The Earl of Radnor
moved, that certain Returns relating to cases of illegitimate children which had been presented, should be printed. These Returns related to the number of children affiliated in England and Wales during the past year. There were certain Clauses in the Poor-law Amendment Bill to which he had always objected, and these had introduced a practice of a still more objectionable kind than any which had before existed. The exposures which used to take place at Petty Sessions now took place in the open Court of Quarter Sessions. To show how these Clauses had worked, he referred to the increase of the number of cases, in the three last Quarter Sessions,—the number of cases at the first were 268; in the second, 335; and at the last Epiphany Sessions, it amounted to no less a number than 463; and he understood at the Midsummer Quarter Sessions for the West Riding of Yorkshire, the Magistrates were occupied for two whole days with no other business than that of affiliating bastard children. The female became hardened by this exposure and mischiefs greater than ever were created. As the Clause now stood, corroborative testimony was required; and in a Quarter Sessions lately 1009 held, that testimony had been supplied by the production of the child, which was sworn to on account of its resemblance to its putative father. He did not think that this was the sort of corroborative testimony which had been intended to be required by the Act. He had had some conversation with the Commissioners, who agreed with him that some alteration of the law on the subject should take place. He should now merely move, that the Returns be printed, but should take another opportunity to bring the subject fully to their Lordships' attention.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
had always objected to the Bastardy-laws remaining in their present state; and he should have been better pleased if the Magistrates had had no power at all to make Bastardy orders. But while the practice of making these orders was continued, he must say that he should never consent to their being restored to the Petty Sessions. Justice was never done at these Sessions, and it was likely that it would be done in open Court. The proof of the fact by corroborative testimony was seldom given in the way mentioned by the noble Earl; but it could be given by proof that the man had written letters to the woman of an affectionate kind, and other evidence to show that intercourse was not unlikely to take place between them. He was ready to put an end to the present system, and to throw the burthen of maintaining the child on the mother and the parish.
§ The Returns to be printed.