HL Deb 03 July 1840 vol 55 cc410-1
The Earl of Haddington

wished to put a question to the noble Marquess opposite. He understood, from the public newspapers, that the Poor-law Commissioners had sent forth instructions for an inquiry, similar to that which had been set on foot in this country, as to the cause of fevers and contagious disorders amongst the poorer classes in Scotland, and the best mode of prevention. There could be-but one opinion on the mind of every man of humanity as to the propriety of instituting inquiries of this kind. He did not, however, think the Poor-law Commissioners the proper parties to whom such an inquiry should be intrusted. Besides, he was apprehensive that the appointment of inspectors, by the Poor-law Commissioners, would lead the people to fear that an attempt was about to be made to tamper with the system which at present prevailed in Scotland with reference to the care of the poor. The inspectors were instructed to inquire into the rents paid by the poorer clashes, the amount of wages they received, the ratio of expenditure, the capability of maintenance, &c. Now, he thought it would be better for those persons to confine their inquiries simply to the prevalence of disease, and the causes from which it was supposed to arise. He believed, if such questions were demanded, very few persons, clergymen or others, would be found willing to answer them. He should, therefore, ask whether such instructions as he referred to had been sent out? If so, what those instructions specifically were? and whether the commissioners had any power to inquire into the working of the Scotch Poor-law system? If instructions had been given, he wished to know whether the noble Marquess had any objection to lay them on the Table, together with a copy of the circular by which they were accompanied.

The Marquess of Normanby

said, an inquiry into the cause of infectious disease having been set on foot in one district in England, had afterwards been extended throughout the country. In consequence, the town-council of Edinburgh, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons there, requested that a similar course should be adopted with respect to Scotland, and subsequently a petition to the same effect had been sent from Glasgow. Upon these representations, he was induced to believe that a strong desire existed that this inquiry should be pursued in Scotland, and, thus solicited, he had agreed that it should be so extended. On one point he could readily dispel the apprehensions of his noble Friend. It was not intended that the inquiry should be at all connected with the Poor-law system in Scotland. There would be no difficulty in laying on the Table a copy of the instructions.