HL Deb 26 July 1885 vol 300 cc217-34

Order of the Day for the Second Beading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, as the question had been threshed out in both Houses, he would not occupy the attention of their Lordships long. The question first appeared upon the scene when the Representation of the People Bill was in Committee in the other House. On June 19 Dr. Commins moved an Amendment that voters receiving medical relief should not be disqualified, whether they received it at hospitals or otherwise. He might say there that it was a question whether this Bill would meet the case of relief granted by hospitals and dispensaries. The Amendment of last year was violently opposed by the Members of the late Government. Sir Charles W. Dilke, speaking in their name, insisted on the Amendment being withdrawn or negatived, in order, as he said, to put an end to the question. On May 6 the Registration Bill was in Committee, and an Amendment was moved by Mr. Davey to the effect that medical relief, surgical assistance, or the giving of medicine should not be deemed to constitute parochial relief within the meaning of the Poor Relief Acts. That Amendment was strongly opposed by Her Majesty's late Government, and it was negatived by 107 against 102. On May 12 the question cropped up again on the Report at the dinner hour; and, though the late Attorney General and other Members of the Government opposed the Amendment, it was carried by 87 against 50. When the Bill reached this House the late Government, who had hitherto opposed the principle of non-disqualification, did not exactly accept it, but refrained from opposing it; the support was not of a very active character. An Amendment was moved to strike out the clause, and the only Member of the late Government who supported it was the Lord Chancellor, whose principal argument was the hardship of disqualifying in rural districts for aid which in towns could be more easily obtained from dispensaries supported by voluntary contributions. The Law Journal said that some Revising Barristers struck off those who had accepted relief from hospitals; and, if that were so, he should propose to clear up the matter in Committee, if he could do so without risking the Bill. The Duke of Richmond said that the clause in the Bill was imperfect and unsatisfactory; he said he did not take objection to the principle; but he did object that if the least amount of medical comfort other than medicine were given to a labourer he would be disqualified. The same view was taken by his noble Friend the Prime Minister, who described the clause as a mere mockery, because it would not really enfranchise those for whose benefit it was intended, as it did not include everything which was necessary to the case of sickness under medical treatment, and was thus only a half-measure, which would lead to great disappointment. When the Bill went down to the House of Commons, the late Government, represented by Sir Charles W. Dilke, strongly supported their Lordships' Amendment, and in the division that Amendment was carried by 107 to 6G. No sooner, however, was that done than Mr. Chamberlain went down to his constituents, and in a singularly unfair and audacious speech, even for him, denounced their Lordships' House and the Tory Party for having imposed a restriction upon the voter which did not previously exist, and which would disqualify one-quarter of the new constituency. Mr. Chamberlain was a Member of the I Government which brought in the Bill occasioning this disability, yet he had no word of protest against that Government; and it was not until their Lordships had rejected this imperfect clause that he found out that one-quarter of the voters would be disqualified. A more unfair statement of a case was perhaps never made by a man in the position of a Cabinet Minister. In the division in their Lordships' House there was no Party character, and to say that it was a Party division was to make an unfounded statement. Among those who opposed Mr. Davey's clause were Whig Peers, like the Duke of Devonshire and the noble Lord (Lord Monk Bretton), who, not very long ago, was President of the Local Government Board. After Mr. Chamberlain's inflammatory speech, Mr. Jesse Collings brought in a Bill which, with the exception of the last clause, was practically the same Bill as that of which he was moving the second reading. In the meantime, however, a change of Government took place, and the present Government on their accession to Office, having considered all the circumstances of the case, and knowing the immense number of agricultural labourers who would be disfranchised if it were not carried, did what the late Government ought to have done if they had been in earnest on the question—they brought forward on their own responsibility a Bill to remove the disqualification more ample than Mr. Collings's Bill; because the latter was only to last for one year, while there was no limit of time in the present Bill. But as soon as this Bill was introduced by a Conservative Government Mr. Collings discovered that it did not go far enough, and proposed that all medical relief ordered by the doctor and supplied by the parish authorities should be included. For some reason or other the Government in the House of Commons did not see their way to accept Mr. Collings's Amendment, which was first moved by Sir Sydney Waterlow and defeated by a majority of three, and then brought on again on the Report and carried by a majority of 50, and declined to be any longer responsible for the measure. Notwithstanding this, however, the third reading was moved by Mr. Collings and not opposed. At length the Bill had floated to their Lordships' House; and it appeared to him, in these circumstances, that an independent Peer like himself had at least as good a right to move the second reading as the noble Earl opposite, who had taken precisely the same course as himself on the former occasion, when he had voted against his noble Friend. The principle of the Bill was more or less accepted by both sides of the House. For his own part, he had always thought it hard to disfranchise the new voter for one of those unavoidable accidents to himself, or some member of his family, to which humanity was subject. The restriction was reasonable under the limited franchise of the Reform Act of 1832, but became serious and onerous under a system which was almost manhood suffrage. He, therefore, thought that the restriction ought to be freely and unreservedly removed. But he was surprised that Mr. Gladstone's Government, which was fully aware of all the facts of the case, never did anything of the kind. In these circumstances, he moved the second reading of the Bill, which, with the exception of the last clause, was absolutely the Bill of the Conservative Government. That last clause was a matter of detail, but of necessary detail. This being the Bill of a Conservative Government, it was more right, meet, and just that a Member of the Conservative Party in that House, however humble, should take it in charge than the noble Lord, who was a distinguished Member of the Cabinet which over and over again persistently and consistently opposed the principle upon which it was founded.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Earl of Milltown.)


