HC Deb 26 March 1897 vol 47 cc1443-86

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum not exceeding £10,631,218, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, viz:—

Local Government Board 60,000
Home Office and Subordinate Departments 40,000
Stationery Office and Printing 240,000

moved to reduce the vote relating to the Local Government Board by £100. He said he took an early opportunity on this Vote of drawing attention to a matter of some urgency in reference to the proposed sick children's asylum district which had been projected by the President of the Local Government Board, and which formed the subject of the Order which had been circulated among the Boards of Guardians of the Metropolis, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give some assurance that he would either greatly modify or not proceed with proposals which had been received with alarm by the local authorities in London, and which was especially repugnant to the ratepayers, who believed it would be a means of fastening upon them new and large burdens. He hoped the President of the Local Government Board would be able to make a statement which would assure the Metropolis on the subject. If that were the case there would be no disposition to press the matter hostilely or unduly. On the other hand, unless the statement were explicit, it would become necessary to divide the Committee. In the Report of the Poor Law Schools Committee a desire was expressed for the exclusion, as far as possible, of children from actual life in our workhouses, and for the gradual decrease of what were known as the barrack schools. To bring the children more in contact with home influences was an object which would commend itself to all. At the same time, judging from the Parliamentary Paper just published, even in the case of the experiment in Sheffield of isolated homes, which on the whole seemed to be successful, there were some defects. Before Parliament indorsed the findings of the Poor Law Schools Committee, there should be full and adequate opportunity given for discussing not only its Report, but also the evidence which had been given, because in some cases the Report exaggerated certain statements as to the condition of the schools, and in some respects it was very much in conflict with the evidence which was given. The defect of what was generally an admirable Report was that it proceeded to too great generalities from particular instances. He very much doubted whether one or two casual visits of this character to schools could result in a trustworthy estimate of their general work. With regard to the condemnation of the schools, and the retention of the services of the Guardians, even the Report of the Committee itself was not unanimous, and they had only to read the Minority Reports to feel that the Committee was materially divided even upon vital and essential points. There were two points both in the Report of the Committee and in the proposal of the President of the Local Government Board which he hoped would receive much more attention in Parliament before they were brought into force—namely, the creation of a central authority, and the dismissal, or, at any rate, the limitation of the responsibility of the Guardians, who had hitherto ably supervised the education of the children in these schools. ["Hear, hear!"] There was in the Report, he would not say condemnation of the services of the Guardians, because in some respects they were recognised, but the schools they had administered were declared in general terms not to have been satisfactory, and the standard of education was very strongly condemned. The Local Government Board must not forget that the present and past condition of affairs had been very largely due to its own inaction, and in saying this he did not mean to cast any reflection upon the Board, because he believed, in this and other matters, it had been very greatly overworked and understaffed. He pointed out that for years the Education Inspector had been endeavouring to get the Local Government Board to issue a new order defining the limit of hours, and so forth, but that that had never been accomplished. Other matters also which had not been attended to showed that the Local Government Board itself was very largely responsible for what had happened. He thought it was only just, when discussing the comparative action and inaction of the Local Government Board and the Guardians, that they should pay a tribute to the Guardians for the part which they had taken for many years past in the workhouses and schools, by means of which personal sympathy and help had been given to individuals both in schools and during after-life which could not have been given under a centralised system. The depreciatory remarks which had been made about industrial training were by no means universally applicable. There were many workhouse schools in connection with which the Guardians had done most admirable work. He hoped that under any new scheme the services of the Guardians might be retained. Whatever might be the view of the Royal Commission, he thought it was important to remember that four very able members of the Commission had signed a Minority Report. That Report showed that an able and conscientious minority of the Commission looked to the Guardians for a continuation of the excellent work they had done in the past. While the Commissioners recommended the creation of a central authority of a very wide and ample character, with many duties to perform, the proposal of the President of the Local Government Board was that there should be a Board simply for a few of the minor points recommended by the Commission as a whole. That proposal was of a so much reduced character that it could not be said to have been made in pursuance of the Report of the Commission at all. So far as he had heard the matter discussed, those who approved of the Report felt that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman did not go far enough; on the other hand, those who opposed the Report felt that the proposal went a very great deal too far; and he had never come in contact with anyone who admired it as a safe middle line. He knew that those who would have to pay for it, the ratepayers, regarded the prospect with the very gravest misgiving. They saw that this proposal for taking care of the sick, feeble, and imbecile children would mean the creation of a new central Board, the building of new institutions, special hospitals, seaside convalescent homes, and the enlistment of an army of inspectors in addition to those which already existed, all of which must inevitably be costly; and when it was remembered how heavily burdened the ratepayers were at present, it was not to be wondered at that they should ask the House to ascertain unmistakably that this very expensive under taking was necessary. This was a matter in which they should not be guided altogether by sympathy, although there was no case that appealed more strongly to that feeling. He should like to ask what were the recommendations of the particular proposals of the President of the Local Government Board? In the first place the right hon. Gentleman proposed to intrust the election of the Board not to the, ratepayers, but, indirectly, to the Boards of Guardians, which he ventured to think an objectionable principle. In fact, the only argument which the supporters of the proposal advanced was that it created a central Board and effected that isolation of children suffering from contagious diseases, which was necessary, but which could be obtained just as well under existing circumstances by the Guardians. Those being the chief recommendations of the proposal, what were the objections to it? Everyone who had studied the subject of local government must acknowledge that one of the greatest evils of the past was the multiplication of authorities. There was already such an overlapping and an interlacing of authorities in London that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would make confusion worse confounded. Another objection to the proposal was that it embodied a thing alien to local self-government—a new central authority—not immediately responsible to the ratepayers. Again, there was no real need for this new authority. There were attached to each of the schools an infirmary which could be used for isolation without any increased expense. At Hanwell there was an ophthalmic hospital available for the children attending the schools. He should mention in this connection that the opinion of the Commission that ophthalmic was contagious was disputed by very high medical authorities, so that, in that respect, no need existed for carrying out the Report of the Commission. Then, in regard to feeble-minded patients he would point out that it was the opinion of some authorities this was a class which could not be benefited at all by isolation, that such children required the stimulus of companionship and that the worst thing for them would be the isolation that was suggested. On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that there were already organisations in existence, such as the Metropolitan Asylums Board, which rendered the creation of a new authority unnecessary. He agreed that something was to be said in favour of using such existing organisations; but he was bound to add that the experience of the Metropolitan Asylums Board, partly indirectly elected and partly nominated by the Local Government Board, was not universally in its favour, especially in regard to cost. In 1877 the cost of the Asylum Board was £8,845. In ten years it had increased to £15,438; and in 1896 it was no less than £32,009. In the Report of the Commission there was a condemnation of the Asylum Board as a proper organisation for dealing with this class of cases; and in the Minority Report the same condemnation was more emphatically expressed. These were reasons for hesitating before accepting the conclusions of the Commission, or even the more modified proposal of the President of the Local Government Board. Why should not the work go on as at present, supervised by the Local Government Board? If the staff of the Local Government Board was overworked it could be easily increased. It seemed to him that that was the best way to deal with the question—on the old lines with the co-Operation of the Guardians and under the supervision of the Local Government Board. As to the question of education, no one would object to the restoration of inspection by the Education Department itself, which was removed by Mr. Lowe in 1859. He quite admitted that in the past there had been evils, but they could be remedied by less expensive means than these proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. What was wanted was reform, not revolution. If the President of the Local Government Board would take that line, he would have the fullest sympathy and support of the Guardians concerned in the matter. In this work of securing more isolation, better education, and better provision for the in-and-out children of the workhouses, and in raising the prospects which they might have in the future, the right hon. Gentleman was engaged in a difficult, though a hopeful and a useful task, and he hoped that, instead of making proposals which were repugnant in the highest degree, the right hon. Gentleman would at least see whether there were not existing organisations capable of doing the work. He hoped that by some statement the right hon. Gentleman would reassure public opinion and relieve the minds of the ratepayers.

