence in the same house with adult paupers, for it is perfectly well known to all who have had any experience that a large proportion of the adult residents are persons of the worst character. That this class, morally infectious as they are, should be kept separate from the children is of primary importance; and I am confident that architectural arrangements can never effectually secure perfect classification.
Now, against this it might be urged that such reasoning was necessarily hypothetical, and that great improvements have been made. Let us see how far this, tested by modern experience, is the case. In 1861 the School Commission—Commission of Sir John Coleridge, Nassau Senior and others—reported thus—
That pauperism is hereditary, and that the children born and bred as members of that class furnish the great mass of the pauper and criminal classes; that the best chance of a permanent diminution of pauperism and crime is to be found in the proper education of such children; that the workhouse schools are generally so managed that the children learn from infancy to regard the workhouses as their homes, and associate with grownup paupers, whose influence destroys their moral character and prevents the growth of independence; that the arrangements of workhouses are unavoidably bad, and make it difficult to keep or retain competent teachers; and lastly, that district and separate schools give an education to the children which effectually tends to emancipate them from pauperism.
Now, against this, the Committee of 1865 no doubt report, but even as hostile witnesses we found them speaking thus of the arrangements within workhouses—namely—
That no arrangement existed for the separation of women of infamous character, and removing men tainted with crime, and that proper classification is defective throughout.
Now, I think, without going further into this question, this evidence should suffice. I need not quote the success of these large establishments, such as Norwood, &c, to prove my case, nor will any testimony derived from mere examination meet the case. The intellectual cultivation may be perfect, but the moral training is a consideration which lies far above it, and it is bad. Let me add my conviction that by district schools it can alone be met, aided by the State. Time
will permit no more upon this head. It is enough that we have here revealed a source of evil, a fountain of bitter water to dam up, especially binding upon us both for its public interest and the sympathy it should undoubtedly create. Let us turn to aged and sick. Of males they amount to 148,090, and of females 278,390; total, 426,480. Broken by age, misfortune, and sickness, they must be considered as beyond hope, and it is in regard of these that our present system is especially weak. What test can alter the condition of such? The only test of value is the medical test. Are they incapable of work? Of all means of providing for them the house is the worst. Their conditions accord neither with a penal code nor the house. For mere infirmaries these were never built, nor is the function of a public almshouse one suitable to the case. The result must be this. If comforts are increased, you give a premium to an improvident life. If you apply the test, humanity is shocked. How then are you to deal with the class? My answer must be this—that there should scarcely be such a class, and that for these the victims of misfortune, without friends and de-sorted, the proper application of existing charities would for the most part suffice. Take London as an example of this. Of charities for the relief of diseases—bodily and mental—181, income, about £650,000; for bodily wants—food, dwelling, clothes,—537, at about £2,100,000; while of miscellaneous charity there is a further sum of £114,000, probably equally applicable to this, making a total of nearly £3,000,000 of public charities within the metropolis itself especially devoted to such objects as this. Of local charities I take no account, for it is difficult to classify the uses and intents, but about another £500,000 is so annually spent. Organization and good management alone are required to yield a complete and satisfactory result. But these are considerations apart, and although they may help us out of a present difficulty, it is not upon such aids that we should permanently rest. Our attention should be bestowed upon the means which are at our disposal, to meet or obviate the want. I have said it ought not to exist. What is the cause of it? Improvidence for the most part in youth. This then is the point to which our inquiries
should conduct. Now, it is commonly cast as a reproach to the industrial classes that they are an improvident class. It is so, no doubt. That they dissipate their small surplus in drink, and this too we must admit. Is society blameless upon this point? Towards providence what inducements or facilities does she hold out—what has she permitted to the public-house? In these latter years it seems to me that, in the strivings of society for a more perfect state, there has not been one more remarkable than the formation and development of certain societies by the working class, especially when we consider the circumstances of the case—deficient in education, in means, in all but active intelligence, scarcely, or coldly recognized by the higher classes, and neglected by the State, they formed, at first after a rude fashion, those friendly societies which have done so great things since. I say so great things, and I confess the epithet seems too small in this case. At the beginning of this century they had hardly reached the rudimentary state. They were held at the Red Dragon or the Green Goose, and the accounts were audited by mine host, and the larger portion transferred to his own book. Beyond this they have got but little help. Their present position, though still a very imperfect position, is the best demonstration of their success. Their total numbers have reached 24,300. Their members reach 3,000,000, with £20,000,000 of assets. They are computed to save £2,000,000 per annum to the rates. And far beyond all such material results—far indeed beyond all price, they have raised these 3,000,000 Englishmen above the moral standard of want. Nevertheless, one thing must be confessed, there is a point they cannot reach, and the result is only partial and incomplete. In the agricultural districts especially we mark this. In provision for sickness and medical attendance, these societies are, or ought to be, successful so far as the provision against casual sickness goes, and possibly medical relief, but they cannot go beyond this, or rather they will not. For old age the resort is the rate. Why should they save employers this? Few subscribers will be found upon the superannuation list—and in only one of about twelve of the best managed societies in England will it be found to exist. Even in the
Odd Fellows' Society it has not been attended with success. The feeling, as well as habit, is against it, unless some superior inducement can be held out, and we may practically hold that the insurance is deducted from wages and added to the rate. Surely the question will arise, is this a desirable state? and, secondly, cannot the rate be better applied? Now I must call attention to certain circumstances respecting this. It does seem to me that so deserving an object as a voluntary effort to attain such an independence deserves the recognition of society, and even substantial help, and of this I feel convinced—that the present is nearly, if not absolutely, the worst application he could make of the rate. Now, what I should propose is this—that discretionary power should be vested in the Guardians to contribute in certain proportions towards such an object as this, perhaps even through the local friendly societies, where such exist, upon sufficiently sound footing, or by means of the Post Office Savings' Bank in any other case. I will not now trouble the House by going into the details of such a plan, but it could, without difficulty, be carried out. I claim no originality for this, for a clause was introduced into a Bill, in 1859, which ran thus—
Clause 4. If any parish or parishes shall determine to adopt this Act, and to establish a Friendly Society, then the vestry or vestries thereof shall establish a Friendly Society, &c, and shall direct to be paid to such society out of the poor's rates, such an annual sum of money, not exceeding a sum equal to 25 per cent, of the amount of the annual contributions of the members as the Guardians may determine.
Restrict this to the superannuation fund, and you will have struck the first blow to the entire dependence of the aged upon rates, and given the first assistance to providence to attain an object comparatively remote. The objections taken have always seemed to me slight. But to this class, more especially, belongs the great department for medical relief—a subject which, within my present limit, I can but inadequately discuss. Trusting to be followed by other speakers of greater experience and more technical knowledge upon these points, one or two brief sketches must suffice. Now, this much must be admitted, that in our Poor Law system it fills the most important place. It might be called the preventive service of the force. Some idea may be
formed of this from the fact that out of the disorders incapacitating the working class and making them subjects for relief, there were not less than 32 per cent produced by the neglect of preventible maladies, and the absence of medical relief, while 72 per cent of the total relief is caused by sickness itself. Nevertheless, it can be boldly said, that there is no part of the whole English Poor Law system which is more systematically treated with, neglect; perhaps I ought not to say systematic, for it is unsystematic thorough out. Medical men are dissatisfied and underpaid, and drugs and medicines are bad. I refer to notorious facts, upon which I leave others to dilate. As reformers, we have two modes, either assistance from rates to voluntary medical clubs, or the dispensary system as carried out in Ireland, which has produced some remarkable results. With the details of the system I need not trouble the House: they are well-known to most who have studied the question. One or two facts will suffice. Instituted in 1852. the expenditure upon rates in that country, which was at that time £937,556, was £513,048 in 1859, and it has never since reached its ancient point; and although perhaps not the sole cause of the diminution referred to, yet it has a right to claim its share in the reduction of rates. I come nearer home also to illustrate this. In St. Margaret's, Westminster, where the dispensary system has been carried out, during the week ending March 1st, 1869, there were nearly 1,000 less relieved than the corresponding week of 1868, while in Kensington, where the medical man found his own drugs, there was a large increase: and the same comparison will extend to Birmingham, Brighton, Oxford. Southampton, Newport, Salop, and others. To them Leeds may serve as a contrast. Why, then, if so successful, has not this dispensary system been further carried out? No less remarkable is the contrast presented by the system of foreign countries in such respects, perhaps, the most so Paris itself, including public hospitals, maison des secours, and the like, in which the blending together of public and private charities is complete. While such things are possible elsewhere, why not with us? The next great sub-division of the pauper classes will be found under the head of able-bodied, and with
them must be reckoned the vagrant class. Now, if the present Poor Laws were capable of dealing with any part of the question, it should surely be this. For this is exactly the problem it was devised to meet. It was framed against such, and the test, both of utter destitution and the house, was imposed against such. It is a failure nevertheless. First, the number is on the increase, and the last year, July 1, 1868, showed an augmentation of 27,322 of such, or 5 per cent. It is almost unnecessary to say that all relief given to them must be as much curtailed as humanity permits, and of a nature to which the normal condition of the employed labourer must be a favourable contrast. If any relaxation takes place it must be of a different sort. Aids to emigration, registers for labour or employment on public works; all these may be entertained, and if under proper organization, they may do good. The relief proper must be in the house. Our difficulty is this—they will not come for such relief, but become vagrants instead, especially from the town or vagrant class. In this form the house and the test do not, as at present constituted, satisfy the case. Now let me most strongly urge that, in all cases, the vagrant ward should be placed under the direct supervision of the police, and that all relief should be given at the house. It should be daily visited by the inspector, and no one allowed to go without his pass. Every name, destination, and address should be duly kept, and the vagrant, without credentials, should receive no second relief. He must not only come but be kept under the inspection of the police. Lists should be published every week and sent to the superintendent of police. Such a system may seem stern and repressive, but the class is tainted with crime, and justice as well as mercy, requires no less. One thing is certain, our present ad- ministration has failed in this case, and even to a dangerous extent. Statistics will show the state of the case. In one week of October last there were 22,553 persons in the casual wards of thirty-nine unions, or an average of 3,222 per night. And since 1858 to 1868, this class has trebled in amount. The following table will show this:—It includes in-door and out-door. In 1858 the total number of this class was 2,416. On January 1, 1859, 2,153; on January 1, 1860, 1,494; on January 1,1861, 1,941; on January 1,
862, 2,830; on January 1, 1863, 4,234; on January 1, 1864, 3,158; on January 1, 1865, 3,339; on January 1, 1866, 4,450; on January 1, 1867, 5,017; on January 1, 1868, 6,129;' and on July 1, 1868, 7,946 relieved as tramps: while it is computed that these represent but one-sixth of the total of the vagrant class. Can we draw no conclusion from this? Mine must be this—It is the effect of our system that they go into the towns as poor, arrived there they become paupers, and as vagrants come back. Of your system this is the effect, and your repressive measures will fail so long as the circumstances and the class shall exist. All that we can hope for is better regulation in this case. Such, then, are the special means which seem to me to be applicable to paupers under the several heads, but it is time I draw some final conclusions upon these points. The present system must I think be held to be a failure under each of these several heads—the training of children, the provision for age, for sickness, for medical relief, as regards the able-bodied: no less. What are the chief causes for this? I trace it to this, the practical impotence of the Poor Law Board, and the faulty administration of local authority constituted as it is. What is the cause for the first? I think it is this, that the central authority cannot exercise authority over funds to which it does not contribute, and any attempt to do so will meet with resistance. I think, under the circumstances, the one remedy for this is a Government contingent to the rate. Rate-payers would be docile enough in that case. Secondly, the faulty and vicious principle of local administration, extending into departments more properly the function of the State—to medical eases, to education, to emigration. For those things you have no right to come upon the local rate, more especially if levied upon the occupier class. Depend upon it you will have no district schools, no infirmaries, no emigration, no prospective permanent measures of improvement so long as this is the case. Their interests do not extend to the extinction of the pauper class at a period more or less remote, and yet this should be the aim of any law throughout. How long shall we blind ourselves to this? It was apparent to men of intelligence prior to the application of this Act; for, in 1825. we find Sydney Smith writing thus—
There are two points which we consider as admitted by all men of sense. First, that the Poor Laws must be not amended, but abolished; and, second, that they must be very gradually abolished. We think it hardly worth while to throw away pen and ink upon anyone who is inclined to dispute the above proposition. We shall think the improvement immense, and a subject of a very general congratulation, if the poor rates are perceptibly diminished, and if the system of pauperism is clearly going down in twenty or thirty years hence. We have stated our opinion that all remedies without gradual abolition are of little importance. With a foundation laid for such gradual abolition, every auxiliary improvement of the Poor Laws, while they do remain, is worth the attention of Parliament, and in suggesting a few alterations as fit to be adopted, we wish it to be understood that we have in view the gradual destruction of the system, as well as the amendment while it continues to operate.
