HL Deb 15 July 1847 vol 94 cc324-9

moved the Third Reading of the Poor Laws Administration Bill.


had serious objections to this Bill, and in order to record those objections he should take the sense of the House upon its third reading. He objected to the manner in which it was proposed to pay the chief officer, the President of the Poor Law Administration, who was to be entitled to hold a seat in the Commons' House of Parliament. After the Bill had passed the Commons, and had gone through a second reading in their Lordships' House, the salary had been fixed at 2,000l. per annum; but power was given in the same clause to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury to alter that amount from time to time. Now this was not a decorous manner of providing for a public functionary, upon whom the most delicate and difficult duties would devolve. Again, he must remind the House that this measure would authorize the removing from office, without any sort of pension or compensation, two gentlemen who had not only since 1834 carried the New Poor Law into effect, but who had borne all the odium (which he admitted to have been considerable) of the working of that measure. He alluded to Mr. Chadwick and Mr. Nicholls. Those gentlemen had been subjected most undeservedly to public clamour, to gross and grievous misrepresentations—the dictionary had been ransacked for terms sufficiently opprobrious to be applied to them—they had been held up as cruel, unfeeling, hard-hearted, as grinders of the poor, as the tyrants of Somerset House, as dictators—in fact, every term of vituperation had been levelled at these two learned and meritorious individuals; though the only blame that attached to them was, that whilst others had been disposed to flinch from their duty, they had stood firm, and borne the brunt. If they had been supported, he (Lord Brougham) believed that 99 out of 100 of the complaints which had been made would never have been heard of. Mr. Chadwick had left his profession (the bar), and for sixteen years had filled the office of Secretary to the Poor Law Commission. What chance had he of obtaining practice after such an absence? Mr. Nicholls had relinquished employment producing from 2,000l. to 2,500l. per annum; and yet both of these gentlemen, after the most meritorious public service, were to be left entirely without employment and without compensation. Of his (Lord Brougham's) friend, Mr. Nicholl, whom however he only knew as a public man, he felt bound to speak openly. When the Act had passed in 1834, he (Lord Brougham) knowing how much of its provisions had proceeded from Mr. Nicholl, at once resolved to plant him at the Board of Commissioners if he would accept the place. He sent for him, and he prevailed with him to give up a lucrative, independent, and quiet place at Birmingham. He did so, holding Mr. Nicholls' services to be quite essential to the measure's success. Mr. Nicholls was thus stript of his whole income, and for doing his duty to the country. With regard to Mr. Chad-wick, his services had not been confined to the duties of his office as Secretary to the Poor Law Board. His exertions on the subject of sanatory reform had led to the Health of Towns Bill; a measure which he (Lord Brougham) would have supported, even though the city of London was excluded from its operation; and which, if passed, would have furnished the means of continuing Mr. Chadwick in the public service. On all these grounds he should move as an Amendment that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.


thought it his duty to bear testimony to the character and ability of Mr. Chadwick. He had not the least hesitation in saying that the principal praise of the administration of the Poor Law was due to that gentleman. He never knew any one possess, in such a degree as Mr. Chadwick did, the faculty of making himself master of a subject, both in its principle and its details. He felt convinced that, but for the assistance of a person like Mr. Chadwick, possessing the same knowledge of the working of the old Poor Law, it would have been impossible to carry out the new law with any chance of success; and that whatever offence he had given as Secretary of the Poor Law Board, had arisen entirely from an honest zeal in carrying out in its integrity the principle of that law. He hoped the Government would not lose sight of Mr. Chadwick's claims; for an act of great injustice would be done unless some provision were made for him.


said, he should at least vote for the rejection of the clause touching the wholesale dismission of the officers. It appeared to him that this clause was framed for the purpose of getting quit of Mr. Chadwick by Act of Parliament rather than by the ordinary means of dismission by letter, which they were ashamed to have recourse to.


