HL Deb 18 May 1847 vol 92 cc1040-51

On the Motion that this Bill be now read 3a.


said, that he did not rise for the purpose of raising any objection to proceeding with the Bill at the stage to which it had now attained; but he begged to draw their Lordships' attention to the effect which this measure was likely to have on the clergy of the Established Church of England in Ireland. He believed, that not merely their interest but their actual existence must depend on the alteration of this Bill. He would beg to state to their Lordships the substance of a letter which he had received from a clergyman of the diocese of Lismore, who had been for thirty years the incumbent of a parish in which the tithe rent-charge was 194l. a year. That income was payable half-yearly, in May and November; and it was stated in the letter that the poor-rate in the electoral division under the temporary Act was 10s. 10d. for the half year. The consequence would be, that the rev. gentleman would, if such a rate was continued, be left without a single farthing of income to pay his curate, or for the support of his family. He believed that that was not a solitary instance of the hardship to which clergymen would be subjected. But their Lordships could not imagine what would be the operation of the Bill unless they ascertained the actual amount of charge upon each electoral division. He believed the operation of the measure would be such as their Lordships had no idea of. He thought it would be found to include everything that was most objectionable in the endowment of the Irish clergy, together with everything that was objectionable in the voluntary system. Not that he would have it supposed that he objected to the principle of endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy. He wished their Lordships had the wisdom to endow the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland. It was a measure most needed, and it was one which they must pass at last. The next point to which he would call their Lordships' attention was the necessity that they should see the consequences of the Bill before them, as well as of the temporary measure of relief, so far as regarded the elective franchise in Ireland. They should recollect, that the fact of receiving relief disfranchised the recipient. By the words of an Act still in force, it was declared that relief given to a militiaman should not disfranchise him, provided he at the time was engaged in actual service, thereby conveying the inference, or rather more than an inference, that if he had not been in actual service at the time of receiving relief he would have been disfranchised. By the Reform Act, also, it was provided that no person should be allowed to register as a voter who should have received relief at any time during the twelve months preceding registration. In considering that question, it should not be said that it was an interference with the privileges of the other House. He knew that it was; but in a matter like that, where the overlooking of the effects might cause the disfranchisement of the great body of electors in Ireland, it was necessary that it should be looked to. He had given notice that he would call the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers to the question; and he wished, through the medium of the publicity which the proceedings of that House received, to call the attention of the other House of Parliament to it. It was a matter which ought to be considered at once and decided on, especially on the eve of a general election. The third point to which he would direct their Lordships' attention was the fact that he did not think they had sufficiently considered the effects of the Bill upon the general peace and tranquillity of the country. They would legalize by it the collection of large assemblies of the people, that it would be impossible to disperse without the active aid of the constabulary. They should recollect that large bodies of distressed people assembled together were very indiscriminate in the object of their anger, and that the very persons who had been the instruments of relief, and the channels through which the munificence of Parliament had flowed to the Irish poor, had been, in many instances, objects of attack and ill usage. They should remember that in all cases of famine and riots arising from distress, in every part of the world, those riotings had led, not to the seizure merely of food for the suffering and destitute, but to the actual destruction of those provisions which had been stored for their necessities, through the infuriated ignorance of the sufferers themselves. The most undivided and unenviable responsibility of the measure, as it stood, rested upon Her Majesty's advisers. Had the Amendments proposed in that House been adopted and allowed to remain a part of the Bill, he thought it would have been much better; but in that case, if it had failed in its operation, the blame would have been thrown upon the Lords, and not upon the Government.


