HC Deb 21 July 1890 vol 347 cc399-421

Order for Second Reading read.


I shall have to trouble the House for but a short time in reference to this Bill. The House will readily understand that when the year approaches when the census has to be taken the Government receive a large number of suggestions for its improvement. I have had no experience of the suggestions made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer before he introduces his Budget, but if they are anything like as numerous as the suggestions which have been made to me with regard to the census, the right hon. Gentleman must have a great deal of work cast on him. The suggestions which have been made to the Government, from time to time, are easily divisible under two heads—one a desire for increased information, and the other a desire that the census shall be taken at more frequent intervals than hitherto. I can assure the gentlemen who have made suggestions as to the first point that the Government sympathise with those who desire to take advantage of an opportunity like this to obtain accurate and valuable information upon a large number of subjects. It will be admitted, however, that such information would be dearly bought if obtained at the expense of accuracy. The more numerous the questions to be put to the householders the greater the chance not only, perhaps, of meeting with opposition on the part of the householder, but of receiving answers which are not entirely satisfactory from the point of view of accuracy. In illustration of the minute information which is desired by some persons, representations have been made, not only that the householder should be asked as to whether or not he comes under the great head of employed or employer, but also, if employed, that he should give particulars, for instance, as to what particular seam of coal he works in. Another class of suggestions made is that some provision should be made by which the information obtained through the Census Returns may be made available for purposes other than statistical. One hon. Member has urged very strongly that the number of children and their ages would be most valuable to the School Board Authorities, and ought to be supplied to them. No doubt this information would be of some value if so applied, but I deprecate in the strongest possible manner the making use of information obtained for purely statistical purposes for such purposes as have been indicated. If we departed from the quasi-confidential character of the information sought for, a spirit of hostility would undoubtedly be raised on the part of those who are asked to give the answers, thereby adding enormously to the difficulties of obtaining accurate information. The greatest mistake would be made if people were led to suppose that the information asked for would be used for the purpose of setting the law against them, either with regard to the attendance of children at school or any other subject. Another representation has been made as to the period which elapses between the taking of the census, and the establishment of something like a permanent census office has been advocated. A more frequent census would undoubtedly be attended with many advantages. There are many strong arguments to be used in favour of taking a quinquennal census, but the question is one largely of cost. If Parliament at some future time should consider that the cost may properly be incurred, I have no doubt that information of considerable importance and great value may be so obtained. The Government thought that the best course to pursue in regard to these various suggestions was to refer the matter to a Select Committee. That was accordingly done, and a Committee was appointed, which sat under the chairmanship of the Chairman of Ways and Means. They have gone carefully into the whole subject, and, for my part, I beg to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the pains and trouble he and the Committee have taken in their inquiry. The conclusions arrived at by the Committee are—(1) As to the information to be obtained, they suggest that on the front of the Return should appear columns in which the householder can enter whether he is an employer or employed, or neither. (2) That persons living on their means shall be invited to state the fact in the Return; and (3) That the number of rooms occupied by a family, if less than five rooms, shall be stated on the face of the Return. I can imagine many difficulties arising in connection with the first point. I can imagine that some persons may feel great doubts as to which of these columns they should enter their names in, and many persons will enter themselves as employers of labour when they are for all practical purposes employed. In deference, however, to the recommendation of the Committee, the Government propose to adopt the suggestion which they have made. In the ensuing census, therefore, it is proposed to ask the householder to state whether he is employed or employer, or neither, and whether he is living on his means. No change in the Bill is necessary to carry out these recommendations. It is merely a question as to the form of the Paper and the Instructions, and this can be done under the old form of the Bill. But a slight modification of the Bill is necessary in order to enable the householder to be asked what number of rooms the family occupies, if less than five; and this change is provided for in the Bill. As to a more frequent census, and a permanent census office, the Committee reported that midway between the decennial periods the number of the population, ages, and sexes should be ascertained, and that a small branch of the Census Department ought to be established. But it should be noticed that the Committee were not unanimous. Sir Reginald Welby has made an alternative suggestion, and the question of cost is one which remains largely in doubt. In these circumstances the Government do not think it desirable to provide in the present Bill for the taking of the census five years after next year. But the form of the Bill does not in any way prejudice or prejudge the consideration of a quinquennial census. The Government will undertake to carefully consider the Report of the Committee, and to go into the estimates of the cost; and before the period arrives they will be prepared to state the conclusions come to. Some evidence has been received by the Committee on the subject of a Religious Census, but no recommendations have been made. There are indications in the Report, however, which seem to show that at least some members of the Committee were not adverse to a Religious Census. Personally, I think there is a good deal to be said in its favour. But the Government have not thought it advisable to go beyond the recommendations of the Committee, and, therefore, there will be no provision in the Bill for taking a Religious Census. I assure the House that the Government will carefully consider all the suggestions which have been made by the Committee, other than those to which I have referred and which do not entail legislation, and we will endeavour to see that their recommendations are carried out. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Ritchie.)

