§ MR. SLACK (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
, in moving, "That, in the opinion of this House, local education authorities should be empowered (as unanimously recommended by the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration, 1904) to make provision, under such regulations and conditions as they may decide, for ensuring that all the children at any public elementary school in their area shall receive proper nourishment before being subjected to mental or physical instruction, and for recovering the cost, where expedient, from the parents or guardians," expressed his sense of obligation to the hon. Members for Hoxton and Barnard Castle for withdrawing their Bills dealing with this subject in order to make way for the present Resolution, which, he considered, dealt with an issue which was absolutely vital to the well-being of the country. Both sides would agree that though it was Tuesday night this was not an academic question, though it was a school question; and that it was not a Party question, though he wished it to be a Parliamentary question.
The Report of the Physical Deterioration Committee was so important a document that no apology was necessary for devoting one evening to a discussion of its contents. That Committee was appointed by the Duke of Devonshire on September 2nd, 1903, in con- 532 sequence of the serious allegations concerning physical deterioration of certain classes of population as shown by the large percentage of rejections for physical causes of Army recruits. The recruiters or recruiting sergeants were trained to reject "rubbish" as the would-be recruit who failed to pass the medical examination was significantly termed, but, notwithstanding this preliminary investigation and sifting, in 1901 no fewer than 29 per cent. of those submitted by the recruiting sergeant for examination by the medical officer were rejected, and in 1902 the percentage had gone up to 32. This was one cause of the appointment of the Committee; another was the significant Report of the Royal Commission on Physical Training in Scotland, in which it was stated—We think that an obligation for the proper supervision of the feeding of those who come for instruction should be regarded as one of the duties of school authorities, and that teachers should be instructed to take note of all children apparently ill-fed. Unless children receive sufficient nourishment they cannot, be expected to profit by the mental or physical training provided for them.Therefore the Physical Deterioration Committee was appointed to ascertain the facts, to indicate the causes, and to suggest means for effectually checking the physical deterioration complained of. That Committee examined no fewer than sixty-eight witnesses of the highest official and scientific experience, seven of whom were specially nominated to give evidence by the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons and the British Dental Association; and the Report was absolutely unassailable in its scientific accuracy, exhaustive in its evidence, and convincing in its conclusions. No fewer than fifty-three separate recommendations were made, dealing with such causes of deterioration (amongst others) as the feeding of elementary school children, alcoholism, over-crowding, milk supply, juvenile smoking, and the housing of the working classes, to each of which a Tuesday evening might well be devoted. In his judgment there was an obligation thrown upon the House by this important Report to crystallise the recommendations so as to arrest this declared evil.
The one subject to which the present discussion would be limited, was not 533 new, as the hon. Member for Hoxton brought it before the House on April 20th, 1902, and it had already been discussed incidentally upon the Estimates in the present session. But since last April the Report of this Committee had been issued and public interest in the question thereby stimulated. Underfed children were, so to speak, "in the air." He had received from Mr. Prichard, a guardian of Lambeth, a list of the resolutions passed at the 20th Annual Conference of the School Attendance Officers' Association, and amongst those resolutions he found the following—That, in the opinion of this conference, the time has arrived when every care should be taken to note all children under or improperly fed attending schools under the compulsory Education Act, and that where cases are discovered meals should be provided by the State at the school.and further—That, in the opinion of this conference, the State maintenance of children is imperative in the public weal and should be chargeable to the National Exchequer.Those were resolutions submitted to a body of men who had the best possible means of judging upon this subject, whose experience far transcended that of any other body of men in the country, whose duty it was to visit the children in their homes. But since the matter was discussed last year the position had changed; the facts were now before the country. The Resolution of last year was compulsory in form; it sought to lay an obligation on the Board of Education to require arrangements to be made for the feeding of improperly nourished school children; whereas the present Resolution was purely permissive, and sought only to empower local authorities to act if they thought fit.
The recommendations of the Physical Deterioration Committee might be summarised in one sentence, viz., that definite provision should be made by the various local authorities for dealing with the question of underfed children, and that safeguards should be provided against economic abuse. In dealing with this subject two facts had to be recognised: first, that for thirty-five years education in this country had been com- 534 pulsory for all; and, secondly, that while this education had been a success for the many it had been a failure for the few. The hon. Member for North Camber-well, whose evidence before the Committee was invaluable, estimated that 80 per cent. of the working-class children of this country were better off to-day than they ever were, but that the condition of the other 20 per cent. was very unsatisfactory indeed. Dr. Eichholz, one of the expert witnesses before the Committee, was of opinion that 122,000 of the elementary school population of London or about 16 per cent, were underfed, and, speaking of the Johanna Street Board School in Lambeth, he declared that 90 per cent, of the children there were unable by reason of their physical condition to attend to their work. It was with the few who were unfit for their work as scholars that this Resolution asked the House to deal. All would agree—in the word of the Committee—that it was the height of cruelty to attempt to teach half-starved children. It was not only a cruel practice, but a wasteful and short-sighted policy. Education could not be grafted on to starvation. The attempt to teach underfed children was spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar. It involved enormous financial loss to waste efforts upon children who could not profit by the costly education provided for the mind whilst the body was left to starve. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University' in his interesting evidence quoted the wife of the Rector of Tending, in Essex, who provided meals for the children in their school by cooking them in her own kitchen, as saying—This is not charity, but far-sighted self-interest, because our children get far better grants if they are fed than if they are underfed, and we feed them for the purpose of getting more money out of the Government.If this view were universal and universally acted upon there would be no need for the present discussion. All would agree that the intellectual and physical progress of underfed children must be inadequate and disappointing. The Report stated that no purely voluntary association could cope with the full extent of the evil. Dr. Robert Hutchison, perhaps the greatest living authority on nutrition, 535 who was nominated by the Royal College of Physicians to give evidence, said—It is essential economically to secure that every child under instruction should be more or less adequately nourished.Looking at it purely scientifically, it would be an extremely important thing to ensure to every child at school a sufficient and proper sort of meal.I feel certain that the provision of meals would do a great deal to improve the health and growth and development of the children of the poorer classes.Dr. Hutchison regarded from ten to fifteen years of age as the critical period, and said that the provision of meals would check the waste of human material, and that arrest of development at that critical period could never be made good. That there was such an arrest of development was proved by the experiments conducted some years ago by the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Those experiments consisted in weighing and measuring boys between the ages of eleven and twelve years over a period of five years, and it was found that in the public schools, the boys of the so-called upper classes averaged in height 54.98 inches, while boys of the same age in industrial schools, the class with which this Resolution was concerned, averaged only just over fifty inches. He did not wish to weary the House with quotations from the evidence in the Report, but he wished to make one from Mr. W. H. Libby, who for thirty years had been a master in London schools. On p. 299 of the Report was to be found this remarkable testimony—It always struck me that many children in the schools suffered from underfeeding, as evidenced by the difficulty they had in doing their mental work. About six months before I started this fund (the East Lambeth Teachers Free Meal Fund) there were two or three boys in the school who seemed to be in great difficulties, and I said to them: 'Why cannot you get on with your work?' They said: 'Well, sir, we have had nothing to eat.' I said: 'What do you mean?' They said: 'We have had nothing since yesterday morning.' In order to prove the case, I sent down to a baker's shop, and asked the baker to oblige me with some of the driest crusts he had on the premises. He did so, and I gave them to the boys. I did not apparently watch them, but I kept my eye on them, and I can assure you that they ate ravenously, and in a very few minutes the whole of the dry bread was gone. t came to the conclusion then that they were positively hungry.536 There was a touch of something akin to a dumb heroism about those hungry lads; they looked up with their pale and sunken faces, and, in the words of Mrs. Browning—They looked up with their pale and sunken faces, And their looks were sad to see.It was heart-breaking to the teacher to attempt to teach such children, and it would be heart-breaking to the British nation when it realised the facts. Then Miss Deverell, an inspectress under the Board of Education, said—I know one school where the master says that they get most of their meals by meeting workmen's trains and begging scraps from the men.Other quotations might be given, but he would save the time of the House. The Report stated that in some cases voluntary organisations acting with the support and oversight of the local authority would be sufficient. It proved conclusively, however, that we dared no longer depend on fragmentary private philanthropy to deal with this national danger, but that organisation was in fact necessary to complete and co-ordinate sectional effort. Some such organisation as that suggested by the Resolution was necessary, in order to prevent overlapping of agencies, to promote economical and efficient administration of funds, and to direct the discovery of cases of real need. At present in centres where the bump of philanthropy was largely developed and funds were forthcoming the children were cared for, but in other centres, where the local sense of responsibility was dormant or funds were lacking, the children went unfed and education was a failure. The Resolution proposed to equalise this, though without discouraging private charity and voluntary effort. But no mere system, however good, would meet the case. It must be a system which could command the necessary funds.
