§ Order of the Day for the House being put into Committee read; moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.
said: My Lords, I do not wish to offer any obstruction to the discussion of this Bill in detail in Committee; on the contrary, I think it desirable that it should receive a more full and more detailed discussion than I am afraid it is likely to do at the advanced period at which the Session has now arrived. But, my Lords, I feel it my duty, before we go into Committee, to offer a few observations on such parts connected with this subject as cannot properly come under discussion 365 when we are considering the mere clauses of the Bill, and to call your notice to the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government with reference to this important question, and to the omissions, as it appears to me, of which the Bill is guilty to a very great extent. And I confess that I look at this Bill with very great regret and very great disappointment—not that I say that here and there there may not be in it trifling and advantageous modifications in the existing poor-law; but, as a whole, the Bill, I must confess, considering the time given for framing its provisions, and the attention which has been directed to it, does appear to me to deal very inadequately with any of the existing grievances arising under the present Irish poor-law; and some of the provisions, so far from diminishing the objections to the present system, make it infinitely more oppressive and more dangerous than it is as it stands at present. Your Lordships are aware that at the commencement of the present Session Her Majesty's Government decided, contrary to the feeling of the majority of this House, on appointing a Committee of this and the other House of Parliament to inquire into the existing poor-law, and suggest any alterations that were likely to amend any imperfections that might be found to exist; and I confess that, as I was apprehensive would be the case at the time the Committees were appointed, so the actual result has proved, that the labours of the Committee would extend over the whole Session, and that when we arrived at the period for legislation it would be found impossible to—or, at all events, the Government would not adhere to the recommendations of the Committee. I gave the opinion before, and I give it still, that a question of such vast importance as the poor-law ought to be dealt with by the Government as a Government on their own responsibility, and furnished with that information which they have peculiar means of obtaining from the official servants of the Crown, and which must be greater than can be obtained by any other mode. But what was the course pursued with regard to the amendment of this law? You appointed Committees by the Act of the Government. Well, have you followed the recommendations of these Committees? have you acted on their judgments? have you dealt even with the subjects which they told you were most important to be dealt with? have you not, in several cases, gone in a direction diametrically the op- 366 posite of that pointed out to you by the Committee? And, what is altogether without a precedent in the history of legislation, having first appointed a Committee of Inquiry, you brought before it one part of a Bill proposing a general rate in aid over the whole of Ireland for making up the local deficiencies. That question in the House of Commons undoubtedly was decided in the first instance without hearing any evidence; but your Lordships' Committee took a different course, with the sanction of your Lordships; for after hearing evidence in great detail till Easter, just before the recess it came to a decision adverse to the rate in aid—stating, as the grounds for that opinion, that it was impracticable, injudicious, impolitic, oppressive, and would not accomplish the objects for which it was intended. And let it not be forgotten that that was the decision of a Committee selected by the Government from those persons most conversant with the subject and competent to give advice—every Member of the Committee, excepting those who were themselves Members of the Government, unanimously concurring in condemning the rate in aid on all these grounds—the actual Members of the Government stood single and alone in that Committee, even the Members of their own choice resisting them on the question of the rate in aid—and yet, notwithstanding the judgment of that Committee, the Government insisted upon pressing the rate in aid on the adoption of this House. Your Lordships, however, decided—and wisely, as I think, having given your opinion and expressed your judgment—that you would not take upon yourselves the responsibility of rejecting the rate in aid, when the only alternative put before you by the Government was the adoption of that measure, on the one hand, or the taking upon yourselves the responsibility of the possible great amount of starvation in Ireland. I think you acted wisely in not accepting that responsibility; but your opinion, and the opinion of the Committee appointed as the proper tribunal to examine the question by the Government themselves, was deliberately set aside by the Government which appointed that tribunal; and the rate in aid was forced upon Parliament in the face of that adverse decision. The Select Committee, after hearing an immense amount of further evidence, made a considerable number of other important recommendations; but on comparing the Bill before the House with the Committee's 367 report, I find that only two or three of their recommendations have been adopted, and that subjects have been totally passed by which the Committee regarded as of the deepest importance; and that the course adopted in this Bill, as I shall presently show, is to make the provisions of the present law against which the Committee reported infinitely more oppressive and stringent than they are already. It was said that the labours of the Committee were so great that it was impossible to wait for their report, or ascertain their judgment, and that Government was consequently obliged to proceed upon its own responsibility. But, then, if that were the case, I say we ought to confine our legislation to minor points on which it is next to impossible that difference of opinion can arise; and if the responsibility of advising was to be thrown on the Committee, it was most important that upon all matters of great importance we ought to have waited for the report of the Committee, and deferred our judgment. But the course pursued has been entirely different, and many points have been entirely omitted from the Bill to which attention was not first called by the Committee, but which, both privately and publicly, had been long brought under our notice, and as to the necessity of legislation with regard to which there was no question on the part of anybody. I will take one as an instance. It is in the 13th resolution of your Lordships' Committee, which points out the extreme difficulties of a technical nature—and to consequent injustice and expense—of appeals against the poor-rate, and recommends that they should be dealt with in any general alteration of the poor-law. The noble Lord behind me obtained a Committee to inquire into this very subject of appeals, before which his allegations were fully substantiated; but I can easily understand how it should have been said that that being merely an isolated question, it was not advisable to bring in a Bill to legislate on the subject of appeals alone and by itself; but having had the report of a Committee, and a case of grievance having been substantiated before that tribunal, I cannot understand why, when you are bringing in a general Bill to remedy all the important defects of the existing poor-law, you should entirely omit this most important question, which has been recommended for amendment by your Committee. I go now to another instance. Of all the important points necessary to have 368 settled, is what is commonly called the quarter-acre clause, the object of which is notorious to all, and is one in which everybody agrees. It was important that boards of guardians should be prevented from granting relief to persons who were at the same time in the situations of paupers and recipients of relief, and of landholders who ought to be paying it; and a clause was accordingly introduced for the purpose of distinctly saying that no person in the occupation of more than a quarter of an acre should be entitled to receive relief. Now, opinions have been taken that have raised extreme difficulties with regard to the application of this clause. The question has been raised whether relief to the family was in point of fact relief to the occupier of the land; also, whether the prohibition was only a prohibition with regard to the occupier individually; consequently it has been argued, and, I believe, decided, that a person is not disqualified from obtaining relief, although he does not surrender his land, provided he does not actually occupy the land; and consequently, by the operation of that clause, a man holding ten acres is entitled to obtain relief for himself and his family, though he holds adverse possession of the whole ten acres, provided he satisfies himself with occupying a house and a quarter of an acre, but allow the whole of the remainder to remain absolutely waste, and, by not giving it up to the landlord, renders it incapable of yielding either any produce or rent. Now, that was manifestly a perversion of the intention of the law, and clearly a case of gross abuse; and yet although at a very early period of the Session the attention of the Government was called to the mischievous