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Continuance Of The Poor-Law Commission

Volume 49: debated on Monday 29 July 1839

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On the question, that the Speaker do leave the Chair, for the House to go into Committee on the Poor-Law Commission Continuance Bill.

in rising to move, that it be an instruction to the Committee that they have power to introduce a clause to abolish the plurality and proxy voting in the election of guardians, said, he should not oppose at any length the question that the Speaker leave the Chair, because he felt so satisfied of the great dissatisfaction that the practice of plural and proxy voting had produced throughout the country, that he could not allow himself to anticipate that his motion would meet with serious opposition. It was a mere mockery of representation, professing to give the rate-payers the franchise, while, in reality, it disfranchised them. He would take a case that happened in the election of guardians of the Holborn Union, where the plural system had completely swamped the rate-payers. There were cases in that Union where eleven and twelve trustees were, each of them, allowed to vote, and thus they gave no less than sixty-six votes. There was the case, also, of Kensington and Chelsea, where one individual had given 700 proxies, thus completely swamping the rate-payers. Then there was no check. If the proxy were once given, it continued till revoked. In the case of the Bath Union, at the late election of guardians, there was one house-agent who boasted that he had 300 proxies. He did not wish to prevent the owner from having a vote, but he wished to place his right on a footing of equality with the rate-payer. Suppose the case where the owner grants a lease of twenty-one years, and who has nothing to do with the payment of the rates, yet that owner retains his six votes, and completely swamps his tenants, who pay the rates. A tenant paying 200l. of rent has only one vote, while an owner receiving 150l. of rent has six votes. He should like to see the system of voting for the election of the guardians placed under the system established under what was known as Sir John Hobhouse's Vestry Act. He knew no bill that had worked so well as that measure had worked. In that bill each rate-payer had a vote, and there was no plural or proxy voting. The mode of taking the votes, too, was by ballot. He would tell them that they might go on increasing the army; they might go on establishing a police and constabulary force throughout the country; but, until they consented to the principle which he had advocated, the rate-payers of England would not be satisfied, and never would be satisfied with such a base mockery of the right of franchise.

would not detain the House on this subject. The principle which the motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury involved, might perhaps be properly discussed when the House came to consider the whole question of the New Poor-Law Amendment Act; but when it was remembered that plural and proxy voting had been sanctioned under three separate Acts of Parliament, and fully discussed last year on the debates upon the Irish Poor-Law Bill, he did not think the House would at present agree to reverse a system which had thus been deliberately sanctioned by the House on three separate occasions.

The House divided on the Amendment: —Ayes 3.5; Noes 112: Majority 77.

List of the AYES.

Aglionby, H. A.Leader, J. T.
Berkeley, hon. C.Lushington, C.
Bridgeman, H.Muskett, G. A.
Clay, W.O'Connell, D.
Collins, W.O'Connell, J.
Douglas, Sir C. E.O'Connell, M J.
Easthope, J.Pechell, Captain
Euston, Earl ofPhilips, M.
Fielden, J.Scholefield, J.
Finch, F.Turner, W.
Grote, G.Vigors, N. A.
Hall, Sir B.Wakley, T.
Hawes, B.Wallace, R.
Hector, C. J.Williams, W.
Hindley, C.Wood, Sir M.
Hodges, T. L.Yates, J. A.
Hume, J.


James, Sir W. C.Duncombe, T.
Johnson, GeneralEwart, W,

List of the NOES.

