HC Deb 10 April 1876 vol 228 cc1554-6

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill for the further amendment and better administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland, said: In the year 1871 a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire into the operation of the Poor Law in Scotland, and whether any, and what, amendments should be made therein. There were referred to the Committee the Minutes of Evidence which had been taken by Select Committees on the same subject in the Sessions of 1869 and 1870. The Committee presented a very full Report, containing a number of recommendations for the amendment of the Scottish Poor Law. I have very carefully considered these recommendations, and the Bill which I now ask leave to introduce gives effect to the larger number of them. The evidence which was taken by the Committee and its Report were very favourable to the administration of the Board of Supervision in Scotland, and proposed to confer upon them more extensive powers than they now possess, particularly in the way of initiating proceedings under the Poor Law Acts. The Bill accordingly provides for greater powers being conferred on the Board of Supervision in several particulars. In regard to the constitution of parochial boards, after very careful consideration I have not seen my way to make quite such extensive changes as were recommended by the Select Committee. In regard to the elected members of every board, I propose that they should continue in office for three years, one-third going out of office annually by rotation. That is the only change that I propose to make in regard to parochial boards in burghal parishes. In regard to the parochial boards of rural parishes, where the number of owners is small, I think the present system has worked so well that I do not propose any further change except the introduction into them of a certain number of the larger tenants without the necessity of election. In rural parishes, where the number of owners, entitled, as such, to be members of the board, exceeds 30, the Bill proposes considerable alterations in the constitution of the board in the way of limiting the number of members, very much in the way recommended by the Select Committee. It is proposed that in all assessed parishes there shall be a compulsory classification. In regard to the 37th Section of the Poor Law Amendment Act, the Committee recommended that it should be repealed, and the rates imposed upon the gross valuation as appearing on the Valuation Roll. I believe that change will be very convenient for the parochial authorities, and the Bill gives effect to it. The Board of Supervision will have the power in sanctioning classifications to secure that the assessments are imposed equitably upon different classes of property. In regard to settlement the Bill proposes twochanges—in the first place, correcting what is believed to have been an unintentional enactment in the Act of 1845, a settlement by five years' residence will not hereafter be lost except by five years' absence. In the second place, where a settlement has been acquired by 10 years' residence, it will not be lost except by the acquisition of another settlement by a residence in another parish for a similar period. Cases relating to disputed settlement will be made competent only in the Sheriff Court, it being competent to state a special case on a question of law for the decision of the Court of Session. Provision is made for the superannuation out of the poor rates of Poor Law officers with the consent of the Board of Supervision. This system has worked well in England and Ireland, and tended to the efficiency of the officers. Each parish must appoint a medical officer, removable only with the approval of the Board of Supervision. The Bill further provides for an efficient audit of the accounts of parochial boards by auditors appointed by the Board of Supervision, the salaries of the auditors being paid by the Treasury. The Treasury will also pay one half of the total amount expended in salaries to medical officers, and in providing medicines, &c, for the poor in the same manner as is now done in England and Ireland. These are the leading provisions of the Bill, but there are others of minor importance which I need not refer to at present, and I will conclude by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill for the further amendment and better administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland, ordered to be brought in by The LORD ADVOCATE and Mr. Secretary CROSS.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 130.]