operation of that clause, and to the necessity of settling the law one way or another, the Bill now before us, introduced by the Government, leaves these difficulties entirely untouched. Here, then, are two great questions on which the law is extremely inconvenient and uncertain, and on which the interpretation of it is at direct variance with the intention of Parliament; and yet neither of them are included in this Bill, although the Government was bound to introduce them in their very first attempts at amending the existing poor-law. Another very important fact, to which your attention is called by the Committee's report, is the very large powers now vested—perhaps from necessity in some cases, but yet most unconstitutionally vested—in the vice-guardians. Now, 369 if any power more than another requires to be strictly guarded and confined within the limits of the absolute necessity of the case, it is the amount of power to be given to vice-guardians, and the extent to which they shall, by their irresponsible authority, be allowed to raise the rates of any union. Your Lordships can hardly be aware, at least those of you who have not had personal experience in the matter cannot be aware, of the immense amount of pecuniary pressure to which the establishments under the existing poor-law are now subject. A statistical return which I hold in my hand, and presented by command of Her Majesty, gives the total expense of the relief granted in Ireland for six months during 1849. The total amount is 958,000l; and I find that 332,000l of that sum is the total expense of the indoor relief—that which was originally contemplated as the sole charge to be thrown upon Ireland; whilst the expense of the establishment and management was no less than 335,000l. So that in six months the expense of the outdoor relief exceeded the whole amount payable for the relief of indoor paupers; and that was in a year of extraordinary pressure. And giving the vice-guardians every credit for conscientiously discharging their duty in every case, I still say it is an enormous power to give to any persons wholly irresponsible to the ratepayers, the distribution of an amount of 1,000,000l. a year, no less than 335,000l. being expended upon salaries alone. There is one recommendation made by the report of the Committee, which I believe meets with the concurrence and approbation of almost every one who has thought on the subject, namely that power should be granted to associate with the local managers a paid assistant guardian for the purpose of advising them in the execution of their duties, and at the same time of checking any attempt at extravagant outlay; while, on the other hand, their local knowledge would supply what the vice-guardians do not and cannot possess, namely, the means of distinguishing between fraudulent and deserving applications for relief, and of checking the greatest abuse, which, although with honest intentions, I am sure has been the consequence of the appointment of vice-guardians. This, I think, is a point which, although a minor detail, is deserving of attention in any Bill introduced under the responsibility of the Government to amend the poor-law. I be- 370 lieve that to make this or any other Bill anything like a real and substant we amendment, you must go a great deal deeper into the question, and make many more important and more extensive alterations than any that are included in the Bill before us. I go the full length of saying—and here I concur with the first recommendation of the Committee, believing that it really touches the whole matter—I say, if you intend to make this poor-law work beneficially, and not as the subject of endless abuse, you must recur to the principle of the original Bill, namely, that, subject to very rare and few exceptions, you will make the administration of indoor relief the only mode in which relief shall be granted at all in Ireland. Without going back to that principle, I am convinced you will leave Ireland to struggle under an amount of payment that will pauperise the whole country, and which is now tending to pauperise even the solvent unions. To retrace your steps you must increase your number of unions and workhouses; and although I perceive you intend to increase these, still I see no tendency in the present Bill to recur to the only sound principle, of confining the relief within the walls of the workhouses, excepting in cases where it was absolutely necessary to relax that rule. You are calling upon Ireland to incur additional expense in erecting new unions and new workhouses; but when they say to you, as they have a right to do, "When you are asking us to build more workhouses, confine the relief within them then," you say "No; we shall impose fresh burdens on you, but at the same time we will not diminish the abuse and extravagance that at present exist." There is another subject which I think is of very great importance. It will be said by the Government, I dare say, that it is intended to rearrange the electoral divisions. But unless I am greatly mistaken, the Boundary Commissioners are now in a condition to lay before you, if you demand it, all their arrangements with respect to the whole of the unions throughout Ireland. But as the law now stands, the Government may hare a veto, or they may have given secret instructions to the commissioners; but at all events we know not on what principle the electoral divisions are to be subdivided. Yet this we know, that the decision of the Boundary Commissioners is not final, because they may be controlled by the Poor Law Commissioners, so that we may re- 371 ceive not the decision of the Boundary Commissioners, but the decision of the Poor Law Commissioners, which shall be final; and next Session we shall he told, "Oh, it is now too late; you gave the Poor Law Commissioners the power to rearrange the rating districts, and now it is too late to interfere! "I do not wish to interfere with the details, but I wish to know what is to be the principle in which this re-arrangement will proceed. Is it to be as far as possible a principle recognising the individual responsibility of the individual proprietor. Because, while I admit the maxim "property has its duties as well as its rights," I say you will impose on one proprietor the duties of another, and sometimes take away rights that belong to that other. On this principle I object to the 2s. rate in aid on the union as mischievous and ill advised; for, observe, the Bill does not say that the 5s. shall be first collected from the electoral division, but as soon as the 5s. is struck in any electoral division, and as soon as the 5s. rate should have been collected as far as expedient and practicable. This will act as an actual premium to non-payment, and be an absolute discouragement to the efforts of the local proprietor to relieve his own poor. I myself sent out of the country 300 or 400 of my tenantry at an expense of 1,400l. or 1,500l., and thereby relieved the electoral division and union to a proportionate extent. But a neighbour of mine has evicted 375 poor persons on his estate without giving them a single shilling of help, and they are emigrating to other electoral divisions; so that the proprietor who helps his people to emigrate from his own purse has to pay for the pauperism of the man who turns his people out without a fathing. You must meet that case if the landlords are to be enabled to do their duty. I will not now enter into a discussion of the maximum rate, as that will come before us in Committee; but this I must say of it, that I think it a great delusion and fallacy, which can only be maintained by inflicting great injustice. My object is rather to point out what I conceive to be clauses in the Bill inserted against the recommendations of the Committee, or the omissions in the Bill itself. I conceive that, under this Bill, arrears of rate will be permitted so to run up, that after a certain period of time a landlord will find that the fee-simple of his land is actually absorbed by the amount owing to him in the shape 372 of rates, he having paid his proportion of the rate, but the tenant having failed to pay his. A very simple remedy for this state of things was proposed by the Committee of your Lordships' House. They proposed to make it imperative on the Poor Law Commissioners to call on the landlord to state the amount of rate in which the tenant might be indebted to him; and it was proposed that he should be authorised to collect that rate, allowing him 10 per cent on the amount for so doing, and should be empowered to recover the amount by distress and ejectment when-ever the proportion of rate due had gone up to a certain amount. But this Bill, instead of providing relief to the landlord in this respect, makes the law more stringent and oppressive on him than it was before. There is also a provision in the Bill, that, instead of deducting a poundage on the rent, the landlord shall not deduct more than half of the rate actually paid, whatever may be the proportion of rate and rental. But assume that the rate is 5s., the tenant deducts the half, the landlord pays it; but the tenant does not pay his proportion, and the arrears due from the tenant may go on accumulating until they swell up to 20s. in the pound. The 18th and 19th clauses of the Bill provide that all civil decrees may be removable to any of the superior courts in Ireland, and that upon the filing of any such civil decree, it shall, as to all lands against which it has been obtained in respect of arrears of poor-rates, have all the effect of a judgment in a superior court. It would give those decrees the force of a judgment with respect to lands either in Ireland or England. [Lord CAMPBELL was understood to say that these decrees were not applicable to lands in England.] With respect, again, to the question of valuation, one of the great difficulties of the law as it at present stands, is the want of a regular and equitable valuation of land in Ireland; and I find in the Bill no provision for the auditing of the poor-law accounts—a provision which I think of much importance. I have heard it suggested that there should be an annual return called for by the Poor Law Commissioners, and laid before Parliament every Session, showing the cases in which the auditors have disallowed the charges. I concur in the opinion expressed by the Committee, that many districts in Ireland are in such a pauperised condition that no efficient relief can be afforded to the population without having resort to emigration. 