, if he could believe the operation of the Bill would have the same effect as that produced by the Temporary Relief Act, would think it one of the most grievous calamities that had ever happened to the country. He regretted that the Amendments which he had proposed had not been adopted; but he believed there were sufficient safeguards in the Bill already to prevent those ruinous effects to the clergy which his noble Friend near him apprehended.


made a few observations which were inaudible.


said, there was this difference between the temporary and the permanent measure, that by the Temporary Relief Act relief was given in food only, whereas by the permanent Act relief was to be given out of the workhouse in money as well as food. There was, besides, under the temporary Act, a very valuable aid given to private benevolence, for those sums subscribed by voluntary contribution, and forwarded to the relief committees, were met by equal sums contributed from the national resources. Under the permanent Act, no such assistance would be given, so that noble Lords need not be so sanguine as to its operation. He had been greatly surprised to find, by a Bill which had been introduced into their Lordships' House, that a power of removing Irish paupers was to be given to England and Scotland, whilst no such power of removing English or Scotch paupers was to be given to Ireland. The measure appeared to be one calculated for the relief of English towns, not of Irish distress.


believed that the whole complaint made by the Irish clergy regarding the operation of the Bill upon their interests was, that they were to be rated upon the gross amount of their incomes, and not upon the net amount. If that wore the case—and he did not think they were under any other peculiar disadvantage—their position would be this: if the whole amount of the poor-rates for the year were 20s. in the pound, the clergy would receive just nothing for themselves, the whole amount of their rent-charge being absorbed; but if the rates should amount to, say 25s. in the pound, during the whole course of the year, the clergyman would be no worse off. But how stood the landlord? The tenant having power to deduct one-half the poundage of the rate from his rent, he would do so till the rate exceeded 40s. in the pound; while the landlord could deduct from the tithe rent-charge no more than the 20s., that being the whole rent-charge the landlord would actually remain liable for, and be out of pocket the remaining 5s. or 20s. as the rate happened to be 25s. or 40s. in the pound. So that there was the advantage on the part of the clergy that they would receive nothing, whilst the landlord would receive nothing and be minus 5s. additional. In the present hopeless, helpless condition of Ireland, the clergy had nothing to complain of. With regard to the electoral franchise, whatever might be the result, and whether the whole of the Irish constituencies were, as his noble Friend anticipated, to be disfranchised or not by the operation of this measure, he hoped to heaven their Lordships would never adopt the principle of having a pauper constituency.


said, that that was the third time on which the Bill had been discussed; he would, therefore, not go into any of the questions which had been raised regarding it, further than to protest against the assertion of the noble Earl opposite, that any measure had been brought into that House with the object of relieving English towns at the expense of Ireland. Looking at the condition of Ireland only, and not looking to the state of any place in England, he was convinced of the necessity of the measure. The proposition had been made for Ireland only, and the necessity for something of the kind was so pressing that they should not shrink from its adoption. He would not go into the other questions that had been raised. As to the complaints of the clergy, they would point rather to the necessity for an amendment in the Church Temporalities Act, than to any alteration in the Bill before their Lordships. And as to the question of the franchise, he quite agreed with his noble Friend behind him in thinking that it would be an act of insanity to erect a pauper constituency. The other matters he was not in a situation to enter into. After the Bill had been read a third time, the Amendments might be discussed in their proper order; and he therefore trusted their Lordships would allow the third reading to take place.


said, that he had voted that the Bill be permanent, because he felt that some measure of the kind was essential in the present condition of Ireland; and because he was satisfied, after what had taken place, that a temporary measure would be comparatively useless. He deprecated the dependence on England which had hitherto taken place; but he felt that a great debt of gratitude was owing to England for the exertions which this country had made for the relief of Ireland. Even the repealer could hardly, after what had taken place, use the term "Saxon" as a word of reproach. He hoped all sects and classes would unite to carry out this measure in such a way as to show that Ireland was determined for the future to rely upon herself for the amelioration of the condition of the people of that country.