And lastly, it fails through the absolute failure of the principle upon which it is built—the test. The vagrant laughs at it; the aged and the sick are not fit objects for it; and children are beyond its scope. It had a work to do, and it did that work; since that time it is obsolete. In these days our agents must be the actuary, the friendly society, the schoolmaster, and the surgeon. But that a vast work of legislation lies before us, let no one doubt—not less than in 1834, perhaps. Nevertheless, with the work to do and the cause discovered, we cannot be thankful, and we cannot rest; the evil is too active, and the necessity too great. Years ago, in the sight of similar ills, a pungent pen wrote thus—
Some persons of a desponding spirit are at great concern about that vast mass of poor persons who are aged, or diseased, or maimed; but I am not in the least pain about them to know how the State can be rid of so great incumbrance; because it is well known that they are every day dying by cold, famine, filth, and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected."—Swift.
Let us be thankful that the terrible irony of that day is, indeed, inapplicable to this. Nevertheless, let us remember the state of the poor is a thing we dare not neglect, and as long as there is one means untried we lie under the reproach. The question is now before the House. I have been urged by some to ask for a Committee or a Commission upon this question. I cannot undertake so much. It is with the Government of this kingdom that the responsibility of so great an undertaking must rest. As a humble Member of this House I have twice during this Session called the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the
pressing importance of this case; I regretted that it had found no mention in the Queen's Speech. So far, then, I have presumed, relying upon the goodness of my case. Sir, it is in no party spirit that I have appealed to both sides of this House, and it is in no spirit of party that it should he discussed. If, for such a cause, it should fail to attract the serious attention of the House, then even in this there would be a matter of regret. But if, in a juster sense of its social importance, it should lead us to join in willing co-operation to obtain some common end, then I think it will not fail to conduct us to reforms, even now too long deferred; and. even during our own lives, to issues over which, not only as Members here but as Christian men, we can mutually rejoice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the existing state of Pauperism and Vagrancy in England, and the principles upon which the Poor Laws are at present administered."—(Mr. Corrance.)
§ MR. A. W. PEEL
said, he could not but congratulate his hon. Friend (Mr. Corrance) on the ability he had shown in bringing forward that subject. He agreed with him as to its gravity and also that it should not be dealt with as a party question. He rose in no spirit of antagonism to his hon. Friend, but merely to state some facts and figures in elucidation of the subject. He did not know why his hon. Friend had selected 1844 as the period at which he started. No doubt that year was an important epoch in Poor Law legislation. The Act of 1844 contained most important provisions—so much so that it. had been called, in the language of that day, the Second Poor Law Amendment Act. But in the years 1846, 1851, and 1853 the total expenditure for the relief of the poor was less than it was in 1844. His hon. Friend would say that remedial measures dated from that period; but those remedial measures were introduced before 1844. The Act of 1795 was a great Act in favour of the poor; and that measure had been followed up by successive steps of beneficent legislation on this subject. He would not compare the statistics of 1834 with those of the present time, because they were not entirely reliable; but he would begin with 1848, the period when the Poor Law 492 Returns were carefully organized, and first- he would compare the ten years between 1851 and 1860, the seven years between 1861 and 1867, and the latest year—namely, 1868. The average number of paupers in England and Wales in the ten years from 1851 to 1860 was 892,671. In the seven following years—from 1861 to 1867—the average number was 956,434. For the year 1868 the number of paupers was 992,640. Put in another shape, the figures probably would come more home to hon. Members. For the ten years, 1851–60, the average rate of paupers to the general population of England and Wales was 47 to every 1,000; for the seven years, 1861–7, the average rate was 46 per 1,000; and in the latest year, 1868, though this was an exceptional year of distress, the same proportion of 46 per 1,000 continued. Out-of-doors there was a very general impression that the sum levied for the relief of the poor went entirely to the relief of the poor; but hon. Members knew that there was a great distinction between the sum levied and the sum actually expended for that purpose. Taking the average amount of poor rates levied throughout England and Wales for the same periods of which he had already spoken, he found that for the ten years ending 1860 the average was £7,796,019; for the seven years ending 1867, £9,189,386; and for the latest year, 1868, when a number of other charges were levied, nominally under the same head, £11,054,513. To gain an idea of the amount of relief afforded, it was necessary to look to the amount which had actually been expended. For the ten years ending 1860 the average amount expended for the relief of the poor was £5,476,454; for the seven years ending 1867, £6,353,000; and in the latest year, £7,498,000. Therefore, the amount actually expended in the relief of the poor was, in the ten years ending 1860, at the average annual rate of 5s.. 9½d. per head upon the population; for the seven years ending 1867, 6s. 1¾d.; and for the year 1868, 6s. 11½d. To explain why the Returns were taken in every case from 1850, it was necessary to explain that before 1848 the Returns were made quarterly, but to some extent overlapped each other, and hence at the end of the year did not quite accurately represent the circumstances. But in 1848 the half-yearly 493 system was introduced, and had continued ever since. The Returns were made to January and July, and taking the mean between the two half-years the average number of paupers for the year ending Lady-day, 1849, was 1,088,659, while in 1868 they had decreased to 992,640. Thus, in 1849 there were 62 paupers for every 1,000 of the population, and in 1868 there were but 46 for every 1,000, being 16 per l,000 less in the latter than in the former year. [Mr. BREWER said he wished to know whether vagrants were included in these Returns?] Vagrants were not included in the Return for either year. He had been anxious to ascertain what was the amount of relief afforded to the poor in 1834; and, subject to the observation which he had made that the Returns for that period were in some respects fallacious, he found that the rate per head which was paid for the relief of the poor was 9s. 1d. If we continued in 1867 to pay the same rate which was paid in 1849, the amount, instead of being £6,960,000. would be £9,700,000, showing a balance of £2,740,000 in favour of 1867. So far, his figures in many respects corresponded with those given by his hon. Friend; but his hon. Friend had spoken in disparaging terms of the Act of 1834, and there they came into direct collision. He believed that whatever good results had been achieved had been accomplished by following out the principles embodied in the Act of 1831. His hon. Friend seemed to imagine that the effect of recent legislation had been to swell the number of paupers in towns; but he gave to some extent an answer to his own indictment when he said that there were many attractive causes independent of legislation—such, for instance, as ill-administered and lavish charities, which drew large numbers of paupers to the towns, where, no test existing which could be applied to them, they ultimately became a burden upon the rates. If the hon. Member wished to attack the Union Chargeability Act, he (Mr. A. W. Peel) by no means stood up as its uncompromising champion, but he was bound to point out that in many respects its working had proved beneficial. That Act came into operation in 1866, and the expenditure for that year was £6,500,000; to Lady-day, 1867, it was £7,000,000; and to the corresponding period in 1868 494 it was £7,500,000. In the metropolis, no doubt, there had been a great increase of expenditure, the amount being in 1866, £976,000; in 1867, £1,175,000; and in 1868. £1,316,000. But that increase was not owing to the Union Chargeability Act: many other causes had co-operated to increase the expenditure under the head of poor rate. Since the Act had come into operation there had been a commercial distress of unparalleled severity, and that which affected the labouring poor above all, an increase in the price of wheat. Wheat had risen from 43s. 6d. in 1866 to 53s. 17d. in 1867, and 67s. 6½d. in 1868; and hon. Members all knew what a large element bread supplies formed in the maintenance of the workhouse economy. His hon. Friend had wisely declared that one of the great objects of legislation should be to take children out of the atmosphere of the workhouse and to cut off the taint of hereditary pauperism. In that sentiment his right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board would no doubt cordially concur, and would labour as much as any Gentleman who had preceded him in Office towards the attainment of that object. The attempt had not been tarried out to any extent sufficient to warrant the giving of any detailed information in the shape of Returns: but in more than one ease a trial had been made of placing workhouse children out in schools where they came into competition with others of their own age, and where there was reason to hope that the traditions of their youth would speedily be lost, and that they would eventually become merged in the general, body of the population. The hon. Member had also recommended the establishment of district schools, but such schools had hitherto failed in consequence of the opposition of Boards of Guardians. If this opposition could be overcome, it would be highly desirable to encourage the system of district schools, as they afforded better organization, greater discipline, and all the advantages of a great public school. In 1839 such a school was in existence at Norwood, and was attended by upwards of 1,000 children from the parishes of the metropolis. He believed the school had been found to work admirably, though he was not in possession of the facts of its subsequent history. The hon. Member had referred 495 to the fact that sick and aged paupers were, as a rule, confounded with the able-bodied pauper, and no doubt: an aged or a sick pauper should be distinguished from the common pauper. The hon. Member had gone on to suggest that assistance should be furnished to the pauper through provident societies; but such a system would be a very dangerous one to adopt. He had received a letter on this subject from a clergyman, who put the proposition very neatly and clearly. He said—I have a conviction that one of the most useful ways of helping the poor would be to allow to every benefit club, to which the subscriptions were not more than 1s. 6d. per month, to claim one subscription from the union for every ten or twelve members, upon the condition that the members should receive no relief from the parish.It was impossible, however, that such an understanding could be carried out in practice, because in the event of a member of the society becoming reduced, relief would still have to be administered to him out of the poor rates. [Mr. CORRANCE explained that he had merely referred to medical assistance and superannuation funds.] He objected to a system of granting subsidies to provident societies altogether. In dealing with the able-bodied paupers the hon. Member appeared to have made another quick transition to vagrants, and upon the latter subject especially he wished to say a word or two. He felt bound to dispute the accuracy of his hon. Friend's figures, as it seemed almost incredible that there could have been 22,557 vagrants in the casual wards of thirty-nine unions on a certain night in October last. He held in his hand Returns, as far as he could get them, showing the number of vagrants known to the Poor Law Board, and he would compare these Returns with those furnished by the police. The number of vagrants known to the police in April, 1867, was 32,528. It was impossible, however, to ascertain exactly the classes of persons included by the police under the head of vagrants. The number of vagrants relieved by the Guardians of the Poor on the 1st of January, in the five following years, was in England and Wales, 1865, 3,339; in 1866, 4,469; in 1867,5,027; in 1868, 6,129; and in 1869, 7,020; and in the metropolis only, in 1865, 589; in 1866, 1,501; in 1867, 1,452; in 1868, 1,673; and in 1860. 1,882. There was, there- 496 fore considerable difference between the figures contained in the police Returns and those furnished by the Poor Law Board. The difference between the 32,528 and the 7,008 would be accounted for to a great extent by those tramps who were sleeping under hedges and in lodging-houses in towns. It had been suggested that buildings should be erected to accommodate the paupers of London; but it was impossible to build places to accommodate 100,000 persons in the metropolis without throwing an enormous burden upon the rates. He had understood the hon. Member to express himself unfavourably with regard to the union system, but he trusted that he did not wish to revert to the old exploded parochial system, with its 15,000 areas of parochial management—a system which had been found to degrade the pauper more than any other system that could be devised, and which in the eloquent language of Mr. Senior, confounded poverty with pauperism, and tainted wages by the admixture of relief.
