§ MR. W. H. SMITH
, in rising to call attention to the operation of the Poor Law within the Metropolis, and to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the policy and administration of the Poor Law within the Metropolis,after pointing out that the subject was fortunately not mixed up with the interests of any political party, said, that the law of England gave to every destitute person, no matter what might be the cause of his destitution, an absolute and complete right, at the public expense, to food, clothing, and shelter whenever he might require them. The right of relief existing in this country was opposed to the practice of all other countries in the civilized world; and there was not in any part of Europe, he believed—certainly, there was not in America—such a right to relief from a legally constituted authority, although, of course, all countries, both in Europe and America, recognized the duty of 273 giving relief to persons in need and destitution; there was, however, a vast and important difference between the two principles. He would briefly advert to the practice of other countries with regard to the relief of the poor. In Prussia, a country administered by a wise Government, which was careful of the best interests of the people, no one possessed a right to relief when in a state of destitution; and he would take the case of Berlin, a city which might be fairly compared with this great Metropolis, except that it was a comparatively new city, and had rapidly grown in wealth and power. In Berlin, the relief of the poor was administered by a committee of the town council, which likewise administered the affairs of all the hospitals and all the charities in the various parts of the city. Under this committee were 110 district committees, each consisting of six or seven persons, and these sub-committees administered what was analogous to our system of out-door relief. All applications for relief were carefully considered and sifted by the district committees, and there were only two classes of persons who constantly received out-door relief—namely, the infirm or aged, and widows with more than one child. There was no system for rendering assistance to able-bodied persons; but, on the other hand, there was what was called an extraordinary system of relief, under which medical advice, food, clothing, and money were given to persons in destitute circumstances. No one was, however, relieved from the necessity of finding some means of supporting himself, and assistance was given only to persons who had been stricken down by some misfortune. The total population of Berlin was about 700,000, and the whole number of persons relieved in 1868 was 38,000, the entire cost of relief, inclusive of hospital relief, being £168,000. He drew a great distinction between relief which was given as a right, and relief which was given as a duty; but he did not ask for this inquiry with the remotest idea that we could get rid of, nor indeed did he wish to get rid of, the right possessed by the poor of this country to relief. He know it was utterly impossible, and probably it was undesirable, to endeavour to effect so great a revolution in the social condition of the country. So long as the poor 274 existed, which from present appearances must be always, it was, no doubt, the bounden duty of every Christian to extend sympathy and care to them; but he thought the tendency of recent legislation had been rather to meet the demands made by pauperism than to check or cure it; for he considered there had been no very decided effort to restore habits of self-reliance to those who had fallen into a state of dependence, and to make them useful and respectable members of society. The latest published Returns of the Poor Law Board showed that 121,000 persons received out-door relief in the Metropolis on the 1st of January, 1870; and the general effect of the Returns was that the number of out-door paupers constantly in the Metropolis was not more than 120,000. That figure, however, gave but a very insufficient idea as to the extent of pauperism in London at the present time, and unless we realized the full extent of the evil, we should fail in our efforts to mitigate it. The figures he had quoted represented only the number of paupers who applied for relief on a particular day, and not the gross number throughout the year. Now, he had been at some pains to obtain from the authorities in various parts of London, facts on which he could place the most perfect reliance; and he should be able to show that the number of pauperized persons, who were more or less in a state of dependence on the charity which the law recognized and made compulsory, was far larger than would appear from the published Returns of the Poor Law Board. He had obtained from three Unions, which might be deemed characteristic of certain districts of the Metropolis, Returns which would justify the allegation he had made. Take the Strand Union, for example—The mean total for that Union which went to make up the figure of 120,000 out-door paupers, and some 35,000 in-door paupers, was for the year ending on Lady-day, 1870, 2,070; but the actual number of persons who received relief during that year was 7,390. In Lambeth, the mean number appearing in the Return was 7,680, representing the number of paupers, indoor and out-door, on the 1st of January and the 1st of July in that year; but the actual number of separate individuals who received relief was 21,320. Again, the Government Return gave 275 4,080 for Whitechapel; but the number of persons actually relieved in the year was about 15,500. He could show that the proportion of the population who, in the course of the year, received relief in one shape or another under the Poor Law system, exclusive of medical relief, amounted to 15 per cent of the whole—in other words, one person in every seven in London received relief in some shape or other from the Poor Law authorities in the course of the year. Now, he ventured to say this was a very serious and alarming state of things. Side by side with our increasing wealth and commercial prosperity pauperism was also increasing to an alarming degree, and constituted a problem which deserved the most serious consideration of the House and the country. He would for a moment recur to figures showing the growth of the Metropolis during the last 10 years. In 1860 the population of the Metropolis was estimated at 2,770,000, the number of paupers was 86,000, and the amount expended in their relief was £796,000, or a burden of 5s. 9d. per head of the population. In 1863 the population had increased to 2,904,000, the paupers to 94,000, and the expenditure to £868,000, or 6s. per head of the population. In 1867 the population stood at 3,082,000, the paupers at 126,000, and the expenditure had gone up to £1,175,000, or 7s. 8d. per head. In the year 1870—and hon. Members would now perceive the full force of the contrast between the two periods—the population was taken at 3,215,000, the mean number of paupers at 141,000, and the expenditure in poor relief had reached £1,466,000, or an average burden of 9s. 1d. per head upon the whole population of the Metropolis. These figures showed that while the cost of administering the Poor Law in the Metropolis had increased from £796,000 to £1,466,000, or 84 per cent within 10 years, there had been an increase in the number of out-door paupers to the extent of 77 per cent; that the in-door paupers were 35 per cent more numerous in 1870 than in 1860, while the population generally had only increased by 16 per cent during the same period of time. But if the increase in the pauperism and expenditure of the Metropolis, alarming though it was, were compared with that of the country 276 generally, the contrast became more alarming still, more especially when taken in connection with the large towns, many of whom were in a like position with the Metropolis. The population of the country, exclusive of the Metropolis, might be taken at 18,000,000; and, while the paupers had increased in number from 717,000 to 827,000, the expenditure had gone up from £4,600,000 to £6,200,000, representing an advance of about a third, while the expenditure of the Metropolis had nearly doubled in the same period. The burden imposed upon the population for the maintenance of paupers was 9s. 1d. per head per annum in London against 6s. 1d. in the remainder of the country, a state of things demanding serious consideration, and which, in his opinion, most fully justified the appeal which he was making to that House and the Government for an inquiry into this great question. He found that in Mile End the charge for in-door relief had increased from £5,442 in 1860 to £6,300 in 1870; the out-door relief in the same period having increased nearly threefold, from £3,370 to £8,089. In Poplar, the in-door relief was £6,054 in 1860, and £9,172 in 1870; the out-door relief being £9,524 in 1860, and £23,348 in 1870. As there had been in Poplar distress arising from exceptional causes, he should not insist strongly upon that instance. In Hackney, again, the cost of in-door relief was £4,505 in 1860 and £7,730 in 1870; and of out-door relief £4,978 in 1860, and £19,860 in 1870; in fact, he might fearlessly say that a similar state of things existed throughout the majority of the districts of the Metropolis. As the result of personal inquiry, he found that the class of persons who were demoralized by the receipt of parochial relief were not instructed artizans, but persons of the uninstructed labouring classes, who had no regular employment, but earned what they could and spent it as it came, with the result that, if they were out of work at the end of a week, they went for assistance to the parish on the following Monday morning. One of two things was clear from this state of facts—either that these classes were insufficiently paid, or their habits were careless and improvident in a remarkable degree. The result of his inquiries had also verified the fact that the classes 277 who were the least certain in their earnings or employment were the persons who most readily married and took upon themselves, without thought, the responsibility of maintaining families. The result of this was that the relief given in the districts to which he had alluded was a relief in aid of wages; as, for instance, the widow with a family, who earned a little money by needlework or charing, could not afford to work for the rate of payment she received if she did not obtain also assistance from the parochial authorities. Passing on to the question of the administration of the Poor Law, he found that in the Metropolis there were 36 Unions or parishes, each with the distinct and separate management of its own poor; the asylums and hospitals were under the control of an independent Board, consisting of representatives from the Boards of Guardians, and gentlemen nominated by the Poor Law Board; the district schools again were under the control of a separate Board, and yet another Board, called the Metropolitan District Asylum Board, had the management of imbecile and lunatic paupers; from these arrangements it resulted that there were four diferent distinct bodies in the Metropolis charged with the administration of the poor. He would not venture to object to the existing arrangements, but he must say that they struck him as being somewhat complicated, and calculated to bring into action a good deal of clashing authority, the result being an absolute want of uniformity in the provisions made in the different metropolitan Unions for the relief of the poor. Even in the article of diet, in the food supplied to the poor, there was absolutely no uniformity whatever, a fact evidenced in the most striking manner by the Return moved for by his hon. Friend (Mr. W. M. Torrens). For instance, meat was supplied by the contractor at the rate of 6s. 1½d. per stone to the Poplar Union, but it cost the Strand Union 9s. 4d. per stone; so butter cost 108s. per cwt in Wandsworth, but only 84s. in Islington; cheese varied from 38s. per cwt in Islington, to 103s. in Lewisham; milk from 7½d. per gallon in St. George's-in-the-East to 1s. 9d. in St. Luke's; and coals from 14s. per ton in Islington to 20s. in Whitechapel. Another objection that he took to the administration of our workhouses was, that the word "workhouses" was in itself a 278 misnomer. A workhouse under the present system was chiefly an asylum for a great number of persons that were old, infirm, and incapable of working. If that were so, it would be better to call it an asylum; for in spite of the grinding of corn, breaking stones, and cutting wood, which were occasionally required from able-bodied paupers, no work of a character likely to qualify the inmates for earning a living outside the walls of the house was ever intrusted to them. In the workhouses of the Metropolis, too, there was an absence of classification and arrangement. There was the greatest zeal exhibited on the part of the Guardians themselves, and it was supplemented by an able and intelligent staff of officers, but there was little opportunity afforded for that classification, and instruction in labour, which he believed would result in much educational advantage to the poor people who were shut up within their walls. Passing from that objection, he came to another still stronger, to the system of administration of out-door relief. By an agenda paper which he held in his hand, he found that there were in one Union applications in one day for relief by 200 persons. Now, the Guardians of that Union met at 11 