§ COLONEL COLTHURST
, in rising to call attention to the failure of the Irish Poor Law in dealing with exceptional distress; and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the Local Government Board in Ireland should have powers to deal with exceptional distress similar to those enjoyed by the Local Government Board in England, and the Board of Supervision in Scotland; and, further, that Boards of Guardians in Ireland should have the same discretion with regard to outdoor relief that Boards of Guardians have in England, subject to the control of the Local Government Board,said, he would ask the House and the Government to approach the consideration of the question in the spirit in which the late Chief Secretary for Ireland declared, two years ago, it ought to be approached—namely, that the burden of proof should lie upon those who defended the perpetuation of the present differences in the law of the two countries. He could not better describe the powers, or rather the want of powers, of the Local Government Board in Ireland, than by using the words of Dr. Hancock, the eminent statistician, who said—All the English officials who represent the Crown in Ireland are deprived by Statute of the most important powers vested in the Local Government Board in England.The number of persons in receipt of outdoor relief in Ireland in proportion to the population bore a proportion of little more than one-half to what it was in England and Scotland; and the rates, taking them as a whole, were, in comparison with the rates charged in England and Scotland, moderato, if not low. This question of outdoor relief had often been brought before the public opinion of Ireland by eminent men. Unfortu- 1344 nately, when the Local Government Board was constituted in 1870, or 1872, its powers of relieving the poor were strictly defined by Statute, and no discretion was left to them; so that in 1879 the Government had to come to the House for temporary powers to relieve exceptional distress, and as the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had since said—Boards of Guardians had been so long educated to a dread of outdoor relief that, as a rule, they used the powers entrusted to them in 1879 and 1880 most sparingly.There were distressed districts where the rates in that period were as low as 1s. in the pound. Coming, however, to the present distress, he might say at once he had no fault to find with the Local Government Board. Its permanent officials were gentlemen of great official experience, and were Irishmen intimately acquainted with the circumstances of the country; and he had no doubt that they had done their best with the means at their disposal. What those moans were he would endeavour to show the House. Last autumn, after the Government had declared in that House their determination to deal with the impending distress by means of the Poor Law, the Local Government Board issued a Circular to the Guardians recommending that stores, bedding, &c., should be provided. That Circular, he believed, remained a dead letter, because the Local Government Board which issued it, and the Guardians who received it, knew that the people would not go into the workhouse. The Board issued another Circular reminding the Guardians that the responsibility of relieving the poor rested upon the Guardians and not upon them. That was perfectly true, if the Guardians had received powers to act. Various Reports had been presented to the House from the officers appointed to inspect the different distressed districts; and though he was inclined to think that they under-estimated the distress, yet, for the purposes of his argument, he would accept their testimony as accurate. On the strength of those Reports it was plain that, beginning with Donegal and going down to Kerry, it would be found that the giving of outdoor relief was almost nil. There were two or three distressed Unions in Mayo, and two Unions in Sligo, where the Inspectors 1345 reported the Guardians had authorized the giving of provisional outdoor relief. He thought those Guardians deserved great credit for using the only means within their power of relieving the distress; but it was manifest to people acquainted with Ireland that the giving of outdoor relief, from week to week, without employing a labour test, was open to abuse, and could only be defended on the ground of necessity. Perhaps many Members would be inclined to say that the rates in the distressed districts must be very high, and that if the Poor Law had been used as a source of relief the ratepayers would have been swamped. What were the facts? He found from a recent Report of the Local Government Board that, excepting four Unions, the rates had not exceeded 3s. in the pound; in Dunfanaghy the rate was 1s. 6d.; in Clare and Sligo 1s. 6d.; in Donegal the Poor Law had scarcely been called into operation. Private charity had occupied its place. That was a very deplorable fact. It was an unfair burden to cast upon private charity. They had the experience of 1879–80 before them, showing that when private charity was employed, not as an adjunct to the Poor Law, but as a substitute for it, the effects were deplorable. Everybody's hand was out, and the most painstaking distribution could not prevent the money being given very often to the most clamorous instead of the most needy. What would have been the case if this distress had occurred in England? he hoped the House would remember that the Local Government Board in Ireland had no more power of providing relief than any person passing along the road. In England, at the present moment, one-third of the Boards were under the regulation Order, and had the power of giving outdoor relief under the labour test. The remainder were under the prohibitive Order, which did not allow outdoor relief. But the Local Government Board had power to remove the prohibition Order from any of these districts and place it under the regulation Order. He was told on the best authority that the Boards of Guardians in England which were under the regulation Order endeavoured to restrict their expenditure as much as possible. This proved that the possession of power to give outdoor relief did not necessarily lead to its 1346 abuse. What would be the action of the English Local Government Board in face of exceptional distress? They could only judge of that by seeing what its action was in the Cotton Famine in Lancashire. Then the Poor Law was used as the main source of relief for the distress until private charity stepped in. The rates went up to 3s. in the pound, and the workhouse test was prohibited, and then a rate made was struck upon the whole of Lancashire. It was always said that the English poor relief system was demoralizing; and the Chief Secretary had stated that he would rather legislate in the direction of assimilating the English Poor Law to the Irish than of making the Irish similar to the English. But let them take the state of the Scotch Poor Law, which was far more rigid than the Irish system, and when exceptional distress came let them see what was the action of the Board of Supervision. During the distress in the southwest of Ayrshire in 1878 a Memorandum was issued directing that in the cases of persons really destitute, and who might, if deprived of relief, become infirm, immediate relief should be afforded, if the Inspector was of opinion that the Sheriff would endorse his action. Therefore, although an able-bodied man might not be entitled to relief, yet it was considered justifiable, if there was danger of a person becoming infirm through being deprived of relief, to administer relief. These instructions had been observed within the last few weeks in the Islands on the West Coast of Scotland. Now, he wished the Local Government Board in Ireland had the power, as the Board of Supervision had in Scotland, to instruct the Boards of Guardians, when exceptional distress arose, that no person should suffer; that it would oven have the power of coming to the rescue, if not of the able-bodied, at least of the little children. If this power had existed in the Local Government Board, there would have been no occasion for public charity to step in as it bad done. In the districts he had been referring to, such as the Dunfanaghy Union, he found the Inspectors were now taking credit for the large amount of charity given by Mrs. Power Lalor to the children, and also for the great quantity of seed provided by the charitable Society of Quakers. Now, while all that money was being expended, he believed it was 1347 a fact that the rates of the Dunfanaghy Union never exceeded 1s. 5d. in the pound. Passing to the next portion of the subject, he might say that his object was to get the power of granting outdoor relief to certain non-able-bodied classes assimilated in Ireland to that in England. he did not put forward his proposal as a panacea for the relief of distress; but he wished the Central Body in Dublin, who had the power, to impress on the different Boards throughout the country the awful responsibility they would incur if they refused to exercise such powers where the necessity arose. There were six classes of non-able-bodied persons in England who were entitled to outdoor relief, and were not so entitled in Ireland. He did not intend to go through them all; but he might mention that in England a family was entitled to receive outdoor relief if one of its members was sick, while in Ireland it was only when the head of the family was ill that the relief could be given. He could not imagine any excuse for the exclusion in Ireland of these six classes—at any rate, the burden of proof lay with those who favoured the exclusion. There was a question he did not intend to touch in that discussion, and that was the question of Union rating. It was not that he underrated the importance of the question, for he believed it was the A B C of Poor Law reform in Ireland; and that, while the present electoral system continued, it would be almost impossible that outdoor relief could be properly distributed; but as Her Majesty's Government had declared their intention of dealing with the matter he did not consider it necessary to discuss it at present. He hoped, however, that when the Government came to deal with the question of Union rating they would deal with it in a complete manner, and that there would be no attempt to exclude outdoor relief from its operations. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. MOORE