MR. ERNEST FLOWER (Bradford, W.)

called attention to the disputes which now arose between local authorities as to the settlement of paupers.

MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

rose to order. He wished to know whether it was in order to run off the subject of the particular reduction which had been moved?


Any subject which is germane to the Local Government Board can be raised on this Motion.


said that he should afterwards pass to the subject of his hon. Friend's reduction. He had accounts of three or four recent cases of difference between local authorities as to which of them should bear the cost of paupers—cases which had been carried to the House of Lords and involved a great expense in litigation. He suggested that the Local Government Board should have power to appoint permanent officials to deal with these disputes, and that their decisions should be final. As to the question raised by his hon. Friend the Member for South Islington, he hoped that the President of the Local Government Board would modify considerably or entirely abandon the proposals contained in the draft order which had been issued with his authority. That order had been considered by various representative metropolitan bodies, and their reception of it had not been favourable. A conference of Guardians representing all London was held on the 26th February this year. The Camberwell Guardians thought the proposal undesirable, unless all classes of children were placed under such authority, and the members of the same popularly elected. St. George's, Hanover Square, thought the proposal undesirable; St. Giles's, Bloomsbury, and Paddington, suggested the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the School Board as the new authorities; Hackney suggested the Metropolitan Asylums Board; Holborn, Lambeth, and Shoreditch protested against the proposal; St. Saviour's suggested an inquiry; Islington viewed the proposal with alarm; and Wandsworth suggested a postponement. The matter had also been considered by the London County Council, who had unanimously passed a resolution stating that the establishment of a new and distinct metropolitan authority for a section of the poor-law children was undesirable, and calculated to lead to endless expense, and that the constitution of the authority suggested by the Local Government Board was opposed to the resolution of the Council of June 5, 1894. This objection to this draft scheme was that it complicated instead of simplifying the existing system. At present there were dealing with the 17,000 poor-law children in London four Government Departments, 32 directly elected bodies, 7 indirectly elected bodies, and 547 voluntary committees. The new Board proposed would only add further confusion to an already confused condition of things. Further, it would do nothing to carry out those reforms which were recognised as necessary by all the members of the late Departmental Committee. It would do nothing to prevent the aggregation of children which had been shown again and again to be attended with bad effects morally, mentally, and physically. This was recognised by the officials of the Local Government Board themselves. In the 19th Annual Report, Dr. Bridges, the Medical Inspector of the Local Government Board, drew a striking contrast between the appearance of the boys on the training-ship Exmouth and the inmates of the ordinary poor-law school, who were sluggish, dull, slouching, and disinclined to play. There were 1,600 of these children now suffering from ophthalmia, ringworm, and other skin diseases, and that in itself was a complete condemnation of the barrack system. The proposals of the President of the Local Government Board would not touch the root of the evil at all. Palliatives were of little use while the causes remained. The Board proposed was practically a useless body. His hon. Friend the Member for South Islington spoke slightingly of the efforts of the Departmental Committee to ascertain the actual state of affairs. But he would point out there was no other method of obtaining accurate information than the method adopted by the Departmental Committee, which spared neither time nor labour in mastering the details.


said that he fully acknowledged the services of the Committee, but he urged that no casual visit once or twice could give the knowledge and authority which was obtained by ten years' acquaintance with the schools.


accepted the correction. But he thought that even such a casual visit paid by experts must bring important facts to light. As to the slight conflict between the evidence and the Report, the Committee had a very difficult task in trying to extract information from officials who were, from their positions, more or less unwilling to impart it. With regard to buildings, the normal children did not need these institutions at all. The abnormal did need them, but the proposal of the President of the Local Government Board was to take the abnormal children, who did need them, and hand them over to a board which had not got the institutions, and leave the normal children, who did not need them in the hands of a body with the institutions. He agreed with the hon. Member for Islington that the scheme pleased nobody and disappointed many who had founded their hopes on the Report of the Committee. He earnestly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to again consider whether it was not possible to carry out the great scheme of reform which was advocated by the Departmental Committee by arming himself with legislative powers to establish a central board for all the pauper children in London. What were the advantages which would accrue from such a proposal? In a sentence he would say that it simplified, and simplicity in Local Government meant economy. In the second place it would pool the children, pool the buildings, and pool the money. It would enable them to equalise the rates and bring about the sense of common interest and common union between the rich and poor unions of the Metropolis. And it would do one thing more, it would enable them to put an end to that system of working pauper children, regardless of their educational standard, of the half-timers. Their system of boarding-out had been tried with success in important provincial centres. Sheffield had led the way, and he was glad to think that in Bradford the system had worked most satisfactory results. If the right hon. Gentleman would carry out the recommendations of the Committee, he would do something to lessen the hardships of these little ones, who had inherited so much misery and trouble, and to secure for them a brighter prospect for the future.

SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)

was not enamoured with, the idea that in future the ordering of these children should devolve upon a separate body. He did not think that a body which was halfway between heaven and earth, with no direct responsibility to the ratepayers and only under the control of the Local Government Board in an imperfect manner, was an ideal body to have the care of these children. He would rather encourage the Guardians to go on improving as they had done of late years—["hear, hear!"]—and the way to encourage them was to press responsibility more closely home upon them. In order to do that, the Local Government Board ought itself to be re-organised, so that it could give more direct attention to these matters, and be in a position to exercise more authoritative control over Boards of Guardians in doing their duty. If they had a sub-department of the Local Government Board, charged with the care of children, sick as well as healthy, they should do a great deal to improve, not only the education of such children, but to stamp out those diseases which had been a scandal to poor law administration. He rose more especially, however, to call attention to a matter which was of considerable consequence to the country generally, and that was the order which the Local Government Board had recently issued in connection with Parish Council Elections. Unfortunately the Local Government Act did not allow the same simplicity to be carried into Parish Council Elections which exists in Municipal Elections. The Act was so drawn that a parish meeting had to receive the nominations for parish councillors, and to take a vote on their nominations, and consequently they had been reduced to what was really a barbarous system—a show of hands at parish meetings on the nomination of candidates for parish councillors. This show of hands was a very unpopular method, for this reason, that at these meetings, composed as they were largely of two classes of people, one the employers and the other the employed, the latter were placed in a very invidious position if they voted against their employers or employers' nominees, and the consequence was that the show of hands had over and over again been completely reversed when they had the opportunity of taking the ballot. They had constantly cases of this kind, not only on the first occasion of parish elections but on the second occasion as well. The right which should be given to the citizens to obtain a ballot almost automatically on the demand of one of the voters ought not to be lightly thrown aside. Upon what grounds had this alteration been made? He assured the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that it caused his predecessors some trouble to get rid of the system of a show of hands, and there was some difficulty in devising another system. Elections went on for a couple of years under the new system, and the right hon. Gentleman was asked questions in the House as to whether he could alter the system and give one elector the power to demand a poll. It was said that it was undesirable that one voter should have this right to put the parish to the expense of having a poll. It was also said that factious persons or cranks, or even a local poacher, might put the parish to this expense; but he did not see why even a poacher should not be able to do so as long as he retained the rights enjoyed by any other citizen. Nor did he see why this should always be supposed to be the action of a crank. These polls had not been demanded in a vast number of instances by factious persons or by other persons without a reason for uttering their demand. In these cases they ought not to deprive citizens of their rights on the ground that in some few instances the rights might be abused. There were 7,000 of these elections taking place every year, and they ought to be careful, therefore, in interfering with the rights of a vast majority of the citizens because a few persons might have put a parish to the unnecessary expense of a poll. Expense was not necessarily involved because a ballot was demanded. There was always a considerable interval between the demanding of the ballot, the nomination, and the last day of withdrawal. There was also time if the ballot was improperly demanded to influence candidates to withdraw and save expense to the parish. This point, therefore, ought not to loom too largely in the consideration of hon. Gentlemen who thought that one elector should not have the right to put a parish to the trouble of an election. When these rules were first issued he had many representations made to him that in many villages they could not find more than one man who would take up the unpopular position of demanding a poll. Personally he had known many villages of that kind; but now, by a stroke of the pen, the Local Government Board altered all this and required practically five electors, or the consent of the chairman and one elector, in order to obtain a poll. That was too clean a sweep to make. He had a bundle of letters in his possession from various parts of the country since these parish elections had come on under the new system complaining of the difficulty of obtaining a poll. The difficulty was expressed very forcibly in some of these letters. One writer said:— This rule would mean a most serious interference with the right and freedom of parishes in the elections. Another pointed out that in a place under the control of a large colliery company it would be a difficult matter to find five working men with courage enough to demand a poll at the parish meeting in the presence of the mine-owner and his agents. Another wrote that "he regards it as a serious curtailment of their liberties; "and he found that, in various Parish Council meetings held, the same difficulty had arisen even during the recent elections. Stress was laid on the difficulty of finding five men, that the show of hand system was so unsatisfactory that they would rather submit to the ballot, and the moment the master's hand goes up it was a signal for his servants and hangers-on to vote in the same direction. Then it was said that "five men could not be found, for the simple reason that they were too afraid." If this feeling of fear existed, whether well or ill founded, the Committee ought to do its best to minimise and take it away. He thought, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman might have waited a little longer before interfering with the rules established by his predecessor. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would say that he had substantial reasons for making the change. Had the right hon. Gentleman obtained intimations in favour of the alteration from five per cent. of the Parish Councils, or even from two per cent. or three per cent. of the Parish Councils? He might have received representations from individuals who might be important and influential, but as to the Parish councils themselves he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman had any large representations from the 7,000 Parish Councils that had to hold parish elections. He did not think, therefore, that a change of this kind which struck at the freedom of election ought to be undertaken by any Minister unless he was backed up by a strong amount of popular feeling. He ought to have direct evidence from the localities themselves that the people most affected were anxious for the change. It was too early to begin to meddle with an Act which had only been two years in force, and to meddle with rules which had not had time to be thoroughly tried and worked. As a matter of ordinary moral right there was power to demand a poll by a single elector in connection with many small subjects affecting the parish, but they were unimportant in comparison with the right affecting the governing body of the locality. That right had been taken away by this order of the Local Government Board before sufficient time had been afforded to test the working of the system. In the interests of local liberty in many rural parishes he protested against this order, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter during the next few months with a view to altering it when he issued the order for the next parish council elections.

MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants,) Basingstoke

pointed out that the appeals in connection with this subject had come from both sides of the House. When the subject was brought forward on a previous occasion there was really no Debate on the question, and apparently the House at that time was unanimous in saying that the rule ought to be altered. The mover of the Amendment had given a most extraordinary account of parish life. He was astonished anyone should say that there was any great feeling in a parish that one man should be able to demand a poll, and thereby put the whole parish to the trouble and expense of an election. In the county in which he lived, and where he had the honour of being the chairman of one Parish Council and chairman of a parish meeting in another parish, they were unanimous in resenting the order which Mr. Shaw-Lefevre and the hon. Gentleman opposite had made, and under which one man, who might not be a ratepayer in the parish, could demand a poll and put the whole parish to the trouble and expense of a poll because the men he wanted to have elected were not chosen by show of hands at the parish meeting. He would like to remind the House of what the Act itself said. By Section 48 it was provided that the election of the Councils established by the Act should be according to the rules laid down by the Local Government Board. Then in the First Schedule he found that Rule 7 said that a poll might be demanded by one elector in a number of instances which the hon. Gentleman opposite had mentioned, but that rule did not mention the election of Parish Councillors as one of them. That was not mentioned in the schedule at all, and the only way that Mr. Shaw-Lefevre and the hon. Gentleman opposite could get in this order was under Sub-section K, which said "in other prescribed matters." Would it be believed that it was on account of this outlet which they got, that they made the order that any one man might claim a poll. That was not all, because at the end of this particular section of the schedule were these words:— But, save as aforesaid, a poll shall not be taken unless either the chairman assents or the poll is demanded by the parochial electors, not being less than five in number. He would like to remind the House of what took place during the passage of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton—and they all recognised the fair and impartial manner in which he conducted the discussions on that Bill—said, when they were discussing whether there ought to be a ballot or not, that certainly he thought it ought not to be put in the hands of less than five people, because if five people did not, or would not, demand a poll in the parish it could not be worth having—the demand was not a real one. In the face of that, how could the hon. Gentleman opposite say it was intended by the Act that one man should be able to demand a poll? This order was almost outside the Act altogether, and yet it was contended that it was a very strong measure for his right hon. Friend suddenly to change that order. He was quite certain that his right hon. Friend was backed by the almost unanimous opinion of the country. He could not say absolutely unanimous, because the hon. Gentleman opposite had produced half-a-dozen letters against it.


I could have produced hundreds.


said he dared say his right hon. Friend had also letters by hundreds. He was sure that Mr. Shaw-Lefevre had many appeals addressed to him on the subject, and from his own experience he could tell the Committee of certainly dozens of parishes who were unanimous in wishing the rule to be altered. He would be astonished if any Gentleman in that House, who was a Member of a Parish Council, would get up and deny that it was the general feeling of the Parish Councils throughout the land that that order was a bad one, and that they hailed with general approval and delight the order of his right hon. Friend giving the power of this demand for a poll to five instead of one. While the order of Mr. Shaw-Lefevre and the hon. Gentleman opposite was almost outside the letter of the Act, the order of his right hon. Friend left the Act as it was passed.

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

said he had no doubt that when they came to amend the Local Government Act there would be a great deal to be said in favour of a middle course on this question. The result of the power being in the hands of one man in many cases was to put the parish to great expense. On the other hand, he could assure the hon. Member who had just spoken that his hon. Friend who raised this question was perfectly right in saying that there were great numbers of small parishes in which a poll demanded by one man had produced a result wholly different from that shown in the parish meeting. The hon. Member for Islington, in a speech with a great deal of which he agreed, protested against the creation of a new metropolitan authority, and, at the same time indicated his wish that the Department of the Local Government Board dealing with this question should be strengthened as an alternative. He believed that when certain abuses had been discovered in any system, people were always apt to jump to remedies, which themselves would produce even greater abuses in the long run. That, he believed, would be the case in the creation of a central authority of this kind. All of them would desire that there should be an improvement in the treatment of these poor children, and many of them thought that if Boards of Guardians were more and more induced by the example and teaching of the Local Government Board, either to board out or emigrate children, and to adopt the cottage home system, coupled under the direction of the Board, with seaside homes for children suffering from certain diseases, without the revolutionary remedy of the creation of a new central authority, everything would be done that the House really wished to be done in connection with this subject. No doubt the Local Government Board was weak in its staff on certain sides, and no doubt it was overworked, in consequence of which a great deal of irritation and friction and bad administration in localities had been fostered by the slowness of communication between headquarters and the localities. This was a pressing matter at this moment, inasmuch as an inquiry was taking place into the staff of the Local Government Board. He was a little afraid that any such inquiry must assume the wisdom of all that was being done in the office, and that where they found a particular branch of the office overworked, it must necessarily lead to an increase of that particular branch. It was, therefore, well to point out that there were those who believed that a large amount of work was being done by the office at the present moment, which it had better not do at all. He was one of those who were opposed to centralisation in any form, but he admitted it was not the fault of the Local Government Board. Parliament had undoubtedly been careless in its legislation, and had constantly thrown on the Local Government Board an immense amount of work, much of which might have been avoided altogether. When the Local Government Bill was under discussion, there was great difficulty in giving the power of Parish Councils in many matters to other parties than the Parish Councils. The first part of the Bill was concerned with rural parishes—in the first line of the Bill the words "rural parish" occurred. All the powers relating to rural parishes had to be applied to other places that were not rural at all, and that could not be done by any ordinary Motion. The course which was adopted led to an enormous amount of work being thrown on the Local Government Board. For example, it was wished by many districts, districts really undistinguishable from rural parishes, to have the powers of the Parish Councils in the matter of charities, allotments, appointment of overseers and the like. The Local Government Board took the view, which he did not think Parliament meant them to take, but which they were justified in taking by the letter of the law, that they ought to correspond with the locality in every case. There was often a very long correspondence, and in the end an order was made or refused. Often a correspondence was held with the Charity Commissioners, entailing enormous work and delay. He had always thought that the Board made too many inquiries, but whether that was so or not, the correspondence with local authorities had been enormously increased by the Local Government Act, and he hoped that if the deliberations of Sir John Hibbert's Committee led to an increase of staff, as he believed they would, the increase would take place, for example, in the department which dealt with pauper children rather than in that which dealt with purely formal matters, which only caused friction between the Board and local authorities.