o'clock; and, however zealous and attentive in the performance of their duties, it was utterly impossible that they could make such inquiries into all those cases as strict justice and prudence demanded, sitting, as they did, only once a-week. The scale of relief, too, varied according to the parish in which it was administered, and there was no system and no rule under which any attempt at uniformity was made. For instance, he found in nine different Unions of the Metropolis, nine different rates of relief doled out—thus, in one Union he found a married couple receiving 5s. and a loaf; in another, 6s.; in a third, 6s. 6d.; and, in a fourth, only 4s. 6d. The same differences in relief he found given to a woman with bastard children. The consequence of this, and of the impossibility of making the necessary inquiry into the cases, was that frauds were continually perpetrated. In one instance a woman, on the pretence that she was the sole support of an aged husband and that her son was only 12 years old, received relief for some time, till it was discovered that she had never had any son, and that her husband had all along 279 been maintained in the workhouse infirmary. In another case a man with chronic bronchitis was employed at night at some gasworks. He slept during the day, and as the parish doctor, who always called in the day-time, always found him in bed and always suffering from chronic bronchitis, the man was recommended as a deserving subject for relief. He was informed, and he considered it a suggestion tending to effect considerable reductions in the expenditure for out-door relief, that, if a good system were established by which each case could be thoroughly sifted, it would modify both in character and extent the nature of these frauds. Then, again, there were many houses in London where all the inmates were in receipt of assistance from the parish. The assistance might not, it was true, be large, but it would generally be found that it was sufficient for their lodging; so that, as a matter of fact, the rent was paid by the parish. Indeed, it was a very common thing for people to say—"Give us a little money to pay our rent, and we will get along." It was a matter for those who took a deep interest in the people to consider whether they were benefited by being doomed to such a system of misery and wretchedness as resulted from the dispensing of so small a sum in the shape of out-door relief. The annual elections of Boards of Guardians were also open to objection, for no sooner did a gentleman thoroughly understand this difficult subject than he had to go before his constituents for reelection. It thus frequently happened that a man, just as he had qualified himself for the duties which he had to perform, was sent adrift to suit local or party exigencies, and another man was put in his place. He knew hon. Gentlemen opposite were favourable to a system of frequent elections; but in this instance he believed they did more harm than good. What was wanted in a Guardian was a good practical amount of knowledge, as well as zeal and attention to his duties. With regard to the asylums, too, he could not help remarking that the system under which they were managed required great care and watchfulness; and, in his opinion, was open to great improvement, for in great establishments there was always a tendency to extravagance. In many cases, the persons admitted to our large asy- 280 lums were not the persons for whom they were intended. The system of boarding out harmless imbeciles was carried out in Scotland with great success, and the results certainly justified consideration as to whether a similar system could not be adopted in this country. He would next refer to the schools; and although ready to bear testimony to the admirable manner in which they were managed, the cost needed justification, for the Central London District School, containing 1,200 children between the ages of 3 and 16, was carried on at a cost of 11s. 7d. per child per week; the sum being made up of 4s. 3d. for food and clothing, 3s. 4d. for common charges, such as superintendence; and 4s. for rent, interest, and re-payment of loans. The cost of maintenance without rent was, therefore, 7s. 7d. At the South Metropolitan School, the charge for food and clothing was 3s. 6d., and common charges 1s. 8d.; making a total cost for maintenance of 5s. 2d., which, with 1s. 2d. for loan and interest, made a total charge of 6s. 4d. At the North Surrey School, the charge for food and clothing was 3s. 11d., for common charges 2s. 9d., and for loans and interest 1s. 9d.; making a total of 6s. 8d. for maintenance, and a gross total of 8s. 5d. per week per child. These figures, having been extracted from the official Reports, could be trusted. The cost would necessarily be greater in a public institution than in a workman's home; but no working man could afford to pay for the education and maintenance of his children at that rate, yet the result must be very remarkable to justify such expenditure as this, and the matter was certainly worthy of serious consideration. The Scotch system of boarding out and educating children might, perhaps, be adopted with advantage, as the reports made upon it showed that the children brought up under that system were better cared for than the majority of the ordinary English labourers' children, or English workhouse and district school children—in fact, he was able to state, from personal observation, that the children in Scotland so situated led a very happy life. One special advantage of the system was, that the children were naturally trained, instead of being trained on a system; and, as Dr. Acland said, the great defect of the workhouse school system was, that the absence of parental training, 281 and unexercised affections, entirely counterbalanced the whole of the advantages resulting from superior food and clothing. The Scotch system was almost perfect; the children were trained by their foster parents as their own, and, being educated in common things, they were naturally fitted for the position they were intended to occupy. The children of the district school, however, grew up as part of a great machine, instead of being taught self-dependence, and there was great danger that as soon as the child was separated from the system its education would be found wanting. In short, it was an unnatural system, to mass such children together in large schools; and, although he could bear testimony to the excellent manner in which the interests of the children were attended to in many of these large establishments, he did not believe it was a beneficial or advantageous system for them. The next point to which he should direct attention was that of sick relief, which was the most unsatisfactory part of the metropolitan Poor Law administration. At present it pauperized the applicant, who, though able and willing to provide himself with everything except medical advice and assistance, was unable to get that assistance without either becoming a pauper, or burdening himself with a long doctor's bill. The committee appointed by the authorities of some of the London Hospitals had made a very excellent report on out-door medical relief, and some attempt at amendment of the system of medical relief was needed, which he should himself like to see, and which would enable the labouring poor to obtain medical relief as far as possible at some small cost to themselves, so that their spirit of self-dependence should not be destroyed even in the time of sickness. The system which had been successfully carried out in Ireland embodied this principle, and an inquiry into the metropolitan system would show the absolute necessity for its amendment, so that it should not result in pauperizing the people. The system of control by the Poor Law Board needed special attention also; and the existing medical districts were much too large to admit of a proper discharge of the duties of the medical officers concerned. At present, in order to prevent and control what was called the waste of public money, the Poor Law Board exercised 282 authority over Boards of Guardians, the consequence of which was the responsibility was so divided between the Poor Law Board and the Boards of Guardians, that the latter could not raise the salary of a porter or nurse by 2s. per week without the consent of the Poor Law Board, and dismissal was always subject to the right of appeal. The system was a bad one, and some means ought to be devised by which responsibitity should rest on one authority only. Act after Act had been passed upon the subject, until there was really now no possibility of ascertaining in which body the power rested. If work was to be done well it should be done by an individual or a Board on its own responsibility. The duty to be performed should be plainly laid down, and then whoever had to administer relief should do his work himself. He did not desire immediate legislation; but there had been no inquiry into the administration of the Poor Law within the Metropolis since 1861, although since that time there had been frequent and almost yearly changes in the law. In 1861 the poor relief of the Metropolis was administered in most cases by the parishes, acting under special Acts of Parliament; but all those special Acts had been swept away, and now every parish and every Union in the Metropolis were under the control and direction of the Poor Law Board. It would be well to have an inquiry into the results of that system, for one of those results was, that, side by side with the administration of the Poor Law Board, there had been a growth of expenditure of nearly 100 per cent. They could not legislate with advantage on a great question like that without the greatest deliberation, or without such an inquiry, conducted in public, as would carry public feeling and opinion with them. The time was favourable for its calm investigation. There was no panic in regard to pauperism; and though the weekly Returns published by the Poor Law Board were not entirely accurate, still there was a reduction in the pauperism of London. He hoped, if granted, that the inquiry would result in the recommendation that there should be a larger area for the administration of in-door relief, and that there should be a system of arrangement and classification in the several 283 workhouses in the Metropolis; both of which improvements, when carried out, would, he thought, tend to promote the advantage and comforts of the poor, as far as they could reasonably be promoted. In order to effect this, it would be necessary to divide the Metropolis into three or four districts, under the control of representative bodies, elected perhaps triennially, but responsible wholly and completely within their own areas for the administration of relief in their districts. At the same time, he felt that there must be established some system providing a more minute subdivision of areas for out-door relief, a branch of poor relief which, great as might be the evils attending it, could not be done away with. Out-door relief must be given in many cases, in order to re-instate temporarily necessitous persons in a position in which they might again fight their way in life; but, connected with it, minute inspection, like that adopted under the Prussian and Berlin systems, must, as far as out-door relief was concerned, be applied to the Metropolis. Personal responsibility should be brought home to the Guardians and officers entrusted with the administration of that kind of relief, while personal visitation was brought home to every applicant for it; and he also desired to see some bonâ fide education test, so to speak, adopted in regard to able-bodied men and women receiving relief; and whether the relief given was in-door or out-door relief, its recipients should, as far as possible, be required to contribute something in return. He knew that was a difficult problem, but by patient and careful inquiry it might perhaps be solved in a way that would be satisfactory to the working classes, and so as not to interfere unduly with the labour market. The present system of relief tended greatly to injure and demoralize the poor; and under its operation—as the Rev. Canon Miller, Vicar of Greenwich, stated—they were largely undermining the self-reliance, providence, and self-respect of very many of the wage-earning class, and were training up a generation of beggars. By the system which had been permitted to grow up, they had now an army of paupers greater and more costly, directly and indirectly, than any Army which might be the subject of debate in that House; and 284 although the Motion he now made would not affect, as Army Organization Bills might do, the fate of a Ministry or the interests of great parties, yet it was one that touched a question deeply and ultimately concerning the future welfare of the nation. The terrible cancer of pauperism was eating into the vitals of the people, was destroying the bone and sinew of the country, and raising up around them a numerous class who did not feel that it was their duty, their highest interest, their greatest advantage to work. He had no desire to stop the flow of public benevolence, but he felt that the truest charity was to put the poor or the suffering man on his legs again, and enable him to fight the battle of life for himself, and that to sap his energy and self-reliance was to inflict on him the most serious injury. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for the Address of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. RATHBONE
