Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £132,732, he granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come
in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900, for the salaries and expenses of the Local Government Board.
§ *MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I wish to call attention to the administrative action of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in regard to vaccination. I do not intend to dwell upon the violent and unconstitutional language that has been made use of to applicants for exemption certificates, whose only offence is that they have desired to exercise the right which the High Court of Parliament has granted to them, beyond to say that it is noteworthy that language of that kind has not been indulged in since the session began. The gravamen of my complaint against the Local Government Board and the right hon. Gentleman is this: that he has by his action encouraged vaccination officers to flout their employers and paymasters, the boards of guardians. There has been, as I shall show, a distinct change in the relations between boards of guardians and vaccination officers—a change entirely due to the action of the right hon. Gentleman. Prior to the recent action of the right hon. Gentleman the relations between them were governed by a general order, dated October, 1874, which prescribed that the guardians should in cases of default of vaccination cause proceedings to be taken, and for that purpose should give directions authorising the vaccination officers to institute and conduct them. There was no doubt as to the construction to be put on the terms of that order; the guardians might either give special directions in each individual case, or such general directions as would enable the officer to initiate the proceedings without first referring to them. Thus, while it was within the competency of boards of guardians if they chose to give general directions, yet, in the absence of such directions, it was the duty of the officer to lay each individual case before the guardians, and take their directions upon it. That order was acted upon for a quarter of a century—until the right hon. Gentleman came upon the scene. Now let me call attention to the terms of the order for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible. It is dated the 18th October last, and provides that at the end of seven days after the expiration 189 of six months from the birth of the child the vaccination officer shall give to the parent notice to vaccinate the child, and if that notice is not duly complied with it will become the duty of the vaccination officer to take proceedings under the Act of 1871 for the enforcement of the law. This new order, it will be seen, gives the go-by entirely to the board of guardians: it says the duty shall be independently exercised by the vaccination officer under the Vaccination Act, 1871, although the order of 1874, which gave the control to the guardians was issued three years after the Act of 1871 became law. Now, the contention that the vaccination officer is independent of the board of guardians in these proceedings is an entirely new contention. It has originated with the right hon. Gentleman, and for 25 years before his intervention the Local Government Board interpreted the law in an opposite sense and declared that the vaccination officers should look to the board of guardians for instructions to prosecute. I refer to the Keighley case in 1875. It is inconceivable that the Local Government Board should have taken the extreme step of sending the Keighley Board of Guardians to prison if there had then prevailed at the Local Government Board the contention the Board now makes, that the vaccination officer can take proceedings altogether independent of the hoard of guardians. One of these authorities is so recent that I quote it because of the significancy of the date. I refer to what is called the Reading letter, indited by the Local Government Board in January, 1898. At that time a vaccination officer wrote to the Local Government Board asking if he should prosecute defaulting parents in spite of the directions of the board of guardians to the contrary. The reply was that he was to obey the board of guardians. The date of that letter is significant, because the right hon. Gentleman says in explanation of the change of policy, that he relies on the decision of the Queen's Bench in the case of Bramble and Lowe. Now that case was decided in 1897, and six months after we have the Local Government Board giving the same instructions which had been given for 25 years, viz., that the vaccination officer must obey the board of guardians. Let me say a word in regard to the Bramble and Lowe case The right hon. Gentleman has entirely misunderstood, or at all 190 events misstated, the effect of the decision of the Queen's Bench Division. Bramwell and Lowe is no authority for the proposition that the vaccination officer can prosecute without the sanction of the board of guardians. In Bramble and Lowe the guardians had given the vaccination officer concerned a general authority to institute and conduct proceedings against all persons in default under the Vaccination Acts. If they gave this general authority to prosecute all persons, that was equivalent to giving authority to prosecute in every individual case; and therefore they were only carrying out the old instructions under the Act of 1874, that the guardians, if they choose, might give a general authority to their officers. So that the Bramble and Lowe case does not help the right hon. Gentleman. This question as to the relations between the vaccination officer and his guardians was raised last year in the discussion on the Vaccination Bill. I, myself, raised it. I had upon the Paper a clause which would have made the matter perfectly clear. The clause was as follows:—Notwithstanding anything contained in the Vaccination Acts, no parent or other person having the custody of a child shall be prosecuted for neglecting or refusing to vaccinate such child unless and until the sanction of the guardians has been obtained for such prosecution.I proposed that clause, but withdrew it in consequence of the pledge which was given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I will remind the committee what that pledge was. I quote from Hansard. The right hon. Gentleman said—I am very sorry that the hon. Member thought it necessary to move this clause.Then he refers to something which he had said before, and he adds—What I stated then was altogether out of date after what I stated this afternoon. Since the debate of last night I have quite recognised the fact that the administration of a compulsory vaccination law would be neither necessary nor desirable.That seems tolerably clear in itself, but if anything were required to clinch the matter it was supplied by the speeches following the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman. For instance, my hon. friend, the Member for Shoreditch, 191 who immediately followed, thought that the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman sufficiently met the case, and he suggested that the amendment should be withdrawn. Thereupon followed my hon. friend the member for Northampton, who was not altogether satisfied, and pointed out, as was indeed perfectly true, that although, as we understood, the pledge would bind the right hon. gentleman personally, it would not bind his successors. The hon. member for Northampton said at the close of his speech—We have got what we want, but at the same time I think that if this clause were carried it would simply embody in the Bill the pledge which the right hon. Gentleman has given us.Then the hon. member for Caithness said—We have got the pledge of the President of the Local Government Board that he will not do anything to interfere with the relations between the vaccination officers and the guardians—that he will not put it into force.These statements sufficiently show how the House understood the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was present; he accepted the interpretation which we all on this side of the House put upon his declaration, and therefore I thought I was justified in withdrawing my amendment, and I did withdraw it. There can be no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has misled the House of Commons, unintentionally of course. But the invariable practice of the House has been that in a cases where a Minister of the Crown has misled the House of Commons, however unintentionally, the Minister of the Crown should be held to be bound by the pledge in the sense in which the House understood it, and on which the House acted. Before I pass from this point I desire to refer to another matter not so important, but still sufficiently important. That is the question of the circulation of pro - vaccination papers by the Boards of Guardians. Quite recently the right hon. Gentleman has informed the Boards of Guardians that they are entitled to circulate at the public expense pamphlets issued by the Jenner Society. What is the Jenner Society? It is an association whose publications have been recently described by no mean authority—Lord Grimthorpe— 192 as "controversial fireworks," and as publications "more likely to defeat than to promote the object the society have in view." Well, I certainly do not object to the circulation of the pamphlets of the Jenner Society on the ground that they are likely to injure the cause of anti-vaccination; but I do object to the circulation at the public expense of these worthless and misleading publications. I say it is not the business of a public Department to boom a private association and to circulate its publications at the public cost. It is most objectionable and may easily degenerate into a great public scandal. This question was discussed when the Vaccination Bill was before the House last year. There was a clause in that Bill to the effect that any Local authority might incur expense in diffusing information as to the advantages of vaccination, but the overwhelming preponderance of the opinion of the House was against public expenditure being incurred for any such purpose. A Division was taken upon that, and the clause was defeated by 270 to 49. In these circumstances I have called attention to these matters, and in order to do so effectively I have moved the reduction of the salary of the right hon. Gentleman. It seems to me that the present condition of things is intolerable; that Boards of Guardians should be compelled to appoint and to pay a vaccination officer who, the moment he is appointed, can flout his employers. That appears to me to be reducing local self-government to an absurdity. There are other incidental disadvantages attaching to the present condition of things. As the vaccination officers are paid by fees, they have a direct pecuniary interest in promoting prosecutions. That is most undesirable, and is really returning to the old system of common informers, only under more aggravated circumstances. Another incidental disadvantage is the strained relations that are created between the guardians and the vaccination officers. The former refuse legal assistance to the latter, and the consequence is that the vaccination officers rush into court unprepared, their summonses are dismissed, and an easy popular triumph is achieved by the class of persons whom hon. gentlemen opposite denounce and whom they desire to discourage. It is impossible to exaggerate the extreme inconvenience arising from the present 193 condition of things, which is entirely due to the action of the right hon. Gentleman. It is not due to any change in the law, but is simply the result of Departmental action for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible. It is that action of which I now complain. I beg, therefore, to move the reduction of the vote.
Motion made, and Question proposed—That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the President of the Local Government Board."—(Mr. Pickersgill.)
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (MR. CHAPLIN, Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
As the hon. Gentleman has thought fit to charge me with having misled Parliament, I think, perhaps, it is right that I should reply to the statement that he has made without delay. In the first place, I would refer to one of the small points that he has raised, in order to clear that out of the way. The hon. Member complains that the Local Government Board sanctioned expenditure for the circulation of literature in order to promote vaccination throughout the country, and that, he says, is a most improper practice, and an entirely new one.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Then I fail to see exactly what point there is in the hon. Member's remark. It has been the practice of the Local Government Board for the last 20 years or more to give a sanction of this kind. The sanction is given under Section 28 of the Vaccination Act of 1867, and as I believe that the effect of this practice has been to promote vaccination, and not, as the hon. member says, to interfere with it, I see no reason whatever to alter the practice in this respect. The hon. Gentleman proceeded at great length and in much detail to give to the House his version of the history of the prosecutions connected with the present position of vaccination officers in regard to the various boards of guardians. The gravamen of his complaint against me is that I have done all I can to teach the vaccination officers to flout the guardians. He says that, under the order of 1867, it was the duty of the vaccination officers to take their instruc- 194 tions from the guardians, and for 25 years that was the invariable practice until I came on the scene and intervened. And why did I intervene, or, rather, why did someone else intervene? A case was tried. The hon. Member will have his opinion, and he will allow me to have mine. He will allow me also to remind him, as I have told him repeatedly in the House before, that that opinion is supported by that of the law officers of two different Governments. It was the Law Courts which intervened in 1897, and the judgment was that the power of the officers to institute proceedings was given by Act of Parliament, and that they did not require any special directions. Now comes the question of the amendment which the hon. Member alleges was withdrawn by him upon a specific pledge by myself.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I recollect perfectly well what happened upon that occasion. On the 19th of July the Government made a concession with regard to the case of conscientious objectors which everybody will perfectly recollect, and on the following day (Wednesday) the hon. Member moved his amendment. On that day, also, I made a statement explaining the grounds upon which I consented to the concession which the Government had made, and, as far as I can remember, if was received by gentlemen on that side of the House with a general chorus of approval, and far too flattering things were said with regard to the attitude taken by me on that occasion. During the interval for lunch, exactly the same thing happened in the lobby. Hon. Gentleman after hon. Gentleman came up to me and congratulated me upon the position we had taken, expressing themselves perfectly satisfied. But that was not all. The Paper was still crowded with amendments, and they intimated their intention to take them off forthwith. There was one exception, and that was the hon. Member for Bethnal Green.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I do not think there was an amendment of the smallest importance moved, and I do not think there was one pressed to a Division.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I very well remember what happened. The hon. Member for the Harborough Division, the hon. Member for Shoreditch, and the hon. Member for Leicester addressed to me some kindly observations, and said, "We will do all we can to get the hon. Member for Bethnal Green to withdraw his amendment," and when we came back from luncheon there was a good deal of conversation going on upon the opposite benches, and I presume they were trying to persuade the hon. Member that the amendment was altogether unnecessary. Apparently, however, it was without effect, because when we resumed our sitting the hon. Member moved his amendment, and as soon as his amendment was moved I got up and replied declining altogether to accept it. I had already explained either that morning or the night before to the hon. Member what was the law on the subject, and as I have been challenged I think it is only fair that I should take the liberty of reminding the House of what was stated on the subject between the hon. Member and myself. Speaking of myself, the hon. Member made this observation—He now says not under this Bill, and that is just the point. It is not under the powers given by this Bill. It is under the powers of the Act of 1874; where the guardians did not prosecute to his satisfaction he intended to authorise the vaccination officers to initiate prosecutions, not only on the authority of their employers, the guardians, but in the face of their distinct resolutions to the contrary.That was the charge made against me by the hon. Member. I replied:I do not think my hon. friend could have been in the Committee when I made my reply to that point. I pointed out to the Committee that the power and duty of the vaccination officers were imposed upon them by Act of Parliament, and not by regulations, and that it was under the Act of Parliament that they would have to perform their duty.Well, then he made a further observation" in which I think he was equally incorrect, and I proceeded—The hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken; the case has been submitted to law officers of two different Governments, and it has also been tried in the Court of Queen's Bench, and it was there, decided that the power and duty 196 of the vaccination officers to institute prosecutions was given under an Act of Parliament without any instructions whatever.Well, that was my interpretation of the law, which I believe to have been absolutely correct, and having given that version of the law I declined to accept the amendment of the hon. Member, as he knows perfectly well. After that the hon. Member withdrew his amendment. Now he comes forward and says he withdrew his amendment on an assurance given by me. Sir, I absolutely deny that I gave any assurance whatever of any sort or kind upon the subject. Why should I have done so? I did not care twopence whether he withdrew his amendment or not. I believe I am speaking the truth when I say that he was urged before the debate began by many of his own friends, or by some of his own friends to withdraw it. *MR. PICKERSGILL: I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but his constant statements of what occurred between myself and my friends are the reverse of the facts. Many of my hon. friends, conspicuously the hon. Member for Northampton, strongly objected to my withdrawing the amendment, and were really very angry with me because I did withdraw it.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
It is a matter of perfect indifference to me whether the hon. Member withdrew the amendment or not, for it is perfectly certain that he would have been defeated by an enormous majority. In the second place, I want to point out that I cannot have given the assurance winch he supposes I gave, because any interference on my part with the proceedings of the vaccination officers as regards prosecutions would have been entirely superfluous and ineffectual. The hon. Member says that he relies on my speech on the point. The answer to that is very simple and very complete. I was shown an extract from a paper a day or two ago, in which it was stated that the report of the speech cannot have been inaccurate because it was corrected by myself. On that point I must say that the speech was never corrected. It was wholly inaccurate from beginning to end. It so happened during those debates I had such complaints to make of the persistent inaccuracy of the reports that I desired my secretary to communicate with the responsible authority on the subject. I 197 believe every one of my speeches, or nearly every one, was marked with an asterisk, indicating that I had corrected it. I corrected one speech, and only one, and that was the speech after the concession had been made with regard to the conscientious objector. Not only that, but I have a letter of apology from the responsible authority expressing his great regret that the speech Which has been referred to by the hon. Member was marked with an asterisk. It was never corrected at all, although it appears in the volume of Hansard as if it were What did I say upon that occasion? I cannot now give the exact words, but the effect was that after the very great concession made by the Government on the question, the speech of the hon. Member appeared to me to be altogether out of date, and that in my opinion the amendment was, in view of the concession, uncalled for and unnecessary, and on that ground I declined to accept it. In fact, that concession, in my view, and certainly in the view of nine Members out of ten on that side of the House, was everything that was necessary. That was shown by the speech made by another very ardent anti-vaccinationist, if he will forgive me for calling him so, the hon. Member for Northampton, who the same afternoon expressed his appreciation of the speech of the President of the Local Government Board. He urged that we should not go on splitting hairs on this matter, but that the declaration of the First Lord of the Treasury that there should be no going behind a man's conscientious objection should be carried out. That was evidently the expression of the general feeling on that side of the House on that afternoon. This is the very simple explanation of what occurred, and I am bound to say that I think the hon. Member has very greatly distorted it, unintentionally, I am quite sure. With all respect, I contend that it would have been quite impossible for any Minister in charge of a Bill to be more open in connection with this particular branch of the question than I was during the whole of those debates. There was no obligation on my part on the' second reading of the Bill to tell the House what I had in my mind with regard to the future on this particular subject. I saw an observation in the Press that I blurted it out by mistake, and that I made a great blunder in doing so. As a matter of fact I did it inten- 198 tionally in order that the House should be aware what I had in my mind on this particular subject. Having made this statement to the House, and having warned them what was before them, I had a majority of over 10 to I in favour of the second reading of the Bill. It is certainly not my fault that any misunderstanding has occurred. It is the fault of the hon. Member himself and those who agree with him if they did not understand the position. Then, passing from that subject, the hon. Member complains that it is to the direct interest of the vaccination officers under the present system to make as many vaccinations as they can. That may appear intolerant to the hon. Member and others who are anxious to do everything in their power to prevent vaccination. But to us it is the reverse of intolerance, and one of its great advantages is that it has the effect of promoting vaccination. I am thankful to believe—and it is a matter of great congratulation, although it may be very distasteful to some Gentlemen opposite—that under the Act of last year vaccination is growing more steadily and to a greater extent than for many years past. We look upon it, of course, from totally opposite points of view. I desire to do everything in my power to promote vaccination; the lion. Member and some of his friends desire to do everything in their power to prevent it. That is the real issue between us, and that is the source of the complaint made against me. With regard to the particular charge of the lion. Member, nothing could have been more open than my attitude on the subject. I should think it would have been one of the greatest mistakes I ever made in my life if I did not refuse to accept the amendment moved by the hon. Member on the occasion to which he has referred.
§ *MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I do not think I need offer any apology to the right hon. Gentleman for intervening in this debate in support of the reduction moved by my hon. friend. There are some points in the reply of the right hon. Gentleman which we must accept absolutely, but at the same time there are other points Which I think the right hon. Gentleman will not quarrel with me if I deal with at the present moment. I should like to say a word with regard to 199 the point raised by my hon. friend as to the authorisation to boards of guardians to distribute the literature of the Jenner Society. I think the right hon. Gentleman quite misapprehended the point made by my hon. friend, which was that the House of Commons having decided against this course on the Report stage of the Vaccination Bill, it was therefore improper on the part of the Local Government Board to authorise a course which the House of Commons had condemned. With regard to the main question, so far as I have been able to follow the right hon. Gentleman's quotations, I think they are taken from the preceding day's debate. He dealt rather lightly with the proceedings of the day on which my hon. friend's amendment was moved. I can confirm most fully my hon. friend's statement regarding the impression produced by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman upon myself, upon my hon. friend the Member for Shoreditch who followed him, and upon other Members on this side of the House, viz., that he frankly recognised what I think he ought to have taken from the Royal Commission, that in future vaccination was to be a voluntary and not a compulsory proceeding. The right hon. Gentleman has not denied the particular words which seem to me to have produced—of course I accept his disclaimer—the impression that he had acquiesced in the view that vaccination was to be voluntary, and not compulsory.
§ *MR. CHANNING
Not in the sense contemplated by the amendment of my hon. friend, which was that there should be local option, and that the local authorities should retain the discretion left in their hands for 25 years with regard to these prosecutions.
