HL Deb 20 August 1839 vol 50 cc437-8

House in Committee on the Bastardy Bill.

On clause 1,

The Duke of Richmond

said, he very much doubted the expediency of passing such a bill as this at all, when he knew that the Poor-law Amendment Act was to be taken into consideration next year. He thought some of its clauses would operate in a very mischievous and oppressive manner. Under the law, as it now stood, very few orders of affiliation were made, except against persona baring money, be- cause overseers and guardians of the poor did not think it worth while to proceed against labourers receiving not more than 12s. or 14s. per week. But, by this bill, orders of affiliation were to be enforced against every man liable to such a process since the passing of the Act, for the expenses of the maintenance of his illegitimate child. Now, if they wanted to alter the law, let them not give power to magistrates to order a labourer to pay for the maintenance of his illegitimate child, born, perhaps, six months before, because that would drive them back to one of the old evils which the new law had been introduced to remove—forced marriages. If a poor labouring man were called upon to pay 2s. or 2s. 6d. a-week for some months of arrears, it was clear that, rather than go to gaol, he would marry, and thus all the evils of forced marriages would return, the want of contentment at home, the inducement to go to the beer-shop, and the neglect and misery of both wife and children. Then, as to giving up all the powers, now vested in quarter sessions to petty sessions in these cases, he would observe that some plan must be settled by which to compel the attendance of witnesses, for at present there was no clause of that kind in the bill. The noble Duke proposed amendments to the effect stated in his observations, which were agreed to.

Clauses were agreed to.

House resumed.

Report to be received.