, in seconding the Motion, said, that after the able and exhaustive speech they had just listened to, no one would attempt to prove that an inquiry was unnecessary. He was of opinion that the desired inquiry must not only be made into the pauperism of the United Kingdom, as would be proposed by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett); but those who would conduct it must also consider the questions that were raised by the recent Minute of the late President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Goschen), as to the evils caused by both legal and charitable relief being given to the same individuals by means of bodies who acted without co-operation. After what had been said by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), he need not attempt to prove the necessity for inquiry, and he should therefore confine himself to these two points—first, the effect of the concurrent action of legal and charitable relief; and, secondly, the necessity for an entire reorganization of the Poor Law Board. With respect to the first point, all who had in recent years attempted to deal with the evils of pauperism must have been surprised at the enormous amount of money that was wasted, owing to both legal and charitable relief being given without any co-operation between the persons who were appointed to dispense it. As there had never yet been 285 proposed a remedy which commended itself to the public, they might fairly ask for a Commission to inquire into the steps that were taken in other countries with, a view to applying their experience to our own evils. For instance, he believed that at Boston, in the United States, all the Poor Law offices and those of the principal charities were placed under one roof, with a view to the centralization of relief; the consequence of this amalgamation was, that poverty and pauperism there had been kept in check to a great extent. Inquiry might also be made as to whether workhouses properly so called should not be, instead of resorts for the indolent, rather places where those who had lost the habit of work might be detained and taught to regain it. There was, however, a much more difficult problem to solve, for the present Poor Law had relieved the rich of their duty towards the poor, whom it had caused to depend on other resources than those which were provided by their own industry and providence. This difficulty had been greatly increased by the enormous growth of the large towns, in which the work of relieving the poor developed itself into such large masses that those who desired to be useful were discouraged by a feeling of the hopelessness of any individual effort. If the work were broken up into manageable portions, and charitable associations were brought into systematic connection with the relief of the poor, existing evils might be efficiently dealt with, and a disgrace would be removed from a nation that calls itself a civilized and par excellence a practical nation. The Royal Commissioners who were appointed to draw up a scheme of Poor Law relief for Ireland, including the late Archbishop Whateley, and other men of great ability, recommended that out-door relief should be dispensed by voluntary associations aided by the public funds, on condition of these associations subjecting themselves to certain rules and to a certain amount of supervision and advice from efficient officers who would be appointed by the Crown. If such a step were taken in England, benevolent persons might be induced to form themselves into charitable associations, by which means the assistance given to the deserving would be made more effectual, while there would be greater means of detecting imposture. As to the re-or- 286 ganization of the Poor Law Board, he regretted that the Premier should have stated that the office of President of that Board was not one of primary rank and responsibility, for if the right hon. Gentleman would apply himself to a consideration of Poor Law questions, he must come to the conclusion that during the next 20 years that Board would become a leading Department of the State. How was that Department—any laxity in the administration of which saps in the industry and virtue of the labouring population of this country—treated? No President of the Poor Law Board had been allowed to remain long enough at its head to make himself thoroughly master of the Department, or as soon as he had done so, he was removed to another office. Had the right hon. Member for Oxford University or the City of London been allowed to retain the office of President sufficiently long they would, no doubt, have been enabled to effect reforms which would have conferred the greatest benefit on the community; and so with regard to his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax, but there was no chance of any President being left in his post long enough to do this. The fact was, the better they did their work the sooner they were removed. Nor is this arrangement compensated by any sufficient strength in the permanent element. The Board, therefore, wanted the experience which was necessary to proper responsibility and continuity of action. The old Poor Law Board did their work extremely well; they stopped the great demoralization of the labouring classes in the rural districts, and he regretted there was not such a Board now to do the same work for the labouring population of large towns. He admitted that the old Board had no element to bring it into harmony with the state of feeling in that House and the country, for it would have been very desirable that the head of that Board should have had a seat in that House; but, unfortunately, in this country we ran from one extreme to the other. We upset the old system, and produced a Board which was a perfect sham. He believed if we had a Poor Law Board with a President in that House, and two or three men of ability and comparatively useful energy to deal with the questions that came before them, it 287 would obtain the confidence of the country. It was also necessary to have a much better system of selection, training, and promotion of Poor Law officers. Such a thoroughly trained and efficient Department of the Civil Service would attract to itself character, energy, and ability. Perhaps his right hon. Friend might tell the House he could make all the requisite inquiries himself, and no doubt he was competent enough to do so; but what security had they that he would be allowed to remain sufficiently long in his present office to conduct them to a satisfactory result? He thought an efficient Commission would strengthen the hands of his right hon. Friend, and he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion for its appointment.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the policy and administration of the Poor Law within the Metropolis,"—(Mr. William Henry Smith,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. FAWCETT
, who had on the Paper a Notice to extend the inquiry to the United Kingdom, observed that he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), that the Poor Law systems of other countries should also be investigated. He knew of no national question of greater consequence than this, for it was one that referred to evils which legislative influence had hitherto failed to remedy; as such, it was, therefore, quite unnecessary for the hon. Member for Westminster to make any apology for the introduction of his Motion, on the contrary, he (Mr. Fawcett) thought the House was under great obligation to him for the very able way in which he had treated the subject. It was impossible that a subject of greater importance and interest could be brought before the House; a Budget, although it might decide the fate of a Ministry, was, comparatively speaking, of little consequence. For these reasons, he thought the Royal Commission asked for by his hon. Friend ought to be granted; and if it was, his (Mr. Faw- 288 cett's) Amendment ought to be introduced into the subject. What made it of more importance was this—many evils afflicted the land which lay beyond the reach of Parliamentary action; but pauperism was, however, so directly under legislative control that it had grown with the unwisdom and diminished with the wisdom of the House. This was made manifest by history, which also exhibited what evils were to be avoided, and indicated in what direction we must look for reform. Some 300 years ago, indiscriminate almsgiving and voluntary charity were producing so many evils, that a feeling obtained throughout the country that repressive measures ought to be adopted, and during the reigns of Richard II. and succeeding Monarchs a series of statutes were passed, of an extraordinary and rigorous character, for putting an end to indiscriminate and ill-considered charity. But it was discovered that direct discouragement of these evils had not the desired effect; and the celebrated Act of Elizabeth determined to adopt indirect discouragement as the more efficient remedy—on the principle that every one had a claim to relief. Then it appeared that the country had assumed one of the most perilous responsibilities that could be conceived; for the most improvident, imprudent, and thriftless preferred their claim to relief on equal terms with the more worthy class of paupers; and if these responsibilities were not provided with safeguards it was easy to see that a great burden would fall upon the thrifty and industrious poor too heavy for them to bear. These safeguards were brought to bear; by them, voluntary paupers were distinguished from involuntary ones; and as these safeguards came to be strengthened in after years, a most marked diminution took place in the amount of pauperism, a result which was greatly assisted by the Act of 1727, which first imposed the workhouse test. This was borne out by the fact, that, in 1750, when the Elizabethan Act had been in operation for some 150 years, so firmly and wisely had it been administered that there was less pauperism in England than existed in any European country, and the day seemed near when pauperism would be entirely abolished. Unwarned, however, by the experience of the past, the Legislature of the day 289 pursued a different policy, which seemed to ignore all the brilliant success already achieved; for by means of a statute called Gilbert's Act, the workhouse test was abolished, a rate in aid was sanctioned, and the Guardians were obliged to provide work as near home as possible for all applicants for relief. And what was the result of this? The whole aspect of the country became changed, and before 70 years had elapsed, instead of England being distinguished among European nations as having less pauperism than any other country, we were burdened with an amount of pauperism which threatened us with national bankruptcy, and jeopardized our chances of recovery, if we had any. It was almost impossible now, even to believe some of the abuses which had grown up under the old Poor Law system. Pauperism became a profession; pauperism was not considered a disgrace. Before the Poor Law Commissioners, in 1834, it was proved that many people actually thought that it would be advantageous to become paupers; and certainly, in one place, it was found that by the allowances which were given to paupers, while the pauper labourers were receiving 16s. a-week, the ordinary labourer was receiving only 12s. After the passing of the New Poor Law, in 1834, a radical change was introduced. Its main object was to do away with the allowance system, and to check out-door relief. The idea of the Act was, that out-door relief should be the exception and not the rule, whereas, unfortunately, at present it was the rule, and not the exception. As long as out-door relief was seldom given, a great diminution of pauperism was produced, an evidence of which was given immediately after the passing of the Act of 1834. In 1837, the whole amount spent in this country for the relief of the poor was only £3,500,000. The great evil of the present system was the reckless manner in which out-door relief was given. What did we observe, for instance, in the Metropolis? During nine years, the amount spent in out-door relief had increased by 130 per cent, and in the rural districts, an equally serious increase had occurred. In one Union in Somerset with which he was acquainted, the workhouse had accommodation for 400 paupers; the number of inmates, however, were only 92, whilst at the same time 290 there were 1,100 people in receipt of out-door relief. He would now bring before the House some specific facts, which would show that as they extended out-door relief, pauperism increased with inevitable certainty. Everyone who investigated the condition of England, Scotland, and Ireland would conclude that there would be less pauperism in England and Scotland than there was in Ireland, for England and Scotland were both, as shown by the Income Tax Returns, far more wealthy than Ireland, and the average income in England was three times that of Ireland; the average income in Scotland was twice as much. And as a corroboration of that conclusion, it was found that the Scotch who came to England generally made their way prosperously, and seldom claimed parochial relief; but the Irish formed a considerable proportion of the paupers in the large towns of England. From all this they would infer, that there was far less pauperism in England and Scotland than in Ireland, yet, in England, with all its wealth, 1 out of 20 of the population was a pauper; in Scotland, wealthy also, 1 out of 23; while in Ireland, poor and depressed, as