HL Deb 19 July 1900 vol 86 cc415-20


Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Bill read 3a (according to Order).


My Lords, I must apologise for troubling your Lordships with an Amendment to this Bill at this stage. My noble friend Lord Avebury, in Committee of the whole House, moved a clause which had the same object, but which was not substantially in the same words as the Amendment standing in my name on the Paper. That Amendment was, however, rejected. My noble friend was under the impression that he could move it again before the Standing Committee, but the noble Earl who presides over that Committee expressed the opinion that that could not be done. Therefore I ask your Lordships to consider the Amendment which I have put down. The first sub-section of Clause 1 of this Bill is as follows— A person who has resided continuously for five years in England shall not thereafter be removed to Ireland under the Acts relating to the relief of the poor. It has occurred to many of us that that is rather a large order and rather vague in its terms. An Irish labourer may have tramped about the country seeking and finding, or not finding, work, for five years or for a less period, and then he may apply for poor relief in a parish into which, perhaps, he has only come within the previous week. It is unjust to the ratepayers of that parish or union that they should be burdened with the maintenance of the Irish labourer, who really has no connection whatever with the place, merely because he happened to be in a particular parish or union when he applied for relief. I propose, therefore, to insert, after the first sub-section, the words— Provided that such person shall have resided continuously for at least six months in the parish or union from which it is proposed to remove him. That will give a guarantee of some residential connection with the parish or union in which he seeks relief, and it will also follow the precedent in the Scottish Act. Under that Act the pauper cannot avoid removal from Scotland to Ireland unless he has resided for, I believe, a whole year in the place from which it is sought to remove him. I am sure your Lordships will see that the clause, as it stands, may impose a great burden upon the ratepayers of a parish or union with which the pauper has no connection whatever, and I hope the House will agree to my Amendment.

Moved— In Clause 1, page 1, line 7, after 'the poor' to insert 'provided that such person shall have resided continuously for at least six months in the parish or union from which it is proposed to remove him.'"—(Lord Davey)


My Lords, I hope the House will not agree to this Amendment, which would practically render the Bill entirely inoperative and useless. I do not think my noble and learned friend can have studied the history of this question, which has been agitated for the last fifty years. It is thirty-four years since I myself moved in the House of Commons†— That the state of the law of removal from England to Ireland of persons receiving poor-law relief is one deserving of the immediate attention of Parliament and of the Government. † See The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], Vol. clxxxiv., p. 299. The late Mr. Charles Villiers, who was at j that time at the head of the Poor-Law Board, stated that this was "a very old grievance." That was his language thirty-four years ago, and this is the first practical attempt to remedy that grievance. I think I can appeal—in support of my statement that this has always been a subject of great grievance in Ireland—to the noble Earl opposite, Earl Spencer, who had a very long reign in Ireland as Lord Lieutenant. Under the present state of the law an Irish labourer who comes over here as a boy, and who probably spends the whole of his life in this country, may, in his old age, when he is like a squeezed lemon, be sent over and pitched on the coast of Ireland to be taken care of by the first union into which he is placed. It is not a question between one parish and another parish; it is an international question between England and Ireland. There is at present no reciprocity. An Irish pauper who applied for relief in England can be removed to Ireland, but an English-born pauper who applies for relief in Ireland must be kept in Ireland by the union to which he applies. This question between different parishes in England has nothing, to do with the Irish grievance. The English parishes must fight it out amongst themselves. If a man who has been absent from Ireland for five years does not form a settlement according to English law in a certain parish, what has that to do with Ireland? Why should he he sent back to Ireland on that account? The promoters of this Bill have drawn a very large limit in saying an Irish person should have resided for five years continuously in England before becoming irremovable. In my opinion that period is too long. I hope the House will not, at the twelfth hour, strangle a Bill which has been long looked forward to in Ireland, and which will remedy what has always created a great deal of annoyance and dissatisfaction.


My Lords, the Amendment I moved when the Bill was in Committee was discussed for some little while and withdrawn. It was not rejected. The noble and learned Lord who has just spoken has not dealt with the case of this Amendment. It is not an Irish question. We have agreed that an Irishman who has been five years in Eng- land is to be relieved in England, but the question is where. The Bill gives him his choice, the amendment says he is to be relieved where he has worked. Why should an Irishman be placed in a different position in this matter from an Englishman or a Scotsman? If he were a Scotsman or an Englishman he would not obtain a settlement in the way indicated by this Bill. Under this Bill an Irishman, although he may not have lived in the parish or union in which he applies for relief more than a few days, is able to throw himself upon that parish or union for the rest of his life. Surely, if he has been working for some time in one part of England there should be power to remove him to that part of England when he becomes chargeable to the poor law. By this Bill as it stands you are cutting into the root of the whole law of settlement. All that my noble and learned friend asks is that the person shall have been for six months in the parish or union in which he claims relief. Surely that is a very reasonable suggestion. What we fail to see is why, in the case of an Irishman, all the safeguards in the working of the poor law which Parliament has devised in the case of Englishmen and Scotsmen should be dispensed with.


My Lords, I still maintain the view I expressed when Lord Avebury's Amendment was before the House. It is impossible to put the two countries on the same footing, for the very reason that in Ireland there is not a law of settlement and in England there is. An Englishman who happens to be in Ireland and applies for relief has to be relieved by the union in which he applies, and cannot be removed, whereas an Irishman applying for relief in England can be removed back to his own country. Therefore I say, if you are going to remove this difficulty, do it in a liberal spirit. It is only fair that, as an Englishman cannot be removed from Ireland, an Irishman should be placed in a similar position when in this country.


This Bill does not give reciprocity. It says an Irishman must have resided five years in England before becoming irremovable. Reciprocity would be to put an Irishman in the same position in England as an Englishman occupies in Ireland. It would be reciprocity if an Irishman in England was entitled to obtain relief in any parish or union where he might apply for it and be irremovable. I certainly do feel as strongly as the noble and learned Lord opposite that this has been a real and substantial grievance in Ireland. The question is whether, in removing this grievance conditionally upon a residence of five years, it is desirable that you should place upon the parishes in which Irishmen apply for relief, and in which they may only have been residing for a few days, the burden of perpetually maintaining them.


I was under the impression that the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition spoke on the Second Reading, and that he was a supporter of the measure.


I made exactly the same remarks on the Second Reading.


I do not contest, as I said in Committee, the fact that England will suffer under this Bill. The measure was introduced with the idea of removing from Ireland some of the injustice she has long laboured under, and I do not deny that the burden has fallen upon England. I may remind your Lordships that this Amendment was negatived in Committee after a long discussion.


I beg my noble friend's pardon. It was withdrawn.


Yes, after a full discussion.


I understood that the noble Lord accepted the arguments as sufficient, and withdrew his Amendment. Technically I was wrong in saying it was negatived, but the noble Lord had an opportunity of going to a division, which he did not avail himself of. The proposal on that occasion was that the pauper should have resided continuously for at least twelve months in the parish or union from which it was proposed to remove him. The noble and learned Lord opposite now proposes a residence of six months. This would really do away altogether with the justice the Government asks you to do to Ireland. It would make removability very much more easy and irremovability very much more difficult. If you are going to do this act of justice to Ireland, I submit that it is better to do it with a good grace. The noble Lord below the gangway (Lord Avebury) argued that it would be hard upon the union of the parish on which the liability of maintaining the pauper would in future rest unless such an Amendment were adopted. I admit that, but all the unions and parishes in England run the risk, which is therefore shared amongst them all. I submit that as the Bill has gone through its various stages in this House, there is no reason for amending it in the way suggested by the noble and learned Lord.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Bill passed.