HL Deb 14 April 1840 vol 53 cc1085-7

The Marquess of Westmeath moved for copies of "any correspondence on the records of the Poor-law commissioners, on the necessity of the provisions of the act 2nd and 3rd Victoria, cap. 1, to amend the Irish Poor-law of the 1st and 2nd Victoria, cap. 56, particularly respecting the 5th section."

Viscount Melbourne

could not undertake to say that any such correspondence existed. If it did exist anywhere, it would be impossible to find it under the vague terms of such a notice as that of the noble Marquess.

The Duke of Wellington

thought it would be but fair, after the course which had been taken last night, that every information should be given by the Government, why so important an amendment had been introduced at the very last stage of such a bill. The Poor-law commissioners were bound to keep copies of all their correspondence, and their Lordships had a right to know in what quarter that amendment had been suggested.

Viscount Duncannon

was quite ready to produce all the information in his possession, but he believed no correspondence had taken place on the subject. The fact was, the commissioner had been in London at the time, and suggested to him in the lobby the necessity of introducing this amendment, even at the last stage of the bill.

The Duke of Wellington

said, he had certainly seen a great many instances of surprises upon his side of the House, by noble Lords on the other side, but the introduction of this clause into the bill, upon the third reading, was the most flagrant case of surprise that had ever been practised in that House. Upon the 25th of February, he had stated, that he saw no objection to the measure as explained by the noble Viscount opposite, in his speech on the second reading. On the 26th of February he was absent from the House. Now, he was never absent from the House, except when he was prevented from attending by illness, which very seldom happened, or by public duties elsewhere. On the 26th, when he had left town to attend the judges upon circuit, the bill was committed; and no amendment was made, nor any notice of amendment given. On the 27th, he had the honour of receiving the judges at his House, and on that day the bill was reported, but no notice was then given of any proposed amendment. On the 28th, when he was not in the House, and without any notice, this objectionable amendment was introduced.' Now, what he wanted to know was this— who it was that suggested this amendment? Was it suggested by Mr. Nicholls? or had there been any correspondence with any magistrate upon the subject? It could not be suggested without communications of some kind passing. Some correspondence must have taken place beforehand, and if no such correspondence were forthcoming, the Poor-law commissioners had not done their duty, for they were bound to keep copies of all correspondence, and to be prepared today them before the Houses of Parliament. His desire was to sift the matter completely, for he considered the amendment to be a very gross violation of the principles of the bill, and if it had formed part of the bill originally, he, for one, should have voted against it. He hoped, therefore, his noble Friend would persevere in his motion. If the return to it were nil, be it so; then it would appear that the Poor-law commissioners had not performed their duty.

The Earl of Wickow

felt confident, that when his noble Friend opposite had introduced this amendment, he had no idea he was departing from the usual course of proceeding, or introducing a clause which was in any way inconsistent with the general objects of the measure. But the result proved the necessity of making some regulation for the future, as to the introduction of new clauses upon third readings. They ought not to be introduced, except with notice, and after the proposed amendments had been printed.

Viscount Duncannon

said, that there was a necessity for the bill to pass by a certain time, and, so far as he could recollect, the amendment had, just before the third reading, been put into his hands by one of the Poor-law commissioners, who assured him that it was absolutely necessary to insure the working of the bill, and did not interfere with its principle. If he had conceived that the amendment would in any manner change the nature of the bill, he certainly should not have introduced it in the absence of the noble Duke opposite.

The Marquess of Normanby

said, that if any correspondence had taken place with the Poor-law commissioners on the subject, it should be laid on the table. It was not intended, by the amendment, to alter the right of voting for guardians, and if such were conceived to be the effect of the amendment, there could be no objection to pass a declaratory act on the subject.

The Earl of Winchilsea

thought it extraordinary that the noble Viscount opposite should, at the suggestion of any individual, come down to the House with such an amendment, without being fully acquainted with its nature and effect.

Motion agreed to.