said that he rose at the request of his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, because they thought it would be well to clear away one or two questions which had arisen, in order that the Committee might get back to the main point at issue, that of the Poor Law schools. His hon. Friend the Member for West Bradford raised a question as to the law of settlement. The hon. Member admitted that the law raised difficult issues, not only between parts of England, but between England and Ireland, and between Ireland and Scotland, and the suggestion he made was that the Local Government Board should appoint some special inspectors to deal With questions of dispute arising between Boards of Guardians.


said his suggestion was that the Local Government Board should take power to appoint an official who should act as referee.


drew the attention of the hon. Member to 14 and 15 Vic., chap. 105, which expressly dealt with the point. If two Boards of Guardians were at issue in regard to settlement, and they chose to unite in stating a case for the Local Government Board, the Board was directed to inquire and its decision was final.


said his desire was that the Board itself should have compulsory power.


said that the point would be considered, but legislation would be required if it were to be dealt with. In regard to the point raised by his hon. Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division, he thought he ought to make it clear, not only what had been done, but why the Local Government Board had declined to insert in the order issued this year power which undoubtedly was conceded in the order issued by Mr. Shaw-Lefevre, and he believed in the first order issued by the present President of the Local Government Board. A single elector had not power to demand a poll under the Statute itself, and in order that he should have that power the Local Government Board had to intervene and confer the power upon him by regulation and order. When the attention of his right hon. Friend was first drawn to the matter he stated in the House that he would be quite willing to receive information from all parts of the House in regard to the opinion entertained by hon. Members on the point. The opinions of hon. Members were freely given, and they were all in one direction. Upon the Estimates a discussion was raised, and he said that in consequence of the information that had reached his right hon. Friend it was not intended to insert the provision in question in the next order. Not a word of protest was raised. The Local Government Board had received a great many communications—[Sir WALTER FOSTER: "From whom?"] They had had only six communications against the order of this year—four from Parish Councils, and two from Liberal Associations. That was the entire body of evidence against the present form of order.


asked whether the hon. Gentleman would say whether the Board had received information showing that even 1 per cent. of the Parish Councils were in favour of the order?


said that information had been received from four Parish Councils only, and they were against the order. The great body of Parish Councils had raised no protest whatever.


Do they ask for the change?


said that his right hon. Friend left the matter to the opinion of the House, and that opinion had been conveyed in the clearest terms. They had had 77 applications from different parts of the country to change the order to its present form, and they had had only four objections to it. So far as he was aware the great bulk of the Members of the House were in favour of the alteration being made. As to the question of the reorganisation of the Local Government Board, the Committee were aware that a Departmental Committee was now sitting. They had almost brought their labours to a close, and he was certain that valuable results would follow the Report of that Committee. The Local Govern-Board had been blamed continuously for the delay in doing its work, but he said that Parliament, and not the Board, was to blame for that. There was scarcely a thing that, instead of being done by Parliament, was not left to be done by rule and regulation. Session after Session this work had been heaped upon the Local Government Board, and Parliament had not seen that the Board was properly manned. The work had got seriously into arrear, and no one knew it better than the Board itself. In the House Members complained of the delay that took place in the carrying out of inquiries and in issuing orders, but he hoped that as a result of the Departmental Committee much of this would be cured. He did not know how far the principle of devolution would be carried, but that point had been committed to the Committee and it had been carefully considered. He would not advise any one to build too much on that—[ironical cheers]—and for this reason, not because the Local Government Board objected to it, but because of the difficulties that were in the way. Under the Act of 1888 Parliament contemplated that some of the work should be done by the local authorities, the County Councils, but not one year was allowed to pass before objections were raised against the section of the Act being put into operation. These difficulties did not arise with the Local Government Board or, as far as he knew, with any other Department. They were purely local, as between the non-county boroughs and the County Councils. Therefore he hoped that a good deal of the odium that had fallen on the Local Government Board because of these delays would be removed by the labours of the Committee.

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said he was very sensible of his relations to the House in respect to the Measure which he had carried through Parliament. The House had treated him with such generous confidence that he should deeply regret that there should arise any misconception as to the view he took, or that he had in any degree departed from any undertaking which he had given. He had endeavoured to fulfil every premise that he then made. Members would recollect that there was a question as to the additional expense in connection with parish meetings. Questions arose as to the taking of polls and the cost. There was a strong feeling on both sides of the House against allowing one person to put the parish to the expense of a poll on the occasion of the election of parish councillors, and it was eventually agreed that two persons, in addition to the candidate and his mover and seconder, making five in all, should be necessary to obtain as poll. It was also agreed that the resolution on which one voter could demand a poll should be specified in a schedule to the Act. Some general words were added giving power to the Local Government Board to prescribe any other matter on which one voter could demand a poll. The right hon. Gentleman then explained the circumstances which led up to this decision, and, proceeding, said be had regretted that he had not had, like other parents, the education of his own children. [Laughter.] He should have liked to have had the superintending of his own Act. He should like to refer to a matter touched upon by the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke), and he felt bound to say that the administration of the Local Government Board was in direct antagonism to what the Government and the House understood when they assented to Clause 33. It was held that unless the Board saw some good reason to the contrary, it ought automatically to transfer the powers possessed by Parish Councils to District Councils. He did not think that there was great waste of public time and a great deal of irritation caused to the local authorities by the interposing of difficulties as to this transfer. He attached no blame to the right hon. Gentleman, for he may have construed the clause differently from the construction which he and those who took an active part in carrying the Act put upon it.


In personal explanation, I should like to say, after the speech of my right hon. Friend, that Mr. Shaw Lefevre and myself were quite ignorant of the circumstances mentioned by my right hen. Friend when the Order was under consideration. It was issued in perfect bonâfides—["hear, hear!"]—in the interests, as we believed, of the rights of the parish electors. ["Hear, hear!"]