*(7.30.) MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's Co., Ossory)

I would point out that while as between England and Ireland the Bills are utterly distinct, the difference as between England and Scotland is very slight, and in the latter case mainly consists in this, that while in England the authority for taking the census is the Local Government Board in Scotland it is the Secretary for Scotland. But there is one point in regard to Scotland on which I may offer a suggestion with regard to England. Under the Scotch Bill means are provided of ascertaining how many persons speak Gaelic, and whether they speak Gaelic only, or both Gaelic and English. It seems strange to me that in a Bill affecting England and Wales there is no corresponding provision with regard to those who speak Welsh only, or Welsh and English, and I shall venture in Committee to move an Amendment on the subject, although I would not press it if the Welsh Members object to it. I cannot see why you should recognise the ancient language of Scotland and take no account of the ancient language of Wales. I concur with what has been said about the difficulty of getting from the people, full information as to the various points on which information is sought. But, on the other hand, it appear to me that a census which does not contain information as to how many of the people can read and write is scarcely worthy of a great country like this. I venture to say that were a census taken in France or Germany care would be taken to ascertain this fact. Enormous sums have been spent on education in this country for many years, and surely it is of the first importance, from a statistical point of view, that you should have a clear understanding as to how many people are still unable to read and write, and how many have acquired that knowledge. I think that the census for the three countries ought to contain the power of ascertaining whether the children are attending school or not. It may be thought that this could be ascertained in another way, but I venture to say it cannot. You may obtain the number of those attending the great public schools, as well as the boarding schools and Board schools, and also the National schools of Ireland, but there are numbers of children who do not go to any of those schools, but who attend what are called private adventure schools, kept by clergymen and others, and it is of great importance that we should be able to ascertain how many attend those schools and how many are left. I cannot see why the information I ask for should not be given, and I will give the House, when in Committee, the oppor- tunity of deciding whether we should obtain that information or not.

*(7.38.) MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

I wish to draw the attention of the Government to a matter of considerable importance. I refer to the clause of the Bill which deals with particulars as to whether houses are inhabited or uninhabited. This question is one as to which I believe there will be great difficulty in acquiring reliable information; but I think that much may be done in obtaining a great improvement in this respect, and I hope, therefore, my right hon. Friend will afford facilities for enabling the authorities to secure a better system. With regard to another point, I am glad the Government are inclined to regard with greater favour the idea of a quinquennial census. I I think, also, we ought to have more particulars as to the occupations and age of the people. The population is so shifting that great advantage would be derived from a better system of obtaining more accurate details. The importance of accurate statistics as to the occupations of the population is a matter, as one representing a mining district, I cannot too strongly urge upon the Government. We know that men who are miners in one part of the country will be agricultural labourers in another; and it is very important, in the interest of Public Health, that the nature of their occupations should be clearly ascertained, because the question arises whether improved regulations might not be made, especially in regard to those who are engaged in mining. With regard to the question of a religious census, I think it important from a national point of view that we should have particulars as to those who attend the services or regard themselves as members of the National Church. I am quite aware of the difficulties that have arisen on this point, but I think they might be got over. This religious census is taken in Ireland, and I cannot see why that which is good for Ireland can be bad for England, nor why our Irish friends should have elaborate statistics which are denied to this country. I regret very much that provision for statistics as to the religion of the people does not appear on the Bill for the present year, and I hope that in future years this omission may be remedied.