§ *MR. CHANNING
The governing and decisive words to which I wish to refer are as follows—Since the debate of last night, I have quite recognised the fact that a compulsory administration of the Vaccination Law would be neither necessary nor desirable.200 Those words seem to me absolutely decisive with regard to this question, and many Members on this side of the House met the right hon. Gentleman frankly and cordially during the discussions, under the impression that he was dealing with the question in the broad spirit indicated in the report of the Royal Commission. I do not think that the general impression produced upon the House by the right hon. Gentleman's speech can be seriously contested. I do not care to attack the right hon. Gentleman very fiercely in a personal sense on this matter. In the conduct of the Bill upstairs he certainly showed a concilatory spirit in meeting Amendments, and the main ground of the complaint now brought before the House is that the right hon. Gentleman did substantially recognise the situation last July, but that the forces surrounding him had brought about a change in his attitude, the result of which is the extraordinary Order issued last October by the Local Government Board, which completely altered the relations of the Local Government Board and the boards of guardians throughout the country, and altered fundamentally the administration of the Vaccination Act. In referring to the case of Bramwell and Low, the right hon. Gentleman has omitted an essential point. The Board of Guardians in that case had passed a resolution previously to the effect that there should be no prosecutions n the Union, which I believe was the Union of Ipswich, and the vaccination officer who brought the case against Low alleged that he had special authority for instituting the prosecution, and vested his claim on the fact that the Board had rescinded the previous resolution against prosecutions, and had issued this order authorising him to prosecute. That was the point that was taken, and his whole case was the case which has been invariably recognised by the Local Government Board hitherto, that the authority was in the guardians. Looking at the decision and the obiter dicta of Mr. Justice Wright in that case, I have the impression that if the case went to a higher court there might be something else said upon that question. Then with regard to the general question, I hold in my hand a return of the number of conscientious objection certificates taken out under the Act during the last 201 few months up to the close of last year. Those returns cover 230,000 children. The right hon. Gentleman said just now very hopefully that he thought the Bill had led to a great many more vaccinations taking place; but he is certainly labouring under a misapprehension if he thinks that 230,000 represents all the children unvaccinated in this country. In Leicester there are nearly 80,000 unvaccinated children, but only 9,885 certificates were taken out. In my own constituency some 7,000 certificates have been taken out, in two unions, but if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to find the approximate number of children there who are not vaccinated, he must in estimation multiply the number by four or five, and even then he may find himself well under the mark. That would be al fair measure of the real opposition. But what I mainly desire on behalf of my constituents is to enter an emphatic protest against the change in the administration of the law through the issue of this order—a change which we believe to be absolutely illegal. As my friend stated with great force, there is a regular concatenation of evidence. The rights of boards of guardians to decide whether prosecutions or not should be instituted has been recognised for at least 24 years. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who was President of the Local Government Board in the previous Administration, said in 1888, in reference to the general order of 1874, that it was not binding on boards of guardians, but that it was merely a communication, and that it rested with the boards of guardians to take their own course. Again, on the 5th of July, 1888, he said the Local Government Board could not interfere in the exercise by the guardians of their powers; that "the enforcement of the Vaccination Act is committed to an elective tribunal, and they must use their own discretion in the matter." The original Evesham letter was issued by a Conservative Administration, and the replies were also made by a Conservative President of the Local Government Board. And the right hon. Gentleman who now holds the position up till January last adopted the same views in the matter. In answer to a question I put to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to a letter written by the Board at that time to the Reading vaccination officer, and the reply that "it 202 would be contrary to the Board's practice to advise an officer of the guardians without reference to the guardians in a matter in which the guardians have jurisdiction," he said that it was the decision in the case of Bramwell and Low which made him alter his views. And so the present Order says that within seven days after the six months have expired the vaccination officer shall take proceedings. There can be no answer to the statement that the discretionary power of the boards of guardians had been recognised for many years, but I want to drive this question home because it really raises one of the most important issues of practical politics in the near future. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do with his order? Does he mean business? Is he going down into my constituency to prosecute the parents of these 5,000 or 10,000 children who are not vaccinated, who decline to take out conscientious objection certificates under the clause? In the Oundle Union there have been recently several prosecutions. That is a Union where only a few obections have been lodged. Were those prosecutions instituted by the board of guardians or the Local Government Board? That has been done where the opposition is weak. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that there are unions throughout the country where people will not consent to have their children vaccinated, where many of them refuse to take out the conscientious objection certificate at all. The reason is perfectly plain. During the two or three months up to September 12th the poorer parents of Northamptonshire contributed in fees nearly £1,000, which went to the relief of the rates. That is a thing which I do not for one moment think was ever intended. It was never intended to impose a fine upon the people. We have boards of guardians who refuse to and will not prosecute. I think before the discussion comes to an end we are entitled to know whether the right hon. Gentleman means business by this Order, and whether he intends to force vaccination officers all over the country to prosecute, or whether he is going to take the advice of the Royal Commission, which expressed the opinion in the strongest terms that it would be neither wise nor statesmanlike to override the decision of the boards of guardians. There are one or two other points I wish 203 to refer to. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman expressed the opinion that the additional cost to the rates of the country, in connection with the new vaccination procedure, would be exceedingly small. Taking the number of children at 950,000, the cost of the vaccination officer and public vaccinator under the old system was 2s. per head. Under the new arrangement it will be 7s. per head, which represents no less an addition of nearly a quarter of a million sterling to the union rates for carrying out this policy. This is keenly felt, especially in districts like my own, where the expenses have been practically nominal for many years past, and where an incubus of £200 or £300 is piled upon he rates for a purpose which the people, by their votes, have expressed a desire not to have imposed upon them. What ever the reply of the right hon. Gentleman may be upon the general broad issue which we raise—as to the right of the local authorities as against the Local Government Board to control these prosecutions, I have to bring before him certain other points connected with his administration. He accepted in Committee an amendment to exclude any form of compulsory vaccination of children in hospitals and workhouses under the age prescribed by the Act, but this has been violated both by the right hon. Gentleman and by the hospital and workhouse authorities. In the first place in his Order, the right hon. Gentleman instructed the public vaccinator that, in the cases of infants in workhouses and hospitals, the offer to vaccinate should he made at the end, not of the fourth month, but of the second month. And when I complained of this distinction in correspondence with the local Government Board, he declined to assimilate the law in regard to children in and out of workhouses. Does it not seem monstrous to apply one standard to poor children in workhouses and infirmaries, and another to children elsewhere? I have brought before him a large number of cases where children have been vaccinated two or three weeks after birth, and I have drawn special attention to cases in St. Pancras Workhouse, where the age of vaccination has ranged from eight days to twenty-three days, and to one case in Queen Charlotte's Hospital, where a child only two days old was vaccinated. I quite recognise the wish of the right hon. 204 Gentleman to prevent these things. I know he has expressed disapproval of this early vaccination, but I think have a right, after his acceptance of that amendment in Committee, to ask him to deal with this question more effectively in the near future. There are many specific grievances with which he ought to deal. In one notorious case a vaccination officer entered a cottage and, without the presence or consent of the parent, deliberately re-vaccinated a two-year old child, instead of the infant to whom the notice referred. That occurred in the Ross Union, and I think the right hon. Gentleman should express a strong opinion to the Ross Board of Guardians on the matter. Again, numerous eases have occurred in which the Public Vaccinator has ignored the provision requiring 24 hours' notice, and without. the consent of the parents, they have effected the vaccination of hundreds of children by terrorism of nurses and others in charge. I could quote one case at Oldbury where the Public Vaccinator vaccinated without notice, and I have, too, a number of cases from the county of Sussex. Further there have been repeated instances of refusals, On the part of the magistrates, to recognise serious illness or even death of other children in the same family resulting from vaccination, as an adequate reason for non-vaccination. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that, at his request, I agreed not to press an amendment defining that as a specific ground, because he said his general concession covered the whole matter, and that such a provision would no longer be necessary. There have further been cases in which the conscientious objector's certificate has been held to be invalid because it has not been sent to the Vaccination Officer within seven days as prescribed by the Act. Several prosecutions have taken place in which parents have been fined on that ground. There was a case too in which a patent was refused a certificate by a stipendiary magistrate, although a previous child had been seriously ill. He was prosecuted before an ordinary bench of magistrates and fined 20s. and costs, or a month's imprisonment. That was at Gillingham, in Kent. Many parents complain that they have been compelled to pay for producing the birth certificates of children, and one was actually fined when he presented the notice of the registrar, 205 which, I believe, contains the date of the birth of the child. He was on that occasion refused his certificate. The charge for these certificates is often 3s. 6d. Other cases have occurred in which parents ordered by the magistrates to procure birth certificates have been unable to obtain exemption, because the Court has not again sat until after the child has passed the age fixed by the Act, and consequently the right to the certificate has lapsed. These matters, however, are all subsidiary to the main issue I have raised, viz., that the right to decide these matters should rest solely with the board of guardians. This was the position which we understood to be accepted by the Government at Reading election and at other places, yet now the right hon. Gentleman has issued all Order directing the vaccination officers to proceed to institute prosecutions without any reference to the board of guardians whatever.
§ MR. CHANNING
The instructions are specific, and there is not a word with reference to the boards of guardians being consulted in any way. The vaccination officer is explicitly instructed to prosecute at once after the child is 6 months old. The order, beyond doubt, is opposed to the procedure of 30 years, and overrides the rights which are I claimed by more than 600 boards of guardians throughout the country. We say that this is an illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of the rights of local authorities on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. We acquit him of all personal responsibility for it, because we believe it to be the result of pressure put upon him in certain quarters. That pressure has placed him in an unpleasant position, but he will occupy a still more unpleasant 206 one if the Order is not withdrawn, seeing that it will bring him into regular war-fare with the men of Leicestershire and Northampton.
§ MR. HAZELL (Leicester)
I consider it is my duty to say a few words as to the feeling of my constituents in Leicester on this question. If the right hon. Gentleman imagines that the Act of last year has finally settled the matter, he is greatly mistaken. The great majority of parents in Leicester would not go before a magistrate. No complaints, as far as I know, have been made in Leicester as to the conduct of the magistrates. They have not insulted the people. Indeed, every facility has been given the people to make declarations, but the fact remains that they will not go before a magistrate. We have had a very learned disquisition as regards the right of the Local Government Board to overrule the wishes of the boards of guardians. Let us suppose that the right hon. Gentleman is quite correct in his exposition of the law, and that the case has been carried to the highest court of appeal. The fact remains that in Leicester the conflict between the Local Government Board and the board of guardians, which affects the good feeling that ought to exist between a Government Department and the local authority, would still continue. During recent years only 1 per cent. of the children in Leicester have been vaccinated, and the people are quite satisfied with being as they are. They arc determined, at all events, that the views of the Local Government Board on this matter shall not prevail. If the right hon. Gentleman considers that it is practicable to enforce his views on the local Board of Guardians, there are difficulties in the way which it would be very hard to foresee and disagreeable to contemplate. I strongly urge upon the right hon. Gentleman not to force his views on this matter.
§ *SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, ton)
I should like to say a few words on this question, because the right hon. Gentleman will remember that when we were in Committee last year I specially discussed the position and powers of the vaccination officers. I must say that when the Order was issued at the end of last year by the 207 Local Government Board I was obliged to regard it as, at least, unfortunate. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in the position he has taken up in reference to what his intention was in the debate which occurred on the 19th July last. There is no doubt the right hon. Gentleman intended to maintain the law as it exists, and to take up his stand on the interpretation of the law which the law courts had given him, and which has been backed up by the law officers of two successive Administrations. He could, therefore, hardly do anything else. But I admit that when the right lion. Gentleman made the remarks which he did to my hon. friend the Member for Bethnal Green who moved the amendment, I thought the clays of vigorous compulsion were at an end. That was the impression I received from his speech; but it was not the impression, I have no doubt now, that he intended to convey. But the remarkable thing is that before the debate I appealed to my hon. friend behind me in the strongest way not to take up the time of the House in moving his amendment. My hon. friend the Member for Bethnal Green refused my request, but afterwards was so satisfied with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in the debate that he withdrew his amendment, thus showing that he clearly misunderstood the purport of the speech of the President of the Local Government Board. While we acquit the right hon. Gentleman of all intention to mislead the House, I must say the issue of the circular at the close of the year was, at all events, unfortunate. And for this reason: we have a number of vaccination officers appointed by the boards of guardians, and receiving their payments from the boards of guardians, these officers would in the future perform their most difficult duties without reference to the authorities who appoint them, and who pay them their salaries. The result of that must be that these vaccination officers would be placed in a most intolerable position. While remaining the servants of the boards of guardians, they will be pursuing a certain line of action without reference to, and possibly contrary to, the policy and wishes of the boards who appoint and pay them. The result will be that the vaccination officers will not be able to do their work, in such places as Leicester or North- 208 ampton, with any comfort or success. But that is not the only possible difficulty. It may happen that boards of guardians will cease to appoint vaccination officers, and so we may have vaccination falling into greater neglect than ever. I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman will do if any boards of guardians refuse to appoint vaccination officers, and defy the Local Government Board?
§ *SIR Walter FOSTER
But what action is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to take with regard to those who do not so appoint vaccination officers? Has the right hon. Gentleman a definite line of policy when the difficulty arises? Setting aside this question, I want to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the statement he has been able to make as to the success of the Act. That statement must be reassuring to the country, and to the House, that the policy carried out last year was, after all, the right policy for promoting vaccination. I have received evidence myself from medical men in various parts of the country that there has been a larger amount of vaccination during the last few months than in the same number of months for many preceding years. 1 believe, however, that the result would have been greater, and that we should have had an infinitely larger amount of vaccination, had it not been for the very stupid attitude of the Press and of the magistrates in this matter. The magistrates in some places had acted with stupidity, because they did not carried out the law in the spirit intended by Parliament. When the clause was under discussion last year I pointed out that its peculiar form admitted of a great variety of administrative procedure, and would consequently bring the Act into disrepute. Unfortunately, the press took up the case generally over the country, and there was a great deal of wild writing which induced the magistrates to raise difficulties in granting certificates. The action of the magistrates kept alive the agitation which the clause was intended to allay, and I believe if a wiser course had been adopted, and if these certificates had been granted more easily, we should have had a much greater amount of vaccination performed under the Act. I am satisfied that as 209 time passes we shall have a great deal of the arrears of vaccination made up under the Act. But I believe that this would have been done more readily if the right hon. Gentleman had accepted my proposal that every medical man should be regarded as a public vaccinator. There are one or two other points to which I wish to call attention. In the first place, I think the policy, carried out in some places, of prosecuting people who fail to send in certificates of exemption within seven days, is unnecessarily irritating. Another point is that the right hon. Gentleman should discourage, by every means in his power, the vexatious requirement that a man must be obliged to present a certificate of the birth of his child when he applies for exemption. That is a serious impediment to the working of the Act. A man who earns only £1 per week cannot afford to pay 2 or 3 shillings for the two certificates. Again, I hold that it is the duty of the Local Government Board to prevent prosecutions being made when the plea of insanitary surroundings is put in. My hon. friend behind me quoted a case of a man who was fined 20s. with the alternative of a month's imprisonment because he refused to have his child vaccinated when diphtheria was prevalent in the neighbourhood. That was an intolerable hardship and an injustice. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, throughout the administration of the Act, do all he can to lessen the causes of irritation in the working of the Act, and so promote the consumption of calf lymph, which is being used to such a large extent for vaccination.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
We all look with the most friendly feeling to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, but it appears to me that it was under something like false pretences that he received the blessings that were rained down upon him last Session. We accepted him, as we are told another was accepted in Heaven, as a repentant sinner. But, far from being a repentant sinner, it now appears that the right hon. Gentleman has repented of repenting, and has gone back entirely to the error of his ways. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green had been submitted to the test of a vote it would not have been 210 carried. Now, how in the name of wonder does he know whether it would have been carried or not? He might as well say that, if all the horses nominated had run in the Derby, Flying Fox would not have won, and Holocauste would have won but for his accident.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am very glad he did not, for I backed Flying Fox. Be that as it may, the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us with assurance that the amendment would not have passed. We really do believe that if my hon. friend the Member for Bethnal Green had persevered with his amendment we had a very fair chance of carrying it. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the speech he made on that occasion. He says he would not give a pledge that he would not enforce the law, and would not allow prosecutions without the consent of the Boards of Guardians. But it is a very remarkable thing that, as a matter of fact, all the speakers who heard him, and who made speeches after him, were under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman actually did say what he is reported to have said. So that the illusion extended not only to the Reporters' Gallery, but to these benches. I do not see the Solicitor General in his place, but the Solicitor General, in a short speech he made on that occasion, confirms the view that the right hon. Gentleman said that the vaccination officers would not be allowed to prosecute without the consent of the board of guardians. My hon. friend the Member for Caithness said on the same day—The clause we have adopted only applies to the 29th and 31st clauses of the Act of 1867.My hon. friend's contention was that the pledge had been given in regard to the Act, but that it was possible there might be prosecutions in regard to the Acts of 1871 and 1874. My hon. friend in raising this point said—Here we have obtained the pledge of the President of the Local Government Board that he would not prosecute under the Act of 1867.My hon. friend continued:—The clause we have adopted only applies to the 29th and 31st Clauses of the Act of 1867. It does not apply to the Act of 1871 at all. Under the Act of 1874, which this clause practically abolishes, the Local Government 211 Board have got power to make rules, orders, and regulations with regard to the proceedings to he taken by the guardians or their officers for the enforcement of the Acts of 1867 and 1871. The clause you have adopted only affects the Act, of 1867, and we have got the pledge of the President of the Local Government Board that he would not do anything to interfere with the relations between the vaccination officers and the guardians, that he would not put it into force. Now, the right hon. Gentleman may not always be in that position. The next President of the Local Government Board may not take that view in regard to the matter. The point raised by the hon. Gentleman below me goes further, and I should like to have the Solicitor General's view of the matter.That was, that having received an assurance that the President of the Local Government Board would not put in force any rights he had acquired by the Act of 1867, to insist on the vaccination officers prosecuting without the authority of the board of guardians, whether it was possible for him to use that power under the Acts of 1871 and 1874. Now, what does the Solicitor General say? He does not for a moment repudiate the position taken by my hon. friend the Member for Caithness, that the President of the Local Government Board had said that he would not use the power under the Act of 1867; but he says—I think there can be no prosecution except under section 29 of the Act of 1867. No other prosecution is possible.Therefore, we stand on this, that we on this side of the House, and the Solicitor General sitting by the side of the right hon. Gentleman, were under the impression that the President of the Local Government Board had agreed not to use his powers under the Act of 1867. The Solicitor General went out of his way to tell us that if the right hon. Gentleman did not use it under that Act he could not use it under the Acts of 1871 and 1874. It was under these circumstances that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green withdrew his amendment. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board says that the law of 1867 allows prosecutions by vaccination officers without the permission of the board of guardians. That is true, but the right hon. Gentleman knows that the law had slept for twenty-five years. It was dead. Then he tells us, "I did not make any particular order on the subject," whereupon my hon. friend the Member for East North- 212 amptonshire read out the order which he issued at the end of last year. It is as clear as possible that the right hon. Gentleman sent out that order after making this pledge to the House. He revived the law of 1867, and he tells the vaccination officers that they are to prosecute without the consent or approval of the board of guardians. I think that is a great mistake. All we claim is that the parents and guardians of children should have the right to decide whether the child should be vaccinated or not. If you keep up this turmoil and trouble by the Local Government Board ordering the vaccination officers to prosecute without the permission of the board of guardians, you are invading the whole system of local self government. I have the honour to represent a constituency which takes a very strong view on the subject. It is one of the centres of anti-vaccination; but, notwithstanding, they do not take small-pox. They get on uncommonly well without vaccination. I agree entirely with the remark of my hon. friend that if you perpetually invade the rights of local authorities in this matter, if you keep up continuously this turmoil, you will make it not only a question whether vaccination is a good or a bad thing, but whether a man is to be forced to have his children vaccinated at all. It must be admitted that many persons who have come to exercise the right given them by law, and who seriously object to the vaccination of their children, have very frequently been insulted by the magistrates. I do hope that the President of the Local Government Board will keep his eye on these magistrates, and, if this thing is not stopped, that he will make an example of one of them, and have him struck off the roll. Whatever a magistrate's view may be of the question, he has no right to tell a man that he is a fool, or an idiot, when he comes forward to claim the right given him by law. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will issue an order in regard to the powers of the vaccination officers, and leave the power of prosecution to the boards of guardians, as was done for twenty-five years past.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
He thinks that if I give up my order the guardians will revert to the old position, which they occupied for twenty-five years. Sir, they will do absolutely nothing of the kind. What was the order, and what was our course in regard to it? The circular letter in which we imposed the order was to this effect:Having regard to the decision of the Queen's Bench in the case referred to, and with the opinions given by the law officers of the Crown, the Board have not, inserted any provision in the order imposing any duty either on the guardians or on the vaccination officer as regards the institution and conduct of proceedings. The power and duty of treating such proceedings are Vested in the vaccination officer under the Vaccination Acts passed prior to the Act of last Session without any order from the Board, or direction in regard to it.Then, some hon. Members have relied on one paragraph in the Order which is to this effect:—If that notice is not duly complied with within the time specified therein, it will become the duty of the Vaccination Officer under the Vaccination Acts to take proceedings for the enforcement of the law.These are not instructions from us; they are merely an intimation, in accordance with the usual practice of the Local Government Board, as to what is the duty under the Acts of Parliament of die parties concerned. When hon. Members ask me to revert to the old practice, what is it that they ask me to do?