they had been told, by a vicious land system,—the country always looked upon as miserable and wretched—only 1 out of 73 was a pauper. England, three times as wealthy, had three times as much pauperism in proportion to her population; while in Scotland the results were still more striking, for the paupers in the Highlands of Scotland exceeded by 12 per cent the paupers in Ulster and Connaught. The explanation of this extraordinary state of things was a very obvious one. In Ireland, until recent years, no out-door relief was given, and it was now very rarely given. In Scotland, although out-door relief was not given to able-bodied labourers, still outdoor relief was given with great recklessness and carelessness; and everyone knew how recklessly the system had been administered in England. It might be said that England inherited pauperism from the defects of its old system; but Scotland and Ireland stood on all-fours, for the Poor Law was introduced into Ireland in 1838, and into Scotland a few years later; and in Ireland, in proportion to population, there was but one-third of the pauperism which existed in Scotland. The fact was, that enter- 291 ing the workhouse in England was considered a disgrace, and the poor people made considerable efforts to keep themselves out of it; while receiving outdoor relief was considered not a disgrace, but was looked upon rather as a boon. It was obvious how powerfully this must act on the social condition of the country. In Ireland the feeling of filial obligation was far more powerful than it was in England. If in Ireland a man neglected his aged parent, having the means to support him, he knew as a general rule that the parent went into the workhouse and the son was disgraced; the consequence of this was, sons recognized their duties, and old people were seldom found in workhouses, if their children could by any means keep them out. Contrast this with what existed in England. Let them go to any London clergyman who was intimately acquainted with the condition of the poor, and he would say that one of the most powerful influences of our Poor Law system was, that it not only had absolutely destroyed all the sense of the duty which children owed to their parents, but that thousands of aged people received out-door relief whose children were in a condition to keep them. And then, as said by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), it was impossible for out-door relief, especially in large towns, to be administered with so much care as to prevent a considerble portion going to the impostor. Not long ago a man was summoned at a London police court for wages claimed by his daughter's music master. On referring to the parish books, it was found that the man sued for his daughter's music was in receipt of parochial relief. Another man who was in the receipt of relief was found to be in the enjoyment of an handsome annuity. In another case he had been assured, that an old woman had received parochial relief from two Unions for 10 years after she was dead. The way this was managed was simply that when the relieving officer made his periodical visits, he was constantly told by the daughter that her mother was ill in bed, and he went away perfectly satisfied. It was impossible to devise a scheme of administering out-door relief which would protect you from hypocrisy and imposture, and through that this lesson was constantly brought home to the Indus- 292 trial classes of the country—that those who were receiving out-door relief were those who made no effort to help themselves. Could they suggest a remedy for this state of things? Did they propose suddenly to abandon the new Poor Law system, and say that in future no out-door relief should be granted? No one could be rash enough to suggest such a drastic remedy; but he ventured humbly to suggest to the House, that what they ought to do was to diminish out-door relief within the narrowest possible limits. Enough had been done in that direction by an Act passed two years ago by the late President of the Poor Law Board. That Act, however, he was sorry to say, only affected the Metropolis; but, if its operation were extended over the whole country, it would introduce a very important reform. The purport of that Act was simply to throw the cost of in-door relief on the general rates, and the cost of out-door relief a charge on the separate Union. Of course this operated as a great discouragement to out-door relief. He was not in the House when the Union Chargeability Bill was introduced; but he remembered the opposition of the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) to that measure; and he (Mr. Fawcett) came to the conclusion that, however much different portions of the House might disagree with the right hon. Member's reasons, they would be with him in results. If they extended the area of rating—and this was the great argument against a national poor rate—they pro tanto relaxed their checks upon economy, and he believed that in many instances the result of the Union Chargeability Bill had been this—that each parish had not felt so much interest as it did before in the rigid administration of the Poor Law, and that the result had been a considerable increase of pauperism. Now, these evils might be counteracted if the measure now affecting only the Metropolis were extended to the whole kingdom. There was constant danger that philanthropy and mistaken kindness would bring about some serious evil; as, of course, all the feelings which they most cherished and most honoured would prompt them to liberality to the poor. The President of the Poor Law Board had lately issued an Order relative to the farming out of pauper children, 293 which, he thought, would re-introduce many of the evils of the old Poor Law system, and greatly encourage illegitimacy. He referred to this subject with all the more interest because the Press had taken the matter up, and, considering the case as touching the welfare of the children only, they were right; but he (Mr. Fawcett) would take the liberty of presenting the subject in another aspect; and he was also the more anxious to make a few remarks on it, in consequence of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Westminster. The observations of the hon. Member were singularly characteristic. No one saw more the evils of out-door relief, and the disadvantages of indiscriminate almsgiving, than the hon. Gentleman, and yet he simply viewed the boarding out of children in one aspect, and lost sight entirely of the encouragement it might give to some of the social evils which they ought to be most anxious to check. Every one of these boarded-out children was to be allowed 4s. a-week for his maintenance, and 1s. a-week for his clothes; he was to have gratuitious attendance and schooling; particular injunctions were given that in case of illness he was to have the best medical advice obtainable in the neighbourhood; and if he needed nourishing food it was to be supplied without stint at the expense of the Guardians. Now, he knew a couple in the country whose circumstances he had watched for 25 years, and they were just the kind of persons to whom three of these pauper children would probably be sent. The man was an agricultural labourer; but, although one of the best workmen in England, had never earnt more than 13s. a-week. He had, however, contrived to bring up a family of six children. Well, when these three children were sent to him, he would receive for their support 15s. a-week; and then he would find out that there existed a system which never did anything for the thrifty and the prudent, but which gave for the maintenance of three illegitimate children, or three children neglected by drunken parents, 20 per cent more than he was ever able by constant toil to earn for the support of himself, his wife, and his family. He would now give another simple illustration of the present mode of administering out-door relief. Take the case of two agricultural labourers, A and B, who had both lived exactly the same life, as far 294 as the opportunities of earning money were concerned, and whose wages were 12s. a-week. They were both, he would assume, of the same age, married at the same time, and had the same number of children. A, being a prudent man, recognizing the duty and the solemn responsibilty of making some provision for his old age, put aside 2s. a-week and purchased an annuity under the Act passed some years ago by the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government, while the other man was a drunkard and spent every sixpence he could obtain in the publichouse. The result was, that when they had both grown too old for work, A was in possession of an annuity of 5s. per week, while B, having nothing at all, went to the parish and obtained out-door relief for himself and his wife to the extent of 3s., or 3s. 6d. per week. A also went to the parish and asked for only 1s. weekly in order to supplement the 5s. which he had as the result of his own prudence, and to add to his clothing and fuel in the winter time; but the Board, knowing that he was possessed of the small annuity, refused his application—the principle of the Poor Law being to give nothing to the prudent, and all to those who least deserved it. This, he would remind the House, was not a purely hypothetical case, but one of a class that was of almost daily recurrence. Could anyone doubt that such a system must produce demoralization—that £7,000,000 thus distributed was only calculated to increase the habits of pauperism among the poor? Such was the effect actually produced. Not long ago it was proposed in the West of England to start a friendly society for the working classes, and a meeting took place on the subject; but when some one suggested that by subscribing weekly for years to the society they would only receive 5s. a-week, and that the parish would give them almost as much, it was resolved that so long as the membership of friendly or provident societies is a bar to out-door relief, the society should not be established—and it had not been established to that day. But if out-door relief was put an end to—if the result of a life of improvidence was an old age in the workhouse—the poor would be taught the importance of being provident. Another point of the utmost moment was to organize the charity and benevolence 295 of the public; because, under the present system of indiscriminate giving, more harm than good was often done. Dr. Hawksley, who examined this subject some years ago, found that the charity annually dispensed in London, amounted to no less than £5,000,000, the larger portion of which went not to help the frugal and industrious, but to encourage the improvident and imprudent. Similar results were arrived at in the course of an inquiry which was instituted subsequently by Mr. Hicks, with the assistance of the proprietors of The Times newspaper. Mr. Hicks investigated the accounts of several London charities, and found that more than 25 per cent of their receipts was swallowed up and wasted in expenses of agents. What was wanted was the man who, not content with subscribing to a charity, took the trouble to personally see that its funds were wisely distributed; such a man did a work of real value. He had been reading that very morning the life of a dear friend of his, Mr. E. Denison, sometime a Member of that House, who had in the noblest manner showed how easy it was to perform, within the limits of a crowded city, acts of heroism as noble as any ever performed on the battle-field. For many months Mr. Denison had lived among the poor of the East-end of London; he knew the secrets of their lives intimately, and his experience confirmed every word that had been urged respecting the evils bred by the present method of distributing Poor Law relief; and he was particularly emphatic on the harm often done by the well-meant but ill-directed charitable efforts of the public. In what had been said in the House on this subject a few nights ago he confessed he had not been convinced by what had fallen from the Prime Minister. The truth was, that it was utterly impossible for any man, however gifted he might be, to know how thoroughly to accomplish the duties of the Poor Law Board until he had held that office for at least a couple of years; and he thought that no statesman could have a nobler field for his ambition or a wider scope for his abilities. He hoped that in the hands of the present head of the Poor Law Board such reforms would be effected as would put the whole system on a sound basis. He regarded the office as one of the utmost importance in the State, and 296 he, for one, could not regard it as a promotion for a statesman to be removed from the Poor Law Board to the Admiralty or the War Office. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) had, in addition to his other onerous duties, to deal with financial questions more intricate than those which fell within the domain of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. How could they compare the work of the President of the Poor Law Board with the work of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had simply to provide for a deficiency of £2,800,000? There were only two or three ways of doing that, and it required no great statesmanship of those methods to select the worst. They had heard a great deal about the fear of foreign invasion, and had incurred an enormous expenditure to ward off the danger. They had had debates, night after night, on that subject, and he would contrast the state of the benches, when the interests of a party were concerned, with the state of the House when a great social problem was under discussion. He maintained that there was in our midst, and permeating down deep into our social life, a danger much more serious than any that was likely to arise from foreign invasion. Would anyone pretend that the safety of the country, or her material prosperity could be secured, that social cohesion could be guaranteed, or the moral welfare of the people be promoted, while 1 out of every 20 of the population was a pauper? This was a subject that required unswerving firmness on the part of a statesman. We should all like to relieve distress if we could; but the experience of the past told us what a fearful price we should have to pay if this distress were not relieved with judgment, care, and discretion. In one sentence, he would venture to say that this should be the end and aim of the House and of the statesman who had to administer the Poor Law Department—that we should reverse what had been the policy of the past; that we should do something more for the frugal and the thrifty, and afford as little assistance as we could to those who would do nothing to help themselves.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, that it did not often fall to the lot of the House to listen to speeches so interesting, and, he might add, so eloquent as those which had been delivered that evening. His hon. Friend the Member for Westminster 297 (Mr. W. H. Smith), who commenced the debate, had addressed them in a speech of considerable, though not of too great, length—a speech full of philosophy and thought, going to the root of the question of pauperism and the method in which it should be dealt with; and though the philosophy of the hon. Gentleman might have led him to conclusions that might seem to be harsh, everyone who knew the hon. Gentleman knew that that was not the result of any want of sympathy for the poor. The speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), too, was one full of sympathy for the poor, but full also of a positive philosophy upon the subject of Poor Law relief, and the policy which ought to govern its administration. He must at once say that he did not rise for the purpose of endeavouring to reply to, much less to refute, speeches with which he had so much sympathy, and from which he was certain in the future to derive so much benefit and advantage. His hon. Friend the Member for Westminster had taken the very widest ground; he had commenced by denying the proposition which was the basis of our English law—that there was a right on the part of every individual to Poor Law relief. His hon. Friend, however, acknowledged the existence of a duty from the State towards the poor, and, if that were so, the correlative right on the part of the poor could hardly be denied. But his hon. Friend had addressed some statistics and figures to the House, and he began in 1860—the date from which might be said to have arisen our most modern administration of the Poor Laws of the country. His hon. Friend appeared to have been led into the belief that the legislation of the last few years had been rather to administer to pauperism than to check or cure it. Upon that proposition, it was his duty to take issue. He should not be doing justice to the policy of the Board, over whose proceedings he now presided, if he did not attempt to prove to the satisfaction of his hon. Friend, that the figures which he brought under the attention of the House, showing the increase of pauperism in the Metropolis, and the increase in the cost, did not prove, and ought not to be held to suggest, that our recent policy was such as his hon. Friend appeared to fear. His hon. Friend had stated, with perfect accuracy, that in the 298 year 1860, the mean number of poor relieved in the Metropolis was 86,000, and that the total cost was £796,423. Then, his hon. Friend showed that in 1870, the number relieved was no less than 145,044, and that the cost of the relief amounted to £1,465,000. These were startling figures; but he hoped to be able to show that, though recent legislation might deliberately, and for good reasons, have increased the amount of relief afforded, it was not in any way responsible for the increase of pauperism in London. He would take the year 1866. There was a panic in that year, and it was also about the time that the Union Chargeability Act was passed, which altered the area of chargeability from the parish to the Union, and reduced the period for acquiring irremovability in London from three years to one. In 1866, the total in-door paupers were 30,431; in 1867, 33,063. In 1866, the total number of out-door paupers was 71,902; in 1867, 99,040, showing a total of 102,333 in 1866 and of 132,103 in 1867; or an increase of 30,000 upon those relieved in the preceding year. That increase, as before observed, was due to the panic and the Union Chargeability Act. From that time, the numbers of in-door paupers varied but slightly: in 1867, they numbered 33,063; in 1868, 34,952; in 1869, 35,025; in 1870, 34,998; and in 1871, 34,532. The expenditure had doubtless increased in consequence of these changes; but in the main that was due to the great improvements in the construction of the buildings for the accommodation of our in-door paupers, and the greater kindness and liberality with which they were treated. The out-door paupers in the last week of April, 1866, numbered 71,902; in 1867, 99,040; in 1868, 104,263; in 1869, 106,939; in 1870, 110,423; but in the year 1871 they were again reduced to 98,017. The totals were as follows: In 1867, the year immediately following the operation of the Union Chargeability Act, but before the Metropolitan Poor Act was passed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), the total was 132,103; in 1868, 139,215; in 1869, 141,964; in 1870, 145,421; and in 1871, the total fell to 132,549, identical within a few hundreds with the numbers which obtained at the time the Metropolitan Poor Act was passed. He 299 gave these figures for the purpose of satisfying his hon. Friend and the House that the policy of the Committee to which he had referred, and which reported in 1864, and the policy of the Poor Law Department, under the powers conferred by the Act of 1867, had not tended to increase pauperism, and he he should endeavour to show that so far as it had tended to increase expense, that increase of expense had sufficient justification. His object was to show that whatever might be the effect of the very wide question his hon. Friend had raised of the dangers of conceding the right of poor people to receive relief, and whatever there might be—and he thought there was a great deal—in the view of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), as to the dangers of a system of out-door relief, at any rate as far as the recent policy of the Poor Law administration was concerned, they had done much to improve the condition of pauper inmates, while they had done nothing to increase the expense of out-door relief. The object of the Act of 1867 was to attempt to promote the best possible classification of pauper inmates, for the purpose of dealing more advantageously with them; and of obtaining a greater power of dealing subsequently, when the time should come, with a proper administration of out-door relief. The proposals of the Act were—that hospitals should be erected; that workhouses should be cleared of certain classes of paupers; that hospitals should be managed on the best possible principles, for the cure of harmless lunatics, and the victims of fever and small-pox; that children should be removed from the corrupting influences of workhouse life; and having cleared the workhouses of these classes, that those who remained should be classified and sub-divided; and, above all, that the difficult problem of out-door relief might be dealt with by, as far as possible, offering the workhouse test. In pursuance of the purposes of that Act, hospitals and asylums had been erected, district asylums and infirmaries had been erected, separate schools had been put up, the number of the ordinary workhouses had been reduced, and, in some cases, the system of classification had been attempted. The right hon. Gentleman who had preceded him in the Poor Law Board had enlarged the Unions, and the number, instead of 300 being 36, was now reduced to 30; so that the Department had been operating, under the powers of the Act of 1867, at least, in the direction in which his hon. Friends who had spoken desired it to go. The time had, therefore, now come when the Department required to address itself to two questions. First of all, the classification of the poor who were to remain in the workhouse, so as to provide the best accommodation; and, secondly, the great and difficult question of the administration of out-door relief. Some suggestions had been made tonight upon these subjects, and the suggestions offered would receive his most attentive consideration. He would be only too glad to receive and welcome any assistance which any hon. Member would at any time do him the honour to render him. No doubt there was something complex in the conditions of the Poor Law problem; but there was no clashing in the administration of the Poor Law. His hon. Friend had commented on the vagueness of the powers of the Poor Law Board; but those powers were at least not insufficient, and perhaps their vagueness accounted for their comprehensiveness. The hon. Member while suggesting a policy that had been to a considerable extent followed out—that of a larger area for in-door administration—had also suggested smaller areas for the administration of out-door relief. Upon that question he declined to express an opinion; the Board, however, was increasing the number of relieving officers, was improving their pay, and was still carrying out the uniform policy of the Board since 1834 of limiting the out-door relief to a minimum. The system was not yet in complete working order; but he agreed that as far as possible where out-door relief was afforded, it should be sufficient, and should in no case be given without full inquiry. Upon the question of boarding out children, he was not prepared to express a definite opinion at present. The system was being tried, and its results were being carefully watched. The objection to the system raised by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), that the pauper child boarded out would be more cared for than the child of the poor labourer, was a necessary characteristic of the system, and the objection applied with equal force to district schools. Had his hon. Friend 301 no faith in those instincts of human nature which induced people to prefer liberty to restraint and the family relations to isolation from their own kindred? Would it not be wiser to place some reliance on these feelings than, from any chimerical or exaggerated fears, to deprive orphan, destitute, and neglected children of the advantages of the care which our Poor Law administration now afforded them? The hon. Member for Westminster had not, he thought, quite done justice to their district schools, although he spoke of their admirable management, and the great kindliness of all connected with them. The hon. Member had quoted the opinion of Mr. Henley—one of their ablest Inspectors—to the effect that there was something in the restraint and the formalities of a large school which stunted, so to say, the physical as well as the moral and intellectual growth of the children, and that a child would benefit by being placed in inferior but more natural conditions. The restraints and formalities of a large school were not, however, found to stunt the physical, moral, and intellectual growth of boys in middle class schools; and he could not see why their effect should be so different in the case of the children in those district schools. Having himself visited one of those district schools the other day, he was much impressed with the good order, the cleanliness, and the sense of freedom and happiness on the faces of the children, as well as with the kindness of those who administered the school. But, amid all that feeling of satisfaction and almost of delight, there came into his mind something of a different and very depressing character—namely, the reflection that he was contemplating a great mass of young humanity, of whom he was tempted to say that, in great part, it might have been better had it never been born; and he was compelled to regard it as a matter of doubt whether the greatest care of their moral, intellectual, and physical health and growth could redeem them from the stain, the difficulty, and the drawback of a bad origin, and an originally poor, physical, and mental organization. He thought his hon. Friend had overlooked the fact that the children in their metropolitan district schools came from the very poorest physical stock of the country, that their genealogy itself was 302 of the very worst, and that if they compared them with the offspring of the ordinary day labourer, or even, it might be, with the pauper child in the rural districts, they compared two beings who started in life with very different attributes, physical and intellectual, and possibly moral. While saying he could not entirely concur in their opinions, he hoped he had shown that he did not undervalue the suggestion contained in the thoughtful and admirable speeches addressed to the House by his hon. Friends. The hon. Member for Westminster had spoken not only of the increased numbers, but of the increased cost in the Metropolis, and