(7.42.) MR. COURTNEY

The President of the Local Government Board has made a kind reference to the labours of the Committee of which I have had the honour to be Chairman. While appreciating the kind words of the President of the Local Government Board, I regret to find that the Committee's labours have produced so small a result. Their chief recommendations were a quinquennial census, and the establishment of a permanent Census Office. Everything else would have followed, as a matter of course, from these. If there was to be no quinquennial census, a Census Office might represent a waste of organising labour; but if there was to be such a census, a permanent Census Office was almost a necessity. The Committee went into the inquiry with no definite opinions one way or another; but the evidence given before them was overwhelming in favour of a quinquennial census, if the census was to be useful for legislative purposes. The fluctuations of the population all over the country, especially in the mining and manufacturing districts, are so considerable and remarkable that at the end of five years the results of the last census became of little value. The Committee had before them many medical officers, who were all strongly in favour of a quinquennial census. This is, moreover, the practice of almost every civilised community, not only on the Continent, but also in the colonies of Great Britain. We were unanimous in that conclusion. With respect to the question raised by Sir Reginald Welby, we were unable to state what cost would be involved in it. We knew it would be a limited cost. Taking it at its maximum of 10 years, that would be exactly double the cost of the quinquennial census, and the result would be comparatively the insignificant sum of £170,000 additional cost. Considering the sums we pay in respect of matters to which this is ancillary, and which this additional expenditure might tend to economise, I must confess that I look to the question of expense as savouring rather of delusion. Sir Reginald Welby did his duty, and made an addition to the Report of the Committee over which I presided. But I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if it had come before him, would have done his duty; and if it should come before him, will do his duty by putting that addition aside. I speak now as one who has been both inside and outside the Treasury. I know what it is to do duty in the capacity of raising my watch-dog bark, and then being patted on the back and told I was a "good dog." But the thing has been done in spite of my warning; and if I had been in a superior position in the Treasury, I should have done the same thing. Sir Reginald Welby has simply done right in calling attention to the question; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer I do hope will, sooner or later—as soon as possible—act upon the broader view and proceed with the expenditure which has been recommended. It is of a very moderate character indeed, and such as ought to be freely and generously indulged in respect to the work which I have suggested. If a quinquennial census is to be taken, the Registrar and his assistants must be continuously at work in the preceding years. There ought to be two or three officers always at work on the census. In other countries, and in our colonies, they are, in fact, always hard at work on the census, and they are able to do really good work. There were many suggestions of importance which we were not able to entertain in any degree, but the advantage of which we felt if they could be carried out. If we had the plan of a quinquennial census, then the other things to which statistical inquiry was directed would be carried out almost as a matter of course For instance, there is the important matter of an industrial census. The industrial census of England is very inferior in apparent results to, at all events, the census of the United States and of Switzerland. I say apparent results, because their accuracy is impugned. Therefore, though an industrial census is less full, it may be more trustworthy, and more valuable in the end. While we were unable to examine into the charges of inaccuracy brought against the censuses of other countries, we were fully convinced of the inaccuracy of our own in this respect. We had very much pressed upon us the extreme deficiency of the industrial census of England, and there is no doubt that, as a picture of our working population, the industrial census that we have taken is very unsatisfactory. It is not suffi- ciently detailed; it is not exact; and I despair of your getting anything like a real description of the industrial organisation of our country unless you get more permanent machinery, and the service of men whose attention is constantly directed to the compilation of these details. So with reference to the other points brought before us by medical officers. We were constantly impressed by the necessity of getting a permanent official staff to do the work. I hope my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board will see that something is done towards this end, in concurrence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I understood the hon. Member for Wigan to recommend something in the nature of a religious census. The Committee approached that subject with a perfectly dispassionate mind. It put on record the fact that a religious census is taken in all our colonies, where, I suppose, religious separation is as marked as it is in the United Kingdom. It also put on record the fact that the religious census is taken in Ireland. Although, on the last occasion, the Return was made optional, still I think, out of the whole population of Ireland, there were only some 3,000 persons who did not give information as to their religious belief. But we felt that there were political difficulties which prevailed, and we were unable to advise the present Government to occupy a position which had not been taken up by its predecessors. I am not quite sure whether, in the discussion in 1880, I did not then take an opinion in favour of making the Return. If the political condition of the country would allow it, I should be delighted if the Return were made; and I have no doubt, just as in Ireland you have got a Return after Disestablishment, so in Scotland you would get a Return without objection if you got Disestablishmont in Scotland. Objections would disappear if once you had Disestablishment. It was so in Ireland, and it would be so in England. But whatever the country is going to do in regard to the manner of taking the census, it is extremely necessary that you should have good workers at the bottom. Now, the choice of enumerators is a very important matter. In Ireland the police are used, and they do the work extremely well. But we cannot do that in Great Britain, where the police are not an Imperial body. Nor could the postmen or retired soldiers be used. We were obliged to leave the question very much as we found it, namely, to leave it to the District Registrars, subject to the approbation of the Superintendent Registrars, subject, again, to the Registrar General. But we suggested that a rather stringent Circular should be issued to the District Registrars with respect to the choice of enumerators. There is another matter on which we have a better prospect than on the last occasion. In 1881 the Registrar, in working out the Schedule, employed a staff of clerks, and there was an unsatisfactory Report as to the clerks employed. They were recommended without reference to their education or intellectual and moral qualifications, and one of the gentlemen engaged in the census informed me that he had afterwards met two or three of the clerks, who turned out to be not unknown to the Criminal Law! We have made a recommendation for bringing into operation the principle of competitive examination in respect of these clerks. It is probably not necessary to have a complete revision in respect of the Lower Division clerks; but I think we shall have an adequate supply of fairly well-trained clerks to do this work, and in this respect we may get better census machinery. If we are going to make a census, that which statisticians desire; if we are going to gratify that passion for statistics with which I remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer once confessed he was animated; if the census is to be made a picture of the nation in its distribution, its pursuits, and its intellectual advancement, there must be at the top a permanent organisation continually looking after the work, and parfecting it, and making it their business in life. Unless we do this, none of the results we desire to obtain are likely to be arrived at.

