HL Deb 30 June 1842 vol 64 cc785-7
Lord Kinnaird

presented a petition signed by 6,000 inhabitants of Paisley, complaining of the way in which the charitable funds raised for the relief of the poor in that town had been distributed. The petitioners complained that the management of these funds had been taken out of the hands of the relief committee, and had been placed in the hands of a Poor-law commissioner who had been sent down by the Government. It had been the custom of the relief committee to grant relief in the shape of money-tickets, which were taken at the various shops in the town; but of late, relief had been granted only in kind—in meal, bread, and potatoes. It was conjectured that the new system, so far from being productive of any benefit on the score of economy, had effected a considerable increase in the amount of the expenditure. The sum expended in one week had been 618l. 6s., but during the management of the relief committee, although the wants of nine hundred more persons, inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, had to be supplied, the weekly cost had not exceeded 500l. They believed that the commissioner, Mr. Twiselton, had an object in refusing to grant relief otherwise than in kind, for they asserted that, at a meeting of the relief committee, he had declared that it was necessary to render the position of the labourers as disagreeable as possible, in order to induce them to emigrate to other parts of the country. He would not pledge himself that this was a correct statement; for having written to ascertain how far it was warranted by the fact, he had received one answer from a member of the relief committee stating that the fact was as was alleged, while others doubted the truth of the statement. The petitioners prayed that Parliament would allow them to send the produce of their labour to those markets in which they could obtain for it the best price, and from which they could obtain in exchange the necessaries of life of which they stood so much in need. They declared that they could not stand by and witness such cruelties as were practised, which, if not counteracted, might drive the people to desperation, and endanger the peace of the country. He felt that the state of the country was much too serious to allow the wants of the people to be trifled with. The lower orders had been for some time considerably disaffected; by such conduct as the Legislature had adopted the middling classes would be led to entertain similar feelings, and the consequences to be apprehended were most serious. With regard to the petitioners, they wished these funds to be distributed by the local magistrates and ministers, who were of their own selection, and whom they considered to be better fitted for such a task than a Poor-law commissioner. They did not want cold charity to be dealt out to them in a miserable pittance of food, but they looked for consolation in acts of kindness, and for some hopes of future happiness. They had not been accustomed to ask for charity, and they only sought at their Lordships' hands the means of finding a return for their labour.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that the prayer of the petition appeared to him to be neither more nor less than that the petitioners might receive relief in money rather than in kind. [Lord Kinnaird: Partly so.] A gentleman had been first sent down to Paisley from the Commissariat Department, and a Poor-law commissioner was afterwards despatched to make further inquiries into the state of distress existing in Paisley. The funds had been for some time distributed by this gentleman; but since then that duty had been transferred to a body of gentlemen who were permanently established in London, called the Manufacturing Relief Committee. He believed that that committee distributed these funds according to certain fixed rules laid down for their guidance in a very satisfactory manner, and he was exceedingly concerned to find that it did not give satisfaction.

Adjourned at half-past seven.