said, that he would not divide the House against the second reading; but as he had moved the recision of Mr. Davey's clause, it was right for him to say that he still thought the disqualification ought to be retained, and that he had heard no argument in favour of the Bill which would induce him to change his opinion. He admitted, at the same time, that, to a considerable extent, the situation had been changed. The matter had been again before the other House of Parliament on more than one occasion, and the decision arrived at by a snap division on the former occasion had been affirmed more than once. Therefore, he thought that, as this was a matter which affected the privileges of, or at any rate the mode of electing, Members to the other House of Parliament, that was a fact which ought to have some weight with their Lordships in dealing with this subject. On the other hand, he must say that he deeply regretted the decision which had been come to. He would not say a word on the history of the question, as the whole speech of the noble Earl who spoke last was a history of the Bill, and latterly a justification of the course he had himself pursued. He had nothing to do now with either of those questions; but he noticed that the noble Earl did not say a single word in favour of the principle of the Bill. It was easy to cite cases wherein the existing law might work hardship; but, even taking those individual cases at their worst, they would only disqualify a man for a single year, and he would afterwards regain his independence. Therefore, he did not think those cases supplied any justification for passing the Bill. By this Bill they would be teaching the working classes a lesson of improvidence. They would be teaching them that thrift was not to be valued for its own sake, and that they need not make provision for those accidents of life which were so common. It was unfortunate that a lesson should be taught to them in this way by Parliament. If they were to have medical and surgical relief out of the rates, that would have the effect of enabling them to work for lower wages. It appeared to him that the words in the 4th clause were too wide, and that no check was given on the discretion of the medical officer. He did not think that was a safe thing, and he regretted the extension which was given to the clause. At the same time, he did not think any distinct line could be drawn between brandy supplied as an article of diet to a sick man and bread supplied to him at a later stage in the progress of his recovery. This, however, afforded not an argument in favour of the clause, but rather an argument that the law ought to be left as it stood. On the last occasion he directed their Lordships' attention to the fact that this Bill would have scarcely any effect in Scotland; but he would not dwell upon that point now. In England he believed the effect of it would be to place greater difficulties than at present existed in the way of in the way of benefit and provident societies. There was one matter where he thought the present state of the Jaw would have operated to produce a serious hardship. A man might have received relief for the past 12 months without realizing that that disfranchised him under the combined action of the Act passed last year and the clause of the Reform Act of 1832. Consequently there might be a reason for suspending the operation of that disqualification, and he should like to see a clause introduced in Committee limiting the operation of the Bill to a certain period of years. He deemed it desirable not to go further in this evil direction than was absolutely necessary. He would now call the attention of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to one point in regard to the 4th clause. The last words of that clause only exempted people from the present disqualification when they had received medical or surgical assistance at the expense of any poor rate. He believed he was right in saying that this disqualification was first made part of the Statute Law by the 36th section of the Reform Act of 1832, which provided that no one should be entitled to vote who had received parochial relief or other alms. He believed the legal decisions were to the effect that "other alms" would operate to disqualify a man who had received assistance from hospitals and such like charities. If this was so, this Bill would allow a man to vote if he had received medical assistance out of the rates, but not if he had received the same assistance from private charity. This was a point which ought to be considered in Committee. In conclusion, the noble Lord said he would in Committee move an Amendment limiting the operation of the Bill to a certain time, and that he would then state the arguments in favour of his proposal.