, in seconding the Resolution, regretted that he could not join with the hon. and gallant Member for Cork County in the tribute he had paid to the Local Government Board. He regretted to say that his experience as Chairman of a Union was that, whenever 1348 any change was proposed for the benefit of the poorer classes, the Local Government Board was found to be an obstacle. He congratulated the hon. and gallant Member on having made the first real onslaught on the co-existing system of Irish poor relief, which, in his opinion, was wholly objectionable, disastrous, and demoralizing. Much had been said in that House about the demoralizing effects of outdoor relief; but he, for one, thought that while the scum of each district was gathering into the workhouses, to ask the respectable poor, when requiring relief, to enter there was the very height and essence of demoralization. The Poor Law system, in his opinion, ought to be one of leniency and humanity for those classes that had claims on society—the respectable poor, the infirm, and the lunatic poor; but these were the very classes which were notoriously neglected, while the Irish workhouse was made a pleasant home for those who were able to work but were too vicious to do so. [Mr. THOROLD ROGERS: Hear, hear! and in England too.] Workhouses were mere refuges, in some cases, for the persons who led evil lives, and, in other cases, able - bodied paupers who were too lazy to work, and who, not possessing a spark of honourable ambition, were content to live in the workhouse all their lives; and, so far from making the rules in these cases more lenient, he thought a more stringent control than at present existed was required. But, in his opinion, the present powers for dealing with exceptional distress wore altogether insufficient; and there was no doubt that wore it not for the great flow of charity from England, America, and Australia, and from nearly every country throughout the world, many persons would have died under the existing Poor Law system during the distress of 1879. There was no question that the Irish people had the strongest possible objection to enter the workhouse. Many of them would rather starve than enter. Neither would they allow their children to associate with those in the workhouse schools. These objections he, for one, regarded as a praiseworthy and an honourable feeling; and until they reformed their workhouses, until they made them something besides nests of shame and degradation, until they adopted some better classification for separating the 1349 good from the bad, the innocent from the criminal, it was most natural that such a feeling should continue to exist in the breasts of the people. The first step in that direction was to appoint a Minister having a seat on the Treasury Bench to represent this and some other minor Departments, who could be held personally responsible for their administration. A great many abuses occurred now, which, if they were brought under the notice of the Chief Secretary, would receive attention, and would be properly inquired into. This, however, was not what was wanted; and they could not rouse into life the dormant authorities—these extinct volcanoes such as the Local Government Board and the National Board of Education—into a proper life, until they had some practical representation in the House of Commons.
Amendment proposed,To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, "in order to add the words" in the opinion of this House, the Local Government Board in Ireland should have powers to deal with exceptional distress similar to those enjoyed by the Local Government Board in England, and the Board of Supervision in Scotland; and, further, that Boards of Guardians in Ireland should have the same discretion with regard to outdoor relief that Boards of Guardians have in England, subject to the control of the Local Government Board,"—(Colonel Colthurst,)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. THOROLD ROGERS
said, that the House was under a great obligation to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for bringing the subject under its notice. He entirely agreed with him that the Irish Poor Law system had altogether broken down. He believed that the principal part of the misgovernment of Ireland lay in the fact that the whole of the functions of government were crowded into the hands of one official. He thought the hon. and gallant Member had hit the right nail on the head when he pointed out that the right hon. Gentleman who was entrusted with the administration of Irish affairs was the whole Irish Cabinet in himself, who had to look at every question that referred to the good of Ireland, and, perhaps, sometimes to the bad. His right hon. Friend was the hardest-worked man 1350 in the Government; and the work he had to perform was sufficient for half-a-dozen men well acquainted with the differences of race, custom, and the variety of other things with which it was absolutely impossible for one man to grapple satisfactorily. The fact was that the Irish people, in their connection with the Imperial Government, lived under a régime which was more suitable to the Reign of Queen Anne than to the present day. In his experience the best course was, while the central authority laid down hard-and-fast rules, for the local authorities to modify those rules, as far as they could, to suit special circumstances. He had had special experience as a Poor Law Guardian in a district where there was an exceptional amount of pauperism — he meant the City of Oxford. There was a period of activity extending over only five months in the year, and the remaining seven months were generally inactive. Wages were low, and the difficulties with which they had to contend were aggravated by the indiscriminate almsgiving of kindhearted undergraduates. The best method of poor relief was to make the area as wide as possible, so as to encourage the most desirable distribution of the population, and enable a wealthy district to supply the wants of the others. It was a most mischievous thing to limit the area too narrowly. Another great principle was to ascertain who, of those applying for relief, had belonged to benefit societies or clubs, or who had worked continuously at the same employment for the same master, and to choose such persons for outdoor relief in preference to others. One of the most marked features which was to be admired in Irish pauperism was the indisposition to go into the workhouse. As long as they had that they need never despair of eradicating pauperism. If there were Ministers in that House who had a real knowledge of the wants of the Irish people the evil would soon be remedied; and if the aim of the Poor Law Department of that country were to mitigate hard-and-fast lines so as to meet individual cases schemes of wholesale emigration would be no longer required. It was sometimes said that the Irish people were extravagant; but when it was considered that for years certain classes took everything out of the country they possibly could, whilst other classes had to work, and did not 1351 get what they had a right to, it was not to be wondered at if the people had not all the prudential virtues. He was glad that his hon. and gallant Friend had brought the subject before the House, and he heartily supported his Motion.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he had much pleasure in supporting the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend. He had taken a very great interest in the working of the Poor Law system for over 20 years, and he had often felt that the great difficulty of Poor Law Guardians was in connection with outdoor relief. He had seen with pain, particularly during the last four or five bad years, large bodies of able-bodied men coming before his Board of Guardians, not asking for relief, but for work. He had seen many others actually in tears as they drew pictures of their wives and children they had left at home without so much as a meal. In no one case did these men ask for outdoor relief, but for work, although, unfortunately, in those bad years of 1878–81, there was nothing for them to do. Many of these men had to break up their little cabins and bring their families into the house; and was it not deplorable that the Guardians had no power to give them temporary outdoor relief, or to inaugurate works of a reproductive character? Some people thought that outdoor relief was a very dangerous power to give into the hands of Boards of Guardians; but his experience was that the difficulty was to induce the Guardians to use such a power even when they had it. It was not a question of too much, but of too little, that was likely to be allowed. In the Union with which he was connected there was no outdoor relief 12 or 14 years ago; but now there were nearly 600 such cases on the books. What would have been the effect if a different policy had been pursued? Why, instead of their rates averaging now 1s. 9d. or 1s. 10d. in the pound, as they did, they would have been 4s. or 5s. in the pound. The amount of outdoor relief given was very small, being generally only 4s. or 5s. a-week when there was a family of four or five. But in aid of what the family could earn, such relief was generally a substantial benefit. It was just, he maintained, to allow help of this sort to widows with two or more children, or to the head of a family who was disabled by sickness or old age; and, above all, 1352 it was the most economical form of administering relief. Besides, when families were sent to the workhouse the pauperism became chronic, as homes were broken up, and the family had no place to fall back upon. In nine cases out of ten, according to his experience, children reared in workhouses turned out worthless instead of useful members of society. They became lost to all shame, and settled down as permanent paupers. He could look back with pleasure to the number of widows in his Union whose children wore saved from that fate by the Guardians coming to their assistance with a little outdoor relief. In the workhouses generally no kind of industry was carried on, and the children brought up there were only fit for the prison or the workhouse. he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to giving the Guardians those necessary powers which they did not possess at present.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, lie regretted that in times of distress the Guardians were not empowered to give work outside the workhouse. The hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Therold Rogers) had pointed to the necessity of extending the areas, so that the poor area might be helped by the rich. For his own part, he thought that where there was exceptional distress, and where any rate was raised not specially for the relief of the poor, the burden should be thrown upon the general taxation of the country. Such rates as those for keeping the list of county voters and for carrying out the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act concerned the whole country, and should be national rates, and not thrown upon the Union. It was a good thing that every poor person should be able to get medical relief; but the charge ought to be thrown upon the general taxation of the country. The return got by Ireland from this great country was very small compared with the amount of taxation which it contributed. He hoped, therefore, the Chief Secretary would hold out some prospect of the Imperial Exchequer contributing a little more to the keeping down of the rates, to which a great many very poor people paid more than their fair proportion.