referring to the criticisms which had been passed on the Government respecting the delay which had taken place in giving effect to the Report of the Departmental Committee published last year, said, that those who indulged in those criticisms failed to remember the difficulties under which the President of the Local Government Board and the Department had laboured last year. Further, the evils complained of had long been known to the Department. The Report of Mr. Doyle in 1878, and that of the House of Lords Committee in 1888, showed that the present abuses were nothing new, and the fact that such able administrators as the Member for the Forest of Dean, the Member for Wolverhampton, the present President of the Board of Trade, and the First Lord of the Treasury, had not been able to devise any reform, proved that the difficulty was no light one, and that neither party at the present time had; any capital to make out of the state of the Poor Law schools. ["Hear, hear!"] It was, however, high time that some steps were taken, and the question before the Committee was, what was the policy of the Government, and what was the policy proposed by their critics? On February 1st the President of the Local Government Beard had announced his policy. It was that a new authority should be constituted in the metropolis to take charge of the Poor Law children suffering from ophthalmia and skin disease, the children of defective intellect, and those remanded to workhouses, as well as the children now living in workhouses. Further, he intended to discourage the formation of new barrack schools and to get rid of the old barrack school. To this policy there were two obvious criticisms: In the first place, why should a new authority be created when the Metropolitan Asylums Board already managed, not only children's hospitals, but an asylum for imbecile children at Darenth. Further, the Board had been most successful in the management of the Exmouth training ship, and was able as well as willing to undertake the task. In the second place it might be urged that the extra cubic space the President hoped to gain by the arrangement, would be more than filled by the children now in the workhouse which he proposed to bring in; in other words, the evils inherent in barrack schools would continue and even be intensified in the metropolis, and he desired to remind the Committee that there were provincial schools in which these evils exist at the present day. He need not add what those evils were, the great cost (double that of the boarding-out system), the deficient education, the inadequate industrial training, the disease and consequent deterioration of character. ["Hear, hear!"] But the evils inherent in the barrack schools were not the only difficulties which the Local Government Board would in future have to combat. There was the case of the so-called "in-and outs." No power was to be given to any authority to prevent parents dragging their children in and out of the schools as often as they liked, bringing disease and demoralisation with them, and no provision was apparently to be made for new receiving homes like that at Hammersmith. ["Hear, hear!"] Reference had been made to the increase of staff at the Local Government Board. He hoped that the question of the inspection of the 1,700 boarded-out children by an inspector who had clerical work as well, would not be forgotten. Further assistance was wanted, and further powers for the after care and control of Poor Law children, as well as better provision for the enforcement of the law with regard to half-timers—["hear, hear!"]—at present so generally broken according to the Report. The abolition of barrack schools would be necessarily gradual, but it was at last to be definitely undertaken. The policy of the President of the Local Government Board included, he was glad to see, the inspection of Poor Law children in the colonies. He hoped it would also include the provision of training ships, by which, as in the case of the Exmouth, the ranks of our merchant navy might receive a supply of excellent recruits. But he need not remind the Committee that all the laws that could be enacted and administered by the Local Government Board would be of no avail unless there was cordial co-operation on the part of the guardians, and local charity and self-help. ["Hear, hear!"] He deplored the reflections contained in the Report of the Departmental Committee on the work of Boards of Guardians as a whole, and on the work of men and women who had given their lives without stint to carrying out the most necessary but thankless work in the interests of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] Valuable as the Report was, as the work of eminent experts who had heard the evidence and seen the schools, he could not help regretting the bias in favour of one system (when many systems had done good work) as well as the inaccuracies which had crept into the Report. It would be necessary to obtain the co-operation of the local authorities as well as of local and central charitable authorities if any permanent good work was to be done. In conclusion, he appealed to the House of Commons not only to insist on the necessary laws being passed, and the necessary administrative measures being undertaken, but he asked hon. Members whether they could not, each in their own district, do something to inculcate and practise sympathy and charity to these poor children, so as to give them the opportunity of climbing from the lowest to the highest position in the State. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)

said he had no wish to blame the Local Government Board for their tardiness, because he knew they had been very much overburdened with work; but the draft Order issued seemed to him very inadequate. He did not think the Report of the Commission had received proper attention from the House. It was a Commission of experts of the very first order, and he did not think seven men and one lady could have been found who more thoroughly understood the question with which they had to deal. He could assure the President of the Local Government Board that the state of things disclosed by their Report had sunk deep into the philanthropic mind of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] The state of affairs in Poor Law schools was made known over 20 years ago by Mrs. Nassau Senior. She was a Poor Law Guardian, and her report was that 50 per cent. of the girls trained in Poor Law schools turned out badly, and that only a small proportion could be said to turn out thoroughly well. Since those days some improvement had, no doubt, taken place, owing to the exertions of the Association for Befriending Young Servants. Nevertheless, the opinion of the ladies belonging to that association was that barrack schools were a great mistake; in those schools there was no development of individuality; the children were brought up like sheep, and treated like automatons. The child was described as "No. so-and-so" They were in some cases not even given names; there were too many of them for that! The result of the system was, that the affections of the children were starved, and everyone who had studied this question knew that to bring up together a vast number of girls in this artificial way meant to many of them moral ruin. Here was the testimony of a lady who had worked for 12 years among workhouse girls:— In district school girls I have found very strongly marked what I think is a great characteristic of the girls brought up in such large schools—intense obstinacy and sullenness.… I do feel most strongly that family life, even among the very poor, has an entirely different effect on the character of a child from life in a large school. There was no doubt that barrack school life ruined the tempers of the children, and in some cases it ruined their morals. Dr. Barnardo, through whose hands some 30,000 children had passed with great success, said, in his evidence, that he had been compelled to give up taking girls coming from Poor Law schools on account of their vicious tendencies. Very little had been said in that discussion about the enormous spread of ophthalmia in these schools. In some of the large schools as many as 30 or 40 per cent. of the children were affected, and they entered the world handicapped by weak and defective vision. Why should the children be exposed unnecessarily to this terrible complaint, which was the result of their being herded together in these huge barrack schools? The complaint was not known among the children who were boarded out. The proposal of the Local Government Board was simply to remove the children who suffered from the complaint; the breeching grounds, the schools that produced the ophthalmia, were to be left untouched. No attempt was made to deal with the causes of the complaint. Then the education supplied in Poor Law schools was very defective, the standard being far short of the standard in elementary schools. He strongly supported the recommendation that the children should be mixed up with other children in elementary schools. They ought to be allowed to attend such schools in ordinary dress, so that they should not suffer under the pauper taint. Perhaps the most difficult problem of all was how to deal with the "ins-and-outs." He had talked over this subject with some of the principal philanthropists of America. In that country the custom was to put the class of children whom we called "ins-and-outs" under the care and control of State Boards, until they arrived at the age of 21. Parents in America were not allowed to do what they liked with their children as they do here. They were not allowed to take them on the tramp, and to send them into workhouse schools in the intervals of a wandering life. It was impossible to impart a high moral tone to children who came out of the lowest lodging houses, or to make them amenable to discipline. He suggested that they ought to proceed on the lines adopted in America, and strengthen the control of the guardians over these children. We were too respectful in this country to what were called parental rights. Parents who were tramps and living bad lives had no right to ruin their children. The positive recommendations which had been made were most important. There was, in the first place, the recommendation regarding boarding out. In Scotland for many years, practically all the pauper children had been boarded out. There were no pauper schools there, and hereditary pauperism had been nearly eradicated from the country. The children boarded out with respectable people; they attended the ordinary schools, were treated with affection, and were clothed as respectably as the children of honest working men. But in this country there were only some 1,800 children boarded out. Why was that? Was it because boarding out a child cost only 4s. a week, while a child cost 11s. in a pauper school? That was a strange reason; yet it was a fact that guardians preferred to pay 11s. a week per child to keep the children in pauper schools, than to pay 4s. a week to board them out in cottage homes. He knew there were difficulties in the way of the system of boarding out, but they could be surmounted, and with a sufficiently large staff and a sufficient number of female inspectors to follow the children, it would be possible to have 18,000 children boarded out instead of only 1,800. Miss Brodie Hall said in her evidence:— Home training involves a great many things which perhaps men know less of than women; it is the small details of everyday home life that bring out the character of a child, and that, as it grows up, enable it to develop, though unconsciously, self-dependence, resourcefulness, thriftiness; it learns by the example of its elders.… Then there is another thing: home life draws out the personal affections, and I think it is one of the most terrible things in workhouses or in very large schools that a child who can elsewhere be trained, up to a certain age, through its affections, has that particular item in its human character perfectly undeveloped, and I believe that is the reason that so many of them in after life fail. Miss Hall also pointed out that boys and girls when boarded out lived together, whereas they were kept apart in pauper schools, with the result that they had no notion of how to behave towards one another. All sorts of evils arose in after life from the unnatural way in which boys and girls were prevented from meeting as children. In Scotland, where the boarding-out system prevailed, the vitality of the children was far higher, and their general health far better. But, in his opinion, incomparably the best method of dealing with poor children was emigration. He possessed 20 years' experience of this method, and between 3,000 and 4,000 emigrated children must have passed under his review. During a recent visit to Canada he found that the condition of the children sent to Canadian homes was all that anyone could desire. They were happy, well fed, well clothed, and lived the same life as the farmers' families did. He did not meet with a single complaint in any house that he visited, either from the farmer or from the children. There was no difficulty in placing as many children as the society with which he was connected could send out, and the society paid nothing for their maintenance. He was aware that there were difficulties in the way of what he advocated. The Canadians objected to pauper children because they knew how badly they turned out. They did not object to children who had been trained in a home. He proposed that destitute children should not go into pauper schools at all, but should go into one of the many excellent homes intended for them, certified, if necessary, by the Local Government Board, and should only after spending one or two years in these be emigrated. They would then have a happy and prosperous future. He wished to see pauper schools abolished. Their expense was enormous. One had cost £177,000. It was a shame and a scandal that such a place should ever have been built. The children should be restored to a healthy natural life in respectable homes. Institutions which entailed the maximum of cost often did a minimum of good. As far as he knew, most lady guardians were opposed to pauper schools and were in favour of restoring children to a wholesome family life. He trusted the Local Government Board would work in that direction, and this expression of opinion among those conversant with the subject would strengthen their hands.