could not agree with the anticipations of the noble Marquess as to the effect of this Bill; for he was convinced that its operation would be most disastrous to Ireland. Hardly two noble Lords, whether connected altogether with Ireland, or with that country and England, had expressed similar opinions as to the probable results of this measure. He did not agree with the opinion that the responsibility of this Bill was entirely to rest upon Government; but he felt that great responsibility rested on them for not Saving attended to the doubts of those connected with Ireland, and also with having listened with too willing an ear to the representations made to them elsewhere by the suggestors of such a measure; although he admitted they had introduced some improvements into it in that House which manifested some feeling of the danger they feared the country might be exposed to. He told the Government, that House, and the House of Commons, that Ireland could not be rescued from the abyss into which she had fallen, without the continued aid and assistance of England. He did not stand there to defend all the landlords of Ireland; for he felt that some had neglected the management of their estates, and had allowed the present disastrous state of things to grow up; but many of them had done much to improve the condition of the people. It was true, according to the Act of Elizabeth, that not the land alone should he chargeable with the support of the poor, but all property; therefore, he regretted that such a doctrine with respect to the landed gentry of Ireland should be so prominently put forward; but he believed this was done to such an extent, as it was flattering to the gentry of England. He was convinced that this Act could not be carried out for a twelvemonth; but if a new Par- liament assembled before Christmas, it would have to make most serious alterations in it, if not to repeal it.


felt how painful it was to differ from one for whom he entertained such feelings of regard as he did for his noble Friend who had just sat down. He thought that the large majorities by which that Bill had been carried, in both that and the other House, showed how general the feeling was in favour of it; and in addition to this, it had received the support of some of the highest authorities in the country. When such complaints were made against the adoption of out-door relief, noble Lords should recollect that in many parts of the west of Ireland, and more especially in Mayo and Galway, there were hardly any workhouses, and even in those the poor could not get relief. The danger did not arise from the out-door relief, but from the present state of Mayo. Those who had objected to this Bill had not pointed out how the present evils could be remedied. He did not believe that the Bill would be attended with any danger to Ireland, although for some years it would be a heavy burden on the land. In the fervent hope that it would relieve the condition of Ireland, he should give his cordial support to the measure.


protested against the Bill, because he was confident it would never work out the good effects which Her Majesty's Ministers anticipated. He was certain it would not, for any continuance of time, prevent the sufferings that the people of Ireland were now enduring; and that it would only end in producing greater evils than now existed in that country, and lead to the entire ruin of the farmers and ratepayers, whose welfare it nevertheless professed to protect. He warned their Lordships not to persevere with this measure; for if they hoped to carry it by compelling the people to give up their holdings, whether by arbitrary power or by legal means, they might depend upon it, that, however peaceable the people might be for a time, human nature would not endure oppression beyond a certain limit, and they might expect that ultimately the people would adopt a system very different from that of more passive resistance.


next addressed the House; but the noble Lord was quite inaudible.

Bill read 3a.

LORD MONTEAGLE moved the addition, by way of rider, of the following clause:— And whereas the payment out of the poor's rate of rents due, or which may at any time hereafter become due, from destitute persons receiving relief, under this Act or the herein-first-before recited Act, or the payment of wages or in aid of wages to such persons out of any monies which may be advanced, raised, or expended under any Act for the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland, is an abuse which should be prohibited by law, and punished: be it further enacted, that it shall not be lawful to any board of guardians, or relieving officers, or any persons on their behalf, to pay to any destitute person receiving relief under this or the hereinbefore recited Act, any sum, or to pay for the account or advantage of such persons, any sum, out of monies advanced or levied for the relief of the destitute, in satisfaction of any rent for which destitute persons are or may be liable, or in aid of the wages of labour which such destitute person is receiving or entitled to receive; and that if, on the audit of the accounts of any union, it shall be proved to the satisfaction of the auditors that any relief shall have been given contrary to this enactment, any sum charged for such relief shall be struck out and disallowed from the said accounts, in the same manner as is now provided in respect to any other payment made contrary to law; provided always, that nothing herein contained shall prevent the relieving officer from giving provisional relief in cases of urgent necessity in lodging, until the next meeting of the guardians in the manner hereinbefore provided.