373 I Concur with them in thinking that, to a certain extent, power should be given to assist these parties in Ireland in emigrating or migrating to other lands. But the delegation of such powers to irresponsible boards of vice-guardians, would, I think, be liable to great abuse. It appears to mc to be a monstrous proposition that two gentlemen wholly unconnected with the union, and on whom not one farthing of the charge could fall, should have the power at any time to apply any money arising from any rates in defraying the expenses of emigration, and should be empowered to borrow sums on the security of the rates of the union, the only limit being that of 11s. 8d. in the pound. I do not think it possible that Ireland can long stagger under the load of taxation which this Bill imposes upon that country; and the only way to make such a law work well is by greatly diminishing the pressure of taxation upon property. Above all, if any success is to be expected from the working of such a law, you must not involve the whole country in one common ruin of pauperism, by making those unions which are solvent pay for those that are insolvent. Whether from corruption or mismanagement I will not say, but it cannot be denied that the number of solvent unions is greatly on the decrease, while the number of insolvent unions is, on the other hand, greatly increasing. In conclusion, my Lords, I trust I shall be excused for having made these observations on the general tenour and scheme of this Bill—a Bill with respect to which I confess I feel great disappointment, both as to what it contains, and to the omissions which I find in it. I do not see in it any proof of an intention to recur to sound principles. My perusal of it leads me to the belief that Her Majesty's Government have not taken a large and general view of the whole state of Ireland, or of the pressure of poor-law taxation which we find in that country. In that Bill, my Lords, I find some trifling alterations—some trifling modifications of the existing system. But I say, pass it in what way you may—reject some of its obnoxious provisions, as I trust you will, and modify others—I have little hope that it will have the slightest tendency to cure that canker of the poor-law in Ireland which is now eating into the very heart of the country.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I think it would be hardly respectful to the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) not to advert to some of the observations he has addressed to your Lordships, more particularly with respect to what this Bill does and what it does not contain. The noble Lord prefaced his general observations on this Bill, by saying that he thought the Committee appointed by your Lordships on the subject of the Irish poor-law was not the proper tribunal for undertaking this question, but that the object in view would have been better served by the Government taking the responsibility on themselves; and the noble Lord thon went on to remark upon the suggestions which the Committee bad thrown out, but which had not been acted upon in framing the Bill. But with respect to the mode adopted by Her Majesty's Government on this question, let me remind the noble Lord, that however his individual opinion may have been expressed at an early period of the present Session of Parliament, there was a greatly preponderating feeling, more especially on the part of those connected with Ireland, Members of this and of the other House of Parliament, that such a Committee should be appointed, and it was much insisted on that justice could not be done if the opinions of the English and Irish Members could not find expression through the medium of such a Committee. We were met with the cry, "Why do you not take the opinions of witnesses from Ireland, who have seen the practice and working of the law in Ireland, and who alone can point out and assign a remedy for the existing state of things?" Yielding to what I will not call clamour, but the natural expression of feeling, Her Majesty's Government lost no time in appointing Committees in both Houses of Parliament. The noble Lord says that Her Majesty's Government wished to throw the whole responsibility on those Committees. On the contrary, the Government went before the Committee of the other House of Parliament prepared with propositions, some of which were immediately entertained, but others not. The Government were prepared to take the responsibility of the measure, if the Committee assented to it. Under these circumstances the Government did not hesitate a moment to introduce into the other House of Parliament, a measure which they deemed indispensable for preventing the people of Ireland from perishing of starvation—namely, the 375 rate in aid, the principle of which was adopted by the majority in the other House of Parliament. The noble Lord says that the rate in aid was objected to by every noble Lord on the Committee not connected with the Government; but I think that a great number of your Lordships not connected with the Government concurred in that principle. The noble Lord has spoken of the quarter-acre clause, and the proposal made with respect to it. But the conflict of opinion to which a strict interpretation of that clause would have given rise, the positive destruction of the lives of women and children which would take place were that clause adopted, afforded reasons why the clause should not be adopted; but instructions have been given that the relief shall be confined merely to the object of preserving life, and that the period within which that relief shall be granted shall be as short as possible. There is one other point to which the noble Lord alluded—a point of the utmost importance, I admit, and one upon which the noble Lord has not, I think, dwelt at greater length than the importance of the subject deserved. I allude to the importance of returning to the spirit of the original poor-law. Believing that the adoption of the system of outdoor relief was justifiable in the moment of necessity when it was applied, I admit that in a country in which we see such a social system as that in Ireland, it is the duty of the Government and of Parliament to endeavour to recur to that safer, sounder, and more justifiable system which admits of control under the eye of the guardian and inspector, and which alone can stem that torrent of abuse which rushes into the vacuum the moment the door opens to give relief of this nature. There are one or two other clauses of this Bill—one, for instance, providing that until permanent workhouses can be provided, temporary ones shall be hired. Of all the witnesses examined, and who dwelt on the importance of getting rid of the system of outdoor relief, not one of them had contended that it was practicable to abandon the principle until sufficient workhouse accommodation shall have been provided. I admit, however, that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to give up that system as soon as it may be practicable so to do. I think, moreover, that if the resources of Ireland are developed, if the crops turn out to be favourable, and workhouses are erected, there is the certainty before us that at no distant day the desired end will be attained, 376 and the principle of the workhouse test may be universally resumed. Another clause in the Bill—that which exempts all improvements from the imposition of charges on account of rates—I am disposed to attach much importance to. Another matter of very great importance to which the noble Lord has referred, is the subject of the payment of the one-half of the rate by the tenant; and I do think that in relation to this subject my noble Friend has committed an error, when he put it to the House that there was no security for the payment of that one-half. My noble Friend has forgotten that the tenant is bound to produce the receipt for the payment of that one-half.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
hoped there would be a change for the better in that respect. Very able and distinguished Members of the other House of Parliament have turned their attention to the power which is proposed to be given to vice-guardians, and who are to act only with the consent of the Poor Law Commissioners, in doing that which is necessary for the relief of the poor, and whose conduct must be regulated by the advice of the Lords of the Treasury. Now, my Lords, I have to state, in relation to this subject, and with respect to the case put by the noble Lord, when he referred to the probability of a number of paupers rushing in to fill up the place of those who might be assisted to emigrate from an estate, he thought the noble Lord was alluding to his (the Marquess of Lansdowne's) own case—for the noble Lord might have spoken positively of such occurrences.
