§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, in moving the second reading of this Bill, I must express my regret that the duty has not fallen into more competent hands. That regret is, however, much lessened by my full conviction of the justice and wisdom of the measure; and this, and the fact that your Lordships are well acquainted with the subject, will render it unnecessary for me to trespass on your attention with many facts or arguments to induce your Lordships to consent to the second reading. The Bill is intended to remedy evils with regard to the settlement of the poor which were complained of in Parliament itself more than eighty years ago; and since that time there have been incessant complaints, both with regard to the treatment of the 10 poor and the unjust and sometimes excessive incidence of taxation upon the ratepayers. Many of your Lordships remember the serious agricultural riots of 1830, and the great inquiry which was subsequently instituted; your Lordships are also well acquainted with the Act which was passed in 1834. At that time the Commissioners were unanimous in recommending that the settlement and chargeability should be extended from the parishes to the unions; but it was found impossible to embody that recommendation in the Bill owing to the serious opposition which it encountered from the close parishes. There is no doubt, however, that that Bill effected most important and useful changes. It established a central authority and committed the administration of relief to a more intelligent and responsible body. But, at the same time, the evils proceeding from the chargeability to the parish were rather aggravated than otherwise; because, as the general charges of the union establishments were fixed, not upon the rateable value, but upon the general average, there was an additional inducement to parishes to endeavour to get rid of their poor. In 1839 the Commissioners in their Report expressed their deep regret that that portion of the Bill relating to union charge-ability had not been carried. In 1844 Sir James Graham brought in a Bill without success, and in 1845 renewed the attempt with the same result. But in 1846 Sir Robert Peel introduced and passed the Personal Irremovability Act, intended as some relief to the landed interest in consequence of the repeal of the Corn Laws. By the provisions of that Bill no pauper could be removed if he had remained in one place without obtaining relief for five years; but then the expense of his relief subsequently fell, not upon the union, but upon the parish to which he belonged. This was felt to be so intolerable that next year it was found necessary to introduce a Bill transferring the chargeability of this particular class of pauper from the parish to the union. This, no doubt, was a great step in advance. Great irritation was, however, felt by the larger and more populous parishes, and in consequence a Parliamentary Committee was appointed in 1858. The Committee reported, I believe, in 1860, that with regard to the chargeability to the unions, instead of the general average, the rateable value should be taken, that the area of residence should be extended to the whole union, and that the period of residence should be reduced from five years 11 to three. An Act was passed in 1861 carrying out these recommendations; and it will perhaps he curious to your Lordships to learn how different were the results from what had been expected. Between 1855 and 1861 the charges on the common fund for the irremovable poor were something like 22 per cent. The year preceding the passing of the Act they were 24 per cent, the year succeeding 44 per cent, and they have constantly gone on increasing until at the present time the charges upon the unions, as compared with the charges upon the parishes, exceed one-half, or 51 per cent. The present Bill is intended to carry out that which was recommended by the Commissioners of 1834, but only partially adopted at the time. There was one difficulty with regard to the settlement of any of these questions, which the Union Assessment Act of last year has removed. By that Act power was given to parishes to unite themselves into an union; but as it was necessary to procure perfect unanimity on the part of all the guardians of the parishes concerned, the desired object has usually been frustrated because of the interested opposition of at least one guardian, and the Act has proved almost inoperative. There is no doubt that all the changes that have taken place in the Poor Law have been of great benefit to the poor themselves, and that the removals have much decreased in consequence of the legislation which has been made upon this subject. In 1841 the removals in England numbered 23,000; and in 1861 they had diminished to 13,500. The Irish especially have greatly benefited, for during the distress of 1847 the removals from Liverpool alone were 15,000, and during the late cotton crisis they numbered from all Lancashire only 404. This Bill proposed to throw the relief of the poor, not upon the parishes, but upon the whole union. It therefore renders unnecessary the removal of paupers from parish to parish in the same union, and therefore takes away a constant source of discord among guardians. It further reduces the term of three years' industrial residence to one year. I apprehend that great benefit to the poor will attend the transfer of the power of removing paupers from the overseers of the parishes to the guardians, who are likely to exercise the power with much greater care. It will be of much advantage, too, that the stimulus to the removal of the settled poor will be diminished. For many years the destruction of cottages and their non-erection in the places where they were 12 most wanted has been a crying evil. The Commissioners reported upon this point in 1834 in very strong language, and the destruction of cottages has been shown to inflict great hardship upon the labouring poor, and to be productive of great demoralization from the overcrowding and the mixing of both sexes in the same rooms. The Commissioners appointed by the Poor Law Board in 1850, to inquire into the question of union chargeability, took evidence to show that it was the custom of the close parishes to throw the labourers upon the open ones, thereby inflicting great injustice upon the ratepayers, and producing dreadful demoralization by crowding the labourers and their families into lodgings wholly inadequate for their decent accommodation or any proper separation of the sexes; and a metropolitan Member has recently stated that it is utterly impossible, after the statements made by the owners of close parishes themselves, to deny that cottages were pulled down for the purpose of saving such parishes from the cost of maintaining the poor, of whose labour however they had availed themselves. Mr. Caird, a Member of the other House, was particularly encouraged by Sir Robert Peel to report upon the state of farming, and that Gentleman stated in his Report that in a great many instances labourers were obliged to live at a great distance from the place where they worked, and that sometimes they had to walk as far as four miles in the morning and evening; and he said that in some instances farmers lent donkeys to those of their labourers who were so circumstanced, in order that they might not become too exhausted for their work by these daily forced journeys. Most of your Lordships are probably members of the Royal Agricultural Society, and your Lordships will find that nearly every one of the prize essays of the Society, in dealing with almost every county in England, insists on the great advantage to agriculture which would result from not binding the labourer to the place in which he was born. There is a Report to which I must allude, which has not been drawn up to support this measure, as it has been received since the Bill was prepared. Dr. Hunter was requested to report to the Committee of Privy Council with regard to the sanitary arrangements of the cottages of the poor; and, although some of his statements have been called "sensational," they have been borne out by the more recent testimony of a Poor Law Board Inspector. I do not think it is surprising that a humane 13 and intelligent man, finding evils existing of the grossest description, not owing to natural causes, but to vicious legislation, should have expressed himself strongly; and what we have to consider are, not the expressions he has used, but whether the facts he gave are accurate or not. I know that there is one statement made by him which has been impugned, and that has reference to the figures which he took from the Census, and for which he is certainly not responsible, giving the number of houses and the increase of population. He found that in about 800 parishes there was an increase of the population, with a decrease in the number of houses. It has been endeavoured to be shown that this is fallacious, because it does not agree with the Return subsequently moved for in the House of Lords; but in that subsequent Return no care was taken to distinguish between the inhabited and the uninhabited houses—Dr. Hunter's statement, including all houses, whether inhabited or not, while the Return in question comprises inhabited houses only; and the fact remains that, while about 180 or 190 of those parishes have the same number of houses or rather more, and 100 have exactly the same, about 600 have