, while approving of the object of the clause, considered that, as it was framed, it would very much fetter the administration of the law; for, by the introduction of stringent terms to prevent abuse, a check would frequently be given to the granting of relief in cases in which it was proper to be granted.

Clause negatived.

EARL GREY moved an Amendment on the 8th Clause, the object of which was to render it imperative on a child to support its parents in the same way as is provided in the English Poor Law.


then moved an Amendment on Clause 10, regulating the circumstances under which persons holding more than a quarter of an acre of land should give it up on applying for relief, and rendering it imperative on landlords to accept the surrender of land in such cases.


expressed his belief that the provision for refusing relief to all parties who might hold more than a quarter of an acre of land, until they should have given up their holdings, could not be beneficially carried into effect during the present great emergency in Ireland. It might be advisable to insert such a provision in the Bill if Ireland were in a normal condition, or in a condition resembling that of this country; but considering the millions of persons who were at present in a state of absolute destitution in Ireland, it appeared to him that that provision would operate most harshly, and was calculated to drive great masses of the people to a state of desperation.


deprecated discussion upon the Bill generally while a particular clause only was before the House; and expressed a hope that the clause, as amended, would be allowed to stand. He thought they could only lay down a general principle, and then leave to the discretion and judgment of those to whom they intrusted the administration of the law the management of the details. He was afraid, that if justice, in the opinion of their Lordships, was not likely to be done to the parties whose interests were at issue, by this clause, the only alternative open to them was to strike the clause out of the Bill. He had already stated, on a former evening, his objection to such a course as this; and, in the then state of the House, he believed it would not be advisable to take such a step.


considered that the objections urged by the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) were purely imaginary.

After some conversation the Amendments were agreed to.


then moved the clause of which he had given notice:— And be it enacted, that from and after the passing of this Act it shall be lawful for the owner of any property rated to the relief of the poor at an annual value of not less than 201., to enter into an agreement with any person occupying the same by which the said tenant shall become alone liable for all the rates levied upon such property for the relief of the poor; and that, after having entered into such arrangement, it shall not be lawful for the said tenant to deduct from the rent agreed to be paid by him for such property any portion of the sums levied upon or paid by him on account of rates for the relief of the poor.


was not now disposed to express any decided objection to the principle involved in this clause. Such a voluntary agreement as that proposed might in many cases in Ireland be desirable; but, under present circumstances, and after the Bill had progressed to this stage, the House of Commons would probably look with disfavour upon such a clause, and might consider that its introduction was an interference with their privileges. For tin's reason, and because, also, in a very short time the Bill would require reconsideration, when the principle now brought forward might be most appropriately discussed, he trusted the noble Lord would not press his Motion.


expressed a most decided conviction of the absolute necessity of such a clause as this to the good working of the measure. The only objection was that of the technical character referred to by the noble Earl; and though, if he believed that the introduction of this or of any similar clause would endanger the Bill, he should not give it his support, he should yet feel it his duty to vote for the Motion, should it be pressed by his noble Friend.


reminded their Lordships that they had gone through this Bill most laboriously, and entreated that they would now let it pass without creating any further disturbance. He did not question the importance of the principle, and he would say nothing now of the value of the suggestion; but, after the intimation given by the noble Earl, that the House of Commons might resist such an encroachment upon their privileges, he offered his humble but most earnest advice that the clause be withdrawn.


looked upon this as the most important clause proposed to be introduced since the Bill had been before their Lordships; but if the measure could in any way be endangered by their Lordships assenting to such an Amendment, he would only request the noble Lord to consent to its withdrawal. The remark made by the noble Earl, in reference to the privileges of the House of Commons, was decisive. The clause could not possibly come into operation, were it now agreed to, for two or three years; and within that time it was not impossible the Bill might be brought under the revision of Parliament.


said, the noble Lord would recollect that when a previous Poor Law was under consideration, the Amendment introduced, while the Bill was in the House of Lords, by the Duke of Wellington, was consented to by the House of Commons, and that that assembly did not consider their privileges had been at all invaded, though the Amendment was moved under circumstances similar to the present.


would not press a division, if the Government feared that the Bill would be endangered, or that the privileges of the House of Commons were in any way interfered with by such a clause.


admitted the precedent of 1838, quoted by the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle); but the noble Lord was aware that the Amendment had received the concurrence of the House of Commons, only after much difficulty, and a great deal of debating which had not been made public. He would not say that this clause would cause the rejection of the Bill; but its introduction would undoubtedly lead to this perplexity, that it would make the House of Commons the more unwilling to agree to other clauses introduced in their Lordships' House, and of a most important tendency.