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Withdraw fiddlesticks! The only thing I could do would be to re-insert in my order the old regulation which was in the old orders, and which has been already adjudged by the courts to be superfluous and ineffectual. Is it reasonable that I should be asked to take such a course? Sir, I am extremely sorry that this misunderstanding arose. The only way in which it could have arisen is this. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green, has taken a very prominent part in the discussion of this particular question. I had always given hint credit, at all events, that he had made himself master of the position; but it is quite clear that he has never done so; he has never understood the position of affairs; otherwise, after I had said as 214 plainly as a man could say that I declined to accept his amendment, he would have known that certain Other things followed as a matter of course. The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire quoted in support of his view die statement, made by the hon. Member for Caithness, who said that I had promised that I would do absolutely nothing whatever to interfere with the relations between the guardians and the vaccination officers. Well, I have done absolutely nothing; I have left them on one side altogether. The Board have not inserted any provision in the order imposing any duty either on the board of guardians or the vaccination officer as regards the institution of proceedings. Then, I am asked to keep my eye on the magistrates, and strike them off the roll. The Local Government Board have nothing whatever to do with that, and I can hardly think the Gentleman was serious in his suggestion. Any complaints of the conduct of magistrates in relation to vaccination certificates should be addressed to the Home Office, and any complaint of vaccination under unsanitary conditions will have careful examination by the Local Government Board. As to the vaccination of workhouse children under the age of two months, I have not the particulars with me at the present moment, but I am under the impression that no objection or opposition whatever was made by the parents of those children, who were perfectly acquainted with what was going on, and although I quite agree that, as a general rule, so far as I am advised, under ordinary circumstances it is not advisable that children should be vaccinated at so early an age, there has been nothing in the circumstances which have occurred to call for active interference on the part of the Local Government Board or for any re-consideration of the Order. An hon. Member has enlarged upon the enormous number of children going unvaccinated now in various parts of the country, and asked me what I was going to do as to this Order. Sir, out of 640 boards of guardians in the country I am thankful to say that there have never been more than some half-dozen or a dozen Boards who have made difficulties, and all of these, with two or three exceptions, have been either settled or are on the eve of settlement. It was for that reason that I regret, more than 1 can say, the kind 215 of speeches which have been made by a limited number of hon. Gentlemen in this House to night, because the only effect of those speeches going forth to the world can be, although I hope they will not have much effect when the guardians know their duty, to increase whatever difficulties there have been. What I shall do is to perform the duties which Parliament has imposed upon me, to the very best of my ability, without fear or favour, of course avoiding—I should be very foolish if I did not—anything that would cause irritation; at the same time I shall do my utmost to promote vaccination. I shall do, in fact, in the future exactly what I have done in the past. I have received the report of the Board's medical inspectors as to the increase or decrease of vaccination in eleven different unions—West Bromwich, Maidstone, Lambeth, Fulham, St. Olave's (Southwark), Holborn, Whitechapel, St. Saviour's (Southwark), Paddington, Stoke-on-Trent, and the County of Glamorgan. In the first quarter of 1898 the number of vaccinations in those eleven Unions was 3,744; in the first quarter of 1899 there were 6,614 vaccinations, a net increase of 77 per cent. So far as it goes, I have every reason to hope and believe that that may be taken as a fair indication of what is going on in other parts of the country. What I conceive to be my duty is to do everything in my power to promote an increase of vaccination throughout the country, similar to that which is going on in those eleven unions.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I think the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is most satisfactory. I have always thought that there was a good deal of exaggerated alarm on the subject. But the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has just given must have satisfied him, as well as the House and the country, how much better the amended Bill was than the Bill originally introduced.
§ MR. BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)
I rise for the purpose of asking the right hon. Gentleman one question. I am sorry to say that, in listening to his speech very carefully this afternoon, I have not been able to understand for one moment what the Local Government Board are proposing to do in the future. 216 Is the custom of the last thirty years to be enforced or not? That is a perfectly simple question, and one that the House has a perfect right to have a straightforward, clear, and definite reply upon.
§ MR. BAYLEY
Well, then, I am so very dense that I cannot understand it, and I do not think it was understood on this side of the House. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us a clear "Yes," or "No" as to whether the custom of the last thirty years is going to be altered, or are the Government going to put in force what is said to be the law?
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I have already told you that it has been ruled illegal by a Court, and I have no power to interfere.
§ MR. BAYLEY
Then, when is the right hon. Gentleman going to enforce the law upon different Boards of Guardians, and when is he going to enforce it in Leicester? Is he going to enforce it in any constituency? There have been many changes in the Vaccination Bill of last year, and I think, if the right hon. Gentleman will enforce it in any one of those constituencies where it is not enforced to-day, there will be a considerable change of front again on this question. But do I understand that in Leicester the law, as the right hon. gentleman has given it to us to-day, will be enforced by the Local Government Board? Will they prosecute and pay the money for prosecutions? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to be in earnest on this question? If he is not, he had better tell us; if he is, let him begin the campaign. Meanwhile, I should like to know if he is really determined, whether he means to commit the Board of Guardians of Leicester to prison because they won't find money to pay a vaccination officer.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The hon. Member who has just sat down seemed to think that the Local Government Board would be compelled to imprison the Guardians of Leicester and of other districts if they did not obey them. I have a suggestion to make to the Local Government Board if they are placed in that position, and that is, to adopt the Irish system. In 217 Ireland, if a Board of Guardians does not do its duty, paid Guardians are sent down to take their places. I should be very glad to see this system adopted, because I believe, if it were adopted in England, we should be able to get rid of it in Ireland.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I do think we ought to have an answer to the question put by my hon. friend the Member for Chesterfield, for it really is the whole crux of the position. Suppose that in a constituency there are no prosecutions, either on the part of the Board of Guardians or of the vaccination officer in the case of persons who are not vaccinated, what is the action that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take? For 25 or 30 years the Local Government Board did not interfere. They left the matter entirely to the localities. Is it the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to continue to act on these lines, or does he intend, when the Guardians do not give their consent to a prosecution, to order the vaccination officer to give his consent? When neither the Board of Guardians nor the vaccination officer is prepared to prosecute, is it the intention to order
§ a prosecution on behalf of the Local Government Board?
§ MR. CHANNING
May I supplement that question by another, which 1 think the right hon. Gentleman will find it absolutely necessary to give a clear answer to? What will happen if the vaccination officer declines to carry out or institute any prosecution?
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I should like, as a further question, to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whom the vaccination officer is to obey if the Board of Guardians are not in favour of prosecutions and the Local Government Board are. At present a vaccination officer has to give security that he will obey the directions of the Local Government Board, as well as of the Board of Guardians who appoint him and pay him. All prosecutions mean money, and, unless the Board of Guardians provide it recourse will have to be made to the Local Government Board, I do not think the Local Government Board have any fund which could be used for this specific purpose.
§ The Committee divided; Ayes, 59; Noes, 190. (Division List No. 168).219
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Jones, William (Carnarvons.)||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Allison, Robert Andrew||Labouchere, Henry||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Langley, Batty||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb)||Souttar, Robinson|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Lyell, Sir Leonard||Spicer, Albert|
|Billson, Alfred||MacAleese, Daniel||Steadman, William Charles|
|Burns, John||M'Leod, John||Tennant, Harold John|
|Burt, Thomas||Maddison, Fred||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Cameron, SirCharles(Glasgow)||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.)||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Weir, James Galloway|
|Colville, John||Montagu, Sir S (Whitechapel)||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Morton, E J. C. (Devonport)||Williams, JohnCarvell(Notts.|
|Davies,M.Vaughan- (Cardigan||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull)|
|Duckworth, James||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Wilson, Frederick W(Norfolk)|
|Dunn, Sir William||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)||Wilson, Henry J.(York,W.R.)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||O'Connor,James (Wicklow, W.||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Oldroyd, Mark||Wilson, JosH(Middlesbrough)|
|Gourley,SirEdwardTemperley||Palmer, Sir C. M (Durham)|
|Gurdon,Sir William Brampton||Paulton, James Mellor||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Holland, Wm. H.(York,W.R.)||Pease,Alfred E. (Cleveland)||Mr. Pickersgill and Mr. Channing.|
|Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Pristley, Briggs (Yorks).|
|Acland-Hood,Capt.SirAlex.F.||Beach,WWBramston(Hants.)||Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson-|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Beckett, Ernest William||Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bethell, Commander||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Chamberlain,Rt. Hon. J.(Birm.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Birrell, Augustine||Chamberlain,JAusten(Worc'r|
|Baker, Sir John||Blaikiston-Houston, John||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Balcarres, Lord||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Clough, Walter Owen|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G.W.(Leeds).||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Coddington, Sir William|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Bowles,T.Gibson (King's Lynn||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Butcher, John George||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Caldwell, James||Colston, Chas. Edw. H.Athole|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. SirMH.(Bristol)||Campbell,Rt.Hn.JA(Glasgow||Corbett, A.Cameron(Glasgow)|
|Cornwallis,FiennesStanley W.||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.||Pease,HerbertPike(Darlingt'n|
|Courtney, Rr.Hn. Leonard H.||Hayne, Rt Hon. Charles Seale-||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Cox,Irwin Edward B.(Harrow||Heath, James||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Cranbourne, Viscount||Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H||Pilkington, Rich(LancsNewt'n|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Helder, Augustus||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Crombie, John William||Hill, Arthur (Down, West)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Hill,Sir Edward Stock(Bristol||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Hoare, EdwBrodie(Hampstead||Priestley,SirW.Overend (Edin|
|Curzon, Viscount||Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh||Hobhouse, Henry||Purvis, Robert|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield.||Howard, Joseph||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson|
|Dixon-Hartland,Sir F. Dixon||Hozier,Hon.James HenryCecil||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Hubbard, Hon.||Evelyn Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Doughty, George||Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Jackson,Rt.Hon. Wm. Lawies||Rutherford, John|
|Douglas-Pennnnt, Hon. E. S.||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Drage, Geoffrey||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. SirJohn H||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Drucker, A.||Knowles, Lees||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Laurie, Lieut-General||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Lawrence, Sir E. D-(Corn)||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Fellowes, Hon.Ailwyn Edward||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Smith, JamesParker(Lanarks.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)|
|Fergusson, RtHonSirJ(Manc'r||Leng, Sir John||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Finch, George H.||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Swan||Stewart,SirMark.J.M'Taggart|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Baunatyne||Loder, Gerald W. Erskine||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Sutherland, Sir Thomas|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool)||Talbot,RtHn.J.G.(Oxf'd Univ|
|Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||Lowe, Francis William||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Lowles, John||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw Murray|
|Flower, Ernest||Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Ure, Alexander|
|Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Valentia, Viscount|
|Garfit, William||Macdona, John Cumming||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Gedge, Sydney||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Webster, SirR.E (IsleofWight|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||M'Ewan, William||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A.C.E.|
|Gibbs, Hon. Vicary(St Albans)||M`Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh,W.)||Whiteley,H. (Ashton-under-L|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Gilliat, John Saunders||Milward, Colonel Victor||Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Monk, Charles James||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Moon, E. Robert Pacy||Wodehouse,RtHon E. R.(Bath)|
|Gosehen, George J. (Sussex)||Morgan, J. L. (Carmarthen)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Morrison, Walter||Woodall, William|
|Green,WalfordD(Wednesbury||Morton. A. H. A. (Deptford)||Wortley,Rt.Hon. C.B. Stuart-|
|Greene,W.Raymond-(Cambs.)||Muntz, Philip A.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Gretton, John||Murray, Rt Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Wyndham, George|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Gunter, Colonel||Myers, William Henry||Younger, William|
|Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon LordGeorge||O'Connor, T. P'. (Liverpool)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Hardy, Laurence||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Parkes, Ebenezer|
Resolutions agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the varying character and restricted length of the repayment of loans for municipal and other public works. I had hoped it would have been possible to avoid any motion on the subject, and that the question of my hon. friend would have received a more favourable reply. Unfortunately the reply only referred to the inability of the Local Government Board to increase the length of the terms, and apparently refused to give that consideration which municipal and other local authorities urgently desire, That reply 220 struck me as being inconsistent with the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Finance Bill, because the right hon. Gentleman then stated that he hoped to be able at no distant date to give better terms for the repayment of these loans, and he spoke with regret of the apparent indisposition of Municipal Corporations to avail themselves to the extent he would have wished of the assistance of the Government in relation to loans generally. One great difficulty, undoubtedly, has been that the terms of repayment have been onerous and have prohibited Corporations from using those facilities as much as they otherwise would be disposed to do. I 221 quite admit that some difficulties arise which are not entirely within the control of the right hon. Gentleman. There are, various Acts of Parliament which prescribe different periods of repayment, and various departments prescribe different terms for the loans which they authorize for public works. I hope that, at some early date, instead of the gross anomalies and absurdities which now exist some better and more logical system can be created, under which public bodies will know exactly what they may expect with reference to this question. But although these difficulties exist, I venture to say that, except perhaps in the case of tramways, which are under the jurisdiction of the President of the Board of Trade, and with the exception of what may be determined by Act of Parliament, the President of the Local Government Board has the chief discretion in this matter, and it rests with him to say what length of repayment shall be laid down. I should like to direct attention to the fact that the Act of Parliament which gives this discretion has, I think, by long course of practice, been given rather a restricted interpretation. The Act says that the pubic authority may determine what the length of the term of repayment shall be, and that then it shall obtain the sanction of the Local Government Board. It seems to me that the rational interpretation of the Act is that the local authority should determine the time which the repayment should cover, and ask the sanction of the Local Government Board. That would be local government in the true sense of the term. Instead of that, however, the Board has acted on a different principle. It must be admitted that there are different terms, and great variations in practice. If a loan is granted through a Bill in Parliament, the term may be as long as sixty years; if under the Public Health Act, fifty years; and if an application is made by the Local Government Board under the Municipal Corporations Act, the term is only thirty years. That generally is the practice. Take two cases in point. If you take a piece of moorland for a watershed you may have a term possibly of 100 years. If on the other hand you apply to the Board of Trade for a site for a tram depôt in the centre of a populous town, you are limited by the provisions of the department to some thirty years. 222 That is an inequality most difficult to defend. What is the result of that system? Suppose the money in each case was £100,000 there would be a very considerable difference in the annual repayments. Take another case in which I think the Local Government Board has exercised its discretion unwisely. In one of the boroughs it was decided to repave certain streets with wood in the very best possible manner, including that part covered by the tram lines. It was also resolved to pave the side walks at the same time. The Board of Trade gave a period of thirty years; yet the Local Government Board, for the parts outside the tram lines, and also for the side walks, limited the period of repayment to fifteen years. That differential system east a considerably greater burden on the ratepayers. The period of repayment should lie proportioned to the life of the work for which the loan is granted. The contention of the persons concerned in the instance I have given was that the part within the tram lines was the one to suffer most from traffic, and that the other parts would only be little affected; yet the term of repayment in the first case was double what it was in the second. I am also informed that there is one class of work of the very highest importance, both from the social and economic point of view, which has been very materially impeded by the action of the Local Government Board, and that is the housing of the working classes. The desire on the part of municipalities in those cases is to provide on the most reasonable terms for those who are unable to obtain house accommodation, and yet, owing to the rapidity of repayment, the present generation is compelled to pay a very high rate. Everyone will admit, that the Local Government Board has an important function to fulfil which is not to be overlooked. It rests with the Board to protect posterity from an undue burden being imposed on it by the present generation. All we ask, in view of the inequalities and anomalies between the department and Acts of Parliament, is that there should be some uniform and reasonable system; and, above all, that where modern public works, which are generally of a substantial character, are constructed for the benefit of the community, the department should have fair regard for the probable length 223 of life of such works. Rightly or wrongly, there is a very strong feeling among all classes of local authorities that the discretion of the department has not been exercised as well as it might be. I trust that what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on the Finance Bill will be remembered by the President of the Local Government Board, and that inducements will be offered to corporations to avail themselves of the financial assistance which can be given to them, and which is valuable not only to the corporations, but also as a means of investment. I beg to move the reduction of the vote by £500.
Motion made and Question proposed,
That Item A (Salaries) be reduced to £500, in respect of the salary of the President of the Local Government Board."—(Sir Albert Rollit.)
§ *MR. GRAY (West Ham, N.)
I wish strongly to emphasise the appeal of my hon. friend. The decision of the Local Government Board has had a baneful influence on the progress of works in the borough which I represent. A few years ago the Board of Guardians of West Ham applied to the Local Government Board for permission to raise a loan in order to purchase land and erect buildings for an infirmary. They were informed that the Board had no power to extend the period of repayment beyond 35 years. An Act was passed by this House giving the Board power to extend the period to 60 years, but when the Board of Guardians applied for those terms they were told that the loan on land must be repaid in 40 years, and that on buildings in 30 years. Oddly enough, the borough authorities came to Parliament at the same time, and by a private Bill obtained permission to raise a loan to be repaid in 60 years, double the period allowed to the Guardians by the Local Government Board for the loan on buildings. It seems to me that, while some general line of action should be adopted by the various Departments concerned, the rule should not be too rigidly enforced in new communities such as West Ham, which in thirty years has grown from a few thousands to a population of over a quarter of a million. All our loans are outstanding, and it is unreasonable that the taxation for their repayment should fall entirely on the present generation. I quite agree 224 that we should have some regard for the burdens which we impose on posterity, but I think also that we should have regard also for the present generation. In fixing the date for the repayment of loans regard should be had for the conditions of the community concerned. In a borough recently incorporated, with a rapidly growing population, it is necessary to erect infirmaries, schools, and other public buildings, and it is unreasonable to compel the present generation to pay for them.