a reduced number. Dr. Hunter gives a description of an open parish in Cambridgeshire where the labourers employed in several adjoining parishes reside, and where he found the cottage accommodation to be of a very disgraceful and overcrowded character. Some complaints were made that he had exaggerated the true state of the case; but the Poor Law Board sent an Inspector afterwards to the place to inquire into the facts, and that officer's Report showed that Dr. Hunter had in no one respect exaggerated the truth. The Inspector states that he found that the rector and other inhabitants of the parish expressed themselves as aggrieved because their parish had been singled out for comment, when it was not worse than others in the neighbourhood, as far as the cottages were concerned, and was even better in regard to drainage and freedom from nuisances. The working of the system in making the open parishes pay for the labourers when sick, whereas the adjacent close parishes enjoy the benefit of their labour when they were well, is unquestionably most unjust and anomalous. Here, my Lords, is a letter recently addressed to the Poor Law Board by the clerk of the Bourne Union, illustrating by an individual case the hardships to which labourers are exposed — 14Bourne, March 3, 1865.Sir—I am directed by this Board to request the advice of the Poor Law Board upon the following case, and as to the course they should pursue under the circumstances. Thomas Skeith, aged thirty-two, an able-bodied man, his wife, and three children, belonging to Careby, in this union, are now in the workhouse; the guardian has offered him work at 12.s. a week, upon which the Board, considering the man not destitute, having work to go to, are inclined to discharge him the house; the man is willing to go—in fact, would not be in the house if the guardian would also find him a house or lodging in Careby or at any village near, and here lies the difficulty. Careby is the sole property of a resident gentleman, and there are no spare, nor, indeed, not sufficient cottages for its own poorer class; the pauper says he cannot (and in this the Board have proof) got either lodgings or a house within any reasonable distance, and, taking the nearest place in which he could obtain a house, he could neither walk to or from his work daily, nor could he afford to keep up a house for his family and a lodging near his work for himself, and he cannot get work in a place to which he does not belong.I am, &c, J. L. BELL, Clerk.That, my Lords, I think is an example of a shocking state of things. It is quite impossible to deny that the labourer is kept in a position of positive serfdom by that state of things. He may be ready and anxious to work, and yet by the operation of the law he is unable to avail himself of the offer of employment. As has been wittily remarked, it would be about as easy for a tree to remove itself with its roots to a neighbouring wood as for such a labourer to remove himself to a parish in which he might find work. The second point, of perhaps the greatest importance in this Bill, is that it will place the irremovable poor upon the same footing as the settled poor. The irremovable poor are employed without reference to their skill or industry, but simply owing to the fact of their irremovability. Such a system discourages industry, because the settled poor man knows that it is not only the interest, but the necessity of the farmer to employ him, while it discourages the deserving ablebodied man, because he knows that, however skillful and able he may be, his labour cannot be made use of till all the other labourers have been provided for. And this is not only a disadvantage to the labourer himself, but also to the farmer, because it obliges him not to employ the best man, but, for the reason I have stated, to hire a worse man because he happens to be settled in the parish. Upon this point I will appeal to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, who has given evidence showing 15 that the present system is a gross injustice to the industrious labourer. I think, my Lords, I have said enough to make out a prima facie case for the second reading of this Bill. But I see upon our paper the notice of a Motion of a fatal character as regards this measure. I therefore venture to ask your Lordships to bear with me while I make a few observations on the objections which may possibly be raised in this debate. And first, it may be said that inquiry is demanded. I think I have shown that this matter has for years been inquired into, and not only that, but the results of those inquiries have to a certain extent been acted upon, and by each successive inquiry and the results of its partial action thereupon the Legislature has been induced to proceed a little further in the direction of this measure. Therefore I say that, having inquired for thirty-five years, it is time now that we took some decisive action on a subject of such great importance to the country. Another objection, which is rather more plausible, is that it is necessary before passing this Bill to make some arrangement for the revision of the existing unions. Now, I do not wish to contend that in the original formation of the unions all the parishes were always grouped together in the most perfect and most convenient manner. No doubt local circumstances sometimes made it less perfect than it otherwise might have been. But it is said that a Committee of the other House which sat in 1847 recommended that facilities should be given for revising the boundaries of unions. Now, I would give one reason why this Bill should not be delayed for any such revision. The Report of the Committee in question was made nearly twenty years ago, and the unions have now become such recognized and settled divisions for many purposes that they could not be changed without very great inconvenience. Let me quote to your Lordships on this point a letter addressed to the Poor Law Board by Major Graham, the Registrar General. That letter says—General Register Office, Somerset House,May 29, 1865.Sir—I observe that perons desirous of changing the boundaries of unions are making urgent representations to the Poor Law Board that extensive alterations should be made in them. I take the liberty of remarking that if such a course be adopted great inconvenience and derangement will occur in this office, formed nearly thirty years ago for the civil registration of births, deaths, and marriages, upon the basis of Poor Law Unions, 16 this department being intimately connected with the arrangements of the Poor Law Board. Since 1837, births, deaths, and marriages have been registered in unions; and Boards of Guardians have provided register offices fitted with fire-proof repositories for the safe custody of the public records suitable to the population of each union, the inhabitants of which now know where to resort for the purpose of obtaining certified copies of the registers; if boundaries of unions are changed, and new register offices are consequently provided, increased expense and inconvenience to the public will ensue. Since 1837 the number of births, deaths, and marriages registered in each year in unions has been compared, and all calculations as to number of births of each sex, and number of marriages according to the rights of the Established Church, and by civil contract, and all calculations as to rate of mortality, have been annually based upon the numbers thus recorded in unions, such calculations being extensively used by the Lords of the Privy Council, and by Local Boards of Health, and by medical officers of health. The same system has also been adopted by the Poor Law Board in their valuable Reports, giving from year to year statistics as to pauperism and industrial employment in each union. In the decennial Census, also, there is the same arrangement. In the Census tables presented to Parliament in 1851 and 1861 is to be found from 1801 to 1861, arranged in unions, a comparison of the number of males and females, showing increase and decrease at each of these seven periods, accompanied with a statement as to houses, ages, occupations, birthplace, and number of families, for purposes of comparison. At the next Census of 1871 all calculations will be materially lessened in value if great alterations are made in the boundaries of existing unions. The circuits of County Court Judges are also founded on the basis of unions as at present formed. And for the balloting of militia authority is given by statute to Courts of Lieutenancy to adopt Poor Law Unions. For these reasons I venture to deprecate the changes which are recommended. As to parishes and townships under the Act of Elizabeth, and in Gilbert Incorporations, I am aware that from time to time changes are unavoidable; and I know that it is most desirable that they should be formed into unions; but I presume to express a hope that the Poor Law Board will not be induced to make extensive changes in unions already formed and used for the purposes I have above indicated.I have, &c,GEORGE GRAHAM, Registrar General.The Secretary, Poor Law Board, Whitehall.When the unions were originally formed local difficulties prevented in some instances the selection of the most convenient groups of parishes, but the existing areas have been so long established that it would be as difficult to interfere with them as with the boundaries of counties.The third objection is that large areas have been