seemed to be under the impression that the increased cost was very considerable in the administration of out-door relief. The true figures, which he would give the House, showed that their very great increase of expenditure had not been in the administration of out-door relief—although that had increased—but in providing admirable and commodious buildings, hospitals, asylums, and schools, and in administering them by a class of officers superior to, and better paid than, those formerly employed. In 1860 the total cost of the relief of the poor in London was £796,000, and in t870 it had risen to nearly double that amount, or to £1,475,000. On analyzing those figures, it would be found that in-maintenance had risen gradually from £260,000 in 1860 to £420,000 in 1870. He had shown that there was no considerable increase in the number of indoor paupers; but in-maintenance included the charge for the care of the sick; and the great increase of expense arose first of all from the increased price of provisions since 1860, and next from the very much greater care now bestowed on the sick, and the additional comforts afforded them. The cost of out-relief had risen from £200,000 in 1860 to £413,000 in 1870, and the numbers from 86,000 to 132,000. If he were to take the year 1867, he could show that the numbers had not at all increased, although there was a certain increase in the charge for out-maintenance, which might be attributed in some degree to the cost of medical outdoor relief. The maintenance of lunatics—an expenditure which could not well be said to be incurred in ministering to habits of pauperism—had increased from £89,000 to £170,000. The item 303 of repayment of workhouse loans had risen from £47,000 in 1860 to £93,000 in 1870; and there had been a great rise in the charge for salaries and rations of officers—namely, from £88,000 in 1860 to £148,000 in 1870, as, under the policy of the Act of 1867, they had considerably increased the number of nurses and relieving officers. In 1860 the number of relieving officers was 102; and in 1870 it was 161. In 1860 the salaries paid amounted to £12,976; in 1870 they had risen to £20,108, showing an increase of £7,132. In 1860 the number of nurses was 246; in 1870 it was 354, and the salaries paid rose from £4,520 to £7,280. The miscellaneous expenses of relief had also increased from £112,000 to £231,000 in the same period. He should be the last person to say there was not ample subject-matter for inquiry into the administration of the Poor Law, whether in the Metropolis or in the country at large. The speeches made that night were full of suggestions for further inquiry. He granted the advisability of inquiry; but he would say that the Poor Law Board was itself a Commission, and that its functions were not merely administrative, but also for inquiring. The House had to deal either with principles and policy, or with the observance and collation of facts; and as far as principles and policy were concerned, why should they resort to a Royal Commission? What Royal Commissioner was likely to address to them in his Report a more exhaustive and philosophical statement of principles and general policy than had fallen from the hon. Member for Westminster or the hon. Member for Brighton that evening? And was it not the undoubted fact that the House possessed, in a remarkable degree, the faculty and the knowledge necessary to the discussion of the principles and the policy which should guide the administration of the Poor Laws in this country? Therefore, instead of the House handing over its functions, or asking him to hand over his as an administrator, to a Royal Commission, let them take common counsel on those questions of policy, and work them out for themselves. Then, as to the observance and collation of facts, the Department had abundant means and power—which he had every willingness to use and exercise—for making any inquiries, whether in the 304 Metropolis or in the United Kingdom, or abroad, which might be found necessary or expedient for the elucidation of questions in which they were all so deeply interested. Though he could not concur in the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, he trusted his hon. Friend would accept the Poor Law Board as his Commission, and he invited him to co-operate with that Board in the inquiries he might think it advisable to make. If he would do so, he would accept his counsel willingly, and would work with him heartily for the purpose of securing so good an object, which they both desired to effect.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that having had occasion to communicate with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board on various matters connected with the Poor Law, he must bear his testimony to the great ability and earnestness with which that right hon. Gentleman had addressed himself to the task which lay before him. There could be no doubt the frequent change of the head of that Department had caused much delay in carrying out many necessary improvements, as evidenced by the fact that the Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University was passed in 1867, and but for the frequent changes to which he had referred, the valuable reforms proposed in that Bill would have long ago been carried into effect, and no doubt would have resulted in a vast improvement in the administration of the Poor Law. The present First Lord of the Admiralty had expressed some little alarm at the great increase of expenditure which would be occasioned if the proposals of that Bill were carried out, and had in consequence postponed some buildings which would otherwise have been long since completed; but this delay had been useful in one point, for the result had shown that temporary hospitals, such as that which now occupied the ground at Hampstead, were quite as efficient and valuable as more permanent ones. With regard to dispensaries, the last Report of the Poor Law Board showed that the dispensary system was by no means complete; and, in this respect also, there might have been a more active carrying out of the Bill of his right hon. Friend; he thought, therefore, it was too soon, as yet, to form any fair judgment as to how far 305 the provisions of that Bill were sufficient to deal with metropolitan pauperism. He did not deny the increase in the numbers receiving relief, and in the amount spent both in the Metropolis and the country, nor was he prepared to say that very considerable changes ought not to be brought about in our present system; but it appeared to him that the fault was not so much in the Poor Law itself as in its administration; for, whenever it had a fair chance, and had been properly worked, it carried out its object as well as any human institution could be expected to do. He admitted the complaint of his hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith), as to the want of uniformity which prevailed with regard to indoor relief in the Metropolis, in such matters as the cost of provisions and other important details; but it was hardly possible where any discretion was left to the Guardians that perfect uniformity in such matters could exist. At the same time, he by no means said that the prices of provisions were regulated as they ought to be; on the contrary, he feared there was too often not only carelessness, but something worse, in the contracts that were made by the Boards of Guardians in the Metropolis. With regard to out-door relief, he thought the districts which had been formed by the present First Lord of the Admiralty, by uniting together various Unions and parishes, were too large for that purpose. In November, 1869, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) issued a Circular to various Boards of Guardians, in which he spoke of the obligation imposed upon them by the Poor Law to give what he called "adequate relief" in all cases coming under their jurisdiction; but when he was asked to define "adequate relief" he very wisely shrunk from the task. It was there the great difficulty existed, and it was only by a proper distribution of "adequate relief" that the present state of things could be remedied. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) thought that, in order to secure this, small districts were absolutely necessary. In a particular parish which became notorious four years ago, in connection with Poor Law matters, there had since been a vast improvement in the management of it by the Guardians, owing mainly, he believed, to the valuable exertions of one gentleman. Unfortunately, however, ideas of an adverse character having lately pre- 306 vailed, the advice of that gentleman was set aside, and the consequence was, as he was informed, the vast increase of the weekly expense for out-door relief from £200 to £400. What was wanted was a proper inquiry into the case of every applicant for relief, so as to make it certain that the money given was not doled away among a number of undeserving persons, but that every person who ought to be relieved was sufficiently relieved. He found, from the last Poor Law Report, that the annual cost of the maintenance of each pauper in the workhouse was £9 16s., or 3s. 9d. per week. The average sum given to each case as out-door relief was £4 5s. a-year. The real evil was that too many cases were relieved, and the amount of relief given in each particular case was inadequate. In the country, a single pauper who applied for relief received, perhaps, a couple of loaves and from 1s. 6d. to 2s. in money, per week, which was obviously inadequate; but that relief was supplemented by charity, which the Guardians knew, and, therefore, they were disposed to give less than they otherwise would. The workhouse test, which was the corner-stone of the Poor Law, could not now be enforced in the Metropolis and some other large towns. It was worthy of consideration, whether it might not be possible in the Metropolis to issue the out-door relief prohibitory order with the power to the Guardians of suspending it in a particular district in the event of exceptional distress. Pauperism was much encouraged by a too great readiness on the part of Boards of Guardians throughout the country to grant out-door relief. On the other hand, some must be given. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), though he did not wish to put a stop all at once to out-door relief, thought it might be diminished, and even possibly be extinguished. But in that case, there would be instances of death from starvation, which would lead to indiscriminate charity, and the evil caused thereby would be greater than was caused by the administration of outdoor relief. Moreover, the principle that every man in this country had a right to relief, if he required it, was a great social safeguard, and had much to do with the fact that for the last 50 years and more England had been free from the social movements and revolutions which had so often occurred in other 307 countries of Europe. The Hon. Member (Mr. Fawcett) had pointed out the enormous difference between the out-relief in Ireland and in England. Mr. Lambert, who was entitled to speak with authority upon this matter, stated before the Committee on the Scotch Poor Law that England, with a population of nearly 22,000,000 and a rateable value of £100,000,000, had a maximum number of paupers in 1868, comprising in the workhouses 168,000, and out of the workhouses 878,000; while Ireland, with a population of 5,500,000, and a rateable value of £13,000,000, had 62,000 paupers in and only 19,600 out of the workhouses. The total relief in England, in-door and out-door, was £7,673,000; in Ireland, only £829,000, including the sums paid under the Medical Charities Act. The rate in the pound in England was 1s. 6d., in Ireland 1s. 1d. The rate per head of the population in England was over 7s., in Ireland only 3s. Yet, upon the best information which Mr. Lambert could obtain, the condition of those who received out-relief in England and Ireland was much the same, and the more stringent administration of the Poor Law in Ireland was carried on with due regard to the interests of the paupers. Though he did not wish to see out-relief brought down to a minimum point, he thought much might be done to put the two countries more on a par in this respect. It was no doubt a very serious evil that the law, so far from encouraging the working classes to be provident, should, by making a provision for every destitute person, actually discourage providence. At the same time, the question was a most difficult one, and he suggested that where a person proved that he had subscribed to a good friendly society for a certain number of years, and would be entitled, in case of illness, to sick pay, he should be allowed a certain amount of relief without the application of the workhouse test. He regretted that he could not vote with the hon. Member (Mr. W. H. Smith) for this Commission, as he did not think the proposed inquiry was necessary, for this reason—the evil was rather in the administration of the law than in the law itself, or the policy of the law, and he did not believe that either inquiry or legislation would put a stop to pauperism. What Parliament should do, was by every possible means to encourage habits 308 of providence, and if the right hon. Gentleman opposite would but turn his attention to that object, besides carrying out in other points the improvements which Parliament had already sanctioned, he was of opinion that there would be very little to complain of in the administration of the Poor Law.