I stated that 375 persons who were turned out from other electoral divisions, came to settle on my property, after I advanced money to encourage those who were on the property.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
You say, they were charged upon the electoral division. Now, it so happens that the Bill provides a security for that very case; for it provides—That for the purpose of charging the expense of relief to any electoral division, every person making application for relief shall, after the passing of this Act, be deemed to have been resident in such electoral division in which, during the period of three years next immediately before his application for relief, he shall have been longest usually resident, whether by usually occupying any tenement situate or by usually sleeping with- 377 in such district. Provided always, that where any such person shall not have occupied a tenement or slept within any such electoral division for at least twelve months in the whole during the said period of three years, the expense of the relief of such person shall in such case be borne by and charged against the whole union in which he or she is relieved. Provided also, that where any person chargeable to any electoral division shall have received relief, and shall cease to be relieved, and shall thereafter, within the period of twelve months, again begin to receive relief, such last-mentioned relief shall be chargeable on the electoral division to which such person was in the first instance chargeable.Now, my Lords, I ask whether any portion of the Bill affects this question? If the applicant does not conform to the provisions of the Bill, do you suppose that he is not recollected within the electoral division? Now, my Lords, I think I have touched the principal provisions of the Bill.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
I am glad the noble Lord has made the observation. I have to request your Lordships to recollect that the Bill is not proposed as a remedy for all the evils of the Irish poor-laws; but such a mitigation of them as I hope you will consider a safe and proper alteration, and such as you will agree to. The noble Lord has referred at some length to the mode in which the valuation is to be ascertained, and he has dwelt at considerable length upon that subject; but I can assure the noble Lord that an improved system of valuation will be followed up under the Bill so as to secure justice to all parties. I am quite of the opinion that an alteration must take place of the existing boundaries, and the commissioners have turned their attention to this subject; but they are of opinion that it is surrounded with considerable difficulty, at the same time that they express their belief that it will be necessary to look to it on a future occasion. I thank your Lordships for your attention. I have not thought it necessary to address you upon this subject at very great length, because the Committee have considered the provisions of the Bill, clause after clause, and it is therefore the less necessary for me to discuss it minutely.
The EARL of ROSSE
said, the noble Marquess had said, that the principle of outdoor relief would cease at a certain period, and that the Poor Law Commissioners had said so. Now, he (the Earl of Rosse) was surprised at that statement, 378 because the Poor Law Commissioners had required the boards of guardians, both directly and indirectly, to adhere to the system of outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians had resisted the rate in aid in consequence. He had risen for the purpose of dispelling the delusion that the Poor Law Commissioners were unfavourable to the system of outdoor relief; and in order that their Lordships might be able to form a judgment upon that subject, he might state that he had moved for returns about two months ago upon the subject, which would have proved that, but they had not been produced.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, with respect to what had been said of the responsibility of the tenant for the rate, and that the incoming tenant was only responsible for that rate for the time he occupied the land, they had to consider that he was responsible for the 2s. rate in aid beyond the maximum rate, and that he was responsible also for any portion of the pauperism of the union. By subjecting the incoming tenant to that responsibility, they rendered his case hopeless; and until they had applied the principle that the tenant was responsible only for his own share of a particular and defined poor-rate, they would only be going on in a system which would make it unsafe for any capitalist to take land. He believed that the Bill, when it came into operation, would prevent capitalists from becoming purchasers of land in Ireland, and would act still more as a preventive from their becoming occupiers of land in that country. Under the system which must necessarily be created by the Bill, it was in his opinion impossible to redeem the state of things which at present unfortunately existed in Ireland.
§ On Question, resolved in the Affirmative.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ On the 1st Clause being read,
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that, in conformity with the notice he had given, he rose to propose the Amendment which he had placed upon the Journals of the House. Upon a former occasion, he called the attention of their Lordships to the subject of the Amendment which he intended to propose to them; and he had little more to do to induce the House to come to the conclusion which he desired than to state the substance of his Amendment. They had all heard much of the question of the maximum rate upstairs in Committee, and it was his purpose, in proposing his Amend- 379 ment, that they should omit the clause relating to the maximum rate altogether. In the first series of resolutions which his noble Friend the Lord Steward proposed to the Committee, with that candour which belonged to his character, he stated that the rate in aid should depend upon the uniformity of the valuation upon which that rate was to be ascertained. But in the Committee, that proposition found no defenders, and his noble Friend was obliged to withdraw the clause which he had originally proposed. The witnesses examined in favour of the maximum rate had not attempted to defend that proposition, and, although it had been rejected in Committee, that clause was introduced in the Bill. They were, by attempting to inflict that clause upon Ireland, applying a principle which was not recognised by the statute law of England. He would say, first, that it was a principle which was repudiated by the Committee; and, next, that it was a principle which was contrary to the law in England. In England, when they had attempted to impose a maximum rate, they had taken the average of seven years, but they acted differently in the case of Ireland. In England, a maximum rate was found in its operation to be so absurd, that in 1812 they had been obliged to abandon it altogether; and yet, after their own experience of its absurdity, they attempted to introduce it in Ireland. They were legislating upon the principle of a maximum rate, and yet they did not know whether that maximum should vary, in particular districts, from 10s. to 5s., or even in some cases to 2s. 6d. That was, in his opinion, an absurdity, for they were not carrying out their own principle, since in some districts they might add, particularly in some distressed districts, such, for instance, as the districts in Connaught, they might be adding 5s. 6d. more than in other districts, and they might, in some cases, bring it up even to the extent of 15s. or 16s., or, indeed, to any amount. And yet they said that the amount was fixed, and that the purchaser had an assurance that the maximum rate would not be exceeded. But how did they intend to proceed? He objected to the principle of the maximum rate entirely, because of its unjust operation, and also because it was in opposition to the principle of the English poor-law, and further, because its operation would be different in different districts, where the valuation must necessarily be different. He maintained that 380 any such law was a delusion, and contrary to their own poor-law, and he did, therefore, hope that they would not pass any such law. The maximum rate was a fallacy, and by adopting it they were perpetrating a delusion upon the country, and he had no hesitation in saying that if such a proposition were made with regard to England, they would at once reject it; and he asked them, therefore, how they could attempt to pass such a law with respect to Ireland?
§ EARL FORTESCUE
said, the noble Lord was not correct in his statement with respect to the proceedings of the Committee. Upon the proceedings which took place before the Committee, the noble Lord was not entitled to come to the conclusion to which he had arrived. The noble Lord was wrong when he said that the rate in aid had found no defenders in the Committee, although general dissent was certainly expressed from it. The fact was, that there was a great difference of opinion with respect to the maximum rate, and, in consequence, it was found expedient to withdraw the resolution, from a general feeling to consult the feelings of the Committee.
The EARL of WICKLOW
said, he opposed the general principle of a maximum in Committee because he thought it irreconcilable with the principle of a poor-law, but now that the House of Commons, who were the guardians of the public purse, had sent up the Bill with a maximum, it was a virtual admission that in case the maximum was not sufficient, they would supply any deficiency that might arise. The matter, therefore, stood differently before the House from what it did when before the Committee. But it was said, that a maximum would induce persons to purchase property in Ireland. They should first get over the difficulty of procuring purchasers. The great argument was, that it would induce persons to purchase. He believed, as the Bill was framed by Her Majesty's Government, it would have worked; but when he came to look at the Bill as it now stood, instead of holding out any such inducement, it was the most complete deception to say that it would have any such effect. Now, suppose a purchaser came, would be not consider that besides the maximum of 5s., there is the union rating of 2s., and the 6d. rate in aid for two years? But that is not all. They had heard a great deal of the city of London becoming purchasers 381 in the west of Ireland. He would not then consider what the effect of an absentee proprietary was, although he knew something of its working in his part of Ireland. He thought that the blessings conferred by the London companies, where they possessed property, had been wonderfully exaggerated. Supposing a purchaser willing to give twenty years' purchase, he had no doubt the landlord would be very glad to dispose of his land at that price. But when he came to consider that in addition to the 7s. 6d. rate, there was a tithe-rent charge and quit rents, besides the debts incurred in the division—debts which in many cases amounted to the maximum, and in some cases to more than the maximum—the payments on account of the new poor-houses, and a sum of 2s. 6d. in the pound for an emigration fund; what would be his position? What was there left? Why it would not amount to five years' purchase. And yet this was held out as an inducement to the proprietors of the soil, and to monied persons, to come over to Ireland to purchase property, in the supposition of a maximum. Therefore, if the argument in favour of a maximum was destroyed, and if it is found that it violated every principle of the poor-law, and had no analogy to any law that ever existed in England, it must be admitted that it was totally deceptive and inappropriate. He thought the principle of the Bill vicious, and he could not, therefore, sanction it by his vote. If the first clause was adopted, the union rate in aid should not be abandoned, but his opinion was that both clauses ought to be omitted.