(8.2.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square

In reply to my right hon. Friend, I beg to assure him that if we have not introduced into this Bill any arrangement for holding a quinquennial census, it must by no means be considered that we pronounce against such a scheme as that which has been described by the right hon. Gentleman. I may go further than that, and say that we are prepared to regard it with a friendly eye, and that it is highly probable we may submit to Parliament proposals in that direction. We think it would be difficult and not advisable to introduce into this Bill, within the comparatively short time at our disposal, the general arrangements and larger plans which would follow on the adoption of a quinquennial census; but we will not leave out of sight the valuable recommendations of the Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman presided, and we trust that if we do not meet him entirely, we shall be able to go a long way to satisfy his wishes and those of statisticians and other inquirers into the social condition of the people. The present Bill merely repeats what has been done before. We shall approach the further plan with the advantage of the inquiries conducted by my right hon. Friend, and the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) asks me to assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will not fail to take into consideration all the points which have been urged both in the Report and in the right hon. Gentleman's observations. No doubt there are defects in our industrial statistics, and it is a subject requiring our special attention. Still, it should be remembered that the Board of Trade are taking very great pains in this direction, and the present Government are not blind to the advantages of collecting industrial statistics. I think it would be of the highest importance that the Registrars' Department should be strengthened by the addition to it of persons whose almost exclusive interests should lie in a statistical direction. If a permanent Census Bureau were established by Act of Parliament, it would be necessary to assist the Registrar General by selecting some gentleman who would be distinctly interested in the science of statistics alone, and who would make it his main duty to further in every way the extension of our statistical knowledge. With regard to the enumerators, I read with surprise the revelations with regard to them on the last occasion. The recommendations of my right hon. Friend will receive every attention, and I think I may say that no such reproach shall be brought against the Census of 1891 as appears to have been justly brought in some particulars against the Census of 1881. (8.8.)

(8.40.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,

(8.42.) MR. A. ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)