said, the noble Earl (the Earl of Milltown), who had taken charge of this Bill under a deep sense of responsibility, had, as the noble Lord who followed him justly said, not advanced, in the course of a speech of half-an-hour's duration, a single argument in favour of the principle of the Bill, the second reading of which he had moved. He did hear the noble Earl for a long time rather ostentatiously bring forward all the authorities who I had ever given an opinion against the principle of the Bill; and, further, he must do him the justice to say that he thought he pointed out a flaw in the Bill which he was supporting. Their Lordships were aware that the two Houses of Parliament unanimously agreed to confer the franchise on a vast number of agricultural labourers, men who for the most part maintained themselves, and with the greatest difficulty found money in case of any epidemic disease, or of any accident happening to them or their families. This difficulty was not experienced in the boroughs, as there people had free hospitals and dispensaries, and a man receiving relief there was not, therefore, disqualified for the vote. It was perfectly different with those whom Parliament had enfranchised. As to the politico-economy objections to this measure, he had the greatest doubt whether political economy had very much to do with this particular matter. This Bill did not in the slightest degree change the duty of the Guardians of the Poor as to the giving of relief according to the merits of the case. He believed that if that argument was pushed too far, it would go against all voluntary and charitable hospitals, and do more harm than good. It had been said that by removing the disqualification they removed also the incentive of the poor man to provide himself with medical assistance. He did not believe it. He believed that a poor man, who was unable to provide medical assistance for himself, would not be much influenced in applying for it gratuitously by any question of forfeiting his franchise. It was really unnecessary for him to argue in favour of the principle of the Bill, for it had been adopted not only by the bulk of the Liberal Party, but by the Government, who had introduced the Bill. The noble Earl who opened the discussion gave a long description of what had passed. Whether it was accurate or not he was not prepared to say; but he was inclined to doubt its perfect accuracy, since the noble Earl had credited him with a vote which he intended giving, but which he never gave, as it happened. He wished, however, to avoid all matters of crimination or recrimination, although, no doubt, very strong opinions had been expressed on the subject. It was difficult to see the merits of the position taken up by the Government. A patient was to be allowed a dose of castor oil, but he was to be prevented receiving adjuncts which might be considered necessary for his recovery. If a man had an inflammatory disease, he might be purged and depleted; but if he happened to have a low fever, and required some brandy or port wine, then he was not to have it. Was it intended to maintain that distinction? Again, he objected to giving a medical man the power of disqualifying a voter, although he did not believe such a power would be improperly used. He hoped their Lordships would not reject the Bill; indeed, he appealed with very great confidence to them to read it a second time, and to state what facilities would be afforded to secure its passing in the quickest possible time.


said, that, as one who had been engaged for 40 years in the administration of the Poor Law, he was opposed to the principle of the Bill. He believed it would discourage the wage-earning class from forming provident sick clubs, and that in other ways it would be productive of mischief. His belief was that but for the near approach of a General Election the Leader of the Opposition would not have competed so pertinaciously with another noble Earl for the honour of moving the second reading of such a Bill as this.