Excellent systems existed in Vienna and Berlin, but they lacked funds and failed before they started. It was necessary that such an organisation should have official source and power, such as the local education authority, which should be empowered to supplement individual benevolence. Our neighbours across the Channel had courage in matters of education. In 537 France they had adopted the principle that every child receiving instruction at a State school should also be adequately nourished, at the public expense, if necessary. There were school societies in every arrondissement of Paris, and during the last year those societies provided 8,000,000 meals, at a cost of £70,000, of which £5,000 was charged on the rates, £20,000 was contributed by the parents in the purchase of coupons for meals, and £15,000 was contributed from voluntary subscriptions. In Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium the balance of cost was supplied by voluntary subscriptions, but the dinners were organised and sanctioned by the State school authorities. But here in Great Britain there was no common principle of action; there were only isolated and sporadic instances of dealing with the question, and all sorts of different organisations.
The Resolution suggested that local authorities should be empowered by law to make regulations for providing for the nourishment of under-fed children in school, and to make an alteration in the law to enable the local authorities, or possibly the guardians, to recover the cost from the parents who could afford to pay. The information supplied by the school attendance officers, coupled with that already in the possession of the managers and teachers, had been found in Lambeth to guarantee an almost absolute check against indiscriminate charity and economic abuse. It had been proved that a good breakfast could be supplied for a ½d., and a dinner for 1½d. Coupons should be issued for each meal; all coupons should be alike. Many parents would purchase the coupons, but they should be given to those whom the school attendance officers reported as being absolutely unable to pay for them. Many parents now gave their children 1½d. or 2d. to provide their own dinner, but the money was often very badly spent, and under such a system as he proposed these children would spend the money at the central hall where the meals were supplied. Many parents whose children now had their meals at home would be only too glad to buy the coupons in order to secure a better meal at a lower price 538 than it cost at home. There was no desire to absolve parents from the first and natural duty of providing food for their own children. The new system would bring home parental responsibility in a way the present system did not. All the parents who were willing and able to pay would gladly buy the coupons; those who were able but unwilling would be made to pay, and a call of the school attendance officer, especially if he were in uniform, would generally produce good results, while, in the words of the Report—A few prosecutions of neglectful parents would have a most salutary and stimulating effect.In Lambeth the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children had rendered good service in bringing to book neglectful and criminal parents who had failed to do their duty in the way of supplying food to their children when able to do so. It bad been proved that safeguards could be applied to such a system. It was necessary and, at the same time, possible, firstly, to protect the public purse and not discourage private philanthropy, next, to do nothing to weaken the sense of parental responsibility and self-reliance among the people, and lastly, but by no means least, sacredly to preserve the self-respect of the children themselves.
The funds necessary for this scheme might come from three and possibly four sources, first, from the parents themselves; secondly, from voluntary contributions; thirdly, from the poor rate, and possibly, at some future time, it might be necessary to ask for grants from the Exchequer. But a very small levy to remedy this evil would amply repay the commonwealth who would thus secure value for their money, because the better health of the children would be secured, and better health meant increased intelligence, brighter homes, a more contented people and more efficient workers, while at the same time a more regular attendance at school would be secured if meals were provided. It had been proved over and over again that where meals were provided in connection with the school, children attended much more regularly. Nothing disheartened a teacher so much as the frequent absence of 539 his scholars; the child forgot what it had already learned, and the teacher had to begin again, which was disheartening to the teacher and unfair to the rest of the class. Working-class parents did make sacrifices for their children in this country, but where, through misfortune, illness, or accident, they were prevented or hampered in providing for their children, then they should be assisted without incurring the taint of pauperism. If parents were able to provide their children with food, but would not do so owing to their indulgence in drink, or in gambling, or through general thriftless-ness or indifference, their duty should be brought home to them as it ought to be. Let them not allow the children to go hungry and start life handicapped for fear of the fetish of parental responsibility where it really did not exist.
He had seen it stated in newspapers that there were other remedies for this evil, such as reforms in the incidence of taxation, of the land laws, and in other ways, but he would point out that while those reforms were pending the children were suffering, money was being wasted, and the nation was deteriorating. What was wanted was a remedial organisation which should be co-extensive with the evil. They could not graft education on to starvation. There was nothing revolutionary in his proposals. The law already restricted the control exercised by parents over their children, and compelled the attendance of the children at school. The ages, hours, and places of children's employment were all limited by law. It was not sham Socialism but it was real patriotism and general Imperial-is It was the shortage of men fit to serve in the Army that first drew attention to this deterioration and so to the indifferent physical condition of the children in the schools owing to the shortage of food. The future of the Empire, the triumph in social progress, and freedom of the British race depended not so much upon the strengthening of the Army as upon fortifying the children of the State for the battle of life. They came back to the experience of the Ancients that the mens sana depended largely upon the corpus sanum, that a well-nourished body was the essential con- 540 dition of efficient education. He appealed to the House, not only on the ground of ceonomy and efficiency in education, but he urged that they should not turn a deaf ear to the cry of these hungry little ones whom they had driven into the schools, but the tragedy of whose warped and hungry lives they were so slow to understand. He begged to
§ MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said the House had listened to the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down with the deepest interest. Few questions which had engaged the attention of the House had passed so rapidly from the domain of academic discussion to that of practical politics. According to one of the Poor Law inspectors, what happened new was that people who were thoroughly able to provide food for their children preferred to spend their money on gin and horse-racing. What the House wanted to know was had those parents been prosecuted, and if they had not whether the children had been fed. He believed neither the one nor the other had been done, which showed that there was an evil which under the existing law should be immediately redressed. The blame for this state of things attached not only to the Government of the day, but to that Party which sought to supplant it. The Government of the day, although armed with an immense amount of evidence, with all the testimony which practical and scientific opinion could give upon the subject, said that nothing could be done except to issue a circular to the various local authorities of the kingdom, because further inquiry was; necessary. The demand for further inquiry was based upon the fact that a child attending school in a hungry condition was only one reason why the education of the poorer classes was ineffective. Slum dwellings, long hours, low wages, no wages, rural depopulation and alien immigration, had made "Home" in most of the poorer parts of London and of the great towns, a misnomer; but if that was so the school feeding of the children had become more imperative than ever it was. It was no answer to say that by the gradual general improvement in the country the ill-fed 541 child would disappear. What they had to do now and here was to deal with the underfed child and adopt as the ultimate remedy those more gradual reforms which the Government seemed to rely on. Immediate steps should be taken to feed the children, because those gradual reforms to which he had alluded would take something like a generation to effect, and if the children were left as they were now, regarding it as a cold-blooded commercial speculation, the money spent upon their education would be wasted, the result being great dissatisfaction on the part of the ratepayers, while the children would grow to incompetent citizens.