said, that the present system of poor relief in Ireland stood in need of very radical changes. The hon. Member for Southwark had very skilfully diagnosed the disease. Under the present 1353 system the unfortunate distressed districts wore left to stew in their own juice. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) that in a great crisis there ought to be some mode of levying a national rate. It was impossible for such Unions as those of Oughterard or Glencolumbkill to cope with the destitution existing in them. The Government and their officials seemed to have entered into a conspiracy—or rather an alliance, if it were a more Parliamentary word—to prevent the people from getting any relief, except by means of the workhouse or emigration. In one Union the Guardians kept a huge and immoral establishment for the benefit of 30 aged tramps, and not a single person received outdoor relief during the whole of last winter, though 2,000 of the poorest people of the district were kept alive by the charity of the Irish nation. Latterly, it was true, these Guardians had been compelled to dribble out a few shillings in outdoor relief; but that was only after their conduct bad been arraigned in the House, and after they had resorted to all kinds of subterfuges in order to evade their duties. The Local Government Inspectors knew nothing of the people, and had no claim to their confidence, and still less were the Guardians in sympathy with the poor. He cordially agreed with the opinion of many hon. Members, that the system of workhouse relief was one of the most demoralizing devices ever invented for turning honest men into degraded loafers; but, with the present Guardians, and the present Government, he saw no prospect of outdoor relief being properly administered.
§ MR. O'SHEA
said, that the Government laid down the workhouse test, and talked about a great system of emigration, but apparently forgot that, while they talked about remedies, their policy did the utmost injustice to the children of those who were thus treated. He had no hesitation in saying that their method of meeting distress by the workhouse test inflicted absolute cruelty on the children of the poor. Cruelty was a strong word, no doubt; but he felt strongly on this subject, especially when he saw the Government leave their duties to be performed by private charity. He endorsed all that had been said as to the defects of Irish workhouses. Many of them were mere dens of petty jobbery, and were full of people who went into 1354 and left them whenever they chose, and used them as free quarters whenever they got tired of work. The Chief Secretary, if his too numerous duties would allow him to do so, might very profitably turn his attention to these abuses, and to the best means of reforming them. He would only add that he was glad to hear the question mooted of a national rate in aid of exceptional distress. It was useless to link together a rich and a poor Union—the best way to relieve such distress was by levying a rate to be borne by the whole country.
§ MR. MARUM
said, he agreed with so much of the Resolution as stated that the poor relief system had broken down in Ireland. That had been predicted in 1830 by Feargus O'Connor, who always opposed its adoption. The difference between England and Ireland in this matter ought always to be borne in mind. Ireland was a purely agricultural country, while England had large commercial resources; and consequently, in. England, the basis of taxation was much wider. What would happen even hero if the whole burden of supporting the poor were thrown upon the depressed agriculturists? It might be a very comfortable doctrine for the Treasury to hold, that each country should support its own paupers; but if the system of outdoor relief suggested was adopted, and the Treasury refused to share any portion of the burden, in five years' time the land would be swamped, and would be utterly unable to bear the cost of the system. The remedy he would propose would be this—it might not be so comfortable a doctrine for the Treasury Bench—the development of the national resources of the country, an amended Drainage Act, a development of the railway system, and the incidence of local taxation thrown upon the Imperial Exchequer.
§ MR. J. HOLLOND
said, the hon. and gallant Member for the County of Cork (Colonel Colthurst) wished to introduce the English system of outdoor relief into Ireland. He (Mr. Hollond) believed it was the experience of all those who had any knowledge of the administration of the Poor Law in England that, so far from being a good system, it was a very bad one indeed. He believed it was a principle of Scotch law that no outdoor relief should be given to the able-bodied; and in 1878, when the prospect of excep- 1355 tional distress arose, the Board of Supervision issued a Minute, in which they expressly relegated that class of distress to private charity. What be wished to point out was that the Scotch law did not attempt to cover the whole ground, but loft a vast deal of distress to be dealt with by private benevolence. With regard to the system of outdoor relief in England, he would advise hon. Gentlemen to read the Reports of the Poor Law Conferences of the last 10 years. In all those Reports, drawn up by men who had the most intimate acquaintance with the subject, the system of outdoor relief was condemned. As far as the opinions of the Guardians who attended those Conferences went, it might be said that their great object was to get rid, as much as possible, of outdoor relief. He found the same tendency prevailed in the United States. He had before him the proceedings of the Sixth Annual Conference of Charities held at Chicago in June, 1879, and in these a description was given of what was done in Now York and Brooklyn, from which it appeared that outdoor relief was given at one time in those places with tolerable freedom; but it was discovered before very long that it was illegal, and the consequence was that the system was stopped. In the winter of 1878, no appropriation for outdoor relief from the city funds was made; and, though many persons anticipated great suffering in consequence, yet those Reports showed that no evil consequences followed. In New York, at the present time, no outdoor relief was given at all from public funds; but the whole of it was relegated to private charity. It was often said that if outdoor relief was not given there would be many cases of starvation. It was difficult to bring this opinion to the test of facts, except in the case of London, in regard to which there were reliable statistics. He found that in 1871 there were 100 deaths returned as deaths from privation in London, while the number of outdoor paupers was 116,554, and the cost of out-relief £374,736. In 1881, 10 years later, he found that the number of deaths from starvation was 54, or nearly one-half of the number in 1871; and not only that, but the number of those receiving outdoor relief was reduced to 48,864, as compared with 116,000 in 1871; while the cost of that relief was £197,596, as 1356 against £374,736 in 1871; so that they had this remarkable fact—that while the population of London was increasing, and outdoor pauperism was diminishing, the number of deaths from starvation was also diminishing. Now, he would say one word with regard to Ireland. The Report of the Local Government Board showed that in 1861 £9,675 was spent in outdoor relief in Ireland. In 1871, the amount given in outdoor relief was £69,744. In 1881, it had risen to £182,049. The natural consequence of this state of things, therefore, would be a very heavy poor rate. He believed that if a system of outdoor relief were to prevail in that country the resources of the country must be swamped. His general conclusion was, looking at the case chiefly from the point of view of those who had practical experience of the management of the poor in England, if it was desired to equalize the existing Poor Law, it should be done not by importing the English system into Ireland, but by importing the Irish system into England. He believed that the Irish Poor Law was very much better than the English Poor Law; and it seemed to him that the Motion before the House ran counter to the tendencies of the day, not only in this country, but in all other countries.
