HL Deb 30 July 1832 vol 14 cc898-900
The Duke of Richmond

moved the Second Reading of the Agricultural Labourers' Bill. The great object of it was to afford employment to agricultural labourers. It sometimes happened that a number of parishioners at a Vestry agreed to measures of this kind, and that some of them afterwards drew back, to the great inconvenience of the others; and the object of the Bill was to remedy that inconvenience. There was nothing compulsory in this Bill, except that a majority of three-fourths of the rate-payers could bind a minority and compel them to accede to any arrangement that was supposed to be beneficial. As the law at present stood, one parishioner was able to prevent the resolution of all the others from being carried into effect. The Bill would enable the Churchwardens and Overseers, if supported by such a majority of the parishioners, as he had mentioned, to find work for the agricultural labourer and prevent him being altogether a charge upon the parish. It was meant only as a temporary measure, till the Commissioners on the Poor-laws should make their Report. It was not a Government measure, but one which had been introduced by an hon. Baronet in the other House; and as it was one which would do some good, he, as an individual Peer, proposed the second reading. It would apply only to parishes where the Poor-rates exceeded 5s. in the pound.

Lord Wynford

opposed the Bill. It completely superseded the Poor-laws, and took the management of the poor entirely out of the hands of the Overseers. He was afraid it would lead to an endless system of jobbing. No man was more desirous than he was to relieve the agricultural labourers; but he could not consent to such a Bill as that. It would, in fact, repeal the statute of Elizabeth. A commission had been issued to inquire into the Poor-laws; and, at least, the Bill ought to lie over till that commission was at an end.

Lord Teynham

was of opinion that the Bill would do great injury; and though he had great respect for the noble Duke, he should not do his duty if he did not oppose the Bill.

The Earl of Radnor

supported the Bill. When the noble and learned Lord asserted at it would repeal the Poor-laws, it appeared as if the noble Lord had not [...] the Bill. It took no power whatever [...] of the hands of the overseers, but it gave to the majority of any set of parishioners who had resolved to employ the poor in a particular manner, the power, which they had not at present, to carry that resolution into effect. In the large parish near which he lived, he knew that in several cases, when a rule had been agreed to for employing the poor, it had been set aside by the caprice or obstinacy of one man. He conceived that the Bill would do no more than remedy that inconvenience; and, therefore, it should have his support.

The Duke of Richmond

said, that the provision of the Bill he had already referred to, would limit it to the south and west of England. Any question as to the details of the Bill, should be considered in Committee.

Bill read a second time.

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