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE (Wilts, Cricklade)
I wish to add a word about the borrowing powers of county councils, which depend upon the well-known clauses of the Local Government Act, 1888, taken in connection with the Local Loans Act. I believe that the result of these clauses taken together is that the county councils cannot borrow under any circumstances for a period of more than 20 years. Now, I am not an advocate for a very lengthy period, but I think a cast-iron rule is a mistake, although there is a tendency to put a little too much upon posterity. I think 30 years, considering the character of some of the buildings, is too short a term. There is no grievance with regard to the loans for main roads and pavements, and I do not think any loans for that purpose ought to exceed 30 years. The matters for which county councils borrow are chiefly for the erection of lunatic asylums, police stations, and matters connected with the constabulary. Owing to the number of lunatics sent into asylums, there is a growing tendency, which cannot be avoided, to contract loans for the purpose of enlarging asylums, and I think 30 years is rather a short period in regard to matters of that kind. In almost every county town in England the accommodation provided for the county police no longer supplies the requirements of modern ideas, and the county councils have to contract a considerable debt to make provision for the county constabulary. Therefore I think it is rather a grievance that we should have a cast-iron rule fixing the period at 30 years. I am inclined to think that it can be fairly argued that there ought to be discretionary power in such cases, where the President of the Local Government Board thinks that the buildings contemplated are of such a substantial character that a longer period is justifiable, 225 to grant a longer term to the county council.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I think there is a great deal to be said on the other side of the question. One of the serious dangers of modern times is the great increase in the borrowing tendency of local bodies. I think we ought to lay it down that the present generation should, within a reasonable time, pay for these improvements. There has been a very great change during the last 20 or 30 years, because formerly localities had to pay 4½ per cent. interest for these loans, and now they get them for very little over 3 per cent. Therefore they have borrowed the money to very great advantage, and the amount which they have to pay in interest makes a very large difference in the amount that has to be paid each year for the repayment of these loans. Although I should not say that the period of thirty years ought never to be exceeded, I should be very sorry indeed to see more latitude given in this matter. Many localities are now borrowing enormous sums of money—very properly, in most cases—but in doing so they ought to be prepared at the time to pay a large proportion of the cost of those loans. It is quite true that people change their notions of what is required, and it has been said that the county police stations are not up to the standard at which they ought to be. It is quite possible that in another thirty or forty years another change may take place, and the people may then think that the present stations are not good enough. I think we should be prepared to encourage local bodies to pay off these loans within thirty years in nearly all cases, and I should regret to see anything done to secure momentary popularity which would make borrowing more easy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be too lenient, and not give way on this question.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I think that upon this occasion we ought to consider the subject with thoughtfulness and with care. I feel quite sure that to limit the time unduly would be to hinder progress by preventing localities from carrying out great improvements. We should have regard, in all cases, to the nature of the works, and I think anyone who has observed the short life of many of these works will feel that a short time ought to 226 be fixed for the repayment of the money borrowed. We have not only to consider the life of the work, but also the change of fashion. Many of the works may now be up to date, but in the course of a few years they may become old-fashioned and antiquated. They may be like the machinery in a textile factory, which may be perfectly good but yet out of date, and has to make way for better machinery. The same thing applies to public works, and that is a consideration which we should bear carefully in mind. Then we have to consider the probable life of a community, for some of them last only about thirty or forty years as a town, and then they often return to their rural condition through the failure of their industry. I have known places in Lancashire which in my boyhood were country districts, but became centres of industry, and now, the minerals being exhausted, have again become country districts. I should be extremely sorry to see the term made so limited as to hinder progress, but at the same time I think it is unwise to postpone a payment which must be made sooner or later, and which unless care is taken may become most oppressive and injurious to a coming generation.
§ *SIR WALTER FOSTER
I can quite understand the desire of the right hon. Gentleman not to extend the period of loans generally, considering the enormous amount of the local indebtedness of this country. But there are some points in which a little leniency might be exercised. Take the case of a rural district where there is the greatest possible difficulty in obtaining any action by local authorities for sanitary purposes because they are frightened by any increase in the rates. Scores of small urban and rural districts are in a condition which is a disgrace and a danger to the whole nation. We shall never get rid of that state of things unless we enable the local authorities to carry out sanitary works under more easy conditions. I should not myself be disinclined to see some central method of dealing with these questions, although I am afraid that this is not likely to be done. I think tie right hon. Gentleman would be wise, in dealing with loans for the water supply and for sanitary purposes in such areas as I have alluded to, if he would extend, as far as possible, the period for repayment. In 227 such cases as these it is not only the community which is likely to be endangered, but even the whole nation may be injured by the neglect of a particular locality. If that state of things can be avoided by the extension of the period of repayment for a loan, a benefit will be conferred upon the community at large.
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
My view is that if communities are determined to be extravagant they ought to pay for it, and pay for it within a limited period. Very often—as in cases with which I have been associated—it is not the local authorities who are extravagant, but the Local Government Board, who insist upon them being extravagant. Take the case of my own borough. The Local Government Board has, no doubt most wisely, insisted that they should sewer and lay on fresh water supplies into the borough. That is, therefore, not their extravagance, for it is done by the direction of the Local Government Board. The occupier has to meet the rates, but he is, in many cases, simply a leaseholder, and it is hard to make him bear the burden of great permanent improvements, because he undertakes when he leases the ground and puts the houses on it that he will pay all the taxes. When new taxes are sprung on a community by the Local Government Board, the occupiers are called upon to meet the whole of the expense if the loan is to be paid within a limited period, and not spread over the whole tenure of their lease; a state of things which they never contemplated at the time when the lease was taken. In such cases I think the time should be much more extended than it is at present, and the occupier should not be burdened with the whole cost of the improvements.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I desire to remind hon. Members who have spoken that in these matters the Local Government Board are the trustees for posterity, or in other words, for the future ratepayers of the country, and we are obliged in our discretion to take such action in these matters as appears to us, at all events, to be fair to all the interests and all the parties who are concerned. I have given the greatest attention to the matters which have been placed before me, and after considering as carefully as I could all the various points of view which have 228 been submitted to my consideration, I came to the conclusion that the Local Government Board should go more in the direction of the views stated by my hon. friend the Member for Islington. With regard to the period mentioned for loans with respect to the purchase of land, my hon. friend is mistaken, for almost invariably the practice of the Local Government Board is, in sanctioning loans for the purchase of land, to allow a period of fifty years for its repayment. Therefore, I heard with some surprise the statement which fell from my hon. friend.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to say that if I was mistaken I was misinformed. My information came from one of the town clerks affected, who has been in communication with the Local Government Board.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Then, the hon. Member for West Ham called my attention to a case which had occurred only the other day, in which he said some land had been purchased for an infirmary, and that while the town council had been able to borrow money for purposes other than for the purchase of land at a period of sixty years, in this case the Board of Guardians only allowed thirty years.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Some expectations appear to me to have been aroused by the Act to which my hon. friend referred, which was passed in the year 1897 Previously to that time it was quite true that in the purchase of land the Guardians would not have been able to obtain a loan for a period of more than thirty years. In that respect they were placed at a great disadvantage as compared with other local authorities. That Act extended the period, with a view of placing boards of guardians on a similar footing with regard to the purchase of land as other authorities. It appears to have been the expectation and consequence of that Act that wider and more general changes were to have been made with regard to the periods for loans borrowed. I do not think that I need to go into the various 229 questions raised by my hon. friend, except in one particular instance, and that is allowing a period of 30 years in the case of wood pavements. My own experience is that to allow 30 years for the laying down of wood pavements would be an extraordinary time, because the paving would perish long before the repayment of the loan was completed. I could not sanction any proposal of that kind. My hon. friend raised another question with which, as far as my own feelings are concerned, I have some sympathy, and that is the question of loans for the erection of workhouses and accommodation for the aged and deserving poor. But there is another side to that question. It must be remembered that the repair and maintenance of such buildings becomes more expensive every year, and the ratepayers of the future will have to find the money for maintaining and extending the accommodation, as well as the interest on the loan. I think the House ought not to forget that a change of circumstances very often in these days involves great expenditure, and very often expensive alterations have to be made. Even at the present moment there is a great demand for better accommodation in the workhouses in various parts of the country for the aged poor, and claims in this direction may have to be made at no distant period upon the ratepayers of this country. If we were to extend the period for the repayment of loans for such purposes to 50 or 60 years, which I think has been suggested, we should have one generation of ratepayers paying for the new and the old accommodation as well, and I cannot help thinking that that would be a most unfair arrangement. There is also this consideration—that the shorter the period the more it will act as a check upon extravagance, and certainly when you consider how enormously the loans borrowed by local authorities are increasing by leaps and bounds every day, I do think that we ought not very willingly to part with any check upon extravagance of that kind. It has been pointed out from the benches behind me that this expenditure is often incurred under the instructions and the insistence of the Local Government Board itself. I acknowledge that, for sanitary purposes, it is the duty sometimes of the Local Government Board to give instructions of that kind. But even then it is impossible for the Local Government 230 Board to supervise all the details of expenditure for this purpose. But, even in such cases, where it may have required the erection of certain buildings or accommodation, it is very desirable that there should be as much inducement as possible for the local authority to confine the expenditure within the smallest limits they possibly can, consistently with the due performance of the work. Having regard to the great increase in the indebtedness of the local authorities throughout the country, and having regard to all those other considerations to which I have alluded, I am not disposed, and I should be most reluctant, to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen with regard to the extension of the period for repayment, in the interest of the ratepayers of the future, or to proceed in the direction in which they ask me to proceed. The hon. Member opposite urged that in regard to sanitary matters some concessions might be made; but, when I come to consider the various purposes for which sanitary expenditure is incurred, and the different times allowed for the loans for different purposes, I cannot think that there is any great necessity in this case for a change, or that improvements are prevented because the periods for repayment are not extended. The question of sewage was mentioned, but in such a case as that we have discretionary power to allow forty years, and I do not think that that period is so short as to prevent wise and necessary improvements being carried out which would otherwise be accomplished. My hon. friend complained that the County Councils were not allowed more than thirty years for the erection of lunatic asylums, police-stations, and matters of that kind. He thought there was no grievance in regard to the main roads, but in these cases my hon. friend thinks that the period might be increased. I should say that, generally speaking, the arguments I have endeavoured to put forward with regard to workhouses and accommodation for the aged poor apply in exactly the same degree to the case of lunatic asylums, and I am more disposed in that direction to be lenient. I am very sorry indeed that it should fall to my lot or that I should conceive it to be my duty to resist a demand made by so many hon. Members representing various constituencies, but for the general reasons which I have stated I have come 231 to the conclusion that it would be contrary to the public interest to concede their demand, and therefore I cannot accede to the proposal of my hon. friend.
§ *MR. MENDL (Plymouth)
I very much regret that such a cast-iron rule in regard to local loans should exist. The case to which the hon. Member for West Ham referred was the case of a new community which has grown up in a generation and had all its loans outstanding; but the community I represent is a very old community which is now being transformed into a new town. In consequence of the conditions on which the local loans are obtained and repaid, that new town is being built up at the sole expense of the present ratepayers. Whole streets are being pulled down and rebuilt, and water works, etc., are being erected at their expense. The natural result of a system of this kind is to discourage any Local Committee from improving an old town. It is a matter of very great regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not able to hold out some hope that some alteration might be made in the existing system of repayment of local loans, as the natural result of it is to discourage local progress in consequence of the unfair burden imposed upon existing ratepayers by the cost of permanent improvements being thrown entirely on them.
§ Original question again proposed. Motion by leave withdrawn.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I beg to move the reduction of the salary of the President of the Local Government Board by £100, in order to call the attention of the Committee to the administration of the barrack schools for pauper children under the present Poor Law system. I wish to specially remind the Committee that the Poor Law Schools Committee issued what is a most important report on the extremely unwholesome character of the barrack school system. My object in bringing the matter before the Committee to-night is to spur on the Local Government Board and to spur on the Boards of Guardians to carry out the broader policy of the recommendations of the Committee. That Committee was presided over by Mr. Mundella, and contained a number of well-known gentlemen, and altogether was a very strong and competent Committee to deal with the question of 232 pauper children. I will ask now permission to lay before the Committee a few facts with regard to this matter. The Committee was limited to the Metropolitan Schools, containing some 17,000 pauper children, but I believe it may be taken as substantially representing all the pauper schools of the country. The condition is worse in London because the schools are larger, but the vices of this system of training are obvious everywhere. The conclusion the Committee came to was that the system was an extremely expensive one, and an extremely unwholesome one. The herding vast numbers of children together in large institutions has a deadly effect on herlth and character; it produces worse results than when children are brought up even in the poorest homes. The Committee give a number of recommendations for the suppression of this system altogether. It was shown that the average cost for 17,000 pauper children was £29 5s. 6d. per head, or 11s. per child a week; that is to say, the cost of bringing up a pauper child is about half the income of an average working class family containing six or seven persons. At the Hanwell school the cost ran up per child to as much as £42 15s. 2d. The cost of that enormous institution was £177,000. That, in any case, is a wasteful expense in the highest degree. But that in itself would not matter so much if the system were not such a bad one. I do not think there is a philanthropist who does not agree that to herd fifteen hundred children together in an institution where they are only known by numbers is anything but injurious to the health of these children. The rate of mortality is far higher than that of the poorest families in the metropolis. Infectious diseases are never absent from these institutions. Ophthalmia is a constant scourge; there are times when as many as 20 per cent. of the children are ill at a time; in some of the schools all the children have been visited with this plague at one time or another, and great numbers of them have their eyes weakened for life; they go out into the world heavily handicapped from this cause alone. The report of one of the medical officers shows that you cannot have a number of children herded together without mischief of this kind occurring. He says—In the schools as conducted at present, with the exception of Hanwell, every child 233 loses its education directly it gets ophthalmia. The attack often lasts for months in greater or less severity, during the whole of which time the child ceases to have any mental training or to be subjected to the school discipline. Although in some cases the time that active eye mischief is present is comparatively short, the eye may remain unhealthy, or in a state that necessitates isolation during many months. Throughout this period the children must spend their days in the room or airing yard of the isolation ward. They have for companions only other children afflicted in the same way; they are cut off from their friends, from their games in the field, from their walks in the country, from their work in the school or in the shop; if able to read they have no opportunity, and they are not ill enough to interest others. Thus, in the milder cases the restrictions necessary for preventing the spread of the malady constitute a much greater immediate evil for the affected children than does the disease itself.But this is not the only disease prevalent in these schools; ringworm and skin diseases are also very common, and the average health of the children is very low indeed. That seems to be a terrible condition of things, and although everybody knows that it is practically true, still the system is going on, and nothing whatever has been done to improve it. The Report on the education of the children is also very unsatisfactory; the standard attained is very much below that of ordinary elementary schools. The inspection is not by the ordinary class of inspectors subject to the requirements of the Code, but by a special class under the Local Government Board. The Report of the Commission states:The information we have obtained, confirmed as it has been by our personal observation and examination, has convinced us that, in many of these particulars, the Poor Law Schools of the Metropolis are far below the standard usually attained, age for age, by the children in public elementary schools.The schools are not under the Education Department, but the Local Government Board. But worst of all in my opinion is the evil, the demoralising effect on character, especially in the case of girls, of the life of the schools. There is only one opinion among all the witnesses as to the deadening effect of this herding of masses of children without love or affection. I should like to quote two or three proofs of this. Miss Whitworth has acted for several years as Secretary for that admirable Society, the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants. She gives a list of these faults:Rudeness, sullenness, violence, destructive 234 tress, carelessness, idleness, obstinacy, and a curious ignorance of common things.This witness also alludes to another trait in the character of the girls. They are unable, she says, to face any difficulty, and they are in despair at a small trouble.A girl only thinks she would 'like to be dead,' or to commit suicide or something, when she gets into a minor trouble or difficulty. Perhaps she is put upstairs for a half-day, and she says she will never do anything again as long as she lives, and will never be seen alive again; that kind of thing is very common; the inability to face difficulty comes from never having had any difficulties to face; a girl in school has so few difficulties, she does not know what it is to have survived them, and she thinks she cannot survive them.This failing is attributed by the witness to the fact that the children have everything done for them at the school, and that they necessarily lead a mechanical and routine life. The following is the testimony of a lady who has worked for twelve years amongst workhouse girls:—In district school girls, with scarcely an exception, 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 not remember a single instance of exactly the same kind of temper among the other girls, the greater number of whom come from very poor homes; their fathers dock labourers, and large families living in one or two rooms. 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.Dr. Barnardo is also a gentleman who has had vast experience of this subject. He has passed through his hands altogether 11,000 children. His evidence before the Commission is of immense value. With regard to the girls he says:—The mental condition of the girls has been a source of great amazement to rue, their dulness and incapacity, and especially the animalism of their tempers. I have had some of these cases which have been the most perplexing I have ever had in all my experience, and I have been compelled to reject most of these girls as unfitted for emigration. I did so with great regret, lint there was no hope of my being able eventually to emigrate them. I do not know whether a topic of this sort may be usefully introduced here; but I am bound to say that evil habits are much more prevalent than, I think, the public have any conception of in all Poor Law establishments of a barrack class in which girls are aggregated.Now, I particularly ask the Committee to listen to this sentence:—Very few girls come from Poor Law institutions who have not, apparently, been more or less contaminated. When these children were sent down to our village home, or to our other homes, the facts crept out in a few days in their 235 own communications with other girls in the cottage. Our small cottages gave us so much more opportunity of finding the evil out much more quickly than would have otherwise been the case.I do not think that anyone will deny the substantial truth of what I stated. These facts are admitted on all hands, and although this Report was issued five or six years ago, this scandalous condition of things is still going on.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I believe there has been one change. There is the Sutton school, containing 1,500 children, and I believe a scheme is now in progress for removing some of that great mass of children. But the great bulk of the schools, which contain 52,000, are still in the same condition that they were five years ago. How long are we going to be before we alter it? The way in which we are wedded to this system has sometimes made me think that there must be some persons interested in these large establishments where such large numbers of children are herded together because of the difficulty there is to change their habits. I cannot doubt that one of the chief obstacles to the adoption of a more humane system is the class of officials who draw good salaries, and the persons interested in the contracts given to them for feeding and clothing the children. I noticed the other day a scheme for building large numbers of cottage homes, but they are to be built in large villagers, and the cost of each house would come to £200. For that you could build a first-class workmen's house. The Guardians will not move unless we can move public opinion in this House, and the only reason that I raise the question here to-night is in order to let the public know what is being done. Now, what I propose to do is to suggest that some of the recommendations of the committee which reported five years ago should be carried out. The principal recommendation of the committee was to board out the children in respectable working class homes, as is done in every country but this—as is done in every country but this—as is done in scotland with such excellent results, where the number of pauper children disappear, because they are brought up with other children, and so lose their papuer traint. The total number of children boarded out now in this country is 2,000 out of the 52,000, in 236 addition to which there are 4,000 boarded out with other unions. Another recommendation is that these children should be separated from the penal class as much as possible. They should be brought up in a healthy home, in God's ordinance, which is the only way to bring them up. One of the rules of the Local Government Board is that no child can be boarded out at a greater cost than 4s. a week. In the pauper school they cost 11s. a week, but to be boarded out they must not cost more than 4s. Just consider what an absurd limit that is. Is it not better to board them out for 5s. or 6s. or 8s. per week rather than keep them in these barrack schools at a cost of 11s. per week? I have one quotation which I would like to give to the House as to the advantage of home training—One advantage to the child of boarding out is that it provides home training and allows development of personal affections. Of course the home training is what has made our English working classes as good as they are. Home training involves a great many things which perhaps men know less of than women; it is the small details of every-day home life that bring out the character of a child, and that, as it grows up, enable it, though unconsciously, to develop self-dependence, resourcefulness, thriftiness; it learns by the example of its elders. This is a perfectly unconscious influence, and no amount of teaching by direct information could give a child that particular class of experience which it gets in the everyday home life—the rubs and frictions that come from brothers and sisters and elders and youngsters; the self-denial that it sees its parents going through when times are bad, the happiness when times are better; the need of forethought; the dependence for success on industrious habits; the value of money and clothes—from all these the boarded-out child learns and realises what the life that is coming to it will be. 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 fall. I am not speaking against the officers of the schools. I think they do good work as far as they can, but it is a sheer impossibility that they can do what can only be done in the ordinary everyday home.Then another point is that they are educated in a family of mixed ages and both sexes, which is most important. Of course, it is impossible in a large school or in a large workhouse to allow the boys and girls to mix together, and they never see each other from one year's end to another. This is a serious drawback in after life, especially with girls; 237 they have not been accustomed to receive the respect which a boy ought to give to a girl in his own cottage home, they do not know how to treat boys, they have never seen them; consequently they do not know how to treat young men, nor do the young men know how to treat the girls when they meet them.Next to the system of boarding out, I would put Cottage Homes. By Cottage Homes I do not mean a large village of twenty or thirty houses, which results in many hundreds of children being brought together, but the Cottage Homes like those of the Sheffield Union, where twenty or thirty children are put under the care of a kind motherly house-mother, and the children attend the public schools of the place, and live as natural a life as possible. I desire to separate the children from everything which contains the least pauper taint. The last thing to which I wish to call the attention of the Committee is a method of which I have myself very great experience, and that is emigration, and I say, of all the means at our disposal, that is the best way of disposing of pauper or deserted children. I have had very considerable experience of this system, arid have been a party to the emigration of 3,000 poor children from Liverpool to Canada. These were not Poor Law children, but rather waifs and strays and the really destitute; but they had not the name of pauper children, which is such a brand of inferiority in Canada. These children get on far better in Canada than is possible in this old and crowded country. They easily find there homes in the houses of yeoman farmers, where they live with the family, and are often adopted, and the vast majority do well in after-life. One great advantage is that they are entirely cut off from their degraded relatives in this country, who constantly get hold of the pauper children when they come out of the institutions and drag them back to vice and misery. Here we have an overplus of children; every channel is choked up. In Canada there is a large free channel; but instead of seeing that system increase it is steadily diminishing. At one time the Board of Guardians of Liverpool used to emigrate 400 children a year, and now it is 78. No doubt there are difficulties in the way, little trifling expenses of £1 here and £1 there, which the guardians cannot see their way to pay; but in reality it is a great economy. You send these children for a six months' 238 training; you pay them about £10 a head, allow them their passage money to Canada; the whole thing can be done for £15, or £20 at the outside, instead of £300. Looking at it from an economic point of view, there does seem to be an enormous saving in treating the children in this way, and I cannot understand the practice in this country in regard to it. When I blame the guardians they say it is the fault of the Local Government Board, and when I speak to the Local Government Board upon the subject they lay the blame upon the boards of guardians. In Canada we have 5,000,000 of people with unlimited territory; in crowded London we have 6,000,000 of people and multitudes of children; and yet nothing is done to make use of this grand channel for the disposition of our pauper children. A great portion of these workhouse children are children of parents who have contracted the taste for drink, which they have transmitted to their descendants and in their surroundings in this country they have become drunkards. But we have thousands of these children, who have been sent to Canada, who have grown up to manhood and womanhood free from temptation, and have remained all their lives total abstainers. Surely, when the House is aware of the enormous advantages of this system, they ought to bring pressure to bear on the Local Government Board and the boards of guardians to look better after these poor children. It is very hard to see why reforms of this kind are so slow of being adopted in England. I believe we require legislation to bring power to bear on backward boards of guardians, and to stop vicious parents taking their children from school and tramping about the country with them, because the children in the process acquire vicious habits and are continually thrown upon the rates. They deal far more summarily in America with these vicious parents. The children are by law taken out of the hands of vicious parents, and put under the control of trustees up to the age of 18 and 21, and so saved from continuing the vicious lives to which their parents are condemned. We require something of the kind in this country, but we are so dreadfully jealous of the rights of parents that we have hitherto refused to interfere with their rights over their unhappy off- 239 spring. I hope that one result of this debate will be that something will be done by the Local Government Board in regard to the treatment of pauper children more encouraging than in the past.