§ DR. BREWER
said, the complexity of the subject before the House would have prevented his taking part in the debate had not a life-long experience in the practical operation of the Poor Law in the Metropolis led him to a definite conviction that the Poor Law had failed to grapple with the pauperism of the country, or to produce any sensible effect in diminishing its amount or preventing its extension among the people. The real difficulty of the whole question lay in the fact that while the material prosperity of the country had of late years greatly increased, pauperism had not abated so as in any way to indicate that pauperism bore any definite relation to the means the nation possessed of producing and accumulating wealth. Take the imports and exports of the year 1869, as given in the Statistical Abstract of 1870, the former amounting to £295,400,000, and the latter, the exports, to £190,000,000; whereas, in 1860, the imports were £210,500,000, and the exports £135,890,000, in round numbers, or well nigh £85,000,000 more of the value of imports, and above £54,000,000 more of the value of exports. Whilst the income of the country is under-estimated at £879,000,000, as might be learned partly from the Return moved for by his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Sir Thomas Bazley), and partly by the estimates of gentlemen who might be deemed experts in these calculations. The estimate in respect of lands being given for the year ending 1870, as £133,478,000; that in respect of occupation of lands, £37,447,700; professions and trades and railway returns, £161,594,000; and from public offices, £22,110,858. The estimate of incomes under £200 a-year is given at only £120,000,000, and the manual wages at £370,000,000. The figures adduced, undoubtedly raised the amount of the national income very considerably above the estimate given and accepted by the House in a late debate, and indicated an increase which might be reasonably expected to mark an era of 309 material prosperity; but the pauperism of the year 1869 had shown no decrease in comparison with former years taken in quinquennial average, but a very large increase. There was something, then, the country had to deal with which the Poor Law had not reached, and that was the spirit of pauperism. There was something to be taught that the Poor Law had not attempted to impart to the humbler classes—namely, a distaste for a state of dependence. The way in which the difficulty must be grappled with was by picking out from the general mass of paupers those who were on the sick-list, those who were mentally incapable, temporarily disabled, or incapable from age, whether from one or the other extreme. Up to that point the Poor Law had advanced. These eliminated, a residiuum would be left, and what was to be done with it? He was prepared with a solution. We should educate our pauper classes in habits of industry and progress; and that was to be done, not by the application of the workhouse test, as at present, but by making our workhouses instrumental to the employment of paupers in useful and profitable labour, and thus training them in habits of foresight and discipline. The course he proposed was not deterrent, but educational. He had no faith in the deterrent course—in the attempt to disgust the dependent poor by the offensiveness and uselessness of the task imposed. The sullen temper induced by the workhouse test, as such, was repulsive to the better instincts of the man, and tended to harden in him the spirit of pauperism. It lacked the stimulus of hope, the conviction of usefulness, which the sight and interest of progress fostered; it was essentially repellant and paralyzing. The two main objections to the useful employment of the dependent poor were—first, the competition thereby offered to the self-supporting labouring classes; and the second was the fear lest dependence, robbed of its deterrent character, should be fostered. Neither objection appeared to him valid. Work capable of competing with free labour would soon produce a conviction of its worth in the producer, and generate emulation and foster a spirit of independence incompatible with the spirit of pauperism, and the restraint, discipline, and habits of control which the carrying out of the system of reproduc- 310 tive labour would necessitate, whilst it weakened the habits of thriftlessness and intemperance which lay at the root of pauperism, would render the restraint, companionship, and taint of pauperism distasteful, or even intolerable. He was convinced that for the adult able-bodied pauper labour was the most important element in education. It was, perhaps, the only true and reliable means of education; but we must supply profitable occupations if we intended really to educate our paupers, for there was no education in employment which was not profitable and useful.
§ MR. KENNAWAY
said, that the spread of pauperism had been variously ascribed to be attributed to ignorance, intemperance, and indiscriminate charity. Mr. C. Villiers, in 1832, said that while every other cause had been investigated, the sickness of the poor, which was a large element in its production that had been almost entirely overlooked. It was no doubt the doctor's bill that broke the working man's back; for when sickness came, despair frequently intervened, and the family from being independent sank into the mire of pauperism. Very often illness passed from disorder to disease, and the ratepayers had to suffer from the neglect of medical appliances, or in the delay that arose in bringing them to bear on the sickness of the poor; so they should first look and see if their arrangements for the prevention of disease were satisfactory; and, secondly, whether the appliances for checking disease were such as were worthy of a great country. With regard to the first point, they had the Report of the Sanitary Commission, which had made inquiry, and some of whose recommendations were embodied in a Bill before the House; and with regard to the second—namely, the provision for medical relief, they yearly expended upon it a sum of £282,000, and they had a numerous body of educated and laborious men throughout the country, whose business it was to see that medical relief was properly given. That might seem to be an adequate provision; but remembering that there was a population of 22,000,000 to be dealt with, they had to consider whether it was adequate. The proportion in which medical men were to be appointed, as recognized by the Poor Law, was one to every 15,000 inhabitants—one to every 15,000 acres; but there were 65 districts 311 where that acreage had been greatly exceeded, and 205 districts where the population was over 15,000; 98 medical men had from 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants to attend to; 48, from 20,000 to 25,000; 28, from 29,000 to 30,000; and 31, with more than 30,000 inhabitants to attend to. Their average salary was stated by the Poor Law Board to be £68, though, according to others, it was only £49 or £50, and with midwifery and accident fees, it probably amounted to £100 per annum, and out of that they had to provide drugs. The class who accepted these appointments were mostly young men who wished to get some private practice, and very often the interests of the poor were sacrificed to that desire; he, however, thought they did their duty as far as they could; but the widespread evil was, that a sufficient provision was not made for the large number of people who were dependent upon them for medical assistance. The medical profession were not themselves satisfied with their position in the matter, and were demanding that an inquiry into the whole subject should be set on foot. It was stated by the Earl of Devon, the late President of the Poor Law Board, in his evidence before the Sanitary Commission last year, that there were not a few cases of neglect of paupers, the preference of these medical men being given to private patients. Reference had been made to the case of Ireland, and it was necessary to show the difference between the English and the Irish systems of medical relief in order to account for the difference in the results. In Ireland, where for the last 20 years medical relief had been administered under the Medical Charities Act, with the greatest success, there were two Commissioners—medical men of not less than 10 years' standing—appointed to act with the Poor Law Commissioners, and medical inspectors of not less than seven years' standing, and none of those medical gentlemen were allowed to practise privately. But the chief point in the trial system was, that the Unions were all divided into dispensary districts, in which relief was administered by committees formed of the ratepayers in conjunction with the Guardians, drugs and medical attendance being provided, and medical help brought home as it were to the people. The medical man also served as public vaccinator, and as registrar of 312 births and deaths. The working of this system had been most satisfactory, as under it the small-pox had been kept away from Ireland almost entirely, and the system itself had been declared by a very high medical authority, Dr. Cameron, the professor of hygiene in Dublin, to be the most admirable one for providing medical relief to the poor existing in Europe. Whereas the number of cases of preventible fevers that occurred annually in England was one in 190, in Ireland they were only one in 308; and while the cost of administering the system was only 3s., or, perhaps, even less, per head of the population in the latter country, it was 7s. in the former. That was a startling difference, accruing from the better health of the people, in which this sanitary organization was so large an element. It might be said, however, that the difference arose from the difference between the two countries; that people in England were crowded together in densely-populated towns, and suffered from many other matters unfavourable to health which were not to be found in Ireland. But he would compare the two towns of Newcastle and Belfast as a fair test. Newcastle had a population of 110,968, while Belfast had a population of 144,000. In Newcastle there were eight medical officers, in Belfast 18; in Newcastle the amount expended on medical relief was £853, in Belfast it was £3,700; but the total amount spent in relief in Newcastle was £43,000, while in Belfast it was only £22,000. Why, then, should not the Irish system be tried as an experiment in certain parts of this country at the cost of the Imperial Exchequer; and if it were found successful, why should it not be adopted for the whole of the country? With regard to reducing the rates by diminishing the amount of out-door relief, results had shown that the out-door relief system was very shortsighted and very disastrous. In certain Unions with which he was acquainted £9 was spent in out-door relief to £1 spent in the workhouse, and in one Union the proportion was £12 to £1. In one Union 20 persons received out-door relief to one who went into the workhouse, and in another Union the proportion was 26 to 1. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had alleged that the enormous disproportion between the sum expended upon out-door as compared with in-door 313 relief was occasioned by the fact that the poor relief was administered by the employers of labour, who endeavoured to make poor relief supplement wages; but that this allegation was erroneous was clear from the fact that similar results occurred in London, where such a cause did not exist. The statement which had been made to-night was very depressing; but, at the same time, with the organization of charity and the help of the Poor Law, he thought they might look hopefully on the future. Under all the circumstances, he thought a fair case had been made out in favour of granting the Inquiry which was asked for.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he would express no opinion on the merits of the Motion for an inquiry in the Metropolis; but, as to the Amendment for extending it to the United Kingdom, he was opposed to including Scotland, for an inquiry had been going on before a Committee of this House for two Sessions, which must have exhausted the question. His hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had contrasted the burden of the poor rates in Ireland and Scotland, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. His figures may have been quite correct; but they were calculated, without explanation, to leave an erroneous impression. Ireland paid 3s. a-head of poor rate, and Scotland about 5s. 6d. Now, Scotland must be greatly richer than Ireland, because a Return on the Table of the House showed that every family in Scotland paid double the amount of national taxes which everyone in Ireland paid. Why, then, should there be comparatively so many poor in Scotland? The reason was that, in addition to supporting her own poor, Scotland had to a large extent to support the poor of Ireland. Petitions lately presented from Glasgow and Edinburgh showed the working of the two Poor Law systems. He would state that in Ireland the relief was almost exclusively given in the Poor Law Union Houses, and in Scotland mainly by out-door relief; that in the Irish poorhouses the paupers were badly fed, and, besides, disliked going into them; that they came over to Scotland and England and got out-door relief, which they greatly preferred; and that the city parish of Glasgow alone paid, according to their Petition, £3,200 last year for the 314 relief of Irish poor who had no proper claim on that parish. He must also explain that a Bill was now before the House to increase this evil by making Irish poor legally chargeable, who resided in England and Scotland, by a six months' residence, and he called on the Government to declare to-night whether they would support or oppose this Bill, which he considered most unjust to England and Scotland. That Bill did not contain a clause—and it would be a mere mockery if it did—providing that there should be reciprocity on that subject with reference to the English or Scotch poor who resided in Ireland, for there were few such. He would next advert to the boarding out of children, and could say it had originated in Edinburgh, and had worked admirably. These poor children were visited regularly by Inspectors and members of the parochial boards; they attended the same school as other families in the district, and were practically adopted by the parents of the latter children, with whom they were boarded as their own. Finally, when they grew up to manhood or womanhood, they were in no way to be distinguished from the mass of the population. In regard to the great number of poor in the Highland parishes, this was mainly owing to the clearances still going on, although they were supposed to have ended a quarter of a century ago. Men were displaced for sheep and deer. For example, in Sutherland it appeared from the Census results published a few days since that, in place of the natural increase of population of about 12 per cent during the 10 years, there was a falling off of 4 per cent below the Census of 1861; and there was a similar decrease in Caithness and some other counties. The poor who did not emigrate were driven to the villages on the coast, where they could not possibly earn a living, and hence they were forced to come upon the poor rates, thereby increasing them, in some of those parishes, to as much as 5s. in the pound. In conclusion, he would urge that while discussing the principles on which outdoor and in-door relief should be administered, they must not lose sight of the fact that they should always have the poor with them, and that they would not be doing their duty by forcing them into large poorhouses, breaking up all their home associations; but that they 315 should act in a spirit of Christian sympathy for the really deserving and unfortunate poor.