My Lords, I think the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) made a considerable point when he showed that neither the speech of the Mover of the second reading nor of the noble Lord who opposed it contained any lengthened argument in favour of the principle of the Bill or against it. I believe the reason of that is not deficiency of zeal or of ingenuity on the part of my noble Friends, but because the matter, though it had been blown up for Party purposes to an extraordinary size, is not of any great magnitude after all, and does not require much to be said either for or against it. But I think the noble Lord was successful in the main argument of his speech—namely, that the line between medical aid and medical comforts, which are part of the cure, is not easy to draw, and not very easy to maintain, and that it is possible logically very nearly to destroy or make untenable a distinction of that kind. When the question was before this House on a former occasion, I felt, as I stated, that it would be very difficult in the popular mind to maintain that distinction, and I do not think that it can be maintained; but what presses on my mind is that we stand on a slope, and that we shall be carried much farther than we expect. I do not see, if we use the kind of logic which the noble Earl used, how we can draw the distinction between outdoor relief and medical relief, between the bread which is necessary for the cure of the sick man, and the bread which prevents him from becoming sick. You will never get a man to understand that there is any essential difference in receiving bread in order that disease, the result of starvation, may not supervene, and receiving bread in order that the disease, which starvation causes, may be cured. There is no logical line that will be ultimately tenable; and, therefore, it seems to me that the course of legislation on which we enter is exposed to the criticism that it is leading us very far, and is disturbing principles which have been accepted for a considerable time. I do not mean to express an opinion as to these principles. I do not at all admit that the maintenance of the disqualification in question is special to the Party to which I belong. That disqualification was imposed by the Act of 1882, which certainly was not a Tory Bill. But there is no doubt that the removal of a disqualification which has existed for 53 years, and has been very wide in its operation, is a very large affair, and I doubt whether it is a fit subject for a moribund Parliament to determine. I do not myself agree with either of two views which have been taken on the subject. On the one hand, we have been told that the fear of losing the vote is a great incentive to thrift, and that a man will avoid seeking relief in order not to lose it. I do not believe that men attach that importance to the vote. That is one of the Parliamentary myths in which we indulge. Nine men out of 10, or 99 men in 100, would not ask themselves before asking for relief—"Shall I by this act deprive myself of the vote?" Still more is that the case with the class of men we are now dealing with, whose necessities are very great. Neither, on the other band, can I admit the relevancy of the argument used in favour of the Bill, that it is a great cruelty, because a man who met with an accident would feel that he would deprive himself of his vote if he accepted medical relief. My own opinion is that this feeling would be the smallest of the calamities which would afflict a man under such circumstances, and that as he lay upon his bed of sickness his sufferings would not be in the slightest degree intensified by the idea that he was invalidating his Parliamentary vote. The real question seems to me to be of a totally different order. I look upon this kind of legislation as belonging to the Corrupt Practices family. The motive of the legislators of 1832 was not to punish those who receive relief, or to inculcate the virtue of thrift, but to remove from the register a class of persons necessarily dependent, and whose existence on the register was a stimulus to those who would exercise their privilege to grant relief. Supposing that my anticipations are correct and that the line taken up is untenable, and that if you go down the greased slope a little further and out-door relief altogether ceases to be a disqualification for the vote, what will be the result? Its effect will be that you will have upon the register men who will depend, to a great extent, upon the Boards of Guardians for their subsistence and their comfort, and who will have as strong motives as can be applied to any men, not to displease the Boards of Guardians in the exorcise of their political privilege. I do not stop to notice the argument about the ballot which might be addressed to me. In country parishes concealment of the way a man votes is not very easy. If any one thinks it is, I would refer him to the pages of Sydney Smith. Well, you make a largo number of your voters dependent on the Boards of Guardians; you cannot possibly criticize the motives upon which these men give, or refuse to give, and you make the voter dependent upon them in the exercise of the voting privilege. What follows? The Board of Guardians becomes a political body, and this power which they possess will be a recommendation or an objection to the various candidates who present themselves for election. I cannot say I think that change will be an improvement in the structure and character of our Boards of Guardians. I do not myself wish to express any opinion upon this matter, My concern rather is to show that this Bill is much larger than it looks, and the matters with which it deals are much more important than appears on the surface. In view of the prospects of the future, we held that this was not an affair on which we could engage our Ministerial responsibility, because of the magnitude of the questions which might ultimately arise. I do not propose, my Lords, to ask you to stop this Bill, or to object to the Amendment which has been made in it. I have no objection to the immediate operation of the Bill. The idea that these voters will be particularly hostile to the Party to which I belong I do not believe. My impression is they will be rather in our favour. My objection is simply on account of the questions which the Bill may raise. But your Lordships have, I think, generally pursued the policy of not interfering in those questions, which, in a broad sense, I call questions of corrupt practice, with the decisions to which the House of Commons may have come. Of course, your Lordships have a right to interfere, and would if you had good cause to do so; but this is a matter which so affects the House of Commons that, as in the case of the Corrupt Practices Bill three years ago, although objected to that measure, I dissuaded your Lordships from intervention. In the present case, where a great political feeling wholly out of proportion to the importance of the question has been created, it would be unnecessary, and would produce unnecessary friction between the two Houses, if your Lordships rejected the Bill. I have no intention of advising you to do so, and I have expressed my belief that the immediate effects of the Bill will not be injurious; but as to its ultimate effect I must confess I have some little anxiety, and your Lordships must prepare yourselves for the questions which you will undoubtedy have to face in the future.


