HC Deb 23 February 1888 vol 322 cc1216-7
MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E Rugby)

asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether the General Order issued on the 18th December, 1882, by the Local Government Board to Boards of Guardians with respect to casual paupers, directs that one of the daily tasks of paupers who are detained for more than one night shall be the picking of 4lb. of unbeaten oakum; whether in prisons the daily task of prisoners sentenced to hard labour is the picking of 31b. of unbeaten oakum; and whether the Board will issue a further Order, directing all Boards of Guardians to reduce the quantity of oakum to be picked, or to adopt other means for making the task of the pauper lighter than that of the prisoner?

THE PRESIDENT (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)

One of the tasks of work of male casual paupers, who are detained in casual wards for more than one night, is the picking of 4lb. of unbeaten oakum, and this task has been in force for 17 years. The task of prisoners is, as I understand, that stated in the Question. As regards the casual paupers, I learn from the Superintendent Visiting Officer of the casual wards in the Metropolis, that during the last 15 years he has had no complaint as to the task. While prisoners are not permitted to use any hook, &c., to assist in the picking of the oakum, it is very usual for the casual paupers to have nails, and an appliance which, I understand, is technically called a "fiddle," which greatly facilitates the picking. The habitual casual, I am informed, can do the task in six hours, while those unaccustomed to the work take some two hours longer. Moreover, the Regulations expressly provide that a casual pauper shall not be required to perform the whole, or any part, of the task of work if it should appear that the same is not suited to his age, strength, or capacity. I will, however, undertake to make further inquiry into the matter in connection with the task imposed in prisons.