#AceHistoryNews – March.24: The introduction of the ‘ Poor Law Amendment Act ‘ declined as the nation adopted the ‘ Welfare State ‘ – Though there are a number of interesting facts about its introduction, some of which could one day see its return, given the current political & economic climate.
Poor Law Amendment Act 1834:
The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 (PLAA), known widely as the New Poor Law, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed by the Whig government of Earl Grey that reformed the country’s poverty relief system (excepting Scotland, which reformed its poor law in 1845). The PLAA curbed the cost of poor relief, which had been spiraling throughout the nineteenth century, and led to the creation of workhouses.
The law arose out of a wider drive for Poor Law reform, and completely replaced earlier legislation based on the Poor Law of 1601. The PLAA was written after an investigation by the 1832 Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws which included Edwin Chadwick, George Nicholls, John Bird Sumner and Nassau William Senior. The Act has been described as "the classic example of the fundamental Whig-Benthamite reforming legislation of the period",and was based on Malthus‘s principle that population increased faster than resources unless checked, Ricardo‘s "iron law of wages" and Bentham‘s doctrine that people did what was pleasant and would tend to claim relief rather than working.
The Amendment Act was passed two years after the 1832 Reform Act extended the franchise to the middle-classes. Some historians have argued that this was a major factor in the PLAA being passed. Parliament radicals such as Cobbett defended the right of the poor to relief, and the legislation was widely opposed by press (notably The Times).
Chadwick was unsatisfied by the law that resulted from his report.
The importance of the Poor Law declined with the rise of the welfare state in the 20th century. In 1948, the PLAA was repealed by the National Assistance Act 1948, which created the National Assistance Board to act as a residual relief agency.
So as it declined with the Welfare State as this government whittle away at its foundations, utilising immigration as the ‘ rod across the countries back’ it will not be long before we could see its return.