The EARL of STRADBROKE
thought, that the effect of the maximum rate would be to increase pauperism and to diminish the demand for labour. Its effect would be this, that when the next rate of 5s. was struck, no individual in any electoral division would think it worth his while to give employment with the view of diminishing the amount of the rates. The landowners would know that when the expenditure required more than a 5s. rate, the union would have to pay the 2s. rate in aid to make up the difference, so that all inducement to keep the people employed would be taken away. The fact was, that the Government by such a Bill were doing all they could to discourage employment. The theoretical principle of large areas of taxation in Ireland, as laid down in it, was erroneous and unjust, and the nearer they approached the plan of the English 382 poor-law the better it would be for Ireland.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
said that, after having listened most attentively to the arguments of the noble Lord who bad spoken against the measure, it appeared to him that the objections of his noble Friend the noble Earl behind him (the Earl of Wicklow) were the least powerful of any. For he, far from opposing the principle of a maximum rate, had said that if it were a real maximum which the Bill proposed to establish he would support it; but as it was a delusive and not a real one, he would oppose it. It was a mere cavil, then, at the manner in which the Bill was arranged, and not an objection upon a broad principle. But there were some two or three objections made by the noble Lord who had moved the rejection of the first clause, to which he thought it necessary to reply. In the first place, the noble Lord had objected to the plan contained in the Bill for establishing a maximum rate, because it was contrary to the opinion expressed by the Committee of their Lordships' House. But he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) never knew that when Her Majesty's Government desired to have the advice or the assistance of a Select Committee, they were to be considered as delegating to such Committee the functions of the House. He could remind his noble Friend of cases, and particularly of one case, in which his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) and himself (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had sat upon a Committee, and their Lordships' House had not thought fit, he was happy to say, to act in accordance with the opinion of the majority of that Committee; and he was sure that his noble Friend was, as well as he himself, very glad that the House did not adopt the suggestions of the majority of the Committee upon the very important subject to which he alluded. But if the House were to be bound by the opinions of the Committee, probably his noble Friend would contend that the Committee should be considered to be bound by the opinion and evidence of the witnesses produced and examined before them. Now, an immense majority of the witnesses called before the Poor Law Committee considered that the establishment of a maximum rate would have a most beneficial effect upon the property of Ireland. They considered that it would raise the value of landed property in the market; although at the same time he was ready to admit, some of 383 them said that they considered the adoption of a maximum rate would have a pernicious effect as regarded the operation of the poor-law. But he also admitted that it was intended by the establishment of the maximum rate to raise the marketable value of the land, and in making that admission he should add that it was not intended to delude purchasers. Its intention was to be then known—the exact liabilities which they would have to undertake. As to the next objection of his noble Friend, that it was unlike the English poor-law, it undoubtedly was altogether unlike it, for it was designed for an entirely different state of things. His noble Friend himself, when enacting the poor-law for Ireland, did not take the English poor-law as his model. On the contrary, he urged that the circumstances of the countries were so entirely different, that different principles should be applied to them. As to the cases referred to by way of precedent by his noble Friend, in which a maximum rate had boon fixed in certain English poor-law unions, he had only to say that there being no similarity been the circumstances, the cases were not analogous; and there was, therefore, not the slightest weight to be attached to any objection founded upon such grounds. His noble Friend's next objection was founded upon the valuation, which differed so very much in various parts of the country. No doubt it was a great objection, and it was a great pity that there was not a uniform valuation. But the Government was endeavouring, as far as possible, to remove the objection and establish a uniform valuation. As to the objection of his noble Friend, that that which the Government had alleged to be their object (namely, the enabling of purchasers to ascertain the exact amount of liability which they were about to incur), would not and could not be attained, he should observe, that it was impossible that any great amount of land could be sold before the 29th of September next; and if his noble Friend would only take the trouble to look into the Bill, he would perceive that the rating reserved for account of debts contracted upon the unions, referred only to debts that should be contracted before the 29th of September next; so that there must be an ascertainable maximum. He knew that the noble Lord would say, "Oh, but there is your emigration-rate clause." Yes, but that was only to be a future arrangement to be made by the boards of guardians 384 themselves, and to be afterwards sanctioned by the Poor Law Commissions. So that, he repeated it, any man could ascertain the actual amount to which the land he was about to purchase was rated. As to the removal of individual responsibility, and the carelessness that might ensue about enforcing the collection of the rates, or keeping the poor employed, when parties would know that beyond the fixed established rate no more could be levied within the year, he begged to remind noble Lords that it was the guardians, not of the electoral divisions, but of the entire unions, who would have the enforcing of the rate in aid; and was it to be supposed that they would not make every exertion to recover, in the first instance, all the rates that were due in any electoral division, before they burdened themselves with the additional rate. In any case the Bill would not make matters worse than they were at present, even if it would not make them better; but it would be more attractive to purchasers, as enabling them to ascertain their liabilities.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
said, that his noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Wicklow) seemed to think that the House of Commons, by sending up that Bill, had given a tacit promise of their intention to make good any deficiency that might arise in the maximum established by them for the support of the poor in Ireland. He was sure that their Lordships' House was paved—carpeted he should say—with good intentions, and he was equally sure that the other House was likewise floored with good intentions; but he wished they had had a larger audience of Members of the other House at their bar during his noble Friend's speech, that they might have formed some judgment from the expression of their countenances as to the chance there was of his noble Friend's promise being realised. The Bill was entitled a Bill for the relief of the poor in Ireland, and it was as a poor relief Bill they should consider it. But any one listening to the speech of his noble Friend the Postmaster General would think that it was rather a Bill to improve the value of landed property in Ireland—that it was a Bill to enable the land of Ireland to find purchasers. He could understand that there were cases in which a maximum rate might be established, such as in highway and church rates. But he asked their Lordships, as English and Irish gentlemen, which was the highest title by which he 385 could address them, whether, if they were to affirm this proposition of a maximum poor-rate, they would not be enacting that the poor people of Ireland should starve, if this 5s., or 7s., or 10s., or even 20s. rate were not sufficient to maintain them? He knew that such was not the meaning or intention of the Bill; but if it were rigorously and literally carried into effect, he asked, would not that be its meaning? Her Majesty's Government did not mean to limit them to a rate of 5s.; then surely he was justified in saying that it was a delusion. If the House of Commons had said that they intended to provide for the relief of the poor of Ireland out of the national fund, should the maximum which they fixed be found insufficient, he might be prepared, for his part, to say that a maximum of local rate in Ireland might be established. But until they made such a declaration—until he had some better security for the support of the poor (if the maximum should prove insufficient) than the sanguine hopes of his noble Friend behind him, he could not give his consent to a clause, the correlative sentence of which was the declaration that so many of the inhabitants of each electoral division—so many of the inhabitants of each poor-law union—so many of the population of Ireland—should perish of starvation as could not be maintained upon a maximum rate of 5s. in the pound. Feeling that such was a correct description of the tendency of the clause, his vote should undoubtedly be given for the Amendment of his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle).
