HC Deb 17 April 1896 vol 39 cc1154-7

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board, whether the managers of the Poor Law Schools and certified homes have been allowed by the Local Government Board to break the law concerning half-time for the last 19 years, although such a practice is, in the opinion of the Inspector General of the Board, a serious evil; and whether the fact has ever been submitted to the Permanent Secretary of the Board?


The Question suggests that, with the knowledge and concurrence of the Local Government Board, it has been the practice of guardians to disregard the requirements of the law as to half-time children in Poor Law schools. This is not in accordance with the facts. The responsibility for complying with the law in this matter rests with the guardians. There have, no doubt, been instances where the law has been disregarded; but the Board have always held that the byelaws are binding on guardians as regards school attendance. This view has been expressed by the Permanent Secretary, as well as by the Assistant Secretary, who is also chief general inspector; and guardians have been informed accordingly when the attention of the Board has been drawn to failure on the part of guardians in this matter.


I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board—(1) what are the duties of the medical inspectors of the Poor Law schools; (2) what is the number of beds for the inspection of which the general inspector is responsible; (3) what means have they to communicate their Report to the managers of the schools; and whether the Local Government Board has any power of enforcing suggestions made in such reports?


The staff of inspectors of Poor Law establishments in the metropolitan district, exclusive of the educational inspector, comprises one general inspector, one medical inspector, and one assistant inspector. There are no officers, with the exception of the educational inspection, whose duties apply exclusively to the schools. The duties of the inspectors are to inspect from time to time workhouses and other establishments; to attend meetings of the guardians and managers; to report to the Board matters which they consider should be the subject of communication with those authorities; and to advise the Board generally on questions arising in connection with those establishments and the proceedings of the local authorities. The duty of the assistant inspector is to visit the establishments and report through the inspectors to the Board. The number of beds in separate and certified schools is about 17,000; the total number of indoor poor other than those in the schools referred to, including the inmates of the asylums for infectious cases and imbeciles, is about 57,000. The practice of the Local Government Board is to communicate with the managers as to those matters referred to in the reports of their inspectors with respect to schools which appear to require their attention; or, where it is thought preferable, the inspectors confer with the managers on the subject. Certain powers are conferred on the Local Government Board which enable them to withhold repayment from the common poor fund when a board of guardians or managers of an asylum district make default in complying with an order as regards certain specified matters; but it is very doubtful whether these powers extend to district schools.


I ought to call the attention of the hon. Member to the first paragraph of his Question as being one of an irregular kind which ought not to be put on the Paper. The duties of the medical inspectors of Poor Law schools are to be found in the statute and orders which prescribe those duties; and to ask a Minister to give a treatise on the duties of those officers is not, I think, one of the purposes for which it is intended Questions should be put. [Cheers.]


May I say that I consulted the usual authorities. I am sorry if I transgressed.


I rather think that the usual authorities may have given some advice which was not taken by the hon. Member. [Laughter.]

MR. EDWARD MOON (St. Pancras, W.)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board, how many boarding-out inspectors are employed by the Local Government Board for Poor Law children; how are these duties carried out; whether in 1894 only 377 children out of 1,798 were visited; and, whether any change in the system can be made?


There is one inspector of boarding-out, namely, Miss Mason. Her duties are carried out by conferring with, advising, and otherwise assisting boarding-out committees and inspecting children boarded out and their homes. Miss Mason states that the number mentioned does not correctly represent the number of children visited by her in 1894. As the Board stated in their 19th Annual Report, the responsibility for the care of the children boarded out must rest entirely with the boarding-out committees; and the inspections of the children which are made by the Board's inspector are for the purpose of ascertaining how the duties of the committees are discharged, and cannot be regarded as in any way relieving the committees of their responsibility. If there should be a more extensive adoption of the boarding-out system, the appointment of an additional inspector would be necessary.

MR. W. W. CARLILE (Bucks, N.)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board, whether the Chief Inspector-General of Poor Law Schools was unacquainted with much of the information laid before the Poor Law School Committee, and whether this accounts for the delay in obtaining replies and redress from the Local Government Board; and, what reason can be given for the delay of seven years complained of by the managers of the Central London district in replying to a communication addressed by them to the Board with regard to the regulations as to apprenticeship which have been in force since 1847?


It is no part of the duty of the Assistant Secretary, who is also Chief Inspector-General, to visit Poor Law Schools, and he would not have information laid before the Committee which had not been communicated to the Board, but I am not aware what difficulties as regards obtaining replies and redress are regarded as attributable to this. As regards the case mentioned, the facts are these:—The Guardians of the City of London Union addressed to the Board a communication as to a difficulty which had arisen in providing for the apprenticeship of children in the City of London, where persons to whom they were to be apprenticed were unwilling to provide for the lodging of the apprentices. The letter of the Guardians was received on. July 2, 1887, and on July 9, 1887, the Board replied, promising that their communication should receive attention, and the representations of the Guardians in the matter were considered, although no new regulations on the subject were issued. In the course of the same year an Act (Local Authorities (Expenses) Act 1887) was passed, under which exceptional cases of difficulty as regards apprenticeship might be, and have since been, met.