Acland, Sir T. D.Fitzroy, Lord C.
Adam, AdmiralFreemantle, Sir T.
Ainsworth, P.Freshfield, J. W.
Alsager, CaptainGaskell, J. M.
Baring, F. T.Gordon, R.
Barnard, E. G.Gordon, hon. Captain
Barrington, ViscountGraham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Berkeley, hon. H.Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.
Bernal, R.Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Blair, J.Grimsditch, T.
Bowes, J.Halford, H.
Bramston, T. W.Harcourt, G. G.
Broadley, H.Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.
Broadwood, H.Hastie, A.
Bryan, G.Herries, rt. hon. J. C.
Burroughes, H. N.Hinde, J. H.
Chapman, A.Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.
Chetwynd, MajorHodgson, R.
Clements, ViscountHolmes, W.
Clerk, Sir G.Hope, hon. C.
Cochrane, Sir T. J.Hoskins, K.
Codrington, AdmiralHoustoun, G.
Craig, W. G.Howard, P. H.
Dalmeny, LordHoward, Sir R.
Darby, G.Howick, Viscount
Darlington, Earl ofHutton, R.
De Horsey, S. H.Ingestre, Viscount
Donkin, Sir R. S.Irton, S.
Elliot, hon. J. E.Kemble, H.
Ellis, W.Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Farnham, E. B.Langdale, hon. C.
Ferguson, Sir R A.Loch, J.
Filmer, Sir E.Lowther, hon. Colonel

Lowther, J. H.Smith, G. R.
Lushington, rt. hn. S.Smith, R. V.
Lygon, hon. GeneralSomerset, Lord G.
Mackinnon, W. A.Somerville, Sir W. M.
Maule, hon. F.Spry, Sir S. T.
Morpeth, ViscountStanley, hon. W. O.
Morris, D.Stock, Dr.
Norreys, Sir D. J.Surrey, Earl of
Oswald, J.Teignmouth, Lord
Pakington, J. S.Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Palmer, G.Thompson, Alderman
Palmerston, ViscountTownley, R. G.
Peel, rt. hon, Sir R.Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Pendarves, E. W. W. Vere, Sir C. B.
Perceval, ColonelVilliers, hon. C. P.
Perceval, hon. G. J.Waddington, H. S.
Pigot, D. R.Warburton, H.
Redington, T. N.Wilbraham, G.
Rice, rt. hon. T. S.Wood, C.
Round, J.Worsley, Lord
Russell, Lord J.Yorke, hon. E. T.
Sanderson, R.
Seale, Sir J. H.


Seymour, LordStanley, hon. E. J.
Sheppard, T.Parker, J.

On the original question being again put,

said he would oppose the further progress of this bill, on the ground that it was totally useless. The power of the commissioners would not terminate before the next Session of Parliament, and he thought it far better that a bill should be introduced at an earlier period of the Session to amend, what all admitted to require amendment, the present law. He would move, that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the bill that day three months.

hoped that the bill would be persevered with, as if it were given up, it, would lead the people of those districts where Unions had not yet been formed, to suppose that it was not intended to sanction the provisions of the Poor-law Amendment Act, after the present Session.

The House divided on the original question: Ayes 127; Noes 26:—Majority 101.

The House in committee.

On the first clause, and on the motion that the blank in it be filled up with the words fourteenth day of August, 1840.

objected to the period to which this bill proposed to continue the Poor-law commission.

could not, then, understand why the bill before the House should be continued for two years.

The committee divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 42: Majority 68.

The clause to stand part of the bill.

said, that in consequence of what had passed relative to the hardship of persons having married, expecting to receive parish relief in case of necessity, being altogether deprived of it, he should therefore, propose a clause to obviate it. The noble Lord moved such a clause.

Clause read a first time.

On the motion, that it be read a second time,

thought that this clause did not go far enough in limiting its operations to the cases of parties who had been married previous to the passing of the new law; because its provisions were not known in many parts of the country for a twelvemonth or more after it passed, and in many parts it was not yet in operation at all.

apprehended, that this clause would only render the operation of the law more stringent than before, by restricting the extension of this species of relief to parties who had married previous to 1834. The right hon. Baronet read a variety of returns, showing that a discretionary power was exercised by the guardians in various parts of the country, in favour of parties having young children, without any mention as to the period of their marriage.