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
said, that to the fourfold objections of his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle), he should reply, first, with regard to the opinions of the witnesses produced before the Committee, that almost all of those whom he had heard had stated that, in their opinion, the imposition of a maximum rate would have the effect of increasing the investment of capital in land in Ireland. And then he should take leave to observe that the noble Earl who had just spoken, had not, in his opinion, correctly stated the moaning and effect of the Bill. Because, although its immediate effect was no doubt intended to be the facilitating the transference of land, yet, in so doing, it would necessarily cause the introduction of fresh capital—of proprietors who would lay out money in improvements; and consequently it would lead directly to the extension of employment amongst the labouring poor. His 386 noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) had complained of the valuation of land in Ireland, and had argued that the pressure would be most unfair in some districts in consequence. But the valuation to the poor-rate was in most instances 20 or 25 per cent below the actual value, and in very few was it equal to it, so that the hardship was by no means so great as it appeared at first sight. But when the revaluation should be effected, those irregularities would be as far as possible removed. As to the great objection of his noble Friend that the 5s. maximum was wholly empirical, he should say that in the year 1848, which was one of very great depression, of 131 unions, in not more than 25 did the rates exceed 5s. in the pound, and in not more than 10 did they exceed 7s. Therefore, he did not think it fair to charge the proposition of the Government with being of an empirical nature. He felt the difficulty, undoubtedly, of fixing a maximum when the question was one of starvation. But he was quite sure that the House of Commons would take upon itself most willingly to supply any deficiency that might occur in providing for the wants of the Irish poor, when proof was given that the Irish people had themselves made every possible exertion to meet the calamity. And although he did not approve of the clause altogether, he did not wish to take upon himself to reject it, or refuse his sanction to it after the House of Commons had expressed their approbation of it.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, that his objection to the clause was that it was absolutely impracticable. The moment the 5s. rate should be made, the parties would sit down with their hands folded. The power of levying the additional 2s. rate in aid would not arise until it had been shown that the 5s. rate for the past year was insufficient. The electoral divisions having levied the 5s. rate, would have as much of it as they could collect. Meantime the expenditure would go on for twelve months, or may be a little beyond, the contractors supplying what was required before the commissioners could give their sanction to the laying on of the 2s. rate. Well, then, either the affairs of the union must stop short for want of funds, or go on upon credit; and he left Her Majesty's Government to get out of the difficulty if they could. As to keeping the debts within certain bounds, if they did not check the allowance to the poor, they could not do it. They must cither go on upon absolute cre- 387 dit, or stop short when their funds were exhausted. Next, the clause itself was an absurdity. It provided for commencing operations on the 29th of September; but the year began on the 25th of March, so that they would have a 5s. rate for two quarters. It might be said that that was not intended—that 2s. 6d. only was to be raised. Well, even in that case 2s. 6d. would be taken for the two winter months; but there really was no limitation in the Bill. Therefore, the clause was literally contrary to the principles that it pretended to lay down.
§ LORD WHARNCLIFFE
had arrived, as a Member of the Committee which had reported on this subject to their Lordships, at the conclusion founded on the information given before it, that the expectations based upon this clause of facilitating the investment of capital in the purchase of landed estates within the electoral divisions, comprising many of the most distressed unions in Ireland, were not likely to be fulfilled or carried out. He would, at the same time, fairly own that when he heard the proposition for this maximum rate first suggested, it did seem to him likely to prove a valuable one; and he might still be disposed to think so, if it could have been demonstrated that under the operation of such a clause, any capitalist might purchase landed property in those districts of Ireland without any great increase of liabilities beyond the scale assessed on account of the relief of the poor. But he now felt, on further information and further consideration, in common with several noble Peers who had already addressed their Lordships, that Her Majesty's Government were not yet in a condition to show that this maximum rate, assuming it to have received the sanction of Parliament, would meet the exigencies of the case for which it had been devised. He believed that Government were not in a condition to give the Committee any assurance that, in the event of this clause being acceded to, the maximum rate proposed would realise sufficient funds to make good any deficiency that might meanwhile or hereafter arise. What was it which they were now coming forward to do? He (Lord Wharncliffe) could not believe that, in the event of the maximum rate they were going to enforce not proving sufficient for the purposes for which it was intended, the unfortunate poor people were to be left, therefore, to starve. But how was it meant to raise the necessary 388 funds in excess of what was now brought forward as a maximum? He perfectly believed that the object of Her Majesty's Ministers in framing this measure was to induce capitalists to invest their money, their talents, their energy and enterprise in the purchase and improvement of lands in Ireland. But he could not see how the enactments it contained were calculated to accomplish so desirable an object. With regard to the maximum rate itself there were two conditions required to entitle it to the sanction of that House: the first, that it should be sufficient for the object contemplated by it; the second, that it should admit of being carried out into practical working without operating any considerable degree of injustice for the attainment of that object. Now, he was quite satisfied that it would be found to operate very considerable injustice to individuals in respect of their property. It had been argued that as to this object, by exacting a maximum rate of 5s. in the pound, beyond which no further rate should be chargeable on the property paying it for the relief of the poor, you must be raising in the electoral divisions comprising the poor-law unions on which this maximum would become chargeable the value of estates, in so far as you would have assigned a limit to the possible incumbrance on them in this respect. And this was true. But noble Lords opposite seemed to forget, whilst they advanced this argument, that by the mere fact of imposing a maximum rate on such property to the amount proposed, they diminished, pro tanto, as matter of course, the value of property throughout such electoral divisions. Take the case of two electoral divisions, one at each extremity of one of these unions, and one of such electoral divisions in a state of insolvency. Upon the soundest principles recognised in the working of the poor-law in England, that part of the union more immediately adjacent to the electoral division whose affairs had been allowed to decline into so bad a state, would be chargeable with the great bulk of the deficiency of means, and of the consequent excess of charge to be met. But, under a general maximum rate of the kind now called for, the union lands most distant from such insolvent electoral district—twenty miles separated from it, perhaps—on account of the enormous area of some of these Irish unions—would be rendered liable to this additional burden, in excess of its own contributions, and 389 after their legitimate application to the relief of their poor, and the diminution of the amount of pauperism within their limits. Let their Lordships consider but for a moment the extreme injustice with which such a rate would operate in this case; a case which had been most forcibly put by a very intelligent witness examined before their Lordships' Committee—Mr. Gulston. But he (Lord Wharncliffe) objected to the clause now before thorn, on principle. He would much rather that the Imperial Parliament should bring forward some large and comprehensive measure of remedial relief for the fearful condition of things admitted to exist in these unions—on propounding which, they might find it possible to avail themselves of some natural elements of amelioration that were probably now in progress—or, at any rate, that the extent of relief now applied for should be granted under some different form and by some other means than those proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers. The noble Marquess had indeed admitted that in proposing remedies of the kind suggested in the clause now before them, and the succeeding one, he could not so far justify them as to say that they were of a character that entitled them to be recognised as embodying principles calculated for measures of permanent legislation; but that himself and his Colleagues had submitted them rather as temporary measures demanded by the serious exigency of very extensive and immediate evils. Now, he (Lord Wharncliffe) cautioned their Lordships not to be deluded by the impression that admission was calculated to raise in their minds. It was idle to suppose that to the capitalist, for example, who might be induced to purchase a landed estate in Ireland, on the faith of its being free from all liability to any higher rate than this maximum, the Government would hereafter urge any plea of necessity to excuse the imposition of some increase of its burdens. That party would have a right to turn round and say he had been assured he would have to pay a fixed amount of rate, but their Lordships had not kept their faith with him. The clause appeared to him (Lord Wharncliffe) objectionable in the highest degree; he thought Parliament ought not to be induced, by considering a state of things which he hoped was the exception rather than the rule, and would be amended from day to day, to pass a clause which he thought would lead to the worst possible results.