MR. HARYEY LEWIS
, while thanking the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) for having brought this question before the House, observed that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) was one which could not be resisted, because he held that the poverty of the Metropolis greatly depended on the poverty of the country. In his opinion, legislation had the effect of inducing paupers to resort to the Metropolis, in the belief that, if once they got there, they would at all events find means of subsistence. The Houseless Poor Act, passed a few Sessions ago, was most difficult of operation. Every humane man was anxious to give food and shelter to the destitute; but it unfortunately happened that many professional destitutes habitually visited the Metropolis, and refused to do anything in return for the relief given to them. The subject as to how far the country was responsible for the poverty of London, and how far the poverty of London was due to itself, was one well worthy of consideration by the Commission which he hoped would be appointed. The Commission might also inquire how far it was desirable to control the power of Guardians, who being directly charged with the relief of the poor were placed in an anomalous position. Elected by the ratepayers—whose interests he felt bound to consult—a Poor Law Guardian had very little power and great responsibility. Again, whenever a case of hardship occurred, the complaint to the Poor Law Board, and any investigation that might follow, were attended with so much red tape, that the conduct of an official, however improper, could not possibly be fully ascertained by the Board without much, difficulty and loss of time. The House ought not only to consider the interests of the poor, but the interests of the poor rate payers. He did not believe that they were anxious to shirk their responsibility; but they considered that they ought to have some share in the distribution of the funds which they contributed. He could not see any valid objection to the appointment of a Commission, which would be an enormous advantage to the Poor Law Board itself; and a great responsibility would 316 be taken off their shoulders if the House acceded to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Brighton.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he agreed in the main with the last speaker. He thought they must recognize the fact that the Poor Law Board itself was in course of being tested, and that the experiment was a complete failure; moreover, he believed that while the present principle obtained of a central body, which knew nothing, ignoring the feelings and actions of local bodies, who knew everything, of the subject in question no other result would be attainable. He objected strongly to the continuance of a system which, established 30 or 40 years ago, had been matured by means of measures which had settled and concentrated the whole power of the administration in the Poor Law Board sitting in London, and had superseded the powers of local Boards of Guardians—a proceeding which had never been acquiesced in by the country.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, he was old enough to recollect the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act. From time to time, great complaints had been made, and much suffering had been felt by the poor who ought to have received relief, but, in too many instances, had been unable to obtain it; whilst, on the other hand, the ratepayers objected to the abuses of the system of out-door relief. Since the Act had come into operation, the Guardians and local authorities had been perpetually at war with the Poor Law Board. In his opinion, that continual strife had now come to a crisis, and the question arose—How was that uncomfortable state of things to be put an end to? The Guardians and the Poor Law Board were always quarrelling; and amidst the disputes which had been going on, the pauper population were continually complaining, particularly with respect to out-door relief. On the passing of the Act, it was laid down that no out-door relief was to be given; but that rule, if universally applied, was considered a most inhuman and bad policy, and when the Guardians began to be more humane, they were checked by the governing authorities, and disagreeable contests arose. Outdoor relief was given in some parishes, whilst it was refused in others, and the Poor Law Board were sometimes called upon to say, whether they would sanc- 317 tion that which was contrary to the law. Another serious question had arisen with respect to the employment of the medical officers—or what he would call the hiring of medical men, at a miserably small salary, or stipend, or wages for attending large numbers of poor people who were called paupers. He did not say that the Guardians had not been frequently to blame, but the Poor Law Board had encouraged them in this niggardly economy; and the medical profession had been partially, if not entirely, degraded, and no one could doubt that the poor suffered from that degradation. He was quite at a loss to conceive why the proposed inquiry should not be granted. Who could say whether these two Resolutions, the principal Motion and the Amendment, ought to be opposed? Just mark what they were—To call attention to the operation of the Poor Law within the metropolis; and move an Address for a Royal Commission to inquire into the policy and the administration of the Law;and then the hon. Member for Brighton said the same evils prevailed throughout the kingdom as existed in the Metropolis, and he proposed to add the words "in the United Kingdom." Ought not the disputes between the Poor Law Board, the Guardians, and the recipients of relief to be inquired into and settled? He thought they ought to be; and he cared very little whether the means were a Committee of the House of Commons or a Royal Commission.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he would appeal to the hon. Member for Westminster to withdraw the Motion, since he had effected the purpose for which he had made it, by drawing attention to the working of the Poor Law in the Metropolis. The speech of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) must have satisfied the hon. Member that he might safely leave the question in the hands of the Poor Law Board. With regard to the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. M. Chambers), it was not right to assume that the Poor Law Board and Boards of Guardians were constantly battling. On the contrary, Boards of Guardians generally looked upon the Poor Law Board as a friend and adviser in cases of difficulty. There might be instances in which the Board had to use a controlling influence over Guardians, and it was quite right that such an authority should, exist, because 318 the Board were created for the purpose of controlling expenditure and the mode in which relief should be given; while, as to the utility of the Board, he might mention that, in 1834, they reduced the poor rates from £7,000,000 to £4,500,000. The hon. Member for Marylebone (Mr. Harvey Lewis) complained that Boards of Guardians were not allowed to appoint their own officers without consulting the Board; but in 1867, a General Order was issued, allowing Boards of Guardians, apart from the Metropolis, to appoint subordinate officers and fix their salaries without reference to the Poor Law Board. In the matter of out-door relief, it appeared from a Report sent in in 1869, to the Poor Law Board, that while Liverpool had 21 relieving officers, and Manchester nearly the same number, St. Pancras, with a population of 98,000, had only one relieving officer and five assistants. Bethnal Green, with a population of 105,000, had only three officers; and Shoreditch, with a population of 120,000, had only two officers and a paid clerk. It was impossible to carry out a proper system of out-door relief without having a sufficient number of relieving officers; and, according to this comparison, London was certainly not sufficiently supplied. Another desirable amendment of the London system would be, to secure a proper periodical revision of the list of out-door paupers, either by a committee or by the Board itself. This alone would produce a large reduction of expenditure. The hon. Member for Westminster had stated that the number of out-door paupers in London on the 1st of January, 1870, was 121,000, and of in-door 31,000. But the 121,000 were not all able-bodied; 31 per cent were either very old or permanently disabled; 34 per cent were women and children, who had been deserted or had lost their supporters by death, and were consequently destitute; and 34 per cent were families or single men in poverty through sickness or want of work; of the 34 per cent under the third head, only 3.8 per cent were adult males, relieved on account of want of work. He would supplement the statement made by the President of the Poor Law Board on the subject of boarding out, by saying that 28 boarding-out committees had been formed in various places in the southern and northern counties, some of which were in communication with 319 Boards of Guardians in the Metropolis, and it was hoped they would do much good. He concluded by promising that every suggestion made during the debate should be carefully weighed, and that nothing should be left undone to secure the object the hon. Member for Westminster had in view; but it was necessary also to go to the root of the matter, and he hoped for much in this direction from the Education Act and the passing of the Licensing Bill now before the House. He would again urge upon the hon. Member not to press the Motion.
§ MR. EASTWICK
said, had his health permitted he would have seconded the Motion, on the ground, not that the Poor Law was badly administered, but that it was most desirable that they should see how far the new movement of the organization of charities could be made to work harmoniously with the Poor Law Board. He did not rise to find fault with the Poor Law Board, because he believed it was carrying out, as efficiently as possible, that which was said to be its proper principle—namely, the combination of the maximum of repression with the minimum of relief; but simply to point out that on the Continent, in several places, pauperism had been almost extinguished by the efforts of the general public; and in one town, Elberfeldt, where voluntary inspectors of the poor were appointed, and where the question had been investigated most carefully and with the most successful results, it had been laid down as a principle that no one should have the care of more than four indigent persons. Now, in this country, a relieving officer had the care of a district so large, that it was impossible he could make himself acquainted with every case. In the town referred to, the division into small districts was so complete that the principle he had stated could be carried out. Something should be done in reference to the immense number of charities, many of which, instead of being beneficial, had a most demoralizing influence. This should be looked into, and he thought it was desirable that there should be a director general of charities appointed by the Government. He hoped that the question would be brought under the notice of the House again next Session, and that then he should have an opportunity of stating his views.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.