The Principle of Less Eligibility in the Words of the Poor Law Commissioners | Beastrabban\’s Weblog

Here are excellent observations from the Beast which show that the principle behind the Conservative Government’s welfare policy is at least 184 years out of date.

I’m having this for the letter I’m preparing for the Commons work and pensions committee, in response to Iain Duncan Smith’s weak attempt to justify his fetid behaviour last week.

Bloggers such the Angry Yorkshireman, Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void and very many others have pointed out that the dominant ideology behind the Tory cuts is essentially the principle of less eligibility. This was the idea behind the New Poor Law, which saw the creation of workhouses across the UK, in which the poor were incarcerated. Conditions were made so unpleasant in order to deter what would be known now as ‘welfare dependency’. They were to stop people entering them unless they were in absolutely dire need.

I found this statement of the principle from one of the 1832 commissioners responsible for the ‘New Bastilles’ in Pat Young’s Mastering Social Welfare (Basingstoke: MacMillan 1989).

Every penny bestowed, that tends to render the condition of the pauper more eligible than that of the independent labourer, is a bounty on indolence and vice. But once the condition of the pauper is made more uncomfortable than that of the independent labourer then new life, new energy, is infused into the constitution of the pauper; he is aroused like one from sleep, his relation with his neighbours high and low is changed; he surveys his former employers with new eyes. He begs a job – he will not take a denial, he discovers that everyone wants something done. (p. 71).

This was the principle that saw families split up, husbands separated from wives, and punished if they even kissed each other in the morning. And it resulted in terrible suffering and hunger, such as the scandal which erupted when the inmates in one workhouse were found to be so starving that they were eating the marrow from the bones they were supposed to be cutting for fertiliser.

Source: The Principle of Less Eligibility in the Words of the Poor Law Commissioners | Beastrabban\’s Weblog

7 thoughts on “The Principle of Less Eligibility in the Words of the Poor Law Commissioners | Beastrabban\’s Weblog

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      He already knows about it; it’s the principle on which his policies are based. That was the point of the article.

      1. shaunt

        Hi Mike, there is a lot of detailed study been done by social historians into terrible and contradictory consequences of the New Poor Law (1832). It’s not all negative, and some ‘new labour’ inclined historians are often find some positive factors that its introduction brought about. Most of this far more recent than 1989, and each stand point has its own collection of case studies, based around one or more parishes. The main aim in passing the legislation was to remove ‘outdoor’ relief and leave only the workhouse as the source of assistance. As stated the intention was to make staying in the workhouse so very bad: food, working to be done and conditions and children were separated from parents, not to mention corruption by officers and abuse, that only those close to death would consider going into the workhouse. From the bit I know the only real benefit was that mates had free access to a qualified medical practioner.

        If get time I look through the studies I have access to and paste any that might be useful.

  1. mohandeer

    It would seem that the right wing element of Parliament who have adopted this format are having or will be having huge success. The Polish immigrants desperate for work are already well on the way to being prime examples of “poor houses” and the disabled and jobless will be trapped likewise in a “poor house” situation. All is going according to plan for these right wing elitists.

  2. Dez

    They cannot afford to build decent prisons so dread to think where they will get the money for the required poor houses that will be needed should this debacle come to pass……as it surely must as most will not be able to afford any rent and their benefits all disappear courtesy of Herr Smith’s SS Death Squads. This surely must confirm we now have a Nazi-thinking Government at the helm.

    1. gaia

      Their going to privatize all prisons so does that answer your question on how they will fund it ?

      We live in a modern era and just like my article on facism without fences the government will practice the same and I suppose already are.
      You see you don’t need a workhouse when you can just lower work conditions like for instance who earning nat min will be able to afford a sexual harassment suit or unfair dismissal suit?

      DWP automatically push claimants towards nat min jobs knowing full well that the person will still be state dependant. DWP then through threat of sanction punish the very same people again via inwork conditionality for the very job they and regulation made them take in the first place.

      If you have no particular skills so stuck on nat min and lack the ability to learn a new trade, you’ll be constantly stuck here.

      If you do have the ability you still wont be able to attend college for a reskill because NVQ rules stipulate you must be in the trade you’re studying so coupled with the fact DWP make all claimants who wish to study sign an agreement stating they will give up said course and take on the debt should any job offer come (meaning could be a nat min job with just an extra hour attached or even DWP sending you to a provider or work scheme), that colleges don’t change their schedules for just one class member and dependant on where you live don’t offer night courses means there’s still no getting out of state dependency.

      Lastly the new living wage if we discount any benefits means you’re only 10 to 15 pounds better off a week, an amount easily swallowed by price increases like travel fares, insurance for instance.

  3. Malcolm MacINTYRE-READ

    During the Coalition, I made the point that anyone who had had their financial situation destroyed by the banking crash (still no meaningful action on that and other fraud by BANKERS, not ‘banks’) that the Con policies could offer a return if they invested in milliners, lead mines and brickworks.

    Milliners, because Michael Gove wanted to get Head Masters (not Head Teachers) to get back to wearing Top Hats, and School Mistresses Bonnets.

    Lead Mines, as Eric Pickles’ move to privatise fire services would require the use of the dinky lead signs on houses, so each service would be able to see if the householder paid into their specific business.

    And Brickworks because, with IDS’s obvious aim of returning to parish workhouses to support “benefit scroungers”, there would be a HUGE demand for bricks… if it was considered that solid walls were really necessary.

    Amazing what one can learn from history.

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