§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. GOSCHEN, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it might appear that he ought to apologize for troubling the House at this period of the Session with a Bill relating to metropolitan pauperism, but he thought the House would not consider metropolitan pauperism to be a matter of mere local interest, for its dimensions were so great and its character such as to make it a subject which ought to occupy the most serious attention of Parliament. Every day showed that in London they had not to deal with the same kind of pauperism as was to be found elsewhere. To a great extent it was not what he might call indigenous, but was attracted from various parts of the country to the metropolis, where it remained as a burden on the rate-payers. Every investigation into the character of the inmates of the workhouses and of the out-door poor in London proved that a vast proportion of them did not properly belong to the pauper classes, but might be said to be composed of the wrecks of society. People of all stations who were broken down congregated into London, and among the inmates of the London workhouses there would be found, not only the poor out of employ, but a special class, which it was most difficult to deal with. It had already been stated in the course of the Session that the increase of paupers in the metropolis had been beyond all comparison greater than anywhere else. During the last three years there had been an increase of 45 per cent in the number of paupers in the metropolis, and an increase also of 45 per cent in the expenditure. The paupers had increased from 947 100,000 to 140,000 or 150,000, and the expenditure had increased in the same ratio. In 1865 the public conscience was awakened by the statements made as to the crowded state of the metropolitan workhouses; but there were now in the workhouses which were then said to be overcrowded as many as between 4,000 and 5,000 additional inmates. The ratepayers had not only to bear the expense arising from the great increase of pauperism, bur had, unfortunately at the same time, been called on to re-construct the workhouses to a certain extent. The House would remember the circumstances under which the Bill brought in by the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) was passed. For some time previously attention had been called to the defective state of the workhouses in London, and it was thought necessary that great changes should be made. In 1864 a Committee, which had sat from 1861, pointed out the necessity of separating various classes of paupers from the general body, and in 1867 the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University met with the consent of both sides of the House, and received considerable sanction from public opinion. Two years had elapsed, and bills were beginning to run up in consequence of the re-construction of the workhouses, which was commenced at the time he had mentioned. He would frankly admit that the opinion of the public seemed to have somewhat changed now that they were called on to pay the account, but the matter must be looked fairly in the face; and they must ask themselves whether or not it was necessary that the re-construction of the workhouses should have been entered on. If it were necessary, it must be completed, and if it were not necessary, the works must be stopped. The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman proceeded on the basis of recognizing the necessity for further accommodation, while at the same time the opportunity was to be utilized for the purpose of securing a further classification of paupers. The treatment of the sick was not deemed to be satisfactory, and it was thought that the best way to provide additional accommodation was to take the sick from the workhouses and place them in infirmaries. That was the leading principle of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. There was to be a separation of all the classes. Provision was to be made for 948 fever patients, and children were to be put, as far as possible, into district schools. To secure separation of classes power was given to amalgamate parishes or unions into districts; and to take the sick from the various workhouses in such a district and put them in one infirmary. But there were other provisions in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. It contained provisions as to dispensaries: provided for further uniformity in management by repealing certain local Acts, placing the relief of the poor where there were local Acts on the same looting as it was elsewhere; and it also gave power to the Poor Law Board to combine parishes into unions, though under local Acts, without the consent of the guardians. The Bill now before the House was to amend and enlarge that Act in certain particulars. It would certainly be interesting to the metropolis to learn briefly what had been done under the Act of the right hon. Gentleman. That Act proceeded on a double basis—that it gave power to amalgamate unions or parishes for certain purposes, and it also gave power to amalgamate parishes, but not unions, for all purposes. As to that second point little had been done—only the parish of St. Martin's had been added to the Strand Union, and St. Anne's, Soho, to St. James's, Westminster. Further progress had not been made, owing to the opposition of the guardians to all amalgamation, whether for all or for partial purposes. He stated, as a fact, without wishing to comment on it, that the course of legislation had been in favour of amalgamation since 1834; Committees had also been in its favour: but little as yet had been done in the way of