said that nothing had been more striking in the course of the Debate than the wide diversity of opinion which appeared to prevail, not only on both sides of the House, but as shown in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. The Local Government Board was condemned because it went too far, and, on the other hand, because it did not appear to go half far enough. The Board, therefore, might hope that in the middle course it had taken it had acted wisely. He would deal with two or three points raised by the Mover of the Amendment, and then with the general question. The hon. Member spoke of the failures of the Local Government Board. It was true that the Board for a long time past had been undermanned and greatly overworked. That might account for some of the failures people were justly inclined to condemn. A Committee of Inquiry into the organisation and work of the Department was sitting, and had for some time sat; and when its labours were completed, he had every hope and confidence that the Board, as regarded its work and arrears, would be able to snow a very different record in the future. The hon. Member spoke of the great contrast between the evidence given before the Committee on Poor Law Schools and their Report to the public. There was reason for that criticism. It had frequently been proposed from both sides of the House that inspection, as far as the education of Poor Law children was concerned, should be undertaken by the Education Department rather than by the Local Government Board. The latter would always be willing to agree to it, and, if practicable, to have it carried out, though there were difficulties in the way. It might clear the ground and tend to the convenience of the Committee if he stated, as briefly as he could, the circumstances under which the Order of the Local Government Board under discussion came to be issued. It was true that the Report of the Poor Law Schools Committee was published last year. At the close of last Session it was impossible for him to put before the House any definite policy on behalf of the Local Government Board; but he came to the conclusion, which must be shared by the majority of the members of the Committee, that the Report having been published, the question must be dealt with He did not agree with speakers in the Debate, who seemed to think the Report might have been ignored altogether; and, if dealt with, the choice of methods lay between the acceptance of the recommendations of the Committee on the one hand, and on the other some such proposals as those which had been issued under the Order of the Board. He elected to proceed by Order instead of by legislation, for the reason that he was afraid that, in the present condition of public business in the House of Commons, if he relied upon legislation, in all probability he would never have an opportunity this Session of dealing effectively with the question at all. He admitted that this method of procedure had its disadvantages. ["Hear, hear!"] In the absence of opportunities to receive Parliamentary criticism, he thought it right to issue this Order in a tentative form, and send it to all the boards of guardians and managers of districts chiefly concerned, to give them an opportunity of making any criticisms they pleased. That had been done with good results. The Order had been carefully considered by the local authorities at a conference attended by delegates from every board of guardians concerned, and he had received more than one deputation on the subject. He had now little doubt that, in the final form in which he proposed that the Order should be issued, it would command the support of the large majority of the local authorities concerned. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion before the House only told them of those who were opposed to the Order. But if the views of those who were in its favour were considered, it might be seen that the conclusion which might otherwise be drawn would be altogether erroneous. He would point out that the great distinction between the recommendations of the Report of the Committee and the order of the Local Government Board consisted in this, that the Committee recommended that a central body should be appointed to take over the charge and control of all the Poor Law children in all the Poor Law institutions in the metropolis, while the order contemplated the appointment of a central authority which was to take over the control of certain classes only of these children. The classes which they proposed should be handed over to the new authority were children suffering from ophthalmia and diseases of the eyes, from skin and scalp diseases, or from mental or physical infirmity, and children requiring the benefits of sea air, and in homes for convalescents. With regard to the recommendations of the Committee, it seemed to him to be a very serious proposal to take away from the guardians the entire control of all the children at present in their institutions, and to hand them over to some other body. ["Hear, hear!"]In spite of this Report, he was aware of no circumstances whatever which, in his opinion, justified him in transferring the children en bloc from the guardians to some new authority. ["Hear, hear!"] He agreed with what had been said with regard to the evils which arose from the aggregation of vast masses of children in what were called these barrack schools which, undoubtedly, were a great blot upon the present system. But this was a matter with which it was impossible for anybody to deal by a stroke of the pen. ["Hear, hear!"] The Local Government Board had always been ready to consider any suggestions that could be made in regard to this matter, but he owned that he failed altogether to see how great improvements were to be effected in this respect more readily by any new authority they could make than by the authorities which existed at present. It must also be remembered, in justice to the existing authorities, that whatever objections these barrack schools were open to, and he admitted they were open to very grave objections, when created, at a period long antecedent to the present, they were at that time an enormous improvement on anything that had gone before. ["Hear, hear!"] That, he acknowledged, was no reason for retaining them any longer than could possibly be helped. His sympathies were entirely with those who disliked them, and the policy of the Local Government Board had been for a long time to reduce them wherever possible. The transfer under the order of the classes of children he had named to the new authority was the first step towards facilitating changes in the size, and to some extent the very construction, of these great schools to which so much objection was taken. Very shortly after this Report was published the Local Government Board instituted an inquiry by a very able expert, Professor Shaw, into the cubic space and ventilation in these barrack schools. He understood that this gentleman's investigations had been most careful and elaborate, and if the report which he was preparing was to the effect that the cubic space and the ventilation were inadequate that would at once necessitate the reduction, and probably the very large reduction, of the number of inmates of these schools, and this would afford opportunities for possible alterations in their construction. The hon. Member for Flintshire had said that these poor, unhappy children brought up under the Poor Law never knew what home life was like. He was afraid that statement was not altogether accurate; the hon. Member must remember that there were other and very different institutions than barrack schools which were now established. There were the cottage homes, and such institutions as the girls' school at Sutton, and there were other schemes in contemplation. In all such cases, as far as he was aware, the work done by the guardians at present was the very reverse of unsatisfactory. The hon. Member's statement was absolutely contrary to his own experience. He had visited a great number of these schools, and, undoubtedly, in the cottage home system everything was done that could be done in this respect.


said he had criticised only the children in the barrack schools, and had not, of course, criticised those in the few cottage homes.


pointed out that cottage homes were not barrack schools.