§ MR. FLOYER
said, that the Secretary to the Poor Law Board (Mr. A. W. Peel) appeared to have anticipated that some attack would be made upon the Union Chargeability Act, which passed some Sessions ago, after full discussion in that House; but, whatever might have been the views which hon. Members took when that Act was tinder discussion, he was not aware that it had been seriously attacked after it was passed. He could not, however, admit that the operation of the Act had been entirely and uniformly advantageous. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Poor Law Board had, no doubt, to a considerable extent accounted for the increase of pauperism by the commercial crisis of 1866. His hon. Friend went on to say that the price of provisions also accounted in some part for the increase of expenditure on the poor; but he did not suppose his hon. Friend could be a large farmer, or he would have known that when he quoted 67s. a quarter as the average price of corn last year he was naming too high a figure. Now, he did not deny that the Union Chargeability Act had been in some respects beneficial; no doubt it had very much diminished the labours of Boards of Guardians. That was a great advantage. He thought hon. Members would agree with him that the good working of the Poor Law depended 497 almost entirely on the persons whom they got to discharge the onerous, laborious, and sometimes painful duties of Poor Law Guardians. But the Act had not been sufficiently long in operation to justify anyone in giving a very positive opinion as to its results. He could have wished, however, that when his hon. Friend (Mr. A. W. Peel) had so strongly deprecated any return to the old parochial system he had expressed an equally strong opinion against any further ex- tension of the area of chargeability—any approximation to what was called a national rate, because he thought that this would be a fatal blow at the independence of the labourer, the interests; of the rate-payer, and the welfare of the whole kingdom. His hon. Friend the Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) had divided his subject into these heads—treatment of children in unions or districts of unions, treatment of the sick and aged, and treatment of the able-bodied and vagrants. Some years ago an Act was passed to enable unions to combine together for the purpose of forming district schools: but not much good had resulted from that Act. There were difficulties in the way of carrying it out, which he thought would also present themselves if attempts were made to carry out the suggestion of his hon. Friend on this head. A large number of the children entered workhouses with their parents when the latter were ill or out of employment; but in these eases the children remained only a short time in the workhouses—a few months, or perhaps a few weeks. It would be of no use to send those children to district schools. It was true that a certain number of children remained in the workhouses a sufficiently long time to enable them to receive the advantages of a good school; but if district schools were formed, the number of children left in the workhouses would be so small that the expenditure necessary to provide good schoolmasters and mistresses would be greater than that number would warrant. In his own district the number of scholars was sixteen or eighteen, and if several of these were sent to the district school the local school would have to be given up altogether. With respect to the aged poor his hon. Friend had made a suggestion for which he tendered him his thanks. The great difficulty with that class was to provide 498 themselves with house accommodation when they got out-door relief. In the country districts the allowance made to these poor people was necessarily limited, but it was such as would provide them with food and clothing of the humblest description if they had no rent to pay. In many cases country gentlemen provided their poor labourers whose working days were passed with rooms in the neighbourhood where they had been accustomed to live; but where this was not done the pressure was so great on those poor people that they were obliged to go into the workhouse. His hon. Friend had suggested that where there were some local charities not at present very well applied those charities might be applied to found almshouses in which those aged poor could live. As for the able-bodied poor the Secretary to the Poor Law Board said that the hon. Member for East Suffolk had passed slightly over that subject; but the hon. Member had said that the workhouse test should be applied, which was indeed saying almost all that could be said. The other question was that of vagrancy, in respect of which a very considerable difficulty still existed. The Secretary to the Poor Law Board had called in question the figures quoted by his hon. Friend the Member for East Suffolk. He thought that the figures with respect to vagrants must necessarily be incomplete, because vagrants came under very different management in different localities. Until a comparatively recent date not much attention was given to statistical returns relating to vagrants, because it was only within the last few years vagrancy had come so prominently under the notice of those engaged in the administration of the Poor Law and of the public generally. He could fully corroborate the statements made by his hon. Friend with regard to the increase of vagrancy. In the county of Dorset it had been thought advisable to take a course which had been adopted in many other counties—namely, to bring vagrants more under the control of the police than they hitherto had been. The Returns showed that the number of vagrants receiving relief in Dorsetshire in 1868 was 6,000 and odd, as against 3,000 and odd in 1867. He was aware that this had been attributed to the effects of the commercial crisis; but as that crisis occurred in 1866, and its 499 effects were felt as largely in 1867 as in 1868, he did not believe that the panic would account for this enormous increase. He was, he confessed, at a loss to assign a cause. They knew, upon the authority of those best acquainted with these matters, that when persons once took to mendicancy they hardly ever became laborious and industrious member of the community, while this class was constantly being recruited by those who, from some cause or another, dropped out of the ranks of those who earned an honest livelihood. Mendicancy was regarded as a profession, and this was a, most alarming feature. Vagrancy had been pronounced by the law to be a crime, and even if they looked at it in its modified character it very nearly approached the offence of obtaining money under false pretences, for it was only by false pretences and by false representations that vagrants were able to obtain assistance from the benevolent and charitable. It was also closely connected with crime properly so called. According to a statement which he held in his hand, and which had been put forth by several magistrates of Westmoreland, the chief constable of that county expressed his firm conviction that ninety nine out of every 100 tramps were professional mendicants, and that a large proportion were convicted thieves, and lived by plunder. The chief constable attributed to them the greater number of the burglaries, highway robberies, and petty larcenies which had been committed in the county for some years, and said that if the present system of allowing professional tramps to wander about the country were put an end to, a great-deal of crime would be prevented, and immense good would be conferred upon the general community. In the course which should be adopted to check this growing evil, he regretted to say he could not concur with his hon. Friend (Mr. Corrance). If he had followed his argument rightly, his hon. Friend proposed that relief should be withheld from a man who had been previously relieved. But, in this opinion, he could not agree. The great cause of mendicancy was, no doubt, the large charitable heart of this country. People in giving recognized the fact that many of those whom they relieved were impostors, and utterly unworthy of their charity; but they felt that, if they refused to give, 500 some fellow creature, in consequence of their refusal, might suffer seriously from the privations of hunger and want of shelter. As long as they felt that their refusal might possibly be attended by these results, so long would they open their hand with the same readiness that they now did. The remedy was that every destitute person in the county should find food and shelter forthcoming immediately upon application. That, he believed, to be the solitary condition upon which we might, if not put down, at least, materially check this great evil. Vagrancy was partly the result of old habits and old times, when the first question that was asked was—" Where do you belong?" Instead of that being the first question it should be the last. The first question should be—"Are you in want, and how do you prove it?" If relief were afforded whenever there was destitution there would be no excuse for men to travel about the country and obtain alms on the representation—too frequently utterly without foundation—that they were travelling towards their homes to get relief. He did not understand that the hon. Member's (Mr. Corrance's) Motion went the length of an indictment against Poor Law Act. But, no doubt, the Poor Law Act of 1834 was an Act of severity. As far as he (Mr. Floyer) could understand the intention of the framers of the Act, their object, was to restrict, as far as possible, the relief of the poor to relief in the workhouse. That principle, he believed, to be essentially wrong. He had never hitherto heard it denied that the workhouse should be given to the able-bodied; but to drive the sick, aged, and infirm into the workhouse was not only an error in legislation, but was contrary to the first principles of charity. Fortunately, the administration of the Poor Laws fell into good hands. For more than thirty years, as Chairman of a Board of Guardians, he had from time to time been brought into communication with the Poor Law Board, and he was bound to say that on all occasions, whichever party had been in power, he had found the greatest readiness to promote the views of the Guardians, if it could be done justly and safety; and, on the whole, he believed the law had been administered by the Poor Law Board for the good of the country. But, as he had said, it was a great error to drive 501 the aged poor into the workhouse, and it was one of the most important suggestions of his hon. Friend that some provision should be made for the aged poor in respect of that which constituted their greatest difficulty, the means of obtaining house room and lodging. If that suggestion should lead to any result the hon. Member would have achieved something by bringing the subject before the House.
§ MR. E. DENISON
said. he had listened with satisfaction to a large part of the speech of the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance). He concurred with the hon. Member in thinking that the object to be kept in view was the absolute abolition of the Poor Laws, which were incapable of achieving that which they were intended to do. He also agreed that the time was nearly come when the work should be completed. This was not a subject to be dealt with in a partial and half-hearted way: a very serious reform must be introduced if anything were to be done at all. He further concurred in the opinion that one of the most, deplorable features of Poor Law administration under the Act of 1834 had been the marvellous weakness of the Central Board, which had been anything but the despot it had been prophesied it would be and had at times found itself absolutely paralyzed by the resistance of Guardians, and had been repeatedly foiled in the attempt to carry out common-sense reforms. He further concurred in the absolute necessity of confining relief to the able-bodied within the walls of the workhouse. There seemed to be an obvious distinction between their case and that of the sick and infirm; and certainly the framers of the Act of 1834 made a, great mistake in clubbing together the sick, the aged, and infirm, and the able-bodied in one building, and thus confounding in one treatment two classes that deserved to he treated in a different way—those whom every one would admit to be the legitimate objects of the tenderest care of the charitable disposition of the country, and those to whom a bare sustenance should be grudgingly allowed to avert the scandal and disgrace of then suffering absolute starvation. It was obvious there must be some test of the actual condition of those who applied for relief, and it must be a self-acting test; because no human being could 502 possibly tell at sight whether a man was actually in want or was not. The test must be acceptable to those who were in want, and unacceptable to those who were not. There was little fear of persons becoming sick to obtain relief, and they could not make themselves aged and infirm. There was, therefore, no danger of increasing the numbers of these classes in receipt of relief by administering relief outside the walls of the workhouse. The importance of vagrancy was to be estimated, not only by the aggregate number of vagrants and the absolute expense to which they put the country, but by the demoralization it produced, the scandal it involved, and the abuse of charity that prevailed. No doubt the success with which vagrants preyed on the charity-giving portion of the population offered a most dangerous and pernicious inducement to the honest labourer in time of temporary depression to go on tramp, seeing that he might earn more in that way than he could by honest labour at the best of times. As the hon. Member for Dorset- shire (Mr. Mover) said, there was only one way in which the Poor Law could be made at all efficient, and that was by affording relief everywhere to every destitute person who applied for it. It had been repeatedly acknowledged that that that was the principle of the Poor Law, although the hon. Member for East Suffolk seemed to call it in question. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) had laid it down that every person who was really destitute was entitled to receive relief upon application, and that a workhouse being full did not relieve Guardians from responsibility. As this principle of the Poor Law could not be repudiated, the only thing to be done was to sec if we could not find out a method of applying that principle which would not render it liable to abuse. This appeared to have been an object long sought for by the Poor Law Board, and in the well-known Minute issued by Mr. Buller in 1848, he described the then state of things in words which might be repeated now—he deplored the remissness of the Guardians in regard to the casual wards, and their neglect to observe the recommendation of the Poor Law Board to apply the labour test, and so compel vagrants to do something in return for the food and lodging they obtained. 