amalgamation, because the local authorities had uniformly resisted it. It was only by amalgamation that they could secure the classification of paupers. If any importance was attached to the separation of the various classes from each other—that the sick should be taken from the able-bodied, and that these should be separated from the infirm, so that they might deal properly with each class—if that was desirable—and he thought it most desirable—it could only be done by the enlargement of areas: it was towards the enlargement of areas that the legislation of late years had inclined, and he should be exceedingly sorry if that policy should be arrested. As regarded amalgamation for 949 partial purposes, greater progress had been made. The whole metropolis had been put into one district for the purpose of dealing with imbeciles and lunatics. It was considered by the House that this class should be withdrawn from workhouses altogether; the Metropolitan Asylums Board was constituted to deal with them; two asylums were ordered to be built, and were now in course of construction at Leavesden and Caterham. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that 2,000 lunatics had to be provided for; and the two asylums would contain accommodation for 3,000. It might be asked why go to this extravagance of providing for 8,000 when there were only 2,000 imbeciles to be accommodated? But there were actually 3,000 imbeciles in the workhouses, and it was felt they ought not to be left among the other inmates, which they must be where there was over-crowding in insufficient space. It was necessary that asylums should be built to contain 3,000 lunatics instead of 2,000, according to the statistics subsequently collected. There was an increase in the number of lunatics throughout the whole country, he believed, at the present; time; but, however that might be, the accommodation to be provided was not more than was positively required. That accounted for one excess on the estimates of the right hon. Gentleman for which he could not be held responsible. Then as regarded the cost—the estimate for 2,000 lunatics, at the rate of £50 per head, was £100,000; and with the actual increase in numbers it would be £150,000. But he was sorry to say the actual cost would be £280,000 instead of £150,000. It might be asked whence this excess? He spoke quite impartially—he thought the right hon. Gentleman had omitted the sites, which formed a serious item; because they had not only the market price to pay, but when they came to purchase the site of a hospital the market price was always considerably increased. Then, again, he was not sure that the right hon. Gentleman had considered the furniture. Several other items had also run up the estimates, and the actual cost per head would be £73 instead of £50. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friend said "Hear, hear," but any man who built a house? now would certainly find the cost of building very much increased beyond what it would have been five or six years ago. The right hon. Gentle- 950 man had stated at the time that the calculations he gave were rough estimates, and probably he had taken as his basis the cost of other workhouses built five or ten years ago. If, then, the present estimates were too high, who was responsible? The position was this—the Metropolitan Asylum Board constructed these buildings under a certain control of the Poor Law Board. The Metropolitan Asylum Board consisted of sixty-five members, forty-five of whom were elected by the rate-payers, and, as they assured the Poor Law Board, they had done their very best to keep down the expenditure. They denied that there was any extravagance in their estimates. With regard next to the fever and smallpox hospitals there was also an increase on the estimate submitted to the House three years ago. The case in regard to the fever hospitals was this—there were three originally planned and projected—one at Stockwell, one at Homer-ton, and one at Hampstead. For these three fever hospitals and two small-pox hospitals the right hon. Gentleman calculated there would be 1,000 cases, and that the cost would be £70 a bed. But a fever hospital could not be constructed like an ordinary workhouse hospital. The rate-payers of the metropolis took great interest in the matter, and no one could have any desire either to exaggerate or under-rate the cost of these buildings. Was it necessary that the metropolis, with 3,000,000 of inhabitants, should have fever hospitals at all? He thought it was—that they were as necessary a part of our pauper system as any other; and it would be evidently economical in the long run that they should be able immediately to isolate all fever cases and treat them by themselves. That was the feeling of the House in 1867. As regarded fever hospitals, the position was that there were to have been three, but on re-consideration between the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the Poor Law Board, one had been dropped, at all events, for the present, and it was now thought that two, placed at the extreme ends of the metropolis, would be sufficient—one would be at Homerton, the other at Stockwell. If the third should be ultimately built, the experience gained in the others might be utilized in the third. Three sites had been purchased; at Hampstead the site would not be used at present. Each site cost £15,000; so that they 951 started with £45,000 for sites. For fever hospitals it was necessary to have plenty of room. It was necessary to build them in blocks, and to have separate administrative arrangements for the various classes of fever and small-pox eases, so that there might be as little risk of infection as