§ MR. O'KELLY
said, that the speech of the hon. Member was an illustration of the saying that figures could prove anything. The hon. Member had cited Brooklyn and New York. But what guide could they possibly be to Connemara? Besides, in Brooklyn and New York immense sums were annually given in private generosity. The hon. Member had not proved that the English system was a bad system, but only that it had been badly administered. All that was wanted in Ireland was that a good system should be well administered; but the Irish system, as it now existed, was little better than an apprenticeship to crime. It prepared women for the streets, and men for idleness and dissoluteness. What Irishmen wanted was a system which would cut at the root of this evil; and if the matter were left to the Irish people they would soon get such a system. They had no objection to Englishmen adopting the Irish Poor Law system; but they claimed in return that they should be allowed to regulate their own affairs in their own way.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, his hon. and gallant Friend had brought forward a question upon which be had expended a great amount of industry. The question had excited the patriotic zeal of the hon. and gallant Member, because he wished to extend to Ireland any good thing enjoyed by any of the sister countries. It was evidently thought that the power of giving outdoor relief without a workhouse test was a good thing. With that object the hon. and gallant Member desired to relieve Ireland from the statutory obligation to keep up the workhouse test. He (Mr. Trevelyan) was one of those who thought that Ireland should have the same advantages as England, and England the same advantages as Ireland; but the precise object they should ascertain in the equalization of those advantages was the determination as to which of the two countries was in the most favourable situation. If he could show that England was constantly endeavouring to bring herself up to the level of Ireland in this respect, then the House ought to hesitate before passing a Resolution to the effect that Ireland should be placed back in the same position that England now occupied. Formerly, of the 647 Unions in England, outdoor relief was given in no fewer than 531. Then there was a generally prohibitory Order against giving outdoor relief to the able-bodied, save in very extreme and exceptional circumstances. This Order was applied in theory for a great number of years, but in practice it was not vigorously put into force; 15 years ago £3,500,000 was expended in outdoor relief, and pauperism was found to be rapidly in.creasing, in consequence, as the Local Government Board thought, of that system. In 1868, accordingly, a general Circular was issued to Boards of Guardians, impressing upon them steadily to adhere to the prohibition against outdoor relief. This was a mild sort of remonstrance, but it produced a certain effect; and from that time the expenditure, although it had not diminished, had not increased. But in 1871 the Board issued a remarkable Paper, in which they enjoined Guardians very rigorously not to give outdoor relief in a single instance to an able-bodied man, or to an able-bodied woman, either with or without illegitimate children; and it went on to lay down very strict rules 1358 under which outdoor relief should be granted to families. So strict were these rules that in the Unions under the prohibitory Order outdoor relief to the families of able-bodied men became virtually a thing of the past. That Paper, which was only of five pages, was a closely-reasoned statement of the conclusions arrived at, and reflected the highest credit on the ability and literary skill of the officials of the Local Government Board. It proved that outdoor relief created a terrible and ever-increasing mass of pauperism; and it gave instances of contiguous Unions subject to the same general conditions of which those which maintained outdoor relief contrasted, in respect of pauperism, very unfavourably with those in which the workhouse test was rigorously enforced. This Paper showed how ill-founded was the process by which Guardians imagined that they effected an economy by outdoor relief. It was quite true that a pauper family relieved inside the workhouse cost 108. a-week, while a pauper family relieved outside the workhouse cost only 4s. a-week. The Guardians, therefore, imagined that they gained 6s. a-week by granting outdoor relief; but the Paper went on to show that while hundreds of outdoor paupers were relieved at a cost of 4s. a-piece, directly the workhouse test was applied it was found that the great majority of these able-bodied paupers were men who ought to be at work, and not chargeable on the rates at all. The authors of the Paper summed up their argument thus—The certainty of obtaining outdoor relief in his own home, whenever he may ask for it, extinguishes in the mind of a labourer all motive for husbanding his resources, and induces him to rely exclusively upon the rates, instead of upon his own savings for the purpose of such relief as he may require. It removes every incentive to self-reliance and prudent forethought on his part, and induces him, moreover, to apply for relief when the circumstances are not such as to render him absolutely in need of it.In 1873 the Local Government Board published, under their auspices, an exceedingly able Paper, by one of their own Inspectors, in which he argued very powerfully about the successful application of the workhouse test to circumstances of special distress. The Report maintained that special conditions of locality, seasons, weather, or population did not interfere with its universal applicability, and that the Poor Law ad- 1359 ministration had been most successful under the workhouse test system in Macclesfield, Stoke-on-Trent, and other places in times of exceptional distress. Hon. Members might, perhaps, say—"That is all very well; but how about the Lancashire Famine?" With regard to that Famine, he might mention that took place six years before the workhouse test began to be seriously applied in England. In the next place, the Lancashire Famine was a calamity of the same description, and on the same scale over the district to which it extended—although not having the same origin—as the great Irish Famine of 1847–8; and it was certain that a man must be a bigoted theorist who would maintain that the great difficulties existing at the period of the great Irish Famine could have been met in the workhouses. The question at that time was not between the workhouse system and outdoor relief, but between relief works and giving large doles of food to the distressed persons. In the year 1871 the expenditure on outdoor relief in the whole of England was £3,660,000; in 1881 it was £2,660,000.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could give the expenditure on indoor relief at the same time?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
replied, that in 1871 it was £1,520,000, and that in 1881 it was £1,830,000. Thus, while the outdoor expenditure had fallen by £1,000,000, the indoor expenditure had increased by only about £300,000.
asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he could give the House any idea of the increase of wealth in England?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he thought he had met this last observation beforehand. He was not endeavouring to give the House a one-sided view. This saving of £700,000 a-year was made on a population of 3,250,000, larger at the later date than at the earlier; and the idea of the sort of comfort in which people ought to live in workhouses was certainly higher at the later period than at the earlier. That, then, was the saving in money; but what was the saving to the country in the self-reliance of its people? In 1871 there were 1,037,000 paupers, or 46 in every 1,000 of the population. Before that time 1,000,000 was quite an ordinary figure; but since 1360 that time it had never reached that amount, and it had gradually and steadily fallen to 800,000, and from 46 in 1,000 to 30 in 1,000 of the population. It was interesting, also, to note the number of able-bodied paupers, because, in a country like England, where every man could get work if he liked, the number of able-bodied men in receipt of relief formed a good test of the amount of idleness and imposture in the Kingdom. In 1871 there were 172,000 able-bodied paupers in the country, whereas in 1881 that number had fallen to 105,000. He could have referred to some very interesting figures showing the diminution of pauperism, especially in the Metropolis; but he thought that he had said quite enough to prove that in England, both in the Metropolis and in the country districts, the diminution in pauperism and in the amount of money spent in poor relief had been in the exact ratio with the strictness of the rule under which relief was