What hope could be gathered from either of the Front Benches? From the Front Bench opposite not a syllable of sympathy had come, not a breath of suggestion had emanated from that quarter notwithstanding the famous statement that 13,000,000 of our people lived upon the verge of starvation. The Leaders of the Opposition showed their interest in the children of this country by their conspicuous absence. It was to the back benches of the Opposition that they had to go to find community of feeling and unity of ideas with those on the Ministerial side of the House who believed that this social reform was absolutely necessary if the people in this country were to be prosperous and healthy in the future. The authorities who had the administration of the existing law could not be regarded either as the best friends of legislative improvement in this matter. The education committee of the London County Council had just presented a report to the Council in which they did not even deal with the hon. Member for Camberwell in a kindly spirit, but described him and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cambridge University as "dangerous persons and outsiders exercising a demoralising effect among the scholars of the London County Council school in Johanna Street." He might say that that report was adopted in spite of the strong protest of the hon. Member for Battersea. The London County Council was the local authority responsible for more poor children than any authority in the world. They failed, however, to recognise that 542 the huge sums they were spending on education would, in the case of many thousands of children, be utterly wasted. As to the fear of destroying parental responsibility, that responsibility could not be exercised when the parent was unable to pay, and as matters now stood the neglectful parent was at liberty to starve his child. He hoped the Government would pass a measure this session conferring on local authorities power to deal with the matter.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, local education authorities should be empowered (as unanimously recommended by the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration, 1904) to make provision, under such regulations and conditions as they may decide, for ensuring that all the children at any public elementary school in their area shall receive proper nourishment before being subjected to mental or physical instruction, and for recovering the cost, where expedient, from the parents or guardians."—(Mr. Slack.)
§ SIR GEORGE BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
deprecated any suggestion that this question was a Party matter, and said it seemed to him that it was essentially a question which should be discussed simply on its merits. They were all agreed as to the existence of the evil, the only difference was as to the best mode of treating it. He desired to move, as an Amendment, that local education authorities should be empowered to make provision for recovering the cost "from the parents, and that when the parents are unable to defray the cost the relief be supplied by the Poor Law." It seemed to him obvious that the introduction into our schools of a system of feeding some of the children would in a short time result in the whole of the children being fed. Would this really be beneficial to the country or to the poor themselves? He admitted that hungry children must be fed, but the existing law provided that, if they were not fed by their parents, that they should be fed at the public cost, at the same time imposing disqualifications for certain purposes on the parents. That was the law at present. 543 If the parent of every child who received this relief was to be regarded as a pauper, then it should be understood distinctly that this was the case. He understood, however, that that was not the intention.
Let them look into the facts of the case. Who were, after all, responsible for these children in the first instance? Surely they must acknowledge that the parents were responsible. It was all very well to talk in a somewhat loose way of parental authority, but were they going to recognise that the first duty of a parent to his children was not to be enforced, and were they going to relieve parents from this responsibility? By the acceptance of this Motion they would be undermining the very basis of the structure of society and sowing the seed for the absolute destruction of the whole social fabric. The parents were without doubt responsible for the feeding of their children. His hon. friend had referred to a case in which an inspector stated that parents could carry out this responsibility if it were not for gin and horse-racing. Surely it was an extraordinary thing for them to pass a Resolution of this kind expressing pity and sympathy with these cases, whilst at the same time they acknowledged that the parents could feed their own children and yet did not feed them because gin and horse-racing prevented them. It was an extraordinary thing that the public should be asked to pay the expense of feeding these children while such a state of affairs existed. [Cries of "No, no!"] In his opinion that was the whole point, for they were asking by this Resolution that the children should be fed literally at the public expense. If they could, only get rid of a certain amount of cant could anyone say, looking at London, where at almost every corner even in the poor districts a public-house was flourishing and where nearly £20 was spent by every family per annum in alcohol, that drink was not the cause of much of this. It had been said that the rich ran up this amount spent on alcohol, but that was not so to such an extent as to invalidate this argument. It was not right that they should say smooth and pleasant things and ignore facts. They should 544 I not ignore the fact that in the city of London, with all its poverty, if they could only do away with excessive drinking and betting there would be no need for any such proposal as was now being considered. Was it reasonable that they should pass legislation which tended to increase this evil? He said emphatically that what they wanted in order to make the people better was to increase their self-reliance and self-restraint. He did not; think it could be said that a measure such as this tended in that direction.
Years ago when free education was given it was said that doing away with school fees would make things very much easier, and would enable parents to spend more money upon better food. Had free education had that effect? There might be many reasons why it was desirable to give free education, but had it really had the effect of enabling the poor people to make their children more comfortable and to supply them with more food. He emphatically said that it was not so, and, as a matter of fact, at the present time there was no doubt that the feeding of school children was not as well carried out as it was when they paid a small fee. Was it not a startling thing that those who had gone into this matter so closely acknowledged that in spite of free education children were not so well fed. At the same time was it not a fact that the people were earning at the present time more money than they were earning when free education was introduced. If the people were now earning more wages, living better, spending more on drink, and paying no fees for education, it did seem to him a very serious matter that it should now be proposed to take from parents the burden and responsibility of feeding their children. He did not himself wish to delay this discussion, and he only wished to make this formal protest. This was a subject in which he had taken an immense interest, and he had spent a good many years of his life endeavouring to make people thrifty and trying to promote self-reliance amongst them. In his opinion the essential condition of progress was self-reliance. This was the essential of our Christianity and of our very existence, and unless they could in 545 some way or other induce the people to think of the future, to consider their wants, and generally to act in a way which would tend to relieve them from the necessity of living from hand to mouth; unless they could induce them to put by something for a rainy day, their position would become gradually more serious.
A proposal like the one before the House seemed to him to strike at the root of any real progress of the people. He agreed that where children could not be fed and where parents were so poor that they could not possibly feed them the State should come in. But the State did that already. No doubt the failure of anybody to provide for his own was a sad thing, but it was a sadder thing for the nation itself so to degenerate as to regard this as almost a matter of course and not even to involve any consequences on the parents. The whole basis of this discussion was that they would be doing what was proposed without any taint of pauperism. Was it possible to relieve people at other people's expense without the taint of pauperism? Were they not simply trying to delude themselves by such an argument. If they relieved a person by providing the cost of feeding his children they might call it what they liked, but that person would be receiving parish aid, and they could not avoid it. His view was that this was a proposal fraught with enormous danger and his Amendment would make it less objectionable. If it were made clear, as his Amendment made it clear, that all relief was to be obtained from the parent, and that only those parents who were absolutely unable to pay should be relieved, then the evil would be minimised, and it was for that reason that he moved his Amendment.