said, that by the present law, if a peremptory order was given by the commissioners to the guardians, not to give this sort of relief, they would be bound to obey it in all cases; but this clause would enable the guardians to relax the rule in the cases specified in it, in spite of such peremptory order.

said, that the more he considered the subject, the greater did the difficulties appear; he, therefore, thought that it would be better to postpone this clause until the whole subject came before them next Session.

said, that he would consent to leave out of the latter part of the clause the words "married since the 14th of August, 1834," and the clause, as amended, would read as follows:—

"And be it enacted, that in the case of any able-bodied labourer who shall respectively have been married before the 14th of August, in the year 1834, and who shall be unable by his industry to maintain his children, the issue of such marriage, it shall be lawful for the guardians of the union or parish, to which such ablebodied person is chargeable, if they shall think fit, to give relief to such ablebodied person, by admitting one or more of such children into the workhouse of such union or parish, without requiring such ablebodied person to receive relief in such workhouse; and be it further enacted, that in the case of any widow having more than one child under the age of ten years, and who shall be unable by her industry to maintain her children, that it shall and may be lawful for the guardians of the union, or the parish to which such widow is chargeable, to give relief in kind to such widow, without requiring her to receive relief in the workhouse."

objected to any distinction being drawn between able-bodied labourers married before or after the date of passing the Poor-law Act. With the view of deciding on this point, he should move, that in the first part of the clause, the words "married before the 14th of August, 1834, should be omitted."

The committee divided on the question, that the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the question:—Ayes 48; Noes 78: Majority 30.

List of the AYES.

Baring, F. T.Pakington, J. S.
Barrington, ViscountPalmerston, Viscount
Berkeley, hon. H.Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Berkeley, hon. C.Pendarves, E. W. W.
Blair, J.Philips, M.
Bryan, G.Pigot, D. R.
Burroughes, H. N.Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Clements, ViscountRolfe, Sir R. M.
Craig, W. G.Russell, Lord J.
Dalmeny, LordSeale, Sir J.
Elliot, hon. J. E.Seymour, Lord
Fitzroy, Lord C.Sibthorp, Colonel
Greenaway, C.Somerville, Sir W. M.
Grey, rt. hn. Sir C.Stanley, hon. E. J.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.Stanley, hon. W. O.
Grote, G.Steuart, R.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.Stock, Dr.
Hastie, A.Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.Turner, W.
Hollond, R.Wilshere, W.
Hope, hon. C.Wood, Colonel T.
Hoskins, K.Worsley, Lord
Howard, Sir R.
Kemble, H.


Morpeth, ViscountParker, J.
O'Connell, M. J.Gordon, R.

List of the NOES.

Acland, Sir T. D.Alsager, Captain
Acland, T. D.Attwood, T.
Adam, AdmiralBramston, T. W.
Aglionby, H. A.Bridgeman, H.
Ainsworth, P.Briscoe, J.

Broadwood, H.Lowther, J. H.
Brotherton, J.Mathew, G. B.
Clerk, Sir G.Mildmay, P. St. J.
Cochrane, Sir T. J.Morris, D.
Collins, W.Neeld, J.
De Horsey, S. H.Norreys, Sir D. J.
Donkin, Sir R. S.O'Brien, W. S.
Douglas, Sir C. E.O'Connell, D.
Duncombe, T.O'Connell, J.
Ellis, J.Parker, R. T.
Fielden, J.Pechell, Captain
Filmer, Sir E.Perceval, hon. G. J.
Finch, F.Pinney, W.
Forester, hon. G.Redington, T. N.
Freshfield, J. W.Round, J.
Gaskell, J. M.Sanderson, R.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.Scholefield, J.
Grimsditch, T.Somerset, Lord G.
Halford, H.Talbot, C. R. M.
Hall, Sir B.Teignmouth, Lord
Hawes, B.Thornely, T.
Hector, C. J.Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Hindley, C.Vere, Sir C. B.
Hodges, T. L.Vigors, N. A.
Hodgson, R.Waddington, H. S.
Holmes, W.Wakley, T.
Howard, P. H.Wallace, R.
Howick, ViscountWarburton, H.
Hume, J.Wilbraham, G.
Hutton, R.Williams, W.
Irton, S.Wood, C.
James, Sir W. C.Wood, G. W.
Johnson, General
Langdale, hon. C.