503 However good the intention of the given of alms, there was no doubt lie did unqualified mischief: and he was not justified in relieving his benevolent impulses at the expense of the community. It was within his knowledge that a certain gentleman was in the habit of giving half-a-pound of bread to every tramp that called at his house, and of course as long as this was done begging would flourish. Mr. Cobbett once drew an extraordinary parallel between the alimentary standard of each of the three kingdoms and the degree in which they had respectively enjoyed the blessing of a Poor Law. The people of England, who had enjoyed a Poor Law for two centuries and a half, ate meat with a knife and fork; the Scotch, with an incomplete system, ate porridge with a spoon; and the Irish, with no Poor Law ate potatoes with their fingers. But a Poor Law system, to be perfect should have the confidence of the people to such an extent that they would recognize it as the only proper system of relieving the poor, and make it the medium for their charitable donations. The Marquess of Salisbury, when in that House, in 1861 had observed that the theory of the English Poor Law is that nobody should be allowed to starve in the streets; and in order to obtain that result it must offer to distressed persons the bare necessaries of life, a roof to their head and a meal. No doubt, if the theory wore carried out, indiscriminate almsgiving would cease then, for people only give to beggars because they fancy they would starve without their aid. But there was a possibility of creating another evil—the increase of vagrancy. No hon. Member had, as yet, charged the Casual Poor Act with having increased vagrancy: but he feared the charge could be to some extent substantiated. A liberal supply of casual wards offering improved accommodation, would, not improbably, tempt many idlers to a wandering life. Food and shelter being offered everywhere to all destitute persons, the question was how to counteract the inducement thus held out to idleness? The counterpoise was to be found in a strict application of the Vagrant Act in all the casual wards, and this could only be done by investing the Board with greater powers over the Guardians, either to coerce or to entice them to act upon 504 their suggestions. It appeared very desirable that if coercion was not applicable some form of inducement should be offered, and that it should be in the power of the Poor Law Board to hold out certain hopes to local boards, to be realized on condition that they should comply with the recommendations of the central body. The Vagrant Act had been in existence for about a century, and it was nearly inoperative during the whole of that time, because there was no universal provision for the relief of destitute people, and in the absence of such provision the humanity of the public would not suffer the enforcement of such a law, but as soon as relief of the destitute universally was conceded, it was necessary to find a counterpoise in the proper administration of repressive measures. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire seemed to have spoken very leniently of vagrancy when he said it was almost a crime. It seemed to him (Mr. E. Denison) to be a crime of a very bad description, and it was treated so by the Act. No person not guilty of a crime could be treated in the manner prescribed by the Vagrant Act. The difficulty was to ascertain at what particular point the criminal act was consummated, because, at first sight, the casual who addressed himself to the workhouse for relief could not be set down as a criminal vagrant. But they constantly found that when vagrants were in the wards they professed themselves to belong to the class of criminal vagrants, and brought themselves under the provisions of the Act. One of the most important duties of the masters of workhouses ought to be to prosecute tramps for the violation of the Vagrant Act. Wherever, in return for the wants of the wayfarer being provided for. a task of work was rigidly exacted, wherever the magistrates were willing to convict, and the persons so convicted were committed to the House of Correction or the gaol for two or three months, they very speedily got rid of vagrants. They had recently a very good proof of that in the Reports from the counties of Westmoreland and Cumberland. The chief constable at Carlisle stated that, from the practical experience furnished by these two counties, he felt persuaded if the law were strictly and uniformly carried out tramping and vagrancy and the crimes with 505 which they were attended would soon be put a stop to. He attributed these good effects to the operation of the Act, and, the evil consequences of which they complained to the general neglect of the Boards of Guardians to exact the task of work, to the disinclination to prosecute refractory vagrants, and also to the failure, from whatever cause, of the Central Board to secure that uniformity of procedure throughout the United Kingdom which seemed to be absolutely necessary to put a stop to the practices complained of. At present the very best administration of the laws in one or two counties had only the effect of diverting the stream of vagrancy elsewhere. But even if the existing law were administered in the best possible manner, there were three desiderata without, which its operation would be distinctly hampered. In the first place the discretionary powers of detention by the masters of workhouses ought to be enlarged beyond the four hours to which they were now limited. It was also desirable that the charge for the erection and maintenance of casual wards, which in small country unions where vagrants were few would lead to great difficulties, should be laid upon the county rate instead of the Union rate. And thirdly, there should be proper places to which the vagrants after conviction, could be committed to serve out their two or three months at hard labour. Wherever a proper place existed to which vagrants could be sent there it appeared that vagrancy was very much checked. With regard to the enlargement of the power of detention, workhouse masters were almost unanimous as to its necessity for the proper discrimination between the deserving wayfarer and the vagrant, and discrimination was at the root of the due administration of the Poor Law. The only possible way in which the deserving could be sifted out was by putting them under conditions which, while meeting their case, would be unpleasant and distasteful to the undeserving. Providence had fortunately furnished us with a self-acting test in the nature of the criminal vagrant, because there was nothing he so much abhorred as order, regularity, decency, and all that was most acceptable to the moral, intelligent wayfarer. He might quote various high authorities in support of that statement, but he would 506 only refer to one, Mr. Arthur Arnold, who said that there was nothing so abhorrent to the nature of the criminal classes as steady discipline and labour. The establishment of new wards and improvement of the accommodation for vagrants had not tended largely to increase the numbers of those resorting to the workhouses. As to the enlargement of the area of chargeability, that would be very much contested; but he did not think it could be contested very logically considering the principles that were laid down during the debate on the Casual Poor Act in 1863. The area of chargeability should be such as could be regarded on economical grounds as having one common interest. It should form, so to speak, an economic unit. The metropolitan area ought fairly to be compared with the area of a county. The President of the Poor Law Board, in a debate some years ago had used words to the effect that the houseless poor did not belong to east or west, but were the common charge of the entire metropolis, and that any measure which made the metropolis support them was a proper one, and would in no degree interfere with the principle that every district should provide for its own poor. In conclusion, he should be glad to receive from the Poor Law Board some distinct assurance that they were at length about to adopt the principles which for twenty years they had acknowledged to be sound. He had confined his observations to the question of vagrancy, not wishing to enter upon the grave and almost overwhelming question raised by the hon. Member for East Suffolk, though he fully believed that next year, or, at all events, before long, a searching investigation must be made into the whole question, and strenuous measures adopted. At present, however, there were a number of laws in existence, and regulations which had been established; but the laws were inoperative, and the regulations were disregarded. Before any new system was introduced they ought, in his opinion, to see what could be effected in the way of improvement, by putting those laws into operation and by procuring some regard for these regulations.
§ MR. W. W. BEACH
said, an attack had been made upon the Act of 1834, but it must be admitted to have been, to a great extent, successful in accomplish- 507 ing the purposes for which it was brought forward. At the time it was framed the evils of the Poor Law system had grown confessedly to a very great height. Not only had the charge for the Poor Laws enormously increased, but instead of being applied for the benefit of the infirm, and aged, and reduced in circumstances, that charge was largely carried out in aid of wages. That he felt to be a most objectionable principle: those who employed labourers ought to pay fair wages, and not call upon the general public to assist them out of the rates. The Act of 1834 sprang into existence, he might almost say, by the general sense of the community being enlisted in its favour, and it soon succeeded in checking the evils complained of. Labour received its proper remuneration, and the charge which had grown to so enormous a weight was reduced to its natural and proper proportions. The population of England in 1834 was 14,372,000, and the total amount expended in the relief of the poor—as far the figures could be relied on—appeared to be £6,317,255, or at the rate of 8s. 9½d. per head of the population. The Poor Law Guardians were called upon to perform duties to which they were altogether untrained; but though they might in some cases have overfavoured the poor, and in others have leant to over-hardship, yet, on the whole, everybody must feel that the country was greatly indebted to them for the trouble which they had taken to can out the system intrusted to them, and that, on the whole, the community had benefited by their labours. The present population numbered 21,320,000, and the total amount expended for the relief of the poor was £6,959,841, being at the rate of 6s. 6¼d. per head of the population. It appeared, therefore, that although there had since the year 1834 been an increase in the expenditure, there was a somewhat considerable diminution in the burden imposed on each member of the population. At present, however, the amount expended in relief was steadily increasing. It had been said that that was a result arising from exceptional causes, but still it was one which urgently demanded the serious attention of the Legislature. He would proceed to direct the attention of the House to the charge incurred for the maintenance of paupers. In the year 1867, 134,051 508 in-door paupers were maintained at a cost of £1,428,721, or £10 13s. per head; and 791,493 out-door paupers were maintained at a cost of £3,487,754, or £4 8s. per head. He did not think that the difference in the charge per head was excessive, especially when the terror with which a man looked upon, being an inmate of a workhouse was taken into account. In olden times indoor relief was almost unknown, and but little mercy was shown for the "sturdy beggar," as he was called. Now-a-days, however, the number of able-bodied paupers was considerable. A good deal of this able-bodied pauperism might occasionally be accounted for by a temporary dearth of work, but as a rule ample work would be found by those who chose to seek for it. On the 1st of January, 1868, the number of able-bodied paupers in the receipt of indoor relief was 28,646, and the number receiving out-door relief was 156,984, making a total number of able-bodied paupers of 185,630. That was a large number of able-bodied persons to be destitute of work and thrown upon the general resources of the community. The poorer classes might be divided into three particular classes—namely, the able-bodied labourer, the pauper, and the criminal. The treatment of the latter class of late had been such as to prevent crime being' adopted as a vocation with any hope of success. To a certain extent the pauper was placed in a better position than the criminal. Although his food might not be so generous, his work was less. The case of the labourer was very hard. When worn out by hard and continuous labour his only resource was to go to the workhouse, there to end the remainder of his days. He was glad, however, to say that the aid afforded by friendly societies, which enabled a man by the work of his own right hand to accumulate a provision for old age, was largely on the increase. Ho, however, did not agree with the hon. Member that any assistance should be given to such societies from public sources. The utmost caution was necessary at the present time to prevent relief being doled out when it was not urgently required. He knew a case in which a man who was in the receipt of 14s. a week met with an accident. His employer continued to pay him his wages, and he got 8s. a week from his club, but 509 still he applied for parochial relief. He was detected and refused, but still his application showed the necessity for exercising caution. With respect to the question of vagrancy he found, as a general rule, that so many did not apply for relief at the large houses in the country as there used to be. Their applications were generally made to the cottagers, and they, with most philanthropic motives, no doubt, gave indiscriminate relief, small as far as the individual was concerned—large in the aggregate, and sufficient to encourage large numbers of tramps. The principle of increasing the area of chargeability was a right one It was manifestly unfair that the poorer parishes in the metropolis should be compelled to support their own poor, while the richer parishes, from which the poor were expelled by reason of the class of the dwelling-houses, should escape almost entirely from the burden, It was a system that made poverty sup port poverty. If possible, an equal rate; should be charged, not only throughout the metropolis, but throughout the country. One great difficulty in the way of adopting such a system was, however that it would be almost impossible to obtain an adequate local supervision. He would be for a national rate if a good local supervision could be obtained. He did not know whether this could be secured; but the more we could extend the area of chargeability, the more we should make the poor rate approach to what it ought to be, a national rate—one levied on the community at large.