They had been talking a great deal about the physical deterioration of the people. No one regretted that more than he did, but what was infinitely worse was the mental and moral and social deterioration of the people. This was a very serious question indeed, and although they were anxious in every way to do everything which was kind and right, he was sure hon. Gentlemen opposite would not think he had been induced to speak 546 in this way other than by kindly feelings towards the poor. In his opinion it was not kind to the people to make them rely upon other people. On the contrary he thought it was the greatest unkindness they could do them, because it tended to demoralise them, and the true kindness was to make the poor know and feel their responsibility and impress upon them the necessity of looking to the future before they married and had families. They ought to know that they would not be allowed to foist their responsibilities upon the public without the usual consequences. Nothing demoralised a nation more and nothing led to more unhappiness among people than to diminish their self-reliance, and he desired to enter his protest against a scheme which must sap the very foundations of national and social well-being. He did this in the interests of the people and mainly in the interests of the very poor. He protested against this scheme, because it seemed to him to be fraught with enormous danger unless it was accompanied by such an Amendment as he had the honour to move.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
, in seconding the Amendment, said that the speech which they had just listened to was one well worthy of every consideration. It was very easy to get up in the House and dilate upon feelings, which they all felt, of sympathy with the poor children who were underfed. To him, however, it seemed much harder to get up and point out the evils which might arise from false philanthropy. Surely it was not true philanthropy to say to a young man that he might go and marry at eighteen years of age some girl of sixteen years of age; that he might have ten or twelve children and take no trouble to work for them, and then that somebody else who was married himself, and had done his best to provide his own children, should be called upon to contribute towards the maintenance of the children of other people. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] He really did not see what there was to cheer in that remark.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said that when the hon. Baronet stated that a man would provide his own children 547 he hoped he would allow him to cheer that remark.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
said that supposing, for the sake of argument, the Amendment of his hon. friend was not carried and the Resolution of the hon. Member opposite was adopted, what would be the result? The hon. Member opposite had guarded his proposal by saying that if it was expedient then the cost of feeding children should be recovered from the parents or guardians. What steps were being taken to ensure that it would be expedient? Pressure would be brought upon the guardians not to enforce this clause. Was it not human nature that if they could get something for nothing they would try to obtain it? That was human nature. If people discovered that their children were being fed, they would naturally ask why they should pay themselves when their children could get a good breakfast or a dinner for nothing. It had been argued that this should be done because it would improve the physical condition of the children. In his opinion good clothing was quite as necessary for the physical development of children as good food. Was it going to be held that they were not only to educate and feed but also to clothe the children? And when all that had been done he supposed it would be necessary to see that they had proper shelter, for that was a very important element in their physical condition. He had as much sympathy with poor people as any hon. Gentleman opposite, but he had spoken as he had because he believed in all sincerity that the very worst thing they could do in that House was to destroy the habit of self-reliance.
To leave out the words 'where expedient from the parent or guardians,' in order to add the words 'from the parents, and that when the parents are unable to defray the cost the relief be supplied by the Poor Law,'"—(Sir George Bariley,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
said he would endeavour to seek for 548 points of agreement on this subject. He thought they would all agree that there were many children who did go to school day by day suffering from lack of food, and that their unhappy condition called for prompt and earnest consideration on the part of the House. They were all agreed, he thought, that bread was more important to them than even the three R's. It must be agreed that it was torture to endeavour to teach the children when they were hungry, and that much of our educational expenditure from rates and taxes was necessarily wasted because of the physically unfit condition of the, children. They did agree, most honestly and sincerely, that they must do nothing to undermine parental responsibility.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he would point out where he thought the hon. Baronet's Amendment was objectionable. The hon. Baronet's Amendment would throw the cost, where it was inexpedient to recover it from the parents, upon each parish. If it was left to the education authority, then they made it a county charge. For that, and for no other, reason he preferred the Resolution to the Amendment. There was no question of principle involved. He would pursue the parent with the utmost rigour of the law if he brought children into the world for his own pleasure and then neglected to provide for them.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said that, in the case of the parent who could make provision for his children but through thrift-lessness or drunkenness or immoral living failed to do so, he would scarify him. The question of cost was a serious one, and a contribution from the Exchequer would be a necessity; but that a private Member could not propose; it would, he hoped, some day be a Government proposal. The one outstanding point of difference seemed to be whether this matter should be dealt with by private charity or become a public obligation. He began consideration of the subject 549 twenty years ago, feeling confident that it should be dealt with by charity; but by hard facts he had been driven to the opinion that it should be a matter of public obligation, with every effort to obtain payment from a parent where payment was possible. For the charity that had provided funds for school meals every educationalist was most grateful; but charity broke down in time of great stress, and, moreover, it was the very method for emasculating the sense of parental responsibility to which so much importance was attached. Correspondents well acquainted with the facts had written to him insisting that there should be searching examination into the circumstances of a parent or guardian, because it had been the habit of careless parents not to provide their children with food knowing they would get meals from the fund. This was a demoralising system, and it was inadequate, for the contributions fell off as the winter passed, though the fact was that many of the poorer classes suffered severely from absence of work in the holiday season.
With regard to the Johanna Street School, Sir Charles Elliott had written a testimonial saying how well the fund at that school had been organised, how carefully the charity was distributed in such a way as not to cause demoralisation; a report of one of the relieving officers of the Lambeth Guardians upon the feeding of the children at this school stated that some of the parents visited stated that they did not give their children food before going to school because they knew that if they did not do so they would receive it at the school. There was the whole case at once. This wonderful system of charity was just the very scheme which influenced parents to send their children to school hungry in order to get free meals, because they knew that the hand of charity would deal with them there. He had received two interesting letters upon this subject. The first he would read was from Father Brown, who knew the poor of South London as well as any man living and who was a member of the London School Board for many years. He wrote—On the 16th November, 1897, I moved the following resolution at the London School Board:—'That it is expedient that the Board shall have power to supplement voluntary 550 effort for the purpose of preventing the underfeeding of children who are compelled to attend public elementary schools in cases where it may be necessary.' This was rejected by twenty-eight votes to fifteen, the main reasons brought forward by its opponents being the alleged sufficiency of existing voluntary effort, and the undesirableness of an education authority dealing with matters which should be within the scope of a Poor Law administration. My views have not changed since 1897, and I should be prepared to support a similar motion were I still a member of the London Education Authority. As the Progressive Party on the Council decline to have. me on that authority I am unable now to advocate the cause, but I may say that I have always felt that any system of providing meals for children in the schools would have to be safeguarded by searching examination into the circumstances and means of the parents or guardians, and by vigorous methods of compulsion towards those who were proved to be careless or neglectful of their parental duties. It is true that voluntary effort in some districts fully meets the needs of the case, but it is also true that the efficiency of any voluntary organisation depends very largely upon the varying earnestness and capability of those to whom the work of investigation and distribution is entrusted. I see that your Motion provides for the cost of the feeding being recovered from parents or guardians who are able to pay for it. I hope that if any practical proposal is brought forward by you or your friends, that it will be made clear that this condition will be unflinchingly insisted upon, and that parents who fail in their duty will incur the disabilities now attached to Poor Law relief. One of the weakest spots in the existing voluntary system of providing meals for underfed children is that no steps can be taken to prevent thriftless and dissolute parents from throwing the burden of supporting their children on to charitable agencies without incurring any penalty or disability for their gross neglect.He entirely and emphatically associated himself with Father Brown's view. That was the present system and they desired to modify it. He had received another letter that morning equally interesting. His hon. friend who moved this Resolution referred to Mr. W. H. Libby, the secretary of the East Lambeth Teachers Association Scholars Free Meal Fund, who had worked so industriously in this cause. Upon this question he had written him a letter in which he said—I have very much pleasure in giving you my opinion as regards charitable agencies, In the first place they are inadequate because they only profess to meet the needs during the winter months. There are, however, many employments, such as gas workers, poor widows engaged in laundry work and charing, who find when the summer months approach work gets slacker. During July, August, and September, 551 when the wealthier and middle classes are holiday-making, these poor folk find their work gone; consequently these months are looked forward to with positive dread. It seems strange to us—I am speaking of those who do not think of how the poor live, and I was one of them until I knew—but a holiday which is looked forward to with longing and pleasure by certain classes is to thousands of the poor a period of intense anxiety and suffering. It is then that their bit of work is gone and arrears of rent run up. We often think more of our favourite cat's welfare during a holiday than the charwoman's boy or girl. There is no charitable agency which is capable of properly meeting the needs of underfed children during the whole year round. These agencies are only popular as long as the weather is such as to stimulate charity.The letter went on to show how this system was inefficient and demoralising.