given. It might be said that this diminution in the number of paupers, and in the amount spent in relief, might be too dearly purchased if the poor people suffered in consequence. But had there been any increase in the number of deaths from starvation of late years? He would take two periods of three years each and compare them. In 1871 there were 100 deaths from starvation, in 1872 there were 97, and in 1873 there were 107. In 1879 there were 80, in 1880 there were 101, and in 1881 there were 54. And this decrease in the number of deaths from starvation had taken place, although the population of the Metropolis had, in the meantime, enormously increased in number. No more remarkable or more satisfactory figures had ever been read in that House. Scotland was mentioned in the Resolution, and the experience of Scotland appeared to be all in the same direction as the experience of England. Scotland was much slower than England to provide herself with a due equipment and provision of workhouses, and the number of persons in workhouses in Scotland 20 years ago was very much below what they were now. The increase recently had been very large. In 1873 there were 14,300 paupers in the workhouses, and in 1881 there were 15,400. In the case of the outdoor paupers there were 113,000 in 1873, 1361 and 95,000 in 1881; so that, while 1,000 had been added to the number of persons relieved in the workhouses, 18,000 had been deducted from those relieved outside. His object was to show that the tendency in both England and Scotland was in the direction of a diminution of pauperism in proportion to the strictness of the rule as to relief; and his contention was that to pass a Resolution of this kind would be to check that tendency. People who had looked into this question had arrived at the conclusion that the Irish poor relief system was au example not to be shunned, but to be followed. What had the Irish system of poor relief done for Ireland? 'They had heard a great deal of the harm it had done; but it must have been a very great deal of harm indeed to be a set-off against the benefit. In 1849 Ireland was quite helpless, and utterly impoverished. There were 784,000 people in receipt of outdoor relief; and, as far as he could judge, the number showed no signs whatever of diminishing. If the English system had been applied, Ireland would have remained pauperized until this day. Nothing could have saved her but the strictest application of the workhouse test. Did the hon. and gallant Member mean to say that Ireland would have been saved by keeping 750,000 people on outdoor relief? The workhouse test speedily caused the number to fall to 120,000.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
remarked, that he bad not interrupted the hon. Member when he was speaking. So successful was this system that in a very short time there were only 50,000 paupers in Ireland either inside or outside the workhouse, and during the next 30 years it might be that Irishmen did not live very luxuriously; but, at any rate, they lived on their own means, not on public charity, and they set a splendid example to the people of this country. In some of the remote districts in Ireland, if the system of outdoor relief were adopted, the inhabitants of whole districts would come upon the rates, notwithstanding that the rate of wages was very good. There were Unions in the County of Tipperary which had never recovered from the evils which had been entailed by giving outdoor relief under the re- 1362 laxed rule; while in other Unions there had been, no doubt, a very serious amount of jobbery, and particularly was that the case in Strokestown, which had a population of 20,000. On the 16th February the Guardians of that Union obtained authority to give outdoor relief to the able-bodied, and from the 14th to the 28th February the numbers of paupers arose from 421 to 6,615, and within a few months afterwards the numbers rose to 9,800. That was to say, that nearly half the population was in the receipt of public charity. The moral evils were even greater than the financial evils which arose from a relaxation of the rule. It was not the first year or the second year that did the evil, though the first fortnight did a great deal in Strokestown. It was the gradual but sure and certain sapping and undermining of the manlier qualities of the people that was brought about when they came to look upon public charity as a right. If the Local Government Board were to relax the rule which forbade outdoor relief to be given in Ireland, he believed, from that moment forward, the people of Ireland would look upon outdoor relief as a right. If the workhouse test were once remitted, the number of paupers would be enormously increased; and, as it too often happened that once a pauper always a pauper, it was hopeless to attempt to get the number of paupers reduced to its former level. Thus, while in 1879 the number of persons receiving outdoor in Ireland was under 49,000, that number had at once jumped up 20,000 in 1880 on the workhouse test being remitted. [An hon. MEMBER: That was a bad year.] Yes; it was true that it was a bad year; but we had had many years since which were not bad years, and yet the number had never gone down again, and he believed that it would remain where it stood. He was convinced that if the workhouse rule had been relaxed in 1882, the 60,000 permanent paupers receiving outdoor relief would have sprung up to 80,000, or even to 100,000, and have remained there. In 1861 there were 50,000 people living on public charity in the whole of Ireland, while in 1883 there were 103,000; and that increase was due not a little to the relaxation of the rule which took place in 1880, the first time for 30 years. In these circumstances, therefore, speaking for the 1363 Government, he could not accede to, and must vigorously protest against, a Resolution which would make outdoor relief normal, frequent, and statutory. The present Poor Law system of Ireland had brought the country through the distress of recent years; and bettor times were coming, and better times had come. In the last Report which he had had from the County Clare, he was told that employment was general and that wages were good. In the Report from Mayo and from parts of Galway he was informed that the usual migration of the population to England had not taken place this year in consequence of the high wages which could be obtained at home. In the West Riding of Cork he was told that the prospects of a plentiful harvest had not been so promising for many years, and in other parts of the country notices had been posted a fortnight ago offering 16s. a-week wages. The statements quoted were taken from the Report of Dr. Woodhouse, the temporary Inspector. The permanent Inspector said that any man, woman, boy, or girl could obtain employment, if not at home, by going to the more prosperous portions of Donegal. He stated that at the hiring fairs men had obtained board, lodging, and £7 10s. for the half-year, and women, board, lodging, and £5; at the Londonderry hiring fair, still higher wages were obtained, and the marked improvement in the general appearance of farm servants was matter of general observation; while emigration to England and Scotland had greatly slackened. This was the condition to which the people were being brought under the new system, which taught them to rely upon their own exertions instead of upon the bounty of the State. It would be a very serious matter indeed if Parliament passed this Resolution. In the district referred to good wages could be obtained by those who were willing to work; and yet a single individual—the Rev. Mr. M'Fadden—hostile to the Poor Law system, brought up bodies of 400 and 500 claimants for relief, and endeavoured to represent as tyrants honest Guardians who were doing their duty to the best of their ability. ["Shame!"] It was not a shame to say that they were honest and were doing their duty. If they passed this Resolution, they would give men like the rev. gentleman, who were 1364 carrying on a struggle against the law, and against the local authorities who wore working the law, a triumph which would have very serious results in the district; and they would greatly discourage, by a direct Vote of Censure—it was nothing else—high and low, connected with the local government of Ireland, who had done their best faithfully during the most trying time of the last winter, and the effect in England would be to show to the people who had done wonders in the last 10 years in diminishing the pauperism of the country that Parliament was against and not for them. In the earnest hope that the course which had been adopted by the Irish Government would be approved by the majority of Members, and with the absolute conviction that it was the best course, he earnestly entreated the House not to pass the Resolution so ably and humanely put forward by his hon. and gallant Friend.