possible. Altogether the arrangements for these fever hospitals were different from those of ordinary hospitals. He had taken great pains to cut down these estimates, and certain changes had been agreed to in deference to his desire for economy; but the medical gentlemen represented that they were responsible for the sanitary arrangements, and that there were certain sanitary rules which must not be infringed. If the three fever hospitals had been built the amount would have reached £210,000. He could not accurately state what the amount would be now that one hospital had been dropped. He had inquired what was the cost of the Government hospitals at Netley and Haslar, and the answer was that they had cost from £300 to £325 per bed, in- eluding all the furniture, fittings, bed- ding, and other necessaries. The cost of these hospitals had been enormous, but the cost of the fever hospitals would not reach £150 a bed. Provision had, moreover, been made in that estimate for additional space on the site for temporary structures in case of any emergency. The estimate of the right hon. Gentleman was for £70,000; but the actual expenditure would have amounted to £210,000. The next item in the List was for schools. The right hon. Gentleman's estimate made provision for 1,000 children in new schools at a cost of £40 per head, making £40,000, and the enlargement of existing schools was estimated at. £30,000 more, making a total of £70,000. When he (Mr. Goschen) came into Office he found that there were to be four new district schools —at Kensington, Paddington Finsbury, and one other place which he did not remember. Each of these schools was to hold between 500 and 600 children, and although the actual cost of the buildings was to be £30,000, yet, including the site, furniture, and fittings— which latter items led to the discrepancy in the estimates—each would cost a little more than £50,000, making a total of £210,000 to be spent on the schools, instead of £70,000, the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman. He did not carp 952 at the right hon. Gentleman's estimates, but merely put the facts before the House. They, therefore, started with a cost for lunatic asylums of £280,000, fever hospitals, £210,000, and £210,000 for the schools, making a total of £700,000 for these three classes of paupers. But the catalogue was not yet exhausted. There were also to be infirmaries for the sick. Six districts had been formed, and, speaking roundly, each of the district infirmaries would have accommodation for 500 sick, at a cost of between £40,000 and £50,000 each. There would thus be an item of £300,000 for separate infirmaries. The proposed enlargements of existing workhouses, and the cost of new workhouses amounted to £400,000, so that the total and, he must admit, frightful outlay, which stared the rate-payers in the face amounted to no less than £1,400,000, and this at a time when there was a great increase of expenditure in consequence of the increase of paupers in the metropolis. If he contrasted this proposed outlay with that, of previous years, it would be found that while the total amount expended since 1834, when the Poor Law Commission was issued, had been £1,500,000, plans had been formed during the last three years for an expenditure of £1,400,000, being nearly as much as in the whole thirty years before. It was only fair to remember, however, that there were arrears to be made up for many years, during which the local authorities had allowed things to go on in a way which public opinion did not sanction when its existence was ascertained, and that a good deal of re-construction was necessary. The figures in question had startled him as well as the House, and he had carefully examined the extent of the present accommodation. He would first examine the arguments in favour of these separate infirmaries. They only made about one-fourth of the proposed additional expense, yet they gave rise to more opposition than any other part of the expenditure. They were opposed on different grounds. It was said by some that the sick ought to be treated at their own homes; by others, that it was wrong to bring a large number of the sick poor together, because the result would only be to breed disease. The guardians of many parishes objected to separate infirmaries, where the poor would be with- drawn from their control, while the rate- payers, on their part, objected to the in- 953 creased expense. No doubt, it would he very desirable that the poor should be treated in their own homes, if it were possible; but he had already remarked now great was the difference between the metropolitan poor and those of country districts. A vast number of the London poor had no homes at all, and to attempt to treat disease in such homes as large numbers had would be a perfect mockery; they all knew the state of overcrowding in many metropolitan districts, and the health of the poor generally would be compromised if that were attempted, except in a few eases. Many of the diseases of the metropolitan poor were, indeed, peculiarly unsuited to treatment at home. But it was said that a dispensary system existed in Ireland, and why not introduce it in London. In Ireland, however, the number of in-door sick bore an enormous proportion to the out-door paupers. There were only 18,000 out-door paupers in Ireland, and of the number of in-door paupers not less than 18,000 were sick. The difficulty in London had turned upon the question whether the sick should be attended to at the medical officer's surgery or in a dispensary. A great many medical officers said it was more convenient that the sick should attend at their surgery, and, as the guardians of many unions