He cordially endorsed his hon. friend's view in regard to the Parisian scheme. What he would suggest was that they should schedule the poor areas of each town and link about half-a-dozen schools together for this purpose. They could give each area a central dining hall and supply the parents with coupons which should be given to the children before they came to the school. The system in vogue in Paris resulted in 8,000,000 meals being supplied at a cost of £70,000, £45,000 of which came out of the rates and the rest from voluntary contributions.
At the time of Waterloo there was a popular doggerel which ran—Two skinny Frenchmen,And one Portuguee;One brawny EnglishmanWas a match for all three.But he feared that if the present condition of things was allowed to continue the skinniness would become the mark of the Englishman and the brawn the possession of the foreigner.
The point he and his friends wanted to make clear was that they were entirely against the undermining of parental responsibility. Their scheme would develop parental responsibility. He believed that conscience could be developed by legislation in these cases. The Education Act of 1870 made it compulsory for parents to send their children to school, and under the law of compulsion they did it. The result was that a class were coming to school to-day who would never have come except under compulsion. If the compulsory clause were abolished to-morrow—he did not 552 say it should be—a large number of parents would send their children to school because the law had developed the sense of moral obligation. In the same way his hon. friend the Member for Peckham would find in this matter that if parents were made to do their duty under compulsion, the habit brought about by compulsion would become a moral obligation. The Motion before the House was a very simple one, and he hoped the Parliamentary Secretary would be able to say on behalf of the Government that they were going to accept it. In 1807 Mr. Whitbread moved a Motion in the House of Commons that it was the duty of the House to take into consideration the intellectual development of the people. The hon. Gentleman was described as a pestilential fellow, and his Motion was rejected by a large majority. It was considered then that it was right enough to teach the people to read, but to teach them to write and to do arithmetic meant the undermining of the foundations of society. Yet to-day the nation was spending £20,000,000 a year upon the intellectual development of the people. To-night, again, the phrase "undermining the foundations of society" was heard in the House of Commons. But he asked the Government who had appointed Royal Commissions to inquire into disease among grouse and for the improvement of horse-breeding to give some consideration to the children of the nation.
§ SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
said he did not wish to vote on this Motion without giving his reasons. He had had the honour for some years to represent a constituency which ran into the Metropolitan area. It represented a quarter of the area of the Metropolis, and, interested as he was in the subject of education, it would be impossible for him to look with indifference on this great and growing evil. He had always felt very anxious concerning it. He had been aware for many years that a great mass of sickly and stunted children were hurried into the primary schools who were unfit, both in regard to body and brains, to receive any education whatever. He had read the Report very carefully, and, although he was aware that the evil was in existence, the Report startled 553 him very considerably indeed. The Report was made not by those who approached this question from the point of view of any crotchet or fad; it was the Report of a very strong Committee indeed. The members of it were not only thoroughly fit to deal with such a question but they were thoroughly able to sift the evidence on both sides, and to come to a determination in a careful and judicial manner. The Report teemed with evidence showing that this question demanded early settlement, and, knowing what he did concerning these matters, he found himself absolutely unable to say "No" to the Resolution before the House. The evil was there, and in seeking a remedy the first thing they ought to ask was—What does it all lead to? He had been told that if they were going to feed children they must also clothe them. He did not think that need be necessary if proper precautions were taken. In the first place a vast amount of voluntary effort had been going on for many years concerning this evil. One thing certain was that so far as the Metropolis was concerned voluntary effort could only touch a very small percentage of the evil, and he was not sure, as had been hinted in the debate, that in such a population as that of the Metropolis voluntary effort might not be somewhat dangerous. In other towns with more restricted areas it could be carried out with complete success. The State compelled children to attend school and that made the case distinct from any other.
Everything, to his mind, depended upon the machinery which they could apply to this case. It must be a sine qua non that such a machinery should provide a thorough and complete test of the position and responsibilities of the parent; and he thought the wording of the Resolution should be extended so as to bring in the aid of inspectors of the Local Government Board. Surely, however, the House had solved more difficult problems than this, and what had been done with success in Birmingham could be done in London. In a report with regard to the work done in Birmingham he found the following—In considering the principles on which they would act it was decided in the first place that only those should be helped who could expect 554 practically nothing if it was not given to them' and secondly, that only such a meal should be given as would not compete in any way with the meal which could be provided even in a very poor home. It was next decided that cases for help should be selected with the greatest care. This is done by three different people—by the head teacher of the school, by the class teacher in whose class the boy or girl is, and by the visiting officer. The co-operation of these three, Dr. Airy states, has been so successful that he does not believe there has been 5 per cent. or anything like it, of abuse.In Glasgow also a poor children's dinner table had been established with complete success. Whit could be done at Birmingham could with more careful inspection be done in all the schools of the Metropolis. As to parents who neglected their duties it could not be a bad thing for the State to put pressure on them, and if continued daily pressure were put upon them with respect to their obligations very great good might result. He would not support the Resolution if he did not believe that some machinery could be devised to carry it out.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said there was one feature of the debate which was entirely new. It was no longer said that this matter should be left to private charity. The dispute at the present moment between those who supported and opposed the Motion was as to whether the money necessary was to come from the education fund or the poor fund. That was a very important point gained. He understood the contention of the hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment was that the parents whose children had to be provided for were in a condition of poverty because of their own thriftlessness and intemperate habits. He desired most emphatically to protest against that assumption. The investigations made by Mr. Booth in London, and Mr. Rowntree at York, proved conclusively that one-third of the population were in poverty not because they were intemperate or because they indulged in betting, but because the wages they received were not sufficient to provide them with the requirements of comfort and decency. Were people in that condition to be punished twice, first by denying them a living wage in exchange for their labour, and next by pauperising them? A great deal had been heard about parental responsibility. If parents 555 realised their responsibilities properly the House would not be discussing this question to-night. What the supporters of the Motion desired was to develop parental responsibility. In this connection he would quote the opinion of a man whose testimony would be accepted. Dr. Chalmers, medical officer of health for the city of Glasgow, at a recent conference on this question, used these words—If we accused the casual and inefficient of failing in his duty to the State, might not we in turn quite reasonably ask why the State acquiesced in conditions affecting his childhood which made him inefficient and dependent upon casual labour?The point made by Dr. Chalmers was that if they starved people in their childhood the next effect was they grew up with weakened will and loss of self-respect. It was absurd to expect any strong sense of parental responsibility on the part of men and women who grew up under those conditions. What the Motion proposed was that so far as feeding was concerned the conditions should be supplied which would make it possible for a child to develop a healthy body without loss of self-respect. He quoted from the report of a committee which was investigating this problem in North and North-West London schools to show that in a St. Pancras school 141 children came from 116 families where the father was oat of work, and fifty-eight children belonged to forty four fatherless families. Individual cases also disclosed inability through lack of work to provide properly for the children.