§ MR. KNIGHT
said, that. although a very old Member of Parliament, he seldom addressed the House, nor was it his intention to have done so that evening, had it not been for the very dangerous doctrine that had been advanced by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Hollond), and, apparently, assented to by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan), that it would be advantageous to introduce the Irish Poor Law system, and a total refusal of outdoor relief, into this country. Having been many years ago Secretary to the Poor Law Board, it was a subject that he (Mr. Knight) had had occasion to study carefully; and he could confidently assert that a more dangerous doctrine could not be advanced. Perhaps the hon. Member for Brighton did not know—though it must be within the recollection of other hon. Members of the House besides himself (Mr. Knight)—that the stoppage of outdoor relief had been fully tried in England, and had signally failed. In 1834, when the amended Poor Law was introduced, the Poor Law Commissioners — "the three Kings," as they were called, of Somerset House—decided on rapidly and almost completely stopping outdoor relief in England, and they worked steadily for several years to that effect. And with what result? Why, only three years afterwards—in 1837—the whole country 1365 was in a state of incipient insurrection. The action of the Commissioners was immediately met by the working classes with the great Chartist movement. There was hardly a large town in England at which great bodies of men were not formed into rebellious societies, under the name of Chartists. Their formula included sundry grievances; but the new Poor Law, the stoppage of outdoor relief, the attempt of property to throw off the burden of maintaining the poor, was the primary cause of the whole movement. A man he knew told him that, for several months, he had three cases of muskets in his cellar at Kidderminster, in readiness for the rising that was expected from day to day. The doctrines enunciated nearly resembled those of the first French Revolution; and the worst of it was that among the leaders, as well as among the rank and file, were men of honest and upright views, who felt that the people were being wronged, and who were determined to see them righted. Those who wished to study the state to which the attempt to stop outdoor relief had brought England in 1837 should read Mr. Disraeli's novel of Sybil. All Mr. Disraeli's novels were intended as political lessons; and no more admirable lesson of the results of a too stringent application of the workhouse test could be found than in the pages of Sybil. The danger was averted by a change in the constitution of the new Poor Law, which was rendered immediately responsible to Parliament, and by a great reversal of its internal policy. Mr. Baines, for a long time at the head of this now Board, was a man of great prudence; and he had the good sense to let the Guardians follow very much their own devices with respect to outdoor relief. In 1841, when he (Mr. Knight) came into Parliament, the irritation caused by the Poor Law Commission was still strong in the minds of the working classes. Poor Law Reform was one of the burning questions of the day. The people were quieted by large concessions to the principle of outdoor relief, and the evils of the contrary system were admirably exposed by the Committee of that House which sat on the malpractices of the Andover Workhouse. New classes were added by Parliament to those who could claim outdoor relief, and great relaxation of the whole Poor Law sys- 1366 tern followed. The main point was that the discretion of the Guardians was not interfered with; and, for many years, outdoor relief became the rule, in-maintenance the exception. The irritation of the country gradually subsided, and Chartism died a natural death. He was convinced that, if the Gentlemen who attended the Poor Law Conferences, of which mention had been made in that debate, could succeed in their endeavours to stop outdoor relief in England, they would, in a very limited time, as in 1837, bring the quiet and orderly working population of England to the verge of a revolution—to as bad a state as now existed in Ireland, or very nearly so. If they could succeed in introducing into England the Irish Poor Law, they would find the people as much dissatisfied and property as unsafe as in that country. The arguments in vogue at the Poor Law Conferences, if carried to their legitimate end, were opposed to the existence, not only of outdoor relief, but of all Poor Law. It seemed to him almost insanity that such arguments should be used by men of property. He believed that the Poor Laws were the mainstay of the quiet and orderly conduct of the English working classes. They were the real reason why, for more than 200 years, there had been no serious attempt at a revolution in England. They were the reason why Socialism had failed to take root in this country. No other country in Europe had this safeguard against Socialism; and he believed that there was no other country in Europe in which, if the Army and Police were removed, the lower classes would not tear into pieces and divide among themselves not only the landed, but all the property in the country. England was the only country in which the poor had, in their hour of destitution, a substantial hold on the land for their support; and anything that tended to weaken that hold was fraught with danger to the security of property and to the existing order of things. It was not a question of large and small properties. In France the people had the whole of the land divided into infinitesimal portions; but that did not prevent small French landowners from dying of starvation, and of fevers produced by starvation, on their little plots of land when their crops failed. It did not prevent Socialism from becoming rampant in the French 1367 towns, and the owners of all property, great and small, from being denounced as robbers by the masses of French workmen who possessed none of it. When the Government with which he (Mr. Knight) was connected as Parliamentary Secretary of the Poor Law Board left Office, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. P. Villiers) succeeded to the Presidency. The Poor Law of 1834 had been in operation for 25 years; and he (Mr. Knight) believed that, for some time past, it had been working well. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton thought so too; and, with the permission of the House, he would read a few lines from Mr. Villiers' first Report—the 12th Report of the Poor Law Board. It was dated May, 1860—We are happy to be able to state that, since the Poor Law Amendment Act came into operation, the sum annually expended for relief of the poor has very largely decreased, and that this expenditure is in a diminishing ratio when compared with the population and wealth of the country.In short, this first Report of the right hon. Gentleman, which was well worth studying, might be taken as conclusive evidence that the Poor Law Amendment Act, for a quarter of a century, up to the time of the right hon. Gentleman's taking Office in 1859, had been economically and, for the most part, successfully worked. The House must recollect that it was under parochial chargeability, and, for the most part, outdoor relief, that it had been thus successful, the workhouse having been mainly used as the means of preventing imposition by persons who were able to maintain themselves, but who refused or neglected to do so. The right hon. Gentleman, however, determined to alter the whole system, and he succeeded in doing so. During his term of Office, he passed several Acts, all tending to destroy parochial chargeability and responsibility. By his great measure, the Union Chargeability Act, which came into operation immediately on his leaving Office in 1866, he bequeathed to the nation a legacy of evil. Since the adoption of the large areas of chargeability the expenditure for the relief of the poor had largely and steadily increased, and in an increasing ratio when compared with the population and wealth of the country. The right hon. Gentleman told them, in his first Report before 1368 alluded to, that the average annual expenditure for the relief of the poor, during the last 25 years, had been £5,169,073. That was under parochial chargeability, and mostly outdoor relief. They had now the experience of 16 years of Union chargeability. The exact figures he (Mr. Knight) had not in his hand; but over the 16 years there had been a net increase of 49 per cent in the average annual expenditure, although outdoor relief had been largely curtailed; and he had not the smallest reason to doubt that they owed that increase to the working of the false principles introduced by the Union Chargeability Act. During the last year on record, the year ending Lady Day, 1882, the expenditure amounted to more than £8,200,000, being an increase of 60 per cent over the average of the 25 years before the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. P. Villiers) came into Office. One of the worst parts of the present system was the enormous and increasing cost of administration. Of the large sum. of £8,200,000 paid by the ratepayers, two - thirds only went really to the poor, one-third of the whole sum being spent in the administration. When he said went really to the poor, he meant the sums spent in in-maintenance, outdoor relief, and the support of lunatics. In fact, out of every 3s. said to be expended for the relief of the poor, Is. was paid as the cost of administering the other 2s., and that without including the cost of the Central Board in Loudon and its Inspectors. The struggle of the Poor Law officials to stop outdoor relief recommenced with the great rise in expenditure which was caused by the Union Chargeability Act, immediately after its introduction in 1866. The Poor Law Board found the expenditure increasing year by year; and, rather than acknowledge the mistake they had made in doing away with parochial chargeability and responsibility, they sought to reduce the expenditure by stinting the poor by the refusal of outdoor relief; and they must remember that Joseph Arch had already appeared on the scone. They were very often told that the English laws did not suit Ireland; that the Irish rebelled against them—the real fact being that the Irish had never had the English laws, but only a part of them. The laws in Ireland, as they affected the relations between persons 1369 possessed of property, either landed or personal, wore the same, or nearly the same, as in England; and he believed those laws had never been objected to by the Irish people. But, to the really poor in Ireland, the English laws were only laws of repression. The only occasions in which a poor Irishman came into contact with the English law was when it interfered to prevent him from doing something he wished to do, to make him pay something he was unwilling to pay, or to punish him for doing something that he had very likely been taught to consider was no crime. Compensation the English law offered him none. A really efficient Poor Law was more wanted in Ireland than in England, because so much larger a portion of the population were paupers, or on the verge of becoming so. When they read of meetings of thousands of Irish farmers being addressed by some of the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, they ought to remember that they were, in no sense, what they would call farmers in England. The great majority were very poor men, who rented rather large potato gardens, and whom a failure of the potato crop would, at any time, reduce to the rank of paupers. And for those men the English law was of no avail. The Poor Law, as it existed in Ireland, was not such as the English poor would accept, or with which the Irish poor had reason to be satisfied. He believed that if 100 years ago the English Poor Law had been introduced into Ireland in its integrity, and the Irish poor had been given the same hold on the Irish land, in seasons of famine and distress, that the English poor had on this side of the water, they would not have seen a right hon. Member rising on the Radical Benches and branding a number of Irish Representatives on that (the Conservative) side of the House as rebels. In order that the House might understand the hold that the poor man in England had on the land, he would give the House an instance, within his own recollection, that they might compare the position of the English and Irish poor. He would show that the first-fruits of the land were, in cases of dire emergency, the heritage of the English poor—their claim amounted, in times of real distress and famine, to no less than the whole produce of the land. His (Mr. Knight's) father had very considerable property in the parish of Bromsgrove. 