Clause withdrawn.

EARL GREY moved an Amendment to the 16th Clause, to enact that the highest ratepayers having been appointed ex-officio guardians, should, under certain circumstances, be permitted to delegate their authority to their qualified agents, even though such agents should not be among the highest ratepayers.

Amendment agreed to.

LORD ABINGER moved the insertion of a clause limiting the amount of the rate to be levied for the relief of the poor, upon the landlord or tenant, or both, to one-sixth of the net rent.


opposed it. It would declare that the rate for the relief of the most extreme case of destitution should in no case exceed 3s. 4d. in the pound.

Clause negatived.


asked if a measure for the suppression of vagrancy in Ireland would be brought before the House? They had imposed a great burden on property, and he thought they should enact with the present measure a Bill for checking vagrancy.


concurred with the noble Earl that a Vagrancy Act should accompany a Poor Law; a Bill with this object had nearly passed its final stage in the House of Commons, he believed with the general consent of all parties; it would soon be before their Lordships, by whom he had no doubt it would be as generally supported.

Bill passed.—House adjourned.

The following Protest was entered on the Journals of the House against the Third Reading of the Irish Poor Bill:


1. Because every law, giving to the destitute a claim to relief, must of necessity have a tendency to induce amongst the objects of its care, improvident habits; and this tendency is increased in more than an equal ratio, as the range of objects to which it applies is enlarged, and the nature of the relief extended.

2. Because the Irish people seem; either from natural constitution or from adventitious circumstances, peculiarly prone to such habits; and to them their present distress may, in my opinion, he mainly traced.

3. Because the tendency of this Bill, therefore, is, in its result, rather to increase than to diminish the probability of the recurrence of that distress.

4. Because it appears that there is in Ireland a great want of the machinery necessary for the proper administration of this law.

5. Because this Bill contemplates the necessity of giving out-door relief, and it has been proved by experience in England, that it is very difficult to resist the pressure which is at times brought to bear against the checks imposed by law for securing the wholesome administration of such relief; and because the experience of the working of the 9th and 10th Victoria, c. 107, in Ireland, proves it to be probable that the difficulty there will be still greater; and, if those checks are once broken through, the total absorption of the property of the country and the entire demoralisation of the people will be the necessary consequence.

6. Because this Bill, intended to effect a complete and lasting change in the habits and manners of the people of Ireland, avowedly an experiment, admitted by all to be a difficult, and characterized by some of its supporters as a doubtful and hazardous one, has been brought in and passed under the excitement of a grievous, accidental, and temporary calamity, which precludes its receiving that calm and dispassionate consideration which so important a measure demands.

7. Because it is notorious that the desire generally manifested for a Bill of this nature has had its origin in the inconvenience resulting from this accidental and temporary calamity, the consequent influx into England of destitute Irish families; and is suggested not so much by the hope that it will benefit the people of Ireland, as in the expectation—which I believe will turn Out to be quite fallacious—that it will prevent the recurrence of similar inconvenience.

8. Because, therefore, I consider this Bill in itself objectionable; not calculated to ameliorate the condition of the people of Ireland; incapable of being satisfactorily administered; likely to be destructive to property and dangerous to the independence of the poor in Ireland; introduced and passed at an unfit time and without due consideration; and, though called for by the people of England, called for on erroneous grounds.


MONTEAGLE, of Brandon.

For the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th reasons,