Motion made and Question proposed,
That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £50, in respect of the salary of the President of the Local Government Board."—(Mr. Samuel Smith.)
§ MR. FLOWER (Bradford, West)
I rise to ask the President of the Local Government Board for some information as to the policy he desires to adopt in substitution for the system of barrack schools. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the Sutton school is to be closed; but I should like to know when, and to what purpose that very large building is to be devoted. I express the hope that that building will not be devoted to children who may be described as feeble-minded and defective. Apart from the future of the buildings, what is the policy of the Department in regard to the future of the children in these large schools? The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the comparative failure of the boarding-out system. I am afraid that for that failure a certain amount of blame is to be attached to the Department. Only two of the unions connected with the Sutton school—Woolwich and Camberwell—have availed themselves of the boarding-out system, and that to a very limited extent. The plan of the Local Government Board of building blocks to accommodate sixty children is one which requires more complete experiment than it has yet obtained before it should be sanctioned to any large degree. The block system is undoubtedly better than the barrack system, but it is open to the chief objection to the barrack system—namely, the creation of an artificial atmosphere around the children. Probably you will obtain a higher percentage in regard to sanitation, health, ophthalmia, etc.; yet you cannot from an ethical or educational standpoint regard these blocks of houses as being at all an adequate or advisable way of dealing with the children. I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether his Department had really decided to sanction the proposal of the Stepney Board of Guardians to expend no less than £10,500 on the 240 purchase of land in Essex on which to erect blocks of cottages for 250 children which are at present in the Sutton schools. If the Stepney Board of Guardians had pursued a similar course to that adopted by the Whitechapel Board of Guardians they might have found that they could have reduced the number of children to be dealt with by 40 or 50 per cent. An even more dangerous departure is, I understand, contemplated by the Poplar Board of Guardians, who propose to found a whole village of pauper children at a minimum cost of £100,000. And Greenwich and Dulwich, I understand, also propose to go in for large blocks. I would suggest to my right hon. friend that, in sanctioning the building of these blocks of schools, he is taking a step which in the event of failure it would be exceedingly difficult for him to redress. If you once have these large blocks of buildings erected, you have them on your hands for all time to come, and it would be impossible, however unfavourable the results may be, to effect any change or reform, at any rate for many years to come. The great difficulty about the boarding-out system advocated by my hon. friend the Member for Flintshire is that of securing suitable foster parents and adequate inspection. In regard to the difficulties of inspection I am not quite sure that the remedy does not lie with the Local Government Board themselves. If they had carried out the recommendation of their own Departmental Committee they would have appointed several lady inspectors, instead of one only. The duties of inspection have not been carried out with much discretion or tact. Obviously you do not encourage working people to come forward and express their willingness to act as foster parents if they are to be treated by the inspectors as "persons to be found out." There has, however, never been a case in which boarding-out has proved a failure in the Australian colonies, and I do not believe myself that the difficulties I have mentioned are insurmountable if properly dealt with. In large industrial communities, such as Woolwich—which is building blocks of houses, each to accommodate sixty children—it would be absolutely absurd to say that you could not get forty respectable working men and their wives to undertake the care of these children. I feel quite confident that with greater stimulus from my right hon. 241 friend a great deal may be done in encouraging and developing the boarding-out system. Now, sir, the hon. Gentleman advocated another method of dealing with these children—a method of which I also am largely in favour—and that was the principle of scattered homes. This principle has passed the experimental stage, and has been a great success at Bradford, Bath, and Sheffield. The system, of course, is that the houses should respectively accommodate fifteen children—I believe that is the number at Sheffield, but the Sheffield Guardians think it rather excessive. I would rather see ten children in each home, and they should attend the public elementary school and participate in what may be called the general child life of the community. They lose in that way the taint of pauperism which I am afraid, if once attached to a child, clings to it all through its life. I think the Local Government Board would do well to help forward as far as they can those boards of guardians who are prepared to adopt the scattered home system. I am afraid that they have not done so altogether. I am afraid with regard, for example, to Camberwell that they have not exhibited that appreciation of the enterprise that that Board of Guardians has displayed in relation to the scattered homes of their pauper children. I pass from that to another matter to which the hon. Member has alluded, viz., tramps. On that head I think no blame is to be attached to the Local Government Board, because both the President and his Department have given a sympathetic help to a proposal which has been before Parliament for the last three years for increasing the powers of boards of guardians to deal with vagrant children. That that Act has not become law is no fault of the Government, or of the President of the Local Government Board. I am afraid the source of the evil is to be traced to the occupants of the benches opposite. But if the Government can see their way to bring in a Bill of their own to deal with this question upon similar lines, I believe they would find it would be generally welcomed. I feel sure it would be enthusiastically received on this side, and I feel sure many hon. Members opposite would give it their support. I have seen a statement made to the effect that children of the tramp class number no fewer than 242 50,000. That statement is probably a little high; but it would not, I think, be beyond the mark to say that the number would be somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000. The figures appear to be mounting up at an alarming rate. As a member of the London School Board I have frequently come across cases of this particular tramp class. We have, for example, a lady visitor now in the Tower Hamlets district whose special business it is to look after the children of this class, who are to be found either in the casual wards of a workhouse or in a common lodging-house. The Bill to which I refer would give guardians the power, when they are called upon, to retain their hold of these children until they are able to earn their own livelihood.
§ *MR. WILLIAM JONES (Carnarvonshire,) Arfon
I wish to call attention to one point, and it is the system of education in Poor Law schools. I find that a recommendation of the Poor Law Schools Committee Report pointed out the desirability of more trained teachers. I consider the teachers to be a most important factor in any school, and I should like to know what orders of the Local Government Board have been issued, or what steps have been taken, to improve the teaching and obtain more trained teachers in these schools. I find on looking at the statistics of these schools that there are 172 teachers employed, of whom only 60 are trained. The rest are partially trained, but most of them are untrained. The few who are partially trained obtain Queen's scholarships. But there are a great number who have no qualifications for teaching at all, and who would not be recognised by the Education Department. There are those who hold a certificate by the Local Government Board. We know that the Local Government Board is not an educational authority, and the certificate represents a much lower standard of qualification than that of the Education Department. Why should these children, simply because they are pauper children, be taught by teachers who are not trained, and who simply hold a certificate without any educational qualification attached to it whatever? I say there is need of a higher standard. A standard has been recommended over and over again by the Commissioners, and I should like to know what has been done towards advancing 243 the recommendations by the Local Government Board. We need a higher standard both in the interests of the scholar and the teacher. In the interests of the children, to begin with, because all children, and particularly those of the poorer classes, and of the very poorest, ought to receive the best possible education calculated to form capable citizens from the best possible teachers. Again, teachers in all departments of public service should stand on the same footing, and should be able to pass freely from the service of Poor Law authorities to that of other school managers. Of course, no one wishes to disregard the claims and interests of all competent teachers now on the staff, but wherever vacancies occur the Local Government Board should see that those vacancies are filled not by incompetent teachers, not by those who get certificates sanctioned by the Local Government Board, but by teachers qualified under the Education Department. Some of the teachers are mere drudges. I will read a portion of a letter written by a certificated Poor Law teacher to the Schoolmaster of the 12th November, 1898, giving an idea of a Poor Law teacher's daily life:—Rise at 7 a.m., take children in dining hall to breakfast at 7.30 a.m., leave hall at 8 a.m. (teachers' breakfast), school at 9 a.m. till 12 a.m.; take children in dining hall for dinner till 12.35 or 12.40 (teachers' dinner), school at 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.; take children in hall at 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. to supper, hear prayers and see children to bed at 7.30 p.m. or later.I say that that kind of life makes a teacher a mere drudge, gives him no varied interest in life, does not widen his intellectual outlook, and provides him with no chance of mixing with his fellow-men. In eleven schools the teachers are resident on the premises, but in nine others I am glad to say they live out of school and so come in contact with their fellow-men. The plan gives more freedom and freshness to the teachers, and enables them to become more efficient instructors. The remedy for the present state of things is to send all the children out of these inefficient schools to public elementary schools, and I earnestly press on the President of the Local Government Board and his staff the desirability of transferring these Poor Law schools to the Education Department. In several districts the guardians are already sending the children from these workhouse schools 244 to elementary schools. In Stoke when the workhouse children attended the Board schools it was found that their education was of a very low standard indeed, and they were very much behind the other children in the schools. In Ipswich, not long ago, there was a proposal to send the girls of St. John's Home to a public elementary school, and when a guardian objected, one of the others—himself a workhouse boy in the forties—stated that he was in favour of sending the girls to a public elementary school, and he added that since the boys of the Home had gone out to school they had become much brighter. All the guardians, with the exception of one—a lady—voted in favour of the girls also being sent out to school. I trust the Local Government Board will recommend every board of guardians to act similarly. Poverty is not a crime but a misfortune, and we should in the interests of civilisation and humanity do our best to remove these children from the stigma and taint of pauperism, and that can be partially done by placing them ill schools where they will enjoy free intercourse with other children drawn from all classes of the community.
§ *MR. DRAGE (Derby)
As one of those who have been urging on the Local Government Board the desirability of better education for pauper children, I should like to point out that great reforms have been accomplished the last few years. In the first place the staff of the Board has been considerably increased and many of the abuses which obtained in times past were really largely due to an insufficient staff and to want of proper accommodation for the staff. The right hon. gentleman has by means of circulars and by the action of his department carried out reforms in reference to nursing and other details. He has also constituted in the Children's Committee of the Metropolitan Asylums Board a new authority to remove certain classes of children from Poor Law schools. It is very hard to convey to the Committee the enormous difficulties attending what appears the apparently simple operation of breaking up one of these barrack schools. Many hon. Members are aware of the enormous difficulty of obtaining from the various local authorities in the metropolis the 245 necessary agreement. There is one institution in connection with the Poor Law system which has rendered excellent service, and the work of which has been much encouraged by the right hon. Gentleman. I refer to the training ship "Exmouth," and now when there is an outcry for more sailors for the Navy and the mercantile marine it is pleasing to direct attention to the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has been able to give with reference to that institution. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would consider the desirability of stationing other ships either at Grays or around the coast under the same superintendence and the same committee. There are, however, one or two abuses of which we have to complain from year to year, and to which I wish to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. First of all there was the question of the children of vagrants, called "ins and outs," whose education is broken off when they leave the workhouses. The right hon. Gentleman has been asked to introduce a bill to deal with it, but what I desire to point out is that there have been several decisions by the metropolitan magistrates that such children can be dealt with under Section 14 of the Industrial Schools Act,1866, merely on the ground that their parents are not providing them with education. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot introduce a Bill this session I would urge him to make known to metropolitan and country boards of guardians that there is an existing provision under which the children of vagrant parents can be dealt with. Such children coming into and going out of workhouses are a moral and physical disadvantage to the children with whom they associate; they discourage the teachers, and are themselves as regards their parents a scandal to the country. I am well aware of the reforms which the right hon. Gentleman has carried out, but I would wish to ask him whether he is going to give any further accommodation for Poor Law children now in the workhouses in the metropolis. The Poor Law Commissioners and their successors have, since 1841, been never tired of calling attention to the result of bringing up children in workhouses in London in the midst of poverty. Children in London workhouses are worse off than children in country workhouses, and 246 no provision is made for their proper accommodation and education. Again, as the committee is aware, such children have often to be protected from their parents when they get situations, and what I desire further to ask is whether the right hon. Gentleman will extend the power of inspection at present possessed by the Girls' Friendly Society, which does the work of the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants in the provinces. In 1897 no less than 2,686 girls—all Poor Law children—were looked after by the London society, and what I ask is that the right hon. Gentleman, through the Local Government Board, should use his influence on behalf of the sister society in the provinces with unions which do not now permit lady visitors. I may remind the Committee, as showing the admirable action of these societies, that whereas many years ago one girl in five returned to the workhouse in a pitiable condition, probably to remain there for the rest of her life, the proportion has now been reduced to one in fifty-two, and if permission similar to that given to the town society were extended to the country society a great advantage would be gained. In connection with the emigration of boys and girls to the colonies I would earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not in some way meet the views which have been expressed on that subject. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer, and that the position of the canal boat children. It is one of the anomalies of our present adminstration that these children are now partly under the inspection of the Local Government Board and partly under that of the Education Department. The result is that they are practically left without any education at all. A very short Act of Parliament or a more stringent administration of the existing law would lead those children from a life of almost certain vagrancy into a condition of moral and physical improvement, and I earnestly press the matter on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The question of the enormous increase of vagrancy in recent years is one which will, no doubt, engage the earliest attention of the right hon. Gentleman in the near future. The number of vagrants was larger last year, in 1898, than it has ever been since 1858, with one exception. 247 A question arises upon this point, upon which more than once I have pressed the right hon. Gentleman, under the Bill passed by Her Majesty's Government in 1882—whether he cannot promote continuity and uniformity of administration in the Vagrancy Act. When this has been done, as in Liverpool and elsewhere, we have had a great diminution in vagrancy. I wish to ask the attention of the Committee to one subject more, namely, that though we have had exhaustive inquiries into this subject by two Committees, so far as I am aware there has not been in this House the slightest opportunity given for discussing the reports of the two Committees which have considered the question of the unemployed. It is a matter which is bound to come up again with increasing urgency, and I do press upon the Committee that now is the time, when trade is steadily increasing, to cope with this difficulty. I respectfully urge that the recommendations of the last Committee upon the subject, that local organisations for thrift and charity should combine with the local boards of guardians, is one which offers the most practical and satisfactory solution, not only of the problem of the unemployed, but that of old age and poverty of every form.