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, before this question came to its decision, he was anxious briefly to state to their Lordships the grounds on which he should give his vote in favour of the two clauses, the matter of which had been made the subject of so much observation and objection that evening. He was anxious to state to noble Lords, first, the inducements which had led Her Majesty's Government to contemplate some present change in the form of an amended poor-law for Ireland; secondly, the grounds on which it proposed to engraft on the existing poor-law of Ireland a maximum rate beyond which the poor-rate for that country should not be raised on its property. The views that had been taken by Her Majesty's Government on this subject appeared to have been affirmed by the other House of Parliament; not because the other House of Parliament had failed to see the difficulty of applying such a maximum, or the inconvenience of applying a new precedent of this kind, but he-cause they saw that in the present frightful distress of Ireland, this maximum rate presented a present and practical means of in some degree alleviating its present pressure, and applying a remedy available towards the prevention of its further increase. A noble Friend of his (Earl Fitzwilliam) had expressed in strong terms his opposition to these clauses, and had gone so far as to declare that he had experienced great alarm on finding that this was altogether a Bill rather for facilitating the sale and improving the value of landed estates in certain unions of Ireland, than one such as he had looked for, for the relief of the poor of Ireland. Now he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) should have thought that the noble Earl would have been the last man in that House not to see that the two objects which he had thus put in opposition the one to the other, were, in reality, perfectly compatible. He should have supposed that, of all the Peers in that House, his noble Friend would have been the most ready to perceive and to acknowledge that with the improvement of the land were identified the best and most permanent interests of those who cultivated it; that the welfare of the tenant was identical with that of the landlord—of the owner with that of the peasantry upon it. He thought he should have found the noble Earl supporting the proposition on the very ground that it would enhance the value of the land, since, as he (the 391 Marquess of Lansdowne) contended, as the House must admit—or the noble Earl himself must admit (having repeatedly stated his conviction before their Lordships to that effect), that the burdens now placed on Irish property were crushing Ireland—that unless Parliament could diminish this pressure, it was in vain to hope that they could remedy the distress of landlord, tenant, cultivator, and all connected with the land; in short, that these burdens were grinding to the dust and driving out from the soil the old landlords, and preventing new ones from coming in their place. Surely it was to the influence of capital that they must look for the great remedy of that distress; for if it relieved the landowner by facilitating the sale of his estates, it must proportionately benefit the labourer and the tenant, who were now equally involved in his distress. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) asserted that it was impossible to separate these common interests. If the condition of the landlord was bettered, it must create or enlarge the means of employing labour; if labour was employed as extensively as possible by that process, they were making the most unfailing advances towards raising the abject condition and mitigating the cruel sufferings of the poor unemployed peasantry. It had also been said by the noble Earl that the Bill had been framed, no doubt, with good intentions: but noble Lords were reminded at the same time that a certain place elsewhere was paved with similar materials. Now, his noble Friend had himself had credit given him for his good intentions, and it was remarkable that their constant fate had been to be deemed, elsewhere, too impracticable to admit of being carried out. These intentions might not be, or they deserved not to be, registered below; or they might even be, as his noble Friend had wished them, recorded on high. But his noble Friend's intentions, with regard to Ireland at least, which be had from time to time propounded in that House for her benefit and pacification, had proved to be such as the House of Commons on each occasion had been found not prepared to carry into effect, and had as often rejected. And he would now ask that noble Earl did he mean that Ireland should be left to struggle on with its accumulated misery—that the Irish people should be left to struggle under all their other distresses, with the horrors of starvation, without any other present remedy, and until some or other of his noble 392 Friend's propositions could be reduced into practice? No. Parliament—the country, were bound to administer some available relief in mitigation of the distress that was so overwhelming in that country. Noble Lords assert that that distress should utterly crush her, because in the meanwhile the Government could not undertake to tell the House of Commons now what might hereafter ensue, and whether, if this maximum rate were passed, all further application should be abandoned for the relief of Ireland? No man could suppose that Her Majesty's Ministers or Parliament could be guilty of the inhumanity of leaving the poor of Ireland to perish from extremity of want, should their destitution unhappily attain to such a pitch as to require the more extensive aid and sympathy of their fellow-men; but he asked the House, and his noble Friend (Earl Fitzwilliam) in particular, to remember on what grounds two recent applications for the further relief of Irish distress in the present Session had met with this fate, namely, that the one had been reluctantly and tardily conceded, the other flatly refused. No man could justly contend that the House of Commons had been so unjust, so inhuman, so heartless, as to think of leaving a distressed people to perish from want and misery, without the manifestation of sympathy for their case, or extending a helping hand to relieve them from it. But the desire of the House of Commons undoubtedly was to see, in the first instance, what were the resources of the country itself; and what these electoral divisions in Ireland were capable of raising towards the further relief of their poor. With an intention of following out the view thus entertained by the House of Commons, this maximum rate had been proposed. After all which some noble Lords had said against such a rate, it was founded on the intelligible principle that the value of land would be improved by the certainty that the rates to which it would be subjected for a given purpose, could in no case exceed this stipulated maximum. If his noble Friend (Earl Fitzwilliam) were about to purchase an estate, say for 20,000l, and pending the negotiation were to discover that it was subject to a mortgage of 2,000l., no doubt his noble Friend would immediately say, "I shall give you, therefore, only 18,000l.;" but he would not, on account of the mortgage so ascertained to be allowed for, therefore abandon the purchase. 393 The apprehensions of noble Lords touching the amount of the embarrassments of the unions, and the effect that the addition of such a burden as this maximum rate on the lands within these districts would have in reducing the value of that property, were very greatly exaggerated. Out of the 1,923 electoral divisions into which Ireland was apportioned, 328 only were in debt, and not in all of these was the imposition of this rate likely to be called into action. In the greater part or the whole of these, the 2s. rate might perhaps be called for; but even in those not the whole of the 2s. would be required under each rate. As to the fears expressed on the general effect of the measure—about its deterring capitalists from investing in purchasing of lands and so forth—he found that taking the aggregate of the whole liabilities of all the indebted unions, it did not amount to one half of one year's valuation of the property. From other returns it appeared that in some cases—the properties where the liabilities were very heavy indeed—they did not exceed 3s. in the pound; in many others not 1s. 3d. The very heaviest of all showed not above 6s. 9d. to 7s. in the pound; and this rate applied to but a very few of these divisions. The most eminent and best informed of the witnesses examined before their Lordships' Committee had concurred in the opinion that such a maximum rate as that now proposed for adoption was the most practical and expedient remedy for present application to the wants of Ireland in relation to the working of her poor-law; and he, therefore, earnestly besought the House not to reject these clauses of a Bill with which the present and future welfare of Ireland were, he was convinced, indissolubly bound up. It was absolutely essential for the partial relief it was now sought to afford to her, that noble Lords should give their sanction to the passing of these clauses.