§ DR. LUSH
said, he desired to make a few remarks upon the question of medical relief. Though he could claim no special authority on the subject, he could clam special experience, because, for twenty years, he had served as a Poor Law medical officer. The point was most important, for about 72 per cent of of pauperism in this country was associated with sickness. Before touching upon that matter, however, he might be permitted to remark that he concurred very generally in the observations of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Floyer) but differed from the lion. Gentleman on ones point—he thought that union chargeability should be further extended. He could have wished that the question of vagrancy had not been introduced in this discussion. He regarded vagrancy as an excrescence on pauperism, and not 510 as pauperism itself. It did not follow that a vagrant was a pauper, while as a rule paupers had no inclination for vagrancy; they were strongly attached to their own localities. As regarded medical relief, his opinion was—and it was only the more confirmed the longer became his experience—that the whole system of its administration was unsatisfactory alike to the medical officers, the guardians, the rate-payers, and the poor themselves. The medical men employed by unions were very insufficiently remunerated—so insufficiently that the poor thought that services which were so badly paid for could not be worth much; the poor came to think they did not receive that care and attention from the medical officers which they required, and they showed a growing disposition to depend on their own sick clubs. So far as medical relief went Ireland was far in advance of England. In the year 1867 the population of Ireland was 4,500,000, while that of England was 21,000,000. The rates for the relief of the poor in Ireland amounted to £795,000, and in England to £6,990,000. The expense of medical relief in Ireland was £132,000, while in England, which was so much larger and richer, the amount expended was only £272,000. In other words, in Ireland £1 in every £5 10s. of the total expenditure for the relief of the poor was expended in medical relief, whilst in England the proportion was only £1 in about £20. Every man in the medical profession expressed dissatisfaction with the present state of things as regarded the English system. He thought that in this respect the practice of this country should be as much as possible assimilated to that of Ireland, which worked so well.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he did not derive much comfort from the statements of the Secretary to the Poor Law Board (Mr. A. W. Peel). He (Mr. Mundella) believed there was no country in Western Europe in which poverty existed in more squalid, and more appalling forms than it did in this country. From the Poor Law statistics it appeared that there were about 1,000,000 paupers in England and Wales. That would be sufficiently sad; but we knew that it did not represent the total of the pauperism of this country. In a pamphlet addressed to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, his hon. Friend 511 the Member for Carlisle (Mr. E. Potter) pointed out how nearly allied to the state of pauperism was the condition of about 3,000,000 in addition to the 1,000,000 who were actual paupers. He believed that the remedy must go deeper than any change in the administration of the Poor Lair. He concurred with the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) that the education of the juvenile paupers was a very important point and would be an efficacious remedy. A Committee which had reported on this subject in his own neighbourhood stated that the worst paupers were those who had been in pauper schools. The boys turned out very badly in many cases, and a large percentage of the girls returned to the workhouse as prostitutes. From his own experience he could bear testimony to the shocking effects of mixing up children of both sexes with the adult paupers. Girls were hoard to express the hope that the time would soon come when they might be able to go out and earn fine clothes by the wages of infamy. The only-hope of improving the present state of things lay in a careful segregation of the pauper children. As long as they continued the present system so long he believed would their be only contributing to the manufacture of paupers. Self-respect was lost early in life, and it was found almost impossible to restore it. He did not agree that State aid should be afforded to friendly societies. The great object to be aimed at was to make the working man helpful and self-depending, and towards this something might be done by a better management of the ill-directed charities now existing. He knew a village of 4,000 inhabitants, where about;£30 was spent in education and £800 doled away in gifts, and the week after the distribution of the doles was always one of drunkenness and debauchery. He earnestly hoped that Government would do something to secure the better employment of these charitable funds, which were sufficient in amount to provide for the education of the whole country. "With regard to emigration, he expected little from it, because, according to his own experience, it took away the best and most careful artizans, men who were the backbone and sinew of the country, and did not touch that residuum of pauperism and misery of which we were anxious to get rid. The skilled workmen took our trade secrets with 512 them to America, and became, perhaps our most dangerous competitors. The best hope of effectual remedy lay in a sound and effective system of national education, in a reduction of national expenditure, and lightening the burdens of the industrious classes. A reduction of £10,000,000 in the expenditure, as set forth by the President of the Board of Trade, would be equivalent—taking the cost of collection saved into account—to a relief of £16,000,000 or £17,000,000, which would swell the wage fund and give increased employment to the labouring classes. In the metropolis it was a melancholy fact that the amount of outdoor relief had increased with the last few years 130 per cent. He could not help being of opinion that the Game Laws had a great deal to do with the increase of pauperism in the country generally. You could not convict 10,000 or 12,000 men every year without reducing their families to pauperism; for what were these wretched people to do when their bread-winner was taken from thorn and confined in a dungeon? He felt deeply the pernicious consequences of these laws, and those who had seen like himself 2,000 pheasants or more by the side of a covert would be able to estimate the amount of temptation to the poor involved in the extensive system of game preserving carried on in this country. He was impressed with the deep importance of the House turning their attention to these questions, which had the most intimate connection with both the moral and physical welfare of the people, and from inquiries conscientiously prosecuted into them they might expect the noblest results in the amelioration of the lot of the poor, and of many who were upon every account entitled to their commiseration.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he trusted that, as a metropolitan Member, he might be permitted to say a few words on this question, which had been described by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) as one of the most important of the present day. He (Mr. W. H. Smith) concurred in that description. The Secretary to the Poor Law Board (Mr. A. W. Peel) had read some statistics, which might seem to indicate, that the operation of the law was satisfactory: but his hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk (Mr. Corrance), had been at pains to show that the law had failed, 513 Even if the operation of the law were' deemed satisfactory in the country at large, he was not prepared to admit that it could be deemed satisfactory so far as; the metropolis was concerned. If they were to regard the law as one, the object of which was to diminish pauperism, while it was to relieve persons overtaken by suffering and unforeseen calamity, and to meet emergencies which resulted from the contingencies to which those engaged in trade were liable, he was prepared to contend that the amount of pauperism existing in the metropolis was greater in amount than is to be attributed justly to unforeseen causes. He had heard a description given by a noble Duke who held a high position in the Government, and who described the Poor Law as the "expression of the legal right of every man who did not work, or who could not work, or who would not work, and who did not possess property, to food clothing, and shelter, at the expense of those who did work, could work, would work, and did possess property." That might seem a harsh mode of expression, but he thought it was well to look at questions of that sort in a plain, straightforward point of view. Within the last few years there had not only been an appalling increase in pauperism, but in the relative degree of pauperism in the metropolis. It was, doubtless, their duty to relieve the distressed and suffering, especially when they were reduced to that condition by no fault of their own; but it was also their duty to discourage pauperism in every way, because not only was the charge on the rates rendered heavy, but a large portion of those who had to pay them were very little raised above the condition of those they were called upon to relieve. This had become a very serious matter in London, as well as elsewhere, and it seemed to him that we did the pauper a grievous wrong, for we afforded him facilities for forsaking that self-dependence and that confidence in his own resources which were the birthright of every Englishman. He was prepared to contend that there was nothing in the present day so disgraceful to our civilization as the condition of a large portion of our population, and it was incumbent on the Government to deal most seriously and earnestly with this state of things. He would glance at the amount now spent on pauperism in London itself. Taking 1851 as the 514 period when the new Poor Law had been brought into full operation, and when the Poor Law Board was constituted, he found that the cost of poor relief in London had doubled since that time. In 1851 the whole amount spent for this purpose was £659,000; in 1858, it was £870,000; in 1867, £1,180,000: in 1868, £1,317.000. Between 1851 and 1868 the population had increased from 2,360,000 to an estimated population of 3.100,000; so that while the population had increased only by 30 or 34 per cent, the cost of relief had exactly doubled. That alone was a very grievous matter, but he found that the paupers who were relieved in London in the course of the year 1851 were 13 per cent of the whole population, while in 1868 they had increased to 16 per cent of the whole population. They were constantly receiving statements from the Poor Law Board purporting to be averages, and according to them 5 per cent of the population were chargeable upon the poor rates; but, from careful inquiries he had made, a large proportion of these were only chargeable on the rates for three or four months—in-paupsrs for four months and out-paupers for eleven or twelve weeks. They had never realized the whole number in England who were of the pauperized class—of those whom the Poor Law had educated and taught to fall back on it for relief when thrown down by ill-success or want of work, so that they were made careless, and took no care to provide something against the rainy day. To justify these statements he would give the House a few figures, which he had obtained by the kindness of the Guardians, in reference to the Strand Union, by no means the poorest in the metropolis. The population of the union in 1861 was 43,000, and it was decreasing. In 1868, 8,305 persons, or 20 per cent of the whole population, received relief, and this was a state of things which, in his opinion, was alarming, and demanded the serious consideration of the House. He maintained that the tendency in London was to an increase of pauperism and to a loss of self-reliance and independence. Advantages were offered in connection with, relief that the poor man was unable to resist. The cost of relief in the workhouse had increased very considerably in the last five years, and the cost of food 515 consumed in. the house per head had increased from 2s. 9d. in 1853 to 4s. 11d. in 1868, and this while they had the authority of Professor Leone Levi for the statement that the farm labourer spent upon his own food only 3s. a week. The Returns of the Poor Law Board showed that the total cost of children who were educated in their schools was from £15 to £20 per head per annum, and although he was not prepared to say that was a charge which should be reduced, it was obvious that that expenditure was greater than could be afforded by most of the rate-payers for the education of their own children. This fact had, at all events, the appearance of great injustice to the rate-payers, and might tempt the poor among them to become careless of their children, and eventually to throw them on the parish. A circumstance had come to his knowledge which confirmed this view. He found that in a union district school there were five children of one parent, and the cost of each child was 7s. per head, the cost for the five being 35s. It was ascertained that the mother was capable of supporting her children, and she was required to take them out; but she declined to do so unless a certain allowance was made, and it was made. Another important matter was the question of medical relief. It was an indisputable fact that in many instances the receipt of medical relief was the first step to pauperism; and in all cases it tended more or less to destroy the spirit of self-respect and independence which had done so much in past times for the country. The question of the administration of the law, too, demanded attention. In the debates in 1847, when the Poor Law Board was newly constituted, nothing was so much insisted on as the necessity for responsibility; but he ventured to say that they had not obtained it. There was vacillation and uncertainty in the administration of the law which arose from the frequent changes of Presidents and Secretaries of the Poor Law Board, from the want of power in reference to Boards of Guardians, and the opportunity that existed of shifting responsibility from one to the other. Moreover, it had become a by-word that the Poor Law Board was strong against a weak Board of Guardians, and weak against a strong one; and this caused uncertainty and want of confidence in the way in 516 which the law was administered. While he entirely recognized the spirit in which recent changes had been made, he could not think that the multiplication of Boards, resulting from the Act of 1867, had tended to improve the administration of the law. They had now the Poor Law Board and Board of Guardians, and in addition they had in the metropolis the Asylum District Board, the Sick Asylum District Board, and the School District Board, each of which possessed separate taxing power and dealt with a separate class of the poor in the same parish, and each of which Boards came into contact with the others. He did not think that this was a desirable system. He thought that there should be greater personal responsibility either with the Guardians or with the Poor Law Board, and that it should be known distinctly what policy was to be pursued. Where a power of increasing or diminishing taxation amounting to £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 a year resided there should surely be responsibility. There was another conclusion at which he had arrived, and it was that the principle upon which relief should be administered ought to be that, as far as possible, it should be given in exchange for work. He knew that in saying this he was touching upon delicate ground, but he was not himself afraid of interference with the labour market as many people were, and he very much preferred the risk of such interference to the certain demoralization which arose from giving relief as a matter of right to the person claiming it, without value given or a sense of gratitude in return.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, that while agreeing with the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance), that the tendency of our legislation of late years had not been altogether such as to decrease pauperism, he differed totally from the conclusions which the hon. Gentleman drew from his premises that in all cases the house was the only relief which should be offered to the able-bodied. It would be absolutely impossible under the present state of things that the house could be applied under the exceptional circumstances which from time to time arose, and to which Poor Law relief had been extended to a large extent. To prove that, he would refer to what had occurred in his own district. A sudden collapse of commercial credit and pro- 517 ductive industry occurred, and in the course of an incredibly short time no fewer than 9,000 artizans out of a total number of 14,000 in one branch, of industry only were thrown out of employment. These were the heads of families, and represented such a number of persons dependent on them that the workhouses in the district, multiplied by twenty, would not have been sufficient to contain them. If, then, from forethought they were to attempt the providing of workhouses for such, a state of things the weight and pressure on the ratepayers of the district would be so great that to bear it would be impossible. This distress came on so suddenly that it was totally out of the question to enforce the ordinary rules of the Guardians. It was found necessary, therefore, to give out-door relief in the shape of an allowance of 9s. in money and bread to persons with five in family in order to keep body und soul together. But it appeared that two-thirds of the labourers employed in the docks could not earn as much, and the result was that when they could no longer earn their 7s. or 8s. they applied to the workhouse for relief, and were afterwards very unwilling to go back to the docks. No doubt this was a matter upon which it was very difficult to legislate. He had read, and he believed it to be correct, that in an ordinary state of things one man was able to produce enough of corn from the land for thirty men to live upon. He could not help thinking that, though we looked upon ourselves as the most civilized people in the world, we were hardly in a healthy state when 5 per cent of our population were literally without anything to eat. He agreed, with the hon. Member (Mr. Corrance) who had introduced the subject that our legislation of late years had tended to increase pauperism, and he thought he could put his finger upon the exact thing that had produced it. Nothing had tended so much in that direction as the limited liability system. That system had stimulated production to a point at which it could not be permanently preserved; and nothing was a greater source of pauperism and of misery to the working population than those great and sudden transitions in the demand for labour. By means of the limited liability system an enormous quantity of capital was collected without a corresponding amount 518 of experience or knowledge to use it, and the consequence was that at the first turn of the tide, commercial prosperity ceasing, was followed by a collapse, capital was lost, and the labour which had been attracted to the district by means of it, and had been dependent on it, became shipwrecked and deprived of all means of support. Then there was another thing, the absence of which led to an increase of pauperism, and that was a good bankruptcy law, which would distinguish between the man whoso misfortunes wore the result of unforeseen circumstances and the man whose bankruptcy was due to his own misconduct. For the want of this, speculative and unsound trading was greatly on the increase; for the speculator perceived no difference in the treatment of a bankrupt of one description or the other. There was a third subject which had been alluded to in connection with the question before the House, and that was emigration. It had been said that emigration if encouraged would deprive us of the flower of our rising population. But he could not help thinking that it was the absolute duty of every statesman to open out a road to emigration for such as could not find proper employment in this country. He was entirely opposed to employing the public purse for emigration purposes; but he inclined to the belief that much, good might be done by setting aside a large portion of land in the colonies, which at present was wholly unused, and by making advances on suitable securities to industrious members of society to enable them to emigrate. The proposal offered to the House within the last few weeks to make advances under certain conditions to purchase the tithe rent-charge in Ireland did not involve less risk than the proposal that the Government, taking suitable securities, should enable persons to emigrate. Whether the larger estimate of the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) or the more moderate figures of the Secretary to the Poor Law Board were adopted, we had evidently to deal with a vast amount of pauperism, and the true way in which to approach the subject was, not by apologizing for the action of the Board hitherto, but by setting to work to discover some ameliorating process.