§ MR. TREVELYAN (York, W.R., Elland)
I wish to draw attention to the practice of allowing the children of the Sutton barrack schools, on Derby Day, to beg coins from passers - by. This matter has already been brought under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, but it would seem that he has determined to do nothing to put an end to the practice. We hope that the determination is not irrevocable. The circumstances are these:—On Derby Day it is the practice, and it has been for twenty years, to permit the children at these schools to be drawn up in a field near by, with banners flying and band playing, for the purpose of attracting the attention of those who are going down to the racecourse. They collect a large sum of money in the course of the day. Personally I have no particular objection to their receiving money from those going down to see the Derby; I would object quite as much if the money came from people going to a cricket match or a Church congress. What we do object to is that children should be permitted to 248 beg. They are of a poor and sordid origin, and it is only too likely that, even without this incitement and example, they would take to begging methods of life when they leave the schools. It is suggested, as a reason for not putting an end to the practice, that the money is devoted to giving the children a treat at the Crystal Palace. No one would wish to deprive the children of that treat, but I would suggest that there are other ways in which money could be raised for the purpose, either by private subscription, or by the Local Government Board permitting the expenditure of public money to the small extent which would be necessary to give the children a day's holiday. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether he cannot stop this encouragement of begging propensities in the children, and for the future prohibit the practice.
§ MR. HAZELL
I wish to draw attention to the expenditure going on in connection with certain orphan schools. We know that the system of large barrack schools has been condemned, yet in spite of that condemnation by experts, considerable sums are still being expended upon them. How is it that a sum of £6,000 is to be expended on a new infant school at Hanwell, and that, at Marylebone, £12,000 is to be spent, in spite of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he is unfavourable to any further development of the system?
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I do not think my hon. friend will find that any expenditure which has been sanctioned for these schools has been sanctioned for the purpose of providing any further accommodation. It is only to provide for alterations which could not be avoided, and which are necessary in the interests of the children already in the school. My right hon. friend said, two or three years ago, that he would sanction no expenditure involving any enlargement of the schools.
§ MR. HAZELL
Still, the fact remains that, as I understand, some thousands of pounds are to be spent in building new infant schools. There is another point I wish to touch upon. The system of barrack schools is a very wasteful one. Take the case of food. There is a rigid rule that each child shall have exactly 249 the same amount of food, and the result is that, while one child gets more than he can eat, another does not have enough. Miss Davenport Hill has shown the enormous waste of food which goes on, and, I believe, the Bethnal Green Board of Guardians, last November, took the trouble to ascertain the extent of the waste. They weighed all the food given out and all left, and they found a waste of 190 gallons of bread and meat, while in three weeks, in December, they discovered a waste of 178 gallons of milk alone. The present system of barrack schools is notoriously expensive as well as inefficient, and I should like to emphasise what has been said as to the boarding out of pauper children. It is well known that the cost of boarding them out is a great deal less than the cost of keeping them in barrack schools. In Scotland 84 per cent. of the pauper children are boarded out, while in England only 5 per cent. are boarded out. There is this great difficulty, however, that unless the foster parents are care fully selected, and the children carefully inspected, their last state is worse than the first. I have had considerable experience of boarding out children for a limited period. I am connected with Committees which send 50,000 or 60,000 children to the country in the summer months in cottage homes, and that experience leads me to the conviction that all these pauper children should be sent to the country the whole year round. Of course, there are many villages where the house accommodation is so limited, and so bad, that no children could be boarded out to any good purpose; but, on the other hand, there are villages where the accommodation is good, and where the surroundings are wholesome from a moral, social, and education point of view. We are thankful for the limited amount of progress that has been made in this direction by the Local Government Board, but we ask that it should be continued and extended to a much greater degree.
§ DR. CLARK
There are two items on this vote to which I have a very strong objection. The first is the educational part. I have always thought it ridiculous that the Local Government Board should grant low grade certificates which nobody will accept. This matter ought to be in the hands of the Education 250 Department, and pauper children ought to be placed in the same condition as other children, and their teachers ought to be as competent as the teachers of the Board Schools. In fact, a lot of work is done by the Local Government Board which ought to be done by the Education Department. I have had a little experience of the Scotch boarding-out system. I was a member of the parochial board of one of the largest parishes in Scotland, which sends four members to Parliament, and all the children there were boarded out. I went out over and over again to inspect the children, and found in every case they were happy and comfortable, and became, in fact, the foster children of the foster parents, bore their name, and very often took charge of the old women in their declining years as if they were their own mothers. Ninety per cent. of the pauper children in Scotland are boarded out, and the system has been thoroughly successful in every direction. You take away the children from their early associations, place them where nobody knows whether they are pauper children or not, give them a home training, and afford them ten times a better chance of succeeding in after life than under the English system. My hon. friend the Member for Flintshire has spoken of ophthalmia and contagious diseases spreading among the children in the barrack schools. Twenty years ago I was medical officer for Norwood, and I saw plenty of the effects and physical evils of the barrack school system; but these were nothing to the moral evils. All you do under the English system is to breed a pauper class, and to take away all the elements of character which might be useful to the children in after life. I know not how long we are going to keep up this terrible system in England, the evils of which are admitted in every debate we have had for years in this House. We all agree that the boarding-out system is the best, but practically nothing is done. I hope we shall have a double Division—a Division against the Education Department on the vote, and a Division on the whole estimate.
§ MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
The constituency I have the honour to represent have a magnificent establishment 10 or 15 miles from London, and there, I venture to say, the cottage home system will compare 251 favourably with the boarding out system referred to by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The Local Government Board ought to have the credit that they have encouraged the cottage home system for pauper children. I have gone down to see these children within the last 10 days, and have seen them undergoing physical exercise which would have done credit to the best Board Schools. I admit that the old barrack system was very bad, but the method of the cottage home system, encouraged by the Local Government Board, is bearing splendid fruit, and the children are receiving the highest possible training to fit them for the struggle in life. Many of the parents of the children of the poorer parts of London regard with envy the training which these children get in the cottage homes. I have not enquired into the certificates which the teachers in these homes hold, but I have seen the training which they give to the children, and it is most exemplary.
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE
I think we will all agree that whatever the outcome of this debate may be, we are discussing one of the most important and interesting questions which could be discussed in this House—one far more important than those which have excited a great deal of feeling and have commanded a larger attendance, for we are discussing what is to be the future of those who, to use a popular phrase, are called the submerged tenth. We have heard to-night a great deal of the children in large barrack schools. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Flintshire in what he has said in regard to this subject, and we are all indebted to him for bringing up this question. But we must always bear in mind that barrack schools are mostly connected with the metropolis and certain other centres of population, such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, etc. We must not assume, in talking of children in barrack schools, that we are speaking necessarily of the whole pauper children in the country, because there are large numbers of children who are not, and never will be, or can be, sent to these barrack schools. In the past there has been a difficulty in dealing with these children in any other way. The barrack 252 schools were founded originally from the most excellent and philanthropic motives, but, like many other experiments, they have not worked out in the manner that was hoped. If you take an ordinary union in the rural districts, or in small country towns, you find that very few pauper children find their way into these large barrack schools, and that they have been boarded out or sent to cottage homes. The conclusion that this discussion seems to me to bring us to certainly coincides with my experience, namely, that there is no universal scheme to be found for the education and future training of the pauper child. You must adapt your machinery according to your circumstances, for the machinery which may be good for crowded centres in the metropolis and in our great provincial cities is not necessarily the best for the other districts which have been described. In reality, if this question is ever to be dealt with in any thorough going manner, it must be dealt with as a rule by a careful study of individual districts, and, I might almost say, of individual cases. I recollect, that some years ago there was in one of the reports of the Local Government Board a very able and interesting report written by Mr. Wodehouse, who occupied a position in the Local Government Board. That report showed that we must not rush away with the conclusion that the training of these children in pauper schools is always and invariably a failure. In that report Mr. Wodehouse quoted a great number of cases, drawn from the records of the Local Government Board, where boys who had been educated in pauper schools had succeeded in obtaining a most useful education, and had done exceedingly well afterwards in whatever career they had followed, either in this country or in foreign countries. But, if I may speak from my imperfect recollection of a report that I read some years ago, he pointed out in that report that there was great difficulty in connection with the education of the girls, and, so far as I recollect, he also pointed out that the best cases came from the smaller workhouse schools, where a larger amount of individual care would be given to each individual case, rather than from those barrack schools, which have, on the whole, received, and I think rightly received, the condemnation of my hon. Friend the member for Flint, 253 and also of the Committee which so carefully examined the whole matter some years ago. But we must bear this in mind: that while it is easy to condemn, for unanswerable reasons, the organisation of these barrack schools, it is not equally easy to see what you are to do with the enormous mass of children who are congregated in these schools. They are numbered by thousands. Close these schools to-morrow, and what are you going to do with these children the day after to-morrow? It is impossible to shoot them all into Canada or Australia, or to have their education conducted by a boarding-out committee. I think we ought to thank the right hon. Gentleman opposite for having appointed another lady inspector to visit the boarding-out children. The appointment, I believe, has been very carefully made, and the lady appointed is, I have every reason to think, doing admirable work. But more appointments are required. Then there is the question of cottage homes. I live not a great distance from the city of Bath, which has been mentioned to-night, and there I am informed that the system of cottage homes is working exceedingly well. In other cases we hear that some of these cottage homes are falling hack to the very system which has been made the principal charge against barrack schools, viz., that you are simply reducing barrack schools in one place in order to restore them in a slightly modified shape in another. I do not commit myself to any assertion as to whether this is correct or not; I only mention it to show that the matter is one which can only be solved by the most extreme care in individual cases. The conclusion I would venture to urge is that the remedy for the evils which affect this large and unfortunate class of pauper children who are so deserving of our sympathy is not to be found in any one set of cut-and-dried measures. You must look to boarding-out where you can form a suitable boarding-out committee and appoint efficient inspectors. Many cases can be dealt with effectually by emigration. Under exceptional circumstances you may still be able to deal advantageously with the children in schools connected with workhouses; and others you may deal with in those cottage homes which are, as it were, a combination of school and home. I think that this debate will in any case have been useful, 254 and that we shall all feel that we owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Flint for having raised this question; and I have no doubt that year after year, in proportion as this question continues to receive attention, we shall find that we have gradually removed that large class of pauper children who are now so heavy a tax upon our resources and upon the ratepayers of the country.
§ MR. MIDDLEMORE (Birmingham, N.)
In the speech to which we have just listened many salient points have been touched upon, and there is no one here who could not learn something from it. I have some knowledge of the schools to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, and, as to barrack schools, I think he touched precisely upon the right point in saying that we must be guided in our appreciation or condemnation of a school by the surrounding circumstances My own experience is that large schools are very useful when we get as schoolmasters men who devote themselves thoroughly to the work, whose character is a daily inspiration to children, and who are able to make a school a great moral and intellectual institution. But I think as a rule cottage homes are far better, because they are smaller, and because the selection of a good superintendent is far easier than the selection of a really powerful man. The boarding-out system requires good arrangement. Although the Local Government Board do not select the managers of the barrack schools they certainly do select people to visit Canada to inspect the boarding-out system there and they generally select men who know as much about Canada as they know about Heaven. These persons have sent home some extremely ridiculous reports In Canada everything depends upon the personnel. You want first-class visitors, because you have to overcome the objection of the people to receive these children. My experience of them is that many of them are so "wooden" and stupid that they would far rather receive children direct from the streets than from the ordinary workhouse schools. The whole matter, in my opinion, depends upon the personnel of the managers
§ MR. DILLON
There can be no doubt whatever that question of the education of pauper children is one of the most 255 important subjects that ever came under the consideration of this House, because if we are ever in this country to make a serious effort to do away with the curse of pauperism, which I conceive to be one of the greatest reproaches of modern civilisation, and the peculiar characteristics of which are that it seems to increase in proportion to the enormous increase of wealth, the position we must first attack is that of the pauper children. I take a very particular interest in this subject, because it is a burning question in Ireland, and because I think if we were let alone we are in process of teaching the people of this country how to deal with this subject. I contend that upon this particular question of our pauper children we are far ahead of this enormously wealthy country. The noble Lord towards the end of his very interesting speech touched upon what seemed to me to be one of the most hopeful and promising methods of dealing with this whole question, and that is the substitution for the present system of bringing up those unhappy children of the industrial school system. I have always held, from the time I first gave any attention to this great problem, that it is immoral, and, in fact, criminal, for any community to keep children in workhouses who cannot under any circumstances, or in any degree, be responsible for the unfortunate position in which they are placed. It is the duty of the State to rescue them from the circumstances in which they are brought into the world, and to give them every chance of becoming honest and self-supporting citizens. This great and wealthy country has failed in its duty by leaving those children in barrack schools and Poor Law schools under circumstances which hamper them in the struggle for existence, and they are sent forth at the very out-start of their young lives, devoid of the spirit of self-respect. But even if they receive a decent education in Poor Law schools, they go forth branded with the brand of pauperism. The noble Lord spoke of a few cases which came under his own notice, of children taken from Poor Law schools and sent to industrial schools. That was where all those children should be sent. I do not say we should have a cast - iron system. There might be cases iii which the children might be boarded out where there would be 256 an excellent committee, and where the rural population was of such a character as to lend itself to a boarding-out system. I believe that system is a great success in Scotland. There you have a class of small homes and good living people, whose family affections are so strong that they can absorb those children into their own families. There are districts where the boarding-out system is cruel, because the population is not of the character which could bear the boarding-out of children, and where some other system must be devised; and where that is the case, the proper direction to take for the administration of those children is the development of the industrial school system to such an extent as would absorb all the children, and separate them by a gulf from those unhappy creatures who must be accommodated in workhouses. That I believe to be practicable and not a difficult plan to carry out. We in Ireland were carrying it out, but we were accused of evading the law. Perhaps we were evading the law, but we were doing so in the cause of Christian charity, and with most marvellous results. We got, no doubt, into the industrial schools in Ireland large bodies of children who in this country, by a more strict interpretation of the law, would be sent to barrack schools or Poor Law schools. In my opinion all the children who are unprovided for, and who are sent under the present law which prevails in this country into poor houses, ought to be accommodated in industrial schools, and it is because I believe, and strongly believe, that it is in this direction mainly, perhaps, not solely, that the remedy must be found for this great and crying evil, that I have been induced to say a few words in this discussion.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Everyone will acknowledge the importance of this subject, and I have no complaint to make as to the manner in which it has been presented to the Committee. We have necessarily had a somewhat discursive debate, but I think I will be consulting the convenience of the Committee if I reply to one or two minor points which have been raised, and then deal with the general case. The hon. Member for the Elland division complained of the action of the Local Government Board in permitting school children to present themselves on the road to Epsom to the view 257 of passers-by, and of the fact that sometimes in their good nature the passers-by flung small coins to the children. It is argued that this is extremely demoralising to the children, and I have been asked to use my authority to put an end to that proceeding. I am sorry to differ from the hon. Member, but I see nothing whatever discreditable in the proceeding. The children do not beg; nothing of the kind is permitted. All that happens is that the children assemble to watch the passers-by in train and carriage going down to Epsom, and some of the passengers fling pennies and sixpences to the children, which in the course of a year amount to a not inconsiderable sum, which is invariably expended in giving the children an outing at the seaside or elsewhere. That is a proceeding which nothing would induce me, as President of the Local Government Board, to prevent, even if it cost me my salary. With regard to the education of Poor Law children, many hon. Gentlemen have argued that it is very improper, and in their opinion very undesirable, that the education of these children as regards standard and teachers should be less in any respect than the education given to children in public elementary schools. I am not disposed to disagree with that statement myself, and as far as the Local Government Board is concerned it has done all it can to meet the views expressed on that point. We have put ourselves in communication with the Education Department, and we have told them that we are perfectly ready to hand over the inspection of the education of these Poor Law children to them; but difficulties have arisen in connection with the subject over which I have no control, and there the matter remains at present. So far as the Local Government Board is concerned, we are prepared and ready to put the inspection of the education of these children in the hands of the Education Department. The hon. Member who introduced the motion, and who moved the reduction of my salary—I am glad to say by an insignificant amount—commenced by referring to the report of the Committee which was appointed to investigate the whole question connected with the Poor Law schools of the metropolis. He dealt at some length with the recommendations of the Committee, and he referred to the condemnation of the barrack schools, with 258 which I entirely agree. We have had two or three exhaustive debates on this subject already, and there is absolutely no difference of opinion between us. But then the hon. Member went on to say: "Here are all these evils put before the House over and over again, and practically nothing whatever has been done." As to that I must differ from him. As I have been challenged on the point, it will be my duty to state as briefly as I can what really has been done with regard to the partial adoption of the recommendations contained in the report of the Committee to which he has referred. As soon as I succeeded to the charge of the Local Government Board, one of the first duties I undertook was to enquire into this question, and the conclusion I came to was that the proposal in the report of the Committee recommending that the charge of the Poor Law schools in the metropolis should be put into the hands of an entirely new Department was one which it would be unwise and injudicious to adopt. I arrived also at the conclusion that with regard to certain classes of children—children suffering from various diseases and infirmities—it was very desirable that they should all be treated by one central authority, instead of being treated in different districts; and we proceeded to take measures to do that, the central authority selected for the purpose, after a great deal of consideration, being the Metropolitan Asylums Board. The great complaint of the hon. Member is the barrack system. The barrack system has grown up out of the five metropolitan school districts. The hon. Member says we have done nothing in this matter. Since I have been at the Local Government Board, of those five districts we have dissolved two. These things are not to be dissolved in a moment, with all the arrangements which they have for educating pauper children, and all the moneys they have expended in building and one thing and another. Considering the time that we have been at the Local Government Board, it is going too far to say that we have done nothing.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