§ SIR GEORGE BARTLEY
said he did not wish to say anything hard in regard to these cases. If they received relief from public charity, or public alms, that did not effect the fact that they were pauperised.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
said there was a very real difference. Pauperism was the taint which they attached to those who were in want through their own lack of thrift. That was the sense in which every Member of this House desired to see the taint of pauperism applied. But would any Member of the House say that if a respectable and sober man and wife got into destitute circumstances through 556 no fault of their own they were to be pauperised as they bad seen lately.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
said they could help it. They were not tied down to the Poor Law relief. They had the option of giving relief from the education rate and the borough rate, and by that means they could remove from the relief given the stigma that attached to relief given in connection with the administration of the Poor Law. If the hon. Member did not want to say hard things he would withdraw his Amendment and allow a unanimous vote to be given on this question. As to the argument of parental responsibility he ventured to say that the children of hon. Members on both sides of the House were sent to boarding schools where meals and accommodation were provided for them, and the home life of the families was broken up for six or seven months of the year. The provision of school meals for which the parents would pay when able would no more interfere with parental responsibility and family ties than did the provision for hon. Members' families at boarding schools. The Education Department and the Local Government Board should be more helpful pending legislation. In the Inter-Departmental Committee's Report on Physical Deterioration there was a paragraph which stated that—In the carrying out of their recommendations for the rectification of acknowledged evil the Committee do not rely upon any large measure of legislative assistance; the law may with advantage be altered and elaborated in certain respects, but the pathway to improvement lies in another direction. Complacent optimism and administrative indifference must be attacked and overcome, and a large-hearted sentiment and public interest take the place of timorous counsels and sectional prejudice.He maintained that if the two Departments were to lay that sentence to heart, and got rid of "timorous counsels and sectional prejudice," and faced the question boldly, they could do something immediately to relieve the situation. Afterwards they could have such legislation as was necessary to enable the education authorities to lay the foundation on which to build up an educated citizenship. They denied the opportunity to 557 men of earning wages, and then they penalised the children because the parent had not earned sufficient wages to maintain them in health. He hoped that the result of this debate would be that a new spirit would be infused into the Department, and that the scandal and disgrace of children starving in the midst of plenty would be ended.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said that thanks to the Answer of the President of the Local Government Board there was no longer any doubt as to the rights of these hungry children. They had a right to be fed at the public expense and immediately, quite irrespective of the character of their parents, as soon as their destitute condition was known. That right had been very imperfectly satisfied; and for years these children had been defrauded of the relief to which they were legally entitled. But now the right was established it was for the Board of Education to make it a little easier for the children to get what they were entitled to. The first thing the Board could do was to establish medical inspection in all the schools. If the medical profession were once let into the schools most of what he and others contended for would follow. The Board could give notice in one Code, and enforce in the next, that no grant would be made to any school which did not provide a system of medical inspection satisfactory to the Board. That had been done in the case of the provision of cloak rooms in the schools. He only feared that the Board was now endeavouring to frame some universal system of medical inspection to be applied to all schools alike. Nothing could be a greater mistake than that. He hoped the Board of Education would confine itself to requiring medical inspection approved by them, and leave it to the particular locality, which must necessarily be much better able to do so, to construct the particular scheme most appropriate to that place. They also wanted the Board of Education to go a step further. At present the food which those children were entitled to, and which, he supposed, in a roundabout way they would now procure—because there ought not to be a single hungry child in an elementary school if the law enunciated by the 558 President of the Local Government Board were carried into execution—came from the Poor Law authorities. It would be very much mire convenient, expeditious, and free from Poor Law taint, if it was provided by the education authorities. In the case of Bradford, he believed they gave a salary to the Lord Mayor expressly for that purpose.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said he knew that in other cases there had been contributions from the rates. What was asked now was that the Board of Education should, at all events next year, give power to the local authority, if they thought fit, to spend the education rate in the provision of dinners and other meals at their schools. Unfortunately, the Committee just appointed to reconsider the recommendations of the other strong Committee was expressly debarred from recommending any kind of provision of school meals which would be a charge upon the rates. That shut them off from what everybody who had spoken in that debate wished to be done by the education authority. Extreme zeal was displayed by some people for the reformation of the thriftless parent, but in that matter he cared most for the child, believing that to be good economy and good Imperialism. It was the system of voluntary charitable relief which was really undermining parental responsibility. If the thing was done by the public authority, the provision of school meals could be prevented from in any was interfering with parental responsibility.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Sir WILLIAM ANSON,) Oxford University
said he was glad to hear the mover of the Resolution say that this was not a Party question. They were all agreed that it was a question in which they had a common interest. It appealed to them on two sides—on the economical side, because the immense sums which were spent on education were not profitably spent if the children were not in a condition to receive the instruction which was 559 offered to them, and on the side of human sympathy, because they all desired that the poor children in these slum schools should get their teaching under as favourable conditions as could be provided for them without the demoralisation involved in a large system either of private benevolence or of public charity.
There were one or two features in the Report of the Departmental Committee which were of a more cheering character than some hon. Members had admitted. One of the most satisfactory features was that we were improving in physique and not going back. Another feature of the Report that had been forgotten by some hon. Members who had spoken of the hardship of driving these children into public elementary schools was that there was evidence given before the Committee to the effect that the physique of the children, whether fed or unfed, steadily improved during the time they were present in the public elementary schools.
When they were asked to carry into effect the unanimous recommendation of the Departmental Committee that local authorities should be empowered to make definite provisions "under such regulations and conditions as they might decide," he must call the attention of the House to the actual terms of the Report and of the recommendation. The unanimous recommendation of the Physical Deterioration Committee was that the local authorities should make definite provisions, not as they might decide, but in accordance with the methods indicated in paragraphs 358 to 365 of the Report. In these paragraphs the Committee stated that there was no doubt that a large number of children habitually attended school underfed, that the number varied locally with the time of year and the conditions of employment, that it was not likely to increase, and that they saw various causes at work which would lead to its diminution. In a very large number of cases voluntary organisation, with the support of local bodies, was sufficient for the purpose, and so long as this was the case they would strongly deprecate recourse being had to direct municipal assistance. Therefore, contrary to what they had heard that night, the Committee definitely recom- 560 mended that, so long as organised charity could do the work, recourse should not be had to direct municipal assistance. The Committee went on to say that circumstances did arise which called for more immediate aid, and they endorsed the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Physical Training to the effect that local authorities should be empowered to provide for the preparation and cooking of meals as a charge incident to school management, but only where it was found necessary to provide for them. They went on to say that the combination of local resources and voluntary effort might be usefully employed in certain cases. The Committer also contemplated a state of things in which these arrangements might still be inadequate, and in these cases, they said, it might be expedient to promote the application of the municipal aid on a. larger scale, not "as the local authority might decide," but subject to the consent of the Board of Education and with the concurrence of the Poor Law authorities. There was another paragraph which dealt with a large group of cases to which insufficient attention had been given—the cases of children placed in the category of "retarded." The Committee thought they might be dealt with by means of special schools; but whether such schools should be established, or the children should be merely treated as underfed, must be left to the local education authority, acting with the concurrence of the Poor Law authorities. The Committee wound up by saying that by this means protection was given against the dangerous doctrine that free meals were a necessary concomitant of education. These recommendations indicated limitations to the application of municipal support and a number of safeguards that were absent from the Resolution before the House.
