chapter  VI
33 Pages

THE PASSING OF THE BILL

ON 17th April 1834 Lord Althorp, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, moved for leave to introduce the new measure. His speech, which occupies some 15 columns of Hansard (vol. xxii.), gave a clear and conciliatory summary of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry, and of the remedial measures which, on their recommendation, the Government was now proposing to the House. A short and interesting debate followed. Sir Samuel Whalley, a metropolitan member, professed to approve of the Bill generally, but objected to the creation of a central board. Mr. Tower and Sir Charles Burrell made some remarks in favour of parish employment, but, with these exceptions, every speaker warmly supported the principle of the Government measure. Some distinguished names are to be found among the speakers. Colonel Torrens, the economist. Mr. Edward Bulwer Lytton, who remarked that he had himself formed a plan nearly identical with that of the nob~e lord. Mr. Joseph Hume, the rigid and indefatigable critic of Government expenditure, exulted in the fact that now the overseers of a parish would be able to hold up an Act of Parliament against the demand of the

sturdy pauper. He remarked that the clauses proposed with regard to bastardy would assimilate the English law to that which obtained in Scotland with satisfactory results. Sir Thomas Fremantle approved strongly of the appointment of a central board. As a magistrate, he willingly relinquished his responsibility in favour of such a board. Its duty, he added, with truly prophetic insight, would be a very onerous and unpopular one. He recommended a co-operation with private charity for the assistance of hard cases, a point destined to assume great importance in future controversies about the Poor Law. He urged also the necessity of creating a sufficient system of audit, an omission in the Bill which caused much inconvenience and difficulty till it was remedied by subsequent legislation. Mr. Slaney, who throughout remained one of the staunchest supporters of the new measure, congratulated the House on the absence of party feeling. Mr. Poulett Scrope, member for Stroud, who afterwards took an active part in opposing the measure, on this occasion expressed his hearty concurrence with the noble lord. Lord Althorp thanked the House for the friendly character of the debate, and the motion was agreed to without a division.