said: I shall only address a few observations to your Lordships in reply to those which have been made by my noble and learned Friend, and by the right rev. Prelate, whose observations are entitled to the highest deference, not only from his general high character, but also because of the useful, honourable, and laborious part he took in framing the original Poor Law Amendment Bill. So, also, with regard to my noble and learned Friend, who not only took an active share in the forming of the Act, but who, in fact, suggested the names of the parties that were afterwards employed. But my noble and learned Friend complains that these officers are now to be sent adrift. It must, however, be remembered that they at first accepted their situations upon the footing of the Bill being one of a temporary nature, which Parliament might or might not think fit to continue—that the measure was proposed as an experiment—and that they were liable at any time either to be dismissed altogether, or to become subject to an entirely new form of organization. But I am far from questioning the equitable claims of these officers to be employed in other departments of the public service; and with regard to those two distinguished individuals, to whom both my noble and learned Friend and the right rev. Prelate alluded. Mr. Nicholls and Mr. Chadwick—I am far from saying that their claims, either in regard to their services in the preliminary inquiry, or afterwards in carrying out the law, should not be attended to by the present or by any succeeding Government. They are not entitled to retiring pensions, for no such expectation was ever held out to them; but, on the other band, though I will not defend the discretion of every act of one of these gentlemen—and I am glad to find my noble and learned Friend does not defend it—still I do not think that that diminishes his claim to other employment. The noble and learned Lord complains of the mode in which the salary of the Chief Commissioner in the present Bill has been dealt with, as if there had been some mode of concealment practised; but the mode adopted with respect to this matter is the same as has been adopted in every analogous case. My noble and learned Friend says it was not stated in the House of Commons what the salary was to be, and that the House of Commons did not inquire; but the House of Commons did not inquire for a very good reason, because they knew very well that not a shilling of their salaries could be paid till the vote for them was passed in the estimates; and this was always the case in regard to such Bills. In the late Poor Law Bill, which my noble and learned Friend had charge of in its passage through the House, the salaries were left out of the Bill till it went down to the House of Commons, and there they were brought forward first in the estimates. There has been no concealment with regard to these salaries; but they could not be officially fixed till they were determined by the vote of the House of Commons. I have no hesitation in saying, that if any error has been committed in these salaries—considering the duties imposed upon them—it has been in fixing them too low. That is my opinion. At the same time, I need not say that these salaries will at all times be under the control of Parliament, so that they may be either increased or diminished as circumstances may require.


said, with regard to the House of Commons not inquiring into the salaries, all he could say was, that they had shown little constitutional curiosity in not asking the question.


objected to the improper position in which the new Commissioner was to be placed. There ought to be a new Secretary of State, with the care of the poor. If they expected to obtain a man that would discharge a disagreeable office in an inferior position, and with a small salary, he thought they were expecting what they would not get.


said, the salary of the Chief Commissioner was the same as was attached to the President of the Board of Trade.

On question that the word "now" stand part of the Motion, House divided:—Contents 33; Non-contents 10: Majority 23.

List of the CONTESTS.
St. Albans Clanricarde
Grafton Lansdowne
Buccleuch Westminster
Grey Cottenham
Minto Stafford
Devon Beaumont
Suffolk Montfort
Wicklow Foley
Besborough Dunalley
Auckland Kinnaird
Charlemont Wrottesley
Scarborough Camoys
Waldegrave Stratford
Fitzhardinge Campbell
VISCOUNT. Monteagle
Falkland Churchill
BISHOP. Wharncliffe
St. Asaph
List of the NOT-CONTENTS.
DUKES. Rosse
Buckingham Lovelace
Cleveland VISCOUNT.
EARLS. Combermere
St. Germans LORDS.
Stradbroke Redesdale
Radnor Brougham

Bill read 3a.

On the question that the Bill do pass.


moved the omission of the words at the end of the 10th Clause— And all Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Clerks, Messengers, and other Officers appointed and employed by the said Poor Law Commissioners in the Business of their Office, shall cease to hold their several Offices and Employments.

On question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill:—Resolved in the affirmative.

Bill passed.

House adjourned.

The following Protest was entered on the Journals of the House against the Poor Laws Administration Bill:


1. Because this Bill tends to subject to party influences, partialities, and animosities, a branch of administration which, above all others, ought to be carefully kept free from them.

2. Because a Committee of the House of Commons having, after a long investigation, reported that "the proceedings of the Commissioners" appear, in certain particulars, to "have been irregular and arbitrary, not in accordance with the statute under which they exercise their functions, and such as to shake public confidence in their administration of the law," it seems more reasonable to suppose that any obloquy which may have attached to the law or the administration of it in other particulars, may have arisen rather from that administration and the fault of the administrators, than from the previsions of the law itself, or the constitution of the Commission.

3. Because the influence of public clamour and the fear of misrepresentation on the one hand, and the desire of popularity on the other (which I believe to have led in a great degree to these irregular and arbitrary proceedings), are likely to act with greater force on a person necessarily connected with party, and constantly involved in political discussions, than on one carefully separated from both.

4. Because, when such misconduct has been proved, or even charged, it seems more natural, more consistent with justice, and, above all, more likely to lead to a better administration of the law in future, that a searching investigation should take place before an impartial tribunal (as has been heretofore done in the case of the maladministration of other public boards), than that this Bill should be adopted, which, by providing for the entire and immediate removal of all persons connected with the Commission, makes no discrimination between those who have honestly and faithfully fulfilled their duties, and acted in the true spirit of the law, and those who by negligence, ignorance, or folly have violated both the letter and intention of it; and because the removal of them all indiscriminately without proof of misconduct, or any compensation to those who have relinquished their professions, and devoted themselves wholly to the business of the Commission, is unjust to individuals, and is detrimental to the public interest, inasmuch as it discourages persons of talent from leaving their own pursuits in order to attend to the public service.



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