§ MR. PELL
said, he hoped to hear from some of the hon. Members repre- 519 senting large towns explanations of the awful state of poor persons existing in them, and of the reasons for the collapse of the Poor Law system in the great cities, which was not equally observable in the country. In the union he attended himself—which he took as a typo of others—he found that the amount given to the poor in the shape of direct relief had varied very little during the last fifteen years, though almost every housekeeping necessary had risen in price. The explanation, however, lay in the fact that a great deal had been done in the shape of medical relief; that was to say, indirectly and by the agency of very badly paid officers, England had been saved from a condition of things she would have blushed to see. As the result of inquiries instituted in the county of Northampton, it was ascertained that the amount given for medical extras in one large union had increased over 400 per cent in fifteen years. A man with some disorder about him actually enjoyed an advantage in the country, for he did not go to the Guardians or the relieving officer, but to the medical officer, and got what he really wanted—a little refreshing food. His fear with regard to the Act of 1834 was that, in the present day, we were growing rather lax in practice and sliding back to the old state of things by consenting to give relief in aid. He was led to this conclusion by eases which had fallen under his own observation; and the mischievous state of things ought, in his opinion, to be remedied by a strict administration, He was disposed to agree in the remarks of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) as to the evils which had resulted in large; towns from over-speculation. He believed that the deplorable state of things at the East-end was attributable, in a degree, to the hope which persons entertained of bettering their condition by the high wages which obviously could not last for any lengthened period. These were tempted away from the green fields and those moderate wages which philanthropists made it a practice to deprecate; but, having enjoyed enhanced wages for a very short time, the period of prosperity was too often succeeded by a time of distress, approaching nearly to starvation. It was impossible to offer to vast numbers of men the shelter of the "workhouse, and it was 520 equally difficult to discriminate in granting out-door relief. What, therefore, followed too often, was the placing men at labour unprofitable and unsuitable—when they asked for bread, a stone was given to them. It was the duty, he thought, if not of the State, certainly of individuals, to assist emigration, whenever this would open to men abroad opportunities of maintaining their families honestly which were denied to them at home. He did not believe with the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) that in this way we should lose all our best workmen. the most highly educated would have reason sufficient to induce them to remain. But those who had not been strictly apprenticed, but had found their way into the profession through some by-lane, were legitimate candidates for the emigrant ship, and should be assisted to depart. As a tenant-farmer and landowner, he could never bring himself to believe that there was any necessary connection between poverty and the Game Laws. He was strongly opposed to excessive preserving of game; but it was really trifling with the question to say that the distress of men was in any way caused or aggravated by the presence of birds, preserved or not preserved, in the country. He believed that the personal payment of poor rates would have a very beneficial effect, as nothing had tended more than the payment of poor rates by the landlord to the destruction of independence and consequent increase of pauperism. The attention of the small tenants whose rates Were formerly paid by their landlords was never called to the increase of pauperism; but now that they had to pay their own rates they took a deep interest in the matter, and, therefore, apart from political reasons, that change in the law had proved very wholesome in its effects. He thought the House was greatly indebted to the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) for having brought forward the subject, and he hoped that, in any future consideration of the case, the House would not forget how a large portion of the cost of the maintenance of the poor was confined to one class. If any want of liberality was to be attributed to those who distributed the funds and to levy the rates, it must not be forgotten that the area on which they were levied was 521 very limited in extent, and that it was possible that more liberality might "be shown if the area was made wider than it was at present.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that those who had listened to his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Poor Law Board (Mr. A. W. Peel) would make a great mistake if they thought that the figures he had quoted were intended to induce the House to believe that the Department of the Poor Law Board was not thoroughly alive to the alarming: extent of pauperism which existed at this moment, and to the increase in the expenditure upon pauperism, which during the last few years all had had so much occasion to deplore. It was, however, equally important that at a time like the present, when every one was devising remedies for this state of pauperism, the public should not take an exaggerated view of the matter, as that they should not under-rate the amount of the increase in pauperism. It was important that no confusion should be suffered to exist between the increase in the number of paupers and the increase in the cost of their maintenance. While the increase; in the expenditure had been most remarkable the increase in the actual number of paupers relatively to the population had been but slight during the last seven years. Where there had been a startling increase of pauperism—as, for instance, in the metropolis—that was owing to an aggregation of pauperism in some places and a displacement of it in others. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), who had addressed the House with so much ability and clearness, had reason to say that in the metropolis the increase in pauperism was really appalling, the number of paupers having risen from 100,000 to 145,000 within the last few years. But it was apparent, from the figures which had been laid before the House by his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Poor Law Board, that this increase in the pauperism of the metropolis, and in that of other large towns, had arisen from the pauper class congregating in those towns more than they did formerly—partly, no doubt, in consequence of the course of recent legislation in removing every artificial barrier to the circulation of labour. Of course, I his influx of labour to the largo towns had imported with it a certain refuse, which entailed an increase in pauperism, 522 but surely the places that had benefited by the labour had not a right to complain of the burden which it entailed, and which had been partly met, and might be met to a greater extent, by distributing the expense over the whole, instead of over portions of them. Union chargeability was a natural sequel to making the poor irremovable. He would not, at that hour, and after the long debate that had arisen upon this subject, trouble the House with many statistics upon the question before them. While, he must admit that the state of pauperism was most unsatisfactory, he must yet contend that it has not alarming, that it has not such as to justify a panic, or to induce the House to deviate from those sound principles of political economy which were sometimes forgotten, when they were asked to legislate upon pauperism. He would take the amount of pauperism which existed in 1849, in six agricultural counties, taken at random, and would compare it with the amount of pauperism which existed in those counties at the present time. The number of paupers in the counties of Buckingham, Somerset. Suffolk, Dorset, Norfolk, and Lincoln, in the year 1849, has 137,000; whereas, in 1868, it was only 124,000, showing a diminution of 13,000. The pauperism of those counties in 1848 formed 15 per cent of the entire pauperism of the country; whereas, in 1868, it only formed 12 per cent. On the other hand, taking the three metropolitan counties of Kent, Middlesex, and Surrey, he found that the number of paupers they contained in 1849 was 96,000, whereas, in 1868, they contained 171,000, showing an increase of 75,000 in these three counties, and the pauperism of these three counties which formed 10 per cent of the total pauperism of the country in 1849, formed 17 per cent of it at the present time. In round numbers, therefore, it might be taken that the metropolis accounted for the whole increase in the pauperism of the country during the last twenty years. He particularly wished that he should not be misunderstood upon this point. He did not wish it to be supposed that, because he said that the number of paupers had not increased to any alarming extent, he was satisfied with the existing state of things. He has far from being satisfied with the existing state of things; and he thought the most ener- 523 getic steps should be adopted to diminish pauperism. But, although, the proportionate increase of pauperism was not so great, the increase in the amount of the expenditure had been enormous, He must, however, first be permitted to say that an increase in pauperism did, not necessarily depend upon Poor Law legislation. On the contrary, when there was any unnecessary Imperial expenditure, or when any mistake was made, in our social legislation, the result was to be found in the register of pauperism. As regarded the increased expenditure, why is it, that the expenditure had increased, while we had not a very much larger number of paupers? He believed that public opinion was quite as much responsible for it as that House, the Poor Law Guardians, or the Poor Law Board. In 1864 and 1865, the public conscience, if he might say so, was first roused to the state of the sick poor in workhouses, and public opinion was not satisfied with the treatment which the poor received. The consequence was that every kind of improvement in the sanitary and general condition of the workhouses had been demanded from that time to this, and the expenditure had increased accordingly. He did not say whether this was to be regretted or was not; but we could not expect the two things—we could not expect the rates to be kept down at the same time that we were establishing a higher standard of treatment for the; poor. He had heard a good deal of sound language with respect, to expenditure in the course of this debate—language very different from some which had been held in former debates on this subject. Having been only a short time at the poor Law Board, he could speak independently and impartially on the point, and he would express his opinion that, in former years, the expenditure had been curtailed and cut down by the Poor Law Board to a lower point than the public feeling would have sanctioned. The country must make up its mind to spend a good deal of money In improving the condition of the inmates of workhouses, or not to improve it up to so high a standard as that to which the public had been looking. But how did his hon. Friend the Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) propose to meet the increased expenditure? Why, by opening a new tap. His 524 hon. Friend suggested that the rates should be contributed locally, Imperially, and by the owners of property. The observations of his hon. Friend with respect to the latter mode of contribution were very pregnant, and he was rather surprised that they had not elicited an expression of opinion from the owners of land. He should like to hear what they thought of the proposal to place a portion of the burden directly on the owners of land. He was not prepared to say that his hon. Friend's suggestion on the point was not a good one. He did not think he desired, its adoption with the view of lessening the burden, but with the view of interesting the owners of land more in the administration of the Poor Law. This would be a good object to attain. Nor would the plan be a shifting of the incidence of taxation, because political economists hold that the owners of land paid the rates. It might be desirable, therefore, that the owners of land should do what his hon. Friend suggested; but the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) did not seem to think it would lead to a decrease of the exditure, because he proposed that the latter object should be brought about by making the occupiers pay the rates. For himself he must say that, though he dissented from other remedies proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for East Suffolk, he did not dissent from that one. With regard to the children, he agreed with his hon. Friend that where it could be done—but this was a large limitation—district schools should be established. He, however, endorsed all that had been said on this point by his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Poor Law Board. These district schools could only be formed with the consent of the Guardians; and as in many cases they preferred to keep the children under their own eye the matter was sometimes one of difficulty. In some parts of the country the distances to which children would have to be sent to the district school would be very great. That might be overcome if the children had to be sent only once for all; but hero arose another difficulty. The pauper children in and out of workhouses were not a permanent class. To this circumstance might be attributed the comparative failure of what was known as Denison's Act. The children could not be left 525 long enough in school. The law allowed the school penny to be paid only as long as the child was in receipt of relief. That might he only a month. To insure the children being kept long enough at school, it would be necessary to keep them there even after the Guardians had ceased to give them relief. But evidently this was a part and parcel of the question of compulsory education; and, while he felt as strongly on the subject of the education of pauper children as his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), he thought it would be premature to lay down any new plan for that class, inasmuch as the Government hoped to introduce next Session a general Bill on primary education. He sympathized in what had been said by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) in respect to the children in workhouse schools costing three times as much as children in their own homes; but he believed that the assistance given to those children obtained more general approval than any other advantage conferred by the Poor Law system. He thought that his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield had been rather hard on the large district schools. In the metropolis there were but comparatively few cases in which the school was in the same building as the workhouse. Then as regarded the sick. The hon. Member for Newark (Mr. E. Denison)—who had spoken that evening so exhaustively upon the subject—had said that he recognized in the sick a class who were on all grounds entitled to relief. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Dr. Lush) had stated that in his opinion every pauper had a right to the services of the medical officer, and he even went, so far as to deplore that some paupers actually preferred paying for their medical relief. Now, he admitted that the sick must be treated with humanity when they became paupers, but he could not help thinking that the hon. Member's (Mr. Corrance's) proposal with regard to the sick and the aged was one that would strike at the root of the independence of the English labourer. Where would the insurance and the friendly societies be if the State accepted such a responsibility, and if every man who had attained a certain age, or had fallen into a certain state of health, was to be entitled to be maintained at the national expense? It was, he confessed, with a feeling of shame, 526 that he saw so many persons thrown upon the rates with the first sign of a frost. Was the English labourer so differently framed from others that he could not provide even for two or three weeks in advance; but that any of these accidents, of which he ought to have foreseen the possibility, must at once throw him upon the rates? He was quite prepared to admit that it was their duty in such cases to provide the minimum relief; but he denied that they were bound to make the class of paupers thoroughly comfortable, or that they must accept the doctrine that they were guilty of barbarism and cruelty in refusing to do so. Why should England be the only country with this elaborate system of superannuations? Let them do what they could to reduce the numbers of the sick, and to improve the system of outdoor medical relief, but do not let them lay down doctrines which struck at the root of the independence of the English working population. With regard to the question of vagrants, there was no doubt that persons belonging to this class ought to be more effectually dealt with, and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and himself had been very anxious to submit to Parliament during this Session a measure relating to this subject. Now, his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Poor Law Board had not attempted to deny the increase which had occurred in the number of vagrants; but, at the same time, he had very properly attempted to correct the impression that there were 33,000 vagrants receiving relief, when, in reality, they only numbered 7,000—too many, he was quite willing to admit, and a number requiring to be dealt with, but not so numerous as was commonly believed. With regard to the vagrants he would, moreover, say, that the regrettable increase which had occurred in this direction might be traced partly, as the hon. Member for North Hampshire (Mr. W. W. Beach) had said, to the alms given along the road, and partly to the indisposition on the part of the magistrates to commit the vagrants when caught. Vagrants were put in the casual wards, and there were frequently twenty vagrants to two or three workhouse officials. The next morning when these vagrants were let out of the casual ward and told to do a certain amount of work, 527 if they refused to do it—as they frequently did—the workhouse authorities had no power to coerce them. All the Circulars of the Poor Law Board would never get over a difficulty of that kind. It might be asked, why two or three were not selected to be prosecuted? That had been tried over and over again, but there was a difficulty in procuring; convictions, because the magistrates did not regard the offence as one of a serious character, and argued, moreover, that to send the vagrants to gaol would only throw a great expense on the county. He was prepared to concur, however, in the opinion, that the vagrants ought to be placed under the control of the police. Now he felt himself compelled to say a few words with regard to the financial proposals of the hon. Member for East Suffolk. The hon. Member proposed that charities should be placed under the control of the Poor Law Board. Personally be had no objection to that proposal, which he regarded as infinitely preferable to the proposal made the other evening to exempt charities from contributing to the rates. But the hon. Member was a bold man to propose the disendowment and the disestablishment of all the charities in London and elsewhere. If, however, the hon. Member could propose any plan by which the inefficacious and mischievous system of doles could be put an end to, and by which the money now wasted could be utilized, he would be performing a great service. The whole question of charities was one deserving attention. In them they might possibly find a new resource, though a great deal of what the hon. Member referred 1o was the result of voluntary annual subscriptions; and. unless they wore exceedingly careful, they were far more likely to cheek the entire flow than to succeed in placing it at the management of the Poor Law Board. But the hon. Member had said that a certain contribution ought to be made for Poor Law purposes from the Imperial Exchequer. Now he ventured to think that the arguments against such a proposal were so overwhelming that, however ably supported, it would never find much favour in that House. No doubt the hon. Member would find those who would be ready to give him their assistance in his desire to reach the Consolidated Fund; but he was quite sure that the Conservative party to which the hon. 528 Member belonged would be afraid of opening up a system which, in its results, deserved no other name than that of Communism. When the hon. Member spoke of pensioning off the aged poor at the expense of the State—though the word might be a hard one—that was the beginning of Communism. It would be a dangerous course for the House to embark upon to open the unlimited supplies which were to be found in the taxation of the country for Poor Law purposes, and all the more dangerous when the hon. Member avowed what was to be done. It was not to secure a minimum of subsistence, but for purposes which he had clearly defined. He thought that the discussion which the hon. Member had raised had not been without its advantages. Sound doctrines had been advocated by many hon. Members; but when they heard and saw that under the pressure of local taxation, and that of increased rates, there were men who said that we were bound to provide public works and to employ all those who were without work, and when they heard and saw that there were others who maintained that it was their duty to educate the children of the paupers, to take care of the old men and cure the sick, it behaved them all to be careful as to what they were to do. He quite agreed that something might be done in the way of emigration, but not nearly so much as seemed to be expected. He did not think that the hon. Member intended to press his Motion to a division. If that Motion meant that the Government ought to be exceedingly careful and pay every attention they could to the question of pauperism, then all he could say was that a Resolution of that House was unnecessary, for they were perfectly aware of their responsibility in that respect. The hon. Member for Westminster seemed to think that the Poor Law Board was not a responsible body, but that was a mistake. The Poor Law Board was responsible for the administration of the law, if not for the law itself, and they would not shrink from their responsibility. As for the head of that Department, he (Mr. Goschen) did not know-that anything could increase the individual sense of responsibility which he felt as the President of the Board.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he regretted that the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) had not 529 confined himself to one branch of this great subject, for, in consequence, the discussion of that evening had ranged over a variety of topics, each in itself sufficiently important for consideration. With regard to the hon. Member's proposal to throw more of the burden on the owners of property, he was sure he should be in accordance with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the President of the Poor Law Board) if he said that he, for one, was very much inclined to concur in it; but he did so on condition only that it was possible to find some means by which the owners who might thus be taxed should manage the expenditure of the taxation. The increase in the poor rates and in the numbers relieved was generally admitted; but some of the remedies proposed had been remarkable, and some impracticable. He would not say that the law had been in all respects well administered; there had been defects, and one source of the defects was that greater powers had been obtained from Parliament by the Poor Law Board than they were inclined to exercise. The proposal to provide public works for the employment of thy people, and to aid clubs for medical relief and for superannuation from the rates, was one which he hoped it would be long before the House sanctioned, for he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the President of the Poor Law Board) that it involved nothing less than a social revolution. The great panacea of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Floyer) appeared to be almshouses, and the hon. Member seemed to think that food and shelter should be forthcoming to any vagrant without inquiry. Those ideas ware by no means practicable, and lie hoped they would not receive the assent of the House. Anyone who had had experience of almshouses knew the evil of them. They were an endless source of quarrelling to occupants and would-be occupants; they were inimical to a spirit of self-reliance; and they made no provision for the labourer in his old age beyond the shelter of the bare walls. The views of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) as to the remedies which should be adopted were very remarkable. Education, particularly secular education, would not of itself stop crime, the feeder of pauperism; and equally futile was the proposal with re- 530 gard to decreasing the national expenditure, for, unfortunately, those who became paupers were not tax-payers. The game laws doubtless required amendment, but was it fair to charge a man who preserved pheasants with encouraging pauperism, any more than to charge a jeweller who displayed his stock in the window with encouraging theft? He concurred with everything that had been said in favour of district schools, and he would be only too glad to give the right hon. Gentleman any help in removing difficulties in the way of establishing them. Nothing better could be wished for the children than their removal from the danger of being contaminated by adult paupers in the workhouses. This mainly applied to girls, for in country workhouses few boys remained beyond a tender age, but girls were always to be found there, learning little but what was bad. There was a system called the boarding-house system which prevailed in Lincolnshire and Edinburgh, and from a Paper recently presented to the House, it appeared that the Poor Law Board had lately given a qualified sanction to that system. But he trusted it would not be generally sanctioned until it had been further tried, for it was very difficult to secure proper supervision, without which the results might be worse even than those of the present system; there was no real guarantee that children were not overworked, and that they wore properly fed and properly instructed, unless some charitable person would devote his time and attention unremittingly to their supervision. He had hoped to have heard from the Government something more definite as to their intentions with reference to vagrancy. He would have been glad to see a Bill introduced without delay for dealing with that serious evil. It was not a new question—indeed, it has centuries old, and we had gone so far as to brand, to enslave, and even to hang vagrants; but without such absurd harshness, which only defeated itself, he believed it would be possible, by a combination of measures, to secure a great diminution of vagrancy. The first suggestion he would offer was that every new vagrant ward should be built with separate cells, so that each vagrant should be kept apart from the others both for labour and for rest, and that vagrants should 531 be placed entirely under the inspection of the police. At Oswestry and Richmond separate wards had been established, and with the most satisfactory results, as testified in one case by the Report of the Inspector of Constabulary. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would press separation on the Guardians, and if they did not adopt it, that further measure's would be passed by Parliament to compel them. There must also be uniformity—uniform work, uniformly insisted upon, with uniform diet, and then vagrants would not be tempted to go from one workhouse to another. It would be well also to extend the ticket system, which had already been adopted in Gloucestershire and several other counties; so that any one on the production of a ticket showing that he was travelling straight to his destination in search of work, might receive food and shelter without the exaction of the task of work; and the public would thus be deterred from indiscriminate charity, knowing that deserving persons were everywhere properly provided for. Another point of great importance was the proper performance of their duties by the magistrates; for it appeared from the Reports of the Inspectors of Constabulary that in some districts the police were not generally supported in apprehending vagrants, and in others, as in Cumberland and "Westmoreland, they were; and the result was that professional tramps were scared from the places where the law was enforced, in such a way as to suggest that if it were equally carried out in all counties, the tramps would have to give up their trade and resort to honest labour. He might add, that, there were two valuable clauses in the Habitual Criminals Bill which would facilitate the supervision of criminal vagrants. These remedies might check the spread of vagrancy: but, in his opinion, the admitted increase of pauperism, properly so called, arose from the fact that the Poor Law was now expected to work under conditions never anticipated. The corner-stone of the old Poor Law was that the workhouse should be a test for the able-bodied, but it had ceased to be so; it had become a hospital for all the sick poor in the union; and as in our large towns this class alone had become so numerous that all the wards in the workhouses were overcrowded with them, the Guardians had no room 532 to take in the able-bodied, and therefore could not apply that test. Out-door relief, practically unchecked, was therefore their only resource; and this was in some places almost indiscriminately given; hence the enormous increase in the expenditure and in pauperism in London and other large towns. He did not complain of giving the sick poor proper accommodation, but he deprecated making the workhouse too comfortable even for them. Having visited the new infirmary wards of Marylebone Workhouse when Secretary to the Poor Law Board, he could say without hesitation that they surpassed in comfort and elegance the squalid homes the paupers had left nearly as much as a "West-end residence. It was a fact that the independent spirit which formerly kept people from the workhouse had to a great extent failed, and little else kept them from it now but the strictness of the discipline there enforced. In the absence of the workhouse test, the labour test should be applied: but in some cases—in Lancashire and Yorkshire, for instance—neither the workhouse nor labour test could fairly be said to be in force; it could not, therefore, be a matter of surprise that the able-bodied paupers in the large towns in those counties had much increased of late. The administration of out-door relief had been far too lax; the officials who administered the relief were underpaid, and the Guardians failed to exercise the personal supervision their duty required of them. But all this supported the demand for proper classification, for some time past insisted upon by the Poor Law Board, which, if carried to its full extent, would include separate houses for the sick, which might be comfortable hospitals, for the able-bodied, which should really be a workhouse, and separate schools for the children. This could well be done in the metropolis and the larger towns, but it could not be the rule in thinly populated districts, where the paupers had to travel ten or twelve miles to their union. The principle had been adopted, with regard to the metropolis, in the Bill passed at the instance of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), by which lunatic asylums, fever hospitals, houses for the sick, and workhouses for the able-bodied might be separated from one another; and he would 533 have been glad to bear the Government had resolved to extend the principle to large towns in other parts of England. The only way of dealing with the able bodied pauper—for whom he had little, sympathy—was to set apart a house for him, and meet him at every turn with a good strict test. He did not refer in saying this to cases such as that mentioned by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda), in which a number of men were suddenly thrown out of work: that was a case which would very properly have been met by an emigration test, under which emigration might be offered as the sole kind of relief. Altogether, the facts adduced by the hon. Member for East Suffolk, and those admitted by the President of the Poor Law Board showed exactly where the Poor Law had failed. He agreed with a suggestion that had been made that, while in some cases the strict legal relief only should be given, in others it might be possible to supplement it from funds subscribed by the charitable, and thus to combine the administration of our voluntary charities with that of the local rates. He hoped that, in considering the question, the Government would attempt in some measure to carry out this suggestion.