Their Lorships divided upon the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill:—Contents 26; Not-contents 35: Majority against the Clause 9.
|List of the CONTEXTS.|
|Camoys||Saye and Sele|
|List of theNOT-CONTENTS.|
|Rosse||Willoughby de Eresby|
|Earl of Gosford||Earl of Erne|
|Marquess Conyngham||Lord Gray|
|Earl Spencer||Earl of Eglinton|
|Lord do Mauley||Duke of Richmond|
|Lord Foley||Lord Southampton|
|Earl of Zetland||Lord Kenyon|
|Bishop of Worcester||Marquess of Exeter|
|Marq. of Breadalbane||Earl Kinnoull|
|Lord Poltimore||Earl Cardigan|
|Lord Sudeley||Earl of Jersey|
|Marquess of Winchester||Lord Beauchamp|
|Archbp. of Canterbury||Earl of Digby|
|Earl of Effingham||Lord Polwarth|
|Earl of Leitrim||Lord Brougham|
|Lord Bateman||Earl Talbot|
|Earl of Oxford||Viscount Combermere|
|Lord Milford||Marquess of Ely|
|Lord Lilford||Lord Wynford|
|Lord Carrington||Earl of Aylesford|
|Lord Crewe||Lord de Lisle|
|Duke of Norfolk||Duke of Beaufort|
|Marquess of Anglesey||Viscount Sydney|
|Earl Ducie||Lord Sondes|
|Marquess of Donegal||Earl of Glengall|
|Lord Colborne||Earl of Lonsdale|
|Bishop of Manchester||Earl of Mansfield|
|Bishop of Hereford||Marquess of Hertford|
|Lord Howden||Duke of Buccleuch|
§ Upon Clause 2 being proposed, imposing a 2s. rate in aid,
§ LORD MONTEAGLE moved the omission of that clause also.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that after the opinion which the House had expressed on the preceding clause, he would not trouble their Lordships to divide.
§ Clause struck out
§ Clauses 3 to 15 agreed to.
§ On Clause 16 being read,395
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
rose to make an objection to it, which also applied to the 17th, 18th, and 19th Clauses. The objection had reference to the mode of recovering rates due, and to the incidents of that recovery. In England, the occupier only was rated, and the remedy was a personal remedy against his goods and chattels. By the Irish Bill, as amended by his noble Friend, a further remedy was given in addition to the previous one. Proceedings might be taken against the party before the assistant barrister by way of civil bill; and there was an amendment introduced, that the decree might be removed to the superior courts of law. When the words were introduced, it was merely intended to give to the superior courts the power to direct those proceedings, and, as it were, record them. It was intended to remove a case from the local tribunals, where there might be local influence, to the superior courts, and it was never intended to go beyond that point. But it had been lately discovered that by going to the superior courts of law, a judgment might be obtained and become a lien on the whole real estate of the party affected by that judgment. Contrary to the intention of the framers of the clause, and of Parliament in adopting it, a totally novel principle had been introduced, at variance with the principle of the English poor-law. Circumstances might, and do, and must arise in Ireland, in which, on the desertion of the land by the tenant, the whole of an arrear of rate was cast upon the landlord as an incumbrance upon the land. Under the law, as it now stands, it gave to parties an easy process of resorting to the superior courts, and obtaining judgment against a man who is not the party owing the rate originally, but a man on whom it devolved by law, in addition to the loss of the whole year's rent. Their Lordships' Committee, on consideration, had recommended, in relation to the recovery of rates, that the mode adopted should be by distress and sale, or by proceedings before the assistant barrister, with an appeal from the assistant barrister to the Judge of assize, to counteract local influence, if any should be exercised. But what did this Bill do? This Bill, setting aside the recommendation of the Committee, and having no respect to the original intention of Parliament, not only adopted that which was an unexpected incident of the law, inadvertently passed, but it went still further. Would they 396 throw overboard the recommendation of the Committee; or were they prepared to extend the construction put upon the law where it is ordered that the decree of the assistant barrister shall be registered? In conclusion, the noble Lord moved the omission of the clauses having reference to the registration of decrees in the superior courts, and proposed the introduction of a clause founded on the recommendation of the Select Committee.
said, that his noble Friend was under a mistake in believing as he did that, by the clauses to which he objected, any action could be brought against a party not liable for the poor-rate. If an action was to be brought, it was desirable that it should be an effectual proceeding. As the law now stood with regard to Ireland, a judgment might be obtained in a superior court, and the real property of the landlord, who was the liable party, might be made available to pay the rate. He did not see why the real property of the landlord should not be rendered liable, as the property itself ought to discharge the debt due in respect of it.
said, the clause was wholly in contradiction with the recommendation of the Lords' Committee, and was of a character to encourage the most vexatious, arbitrary, and oppressive measures.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
contended that the landlord, not being the person rated, could not be charged with arrears of rate. It was out of the question to suppose that Parliament ever intended a man should be liable for a debt not his own, and owing, moreover, by a tenant who had actually defrauded him of his rent.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
said, it was quite clear that there was no instance of a landlord being personally pursued in a superior court for a debt incurred by a runaway tenant. He was of opinion that, however harsh the clause might seem, it would be preferable to the adoption of the Amendment of the noble Lord. It was absolutely necessary to take stringent stops to do justice and avoid confiscation, for if you do not bring estates that have not paid to book, you would necessarily render bankrupt the estates now solvent.
The EARL of LUCAN
said, that a landlord might not be liable for a rate unpaid by a runaway tenant until a new rate was struck; but then the arrears were added to 397 the new rate, and charged against the landlord as present occupier.
said, he should be ready to support any distinct proposition for exempting the landlord in Ireland from the payment of rates due by a runaway tenant—a liability manifestly un-just; but the clause under consideration applied to the law as it stood.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
had no objection to the most stringent means of recovering debts, provided the parties pursued were the parties who had primarily incurred the debt; but he wholly protested against the pauperising monstrosity of saddling the landlord's estate with a judgment debt incurred by a runaway tenant, the debt, moreover, being one which the law entirely disabled him from preventing the incurrence of in the first instance.
The MARQUESS of SALISBURY
said, that by this Act it was proposed to give powers unparalleled for stringency against the owner of the land, and he hoped that some alteration in that respect would be introduced.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
admitted the desirableness of restricting the landlord's liability; but the difficulty was, he said, to effect that object without encouraging collusion. The landlord might say to the tenant, "Pay me my rent, and then you may go where you please."
Their Lordships divided on Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill?—Contents 19; Not-Contents 32: Majority 13.
§ On the Clauses having reference to Emigration being read,
reiterated his objections to the powers of raising money for that purpose, vested by the Bill in the new guardians. The noble Lord proposed an Amendment, conferring the powers for exercising certain purposes on the ordinary guardians of the poor instead of the vice-guardians.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that the noble Lord's suggestion should be taken into consideration.
§ The other clauses agreed to.
§ Report to be received on Monday next.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.