He dealt first with the cases of children who came to school underfed or were alleged to be underfed. It was exceedingly difficult to be on sure ground in ascertaining the number of these cases. As was said by a lady of great experience in these matters in a letter published in the Manchester Guardian on April 8th, it was only those who spent much time with 561 the children and their parents, and were able to go behind the scenes and did not judge by appearances of poverty, who were able to get at the actual facts. Charitable people were often misled by appearances, and something of the kind seemed to have occurred in regard to the distinguished party visiting the Johanna Street School. Ninety-six children were reported.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said that was not so. A list was given to the Lambeth Board of Guardians and certified by Dr. Hutchinson, but these were not the cases reported by his party.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he was quoting from the report of the relieving officer who followed in the track of the deputation. These were cases of alleged underfed children attending Johanna Street School belonging to fifty-six families. In twenty-five of these cases there was evidence that the children were fed; in eleven cases there was no direct evidence that they were fed, but there was evidence implying it, and showing that the parents had means to feed them; in ten cases the parents were very poor, and he would not deny that the whole report presented an aspect of distressing poverty; in these ten cases some of the parents were receiving Poor Law relief, and in ten cases the relieving officer could ascertain nothing. He called attention to some of the cases. One case was that of a man in full work, earning 5s. a day. He had five children. There had been no necessity to apply for relief, and there was no desire to do so. In another case a woman who certainly was poor, with one child, stated that her boy always had a good breakfast and dinner before going to school. The boy had informed the relieving officer that he had no food that morning. There was a case in which the father, a farrier, earned 25s. a week, and when in full work 35s. The children had gone to school without food when they knew that food would be given them. In another case a plasterer earning £1 a week did not see why his children should 562 not be fed at school as well as the children of other people. There was a case in which the earnings of the family amounted to 73s. a week, and yet the children were allowed to receive food at the school. He thought that report showed that apparent destitution at the school was no real test of the condition of the home. He did not deny distress; he did not deny necessity, even urgent necessity, for relief in certain cases. But he did maintain that there was great risk of exaggeration where visitors judged from the mere aspect of the school and had not the time or leisure to go to the home and ascertain the actual circumstances and what the parents did for the children.
What was wanted as the result of the consideration of this question, was that if the parents neglected to provide meals for the children the Poor Law should intervene, but, if there was accidental distress, one would wish to see that remedied by voluntary effort organised by the local authority. They did not want a duplication or triplication of effort among the local authority, the Poor Law, and organised charity. His right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board was about to issue to the guardians of Poor Law unions throughout the country an order to this effect, that upon application, either through managers or teachers empowered by managers or through an officer empowered by the local education authority, the guardians might relieve children who were not supplied with adequate food. This might be given by way of loan to the father recoverable as such relief was recoverable, and the relief would be given after notice to the father if the case was not urgent; if the casa was urgent, relief would be given at once and notice would be served on the father afterwards.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said, clearly. If a man did not feed his children, or was unable to feed them, and left that duty to be undertaken by the Poor Law authorities, he fell under the disability of the Poor Law.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said that was one form of relief, and the circular letter accompanying this order issued by the Local Government Board would call the attention of the guardians to the propriety of prosecuting parents for neglect, if, after the first period of relief had expired—a month—the children were still left without adequate nourishment. That was what the Local Government Board had undertaken to do, but the Board of Education would circulate the order, and the circular letter of the Local Government Board accompanying it, among the local education authorities, and at the same time, they should send a covering letter explaining the purport of the order and the circular, and they should invite the local authorities to distinguish between cases of permanent destitution, which were objects for the Poor Law in its ordinary course; cases of neglect which would be subject to the special order now issued by the Local Government Board; and cases of temporary or accidental loss of income arising from illness or want of employment, which should be properly dealt with by the charity, which was always available if properly organised by the local education authorities. They were further inviting local education authorities to organise inquiry by managers and teachers into the condition of the children at the schools and of the homes from which the children came, so that the relief, where necessary, should be given properly and where it was due.
He did not think that these measures brought them to the end of the difficulty. They did meet the case of children who came to school hungry. The hungry children would be fed either by organised charity or by the guardians if the parent neglected them; but there was a much larger class of cases not so easy to enumerate, and which he would endeavour to describe by reference to two documents—one the report of a sub-committee of the education committee of the London County Council after a visit to the Johanna Street Schools. They said that if any weight were to be attached to such summary investigations as those of Dr. Hutchinson, the natural conclusion would 564 be that the supply of meals at school was not alone sufficient to build up a sound bodily frame for children poorly clothed, ill-nurtured, and badly housed, and, to come again to Miss Dendy's letter to the Manchester guardians, she said that nine-tenths of the irretrievable harm done to children was done by improper food before they were three years old. This state of things, she said, could not be cured by any wholesale methods of giving food by charity or by the State. How then were they to ascertain the nature and the extent of the evil which prevailed throughout the schools? It was not the result of the child's coming hungry to school day after day; it was not the result of the present lack of means; it was the result of bad clothing, bad housing, bad feeding from the time that the child was an infant. He hoped the Board of Education would shortly, as the result of a larger scheme for the employment of women inspectors, be able to publish a series of interesting reports by women inspectors who had inquired into the condition of infant schools.
But the root of the matter seemed to lie in medical inspection; and what they must first ask was, What were the existing powers of local authorities as to medical inspection and what was being done by them. The Departmental Committee was inquiring as to what was now being done, and with what result, by those local authorities which had undertaken medical inspection. Some hon. Members were, perhaps, not aware that local authorities might now appoint nurses and medical officers to inspect the children attending their schools. Every administrative county might appoint a medical officer, and every rural and urban sanitary district must have a medical officer; and it was worth considering how far the existing machinery could be utilised for this purpose before they introduced any such measure as to require local authorities to establish medical officers of their own in every school. Many hon. Members were made constantly and painfully aware of the heavy incidence of the rate for education under the Act of 1902, and the cost of medical inspection, which would be very heavy, was not at all easy to ascertain. In order to ascertain it inquiry must first 565 be made as to what had happened among those local authorities—London, Bradford, and others—who employed medical officers. He thought they should have some notion of the liabilities that would be imposed by such a requirement, and he for one, should hesitate before he became responsible for the introduction of such an article in the Code as compulsory medical inspection, glad as he would be to see medical inspection carried out. As at present advised, the Board of Education was not likely to lay down any scheme of medical inspection of its own. He was sure it would be better for local authorities to devise their own scheme, knowing as they did that the character of it must differ very widely in different parts of the country.
As regarded the treatment of children, not merely hungry to-day, but ill-nurtured from infancy, the Inter-Departmental Committee would endeavour to ascertain whether voluntary effort organised by the local authorities could not work out a scheme without casting any special burden on the rates. There was no reason why local authorities who were so inclined should not devote certain of their schools to the education of children who were incapable of doing the ordinary work in a public elementary school, who required to spend less time at their books, and more in the work of their hands, who required more regularity in feeding, and to whom it would be a hardship to put them in competition with other children whose early days had been more happily and prosperously spent. The evidence, so far as he could gather, was that in London there must be something like 60,000 such children; but figures were very difficult to obtain. He hoped further information might be obtained from the Report of the Committee as to the possibility of meeting their needs without laying any special burden on the rates.
As to the future, the Board were endeavouring to organise teaching in regard to the ordinary habits of life which might induce the parent of the future to deal more sensibly with his children than the parents of the past had done. They were endeavouring to adapt the teaching of cookery to the circumstances of those who were taught.
566 As regarded the teaching of the ordinary rules of health, the Board had had the assistance of the hon. Members for Rye and the University of London on the other side of the House, who had supplied them with a suitable scheme of teaching on these four topics—food and drink, cleanliness and fresh air. The scheme was a practical one, and he hoped that by inculcating proper knowledge in their elementary schools they should endeavour to provide against the malnutrition of the child of the future, though it would take some time to bring about.