§ MR ANDERSON
said, that the system of boarding pauper children with decent families had been carried out in Edinburgh with marked success. By this means the taint of pauperism was removed, and the children were absorbed into the general mass of the population. He agreed with the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) that the reduction of taxation would diminish pauperism by increasing commerce and manufactures and giving employment. As to vagrancy, if they should determine to deal with it as a crime, great care must be taken to distinguish between ordinary vagrants and honest, working men travelling from place to place in search of employment.
§ MR. JOSHUA FIELDEN
said, that this was a subject in which his constituents took a great interest, and he wished therefore to say a few words upon it. It had been almost taken for granted that the principles of the Poor Law of 1834 were the correct principles upon which such a law should be based. Some years ago he was Chairman of the Board of 534 Guardians of the Todmorden Union. In that union there was no union workhouse system, and he could, therefore, speak from some amount of experience, not only of the working of the Poor Law, but of the effects of that law, where out-door relief only prevailed. It must be remembered that the principles now avowed as proper to guide us in the administration of relief were not the principles which were acknowledged when the; new Poor Law was introduced. The Secretary to the Poor Law Board had, it was true, stated to-night that we had done well whenever we had followed the principles of the measure of 1834; but he would be a bold man indeed who attempted now to carry them into effect. The principles of the now Poor Law were clearly shown in a remarkable document which was never intended to meet the eye of the public—a document which the late Mr. Walter, then Member for Nottingham, accidentally discovered among the papers of a writer for The Times. That paper Mr. Walter brought before the House of Commons, and he would read a passage from it which clearly showed what the intention and object of the framers of the new Poor Law were. The paper was entitled—Measures submitted by the Poor Law Commissioners to His Majesty's Ministers," and was submitted to them in 1833. The following appeared in that paper:—That at any time after the passing of this Act the Board of Control [which held the same place as the Poor Law Board held now] shall have power, by an order, with such exceptions as shall be thought necessary, to disallow the continuance of relief to the indigent, the aged, and the impotent, in any other mode than in a workhouse, regulated in such a manner as by the aforesaid Board of Control shall he determined. The power of the Commissioners would he to reduce allowances, but not to enlarge them. After this has been accomplished, orders may be sent forth directing that after such a day all out-door relief should be given partly in kind; that alter such another period it should be gradually diminished in quantity until that mode of relief was extinguished. From the first the relief should be altered in quality, coarse brown bread being substituted for fine white, and, concurrently with these measures as to the out-door poor, a gradual reduction should be made in the diet of the in-door poor and strict regulations enforced.For a long time the principles embodied in that paper were carried out. Orders were issued of the most fearful and inhuman kind. Could it be believed that 535 in the Andover Union Inquiry it was admitted by Sir Frankland Lewis, one of the Commissioners, that Mr. Edwin Chadwick had written and induced the Commissioners to issue an order that the bells should not he tolled at the funeral of a pauper, Mr. Chadwick knew that Sir Frankland Lewis was opposed to the issue of any such order, and therefore brought it before the Commissioners during the absence of Sir Frankland Lewis. Eventually the order was. at the urgent intreaty of Sir Frankland Lewis, altered by forbidding the "excessive" tolling of the bells. The administration of the law had been most harsh and cruel. Would it now be believed that it had been shown, in the revelations which came out before the Andover Union Committee that the people in that union workhouse were so famished that they were in the habit of fating raw potatoes, grains, and refuse food which had been thrown to the hogs and fowls: and still worse revelations came out before the Committee. It was proved before the Committee that all this was done with the knowledge of the Commissioners. What was the result? What must always be the result in such a case. They might drive the poor from the workhouse doors, they might make relief so odious that the poor would not accept it, but they would not thereby get rid of the poor. It was said that the Poor Law Board never did break up a cottage; but he knew of instances in which the Poor Law Board had decided that a man should sell his furniture before he could get relief. At all events, they had evidence of what the intentions of the Commissioners were. He found in the Third Annual Report of the Poor Law Commissioners, pages 86 and 87, the following "Instructional Letter," issued by the Commissioners to Boards of Guardians on their formation:—Where the pauper is the head of a family, and he declares that he has no work, and proves satisfactorily that he can obtain none, either in his own or in any of the parishes within a reasonable distance, he may be offered temporary relief within the workhouse until he can get some kind of work—relief wholly or chiefly in kind being given in the interval to the family, to prevent the immediate necessity of selling off their goods and breaking up the cottage establishment. The pauper should distinctly be told that such an arrangement can only be temporary, in order that his wife and family may seek work for him; and that this strict workhouse principle requires that ail the members of a family claiming relief should 536 enter the house, and give up their property for the benefit of the parish.The avowed intention of the framers of the New Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was to make the condition of receiving relief so harsh and cruel that the poor would resort to anything rather than submit to the degradation of the union workhouse test—for degradation it was to the honest labourer, ready and willing to work—and it must be remembered there was no distinction made between such an one and the idle and the dissolute. 'The effect of the Poor Law had been to drive men away from the country to the large towns, and from one large town to another, till eventually they found their way up to London; and we were now face to face with the large army of vagabonds and vagrants thus created. A man once compelled to break up his house, once driven from the locality to which he was attached, and where his family had lived, perhaps, for centuries, became of necessity a vagrant, and but one short step was needed to make him a thief. In proof of what he had stated he would refer to the 42nd Report of the London Fever Hospital for 1844, issued just ten years after the passing of this inhuman law. At page 14 it was stated by the physician, Dr. South-wood Smith—A large proportion of the subjects of fever, received into the Hospital during the past year, were agricultural labourers and provincial mechanics, who had been induced to leave their native counties in search of work, and who, either on their road to the metropolis, or soon after their arrival in it, wore seized with the disease. The causes assigned for their illness, by these poor creatures themselves, were various, some staling that it was owing to sleeping by the side of hedges, others to want of clothing—many being without stockings, shirts, shoes, or any apparel capable of defending them from the inclemency of the weather; while others—and these constituted a very large proportion of the number—attributed it to want of food, being driven by their intense hunger to eat raw vegetables, turnips, and rotten apples; and certainly their appearance, in many instances, fully corroborated the truth of their representations.The effect had been such as he had described, and we had now, in London, an army of vagrants, vagabonds, and criminals, that we were at our wits' ends to know how to deal with. ["Divide."] He hoped that hon. Members would permit him to give a few figures on this subject more especially as they differed materially from the figures given by the President of the Poor Law Board. Those he was about 537 to quote had been taken from a little book called Statistical Abstract, and published by authority, in 1868, and presented to both Houses of Parliament. The Returns extended from 1853 to 1867, the very period during which the operation of the Corn Laws was said to have given to the country such unprecedented prosperity. In 1853 the population of England and Wales was, in round numbers, 18,404,368, and in 1867, 21,429,508, being an increase of 3,025,140. The number of paupers exclusive of vagrants, in receipt of relief in England and Wales was, in 1854, 818,337; and in 1868, 1,034,823, showing an increase of 216,486. The total amount expended in relief to the poor and for other purposes, county and police rates, &c, was, in 1853, £6,854,788; and in 1867, £10,905,173, showing an increase of £4,050,385. This total expenditure was distributable under two heads. The amount expended in actual relief to the poor was in 1853, £4,939,064 as against £6,959,840 in 1867, being an increase of £2,020,776. The amount expended for other purposes, county and police rates, &c, was, in 1853, £1,915,724, against £3,945,333 in 1867, showing an increase of £2,029,609. The same figures might be given in another and more convenient form. The population of England and Wales between 1853 and 1867 increased 16 per cent; the number of paupers, exclusive of vagrants, receiving relief increased 26 per cent; the amount expended in actual relief to the poor—not including the county and police rates—increased no less than 41 per cent, while the amount expended upon the county and police rates, indicating the number of extra police put on to combat this army of vagrants, due to the new Poor Law and union workhouse system of recent years, increased by the enormous amount of 105 per cent. These figures, taken from official sources, certainly did not harmonize with the figures put forward on behalf of the Poor Law Board. If they continued to treat the hard-working poor of England upon the same plan in all respects as they treated vagrants the evils felt at present would go on increasing. The true remedy was to subdivide the unions, and circumscribe the arrears of relief; and to bring to bear more individual responsibility in the persons engaged in the distribution of relief.
said, he thought that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Fielden) did not truly represent the feelings of the West Riding, and that his speech, instead of being delivered to the House of Commons, ought to have been delivered to Chartists twenty-five years ago. For his own part he asserted that satisfaction was generally felt at the mode in which the Poor Law was administered. The best mode of preventing pauperism were first by educating the people, and next by limiting the liquor traffic.
§ MR. CORRANCE
, in reply, said, he had no difficulty in acceding to the request made opposite that he should withdraw his Motion. He had nothing to complain of in the speech of his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Poor Law Board (Mr. A. W. Peel), who had shown much official capacity in defending a bad case. The figures which he (Mr. Corrance) had put forward at the beginning of the debate had been much distorted and misrepresented, but their substantial accuracy, as far as related to the increase of pauperism, had not been disputed. He had been misunderstood upon several points by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, and hon. Members opposite, especially with regard to the manner in which he had proposed to deal with the charities of the metropolis and the friendly societies. He was told that it would be a long time before the scheme he proposed was adopted, and he thought that, perhaps, no stronger reason could have been given for its ventilation that night. It might be so; but, at all events, he felt that in bringing forward this matter he had only discharged a duty that was binding upon his conscience, and as he trusted no less so upon other hon. Members of that House.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.