agreed with them, there was great resistance, except in four or five cases, on the part of the guardians to the establishment of dispensaries, partly on the ground of expense and partly because of the difficulty of finding a suitable site. The right hon. Gentleman's Bill required that a dispensary committee should be formed, it being thought better that the guardians should elect a committee to attend to the dispensary. Guardians opposed every arrangement under which they were likely to lose any portion of their authority, and accordingly they opposed the establishment of dispensary committees. It was useless to attempt to force guardians to establish dispensary committees if they were determined not to do so, for the only power which the Poor Law Board possessed was that of proceeding by mandamus. If, therefore, these dispensaries were to be established at all, it must be by interesting the guardians in them; and the Bill accordingly proposed to make the payment of the medical officers' salaries from the common fund dependent on the establishment of 954 these dispensaries. Nothing could be worse than attempting to exercise powers which were ostensibly conferred, but which lacked the machinery requisite to carry them out; it was far better, if possible, to bring about co-operation between the guardians and the Poor Law-Board; and in the ease of schools this had been happily accomplished by means of a process similar to that which the Bill now recommended, 8,000 children being now in separate schools, and only 2,000 in the workhouse schools, a result duo to the fact that the expenses of children in district schools were paid out of the common poor fund of the whole metropolis, and not out of the fund of the particular locality. As regarded hospitals, there were some authorities who maintained that to crowd large numbers of persons suffering from the same diseases into hospitals was exceeding injurious. Paupers, however, were unlike hospital patients generally, seeing that the majority of those suffering were old and infirm, and had not among them an equal proportion of contagious and acute diseases. Objections were made on the score of distance, which he thought were very often pushed to extremes. Bearing in mind, that among the 30,000 persons in the workhouses there were 12,000 sick, it was impossible to provide in London hospital accommodation sufficient for that number in the vicinity of the exact localities from which they came. Guardians fancied that if paupers were sent to any distance for treatment control over them was lost, and they looked upon it as a hardship if a pauper were removed even three or four miles—say the distance of the City from St. George's, Hanover Square. Of course, if large buildings were sought to be established in localities already crowded the cost must be proportionate, and he might mention that in the Holborn Union it had been actually proposed to buy a piece of land for £25,000 rather than fall in with a scheme under which, at much less cost, the buildings might have been erected at a distance of four or five miles. No doubt the expenditure upon infirmaries was a matter upon which the rate-payers would have a great deal to say. And he confessed that when the total expenditure of £1,400,000 was brought before him he was startled, for previously the figures had been taken, not in the 955 aggregate but dealing with each ease upon its own merits. It must be remembered, however, that London contained a population of 3,000,000, and that the annual rateable value of its property was £17,000,000. so that if the £1,400,000 required were raised in the way of an annuity, the burden would not be intolerable. But was this expenditure really necessary? Desiring to test the manner in which the estimates had been prepared, and to ascertain the actual amount of existing workhouse accommodation as compared with the requirements, he caused a circular to be issued to the master of each workhouse requiring a Return as to the numbers on a given night. They were directed to fill it up with information under the various heads. These made inquiry as to the number of beds in the workhouse, the total cubic space in each ward, the number of inmates on the particular night, and the different classes to which they belonged—how many sick, how many aged and infirm, and how many able-bodied. To the first inquiry it was answered that, without reference to children who were in separate schools, the total number of beds was 27,840, while of persons sleeping in them there were 28,640. 156 persons slept on the floor. Beds also were made up in the oakum-rooms, dining-rooms, and other places, including twenty-five beds in corridors and twenty in a passage. The result, therefore, showed that on the night in question there was not a single spare bed in the workhouses of the metropolis, and, further, that the workhouses contained more inmates than they could properly hold. As to cubic spare the House would remember that some few years ago this subject- was investigated by the Cubic Space Committee, and a certain minimum was laid down as essential. Tested by the standard, it was found that, for the total number of inmates, there was a deficiency of cubic space-amounting to 2,200,000 cubic feet—equal to the space that would be required for 4,500 inmates. That number of persons accordingly was in excess of the proper number of inmates, and this was not extraordinary, considering that in the last two or three years the number of in-door paupers had increased to about that extent. These facts showed that the time had fully come for taking decided steps to increase the existing 956 workhouse accommodation. He was not. in favour of providing for future requirements, because he did not believe the recent increase in pauperism would continue progressing. He did not like to believe that it could not be reduced, and when emergencies arose they might be met by erecting temporary buildings or by hiring others. It was clear, however, that under existing arrangements the overcrowding in workhouses was enormous, and the result was that it was impossible that any classification of the paupers could be maintained. If there were a few beds to spare in an able-bodied ward, children had to be put into them, and even the sick and infirm had to be provided for in a similar manner. This was a very great evil, for one most important method of keeping down pauperism was to maintain an efficient classification of the paupers. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) had endeavoured to extend classification in the workhouses, and he felt assured that the House would be prepared to support further efforts in that direction. To show what was the present state of the classification in London, he would just quote a couple of instances from Returns furnished by the masters of the workhouses, not made with any view to sensational effect, but merely recording actual facts. In one ward in the Bermondsey Union, on the occasion of the Return he referred to, there were six imbeciles, two able-bodied adults, four children between the ages of seven and fifteen, and twelve under seven years of age. Here, therefore, were children, imbeciles, adults, and sick, all sleeping in the same room. This was a state of things which he ventured to think was intolerable. In another ward there were two healthy adults, five boys under fifteen, and two imbeciles. A great deal had been said about the contamination of workhouses, and there was much truth in what had been said, but how could they expect a better state of things when the classification could not be kept up? In another, which was an infirmary ward, there was one fever, one lying-in patient, one imbecile, and fourteen ordinary sick. It was evident from the facts to which he had adverted that it was impossible for the matter to be left by the House where it stood at present, and that the efforts made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite must be continued 957 in order to secure that classification which was necessary both for health and on account of other equally important considerations. It was by means of amalgamation alone that such results could be obtained, and by the same means economy of expenditure and simplicity of administration would be secured. By uniting three or four workhouses together their various inmates might be classified, and each class provided for in one of the houses, instead of separate buildings being erected for the accommodation of certain classes whom it was not desirable to allow to communicate with the other classes. He admitted that some opposition to an amalgamation scheme might be expected from the local authorities, who were adverse to such a plan, and the arrangements would therefore be difficult to effect unless he was supported by that House; but he thought that the general advantage to the public at large would be so great that the House would be inclined to disregard such opposition. It was agreed by most persons that the sick ought to be treated separately, and also that children ought to be treated separately. It might be desirable also to treat separately a certain class of the able-bodied, so that they might be brought under a different discipline. The differences in the sizes of the unions in London, in their rateable value in the amount of pauperism, and in every respect, struck the eye at once. Great progress might be made in the direction of amalgamation without having any unwieldly union, or one so great as some of the existing unions. The local authorities had strongly urged that a large population could not be managed by one Board of Guardians. Now, hon. Members who represented large towns could give them an answer on that point. The parish of Liverpool was far larger than any single union in the metropolis. Birmingham and Manchester dealt with their poor in largo masses. By carrying out tin's system of amalgamation, and uniting for all purposes the various parishes now in the sick asylum districts, at least eighteen Boards of various kinds might be abolished. This would effect a great reduction in the cost of administration. Moreover, they would thereby get rid of many sick asylum Boards, and of some school district and other intermediate Boards. He could enumerate many other advantages that would arise from 958 the proposed amalgamation; but he had better mention at once the advantage on the score of economy. As regarded two of the sick asylum districts, it would be possible by classifying the paupers in the workhouses to get rid of those districts without the necessity of any fresh building. In those two districts, therefore a saving of £100,000 would be effected. In two other districts it would be necessary not to raise a fresh building, but only to enlarge existing buildings; and that enlargement could be effected at a cost of £20,000 instead of £50,000 or £60,000, the sum required for each of the new buildings. By the plan therefore that he proposed he believed it would be possible to save £200,000 upon these infirmaries, and at the same time to secure that classification which was so desirable. One of the fever hospitals had already been suspended, and thereby £50,000 more possibly would be saved. On the question of schools his plan would save £100,000. It would be recollected that £210,000 had been asked for building new schools. [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY: How many children are there?] There were 600 children in Kensington, 500 in Paddington, 700 in St. Pancras, and 600 in Finsbury, making, with some others, about 3,000 children. These district schools, taken by themselves, were necessary; but looking at them as a whole he believed they would be able to save two schools out of the five schools. Two or three of these schools were at present full, because they were accommodating children from other unions that were building schools; but when these were built there would be a surplus accommodation. If the guardians, instead of opposing this plan of amalgamation, would co-operate with the Poor Law Board, he felt confident that two of these schools might be saved. Such a saving would not be at all desirable if it were to be effected by keeping the children in the workhouses. That must not be done; but. if it were found that by a re-arrangement of the school districts a large saving of money might be effected for the metropolis, he did not see why the guardians should oppose it for the sake of keeping the matter in their own hands, in this case, as in others, it was by enlarging their areas that a saving could be effected. His plan saved all the margins, and utilized to the utmost all existing accommoda- 959 tions. That would be felt in various places, and the saving in that respect in six schools would be 500, thereby saving: school buildings for that number; and as to future contingencies they need not much trouble themselves because he believed the maximum, of increase had been reached, and that they need not go beyond providing for present necessities. The economy made possible by amalgamation would be from £400,000 to £450,000; but he wished at the same time it should be clearly understood that he would not incur the responsibility for stopping that system of separation to which he had referred. They must get the children out of the workhouses as cheaply as possible, and try to make use of every inch of ground. In some cases it might be found desirable to have two schools for one district. By means of this plan, the orphan children and children deserted by their parents might be separated from children who, with their parents, went in and out of workhouses, and did much to destroy the usefulness of those schools. Those children brought in with them every kind of disease, and all sorts of contaminating influences. It was manifest, therefore, that a separation of them from orphan children and children deserted by their parents was very desirable; and the further we could go in the direction of such separations, the more we should get over the difficulty arising from our not being able to have a complete classification of paupers. He might observe, too, that in workhouses in which all the paupers had been kept, the one set of officers had to deal with all classes of inmates—the sick, the able-bodied, and children. Efficiency and economy would necessarily result from having officers specially suited to the class of paupers with which they had to deal. Great good would be effected if they could separate in the workhouses the able-bodied young women from the others. They would be able to have better discipline, and the arrangements of the workhouses in that respect would be more satisfactory. The changes which, he had indicated were, no doubt, in the direction of an equalization of the charges for the poor of the metropolis. What he proposed was a step in the direction of equalization, but it was not to be regarded as a substitute for it. It was no substitute for such a system. 960 We could not have complete equalization till we had some check which would prevent one parish from spending more than another, so that no one parish could make too great a pull on the common purse. He was in favour of an equalization of poor rates in the metropolis, as far as that equalization could be accompanied by such a control; but he was sure the House would be unwilling to listen to a proposal for equalizing the rate without an arrangement which would secure that all the parishes should deal justly by the common fund. How did he propose by the Bill on the table to accomplish the objects which he had in view? The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) gave power to the Poor Law Board to amalgamate parishes without the consent of the guardians; but it did not give the Board a similar power in respect of unions. The unions in the metropolis were generally large, and there were not many of them which could be amalgamated, but there were some. In this matter there was rather delicate ground for him to touch upon, but he felt it his duty to do so. In the City of London there were three unions —the. City of London proper, with rateable property valued at £1,800,000, and the West London and the East London, each of which had rateable property valued at £200,000. In the first named of those unions the rate was only 7d. in the £1; in each of the two others it was 3s. At present the East and West London Unions, with the consent of the guardians, might be amalgamated with the City of London proper; and a few weeks since the Poor Law Board had asked the guardians of the two latter unions whether they would consent to their own. dissolution in order that they might be united to that rich union, whereby these rates would be reduced from 3s. to about 1s.? He had not received an answer, to that question; but from the proceedings of the West London Union he perceived that the guardians were much dissatisfied with the proposal. Indeed it would appear from their debate that there was no chance of their consenting to it. He had imagined that the union of the City of London proper might be