HC Deb 24 February 1890 vol 341 cc1007-8
MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to a case tried by the Magistrates at Evesham, on Monday, 10th February, in which Charles Taylor, a labourer, of Honeybourne, was summoned by the Relieving Officer for non-payment of 37s. arrears of payment under orders to contribute 1s. per week towards the maintenance of his father and mother in the workhouse; whether his attention has been drawn to the evidence, which, abowed that Taylor had a wife and a crippled son to support, and had further had a daughter on his hands for 12 months; that Taylor's wages being 10s. a week nominally, but subject to deduction for wet weather, had averaged not more than 9s. a week; and that, for the last six weeks, Taylor's earnings had only been a total of 20s., or 3s. 6d. a week; whether he is aware that it was urged in favour of Taylor's ability to pay that he had an allotment of one and a-half acres, for which he had to pay four times the agricultural rent; whether the Bench, in condemning Taylor to pay 20s. in satisfaction of the claim and costs, stated "that they had been very lenient with him"; whether the law requires that agricultural labourers, earning 9s. to 10s. a week, should be called upon to contribute towards the support of relatives in the workhouse; and whether he will consider the advisability of transferring the appeal from Petty Sessions to the County Court, considering that the decision rests entirely on ability to pay, and that the practice of different Petty Sessional Courts varies very considerably?


I have made inquiry of the Justices and have seen a newspaper report of the proceedings. It appears that two orders were made upon this man in June, 1886, to pay two sums of 6d. per week towards the maintenance of his father and mother. He fell into arrears of 18s. 6d. under each order. The Guardians, having made inquiry into his ability to pay, applied to the Bench to enforce payment in full. The Bench decided to enforce payment t o the amount of 10s. on each order, but not to issue process until such time as the man could pay. They came to the conclusion that his average income would be about 15s. a week. He was not at that time supporting a daughter. He occupied an allotment of about two acres, but the Bench do not know at what rent. I understand the law to be that orders to contribute towards the relief of pauper relatives should only be made on persons of sufficient ability, and that is a question of fact for the Justices to decide. I have no reason to believe that County Court Judges would decide this question with more uniformity than the Justices in Petty Sessions.


Upon what evidence does the right hon. Gentleman say that this man had 15s. a week?


That is the information the Bench of Magistrates communicated to me in answer to my question.