HL Deb 03 September 1835 vol 30 cc1315-8
The Marquess of Lansdowne

, in moving the second reading of this Bill, stated that its object was to facilitate the means of building workhouses for unions of parishes. He could not let the opportunity pass without communicating to the House the gratifying fact that the measure of last year for the reform of the Poor-laws had been entirely successful so far as it had been carried into effect. The progress made by the Commissioners in the union of parishes, and in promoting improvements in the administration of the Poor-laws, exceeded the most sanguine expectations of the most earnest and zealous friends of the Bill of last year. No less than 2,066 parishes had been united, making altogether 112 unions. The whole of some counties had been brought under the operation of the Bill. For instance, the whole of the 275 parishes in Hampshire had been formed into twenty-one unions. In Berks, the parishes had been formed into eleven unions. The 185 parishes in Oxfordshire had been formed into five unions. Again, all the parishes in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and other counties had been formed into unions. This had been done with the full approbation and consent of the great portion of the persons residing in those counties. Notwithstanding the prejudices which existed as to the evils which would result from these unions of parishes, the system now met with the approbation of all classes of the inhabitants of the counties, the magistrates, the gentry, the farmers, and other rate-payers, and in many instances the poor themselves expressed the greatest satisfaction at the change that had taken place. The adoption of the new system had led to the most material economy in the administration of the Poor-laws. On referring to the reduction in the poor-rates that had taken place in these unions, he found that on the average in the nineteen first unions, which were chiefly made before the end of last year, the saving amounted to between one-half and one-third of the expenditure of the corresponding time of the former year. In almost all the cases in which the unions had been formed, the food supplied to the workhouses was superior in quality to that formerly sent to those places, and at the same time it cost much less to the parishes. The poor were much better off, and the expense to the parishes was considerably less than it had before been. Through the agency of the New Poor-law Act, the poor had been encouraged to migrate from parts of the country where there was a superabundance of labour to those places where there was a demand for it. Thus great numbers of labourers had been removed, with their own consent, from the agricultural districts to the manufacturing parts of the country. In Buckinghamshire there was some manifestation of dislike on the part of some labourers, on its being proposed to them to be sent to Lancashire. Some, however, did proceed thither; and such was their satisfaction, that they induced many who were a burden to the parishes in which they resided to remove to the same districts, where they obtained constant work in the manufactories. He could not conclude his observations without alluding to the material assistance rendered in carrying this Bill into effect by the magistracy, who, in numerous instances, had become Guardians of the Poor, and had exerted themselves most beneficially in aiding the Commissioners.

Lord Brougham

was a more competent witness than even the Poor-law Commissioners as to the improvement that had taken place in the condition of those persons who received maintenance from those parishes in Buckinghamshire, and who had been removed into the manufacturing districts. When he was recently in Lancashire, he went out of his way several miles on purpose to examine into the condition of those people employed as manufacturers, and who were formerly agricultural labourers. He visited the manufactories where they were employed; he went into several of the cottages, and saw those persons and their families, and examined them as to their condition; and he had no hesitation in saying that he never saw people more comfortable, or more entirely content with their situation, or more satisfied with the change which had taken place in their being brought from their former residences to their then abodes. They all expressed a determination not to go back to the places they formerly lived in. They all were in the receipt of good wages, which were likely to be increased instead of being diminished.

The Duke of Richmond

was one of those who had looked with considerable apprehensions to the Poor-law Bill; but really the conduct of the Commissioners was such, they had carried it into operation so gradually, and with so much discretion, that he thought they well deserved the thanks of the country. He thought it a great hardship that the tenantry should be bound to pay the money borrowed by the parishes under this Act within so short a period as ten years, and he hoped the Government would take an early opportunity of remedying that evil.

Bill read a second time.