He had endeavoured to point out to the House what were the sort of difficulties which this subject presented in the case of the child who came hungry to school, owing to the want or neglect of the parent, and of the child who came to school not hungry but incapable of taking in the teaching of the school owing to the conditions in which he had lived. He had endeavoured to describe the steps which the Local Government Board and the Board of Education were taking to remedy this, and he hoped that by careful organisation of the local education authorities, by voluntary effort, by the use of the Poor Law, by medical inspection, and by teaching to parents and children alike the laws of health, they might get rid of at least two aspects of the evil. He would rather trust to these remedies than take the heroic measures proposed. He knew that these steps would, to many Members, seem unsatisfactory and insufficient, and that, in looking to the future, they should be regarded as looking too far ahead, but he regarded this subject as of such great importance that he should be sorry to take any step which would imperil the future of the population of the country, and he believed that they should run some risk of weakening the character of the people if they adopted without consideration some short and easy mode of supplying the present need such as was indicated in this Resolution. The Government were inquiring into the facts and taking active steps in the direction suggested by the Physical Deterioration Committee. They were not prepared to take such a step as was indicated in this Resolution, because this Resolution, as he had pointed out, did not in itself contain 567 the proposals of the Committee. He should prefer the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Islington to the Resolution as it stood, but he frankly said that, looking to the inquiries which he considered to be necessary in this matter, and to the importance of any step that they might take in this direction, and sympathising as he did with the spirit in which it was brought forward, although he should vote for the Amendment of his hon. friend he should vote against the Resolution as amended. The Government could not support it nor did he personally give it his support.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
No, certainly not. This is a matter in which everyone must judge for themselves, but I hope I have said enough to show the importance which the Government attach to the question, and the reason why they cannot take the steps they are asked to take by the hon. Member.
SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)
said there were some disappointing and some very gratifying results of the debate. He thought it was marred at the commencement by an unjustified attack made be the hon. Member for Hoxton upon the front Opposition Benches, from which he said no help came. It was a remarkable commentary upon that attack that every one of the suggestions which had now been made by the head of the Department were made by himself from that
§ very bench in the course of a speech two weeks back. The method of meeting this difficulty suggested by the Secretary to the Board of Education, as the scheme of the Government, was in the first instance brought forward by himself. They had taken the scheme without acknowledgment, and he was glad to point out that the whole of it came from that side of the House. While he congratulated the Government on having taken advice, he was sorry that they had not gone further in the direction of medical inspection, because that was, in his opinion, the basis of all progress in this matter. The temporising and timorous action of the Government ought to end, for it did little to meet a great and growing evil. Locally all authorities in an area should be brought into this work. The Education Act had retarded rather than helped the movement, for in many places medical inspection had been stopped. The central authority might not consider that the local education authority should undertake that work, but if they had cooperation and co-ordination of local authorities that duty and others could be easily performed. He could not congratulate the Government on having done anything bold in the matter. He thanked them for the little they had done, and hoped that at an early date they might receive fresh counsel and take a more vigorous and forward step.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 100; Noes, 64. (Division List No. 144.)569
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Caldwell, James||Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Causton, Richard Knight||Fuller, J. M. F.|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Channing, Francis Allston||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John|
|Allen, Charles P.||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Cromer, William Randal||Gretton, John|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Crooks, William||Harcourt, Lewis|
|Bell, Richard||Cust, Henry John C.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Bingham, Lord||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Blake, Edward||Dyke,Rt. Hon.Sir William Hart||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Ellice, Capt EC(SAndrw's Bghs||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Brigg, John||Emmott, Alfred||Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Hunt, Rowland|
|Burns, John||Eve, Harry Trelawney||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Burt, Thomas||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manch'r||Joicey, Sir James|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Morgan, David J. (Walthamstow||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Nolan, Joseph Louth (South)||Spear, John Ward|
|Kitson, Sir James||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R (Northants|
|Lamont, Norman||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||O'Kelly, Conor, (Mayo, N.)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||O'Malley, William||Thomas, JA (Glamorgan, Gower|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Rea, Russell||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Leigh, Sir Joseph||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries||Ure, Alexander|
|Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Ridley, S. Forde||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.|
|Levy, Maurice||Robson, William Snowdon||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Lough, Thomas||Roe, Sir Thomas||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Rose, Charles Day||Wilson, Henry J (York, W. R.|
|Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Runciman, Walter||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Schwann, Charles E|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Seely, Maj. J. E. B (Isle of Wight)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Slack and Sir John Gorst.|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Shackleton, David James|
|Malcolm, Ian||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Finlay, Sir R. B (Inv'rn'ssB'ghs||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Forster, Henry William||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Galloway, William Johnson||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Arnold-Forster. Rt. Hn. Hugh O.||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury||Mount, William Arthur|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hambro, Charles Eric||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Hamilton, Marq. Of (L'nd'nderry||Percy, Earl|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds)||Heath, Sir James (Staffords. N W||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Purvis, Robert|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Bond, Edward||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Brassey, Albert||Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred.||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Keswick, William||Shaw-Stewart, Sir H.(Renfrew)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks N R||Tomlinson, Sir Win. Edw. M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A. (Worc.||Lee, Arthur H.(Hants, Fareham||Valentia, Viscount|
|Chapman, Edward||Legge, Col. Hn. Heneage||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Long, Col. Charles W (Evesham||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S)||Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Maconochie, A. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir George Bartley and Sir Frederick Banbury.|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh, W|
|Fellowes, Rt. Hn Ailwyn Edward||Majendie, James A. H.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ And, it being after Midnight, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER proceeded to inter rupt the Business.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 93; Noes, 36. (Division List No. 145.)
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Broadhurst, Henry||Crooks, William|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Burns, John||Cust, Henry John C.|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Burt, Thomas||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Allen, Charles P.||Buxton, Sydney Charles||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Caldwell, James||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Causton, Richard Knight||Ellice, Capt E C(St Andrews B'ghs|
|Bell, Richard||Channing, Francis Allston||Emmott, Alfred|
|Blake, Edward||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Eve, Harry Trelawney|
|Brigg, John||Cremer, William Randal||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)|
|Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Runciman, Walter|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Levy, Maurice||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Lough, Thomas||Seely, Maj J. E. B. (Isle of Wight|
|Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Lowther, C. (Cumb. Eskdale)||Shackleton, David James|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Macdona, John cumming||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Gretton, John||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Harcourt, Lewis||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil||Malcolm, Ian||Spear, John Ward|
|Higham, John Sharp||Markham, Arthur Basil||Spencer, Rt Hn. C. R. (Northants|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||Morgan, David J. (Walthamstow||Sullivan, Donal|
|Hunt, Rowland||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Thomas, J A. (Glamorgan, Gower|
|Joicey, Sir James||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea||O'Kelly, Conor (Mavo, N.)||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||O'Malley, William||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Rea, Russell||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Kitson, Sir James||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries;||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Lamont, Norman||Ridley, S. Forde||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Roe, Sir Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Slack and Mr. Claude Hay.|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Rose, Charles Day|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Hambro, Charles Eric||Purvis, Robert|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Hamilton, Marq. Of (L'nd'nderry||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hobhouse, Rt Hn H (Somers't, E||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Keswick, William||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Bingham, Lord||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Bond, Edward||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Brassey, Albert||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham)||Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.|
|Chapman, Edward||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.)|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Earl of Dalkeith and Sir William Tomlinson.|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Maconochie, A. W.|
|Forster, Henry William||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
§ Whereupon Mr. SLACK rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now nut."571
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order 27, and that the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Wednesday, May 3rd.