said he was very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his information, but that was exactly what he had himself been pointing out to the Committee. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] It was quite a mistake to say that all the children in the metropolis brought up under the Poor Law never knew how home work was done. He was quite sure that if any Member of that House would take the trouble to visit the cottage homes, or the girls' school at Sutton, he would agree that a great deal of most admirable work was being done at this moment. The hon. Member for Flintshire had also said that no one would take these children into service. But in the course of his own investigations he had been most struck with the immense demand which existed for their services. He was informed that last year the girls' school at Sutton received more than a thousand applications front those who wished to take girls into service in the country. That was the very last thing which anybody could infer from reading this report. While he thought that under the more modern methods a great deal of admirable work had been done, he held the decided opinion that, with regard to certain classes of these children, better arrangements could be made, and arrangements much more economical and effective, by some central authority than by a great number of different bodies. Take the case of the ophthalmic children. Their proper treatment involved separation and exceptional treatment. Under the system he proposed, if they were separated and given this exceptional treatment, their education could go on the whole time without being interrupted, and that was a matter of very great importance. It used to be alleged that ophthalmia was the creation of those schools and inseparable from them. But shortly after the issue of this Report the Local Gov- ernment Board appointed Dr. Stevenson to examine the children attending the Poor Law schools and to make a Report in regard to them. Dr. Stevenson examined 17,000 of those children, and found that there was in the Poor Law schools of the Metropolis only one case of the severe type of ophthalmia, which was, therefore, practically extinct, while cases of a milder type had been reduced from 42 per cent. in 1874 to less than 5 per cent. in 1897. ["Hear, hear!"] There was one barrack school with 750 children in which there was not a single case of ophthalmia, and another barrack school where the cases of that disease were only four. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought all this showed that there were some advantages in the proposals he had made for separating the different classes of children. But the question what was the authority to be, remained. He had been blamed in the course of the Debate because his proposals were opposed to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee. But he could not find in the Report of the Committee the slightest guidance as to what form the authority was to take, and he was therefore thrown entirely upon his own resources in devising the authority. However, in deference to the views of the Committee, he had thought it the first instance to propose an entirely new authority instead of the present body, and so he issued an Order in that form; but it was evident, from the great number of objection the Order evoked, that there was a large preponderance of opinion in favour of the Metropolitan Asylums Board being made the authority as against the creation of a new authority. ["Hear, hear!"] He therefore willingly reconsidered the position. He thought the suggestion that the Metropolitan Asylums Board should be the authority was the best—first, because it avoided the difficulties and expense of creating a new authority, and, secondly, because the Metropolitan Asylums Board afforded in the Exmouth training ship, which was under its charge, the one conspicuous instance of success in the management of Poor Law children. [Hear, hear!"] That ship was originally provided by the Forest Gate school district—it being used also by children from other places—finally it was transferred to the charge of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. In fact the Exmouth training ship was practically the first step in the policy which he was now proposing, and it had met, as all the Reports showed, with the most complete success. ["Hear, hear!"] He owned that at first he had some doubts as to whether the Metropolitan Asylums Board, with its numerous duties, would be able to undertake additional responsibilities; but after a series of communications with that body and interviews with its chairman, it appeared to him that with some addition to its members it would be perfectly within its scope and capacity to undertake these new duties—["hear, hear!"]—and if it appeared to him that it was desired that that should be the final form the Order should take, he would not hesitate to adopt a recommendation which had been made to him from many quarters. ["Hear, hear!"] He could assure the Committee that this was a subject in which he took the deepest interest. ["Hear, hear!"] Everything that touched the welfare and the happiness of children appealed very strongly to him, as he was sure it did to all Members of the House. ["Hear, hear!] He had done his best, sparing neither time nor trouble, to make him self thoroughly acquainted with the subject. The problem was one that was not easily solved—["hear, hear!"]—and the wisest course for the Government and the wisest course for Parliament was to proceed in the matter with caution. ["Hear, hear!"] While he was ready to carefully consider all the various representations which had been made to him in the course of the Debate, the policy of the Local Government Board in the matter—subject to the reservation he had made in regard to the authority—must be upon the general lines which he had indicated; and he was quite confident that the experiment they were making was more likely to command success than any other with which he was acquainted. ["Hear, hear!"]

Mr. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

said that he was glad the right hon. Gentleman had retraced his steps in regard to the Order he had issued. ["Hear, hear!"] To call into existence a new central authority to deal with something like a thousand children suffering from various diseases would be a most unreasonable and extravagant action. ["Hear, hear!"] No one desired that such a step should be taken. It was altogether outside the recommendations of the Departmental Committee that such a body should be called into existence for such a purpose. The right hon. Gentleman was therefore to be congratulated on his second thoughts, and on having assigned those children to the Metropolitan Asylums Board. But the right hon. Gentleman had not done what was recommended by the Departmental Committee, and had in fact thrown that body over altogether. The Members composing the Departmental Committee—putting himself out of the question—were eminently qualified to deal with the matter for the consideration of which they had been appointed, and they had most valuable expert evidence before them. What did Dr Stevenson say on the subject of ophthalmia. He told the Committee that long ago the majority of young adults coming under treatment for ophthalmia at the London hospitals had formerly been inmates of metropolitan pauper schools. From his own experience he was in a position to justify the accuracy of that statement, and he possessed returns from a number of ophthalmic surgeons which showed that a large proportion of such cases had come from the schools in question. The hon. Member for Islington had stated that the Committee Were not altogether agreed upon their Report. He desired to deal at once with that statement. The Committee were perfectly agreed upon all points of their Report except the one departure which the Vice President and Mrs. Barnett favoured—that, instead of being transferred to a central body, the children should be transferred to the Education Department. With that suggestion he did not agree then, nor did he now. He believed the children ought to be dealt with by one central authority; and, so far from saying there should be no guardians upon that central authority, six out of eight Members of the Committee were agreed that guardians should form part of the body. ["Hear, hear!"] Unless they had a central authority they could not deal with the metropolis as a whole, but with such an authority set up they could adopt the principle of gradual depletion with regard to the barrack schools, and ultimately get rid of the barrack school system altogether. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman had said the matter could not be dealt with by a stroke of the pen. He agreed; the Report of the Committee admitted so much, and gave time for dealing with it. They could not possibly get rid of the question by simply dealing with these few diseased children, and the whole subject would have to be faced. He felt the inconvenience of dealing with a matter of this importance on an occasion like that, and on a Vote on account. This Report deserved some rather better treatment than such a casual and incidental discussion. ["Hear!"] What he wished to say was that they were at present dealing with these children in London in a manner that was most inimical to both their present and future lives. The children knew nothing, for instance, under the present system of natural life. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman must know that the existing state of things was such that if it was continued they would have to enlarge their schools, as the number of children increased, and spend more money. Not only was the barrack school a vicious, but it was a most wasteful, system. In some of the schools the cost was £29 per head. Thus a widow who had her five or six children in one of these institutions would cost it for their maintenance £140 or £150 a year, whereas they could be boarded out for less than half that sum. If the boarding-out system were adopted, then in many cases the children could be boarded, as in Scotland, with the mothers or other relatives, and thus derive the advantages of home life. ["Hear, hear!"] If it were possible for them, by a stroke of the pen, to sweep away the barrack schools to-morrow, they would render invaluable service to the Poor Law children of the metropolis. ["Hear, hear!"] A central authority in which the barrack schools were vested should be created; it should have power to deal with such schools as opportunity served, and thus, by a course of gradual depletion, they would be able to get them off their hands. At present there was no means of getting rid of them, and they were an enormous burden to the various districts. He believed the cost to Paddington was £80 per child, and yet, though they were anxious to be freed from such a costly system, they were unable to effect this object. He thought it was high time that something was done to meet the undoubted mischiefs which arose from these buildings. He was sorry to say that the Local Government Board were not very receptive of improvements. They did not encourage them. He hoped some hon. Members interested in the question would bring it before the House when it could be properly thrashed out. Meanwhile, he could assure the President of the Local Government Board that he would be held responsible for not carrying out this Report. It was important to the children of the whole country that the boarding-out system should be adopted, and it would reduce the pauperism of the country and the expenditure as well. He hoped that when next the question was discussed, the right hon. Gentleman would make another step in advance.


said that the right hon. Gentleman had referred to these schools as though they were all barrack schools.


