The 1832 Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws
was a group set up to decide how to change the system of Poor Law
systems in Britain. The group was made up of Nassau Senior
, a professor from Oxford University
who was against the allowance system
and Edwin Chadwick
who was a Benthamite
. The recommendations of the Royal Commission's report was implemented in the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834
There were 26 commissioners who collected data on poverty by visiting parishes and by making people fill in questionnaires. The finds of the Poor Law Commissioners were published in 13 volumes and were used to argue that the existing system of poor relief needed a radical overhaul.
The writers of the report suggested radical changes to Britain's poor relief system
- Separate workhouses for different types of paupers including aged, children able-bodied males and able-bodied females.
- The grouping of parishes into unions to provide workhouses
- The banning of outdoor relief so that people had to enter workhouses in order to claim relief
- A central authority to implement these policies and prevent the variation in practice which occurred under the old poor law.
Response from Parliament
There was strong support for the report from all-sides of Parliament. The report's ideas were quickly passed into law. The Whigs controlled the House of Commons and supported the utilitarian arguments of thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham
. Those that did not support the bill were more concerned with the levels of centralisation the act would bring rather than the recommendations of the report such as the building of workhouses.
The report lowered the cost of poor relief which was a concern of MPs'.
There is much evidence that Nassau Senior
had written the report before data was collected - therefore evidence was used selectively to meet the pre-written report. Of the questionnaires sent out only 10% replied and some of the questioned directed a certain response. It is important to remember that the enquiry was not supposed to be impartial - the commission wanted to change the existing system, keeping the current system was not an option.