The hon. Member has said over and over again "practically nothing has been done." I will tell him what has been done. I speak of the five 259 unions of the South Metropolitan District, comprising the Unions of Camberwell, Greenwich, St. Olave's, Stepney, and Woolwich. By the dissolution of that district 2,841 children had been provided for: 692 in Camberwell, 801 Greenwich, 670 in St. Olave's, 326 in Stepney, and 352 children at Woolwich. I do not say that all these arrangements have been completed at present, but very considerable progress has been made, as the Committee will perceive in a moment. With regard to Camberwell, we have sanctioned the purchase of twenty scattered homes, which are to contain fifteen children; so at once there is provision made for 300 children out of that 692. In addition to that, there is to be a central Cottage Home adjacent, to provide for 200 more. The site for this home has been approved by the Local Government Board, and it is a site having buildings upon it which can be adapted to this purpose. That provides for 500 children, and leaves 192 still to be provided for. Upon that subject we are in communication at this moment with the Board of Guardians as to how they will provide for these. They propose to do that by the purchase of ten more scattered homes, each to contain fifteen children. In Greenwich we have 801 children, and the guardians there propose to buy, to begin with, six freehold houses for separate homes in Culvert Road, each house to contain ten children, and then they propose to purchase 65 acres of land for Cottage Homes. This land is situated at a place called Sidcup. The remainder is to be provided for by boarding out. With regard to St. Olave's, there are 670 children to be provided for. The guardians there have proposed to purchase sites for their accommodation, but the price asked for the land is so extremely high, £357 an acre, that we have asked for further explanations as to the kind of site, and the Board of Trade has not yet given its sanction for the purchase of that land. Then we have Stepney, with 326 children; they are asking now for permission to purchase a site in Essex on which to provide for Cottage Homes, with 15 in each house, awl they have provided for the remaining 260 children by proposing to make four blocks containing 60 children each. The purchase of this site has been approved by the Local Government Board, and the plans are being prepared at this present moment. With 260 regard to the merits of scattered homes, blocks, and cottage homes, it will be more convenient, perhaps, if I express my views upon that at a later stage in the evening. With regard to the Union of Woolwich, where 352 children are to he provided for, the purchase of a site of 31 acres of land at Plumstead has been authorised by the Local Government Board, and it is proposed to accommodate the children by building small blocks to contain 40 children each, and some will be provided for in detached homes containing fifteen each. I have not seen the plans of these yet, but we are informed that we may expect them almost directly. The hon. Member says that we have done nothing, but I think that he will admit at all events that some progress has been made for providing for the children in that particular Union. But we also have to provide for a special class. Five classes of children are to be taken charge of in future by the Metropolitan Asylums Board—ophthalmic children, 800; children suffering from ringworm, 400; convalescent children, 360; children defective in intellect, 60; and remand children, 273.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I believe so. Then, with regard to the ophthalmic children, two sites have been acquired—one at Brentwood, in Essex, and one at Swanley, in Kent—on which schools are to be built for their accommodation. It is proposed to establish the children suffering from ringworm in the girls' school at Banstead, which will accommodate them extremely well. This property has recently been acquired by the Metropolitan Asylums Board. In regard to convalescents, there has been provided a home at Herne Bay for 134, a home at Margate for 91, and arrangements are being made for the accommodation of 100 at another place. For children who are mentally defective, two houses, one of which is at Peckham, have been provided, which will accommodate 20 each, and provision is to be made for the others; and for remands one house has been bought at Camberwell and another will be purchased at Hampstead which will accommodate 50 each. The difficulty which has arisen with regard to this class of children is that they must be 261 within reasonable reach of the Court to which the children will have to be brought back. That difficulty has been surmounted by an agreement between the guardians and the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the police by which they will undertake to convey them to the Court when required. The school managers of the district have agreed to sell to the Metropolitan Asylums Board their property at Sutton and Banstead, and in that way I think we have satisfactorily disposed of the state of things under which the barrack system flourished in the past. We have also provided accommodation at other places. I come now to some other questions which have been raised in this discussion, and in particular to the system of "boarding-out." It is a practice I have adopted myself, and the Local Government Board have no objection to it; on the contrary we have always advocated it. It has been pointed out that there are two great difficulties in connection with this question; the difficulty of proper inspection and the difficulty of getting good foster parents. With regard to the first we have been rather blamed, but I am not altogether my own master in this matter, and when I ask for more inspectors there is always a fight with another portion of the Government. But we have an additional staff of inspectors, and, so far as I am concerned, I must say that I am in utter ignorance as to the way in which these inspectors have been guilty of failure or neglect of duty. I believe I am correct in saying that they have performed their duties with satisfaction to us. With regard to the question of scattered homes, the Committee will perceive, by the permission we have given to the district of Camberwell, that there is no disinclination whatever on the part of the Local Government Board to give that system a fair trial. I t has been suggested by one hon. Member that it has been tried with complete success at Bedford, Bath, and Sheffield.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I am sorry I did not hear that, because with regard to Sheffield we have some very unsatisfactory reports indeed. What I do want to impress upon the House is this, that if we have not been able to accept all the propositions that 262 have been made with regard to the future of these children, it is because a very grave responsibility rests upon us. For my part. I can conceive nothing more unhappy, or more to be commiserated, in regard to some poor unfortunate child than that it should be relegated to some scattered home, free altogether from inspection, where it might possibly be living unhappily, and, as often might be the case, where it was unkindly treated, and regarded solely as something out of which a profit ought to be made, rather than that the child should be brought up with advantage to itself. But human nature is human nature after all, and unless these people are most carefully watched something of that kind is sure to happen; and I think the Committee will understand that if the Local Government Board do not jump at these proposals as some hon. Members think we ought to do, it is because we do not want to relegate these poor little souls to homes of that kind. For my own part, after a very careful personal inspection of many of these homes, I have always regarded the cottage home system with great favour. Something has been said in the course of this debate about industrial training, and the necessity for promoting it amongst these children. I do not think there is anything which ought to be fostered more than that, for it is a real way of educating these children so as to give them an opportunity of making provision for themselves in after life. Industrial training is most carefully attended to at these cottage homes, and, if the hon. Gentleman had seen the actual results of the training at some of the cottage homes under the control of the South Metropolitan School Managers, I think he would be most agreeably surprised, and he would be led to form the opinion which I hold myself, that there is a great deal to be said for the system of keeping these children in cottage homes. Another question has been raised upon which the conduct of the Local Government Board has been very much criticised. We have been condemned in some quarters because we have sanctioned provision being made for the children who have been displaced by the closing of the South Metropolitan Schools District under the block system. Under that system the number of children under one management is to be limited to 300, and they are to be accommodated in different blocks of 263 not more than 60 in each. I confess that, as a general rule, I should have preferred cottage homes wherever they are possible, although I have seen some very remarkable instances of success in connection with the block system. The girls school at Banstead was conducted on that principle, and I never saw in my life an establishment which filled me with more admiration, and which appeared to me to be better conducted, or which produced better practical results, which is the very best test of the successful management of an institution of that kind, There you have a number of children to provide for, and your great object ought to be to bring them up at your school so that they would be able to provide for themselves happily and comfortably in after life. In this institution, after the very closest and most careful examination of what was going on, I asked the lady manager if, when these children left her, she could get good places for them, and she replied, "I have not the slightest difficulty in the world; in fact, I cannot keep pace with the demand; everybody wants the girls from my establishment." She told me that the year before last she had received over 1,000 applications for girls as servants, and she was not able to supply more than 150. I want to know if you can have a more successful bringing up of Poor Law children than that? In the face of that fact, and also in the face of the statement made by the boards of guardians, that not only did they prefer the blocks, but that they also found that their expenditure would be very considerably less than it would be by the provision of cottage homes, I came to the conclusion that I should have no right, and should not be justified, in forcing upon them my own particular view in the face of all they had said to me, and in the face of such results as I have described which had followed as a result of the block system. But there is also this to be said—that I might have had very considerable difficulty in enforcing my views upon them if they had rejected them. It is quite true that I could have refused my sanction to any plans or proposals to which I objected, but the result of that would have been to have brought us to an absolute deadlock. The hon. Member for Bradford has asked me when the Sutton schools will be closed. In reply, I may say that they will be closed as soon as the new accommodation is provided. How 264 soon that will be it is not in my power to say, but I may tell the hon. Member this—that I never lose an opportunity of pressing upon all parties concerned the necessity of providing for this new accommodation at as early a date as possible. With regard to emigration, I may say that the Local Government Board do all in their power to further that system, and we never refuse our assistance to an application for emigration from any board of guardians in the country unless it be under circumstances which we think might be dangerous or injurious to the child. We are, however, obliged to insist upon a certain condition with regard to inspection up to the age of 16, and we insist that there should be an inspection every year. The Canadian Government have objected to the cost of this, which, in consequence, falls upon the guardians, and probably it is owing to this—to my great regret—that emigration to Canada has fallen off in number during the last year. Still, in my judgment, that is far better than that the children should go out to Canada as emigrants to be taken into service in distant parts of the Dominion without due safeguards, and every word that I use with regard to children and their dangerous position in scattered homes tells with ten times greater force with regard to Children emigrating to Canada. I think, to the best of my ability, I have dealt with all the various questions which have been raised—or certainly with most of them—in the course of the debate upon this question, and I can only assure the Committee that this subject which we have been engaged in discussing this afternoon is not only one of which I recognise the extreme importance, but, as has been pointed out by the noble Lord, it is one in which I take a deep personal interest myself. I can also assure hon. Gentlemen that, so far as it rests with me, nothing shall be wanting on my part to secure the better education and the welfare of these children. There are two matters which had almost escaped my memory—one was with regard to the question of vagrant children. Perhaps I may remind the Committee that my hon. friend the Member for Bradford, with the full knowledge and support of the Local Government Board, introduced a Bill on this subject last year which would have had a very considerable effect upon this question. It was, unfortunately, 265 stopped by the action of the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Bethnal Green, but the Government, if it is possible to find time, will introduce a Bill on that subject which will no doubt be founded upon the Bill of the hon. Member, and I hope it may have some considerable effect in enabling us to solve that question. There is one other matter which, for the moment, escaped my memory, and that is the question raised by my hon. friend the Member for Derby, who spoke of the great advantages of the training which is to be enjoyed by Poor Law children on the training-ship "Exmouth." With that I entirely agree, and I doubt very much if among all the different forms of education for Poor Law children there is one which is more successful than the education given upon that ship. It performs a double purpose. We are a great naval nation, and our supremacy throughout the world in every quarter of the globe depends upon our Navy, and our Navy depends upon our having a sufficient number of seamen. Therefore, when our Poor Law children are sent, as they are at the present moment, on training ships, a double purpose is fulfilled. Children are brought up there more happily, more healthily, and under circumstances more desirable perhaps than any other system of Poor Law education; while, at the same time, it trains a race of sailors who may be most useful to their country in after life. My hon. friend appeals to me to do my utmost to extend that system. That is my desire, and it is also my intention, and I hope no distant time may elapse before we may have, not one, but many ships performing a similar duty and working under similar conditions. I thank the Committee for allowing me to dwell at so much length upon this question, which was so exhaustively debated upon a former occasion, and I hope that, to the best of my ability, I have dealt with nearly all the questions put before me.
§ Motion by leave withdrawn.
§ Original question again proposed.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon &c.)
I wish to call attention to a question which I have already pressed on the 266 Local Government Board. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is now prepared to take some steps to put into operation the clause of the Local Government Act of 1888 which empowers him to delegate certain functions of his Board to the county councils. This question has been very carefully considered by the county councils individually and by the County Councils Association, and the latter body has drafted a scheme and submitted it to the Local Government Board. That scheme has been considered by a Committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman himself to consider the arrears of work. The Local Government Board has, year by year, had an increasing amount of work cast upon it by legislation, and, to show the importance of this matter, the scheme of the County Councils Association proposes to delegate something like 112 powers, mostly exceedingly trivial, to the county councils. These powers include the question of altering the boundaries of parishes, of fixing the names of district councils, and of deciding on the tolls and dates of fairs, and similar small matters. I think all these powers could very well be delegated to the county councils. Boundary questions, for instance, take up a lot of the time of the Local Government Board, and as the chiefs of the staff find it quite impossible to give attention to insignificant little matters of purely local moment, although of importance to the parish, they are neglected. The departmental committee proposed to meet the difficulty of coping with the work by increasing the clerical staff. That, I suggest, is not the way to deal with it, for in that case the duties would be left in the hands of inexperienced persons, who would be unable to grasp those principles which make efficient administrators of local affairs. Seeing that this Act was passed eleven years ago, is it not time that something was done in this matter? I know it is very difficult to persuade a Department to rid itself of any portion of its work. But is not this rather a matter for a Committee of the House of Commons than for a departmental committee? May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that a Parliamentary Committee might be appointed with a view to developing some scheme for putting this clause into operation. Again, I may suggest that if, in parts of England, 267 there are difficulties in the Way, owing to the position of non-county boroughs, the experiment might well be tried in other parts where such difficulties are nonexistent. Wales certainly offers such a field. Welsh county councils are practically unanimous in desiring the proposed change, and if the experiment were tried there and proved successful, then it could be extended to the rest of the country. As to the case of non-county boroughs, I don't know whether there is any real difficulty beyond that raised by the official element—by, for instance, the town clerks. I think that if it were left to the county councils themselves they would promptly give effect to the clause.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
I wish to call attention to a matter which has excited a good deal of interest in the country. It is one concerning the administration of the Poor Law, and it affects the question of adequate religious ministration in workhouses. There can be no doubt there has been a determined attempt to prevent the appointment of workhouse chaplains, and in consequence a large number of the inmates of our unions are deprived of the proper means of spiritual support and help. I complain, first, of the failure of boards of guardians in a great many unions to appoint chaplains; and, secondly, of the failure of the Local Government Board to carry out the law on this point. I may remind the Committee that by the Poor Law Act, 1834, the Poor Law Commissioners, whose successors are the Local Government Board, were empowered to appoint paid officers, and these were defined to include clergymen. The Act did not lay it down definitely that a clergyman or chaplain should be appointed in every case, but four years after it was passed the Poor Law Commissioners issued a circular in which they said it was the duty of boards of guardians to appoint chaplains in every case. They said, in effect, the Commissioners think such an appointment is in all cases necessary: first of all for the superintending of the moral and religious state of the inmates generally; secondly, for the direction of the religious instruction of the children; and thirdly, for the administration of spiritual counsel to the aged, infirm, and sick. In the year 1847 the Poor Law Board issued a general order that no chaplain, whenever a vacancy occurred, was to be 268 appointed without the consent of the Bishop. Therefore it is established that under the existing law it is the duty of every board of guardians to appoint a chaplain for every workhouse. It is very important that that should be done to provide for the spiritual health and comfort of these poor people. That has been the law ever since the Act of 1834 was passed; but, as a matter of fact, the law is constantly evaded. I find from the Poor Law Report of last year that there are 650 unions, with 674 workhouses; but there are only 571 chaplains, and therefore it is clear that there are over a hundred workhouses without any chaplain at all.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I am speaking of the paid and regularly appointed chaplains. In Lancashire there are ten workhouses out of twenty-three without chaplains, in the West Riding of Yorkshire twenty-one out of thirty-five, and in Cornwall out of thirteen unions there is no chaplain at all. I can appreciate the point of the hon. Member opposite that there are volunteer chaplains or other means by which spiritual ministrations may be given to the paupers; but I submit that that is not a proper fulfilling of the spiritual work of the workhouses. A clergyman should be duly appointed to devote his whole time to the work, and if that is not done the law is evaded. I go further and say that there are several instances where no provision whatever has been made for religious ministrations in the workhouses. Take, for instance, the case of Nottingham, where there was no chaplain for ten months, and the inspector complained that the inmates were dying without any religious ministration at all. In the following year the master of the workhouse made a similar complaint; and no provision from that day to this has ever been made for the inmates of that workhouse who belong to the Church of England, although they are in a large majority. It is true that a clergyman from a neighbouring parish has been allowed to come in at four o'clock on Sunday afternoon to give religious ministration, but that is the hour when able-bodied inmates go out for exercise. What has happened in the case of the Nottingham Union has happened in many other cases. I do not wish to treat this matter in any sectional spirit; 269 but I say that, owing to the failure of the guardians to appoint chaplains, and the failure of the Local Government Board to carry out the law, we are running, a very great risk that in these workhouses no adequate or proper religious ministrations are provided at all. Moreover, in a considerable number of cases boards of guardians have made direct infractions of the law. At Nottingham, for instance, instead of a clergyman of the Church of England, a Dissenting layman was appointed. No doubt every provision is made to secure religious liberty, but the law contemplates the appointment of a chaplain of the Church of England, and ministers of all denominations are quite properly allowed to visit the workhouses.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
By the rules of the Poor Law Board ministers of all religious denominations are allowed to go into the workhouses to give ministrations to the members of their own creed and to instruct the children; but what I am complaining of is that in a great many cases the boards of guardians have made special provision for various religious bodies, and have directly excluded all provision for the members of the Church of England. I will take the case of Abergavenny, in the county of Monmouth. Here a clergyman of the Church of England applied to have the right to come into the workhouse, without any remuneration, to have service on Sunday, and Holy Communion on Easter Day, but he was not allowed to do so unless he would consent to join in a rota with other ministers of different creeds. At the same time when a Roman Catholic priest made a similar application he was allowed to do so. I ask why these religious disabilities are placed on the members of the Church of England, who are in the vast majority, when special privileges are given to the ministers of other creeds. I say that it is the duty of the Local Government Board to make inquiry, and if the law is broken to see, at all events, that no further disability is placed on the ministers of the Church of England. Let me give another case. It has been distinctly laid down that ministers of various creeds may go into workhouses and give ministration to those who belong to their creed. Nobody is compelled to attend any 270 service winch is not of his particular denomination. But there are various cases where the children of Church of England parents in workhouses have been compelled to go to what are called undenominational services. In South Shields, for instance, all the children have been compelled to attend the service of a body called the Sunday School Union—an undenominational body. The matter was brought before the Local Government Board, and that Board rather characteristically, stated that they hoped the Churchmen interested would not press the case. The case was pressed, and the Board wrote a letter in which it was stated that there was no evidence that the children were compelled to attend a religious service not of their own creed, because, they said, the service was not religious. A similar case occurred at St. Asaph, where the children were compelled to attend an undenomonational service. There the Local Government Board took a very different line, and wrote a letter in which they laid it down that even although the service might be called undenominational, if it was given by any minister of any denomination it would be regarded as a service of that denomination, and that therefore the opinion of the Board was that the action of the Board of Guardians was not in accordance with the intention of the Act. I ask, Is it fair to Church of England parents that their children should be compelled to be sent to services to which they do not give their assent? I will give another instance. At St. Albans all the children in the workhouse have been compelled to attend Dissenting services in the Union chapel. The Local Government Board in this case acted with greater bravery, and ordered that the children who were on the Church of England register should not be compelled to attend the service. The Board of Guardians, however, refused to carry out the order of the Local Government Board, although only one of the children was a Dissenter, all the rest belonging to the Church of England. I do not want to deal with this matter in any narrow or bigoted spirit, but I say we are running great danger. We are running very great danger of two things—first, of compelling the children of Church of England parents, contrary to all their principles of religious liberty, to attend services which are disapproved of by the parents, and, secondly, by the 271 failure to appoint chaplains, of providing, in many cases, no sufficient religious instruction for these inmates. I venture to think this is a matter which demands the prompt attention of the Local Government Board. Not only is it the law that there should be chaplains appointed in workhouses, but it is also the law that there should be chaplains appointed in prisons for convicts. In the case of workhouses the matter is left to the board of guardians and the Local Government Board. In the case of prisons it is left to the Home Office. I have shown that in the case of workhouses the law is rarely carried out at all, and the conditions under which chaplains have to work are often unsatisfactory. Every single prison is provided for, whereas a great number of workhouses are not provided for at all. I venture to think that the results which have been obtained, and obtained quietly, without any sectional animosity, in our prison and convict establishments ought to be obtained also in the workhouses.
Motion made, and Question proposed:
That item A (Salaries), be reduced by £150, in respect of the Salary of the President of time Local Government Board."—(Mr. Griffith-Boscawen.)
