HL Deb 10 July 1837 vol 38 cc1847-9
The Duke of Richmond

said, that seeing his noble Friend (Earl Fitzwilliam) in his place, he wished to ask him if he could furnish the House with any information as to the unions lately formed under the Poor-law Commissioners in that part of the North of England with which his noble Friend was most immediately connected.

Earl Fitzwilliam

was extremely glad his noble Friend had afforded him an opportunity of stating, as he had been most anxious to do, what from his own knowledge he knew the reception of the Poor-law Act had met with in that part of Yorkshire with which he was connected. If he had not been misinformed, it had been stated in the House by a noble Friend of his, who exercised a high office in the county of York, that the people of that county were exceedingly averse to the introduction amongst them of the New Poor-law, and if he had not misunderstood the manner in which his noble Friend made that statement, it would seem that the people in that part of the country were almost unanimous in disapproving of the measure, Now, if he (Earl Fitzwilliam) could draw any sure inference from what he had himself observed in the county of York, he was satisfied that any disposition to oppose the introduction of the Poor-law Act into that county would not be calculated to forward the views of any Gentleman who might be a candidate for its representation. He (Earl Fitzwilliam) had been engaged in the formation of one union under the auspices of the Poor-law Commissioners, and on this day week he had attended the first meeting of the board of guardians, and he could state, not only with respect to the board of guardians, but also with respect to the population of the town in which it was to be fixed, that not the slightest symptom of dissatisfaction had been expressed. The town in question, their Lordships would remember, was a manufacturing town, and one portion of the population was composed of agriculturists, and another portion of the inhabitants was engaged in mining and manufacturing employments. Not only was there no disposition manifested by the people of that town against the introduction of the new law, but also no board of guardians could exhibit greater alacrity in carrying that law into effect than had been shown by the board of guardians to which he referred, and he was perfectly satisfied that though the delusion which had been attempted to be excited in the country might not be entirely extinct, yet it was about to subside, and he was certain that in a very short time, and in the most populous districts, the more the measure was understood the more it would be acquiesced in; and that even in those parts where some persons from mistaken views of philanthropy, and others whose views he would not attempt to describe, had endeavoured to excite these delusions, it would fail, and would come to the conclusion—the true conclusion—that the main basis upon which the Poor-law Amendment Act rested was the transference of authority from persons legally, but not morally or practically, responsible to those representative bodies in which the administration of the law was now vested. He had thought it his bounden duty, persuaded as he was that on the maintenance of that law mainly depended the prosperity of the country, so far as regarded the state and condition of the labouring classes, thus to bear his testimony to the complete success of the new law in that populous district of the country with which he was most immediately connected.

Subject dropped.

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