said, the noble Earl who moved the second reading of the Bill (the Earl of Milltown) seemed to address a considerable part of his speech to a justification of his theory that the Bill ought not to be in the hands of a Member of the late Government, because they had declined at the outset to deal with the question on the Registration Bill. The simple history of the matter was this. The Re- gistration Bill was a matter of immense importance, and a measure which it was necessary to pass through the House quickly. There was, therefore, not unnaturally an indisposition to have it encumbered with any Amendment which might cause delay, and some who on a different occasion would have thought the Amendment with respect to medical relief well worthy of consideration objected to it in this instance upon the ground which he had stated. That must have been the reason why, in the House of Commons, there was no anxiety in the first instance to introduce this measure. When the Bill came up to their Lordships' House, with the clause about which so much had been said in it, the position of the matter changed; and the Government had not, as a reason for opposing it, that they feared to encumber the Bill with such a proposal. He did his best to prevail upon their Lordships to accept the clause; but he did not succeed in retaining it in the Bill, and the Government did not subsequently desire to imperil the Bill by insisting upon its re-insertion, or to delay it while a contest between the two Houses was proceeding. The late Government allowed the matter to rest; but these facts could not be brought as charges against their consistency. The noble Marquess was alarmed at the possible consequences of the principle now introduced, and he evidently thought it was a somewhat dangerous experiment. He was not at all disposed to impute motives; but it appeared to him that if anybody had that day made a speech against the Bill, it was the noble Marquess himself. This, no doubt, was because he never could state objections without doing so in a more forcible manner than anybody else. The noble Marquess, however, had exercised a very sound judgment in determining not to advise their Lordships to oppose the Bill; but what was very remarkable about the whole controversy, and what he could not understand, was the action of the Government. The noble Marquess had urged against Mr. Davey's clause in the Registration Bill that it was impossible to draw a satisfactory distinction between medicine and medical comforts; and yet when his Colleagues introduced the principle of exempting medicine, and were asked to carry it, to what the noble Marquess had confessed was the logical conclusion, the Government declined all further responsibility for the Bill. The true explanation of the matter was to be found in the fact that throughout double motives had been operating. He did not use those words in a bad sense; but while there were doubts about the economy of the matter, there were greater doubts about the political necessity or wisdom of disfranchising the people concerned. The result of the speech of the noble Marquess was—"I do not like the measure, but I think I ought to support it."


said, he was a little astonished to hear the speech of his noble and learned Friend (the Earl of Selborne), since the ambiguity which he had charged against the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) was quite as pronounced on those as on the opposite Benches. In all his public life, he (the Duke of Argyll) had never known a case in which the public speeches and the private conversation of men on both sides so widely differed. He was afraid, however, that this was a characteristic instance of the present condition of politics. It was impossible to separate this measure from its history. His noble Friend on the Front-Opposition Bench said that the disqualification of voters for accepting parochial relief was quite rational when the franchise was high; but that now it was lower, it was unreasonable to exclude from the franchise men of the labouring classes whose income was not sufficient to provide them with medical relief. That was the best argument he had heard in favour of the Bill; but, being the best, what did it come to?