Loch, J.Fremantle, Sir T.
Lockhart, A. M.Darby, G.

Words omitted.

General Johnson moved the omission of the words "by admitting one or more such children into the workhouse."

The Committee divided on the original question: Ayes 90; Noes 36: Majority 54.

On the question, that the clause stand part of the bill,

said, that the clause, as it originally stood, might be considered as fairly exempting persons married before the Poor-law came into operation, but as it was now drawn up, it would amount to a restoration of the allowance system. He must vote against it.

thought this measure much too important to be concluded at that late hour; and he also thought it was very necessary that the country should know what the House were about with this bill. The hon. Member moved, that the Chairman do report progress.

The Committee divided on the motion: Noes 102; Ayes 15: Majority 87.

The Committee then divided upon the question, that the clause stand part of the bill:—Ayes 47; Noes 64; Majority 17.

List of the AYES.

Aglionby, H. A.James, Sir W. C.
Alsager, CaptainJohnson, General
Attwood, T.Kemble, H.
Broadwood, H.Langdale, hon. C.
Brotherton, J.Lowther, J. H.
Burroughes, H. N.Mathew, G. B.
Cochrane, Sir T. J.Morris, D.
Collins, W.Neeld, J.
Darby, G.O'Brien, W. S.
Douglas, Sir C. E.Parker, R. T.
Duncombe, T.Pechell, Captain
Ellis, J.Perceval, Colonel
Fielden, J.Perceval, hon. G. J.
Filmer, Sir E.Round, J.
Finch, E.Saunderson, R.
Freshfield, J. W.Turner, W.
Gaskel, J. M.Vere, Sir C. B.
Grimsditch, T.Vigors, N. A.
Halford, H.Waddington, H. S.
Hector, C. J.Wakley, T.
Hindley, C.Williams, W.
Hodges, T. L.Wood, Colonel T.
Hodges, R.


Holmes, W.Somerset, Lord G.
Irton, S.Sibthorpe, Colonel

List of the NOES.

Acland, Sir T. D.Norreys, Sir D. J.
Acland, T. D.O'Connell, D.
Adam, AdmiralO'Connell, J.
Baring, F. T.O'Connell, M. J.
Barrington, ViscountPakington, J. S.
Berkeley, hon. H.Palmerston, Viscount
Berkeley, hon. C.Parker, J.
Bramston, T. W.Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Bridgeman, H.Philips, M.
Bryan, G.Pigot, D. R.
Clements, ViscountPinney, W.
Craig, W. G.Redington, T. N.
Dalmeny, LordRice, rt. hon. T. S.
Donkin, Sir R. S.Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Elliot, hon. J. E.Russell, hon. Lord J.
Fremantle, Sir T.Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.
Gordon, R.Somerville, Sir W. M.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir. J.Stanley, hon. E. J.
Greenaway, C.Steuart, R.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.Stock, Dr.
Grote, G.Teignmouth, Lord
Hastie, A.Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Hawes, B.Thornely, T.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Hoskins, K.Wallace, R.
Howard, P. H.Warburton, H.
Howick, ViscountWilbraham, G.
Hutton, R.Wilsbere, W.
Loch, J.Wood, C.
Lockhart, A. M.Wood, G. W.
Maule, hon. F.Worsley, Lord
Mildmay, P. St. J.


Morpeth, ViscountSeymour, Lord
Briscoe, J. I.*

The Clause lost.—The House resumed. —Committee to sit again.

* We omit the lists of two divisions as of comparatively little importance.