Seeing the President of the Local Government Board in his place, I desire to say that those of us who waited upon him as a deputation have to acknowledge our obligations to him for meeting us on three important points, namely, that information should be given as to employer and employed, as to persons living on their own means, and as to the number of rooms in which people live. As to a quinquennial census, I do not think there is anything to add to what the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney) has said. That right hon. Gentleman is a great statistician and authority on questions of political economy, and his weighty words, no doubt, have some effect on the Government. It is a matter of regret that hon. Members do not feel sure about a quinquennial census, and, still more, that they do not feel sure about some permanency in the Census Department. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, used valuable and important words, in which he indicated his feeling that some permanent element is really required in the Census Office. It is well to bear in mind that the recommendation as to a quinquennial census and a permanent Department was signed by the Chairman of Committees, who has been Secretary to the Treasury; the Registrar General; Sir Hugh Owen, the permanent head of the Local Government Board; Mr. Charles Booth, who, by what he has done in relation to the East End of London, has shown himself an admirable statistician; and by two Members of the House of Commons, one from each side. I think we may fairly hope that we shall get a quinquennial census when the time comes, and that in any case we shall get a really permanent element in the Census Department. I think, too, that what the President of the Local Government Board and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have said as to the enumerators, and as to the clerks, shows that in 10 years' time we have got very much more interest taken in the question. The Government are going to do their best to make the local enumerators better in character if they can; they are going to make the local registrars feel that the census-taking is not a matter of local jobbery for their friends, but an occasion for them to do the best they can to get efficient men as enumerators. The Treasury, too, are bent on securing the services of a creditable body of men to carry out the work which will be inaugurated next year. These things give us some hope that the Government is looking at the matter in a serious spirit, and that they are anxious in every way to secure that the Census of 1891 shall in many ways be in advance of the census of 10 years ago. I have one practical suggestion to make. It was certainly urged in the evidence before the Committee that many of the working men who fill up the Return do not really care much about the matter. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman or his Department, or the Census Department, should address a polite letter to the three great organised bodies of working men urging them to take the matter up as one of interest from their own point of view. I believe such an appeal would be of great value. A letter might be written to the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Unions, to the Central Body of the Co-operative Societies, and to the leading Friendly Societies. I feel convinced that those bodies will urge all their more intelligent members to look at the census not as a mere mechanical matter, but as a matter which, if intelligently dealt with, will increase the amount of accurate information.

*(8.48.) MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

I think the census should furnish the people with an accurate Return of the foreign population in the United Kingdom. According to the Census of 1881 the number of foreigners in the United Kingdom was 136,000, and in England and Wales 118,000. Taking the total population of England and Wales, this shows a percentage of foreigners of 42. The accuracy of the Return has been much questioned. I notice that by Section 5 of the Bill the census is to show the birthplace of every living person abiding in a house on the night of the census day; but if that provision is not amended, the children of foreign parents, born in the United Kingdom, will be returned, not as foreigners, but-as English, or Scotch, or Irish, as the-case may be. It is very important that the Government should see their way to obtain correct information concerning the number of foreigners in the country, not only of persons born abroad, but of the children of foreign parents born in this country, together with information as to the occupation of such foreigners.

*(8.50.) MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

When the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the favourable views of the Government in industrial statistics, I could not help thinking of the difficulty already experienced in that branch of the industrial statistics to which I have specially directed my attention. In 1886 the House viewed favourably a proposal which I then made to it, and a Department of Labour Statistics was established in connection with the Board of Trade. We know that in America the labour statistics are far more complete than here. I am afraid the Treasury has greatly crippled the Industrial Statistical Department of the-Board of Trade, and I would suggest that in connection with any permanent-collection of statistics the Government might well consider that there is a means-now at their disposal of obtaining reliable information. I hardly take the view entertained by my hon. Friend (Mr. A. Acland) as to the facility with which statistics may be got from the workmen themselves. The experience up to the present has been rather in the other, direction. It is perfectly true that if Mr. Burnett, or whoever is the person responsible, had more clerical assistance more might be done. As far back as. 1887 we were promised the presentation of three different parts of statistics relating to wage. We have only received two at present. The delay in presenting these and other Labour Statistical Returns renders them almost worthless-. These matters are of far more-importance than some may think. Labour questions are forced on the House, and it is only in consequence of possessing accurate knowledge that replies can be made to those who raise cases of hardship in the House. I am one of those who think that the general condition of the working classes is far better than it was. I think it is an improving condition, and that even the cases of poverty and misery in large centres of population are in proportion to population more rare than they were. But unless one is able to show by statistics that this is so, he is placed at a great disadvantage. It would be a vast improvement if the Census Department were made permanent, and I think even thousands of pounds would be economically spent in making the Department permanent. In connection with the textile industries, we have accurate information as to the hours of working and the wages paid to something like 893,000 workers. There is no reason that what has been done in the textile industries should not be done in other industrial departments of the country. It would, I think, prevent some of the difficulties that arise when contrast is made between the industries of this country and of other countries. I do not think that we can quite hope that the great Trade Societies can be relied upon to do as much as we would wish. Only something like one-third of the Societies—I admit they include some of the very largest Societies—have made Returns of statistics to the Department now existing, and there are no means at present of urging the Societies on. I trust the Government will give us the assurance that they will take such steps that we shall not be in the dark when a question affecting industry is under discussion, but be able to refer to the precise figures of each industry.