I did not use any such argument.


said, he had heard the noble Earl distinctly say—"Now when you have lowered the franchise."


admitted that he had used the argument referred to.


said, that if he were in a Court of Justice he could swear that Earl Granville had used it.


said, his argument was, that as the receipt of medical relief did not act as a disqualification in burghs and towns, it ought not to disqualify in the ease of agricultural labourers.


, admitting the correction, said, that was a good argument so far as it went; but the tendency, he was afraid, would be to push it further, and the next thing would be that those who received outdoor relief would be entitled to vote. Now, he contended that in such legislation as this there was a serious danger of breaking down the principle of the now Poor Law, which was one of the greatest triumphs that had ever been secured by the Liberal Party, or rather the Whig Party. They were dealing with a delicate question, and there was not only great danger of upsetting that principle, but also of destroying the manliness and self-reliance of the poor, as well as the safety of the country itself. He quite agreed that this was a question upon which the House of Lords ought to give way to the deliberate opinion of the House of Commons; but he was of opinion that their Lordships had not before them the deliberate opinion of the House of Commons—at least, a House in a condition to form and give a deliberate and independent judgment. A little band of men in the House of Commons, numbering 25, voted against the Bill; and looking at their arguments, he saw clearly that, as political arguments, the balance was in their favour. They were gallant and independent men, who, in the face of a political majority composed of both Parties, would not consent to abandon the political convictions of their lives because of the fear of a General Election. It had been stated that the late Government, in opposing Mr. Davey's clause, merely wished to pass the Registration Bill through the House as soon as possible. The noble and learned Lord must know that at that time the opinion of the Government was against the principle of the proposed Amendment. He looked with extreme suspicion upon the fact that the principle of the Poor Law, which was most important to the independence of the poor, was given up by the Leaders of the two Parties merely from political motives, and in the face of a General Election. He could not help thinking that both Parties were mistaken. He was not at all sure that this amendment of the law was as popular as it was supposed to be. The great majority in the constituencies were ratepayers; they had to look to their selfish interests; and it was at least possible that they might view with alarm what they might regard as a plan for the increase of outdoor relief through the infringement of the principle of the Poor Law. In Scotland, he believed, it was not legal to give medical relief to those who were not already on the poor rate; and, therefore, in Scotland the Bill would have no operation at all, and the clauses referring to Scotland might as well be left out. He resented it as an injustice that the Leaders of the two Parties should bandy words in trying to prove that one Party or the other was inconsistent, when they knew that the objections to the Bill were general on both sides. He believed that if the House of Commons could have voted by ballot, this Bill would have been thrown out. Both Parties had submitted to what they regarded as a political necessity; but he did not believe that such a necessity existed.


said, he heard the arguments of the noble and learned Lord opposite in introducing the Registration Bill, and he was convinced by those arguments to an extent even further than they went. An opinion seemed to prevail that as soon as anyone received relief he ceased to be a voter. There never was a greater delusion; the man remained a voter until he was struck off the list. A man might have been receiving relief for 11 months and still be on the register. If he were, he voted; hence many were brought out of the workhouses to vote, the only question asked of them being whether they were the persons on the register. Therefore, under the present state of the law, they had this anomalous state of things, that a man might have had parochial relief for 11 months out of the 12 preceding the election, and yet keep his vote; while, on the other hand, if a man received a day's relief just before the revision, even although he might have maintained himself for a year, his name was struck off. That was a state of things which was not reasonable, and unless they were prepared to go the length of making it penal for a person who had received relief within the year to vote, he did not see how they could consistently maintain the present state of things. For these reasons, he had never taken the view of the question that others had done, and he believed it was a mistake to suppose that the effect of the Bill would be to put many on the register in proportion to the total number of voters. When all those who had been relieved after the registration could vote, why should they disfranchise those who had received relief before the registration? A man who had been convicted as a criminal, if he had served his sentence, could be restored to his position as a voter; and why should the recipient of relief be in a worse position? If a man were out on bail, waiting for judgment it might be for a serious offence, he could vote if his name were on the register. When criminals might vote, it was childish to attempt to stop this Bill because of some apprehension as to what was to follow. If anything followed it would follow justly in view of the facts he had stated; and therefore he hoped the Bill would be passed as an initiative.