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE
I do not desire to follow my hon. friend on the opposite side of the House into the various questions of detail with regard to the appointment of chaplains which he has raised, because each turns upon the particular facts of the case which are known to him; but I am anxious to say something with regard to the very important matter which was raised by my friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—I mean in regard to the various proposals which have been made from time to time to try and carry out the clause of the Local Government Act of 1888, which proposed to delegate a considerable amount of the powers of the Local Government Board, in matters of detail, to the county councils. There can be no doubt that that proposal at the time excited a very wide feeling of interest in the country. I recollect very well the interest it excited on this side of the House. I was a Member at the time that this Bill passed into law, but I know there was no portion of the Bill which excited so great an amount of interest as that clause. The year after it became law, a Committee of this House was appointed to examine the question, and a Provisional 272 Order was presented by the Local Government Board, and laid on the table of this House, proposing to carry out the terms of the clause in question, and it was referred to that Committee, which, if I recollect rightly, was presided over by Mr. Stansfeld, who had been President of the Local Government Board, and possessed a knowledge of local government law second to no man in the country. A strong opposition had just begun to show itself for the first time, and the Government thought it wise to withdraw the Provisional Order. Subsequently the County Councils Association, hoping that these passions—if I may call them so—would subside, brought forward a very carefully prepared scheme. Communications followed between the Local Government Board and the County Councils Association and the association representing non-county boroughs, and the result was the appointment of a Departmental Committee. There, I regret to say, these difficulties again arose. They were found not to have diminished by time, but, on the contrary, to have increased, because a considerable number of Acts of Parliament were passed conferring fresh powers on the county councils, and with regard to nearly all of these matters questions of difference—greater or less, according to circumstances—arose between the county councils and the non-county boroughs, and in nearly all those cases, I regret to say, those differences have continued, and hardly in one of them has a satisfactory settlement been arrived at. The Committee was presided over by Sir John Hibbert, for many years a Member of this House, and Secretary to the Local Government Board on one occasion, and Secretary to the Treasury on another; and if there was one man in the country who could have brought these difficulties to a satisfactory termination Sir John Hibbert was that man. But his efforts, and the efforts of the Committee over which he presided, were entirely ineffective; and the result is that the matter remains exactly where it did. My hon. friend has made a suggestion, which may be a practicable one. He says that in Wales these differences between the county councils and the non-county boroughs are not so acute as they are, unfortunately, in England, and possibly a delegation of powers might be made to a particular county or group of counties in the hope that conviction might be carried 273 to the minds of the non-county boroughs. I believe that the suspicions of the non-county boroughs are founded upon nothing, and are really matters of prejudice. Suspicions are excited, articles are written in local newspapers, an ancient borough is assured that the county council desires to control its liberties, when really no such idea is entertained. However unreasonable all these suspicions, there they are, and they are a most serious matter. I am not going to complain of the action of the Local Government Board, knowing as I do these difficulties, because hitherto they have failed to solve this exceedingly difficult problem, and here I must add that there is another difficulty which has not yet been mentioned. The Local Government Board, Sir John Hibbert stated only yesterday at a meeting of the County Councils Association, was rather inclined to intimate to the county councils that as several of these questions were sanitary matters, the fact that such a very small number of the county councils of England had appointed medical officers of health was one reason why the Local Government Board might well hesitate to confer large powers in regard to sanitary matters. The county councils have the remedy in regard to that matter in their own hands. I have in my own county quite recently had to fight this question of the appointment of a medical officer of health, and it has been carried to a successful issue. If the county councils wish to put themselves right with the public they shonld appoint medical officers of health, and thereby deprive non-county boroughs of one solid argument which they have made against the delegation of these powers by the Local Government Board.
§ MR. J.G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
I wish to emphasise in a very few words the complaint which my hon. friend the Member for Tonbridge has made as to the treatment of some of the poorer inhabitants of the country who are obliged to end their days in workhouses. It is a strange thing that, after having successfully laboured for many years to remove religious disabilities, we should have arrived at a time when religious disabilities are imposed on one denomination only, viz., the Church of England. I will illustrate what I mean by the case of South Shields. In the South Shields Union, all the children (including Church of England children) attend an undenomi- 274 national service. Although there are 600 inmates, the Guardians refuse to appoint and pay a chaplain, and there is no Church of England service on Sundays. According to the South Shields Daily Gazette, at the undenominational service for the children—No religions teaching is introduced, no child is compelled to attend.… no creed or dogma or religious teaching of any kind is placed before the children at these meetings.I suppose some persons who have studied this question will look upon this state of things as a judgment upon the Church of England for what, no doubt, was a grievous mistake on her part in former days, when she denied to others the liberties which she herself enjoyed. The conditions have remarkably changed now, but I do not see that that is any reason for acquiescing in what must be acknowledged to be an act of real injustice. It seems that now members of the Church of England in workhouses are the only people who do not receive religious ministrations from chaplains of their denomination. Members of the Church of England will not be satisfied until the religious grievance as to chaplains is removed, and if not removed by the action of the Local Government Board other steps must be taken.
MR. J. H. ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
I regret very much that the shadow of religious controversy which falls upon these subjects has manifested itself in the discussion upon the question of the administration of the poor law schools in this House this evening. My desire is to emphasise the importance of the question which has been raised by my hon. friend. It seems to me that the Committee does not sufficiently realise the position of the Local Government Board in this matter and the work it performs. The hon. Gentleman opposite said the amount of arrears was simply appalling. Reference has been made to the Departmental Committee of 1896, which issued two reports, one in 1897 and one in June last year. I do not want to weary the Committee with many statistics, but he would just lay before them one or two talking figures bearing on the subject. The report of the Committee referred to the enormous extent in which the work had increased during the two or three year mentioned. In 1895 the department received and règistered 119,000 letters, and in 1896 275 the amount was 168,000. The Committee also pointed out that the number of enquiries had increased in 1896 to double the amount it was in 1885. In 1885 there were 2,000,000 inquiries, in 1896 6,000,000. All these figures prove that the work in all departments during the last ten or fifteen years has more than doubled itself. It was pointed out that the arrears were greatest in the Public Health Department, and that at the end of 1896 there there were more than 100 cases awaiting enquiry, cases unallotted to the inspectors. The Committee recommended a reorganisation of the staff, and went on to say that it would cost a great deal of money, but that they thought that if the country obtained prompt attention to the work it would not grudge the extra amount. I doubt whether any reorganisation will effectually cope with the largely increased duties. The second report, June, 1898, referred to the more important question of the devolution of powers on the county councils. I hardly think the reason given by the Committee when they say they cannot recommend any scheme is a sufficient one. They point to the fact that the Provisional Order Bill of 1889 was discussed by the Committee upstairs, and was opposed by the opinion of the parties generally, and that they think this opposition has not abated, but that there still continues a certain amount of opposition to the devolution of these powers to the county councils. There are, at all events, three different circumstances which give to Wales a strong case to have these powers tried within its boroughs. First of all, all the Welsh county councils have asked for a devolution of the powers; secondly, the Welsh county councils have had considerable experience of this Act; thirdly, the circumstances of Wales are different in many respects to those of the rest of the country generally, and there is no doubt the country is ripe for this devolution. In conclusion, I will simply remind the Committee of a few words used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton in the debate on this question last year. He said—Devolution is one of the first questions which ought to engage the attention of the Local Government Board, but I do not think a Departmental Committee is the best tribunal to which it could be referred, but that it should be referred to a Committee of the whole House.276 I think it is a great pity such a valuable instruction should be allowed to rust for want of additional powers. I am glad to express my appreciation of the sympathetic reply given on this question by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board last year and to-night. I trust that during the last twelve months he has had time and opportunity to acquire further information as to the desirability of making this transfer of powers to the county councils, and that he will to-night be able to give us a statement to that effect.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I served upon the Departmental Committee to which reference has been made, and that is the reason why I have been asked to reply to the observations made by my hon. friend on the other side. My hon. friend said he thought that a Departmental Committee was not the proper method by which to consider this question, and he suggested that a Committee of the whole House of Commons would have done the work better. I wish to point out to him that he has had both a Departmental Committee and a Committee of the House of Commons.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The first thing that I wish to impress on the Committee is that so far as the Local Government Board is concerned it has been in complete sympathy with the county councils. Everybody knows how we are overburdened with work, and no one knowing anything about the Local Government Board, and feeling the pressure there, could fail to have great sympathy with the proposal to transfer work to county councils or to any other body capable of dealing with it. In less than a year after the passing of the Act of 1888 a Provisional Order was made not only for the transference of work from the Local Government Board to the County Council, but also work from the Board of Trade and the Home Office. The Bill for the confirmation of the Order, after second reading, went upstairs to a Select Committee, who heard evidence upon the subject, but that Bill was so bitterly opposed that the Committee came to the conclusion and reported that in their opinion it opened up 277 questions which were beyond their power, and that the Bill must be abandoned. The real difficulty which the Committee had to consider was the bitter hostility of the non-county boroughs to any transfer of powers to the county councils. The Departmental Committee was appointed originally to inquire into the organisation of the Local Government Board, and it was only after they had been sitting for some time that the reference to them was extended so as to include this question of devolution. The Committee then took into consideration the question as to how far it was possible to devolve on county councils certain duties discharged by the Local Government Board. A scheme was submitted, and we examined witnesses from the County Councils' Association, from non county boroughs, and from urban districts, some of the latter having populations greater than many boroughs. The Committee found from the outset that instead of this feeling of hostility on the part of non-county boroughs having disappeared, if anything, it had become intensified in the interim. Sir John Hibbert then suggested as a compromise, and the Committee were prepared to recommend that the non-county boroughs should be at liberty to elect between the Local Government Board and the county councils. The witnesses would not listen even to that mild proposal, and speaking for 110 non-county boroughs and a large number of urban districts they told the Committee that they would prefer to be under the central authority rather than the county councils. It is not too much to say that every member of the Departmental Committee looked with favour on the principle of transfer, but in face of the hostility of the witnesses they were driven to the conclusion that it would he unwise to proceed further. The Committee were impressed all through with the idea that they were not appointed originally to deal with the question. In their report they state—Having carefully considered the whole question, we have come to the conclusion that the opposition which prevented the passage of the Bill has in no way abated, and the hostility of non-county boroughs and urban councils to the transfer of powers to the county councils, and their preference for the central authority was declared by the witnesses examined more strongly even than in 1889.The Department then set itself to find what business it could reasonably divest itself of without legislation, and only 278 to-day I revised an order about to be issued by the Local Government Board, handing over to boards of guardians and other authorities entire control of no less than 6,000 appointments. So far as we could we have carried out the intention of the Committee, and it was not the fault of the Committee or of the Local Government Board that the question of transfer was not more favourably considered. As to the proposal that devolution should be tried with Welsh County councils only, we have been advised that under section 10 any transfer which took place must be general to the whole of the county councils in England and Wales. With regard to the reorganisation of the staff, some rather hard words had been said about the Treasury, but I am glad to say, so far as the recommendations of the Departmental Committee were concerned, they were all accepted at once by the Treasury, and the Local Government Board got all the Committee recommended. Very great changes have taken place since then. The staff of engineers has been largely increased, and the number of auditors has also been increased, and although I am not able to say that the whole of the arrears have been cleared off; the most of them have gone, and the Department is now in a fairly workable condition, and the delay so long complained of has practically ceased to exist.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
Two speeches have been delivered by the hon. Members for Oxford and Tunbridge, to which I am bound in duty to make a reply. I make no complaint that they have raised the question they did, because I am sure we are all animated by the most sincere desire for the religious welfare of the inmates of our workhouses, and that the Church of England should certainly not be placed under any special disability in regard to the holding of services in workhouses. I cannot, however, go as far as my right hon. friend the Member for Oxford University, who said that the time was now near when the Church of England would be the only denomination whose religious ceremonies were excluded from workhouses. Nor is that borne out by the statement made by the hon. Member for Tunbridge, who pointed out that out of 670 workhouses over 500 have chaplains of their own. The hon. Member gave a number of cases in support of his views, including that of Nottingham, 279 which occurred as long ago as 1882, but I am not in a position to-night to deal with the details he has raised. The regulations cited by the hon. Member are true, but they have never been enforced by legal process since 1887. The remedy of the Local Government Board is by mandamus or by appointing a chaplain ourselves, but it has not been necessary to do so. What happens in the great majority of cases where there is no chaplain is that either the Church service is performed voluntarily by the vicar of the parish or a neighbouring clergyman, or the inmates have full permission to leave the workhouse to attend divine service. My hon. friend asks me to enforce the appointment of a chaplain in every case; but what I have sought to do myself has been to secure the performance of divine service by other means rather than by a harsh enforcement of the law, which I cannot help thinking, especially in districts largely peopled by Nonconformists, would give rise to bitter religious animosity. Generally, I think since I have been responsible my efforts have been attended with not altogether unfavourable results. I have, as a matter of fact, two or three cases in hand at the present moment, but I have every hope that I shall succeed in bringing them shortly to a satisfactory determination. In any event I can assure my hon. friends that I warmly sympathise with them when they say that the Church of England ought not to be placed under any special disability. There is no difference of opinion on that point, and they may be assured that I shall resist by every means in my power any attempt in that direction.
§ *MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eve)
I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question somewhat similar to a question which has been already discussed. I have no doubt that the work imposed at present on the Local Government Board is practically overwhelming. There are two remedies. One is that the Department should no longer be overworked and undermanned, and the other is that there should be a certain devolution on the lines suggested by two Committees. It might be asked also whether there is not a certain amount of work now being done by the Board which might well be abolished. One instance occurred in my own constituency within the last three years in 280 which the Local Government Board undertook certain work which involved the local expenditure of money which occupied a very considerable amount of time, and was really unnecessary. A parish sought an extension of its boundaries, and wanted £400 to enable it to purchase additional land for a burial ground, and the Parish Council passed a resolution to that effect. The parish gave its assent, and the matter was brought before the County Council. Then in a few months an inspector was sent down by the Home Office. The Local Government Board thought it necessary to send a second inspector in addition to the one sent by the Home Office. When you have two Departments like the Local Government Board and the Home Office almost in the same building, surely it is possible for some communication to take place between them, and some arrangement made by which one of them might have sent down. The effect of that course not being pursued was that the parish had to bear the cost of both inquiries. It was not a large parish, but there were two inquiries, one of which was wholly unnecessary, and which might have been avoided by a little judicious management. Upon a former occasion I called the attention of the President of the Local Government Board to this matter, and he made a sort of half-promise that the question should be looked into. A similar case occurred in the county of Norfolk, and in other counties similar occurrences have taken place. What I wish to know is whether some arrangement cannot lie made for cases of this kind, and whether one inspector cannot be sent down on behalf of both Departments.
§ *COLONEL MILWARD (Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon)
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member who has just sat down, because the question he has raised was the very point I wished to call attention to. I have been particularly requested to bring this question before the House because a vast number of really unnecessary inquiries take place by the officers of the Local Government Board. I asked for a Return showing how many inquiries had taken place, but the Assistant-Secretary informed me that the Local Government Board had at present more important things to attend to than to satisfy me in that direction. In every measure passed by this House dealing with 281 county, parish, and district councils we only throw more absolute power into the hands of the Local Government Board and its inspectors. The particular cases I wish to allude to occurred in Warwickshire, and one of them was the provision of sewerage and water for a small parish, Alveston, containing about 1,000 inhabitants. In this case no less than five inquiries were held by inspectors, and four of those inquiries were held by different inspectors. Most people would think that when a particular inspector goes to one place the same inspector should be sent there again, but in this case out of five inquiries four of them were held by different inspectors. In another case, in a still smaller village of some 200 or 300 inhabitants, the necessity arose for a supply of water to the priest's house and to the Roman Catholic school. Now this water supply could have been obtained by an expenditure of about £20, and in this case I believe two inquiries were held. Not only are these constant inspections and inquiries held by the Local Government Board, but we all know that the county councils are almost daily holding inquiries all over the kingdom, and scarcely a single meeting passes at the County Council with which I am connected without two or three inquiries being ordered. Surely it is possible to classify these inquiries. No doubt the President of the Local Government Board will say that they are statutory inquiries, but it ought to be possible to classify the inquiries and to hold many of them in one centre. I only hope, now that attention has been called to the fact that small localities are put to considerable expense by the holding of these inquiries into perfectly trivial matters, that something will be done to throw the expense of them upon those persons who insist upon holding them, if they are unable to prove their case. At all events steps should be taken to have the inquiries less frequently, and less inspectors should be employed by the Local Government Board, who are constantly travelling about the country to hold the statutory inquiries.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
In reply to the hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to the cases in which double inquiries are held by the Home Office and the Local Government Board, I may say that this question has not escaped my attention. I have been in communication with the 282 Home Office with a view to putting an end to that state of things as far as possible, and I believe my right hon. friend contemplates introducing a Bill on the subject which will enable us to avoid these double inquiries taking place. With regard to what has been said by my hon. friend the Member for Stratford-upon-Avon, the Local Government Board have quite recently issued a minute, which is intended to limit the number of inquiries made by the Local Government Board as much as possible. I agree with the hon. Member that inquiries have been held occasionally in cases where they were not necessary, but in most of these cases we have not altogether had a free hand, because in a number of instances we are compelled by statute to hold these inquiries, and we have no option whatever. The hon. Gentleman thinks the difficulty might be got over by what he calls classification, and by making a number of the inquiries by one inspector from one centre. That expedient has also been considered by the Local Government Board, but after full deliberation and carefully weighing the matter in every respect the conclusion was come to by those best able to form an opinion on the subject that such a proposal, so far from mitigating or lessening the labours of the Local Government Board, would tend rather to increase them, and no good would be obtained by making a change in the direction suggested by the hon. Member. I now desire to make an appeal to hon. members opposite to allow this Vote to be taken to night. I know that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough has risen more than once this evening, but if he will allow this Vote to be taken now he will have an opportunity of making his observations on the Report stage. I do appeal to him and other hon. Members who desire to speak to allow this Vote to be taken now.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
I should have been very pleased indeed to give way in response to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman, but seeing that I have waited ever since half-past six this evening, and have made many efforts to get an opportunity of speaking, I hardly think I can accede to the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman. I have made several efforts to get the Board of Trade to enforce the law with regard to the accommodation of seamen 283 on board ship. I may say that I have almost entirely despaired of getting the President of the Board of Trade to enforce the law with regard to seamen's accommodation. I think the President of the Board of Trade is almost past redemption, and I intend now to see what the President of the Local Government Board will do, as I think he is not so much subject to the pressure of the shipowning community, and if I can once convince him that he has the power to insist upon the law being carried out in reference to seamen, I think he will have no hesitation in carrying out that law. Now, the port sanitary authorities have full control in all ports over the sanitation and the accommodation which is provided for seamen on board ship, and I do believe that if the port sanitary authorities were left to their own discretion with regard to these matters they would insist upon the law being carried out; but, unfortunately, the Board of Trade will not allow the port sanitary authorities to do their duty in this respect. I believe that in many cases the officers of the port sanitary authorities have complained that ships have not had the proper amount of accommodation for seamen on board, and the Board of Trade have objected to them interfering in the matter. Now, I want to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I believe that he has the power to insist upon every seaman on board ships in British ports having the proper accommodation. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to take upon himself the duty of insisting upon the law being enforced. We know perfectly well that many of the vessels belonging to the P. and O. Company which come into the port of London from time to time have not the proper amount of accommodation for the crews on board. They have not the 72 cubic feet, for in many cases they have only 60 cubic feet. It is within the power of the right hon. Gentleman and his officials to insist upon the law being enforced, and I do urge upon him the necessity of having the law enforced in a proper manner. I do not wish to detain the House at any length at this late hour. There are several matters I intend to bring forward, but as it is near the hour for adjourning I will bring them up on the Report stage. There is one other question, with regard to the rating of machinery. I find that there are a number of unions which are 284 not enforcing the law with regard to the proper rating, of machinery.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I do again appeal to the hon. Member to now allow this Vote to be taken, for he will have a chance of again raising the matter on the Report stage.
§ Mr. HAVELOCK WILSON
Then I will give way, and adopt the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
I have several matters to bring before the House, and I cannot wait until the Report stage.
It being midnight, the Chairman left the chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report progress; to sit again on Monday next.