opposed to his proposal; but he had not supposed that the poorer unions would object to a scheme which would reduce their rates so considerably. In this Bill 961 there was a clause which would empower the Poor Law Board to amalgamate unions without the consent of the guardians. He further took power to amalgamate sick asylums and school districts, but the separation of the sick would not be interfered with. He wished the House to understand that the Bill was not one which would increase expenditure. It was by no means the wish of the Poor Law Board to increase the burden on the rate-payers. They were alive to the duty of keeping down expenditure by every possible means short of sacrificing the primary object for which the Poor Laws were established. He should explain the clause respecting buildings. Where a parish had spent more than a certain amount upon building, the additional charge was to come upon the common fund. The clause with regard to the establishment of dispensaries could be more conveniently discussed in Committee than on the second reading, and then he should be prepared to state fully the views which had induced the Government to propose them. The only other clause to winch he need address himself at present was Clause 3. which he thought would give vise to more opposition than any other clause in the Bill. It was perfectly separate from the other subjects on which he had been addressing the House. Clause 3 dealt with the collection and assessment of the poor rate. In London, as in some other large towns, there was a large number of local Acts under which the local taxation was collected; and with no part of the system was it more necessary to grapple than with the collection and audit of rates under those local Acts. Persons often complained, and with justice, that at present they often did not know what rate they were paying or when they would have to pay it. That arose from the number of separate Acts which regulated the rate collection, and the House would see how difficult any audit must be when every parish had its own system. Great abuses had resulted from the present system. There were two cases which, during the last two months, had come under his attention. In one parish which he would not name, the rate had for five years been made by the vestry, instead of by the overseers. They were not responsible, as the overseers were, and for five years they had not raised sufficient money to defray expenditure, and had 962 made temporary loans, quite against the law, in order to carry them forward. A deficiency of £7,000 was the result, and the vestry then came to the Poor Law Board to know what they were to do. He asked—"What can the auditor have been about?" But the answer was—"We have our own system of accounts; we have got our own local Act." In the case of Greenwich there was a defalcation; and then again he asked—''What has the auditor been about?" and was told again that the parish had their own local Act and were not subject to the general law. It had been said of Clause 3 that he was asking that local Acts should be repealed and the collection of rates put under the orders of the Poor Law Board. That was not the intention of the clause, and if the words bore out that construction they should be changed. The meaning of the clause was that the local Acts should be repealed so far as the collection of rates was concerned, and the parishes put under the general law of the country; and he did not see why, especially where there was a common fund and one general interest throughout the metropolis, this exemption from the general law should be maintained. At the same time it was a subject which must very soon be dealt with as a whole throughout the whole country. In the Committee which sat upon this subject it was felt that all rates should be collected at certain intervals by the same collector, and that a certain degree of order should thus be established. If, however, every local authority could plead a local Act, the Poor Law Board could not establish order out of such chaos. He was not particularly anxious as to the passing of Clause 3 in the present Session, if thereby the Bill were delayed; because, while he recognized the importance of the clause, he felt that if the object aimed at were not accomplished this year, a general measure would be passed next Session. He felt that he had trespassed an unconscionable time on the patience of the House, though he had not even yet dwelt sufficiently on some points of detail, especially with regard to the separate infirmaries. The great object of the Bill was to classify by amalgamation rather than by increased buildings—to exhaust every possible means at present at their command before they built any more; and he trusted that, in carrying out this 963 amalgamation, notwithstanding the opposition it must create, he should have the support of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Goschen.)
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, that at that late hour it was hardly possible to continue the discussion of a measure of such importance, and he therefore moved that the debate be now adjourned.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he hoped that the Government would give the House an opportunity of discussing the question fully.
said, he agreed that the discussion on a Bill of such importance should not be stinted, but other questions of still greater urgency wore before the House, and, therefore, he could not give Monday or Thursday for the further discussion. If Supply went off early next Friday, as it might do, the Bill might be fixed for that day, but would not be taken at a late hour.
§ Debate adjourned till Friday next.