HL Deb 06 April 1838 vol 42 cc435-7
The Earl of Winchilsea

gave notice, that after the recess he would bring forward a motion having for its object some improvements in the New Poor-law; giving, in the first instance, a power to the board of guardians to regulate the dietary without the control of the Commissioners; and proposing, in the next, a declaratory clause respecting out-door relief. He would also propose a prohibitory clause; for, although he was a decided friend to labour in the workhouses, and would be the last person to offer opposition to anything in the way of labour, yet, as abuses had crept into some of the workhouses, more especially one in the county of Kent—namely, that belonging to the Bridge Union, he should feel it his duty to call their Lordships' attention to the subject, with a view to some fresh enactment respecting it. He had received a letter from a gentleman who bore the highest character for humanity, from which it appeared that in that Union relief was only afforded in connexion with punishment. It stated, that persons applying for lodging and provisions for one night, were compelled to carry a bag of sand 561bs. in weight for one hour, in order, as it were, to qualify themselves for the required relief; and, further, that if they remained in the workhouse during the next day, they were obliged to carry this bag of sand (of which he had a sample in his possession that had been sent to him) for two hours. Now, this he considered to be a perfect breach of the act. He drew the attention of their Lordships to the circumstance now for the purpose of giving it publicity, so that the Commissioners might make the necessary inquiry to ascertain whether the statement was true or not. The letter in his possession mentioned the case of an individual upon the writer's own property. It was the letter of Sir Henry Hoskins; and that gentleman stated, that a man with a wife and three children, who had sustained himself and family for a month during illness, went at the request of his wife to the Bridge Union, and while in the workhouse was compelled to carry one of these bags of sand, in consequence of which the man died from overwork. He, therefore, felt that some decided enactment should take place to prevent a recurrence or continuance of such a state of things. Although he was a decided friend to the New Poor-law Act, he thought that there were some things connected with its working which might be beneficially amended.

Earl Fitzwilliam

thought, it impossible that the question should not suggest itself to the mind of every noble Lord who had attended to the statement of his noble Friend, whether any representation had been made to the Board of Commissioners with reference to the conduct of this Bridge Union. Against the board it was clear that no charge could be substantiated, unless it could be proved that such representation had been made without meeting with the due degree of attention. His noble Friend appeared to be desirous that additional powers should be given to the local boards, and that they should be placed less under the supervision of the Board of Commissioners, though the very gravamen of his noble Friend's complaint was, that the local board had misconducted itself. All that he was anxious for was, that the system, as it now exists, should not be unnecessarily interfered with. He was satisfied that system would still continue to produce, as it had already produced, very beneficial effects; and he, therefore, felt anxious that no incautious attempt at amendment should be made.

Subject dropped.

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