*(8.56.) MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

I am anxious to point out that the Bill does not provide that particulars shall be given as to whether the persons in Wales speak Welsh only, or Welsh and English. The Scotch Bill contains the provision that particulars shall be given as to whether the people speak Gaelic only, or Gaelic and English. I believe it is conceded by everybody that the Welsh people take a greater interest in their language than the English do, and certainly more than the Scotch or Irish do. This Session a Report of a Royal Commission has been presented to the House in the Welsh language, while the Scotch have never had a Report presented in Gaelic, or the Irish in Irish. That in itself shows that the Welsh people do take very great interest in their language, and that the House is prepared to admit the fact. I believe there is not a single periodical published in the Irish language, nor a single periodical published in Gaelic, although Gaelic paragraphs are sometimes published in English newspapers; but in Wales we have nearly 40 periodicals and newspapers published in the Welsh language. Even the burden of the Welsh national song is the expression of a wish that "the old language may endure;" and it is, in fact, becoming more spoken. The right hon. Gentleman is disposed, I know, to give favourable consideration to our suggestion, and I hope he will say that he will give effect to it when the Bill is in Committee. I do not think there will be any objection from any quarter of the House. Whatever may be the differences in creed or politics, Welsh opinion is certainly united upon this, and I do not think the increase of cost will be very much to provide these additional particulars in the Return. I would venture also to make one more appeal, though if I cannot have both granted, I would more particularly urge the first. But, I would ask, would it not be possible to issue the Census Papers in the Welsh language? Notices for increase of taxation are thus made known to the Welsh people, and I think concession might be carried as far as I have indicated.

*(9.3.) SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman as to the desirability of not encumbering the Census Returns with too many details, but still there are directions in which they might be improved, especially in regard to industrial statistics, and possibly in the direction to which the hon. Member has just referred. It is essential that, the Returns should be efficient and yet simple, so that they may be "understanded of the people." I heard with considerable satisfaction the sympathetic words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to a quinquennial census, and I hope that sympathy may yet find a practical form of expression before the Bill passes through the House, in the acceptance, of an Amendment providing for a quinquennial census. I urge this on the ground of public health. Health statistics based on population have done much to urge Sanitary Authorities to the due discharge of their duties, but based, as these statistics have to be, on Decennial Returns, they are apt to be misleading; and I would remind the House of the very strong recommendation of the Majority Report of the Committee in favour of Quinquennial Returns. Sir Reginald Welby, I think, was the only member who did not advise it. I am surprised to find such a large estimate made of the cost of this simpler Census; but even if the cost should be as much as some witnesses have stated, I think the money will be well spent, for it will give increased accuracy to the weekly statistics of the birth- and death-rates. In growing towns the sanitary conditions are often the worst, and unhealthy conditions are not sufficiently recognised; but with a quinquennial numbering of the population vital facts would be brought out in a way that must exercise far more influence on Local Authorities than now obtains. Then, also, in rural districts, where often there is a decline in population, although you have the death-rate and birth-rate calculated you do not get the actual and accurate state of affairs, because the result is based on the previous 10 years' fluctuation of population. There is, consequently, not the strong incentive to activity upon Local Authorities, because the statistics are somewhat conjectural. We have just been occupied with a Bill to improve the housing of the people, a Bill which has been made a very useful measure by the work of the Committee upstairs and the conciliatory attitude of the President of the Local Government Board; but one of the strongest arguments to enforce the action of Local Authorities under that Bill would be to provide frequent and accurate vital health statistics, such as a quinquennial census would supply. The expense entailed, even though it be considerable, would come back to us, and that not after many days, in the improved sanitary conditions in which our population would live. It would entail a permanent staff and a Census Department, but this would be a public advantage. There would be an accumulation of experience from one census to another in the same hands and under the same officials, who would get a greater amount of skill in taking the census and presenting the results. I hope, before the Bill passes, we shall have a definite statement from the Government that they will accept an Amendment for a quinquennial census.

*(9.10.) MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)

There is a question as to the date for taking the census, which, though it has-not been raised in this Debate has been alluded to outside, and this, I presume, is an open one, as the date is left in italics in the Bill. Sunday is selected as the day when people are more likely to be in their homes, and is probably the most suitable day in the week. But the particular Sunday is very near Easter.