found to fail in times of pressure, and are unfavourable to economy in administration; but I believe this objection to be entirely without foundation. The Commissioners of 1834 were not of that opinion, and they adduced a great many facts which totally contradicted that view 17 of the case. The Commissioners took 100 large and 100 small parishes, and they found, upon carefully going through the accounts, that the charges were four or five times greater in the small than in the largo areas. Again, in the City of London Union, from which I have presented a petition in favour of the Bill, the expenses of administration are very much greater than they are in the larger metropolitan parishes outside the City. The Poor Law Inspectors, in reply to a question on the subject, gave answers totally at variance with this objection to the Bill. We have received a letter from the Board of Guardians of the Docking Union—a Union which has availed itself of the provisions of the Act of 1834, and united its parishes together for the purposes of uniform rating—that shows that the system has worked admirably, and that after its adoption the expenditure do-creased 10 per cent, whereas in the surrounding districts the charges have only decreased l.82 per cent. The system is also working well at Oxford and Cambridge, which are unions for rating and settlement under local Acts, and the local authorities of both towns are in favour of the Bill. Sir Edmund Head, a great authority upon this subject, in a letter to the President of the Poor Law Board, prefacing the reproduction of an article addressed by himself to the Edinburgh Review, shows how illogical is the objection not to allow unions to pay all instead of half their charges, as at present. If the argument in favour of the limited area is to have full weight, the objectors, to be consistent, ought to ask the Legislature to take a step backwards and restore the control of the relief to the overseers of the parish. Another objection to this measure is that it will confer a benefit upon the towns to the disadvantage of the rural districts. If the towns have been paying more than their share hitherto, I can see no objection to the pressure of the burden being equalized; but I believe the statement contained in the objection to be incorrect, for many towns, such as Torquay and Bedford, instead of gaining will lose by the operation of the Bill. In my opinion the old and poorer towns will be the gainers, while the new and richer will be the losers by it. With regard to the town of Aston, to which reference has been made, it will lose greatly, whereas every surrounding parish will gain by the Bill. The last objection is that it is unjust to transfer the incidence of taxation in the manner proposed by the Bill. But every 18 alteration in the incidence of taxation is open to the same objection. Does not every fresh Budget of every Chancellor of the Exchequer shift the burden of taxation from one class to another? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer produces a War Budget, and it seems that the charges will fall too heavily on one class and too lightly on another, are not attempts constantly made to adjust the burden more fairly? And, even if the objection were valid, it is too late to make it now. The Act of the 1st of Elizabeth—the Act which first introduced the Law of Settlement—might certainly have been open to the objection; but that Act was confirmed by that of Charles H., which was followed up by the Act of George III., and by that of 1846, when Sir Robert Peel shifted 20 per cent of the whole of the tax for poor relief from one class of persons to another class. In the following year still further changes were made; while the greatest change of all was made when Parliament imposed upon the whole of Ireland a new Poor Law system. The reasons in favour of the Bill are many; one is that it will do away with the want of uniformity in the present system, by which one portion of the poor is relieved from one fund and another portion from a different fund; and another reason is that it will result in providing sufficient accommodation for the labouring poor, under the defect of which so large a part of them are now suffering, and that it will release the farmers from that practical restriction which confined their choice of labourers to those who were settled in the parish. By passing this Bill you will give practical effect to the principle of union rating and union settlement contemplated by the Commissioners of 1834, and partially provided for by the Poor Law Amendment Act, and you will act in accordance with the recommendation of Committees of the House of Commons, and especially of the Committee on Poor Law Relief, who made their Report last year; and you will be adopting the principle of the scheme which has been advocated by all eminent statesmen who have given their attention to the subject, such as the late Sir James Graham, Sir George Lewis, and by writers of such practical experience as Sir Edmund Head, and you will be acting in conformity with the decision of the House of Commons who have passed the Bill by such large majorities, composed not merely of town Members, or 19 of Members of one party, but whose numbers were swollen by a large number of country Members. My Lords, notice has been given that the Motion for the second reading is to be met by an Amendment of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Rutland) that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. Upon this Amendment I have to say that, in the first place, it is irregular. The noble Duke may object to the second reading of the Bill, but it is not in accordance with the custom of your Lordships' House, to move that a Bill be referred to a Select Committee until it has been read a second time. The second objection I have to offer is, that the House of Commons will not receive the Bill if it be sent back to them with any changes in the clauses made in their Lordships' House, as being an infringement of their privileges. It is also to be recollected that those Bills which are referred to a Select Committee are usually Bills of great detail which cannot be considered conveniently in a Committee of the whole House; whereas this Bill is one the principle of which is affirmed in a single clause, and that that principle is merely expanded and defined in the several other clauses. My noble Friend (the Duke of Rutland) is a most popular and liberal landowner, and is incapable on a question of this sort of being influenced by considerations as to the effect of the measure on his own property; but many landowners are of opinion that the Bill will not be of advantage to owners of land, and there is a belief that the opposition to it is dictated by class interests. I should regret if any noble Lord who is not in favour of the Bill should be led to vote for it through fear of his motives being misconstrued; but if any noble Lord, on the other hand, does not think that the reasons for the Bill are good, he ought to show so by his vote in public and in the full House, and not to refer it to a Select Committee, where the discussion will be in private. It may, in reply, be said that the House of Lords is entitled to reserve to itself the right to improve the Bill, and that, when they have done so, it will be for Her Majesty's Government to introduce into the House of Commons a new Bill in accordance with those improvements. This would be asking the Government to make bricks without straw. How could the Government, approving as they do the Bill which is now before your Lordships, and after this Bill has received the approval of the House of Commons, consent to undo all that has 20 been done by undertaking to bring in a new measure? I hope the Bill will receive a full discussion on the second reading, or on whatever other stage a debate may be thought desirable; but I must ask your Lordships to understand that Her Majesty's Government distinctly object to the proposition of referring it to a Select Committee. I have great hope—I trust I am not too sanguine in the expectation—that your Lordships will agree with the Government and the House of Commons that this is a Bill which should pass, as a measure important to the labouring classes, and therefore vitally important to the whole country.
said: In rising to second my noble Friend's Motion, I will make a promise almost always broken as soon as made—not to detain the House at any length. This time the promise will be kept, for I have merely to state in support of this important measure, that it was in the contemplation of the Government of which I was a Member in 1833, and that we strongly desired that it should form a part of the great change which we then effected in the laws relating to the poor. My lamented Friend Lord Althorp endeavoured to carry this into effect; but, after repeated attempts, he was compelled to give up that intention, and indeed the great amount of the changes which we were then carrying through made it incumbent on us to postpone this to another time, desirous as we were of then introducing it. When I moved the second reading of the great Bill in this House, I stated that thirty years would not pass under the new system before we should add to it this important measure of making liability continuous in the management, and I trust that my prediction is now about to be fulfilled.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Lord President.)