1370 Bromsgrove then contained a large working population, employed at certain large woollen mills worked by water power. That water power was superseded by steam, and the trade left Bromsgrove and went to the North of England, and the workmen and their families were brought to a state of destitution. For one year he remembered that the poor rates rose to 20s. in the pound. The English Poor Law gave the poor man in his extremity the whole fruits of the land. Looked at fairly, it was not difficult to see why Socialism had failed to take root in England as in other European nations—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must call upon the hon. Member to address himself to the Amendment before the House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was very sorry that the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House had not felt himself entitled to proceed with his address, because he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was quite satisfied that everybody in the House had listened to the hon. Gentleman's remarks with great pleasure, and with a strong feeling of gratitude, because the sentiments uttered by the hon. Gentleman did great credit indeed to his mind and heart. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) did not intend to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in the speech he had delivered. Indeed, he might say that he felt quite incompetent to undertake the task, because the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was of very marked ability indeed, and the right hon. Gentleman had carefully considered the facts of this most important problem. He was quite willing to admit—indeed, he felt perfectly sure—that the policy which the Chief Secretary had preached and practised on this question was a policy at which he had honestly arrived after very careful consideration. The only reason why he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) felt justified in rising now was this—that some of his hon. Friends were of opinion the observations of the right hon. Gentleman—especially in regard to the district of Gweedore, ought not to be allowed to pass without a word in justification of the Rev. Mr. M'Fadden. It was suggested that the Rev. Mr. M'Fadden had prevented the poor people with whom he was connected from getting the work 1371 offered to them. He had received a statement from the Rev. Mr. M'Fadden himself justifying the course he had considered it necessary to pursue in reference to the matter. He should have thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would have felt that Father M'Fadden was entitled to gratitude from him for the extraordinary exertions he had made during the past three or four months to keep the people of the parish from starving. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman to deny that if it had not been for the exertions of Father M'Fadden—this most estimable, hardworking, and honest priest — a large number of these poor people must have succumbed. His hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel (Mr. Moore) invited him to ask the Chief Secretary how much money Father M'Fadden got from the City of London alone for the purpose of distributing it in charity amongst these people. There was, however, another point he wished to address to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Board of Guardians of Gweedore in very strong terms of praise; and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was rightly informed or not, when he said that the Local Government Board called on this Board of Guardians, to which the right hon. Gentleman had given such unqualified praise, to give outdoor relief in certain cases, and that the Board of Guardians refused to do so? If that were so, it would appear that the Board of Guardians were a great deal more harsh than the Local Government Board professed to be themselves. In point of fact, the Board of Guardians which the right hon. Gentleman had praised had carried out the policy of refusing to give outdoor relief a great deal more strictly than the Local Government Board themselves. The right hon. Gentleman attributed this strict carrying out of the policy of the Government to the honesty and public spirit of the Gweedore Board of Guardians. If his (Mr. T. P. O'Connor's) information was correct, he must attribute their conduct to motives a little more mundane. Was it, or was it not, the fact that the Board of Guardians consisted almost exclusively of landlords, or of the representatives of landlords; and if this Board of Guardians refused outdoor relief to these people, was it not 1372 the more rational conclusion to suppose that their refusal was not due so much to public spirit as to the contents of their own pockets, and to the knowledge that they would suffer by relieving these people? The second point he wished to ask was this. The right hon. Gentleman had not attempted to deny that there was a large amount of severe distress, during the winter months, at least, in the parish of Gweedore, and that a large number of people required relief. The right hon. Gentleman would not deny that Father M'Fadden distributed a considerable sum of money for the purpose of relieving the people; and he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to say that this reverend gentleman was foolish or wicked enough to distribute it to people who were not in want of it, and who were not face to face with starvation. He believed the fact was that a large number of people in the parish of Gweedore would have starved, but for the charitable assistance rendered by Father Madden and some of the landlords; and the very members of the Board of Guardians whom the right hon. Gentleman praised so highly were at this moment proceeding for the recovery of rent against persons who had only narrowly escaped from starvation. The right hon. Gentleman would, no doubt, be astonished when he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) informed him that the pressing landlords were the very Board of Guardians whom he had been so warmly praising. He did not know whether these facts were new to the right hon. Gentleman; but he was inclined to think that, unless they were, the right hon. Gentleman's praise of the Board of Guardians would have been somewhat more stinted than it had been. The right hon. Gentleman, in drawing his analogy, forgot the first essence of all analogies—namely, that the circumstances should be exactly the same; because any argument drawn from analogy was obviously fallacious, unless the circumstances did happen to be the same. The right hon. Gentleman said that the people had an opportunity now of getting work at moderately fair wages; but did the right hon. Gentleman know that there were a large number of families in the district of Gweedore who had no bread-winners left, and who, therefore, could not earn 1373 wages? Father M'Fadden—and this was the gentleman who was spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman as preventing the people from working—said in a recent letter—I have a system of employment going on through the parish by which those who can work earn the little dole charity enables me to give. There are over 100 families that have no one to work, and to these I supply a little every Wednesday, without asking for anything in return.So that this reverend gentleman, instead of preventing the people from going to employment, actually insisted upon their giving some portion of their earnings towards the charity he was distributing. Of what avail was it to them that water works were being constructed at Ballymena? Could women with two or three young children go there? The right hon. Gentleman said that his policy had succeeded, because there was a good crop coming, and because better wages could be got in the event of a good crop; but it was not the policy of Her Majesty's Government that had produced a good harvest. A bounteous harvest might be expected; but supposing that wages were more promising now; supposing that everything the right hon. Gentleman said turned out to be true, and that before three or four months had passed the people of Ireland would have a prospect of good wages, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman at what cost had this been brought about? How many of these people, during the last three or four months, had been compelled to live upon the charity which Father M'Fadden had given to them? He would ask the right hon. Gentleman how many of these people were now in a position to earn these wages, and to reap the harvest which Providence was giving to them? There was no use in the people having a good harvest to reap after they were dead; and that would have been the result of the policy of the Government, had it not been obviated by the exertions of Father M'Fadden. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had another letter which he wished to read to the House. He wished, however, to suppress the names for obvious reasons. It was addressed to a widow, and the writer said—I have been instructed by—,to apply to you for payment of the amount of ejectment decree against you with costs of same; and, if 1374 not paid on or before the 16th instant, my instructions are to instruct the Sheriff to take immediate possession of your holding under the decree,—Yours truly.And then followed the name of the agent. The letter was addressed to a widow, who, with her children, would have been in her grave but for Father M'Fadden. An hon. Friend near him told him another fact in connection with the case—namely, that this widow was one of the persons who had had to take advantage of the Arrears Act, and to pawn the last piece of furniture in her cabin in order to raise the year's rent necessary to satisfy her landlord. He thought the impolicy of the refusal of outdoor relief would have been likely to have become impressed upon the right hon. Gentleman from his own experience in his visit to the West of Ireland. Unfortunately, the policy of refusing outdoor relief was intended by the Government to work hand in hand with the policy of emigration. He had received, within the last two or three days, an American newspaper giving an account of some emigrants who had recently landed in that country. All the newspaper accounts agreed in saying—even the Correspondent of The Daily News, who quoted from the report of the supervisors of emigration—that the emigrants who had recently arrived in America were of a class who, if we wished to send them, America was quite ready to receive as many as Ireland could send. They were persons well dressed, well-fed, stalwart in frame, and with a certain amount of money in their pockets—that was to say, they were persons who might well have stayed in Ireland, and did not consist of that class of persons for whom emigration was an advantage. His hon. Friend the Member for the County of Clare (Mr. O'Shea) took a stand against the Government on account of the treatment of children, and asserted that many of them would have been in a position of absolute starvation if it had not been for the charitable efforts of persons in that country. In some of the districts there would have been no alms whatever, but for the aid of charitable associations, such as the Society of Friends. A good deal of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was characterized by less than his usual lucidity. As far as he could see, the right hon. Gentle- 1375 man did not deal at all with the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Cork (Colonel Colthurst), which was not that outdoor relief was a good thing, or that it should be universally adopted, but that it should be resorted to only under exceptional circumstances like the present, and that some such system ought to be at the disposal of the Boards of Guardians. A short time ago he had met an hon. Friend, whose absence from the House at the present moment he much regretted—Mr. A. M. Sullivan, the late Member for Meath—and he must say that at that time he did not feel so strongly upon this question as he did now, and he was not able to answer all the arguments in favour of an exclusive system of indoor relief which the right lion. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had put forward. But Mr. A. M. Sullivan brought several facts home to him, and made him understand the intense feeling which he—Mr. Sullivan—entertained upon the subject. In the book which Mr. Sullivan had written he had gone through the period of 1846, 1847, and 1848—a period which overthrew all the theories, even according to the right hon. Gentleman himself. The present condition of Ireland was almost as bad as that of 1847 and 1848. Mr. A. M. Sullivan told him that in the Union of Bantry a woman went into the workhouse 25 or 26 times a-year. She went in for a purpose lie did not care to mention to the House. The purpose of the woman was, however, brought before the Clerk of the Union, who was asked to lay the facts with regard to her infamous character and trade before the Board of Guardians. The facts were laid before the Board of Guardians; and the next time she went there on her mission for the purpose of bringing out some innocent girls from that establishment, in spite of the information supplied to the Board by the Clerk of the Union, backed up by positive proof', the woman was admitted, and the word "admitted" stood after her name in the books of the Bantry Union to the present day. In all the districts of the South of Ireland, where the distress raged most, in the Famine years there were families in which there had been a time of shame to remind them of even a more terrible and more dangerous evil, in the blot which had fallen upon the honour of the family in consequence of 1376 the necessity they had been under of placing young girls within the walls of the workhouse. These were horrible recollections, which still remained in the West of Ireland; and it was such reminiscences that gave the people that feeling of loathing and abhorrence of the workhouse which prevailed in their minds. It was a feeling that ought to be encouraged, and not repressed; and he was sorry to see the Government doing their best to break down that honest abhorrence of the system which now existed by insisting that everybody who needed relief should enter the workhouse.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Colthurst), in his opening speech, said that he did not look upon the Motion as a panacea for all the evils of Ireland. His hon. and gallant Friend fairly argued the case on its merits, without the slightest heat or exaggeration; and it seemed to him (Mr. Biggar) that the balance of argument was strongly in favour of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to argue the question entirely upon general principles. In point of fact, the right hon. Gentleman entirely begged the question at issue. He had discussed the question of Poor Law relief entirely upon general principles, and on the average of good and bad years, without taking the slightest notice of the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Cork (Colonel Colthurst), which turned entirely upon cases of exceptional distress. In cases of exceptional distress the balance of argument was entirely in favour of outdoor relief. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the number of outdoor paupers who existed in 1849; but did not the right hon. Gentleman know that a great portion of the people from whom outdoor relief was taken immediately after 1849 died from the effects of fever and the effects of the failing - off of outdoor relief. A convenient way for English economists to get rid of Irish paupers was to starve them to death; and then they were able to say that the roll of paupers was less than it was formerly. That was the usual way in which the English officials dealt with the sufferings of the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the number of men 1377 who might have been put to work as navvies at Ballymena waterworks; but it was quite a burlesque to suppose that these poor persons could have been converted into suitable navvies for such work. These unfortunate people were half-starved; they had never, probably, used a spade of the sort used by the navvy in their lives; and what would have been said if they had attempted to work at Ballymena waterworks? They would very soon have been sent about their business, probably before they had been half-a-day at work, and they would have had to march back again, getting food and a night's lodging as they went along. Nevertheless, that formed part of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for the County of Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) had conclusively proved that, at a time of exceptional distress, it was desirable to give assistance, in the shape of outdoor relief, to households, instead of bringing those households into the workhouse by starving the people. With a few months' assistance the people forming such households would be able to tide over such distress; whereas, if the households were themselves broken up, there would be permanent pauperism for generations to come, and a race of paupers would be established which they would never get rid of. He would not refer again to the cases which had been pointed out by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). A similar story had been told to him by Bishop Nulty, the Bishop of Meath, immediately after the Famine; but these things were notorious in Ireland, and he thought the balance of argument was entirely in favour of the principle of the Amendment now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the sudden increase in the number of people getting relief from the year 1880 to 1883. But the right hon. Gentleman forgot that there was a fair harvest in Ireland in 1879, and that the people in 1880 were able to live on the small surplus they had put by from the preceding year. They did not feel the distress until that time had passed over; then they became altogether impoverished; and it was most desirable, if they were to live outside the workhouse, that they should get some assistance in the shape of out- 1378 door relief. It was well known that the relief given in any case by the Local Government Board in Ireland was of a very slender nature; but the Irish people were exceedingly frugal; they could live in the meanest and poorest way; and it was desirable, if possible, that they should be able to support themselves. In regard to the question of Union rating, he was himself strongly in favour of it; and, to a great degree, Union rating existed in Ireland at the present moment, because all the charges for the officials were imposed on the Union; and it was notorious that a very large proportion of the expenses of the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland was not the expense of feeding the paupers, but the cost of keeping up the offices and the officials who were employed to look after the paupers. In some of the Unions, where the number of the paupers was merely nominal, there was a large staff of officials who received the rates, and who were not at all illiberally paid. In regard to the question of relief by the Union at large, instead of by the Guardians of a particular electoral division, he was of opinion that it was preferable that it should be given by the Union at large, because in that case it was more likely that the distribution of the funds would be more impartial than if it depended upon the electoral divisions. He knew, in the early history of the Poor Law, that a conflict often took place between the Guardians of each electoral division, as to whether or not a pauper should be charged upon the Union at large or upon the electoral division. It seemed to him there was considerable advantage in charging the cost of all the paupers upon the Union. In many cases the policy of the landlords in the rural districts was to drive the paupers into the villages and small towns; and then in a time of distress the whole brunt of the charge fell upon the ratepayers of such towns and villages, the other part of the district bearing no portion of it. He would remind the House of what took place at the time of the Cotton Famine in Lancashire. The right hon. Gentleman alleged that if Irish paupers got relief in a time of distress they would always continuo to be paupers. The right hon. Gentleman evidently forgot what occurred in Lancashire at the time of the Cotton Famine. 1379 The manufacturing operatives there got relief in a time of exceptional distress; but as soon as the distress disappeared they returned to their usual employment, and altogether ceased to he a burden upon the rates. His opinion was that the same thing would apply to the very small farmers and labourers of Ireland, if they got relief for a month or two during an exceptionally bad time, or during a severe winter, before the crops became fit for use. Then, as soon as the period of exceptional distress had passed away, they would find themselves able to support themselves; and, instead of being regular paupers, permanently chargeable upon the rates, they would become quite independent.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he hoped the House would allow him to make a personal statement. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), like all eloquent speakers, had asked a good many questions, one of which he (Mr. Trevelyan) thought he was bound to answer. He was well aware that Father M'Fadden had made laudable exertions during the past winter, and that he had, undoubtedly, got money from many quarters which he had distributed to the great relief of his flock.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 24: Majority 58.—(Div. List, No. 149.)
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."