The Sunday after.


That is a day on which there will be many persons who take their holidays at that season of the year who will not have returned to their homes, and I suggest that it might be desirable to make the date a week later. I regret that it has not been found possible to include the religious professions of people in England and Scotland amongst the subjects of inquiry, and I do not see good ground for excluding this information. Whatever might be-the result, I am sure there would be no-objection on the part of the Church of England to a religious census.

*(9.14.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

I am glad to find that the Government have not altogether decided against the principle of a quinquennial census, and I venture to-suggest that now is the proper time to arrive at a decision; for if it should be-decided upon, it would be introduced into the present Bill, and there would not be a necessity to introduce a Census Bill every five years. This would influence the appointments to be made for carrying out the work; it would be a permanent staff, and somewhat different to the staff appointed for the decennial census. As ex-chairman of the Statistical Society, I can emphatically say that all persons interested in the study of statistics have the strongest feeling in favour of a quinquennial census. For purposes of comparison 10 years is too long an interval; and in almost every country and in our colonies, the five years' census is adopted. My hon. Friend (Sir W. Foster) has alluded to the great importance of the subject of vital statistics, and I may mention that the Census of 1881 brought out the fact, as compared with the previous Census of 1871, that the average duration of life had increased in men by two and a half, and in women by three and a half years, the increase being mainly between the ages of 10 and 50; above 50, the duration having rather declined. What may be the cause of this very interesting fact is still matter of dispute; but it would be extremely interesting to know whether the causes operate through five years, or whether they have stopped. With regard to a religious census, I think the Government have done wisely in not entering upon that thorny subject. I am sure, if they had entered upon it, we should have found the Session prolonged a month. There is a strong feeling that the religious census taken in England does not give a fair indication of the relative position of religious sects. It is not necessary to go into the subject now, but undoubtedly there are grounds for believing that a large number of people are unwilling to declare themselves Nonconformists so long as the Established Church exists. When the Established Church ceases to exist, probably there will be no greater difficulty in taking a religious census here than in Ireland or in our colonies. I recollect hearing of a census in one of our colonies in which many persons described their religious profession as "£s. d." It is a somewhat novel form to give to religious opinion, but I am not sure that there are not many worshippers of Mammon among us who would not unappropriately come under the definition with a truthful Return, but who now classify themselves under the Established Church. I hope that whatever changes may be made in the new census, the same classification will be followed as in former years, else it will be difficult to make comparisons. Whatever additions may be made, and there is much information desirable, I hope the same main classification will be followed. Before the Bill passes through Committee I trust that the Government will have decided as to whether a quinquennial census shall be adopted in the future. If I may gather from the opinions expressed by Members the view of the country, I think that change would be acceptable.

(9.22.) MR. D. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)

I would endorse what has been urged by my hon. Friend (Mr. S.T. Evans) with emphasis. I do not think the people of England realise the extent to which Welsh is spoken in the Principality. It is the language of pulpit, press, and people. When I go underground among the pitmen in the collieries I have to speak in Welsh, and as you walk through the streets of the towns you hear the people converse in Welsh. Young children of English parents coming to Wales soon learn the language, and seem to prefer to use it. One of the few young Irishmen who are employed underground, whom I met with the other day, I found using Welsh in preference to English. It is preposterous to have in Scotland a Return of the Gaelic-speaking population—they are but a small proportion of the people—while in Wales Welsh is the language of at least two-thirds of the population. Official recognition has been given to the Welsh language, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, by the Report of the Sunday Closing Commission being published in Welsh, and I may also mention the Local Government Act. The sale of that Act in Welsh must not be taken as any indication of the number of people who read the language, because it was published late, and a very good translation had already been circulated by private individuals.

