§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD BERNERS moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. The Bill consisted of one enacting clause which he considered clear and intelligible, and perfectly free from objection. It was as follows:—"That from and after the passing of this Act it shall not be lawful for any justice of the peace to remove or convey, or to order to be removed or conveyed, any person to any parish in England and Wales, on the ground that he is legally settled there." The present law of settlement had been condemned by the Committee of the House of Commons in 1847. That Committee 1031 stated that it was injurious to the working classes, productive of great hardship to the poor, and a great cause of litigation, and they recommended an increase of the area of taxation. A similar view was taken by a Committee of the House of Lords in 1850. His efforts to ameliorate the moral and social condition of the poor had led him to the same conclusion, and he believed that one of the greatest boons that could be given to the labouring population of England would be the abolition of the present law of removal and settlement.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
opposed the second reading. The noble Lord said, that although many persons were prepared to go the same length as the noble Lord who moved the second reading of the Bill, yet no person had ever proposed to do so, without there being also a material alteration in the present system of rating for the poor. To do what the noble Lord asked, without such an alteration, would be to throw a very heavy burden on the towns. At present the towns materially contributed to the relief of the country parishes by giving employment to then-surplus population; but if this Bill passed, the towns would have to maintain the labourers who came from the country. The matter had already been under the consideration of the Government; but at this advanced period of the Session, considering the state of business in the other House, and that any alteration in the law of settlement must be accompanied by an alteration in the system of rating, he would suggest to the noble Lord that he should not press the further progress of this Bill.
believed that the passing of this Bill would introduce universal confusion, and be a source of misery to paupers and of ruin to landowners. The area of settlement might no doubt be enlarged very beneficially; but all that this Bill did was to entitle the poor to relief in whatever place they might happen to have settled.
§ The EARL of HARDWICKE
admitted that the subject was one which was discussed throughout the country, and that the poor-rates were daily pressing to a greater extent on the agricultural interest; but he did not think that their Lordships or the country were at present in a situation to accept this Bill. There could be no doubt that the law of settlement did press hardly on the labourer, by confining him within a very narrow area, and that some amendment of it might be beneficial. 1032 Though he would advise the noble Lord to withdraw the present Bill, he was convinced that the time was not far distant when Parliament would have to deal with the question.
§ LORD BERNERS
said, that after the opinions expressed by noble Lords, if the Government would give him a pledge that if they had the opportunity they would bring in a Bill on the subject at the earliest time they could next Session, he would not object to withdraw the Bill.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
considered that this Bill was one to give paupers the opportunity of choosing the place upon which they might cast the burden of their settlement. No doubt, a great improvement might be made in the present law, but he was not prepared to support this Bill.
§ LORD FEVERSHAM
regretted that in consequence of the advanced state of the Session the noble Lord was not likely to carry out his measure; but be trusted that early in the next Session the subject would be taken up by the Government.
§ On Question, Resolved in the Negative: Bill withdrawn, by leave of the House.