said, he had not voted against the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Balfour) to disqualify on account of medical relief, from respect to the opinion of a noble Duke now absent (the Duke of Richmond), expressed in 1879; but he had spoken against the recent disqualification, as the Franchise Bill enlarged the number of voters and Boards of Guardians, and the Auditor of the Local Government Board could control the action of the medical officers, who only could order such stimulants as were absolutely necessary—with medicine—to cure disease. They could not order bread—the receipt of which pauperized a man—and it was only ordered by the Guardians. He found that there was great disinclination on the part of the poor to apply for medical relief, because it was known that the parish officer was paid by a salary, and a preference was given to medical men, who, he was bound to state, were very moderate in their charges to the sick.


said, he had voted against this proposal when it was last before their Lordships, and he should certainly do so again if any opportunity were offered by way of an Amendment postponing the second reading of the Bill. He still held to the opinion that the measure was contrary to the interests of those principally affected by it—the poor themselves. It was important that every effort should be made to teach them thrift and economy. They ought to be impressed with the belief that there was something not creditable in the receipt of parochial relief in any shape. There was no distinction between the man who received medical relief and the man who received sustenance; neither had made provision for the calamity of sickness, accident, or loss of employment. The cases of the two were identical. If he could disqualify the recipients of alms he would be glad to do it. The labourer could join a club, and the same argument which applied to medicine applied equally to food. The decent working man who wanted medicine or who fell out of work would be trusted by the shopkeeper and receive help in other ways. In this matter there was no real distinction between the rural and the urban labourer. He agreed that this was not strictly a matter of political economy, but that science had to deal with the question of the reasonableness of State relief to poverty and with the safeguards which ought to be provided against the abuse of that relief. He would refer their Lordships to some remarks of the late Professor Jevons, whom none could charge with want of kindness and sympathy for the poorer classes. In his Methods of Social Reform, Mr. Jevons strongly commented on the danger of allowing our working people, who were already too prone to improvidence, to entertain the idea that they might make merry in good times and fall back on the Poor Law in adversity; and he laid down the proposition that no labourer was solvent who did not lay by enough to meet the expenses of the ordinary illnesses which befell himself or any member of his family. The late Mr. Fawcett, too, in his Manual of Political Economy, p. 298, expressed the opinion that the Government in entering so far upon the path of Socialism as ultimately to guarantee subsistence to every citizen was incurring a great responsibility unless adequate safeguards against abuse were provided. He would also commend to their Lordships' earnest attention the letter of Dr. Alfred Carpenter, of Croydon, which appeared in The Times of that day. He believed the matter was really of small importance, and would only affect some two or three votes in the 1,000; but he would, nevertheless, vote against the Bill if he had the opportunity. He believed the noble Viscount opposite was perfectly accurate in his law and facts with respect to persons in the workhouses and felons. Of course, the right method was to get such persons off the register. In so far as the Bill operated at all, it would operate to the discouragement of thrift, and on that ground he was opposed to it.


said, he would venture to suggest to the noble Earl (the Earl of Milltown) that, as time was pressing, he should give Notice to move the suspension of the Standing Order which prohibited two stages of a Bill being taken on the same day. There were only two unimportant Amendments, and the Committee stage might be negatived, so that the Bill might be reported without Amendment. These Amendments could then be moved on the third reading. In his opinion, these stages should be taken on Thursday.


said, that the noble Lord behind him (Lord Balfour) had a new clause to propose, and he himself had to move an Amendment. In these circumstances, he should take the Committee on Thursday; but thought it would be convenient and more in accordance with the usual procedure to move the suspension of the Standing Order on Friday, so that the Report and the third reading might be taken on that day and the Amendments printed, with a view to their Lordships having time to consider them.


asked whether the House could not sit on Wednesday? He thought it desirable, with the view of giving the overseers time to make up the lists, that there should be no delay.


said, he did not believe the overseers would have any difficulty in performing their duty. He was rather inclined to protest against the practice of hustling measures through the House, as there was a very objectionable tendency to hurry Bills through Parliament. In the present case there was no necessity for departing from the usual course, and he thought the proposal of his noble Friend was a reasonable one.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2ª accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.