All the children, except 1,100, are in barrack schools


said that there were five district schools with 6,300 children which might be called barrack schools. There were 10 other schools with 4,600 children. [Mr. MUNDELLA: "Those are barrack schools."] He would not contest that for the moment. Then there were 15 Roman Catholic schools with 2,400 children. It was impossible to call those barrack schools, for the largest had only about 300 children. As to other schools, there was one with 209 children. Was that a barrack school? [Mr. MUNDELLA: "Yes."] Another with 148 children, a third with 112 children; one at Broadstairs with 25, one at St. George's-in-the-East with 235; another with 158, and the Marylebone school with 306. Those were not barrack schools in the sense represented by the right hon. Gentleman. As to the Report of Dr. Stevenson, in which he stated that he had frequently found cases of ophthalmia in the hospitals which had been brought from these schools, he thought that very likely, considering the prevalence of the disease in the schools. But Dr. Stevenson's Report had this remarkable statement;— Apart from internal conditions, however, there can be no doubt that one great cause of the prevalence of ophthalmia in Poor Law schools comes from outside. The disease creeps into these institutions from the slums and courts of London, carried thither by the children who claim admission.


said that the quotation was not complete. It way pointed out long ago by Mr. Nettleship that the majority of the young adults coming under treatment for ophthalmia at the London hospitals had been formerly inmates of the Poor Law schools. From my own experience, I can testify to the accuracy of that statement.


pointed out in conclusion that the three cottage homes included 1,600 and not 1,100 children.

MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)

said that the statement of the President of the Local Government Board would be received with unqualified satisfaction by all the local governing bodies in London. They were glad to he rid or the new central authority; and he was glad to know that the children would be confided to a body which had the confidence of the public, and which had the organisation more or less at hand, and requiring only to be expanded. His only criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was in regard to the proposal that all the children ordered by the magistrates to be taken to the workhouses or asylums should be confided to the Metropolitan Asylums Board. That body properly enjoyed the confidence of the inhabitants, but their experience was mostly with the diseased; and it was neither wise non necessary to send to them children who were ex hypothesis healthy. He never wished to add to the duties of the London County Council; but by law the Council had charge of the industrial schools in the County of London, and to the Council might with advantage be confided these healthy children. There was, moreover, a great difference in the children suffering from defective intellect. Some were incurably affected, and some were only a little dull, and the latter would be better associated with healthy children, instead of being permanently banished to society which was more likely to aggravate than to cure their defect in mind. He was glad that time right hon. Gentleman was going to consult the Guardians of London.


said that he took a great interest in this question. He had listened with a feeling of absolute disappointment to the speeches of the President of the Local Government Board and his colleague. It was certainly a matter of grave concern that there were at present no less than nine educational authorities dealing with the education of children in London. Partly departmental, partly elective, partly co-optative, these authorities overlapped each other, and very often ran counter, not only to the interests of the children, but to the good performance of the duties carried out among them. There were 17,000 pauper children in London, and these were under the almost absolute control of the Local Government Board. The rest of the children of London were under the control of the Education Department and the School Board. What he ventured to urge on the right hon. Gentleman was, that he should not deal with the question in the optimist spirit he had displayed in his speech, but should endeavour to find a solution by transferring the control of the education of these pauper children from the demoralising influences of the pauper training they received, to the hands of the Education Department. He believed there was no other solution of the question except under the supervision of the Education authorities as the body responsible for the education of these children. Without meaning any offence, he could not but say that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would be a source of great dissatisfaction to those interested in the education of these poor children. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed the optimist view that all things were being managed in the best possible manner, and any step must he in the direction of gradual evolution. The right hon. Gentleman agreed that the barrack school system was bad, and that he would be glad to see an alteration in that system; but he had indicated no solitary instance of the direction in which he was prepared to make a change. The right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee, and he ventured, with all respect, to doubt the accuracy of the statement, that some of the evils associated with pauper schools were diminishing, but he gave no figures, no statistics on the point. The only available material open for the Committee was that afforded by the Report of the Committee appointed ad hoc. He would take the condition of these children under three heads, and first educationally. Pauper children stood at a lower standard than the children under any other educational system. In the Report of that Committee it was shown that the education in Poor Law schools was infinitely inferior to that which obtained in ordinary elementary schools. There was no system of inspection for educational purposes in these schools by an educational authority; the inspection of the schools was an inspection by the Poor Law bodies alone, that is to say, the Local Government Board. The qualifications of the teachers were much below those of teachers in elementary schools; many of the head teachers were not certificated, and hardly any of the assistant teachers held a certificate or any proper diploma entitling them to teach in elementary schools. It had been asserted, though not a word was said about it by the right hon. Gentleman, that certain boards of guardians let their children go out to work as half-timers before they reached the necessary educational standard fixed for the purpose. Next, he took the question of health. The right hon. Gentleman said that Dr. Stevenson said that ophthalmia was not due to the children being herded together in barrack schools; but Dr. Stevenson, in his Report published in relation to the year 1894, stated that at Sutton and some other schools he named the percentage of children suffering from ophthalmia was no less than 20 per cent. in one instance, and in others of 14 per cent., 9 per cent., and so on. Dr. Stevenson, in his Report for 1894, said this was to be attributed to the crowding of these children in barrack schools, and the whole volume of Reports given by medical authorities in relation to these schools concurred in attributing the prevalence of ophthalmia in barrack schools to the children being herded together, and to no other cause. Having dealt with the educational standard and the health standard, he turned to the conditions under which these children lived. There could be no doubt their lives were most unhappy. He did not deny that, under the able permanent officials of the Local Government Board, something had been done to mitigate the hardships of their lot, and Boards of Guardians had been impressed with the necessity of making the lives of these children less miserable; but in the Report of the Committee which had been so copiously quoted it would be found that in these schools children were not allowed to enjoy the ordinary advantages of recreation which were offered to the children in elementary schools in the country, and except at Christmas and Easter they had no holidays. They were not allowed to indulge in the ordinary pastimes and pleasures which fell to the lot of children, and doubtless were a great solace to them in the onerous work in elementary schools. An official of the Local Government Board suggested that the children should be allowed to play at hare and hounds or paper chase, but the answer of the Poor Law Guardians was— You forget the rule that some official must be in constant supervision, and we have no official competent to take part in a paper chase. That was the point of view from which Board of Guardians and officials approached the treatment of pauper children, and he would say this to the right hon. Gentleman, that, whatever satisfaction was expressed in the House, and however much the right hon. Gentleman expressed a solicitude for these children, which nobody questioned, there was a strong feeling in the country that looked for something more than expressions of empty sympathy, while it was in the power of the Government to stretch forth a hand and make the life of these children more tolerable and render them more fit for the ditties of citizenship and manhood. Something had been done, but mainly in a microscopic way. Out of 17,000 pauper children only 968 had been boarded out, and he had a right to ask that the Government should stretch forth a hand and do that which had been done in Scotland, Canada, and in various other countries of the civilised world. Do away with the abominable system of herding these children together in numbers ranging from 100 and 200 to 1,541 children, as in the school at Sutton. It was because he felt very strongly on this matter he had ventured to take part in the Debate. He expressed his recognition of the service rendered by the hon. Member for Islington in bringing this matter forward, but anything more unsatisfactory, anything more delusive than the speech of the right hon. Gentleman it was impossible to conceive. ["Hear, hear!"] He urged the right hon. Gentleman, and every Member of the Government, to recognise the necessity of rescuing these unhappy children from the condition which, since 1846, they had been condemned to live under. ["Hear, hear!"]


said he was satisfied with the discussion and the statement of the right Gentleman, and would, with the leave of the Committee, withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

said he had no wish to interpose to delay any other Motion, but there was a question he desired to raise in reference to the Home Office and subordinate offices, and he now proposed to do so by the reduction of the Vote.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)

rose to order, and asked was it not possible to continue the discussion on the Local Government Board Vote?


also asked if discussion in relation to the Local Government Board could be renewed?


said the hon. Member for North Cork was in possession, and had expressed his intention of moving a reduction on the Home Office Vote. If that hon. Member gave way it would be open to any hon. Member to resume the discussion in reference to the Local Government Board.