HL Deb 10 July 1833 vol 19 cc466-9

The Duke of Richmond moved the third reading' of this Bill.

The Marquess of Salisbury

objected to the clause introduced into the Bill by the Bishop of London, which he trusted the right reverend Prelate would withdraw, as the felt convinced its provisions could never be carried into effect. He complained that this Bill, which was intended to be merely explanatory, would expose many parishes to the operation of the Bill, which ought to be exempted. He thought, too, that in some of its provisions it could never be made effectual.

The Bishop of London

could never consent to do the suicidal act of strangling his own offspring at this stage. He thought it a sufficient answer to the noble and learned Baron, that the principles of the Bill had been already found effective in a great many instances. So far from withdrawing the clause complained of, he intended to propose an explanatory clause, to make the real meaning still more clear. The right reverend Prelate then proposed an explanatory clause.

Lord Wynford

said, there was not a single individual who had spoken on this Bill who did not admit that it was founded on an unjust and vicious principle, since it would materially affect those who had nothing whatever to do with agricultural labour. The noble Duke asserted, that it would be beneficial in preventing disorders from breaking forth in the agricultural districts, by giving the labourers employment; but he begged leave to state to the noble Duke, that those disorders were committed for the most part by persons who were in full employment, and many who were connected with those disgraceful riots, had nothing whatever to do with agriculture. He thought that with proper care, and with a due administration of the existing law, the poor of this country might be placed in a comfortable situation without the assistance of such a measure as this. The Bill, he contended, was manifestly unjust; because, under its provisions, individuals would be obliged to maintain a species of poor with whom they were uncounected, while others, who really ought to bear the burthen, would, in a great measure, be exempted from it. The only effect of the measure would be to hold out au expectation of relief which never would be realized. The clause which the right reverend Prolate meant to introduce would not cure the defects of the Bill, and he therefore should move, "That the Bill be read a third time, this day six months."

The Bishop of London

explained, that his chief object in introducing the clause was to protect the clergy. He had also another object—namely, to remedy the inherent vices of the Bill, and make, if that were possible, the labour-rate tolerable. Though he had voted against the measure in its former stages, from the readiness of the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) to admit his clause, he did not think himself justified in voting against the third reading. He trusted, however, that the measure would be only a temporary one, and would not stand in the way of future improvements.

The Duke of Richmond

said, the noble Lords who now opposed this measure had not advanced any new grounds to induce their Lordships to alter the decision to which they had come, on former occasions, in favour of the Bill. It was, asserted, that the adoption of this plan would create great expense wherever it was introduced. But those who used that argument ought to recollect that the agreement to introduce this plan would not be valid without the sanction of a majority of Justices specially assembled in petty sessions. Those Justices most assuredly, would be well acquainted with the feelings of the landlords and farmers to whom the Bill applied. It was alleged, that this Bill would bear heavily on the clergy and lay-impropriators; but did those who made the objection forget that the clergy and lay-impropriators now paid for the support of those who were out of employment,—that they were obliged to pay their share of the Poor-rates? Such was the fad. They were compelled to grant support to the unemployed agricultural labourer, and they received no labour in return. He wished, by this measure, to restore that honest pride of independence which formerly characterized the labourers of this country, lie was anxious that they should owe their support to their own industry and independent exertions; but, under the existing system, they became the weekly, and, he was afraid, not unwilling pensioners of their respective parishes. The Bill, he admitted, might be defective; but if they could not at once arrived at perfection, was that a reason for saying that they would not do something, however little, to come as near as possible to that point? The present Bill was only proposed as a temporary measure, as a palliative of the evil which was admitted on all hands to exist. Now, he should be glad if those who opposed the Bill would show him in what way it went beyond the practice of the Poor-laws; at the same time he admitted, that the practice of those laws had gone beyond the spirit of the laws themselves. The measure which he proposed would discourage improvident marriages, and would do away with the most degrading part of the present system—that of employing labourers on the highway. It had succeeded, as he had formerly shown, in 400 parishes, and he could now adduce many additional instances of its utility. In confirmation of the benefits to be derived from the plan, he would read an extract from the evidence of a clergyman on the subject, and he was happy to adduce the opinion of a clergyman, because he believed, whatever might be said to the contrary, that the Clergy felt no wish to be opposed to the land-owners or occupiers, but, on the contrary, were anxious to stand on the best terms with them; and, on the other hand, he was well convinced, that the land-owners did not harbour a desire to act unjustly towards the clergy. That clergyman, the reverend Mr. Bosworth, of little Horwood, Buckinghamshire, in his evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons, in 1828, stated that, in his parish, the Poor-rates in December, January, February and March, were less than they were on the following June; and why?—because in the winter months a labour-rate had been agreed to, which, in the summer months, was discontinued.

The Marquess of Bute

contended that the present Bill would, in effect, create a very great extension of the Poor-laws; and he did hope that the decision of their Lordships, which he trusted had still some little weight with the country, would be opposed to such an unfortunate extension of those laws. What was the principle of the Bill? Why, it was simply that a man should take no trouble to get employment for himself. Such were almost the words of the preamble. The noble Duke had told them that the measure had succeeded in a great number of instances. The fact was, that the Poor-laws had been the worst administered for the last thirty or forty years, in those places where the measure had operated beneficially. The effect of this Bill would be to treat every labourer in England as a pauper, and therefore he should oppose it.

The Amendment was negatived, and the Bill read a third time, and passed.

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