HL Deb 18 February 1847 vol 90 cc178-80

Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Amendment.


said, that he viewed the Bill with great distrust. It assumed that the people of Ireland would be capable of giving money for the food to be supplied. He saw no measure yet passed by Parliament, or known to be in progress, which would effect the object to be attained by the Bill within the limited period for which the measure was to remain in operation. It was to be substituted, as he understood, for what was improperly called the Labour-rate Act. He confessed that he had a feeling almost of despondency with respect to the future in Ireland, from the reports contained in the large blue book upon the Table. That feeling did not arise from the state of the potato crop, but from the picture contained in that large blue book of the intimidation under which the relief committees acted, and the jobbing which prevailed in the administration of the law. He thought the districts in which the provisions of this Bill were to be carried into operation, were infinitely too large. He very much doubted, too, whether the Irish landlords would be disposed to borrow money under the conditions imposed on them; for whatever disposition they might feel to relieve their fellow-subjects, he doubted whether they could recover that increase in their rents which it would be necessary to exact in order to pay the interest of the sums borrowed from Government. He admitted that some of the works under the present system were unnecessary, and that it was difficult to find out those which might be of material service to the country. Yet he was satisfied that, without some such means of employing the poor scattered over the country, the means of purchasing food would not be furnished to the people. The principle of the Labour-rate Act was to give every man food who had the power of giving labour in exchange for it. But how was food to be purchased if no labour was required? It was distinctly avowed, too, that the new Poor-law Act, and the Act authorizing the loans to landlords, were to proceed pari passu. So that any new presentments were conditional on the passing of an Act which might not pass for a considerable time, proposing, as it did, to make exchanges as to the present poor law. He thought the only difference between the operation of this and the Labour-rate Act would be that one gave food for labour, and under the other food would be given for nothing. He thought this measure a good one as an auxiliary to other measures; but as it stood it really amounted to nothing more than giving out of the hard earnings of the people of this country food without exacting labour in return.


said, that as to the former Act, of which the noble Earl spoke with something like reverence, and the proposed substitute for it, he knew not whether the noble Earl was present when he moved the second reading of this Bill; but if he had been, he must have recollected that he had expressed his regret that the present was not accompanied with the other Bills introduced by the Government as to Ireland. He thought, however, they were justified in proposing it, as it was intended by it to give immediate relief. As to the advances to the landlords being made at the same time that the Poor Relief Bill was extended, he had stated at an early period of the Session, and also at the second reading of this Bill, that it was desirable to consider both measures together, as under one of them the landlords (particularly of certain estates) would be enabled to meet the great change proposed in the domestic industry of the country under the other. He entertained a confident hope that the landlords would readily avail themselves of the facilities offered under one of the Acts for applying capital to the cultivation of the land. The noble Earl (Ellenborough) had allowed that there was a great moral principle in the Labour-rate Act; but he was sorry to say that the Government had found that great abuses had been practised under this Act; and that, above all, great intimidation had been used for the employment of parties who ought never to have been engaged. No man could more sensibly feel the injury arising from these abuses than he (the Marquess of Lansdowne), but he must say that great advantages had been obtained under the Act; the efforts of Her Majesty's Government had been very effectual in putting down those abuses, and great progress had been made in different parts of the country in the prevention of intimidation, and he was happy to say that the employment of labour was now being carried on in the most peaceable manner; he could assure the House that Her Majesty's Goverment had great hopes of putting down intimidation altogether. Under all the circumstances, the matter was too important not to secure the vigilant attention of Her Majesty's Government. He proposed to move the third reading of the Bill on Monday.

Amendment reported.

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