§ THE DUKE OF RUTLAND,
in moving the Amendment of which he had given notice—that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee—said, he wished, in the first place, to dispose of the objection that it was not in his power, on the Motion that the Bill be now read the second time, to move as an Amendment that it be referred to a Select Committee, by referring to a precedent from the Journals of their Lordships' House. On the 27th of February, 1835, on the Motion of the Duke of Richmond, a Bill for the Abolition of Tolls, 21 which was read a first time, was referred to a Select Committee; and in regard to the observation of the noble Earl the Lord President that the tendency of his Motion was to defeat the Bill he frankly avowed that if it should do so it would not break his heart. He had two objections to the Bill—firstly, that it would work with great injustice and unfairness as between one class of the community and another; secondly, that it would tend to the total destruction of the parochial system. He believed that no one who considered the provisions of the Bill impartially could fail to see that it would relieve one class of the community at the expense of another. It was of course of his own neighbourhood that he could speak with the greatest authority, and he would refer to the union of Grantham. He found that the operation of the Bill would relieve the town of Grantham of rates to the amount of £1,100 a year, and would impose that amount on the smaller agricultural parishes in the neighbourhood. That was a large burden to impose on poor agricultural parishes. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) had only done him justice in supposing that merely personal considerations would not influence him in respect of this measure. Even although the Bill affected him individually he hoped he would have the courage to perform what he considered a public duty; but so far as he was concerned, this Bill only made a difference of £9 a year. But, on the other hand, a clergyman wrote to him from Leicestershire that in his parish the rates would be doubled, though there were only thirty inhabitants in it, and not one pauper; this clergyman would have to pay £30 a year. Another gentleman told him that though on his estate there were only five labourers, all of whom were ablebodied, he must pay £130 a year. If they were about to change the incidence of taxation in this manner they ought to make the great manufacturing and commercial interests pay their fair share of the burden. It was right in former times to place the burden of supporting the poor on the owners of land; but now largo fortunes were made by the manufacturing interests, and they ought to be called upon to pay in proportion to their earnings. A house in the town of Grantham which was rated at £100 a year, and in which thousands might be earned, and a farmer's land, three miles off, rated at £100 a year, which might return him perhaps nothing, 22 perhaps a few hundreds, were to be rated equally under the Bill. Let him take another case; that of a mill employing 300 hands. A cotton famine came, and these people were thrown out of employment; the mill under these circumstances would not pay a single penny towards the poor rate, because it was closed, and the consequence was the district had to support the mill hands. As these would be some of the effects of the Bill, he thought he was not going too far when he asked for such an inquiry as would enable their Lordships to thoroughly understand all the bearings of the question. But he did not know that he should have troubled their Lordships on the subject, were it not for the great objections he entertained to the Bill as destroying the parochial system. In that way he believed that it would inflict an immense injury on the working man. In the agricultural districts the way in which the parochial system worked was this. A labourer was thrown out of employment in consequence of something or other—perhaps a frost. The farmer knew that if he did not find him something to do he would have to support him in the "workhouse; and he argued in this way:—"If I find him employment during the two or three weeks of frost I shall get the benefit of his labour; but if he goes into the workhouse I shall have to pay 8s., 9s., or 10s. a week without getting any return. "If this Bill were passed the poor man would lose that safeguard. This was no theory merely; many facts might be brought forward to show that it was what often happened. Last winter a friend of his in Leicestershire told him that one day a labouring man came to him to ask what he should do, as he had been thrown out of employment. His friend asked the man whether he had been round to all the farmers in the parish, and he said he had. "Well," said the gentleman, "I can't find you employment myself, but the best thing you can do is to go back and tell them that if you can't get employment you will go into the workhouse." The man went away, followed the advice, and employment was found for him immediately. Another instance he had heard of from the chairman of the Sleaford Board of Guardians. That gentleman told him that the only time he was really afraid of the operation of the New Poor Law was some ten years ago, when a body of some sixteen labourers came to him to tell him they were out of employment, and asking 23 what they should do. The chairman said, "Well, I can't find you work, but the best advice I can give you is that you all go into the workhouse, and depend upon it you won't be there long." The men followed his advice and went in; but they were very soon found work, for the farmers knew that they would have to pay more for them in the workhouse than they would have to pay if they were at work. But if this Bill passed, the labouring men would not get work in such cases—the workhouses would be filled, and the rates would be increased. In the name of the labouring man, therefore, of the old decrepid and infirm man, who could only give half a day's work, he called on their Lordships to pause before they passed this Bill. He trusted that their Lordships would show that they were the friends of these poor people, and that they were not afraid to record their votes with his. He had in his hand a statement from the surveyor of roads in the Newark district, which showed that if this Bill passed it would throw into the workhouse a great number of men who were now maintained by working upon the roads. This officer had prepared a list from which it appeared that out of the seventy-eight men employed under him, only nineteen were able-bodied men receiving the full wages of 2s. a day. Upon the passing of this Bill all but these nineteen would probably be thrown out of work, because as the parishes having to maintain their own roads, and not having to maintain their own poor, would insist upon the roads being repaired at the least possible expense which could only be done by employing the best men. In many of the rural parishes the burdens would be much increased; and the poor who were not ablebodied would be sent into the workhouse, which to them would be an imprisonment for life. The only argument he had heard in support of the Bill, was that in certain close parishes cottages had been pulled down, and, further, that the labourers in some instances had to walk long distances to their work. He did not for a moment deny that instances might be found throughout the country in which cottages had been pulled down, and the labourers had to get cottages in the neighbouring parishes. He also did not deny that the labourers sometimes had very long distances to walk to their work and back. But the question was, would this Bill prove a remedy for this state of things? It was certainly a 24 question which required very great consideration; and he must certainly say that he doubted very much whether the Bill would provide a remedy. He believed that the reason why cottages were not built was that they did not pay. If landlords built cottages, and put a sufficient rent upon them to pay, the consequence would be that the labourers could not inhabit them because they could not afford to pay that rent. His own belief was that if this Bill passed there would be still fewer cottages. At the present time there was throughout the country a great movement in favour of building cottages; but he feared that this movement would be arrested by legislation of this kind. Partly from benevolence and partly from interest the movement was spreading, and the landlords were beginning to discover that it was not for their interest to pull down cottages and drive the labourers into other parishes. Where cottages had been pulled down the rates had decreased in their total amount, but the value of property had decreased in a greater proportion and the rate in the pound had increased; whilst in other parishes into which the labourers had been driven—as he admitted they had in some few instances—in these parishes the rates had, indeed, increased, but the value of property had increased in a greater proportion, and the rate in the pound had diminished. As the owners of property pondered these things the condition of things complained of would altogether cease, and there would be erected more cottages than had been built of late years. Now, with regard to the long walk of the labourer to his work, he believed that there was great exaggeration on this matter. No doubt in some instances they had to walk long distances, and he believed that in some cases they preferred the walk. Not long ago he himself was about to build some cottages, and, being in doubt as to where he should build them in the village or in the fields, he took the advice of those best able to judge. He got most contradictory advice, and, therefore, be built in both places—a part near the fields where the work was done, and a portion in the village. Those which were by the fields he could get no one to occupy, and the only answer he got when he inquired what was the cause, was that the labourers did not like to live in a lonely spot, but preferred to live in the village. The labourer did not like to live away from everybody else; he liked to be 25 near the church, and near his club, and in a spot where his wife could, when she wished to go out, find some one to take care of the bahy. These were practical matters of which Mr. C. P. Villiers and his Poor Law Commissioners knew nothing —they did not understand it, and he hoped that their Lordships would send the Bill to a Select Committee, so that the matter might be explained to them. He should like to say a few words in reference to the question of area. It was now proposed to extend it; but he believed that all previous experience was opposed to such a course. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) himself had mentioned one instance which occurred in the time of Elizabeth. He had said that the burden of taxation was shifted in the time of Elizabeth; but the truth was that the change was from a large area to a small one; and why? It was because the poor found that the large areas were intolerable. In the reign of Charles II. the same thing again occurred, and the reason was stated in the Act in this way—The inhabitants of certain northern counties, and of many other counties, cannot, by means of the largeness of the parish, have the benefit of the Poor Law.Coming to more recent times, when the New Poor Law was introduced into Ireland, in 1837, they had very large areas; and ten years afterwards Sir George Grey had to propose a Boundary Commission; and the Commissioners made some fourteen Reports. It appeared that in the north and east of Ireland, where the unions were smallest, the people were employed the best, and in the south and west, where the unions were largest, they were the worst employed; and the Commissioners recommended that the unions should be reduced from large ones to small ones, and that the electoral districts should be likewise reduced; and this was done. He hoped, therefore, that noble Lords connected with that country would give him their support in seeking to obtain for England the same justice that had been done to Ireland in this respect. Now, with respect to removals, which were mentioned as one of the great evils of the present system, the noble Earl (Earl Granville) admitted that the number of removals had enormously decreased. He (the Duke of Rutland) knew that in his own union, when the poor law came into operation, the removals, compared with what they now were, were as twenty-seven to one; in the last year 26 there were but six removals from one parish to another within the union; and he was informed on very good authority that if things were only allowed to go on as they now were there would soon be almost none from parish to parish and very few from union to union. The Bill was beginning to operate upon this question even before it had passed. A neighbouring Union had sent notice to the Grantham Union that they would allow no more outdoor relief, but the paupers must be sent to their own Union, the object being that the friends of the pauper might support them for a year, when they would become chargeable to Grantham. The same thing was going on all over England, and the poor were being forced out from the places where they lived, and driven to their own unions. He wished to refer to Dr. Hunter's Report, and he would observe that it was a Report which appeared to have been got up in great haste, for the Doctor had not time to investigate thoroughly the circumstances of the districts through which he passed. In 1849 there were eight Commissioners sent into fourteen counties, but Dr. Hunter was himself sent through the whole of England. What he did was to go here and there to find out parishes where cottages had been pulled down; but if a Committee were granted they could fully investigate the matter; and he might observe that when Mr. Baines, in 1854, brought in his Union Chargeability Bill he gave up the question of these open and closed parishes. The noble Earl had not alluded to the Committee of 1860, and, therefore, he need not refer to it; but he begged to remind their Lordships that it was not until 1864, after three new Members had been added to the Committee, who were known to entertain views favourable to union rating, that any Report was made in its favour. If the Bill was passed on the slight evidence possessed upon the subject the country would be unjustly and wrongly treated, and therefore it was that he protested against this measure being passed in this slovenly and off-hand manner. He entertained a strong conviction that if they legislated upon this subject without sending the Bill to a Select Committee it would be an entire failure, and would create ill-feeling between towns and country, but above all they would destroy that feeling of unity of interests and that affection which now existed between the rich and the poor man—the employer of labour 27 and the employed, between the man who found work, and the man who did the work, and therefore it was that he hoped their Lordships would vote in favour of the Amendment. He did not think that the objection that by so doing they would be putting themselves in opposition to the House of Commons, would weigh one instant with their Lordships, because a few weeks hence the present House of Commons would be scattered all over the country, and a new House would be elected who might be of a different opinion upon this subject; and therefore it could not be said that their Lordships, by sending this Bill to a Select Committee, would be putting themselves in opposition to the House of Commons. He hoped their Lordships would think that he had made out a case for a Select Committee, and would agree to his Amendment.
§ Amendment moved to leave out from ("be") to the End of the Motion and insert ("referred to a Select Committee.")—(The Duke of Rutland.)
§ Question proposed, "Whether the Bill be referred to a Select Committee."
§ EARL SPENCER
said, he unfortunately felt obliged to differ from all the conclusions to which his noble Friend (the Duke of Rutland) had come—in fact, he thought that if his noble Friend's arguments were worth anything they went against the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 itself. The opinions of persons who were entitled to consideration, and the Reports of Committees and Commissions, were uniformly in favour of the adoption of union instead of parish rating, and Bills had been introduced both into their Lordships' House and into the House of Commons embodying that principle. Moreover, the Irremovable Poor Act of 1861 rendered this change almost indispensable. The results of the Irremovable Poor Act, which had been in operation for three years, were very remarkable, for, as shown by the noble Earl who introduced the measure, 51 per cent of the poor all over England had been charged to the common funds of the unions, and this was a most important fact to be borne in mind in dealing with this Bill. The principle of the Bill had been adopted in the original Poor Law Act of 1834, and had been expanded in 1861—it had been found to work beneficially, and this Bill proposed to extend its operation still further. If they regarded the condition of the poor in England, they 28 would find it to be very unsatisfactory. They would find that while in one parish labour was insufficient, in another and an adjacent one it would be superabundant; that while in one parish the labourers were accommodated in blocks of beautiful and convenient cottages, their neighbours crowded or herded in places where none of their Lordships would like to crowd stock. They would find, too, that one parish, only very recently rated to the poor at all, had at its side a less fortunate neighbour upon whom the rates fell very heavily. As a rule, the lightly rated parishes would be found to belong to one, two, or three proprietors only; while the heavily burdened parishes belonged to a great number of small proprietors. The origin of the present state of things was not of recent date. With reference to the demolition of cottages, he might say that he did not believe that demolition was carried on to any great extent. Even in this direction, however, he thought that the Bill would effect much indirectly. He had taken considerable interest in this subject, and had made rather extended inquiries on his own estates. In a parish in Northamptonshire, belonging almost entirely to himself, out of thirteen men and three boys employed by one farmer, only two resided in the parish, and in case of sickness or old age all the rest of his labourers would fall for support on the neighbouring parish. He had a Return of the rates of two adjoining parishes, and he thought it would be curious to compare these with the rate of the close parish just alluded to. He would take the one that was in the same union. In that close parish in 1860 the amount paid to the common fund was£1 19s.; there was no relief at all to the poor or the lunatic; in 1861£2, and in 1862 £1 17s. was all that that property paid to the maintenance of the poor. In 1863 the Irremovable Poor Act came into operation, and the contribution rose in that year to £30, and in 1864 to £22 6s. In the neighbouring open parish to which he had just referred the charge to the common fund in 1860 was £88 3s., in 1861 it was £81, and in 1862 it was £74 6s.. But observe the remarkable change wrought by the Irremovable Poor Act. In 1863 from £74 6s.. the amount fell to £38 10s., and in the following years it stood at about the same sum. The clerk of the union informed him that the effect of that Bill on the two parishes he had quoted would be that in 29 the close parish the rate would be increased from £22 6s., its present amount, to £57 5s., whereas the open parish, which, under the existing system, paid £190 16s. 6d., would by that Bill have to pay £99, or a decrease in the open parish of about 50 per cent. This, he thought, was sufficient to show the great hardship now borne by the open parishes in having to maintain in their sickness and old age the poor who worked in the neighbouring parishes. He had made inquiry, and confidently believed that on his estates for the last fifty years not a single cottage had been demolished without better ones having been built in their place. No doubt the science of agriculture had greatly increased of late years, and there had been an increased demand for labourers; but unfortunately new cottages had not been built in proportion. He should be sorry to see the Amendment of the noble Duke passed, for he thought it would be the greatest possible boon to the labourer if parochial chargeability were done away with. It would be an enormous benefit to the labourer to have the area of his labour extended. The present law worked most prejudicially on his interests. A farmer wished to employ a certain number of men. He employed two or three of the most skilled and best-conducted men in the village, and he would be glad to get a labourer from the neighbouring parish; but he knew that there were two or three idle men with their wives and families in his parish, and that if he did not employ them he must help to maintain them. He, therefore, discarded the well-conducted labourer in the next parish. That depreciated the value of good labour, and dragged the good labourer down to the dead level of the bad one. The present Bill would likewise benefit the farmer by giving him better labourers to do his work; and it would, moreover, remove the discouragement which now existed to the building of cottages. A proprietor would be enabled to obtain better rents for his cottages if the higher class of labourers were encouraged, fie happened himself to live in Norfolk, in a union which had the honour of having adopted the principle of union chargeability. He referred to the union of Docking, which comprised thirty-six parishes. A tenant of his, who had been Chairman of the Board of Guardians, had furnished him with information as to the operation of the principle there. That gentleman had written a letter to him on the subject, to which he could not 30 help calling their Lordships' attention. After stating that he attended a Board where there was a fair attendance of Guardians, and had talked over points to which he had called his attention, the writer said—But one opinion was expressed, and which I am quite sure is entertained by every guardian in the union, and the more so by the ex officio, that the adoption of the union instead of the parish rating has worked most satisfactorily, and that no one has seen cause to regret its adoption. One most important result has been that to the good labourer it has been of much benefit, has raised his moral character, and enabled him to find ready employment in the several parishes (thirty-six) of the union. The employers are too glad to employ men of good character coming from any parish in preference to those of their own parish of doubtful or inferior character. I also asked the opinion of the guardians as to the effect upon wages, and we are perfectly in agreement that the average wages of our labourer has been, and continues to be, somewhat in advance of the rate paid throughout the county generally. I am quite confident that the rates in the Docking Union have not increased in a greater degree than other unions in the county, but, I believe, rather the reverse. I ascertained from our books that we have scarcely had an able-bodied labourer in our workhouse for some years.He believed, then, that this Bill was not only sound in theory, but sanctioned by practice. The noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland) thought it would check economy, but he himself believed it would cut down expense. There were some 15,000 parishes in the country and only about 600 unions. Therefore, by diminishing the extent of removals they must proportionately diminish cost. It was often said that the large parishes would no longer have an interest in looking after the expenditure; hut if the large parishes did not care to look after the expenditure the farmers in rural parishes who had an addition made to their rates would, he thought, be inclined to look rather sharply after it. With regard to a revision of unions, he believed that some acts of injustice would be done if some alteration were not made in that respect. Let him take the case of the union of Northampton. There the union extended into rural districts nearly all round the town; but in one direction it extended much further. There were two parishes in the union, one nearly seven and the other five miles from the town, where the rates would be considerably increased; while another parish, almost a suburb of Northampton, one and a half mile from the town, would not be affected at all, as it belongs to a union of a strictly agricultural nature. Here the re-distribution of unions would be clearly an act of justice. 31 No doubt cases of hardship might arise out of the proposed change, but he had no wish to jeopardize this measure, which was of so much importance to the poor and to the country, by endeavouring to introduce safeguards against such cases of partial injustice. He thought it would even be better that a little injustice should be done than that so valuable a measure should fail to be passed into law.
THE EARL OF ST. MAUR
said, that one of the main points to be considered in connection with this measure was that of taxation. There were, he thought, two principles which might be appealed to in rating the taxation—they might tax a man in relation to his property, or they might tax him in relation to his employment of labour. He thought in neither case was the taxation fairly apportioned, for in the former case landed property was heavily taxed, whereas funded property was lightly taxed; and in the latter instance the employer of the labour might contrive in many ways to evade the payment of the amount of his fair share of the burden of supporting his workmen when no longer capable of working. It must, however, be borne in mind that in whatever way they raised the taxation there must always be a great difference between those who lived in the towns and those who lived in the country. The great evil of the present system, in his opinion, was that it kept the labourer fixed to the place where there was, perhaps, no demand for his labour. This Bill was founded on the recommendations of the Committee of 1861, but that Committee had expressed a very slight opinion on the subject, relegating it to the further consideration of Parliament. A Return laid before Parliament showed that, while the removals from parish to parish were only 366, the removals from union to union were over 5,000; so that after all it would only be the smaller number which would be touched by this Bill. He had intended to propose Amendments on the Bill, but he should not press them.
THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
said, he felt it his duty to give his cordial support to the Bill. He considered it a great wrong that those who had enjoyed the advantage of the poor man's labour while he was able to work, should be able to relieve themselves of his support in sickness and age; and this wrong the present Bill would, to some extent, diminish. The noble Duke who moved the Amendment had referred to the diminution of 32 extent of the electoral divisions in Ireland; but the result had been the creation of close and open parishes, which all persons must deprecate, and the production of inequalities of rating in populous and thinly-inhabited districts. The consequence had been that many cabins had been pulled down with a view to reduce the rating, and that was not a result which it could be desired to see produced in England.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
The noble Earl the President of the Council, in moving the second reading of the Bill, expressed a hope that it would not be treated in a party spirit. I concur in that wish; but I must say that if anything like party feeling be imported into this subject, Her Majesty's Government will have to thank themselves for that result. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill into the other House is a Gentleman of great Parliamentary reputation; but I confess I was very much disappointed with the course he has pursued in reference to this measure. Not a single taunt had been spared, not a single imputation had been wanting, in the addresses of the right hon. Gentleman which could stir up animosity and bitterness of feeling among his political opponents.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
I really must call the noble Earl to order. It is out of order to refer in this manner to debates in the other House, and if the noble Earl should pursue this line of remark I shall feel it my duty to answer the charges he makes against my right hon. Relative, which are wholly incorrect.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I have said all I desire to say upon that point, but I do not think the noble Earl need have put the rule to which he refers so strictly. I may be permitted to observe that the Report which the Government has laid before Parliament gives me another, and, I think, a reasonable ground of complaint against them. That Report related to the condition of the agricultural labourers in England. When a Report is issued by the Government with its official imprimatur we expect that it shall contain the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; but we find that in another place, to which I will not more particularly refer, as the noble Earl is so strict in enforcing the rule of the House, the statements in that Report were completely demolished.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I am referring to the Report upon the conditions of the agricultural labourers of England. When we find that that Report contains misrepresentations of fact in page after page, then I say we have some reason to find fault with the Government. [The Earl of CLARENDON: Hear!] The noble Earl cheers, but he must remember that that Report was put forward by the Government as the foundation of this Bill. [The Earl of CLARENDON: Hear!] Really I must appeal to the House whether I ought to be subjected to such un-Parliamentary interruptions.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I do not think the noble Earl opposite is acting altogether in conformity to the usages of Parliament. Surely the noble Earl does not mean to say that no Peer can utter a word about the Poor Law Board. No doubt the Gentleman at the head of the Poor Law Board is the noble Earl's relative; but, in discussing a subject of this kind, what can be more natural than to remark upon the course pursued by the President.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I assure the noble Earl I did not intend to apply my remarks personally to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Poor Law Board. I was simply commenting upon the Report which was quoted as justifying the introduction of this Bill. I do not know that the President of the Poor Law Board had anything special to do with that Report, which came from the Privy Council. In that Report it was stated that the inquiry had been but partial, and could not he exhaustive; and it is just upon that ground that I object to the statements contained in it being used to warrant the introduction of this measure. When an inquiry is partial and not exhaustive, those who make it should be careful to represent only facts. In order to show the value of that Report, I may refer to a passage in which, referring to some cottages built by the Duke of Bedford, it is observed, "It is ungracious to criticize, but more could be done if money was not lavished on useless, and often noxious, porches." I think any gentleman who could write such a paragraph must be either ignorant or ill-informed. There is no portion of cottage accommodation so necessary as a large protecting porch. I do not wish to go further into that matter, but I simply want to know what is the real object and end 34 of the Bill. I quite admit, with the noble Duke who has moved the Amendment, that there are certain difficulties involved in this subject; that there will be a considerable shifting of burdens, and that in many instances some injustice will be done if this Bill passes. I have again to find fault with the Government, because if they had brought in a preliminary measure for a revision of the boundaries of unions the difficulty would in some degree have been met. If this Bill passes in it present bare and naked shape it is inevitable that an amount of hardship must be inflicted in some cases that need not have been inflicted. I am not, however, upon these grounds prepared to object to this Bill. There has been no change in the Poor Law since 1834, which has not led to a shifting of burdens and alterations in the charges upon property. All recent legislation upon this subject, however, seems to be tending to one point. And now arises a serious question. It has been urged that this Bill is only a part of still greater changes, and that if we agree to union rating we shall come ultimately to an equalization of the metropolitan poor rates, then to county rating, and, finally, to a national rate fixed upon the Consolidated Fund. I put aside the question of equalizing the metropolitan poor rate, because the circumstances are peculiar; but if I thought that either county rating or a national rate would follow the passing of this Bill I think it would be a fatal objection to it. But I do not think there is any substantial reason for such apprehension. The Bill is the substitution of a larger for a smaller area of rating, making the union the unit instead of the parish. That is a change, I admit; but I also find that the Bill is a security for standing still in the future. At this moment we have an undeniable, and, logically, indefensible anomaly—we have one area for rating and another for management; but the moment you remove that anomaly and make the area of rating and the area of management coterminous, you take up a position by which the argument for further change is removed. I cannot concur in the argument of the noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland) who believes that the widening of the area of rating will be attended with a diminution of the jealousy and watchfulness exhibited by the Guardians over the expenditure. I do not entertain any fears of that kind. There may be, and I think there will be, at first, a 35 slight increase of expenditure; but I do not think that that will be permanent when things have settled down into their ordinary course. The farmer who is elected Guardian of the parish will soon cease to draw any distinction between the primary fund, in which he is personally interested, and the common fund, in which he is interested only in a secondary degree, and will soon feel that his personal interest, as well as that of those he represents, is to attend to the proper and economical expenditure of the moneys intrusted to his charge. But who are those who really at this moment transact the financial business of the union? Are they the representatives of parishes A, B, C, D, or E, or of the parishes comprised in the union generally? I believe that in nine cases out of ten the work devolves upon a small minority, who, from local reasons or special interest in the subject, are regular and systematic in their attendance. I think that the work will practically remain in the same hands as before, and the management will follow in precisely the same channel, and I cannot therefore imagine that the formidable results are likely to accrue from the passing of this measure which some Members of your Lordships' House anticipate. My noble Friend the Duke of Richmond has placed in my hand a Return from the union over which he presides. That Board consists of forty-six elected and thirteen ex officio Guardians; and out of those fifty-nine the average attendance for the twelve months ending in March of the present year was only eleven. The noble Duke is unfortunately absent, owing to a family bereavement; but I have his authority for stating that he substantially concurs in the view of the subject, which I have had the honour of laying before your Lordships. I think it is plain that as soon as the measure becomes law you will have to increase the discipline and severity in jour unions. If, however, the Bill contemplated any such course with respect to the metropolis, such a fact would weigh greatly against the Bill in my mind. I may say, in conclusion, that both the advocates and the opponents of this measure appear, in my opinion, to overrate its probable results. My noble Friend (the Duke of Rutland), on the one hand, apprehends consequences more formidable than are likely to arise; while Her Majesty's Government, on the other hand, promise more than is likely to be realized; for, 36 according to their account the labourer will, in consequence of this Bill, be set free and enabled to carry his labour into the most profitable market. The Act, however, and I believe it is a fair and moderate statement, will have the tendency to remove a certain amount of artificial restriction which now weighs upon the labourer; and, on the other hand, I believe it will have the effect of removing a certain amount of discouragement which the landlord encounters in providing cottage accommodation. I have noticed, and I have no doubt your Lordships have also remarked, that in many of our country parishes the race of ordinary labourers is inferior to the preceding generation. This is, no doubt, in a great degree attributable to the growth of towns which have been gradually absorbing the best and the most intelligent of our labouring class; the recruiting sergeant has drawn away many; and others have left because the cottage accommodation is not sufficient either in quantity or in quality to tempt them to remain. The question is, undoubtedly, a very difficult one. For my own part, however, after having given a good deal of consideration to the subject, I shall support the second reading of the Bill.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, I cannot help thinking, after giving the subject some consideration, that Dr. Hunter's report, which has been so often alluded to, conveys no overcharged picture of the condition of the agricultural labourer. In the south of England the condition of the agricultural population is much to be deplored. The wages are miserably low, and, while in the north of England they are 14s. a week, and oftentimes more, in the south labourers receive only 8s. or 9s.—a pittance on which I can scarcely conceive how they manage to exist—he is also miserably lodged. This state of things has produced the results which might reasonably be expected, for farmers who have taken farms in the south have felt bound to confess that though the price of labour is nominally cheap, it is in reality dear. The measure now under your Lordships' consideration is one which I believe cannot fail to effect much good; for by the law as it at present stands the agricultural labourer is placed in a position destructive to all motives to industry, and one which is demoralizing, corrupting, and injurious in its effects, it is also mainly owing to the state of the law that the present low rate of wages is maintained, 37 and that labourers become, from their misery and poverty, both physically and morally unfitted for their labour. I shall, therefore, give my most cordial support to this measure, because I believe it is intended and calculated to remove the obstacles which prevent the improvement of the condition of the labouring classes in this country. The noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland) who has moved the reference of this Bill to a Select Committee has virtually called upon us to reject the measure altogether; for, although his Amendment is otherwise worded, your Lordships all know that his real object is to defeat the Bill—and, indeed, the noble Duke scarcely concealed his desire for its rejection. If, after the second reading of the Bill, it had been proposed to refer the Bill to a Select Committee to examine into its details, I could have understood a Motion of this kind; but to send the measure to a Select Committee before it has received a second reading can have no other object than to obtain information to enable you to judge whether its principle is good or not; and such an inquiry at this period of the Session would be tantamount to the rejection of the Bill. The measure is one calculated to remove obstacles which now prevent the improvement of the labourer's condition, and those who attended to the noble Duke's speech must have observed that it furnished the most conclusive arguments in favour of the Bill. The noble Duke said that when there is a frost the labourer can get employment, because he goes to his employer and tells him, "If you don't employ me, I shall go to the union, and that will cost you more." Does not the noble Duke see that that is the very vicious principle against which this Bill is directed, and against which also the New Poor Law Act of 1834 was directed, though ineffectually, because the provisions making the area of taxation coterminous with the area of administration were not adopted—the vicious principle, I mean, of setting relief against wages? The same principle which makes the farmer employ his parishioner during the frost also makes him employ him in the summer, though he is ever so bad a workman, in preference to an inhabitant of another parish, though he is ever so clever a workman. But for the existence of that pernicious system, how can you account for the fact that there is such a difference in the rate of wages paid in the north as compared with the south of England? You have a vicious law which 38 keeps the labourer settled in a particular parish and makes him reluctant to give up his settlement in that parish, and you thus prevent the improvement of the labourer's condition by preventing the natural diffusion of labour throughout the country. The noble Duke says the Bill, by causing a great shifting of burdens, will produce extreme injustice; and he told us that the rector of a parish in Leicestershire stated that there were only thirty inhabitants in that parish and that his correspondent now paid no poor rates, whereas, if this Bill passed, its effect would be to make him pay £30 a year. And this the noble Duke calls a very great injustice. Now, my Lords, I say that the injustice is in the present state of the law. An agricultural parish with only thirty inhabitants and no paupers, and which will have to contribute £30 a year, must contain land of very considerable value, which again must be cultivated by means of labourers drawn from other parishes; and when those labourers, with their wives and families, now happen to fall into destitution, they must be thrown upon those other parishes for support. The injustice, then, is in maintaining a state of the law which enables the owners of property in certain districts to obtain labour from other quarters to cultivate their land and produce their rents without contributing their fail-share towards the relief of that destitution which will always exist. I will not, my Lords, at this hour, trespass further on your attention. I am convinced that the more you think of this measure the more you will see that it is sound in principle, and that it will carry into effect the views of those distinguished men, the original Commissioners of Inquiry into the Poor Law, to whom the public owes a deep debt of gratitude for the manner in which they exercised the functions assigned to them, and laid the foundation of, perhaps, the greatest reform that could be effected in any country. We are now asked to carry into effect their views, and the views, I believe, of almost every man who has been either a Commissioner or Assistant Commissioner under the new Poor Law, and also of our ablest writers on political economy.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, he should support the Amendment of the noble Duke behind him. The Bill was propounded as a panacea for all ills, and as designed to produce a new state of things among the poorer classes of this country—to secure 39 them more uniformity of employment and provide them with better cottages; but he did not believe it would do anything of the sort. It proceeded on a wrong principle, because it did not settle the question which required settlement—namely, the question of settlement itself. Indeed, the passing of that Bill would throw an impediment in the way of the permanent and proper adjustment of that important question, by dealing only with a part of it, and giving an advantage only to those classes who would have an interest in preventing its complete and satisfactory adjustment. The Bill contained a provision declaring that poor persons should not be removed from the union in which they had resided one year. How would that affect a town like London? Almost every parish there was a union, and if a pauper went from one parish to another he became removable, and would be sent to the country parish to which he belonged, to the relief of the town in which he had laboured the best days of his life. This would not occur generally in the country unions, and this partial treatment of the subject will operate prejudicially against a fair adjustment of the settlement question. The operation of the New Poor Law in the agricultural districts had been, on the whole, beneficial; but it had not worked well in the metropolis, and mainly because those who had to administer it in the metropolis were not acquainted with those whom they had to relieve, while in the country they were both acquainted with and interested for them. The Bill sought materially to increase the area of taxation; but the argument to be drawn from past experience was against such a course. When the compulsory Poor Law was established in the reign of Elizabeth, the area of rating was something like the sessional division—namely, the districts in which the justices met. In the 39th Elizabeth it was made parochial, from which we may judge that the larger area had not been found to work well; and fifty or sixty years after, in Charles H's time, it was found necessary in the north, where the parishes were large, to reduce the area so as to make the rateable districts coincide with the townships, and the preamble of the Act for this purpose states—Whereas certain counties by reason of the largeness of the parishes within the same have not nor cannot reap the benefit of the Act of 43rd Elizabeth for the relief of the poor.If it was urged that these precedents relate 40 to distant periods and a different state of society, he would refer to the latest legislation on this subject. When the Poor Law was introduced into Ireland the unions were the first rateable districts; but they would not work, and after an experience of eight or ten years a Commission was appointed who reported in favour of reducing the areas, stating that—To avoid impositions by affording local examinations and control, as well as to approximate to the natural condition of family support, some division of the country into contributory districts has been thought necessary.When he was examined before the Committee of 1860, he stated that relief was compulsory charity, and that the object must be to get it under the same influences as were brought into action when charity was exercised, and at the same time consider its bearing as compulsory as affecting the interests of the ratepayers as well as of the poor. The Bill would give no security that in large districts proper discretion would be exercised in the administration of the funds; and although it was admitted that in many cases injustice would be done by making the existing unions the areas for common rating, it would be very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to alter them, How was it possible to get other parishes to unite as proposed for the purpose of uniform rating? Was it likely that the parishes adjoining the Northampton Union, mentioned by the noble Earl opposite, would unite with that union when all that they could obtain by such a change would be a considerable increase in their rates? The questions involved in the Bill were of the greatest importance, and should not be dealt with by Parliament until after the fullest inquiry had been made with reference to them. The Returns showing the alterations which had been made in the rating of parishes by the operation of the Act of the year before last had not yet been laid on the table, and until that was done they could not judge how far that Act had been just in its operation. He did not think the character of the guardians of the poor would improve under the proposed system. They would not give so much personal attention to the poor; they would have less interest in keeping down the expenditure by finding employment, and the result would be most unsatisfactory, both to the poor and to the ratepayers. Those who argue against a different amount of rates charged on parishes within the same union as unjust, for- 41 get that every landed proprietor acquired his property under those conditions, He had bought or inherited it with the knowledge that it was subject to taxation of a given nature and extent. Parishes had been mentioned where this Bill would alter the rates to the extent of 3s. in the pound; but if a man had purchased property upon a certain estimate of value, and then this Bill passed and reduced its value 3s. in the pound, he surely had a light to complain that his property had been seriously decreased in value, while the property of his neighbour had been proportionately increased. This was not the case of an imposition of taxation; for the first time, as in Ireland, where a uniform rate had been introduced, no similar system having existed before, it was the change of a burden which had been borne from the time of Elizabeth to the present day; and it was a burden of which no one had any right to complain, because he had acquired his property subject to it. Suppose the case of a farmer who had just taken a farm upon a lease for twenty-one years, this Bill might make this difference to him, that he would have to pay a great deal more for his farm than he had expected and calculated when he made his bargain. Surely such a man would have a right to complain. So many questions had been raised and so many interests were involved by the Bill that they could do no better than postpone it until they had fuller information on various points, and until anew House of Commons had given their opinion upon it, and the delay of a year in passing the Bill ought not to weigh for a single moment. He should certainly support the Motion that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill be referred to a Select Committee? Their Lordships divided.—Contents 24; Not-Contents 86: Majority 62.
§ Resolved in the Negative.
§ Then the original Motion was agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday next.42
|Rutland, D. [Teller.]||Bandon, E.|
|Bath.M. [Teller.]||Haddington, E.|
|Exeter, M.||Mayo, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Powis, E.|
|Winchester, M,||Selkirk, E,|
|Stradbroke, E.||Dinevor, L.|
|Berwick, L.||Egerton, L.|
|Castlemaine, L.||Moore, L.(M. Drogheda)|
|Churston, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Denman, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|De Ros, L||Sherborne, L.|
|Westbury, L.(L. Chancellor.)||Winchester, Bp.|
|Somerset, D.||Belper, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Camoys, L.|
|Camden, M.||Chelmsford, L.|
|Westminster, M.||Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)|
|Belmore, E.||Clifton, L. (E. Darnley)|
|Cadogan, E.||Colville of Culross, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Cranworth, L.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Delamere, L.|
|Cowper, E.||De Saumarez, L.|
|De Grey, E.||De Tabley, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Foley, L. [Teller.]|
|Derby, E,||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Ducie, E. [Teller.]||Heytesbury, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Houghton, L.|
|Granville, E.||Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)|
|Harrowby, E.||Keane, L.|
|Manvers, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Minto, E.||Lyveden, L.|
|Morton, E.||Methuen, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Monson, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Russell, E.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Saint Germans, E.||Rivers, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Rossie, L. (L. Kinnaird)|
|Spencer, E.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Seymour, L. (E. St. Maur.)|
|Tankerville, E.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Hawarden, V.||Sondes, L.|
|Torrington, V.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Bath and Wells, Bp.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Ely, Bp.||Taunton, L.|
|Lincoln, Bp.||Truro, L.|
|Llandaff, Bp.||Walsingham, L.|
|Ripon, Bp.||Wenlock, L.|
|St. David's, Bp.||Wentworth, L.|
§ House adjourned at Ten O'clock, Till To-morrow, half past Ten O'clock