*(9.25.) SIR E. J. REED (Cardiff)

I support the appeal for the inclusion of Welsh-speaking statistics in the Returns, and I do so from a somewhat different point of view to my hon. Friends. They wish to bring out the extent to which the language is spoken, as I do also; but I also wish to bring out clearly the limitations of its use. Many questions are continually arising, sometimes of a political, often of a social character, and they are dealt with on the assumption by many persons, not that the Welsh language prevails in the interior of Wales, but as if Welsh were the only language used. Now, when we come to discuss such questions, for example, as Welsh Home Rule, I have a strong opinion that we shall find that a large proportion of the people have no use whatever for the Welsh language, and that Home Rule for Wales might be materially influenced in favour of the solution I should prefer to seek by the knowledge this census would give. But I entirely endorse the appeal made by my hon. Friends, and I hope it will be acceded to. I would also support the view that the census should be taken more frequently. In the case of the town I have the privilege to represent in this House, it suffers in political position because of the decennial census. At the time of the last Redistribution Bill the Government were not justified by the latest Census Returns in giving Cardiff two Members; but now Cardiff has a population of quite 130,000, and still is represented by only one Member. There are other towns in England with 50,000 population represented by two Members. But for the fact that in the Redistribution Bill the Government had only the last decennial census to go upon, Cardiff would now, as it should, have two Members. The anomaly will become more serious as time goes on, unless something is done to correct it. It must be admitted that those towns in which industries have developed and population increased ought not to be subjected to political disability on account of delay in the official recognition of statistical facts.

(9.29.) MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

I do not object to the request that a Return should be made of the people in Wales who speak the Welsh language; but I wish to say that when that request is grounded on the fact that a similar claim has been conceded to Scotland and the Gaelic language, hon. Members have not accurately observed the provisions of the Scotch Bill. Though I may not be strictly in order, I may be allowed to anticipate the discussion of that Bill by a few minutes. I may remind hon. Members that the Schedule requires that it should be stated whether any person is blind, or deaf and dumb, or imbecile, or lunatic, or speaks Gaelic, as if all these things were ejusdem generis. Everyone is to say in his Return whether he is employer or employed; and in the absence of instruction or definition, a Government clerk might suppose that he is an employer because he has a domestic servant. I think a great many people will experience considerable difficulty in deciding how they are to fill in these columns, because a great mass of the people of the country find it necessary in some way or other to employ the labour of other people, although they may themselves be in employment. The consequence may be that we shall get an entirely fallacious view of the social condition of the country, and be completely misled. I contend that the Bill does not adequately provide for obtaining information as to whether people belong to the class of the employer or the employed, or as to whether they live on their means. Clauses should be inserted dealing more definitely with these points. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give attention to these points.

*(9.38.) MR. RITCHIE

I have no right to speak again, but I hope the House will allow me to say one or two words on the points raised in the course of the discussion. The hon. Member says there is no sufficient provision in the Bill for defining who is an employer or who is employed. I think that that difficulty cannot arise, because the words employer and employed are used with reference to occupation in any trade. A clerk who simply employsa servant would not come under the head of employer. The discussion has turned mainly upon a quinquennial census and a permanent staff. The House will gather that the Government regard both favourably, and what has been said will strengthen them in the view they hold. Clearly, the tendency of opinion is strongly in favour of a quinquennial census, and there can be no doubt that if it is undertaken at all it ought to be undertaken by a permanent staff. There is a great deal of force in what has been said as to the improvement of the census by the constant attention of a permanent staff, so as to make it a thoroughly reliable Return of the people and their occupations. It must not be supposed that the Government desire to express an adverse view by the introduction of the present Bill; but they feel there are many things that ought to be considered before they ask Parliament to deal with the larger question. Interested as I am in vital and health statistics I can readily recognise what assistance those who have charge of the public health will derive from obtaining a knowledge of the condition of the people every five years. I have shown that I have no prejudice against adopting the Welsh language where it can be usefully employed, because I had the Local Government Act translated. I will see that instructions as to the mating of Returns are printed in Welsh; and I will consider the suggestion that there shall be a return of those speaking Welsh, to which I do not see any objection if it is the wish of Welsh Members. An hon. Member has asked for a Return of children attending school, but I think this is objectionable, as people will think it is a Return to be used against themselves. It would destroy the accuracy of the Returns if people come to think there is some ulterior motive behind them. The hon. Member for Sheffield suggests not only a Return of foreigners, but a Return as to their fathers and mothers, a request to which they might not be able to respond. The hon. Member for Preston asks why a particular Sunday is chosen. But the date fixed must be adhered to, unless we have strong grounds for thinking that the day is inappropriate. References have been made to the enumerators, but the House may be assured that the greatest care will be taken that those who are selected will be chosen without any regard to their political views, and solely with a view to their efficiency in the duties they will be called upon to perform.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow.