HL Deb 11 March 1872 vol 209 cc1749-51

, in rising to ask, If Her Majesty's Government intend to propose any measure for reducing the number of the Poor Law Unions in Ireland? said, that the Queen's Speech delivered at the opening of Parliament, stated that "several measures for the administrative improvement of Ireland will also be laid before you." Now, so far as he knew only one measure of that nature had been laid before Parliament by the Government—the Grand Jury Presentment Act—and taken by itself there seemed some doubt whether it was an administrative improvement at all. As the Government, however, had the subject of the administrative improvement of Ireland before them, it seemed to him desirable, and very easy, to take a comprehensive view of the subject. The circumstances of Ireland were very favourable to a symmetrical arrangement of the country. There already existed uniform systems of police, of highways, and of valuations under which the rates were paid, and it seemed to him that it would not be difficult to extend the principle. With the exception of a few large towns which lay on the coast, the whole character of the country and of the population was also uniform. There were no large inland towns, no large mining or manufacturing populations; and there was no reason to expect any change in the present condition of the country. There were two practical organizations for local government—one, the grand juries, the subdivisions of which were the baronies; and the other the Poor Law organization, the subdivisions of which were the electoral unions. Both worked over the same areas, but the rates of both were collected by different collectors. There was a third system of subdivisions for magisterial and police purposes, which he understood was to be adopted as the basis of polling places—namely, the petty sessions; but these neither coincided with the grand jury districts nor with the poor-law districts. The time appeared to have arrived when the arrangement of the Unions might be considered, with a view to making them harmonious. He understood that while the workhouses were calculated to accommodate 150,000 paupers there were only 50,000 inmates; and he believed that under a proper organization part of this surplus accommodation might be applied for public purposes, or military purposes, proper arrangements being made for the repayment of the cost, and the distribution of the Unions which, under this plan, might be abolished among adjacent unions. He begged to ask this Question—though he had not much hope of a satisfactory answer.


willingly bore testimony to the great attention given to all matters connected with Ireland by the noble Earl who had asked the Question. Acting as the organ of the Irish Office in their Lordships' House, he was instructed to reply that at present the Government had no intention of proposing a reduction in the number of the Poor Law Unions of Ireland.


asked, Whether there was any intention of proposing in the present Session a measure for altering the area of Poor Law taxation in Ireland so as to substitute a Union for an electoral division rating?


said, he could not give a reply to the Question of his noble Friend. He had not heard that there was any such intention.