§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Question [April 13th], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair (for Committee on Civil Services and Revenue Departments Estimates)."—(Sir A. Acland-Hood.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said that in order to make it clear what issues he wished to raise and what demands he wished to make upon the Board of Trade, although he was not able to ask that a Motion should be read from the Chair, he would give the terms of the Motion he would have moved had he been in a position to do so. It would have called the attention of the House to the Acts for the prevention of accidents on railways and to the working hours of railway servants; and it would have expressed the opinion of the House that the powers vested in the Board of Trade should be more effectively exercised; that experiments should be forthwith carried out as to automatic and non-automatic couplings; and that the Board of Trade should take action under the Railway Regulation Act, 1893, to check excessive hours of labour, whether information was derived from representations, Returns, or otherwise.
He said he would remind the House of the determination of successive Parliaments that the question of the safety of men working on railways should be dealt with by the Board of Trade. A Bill identical in principle with the Bill passed in 1900 passed its Second Reading as long ago as 1886.
474 The Return issued by the Board of Trade with regard to fatal and nonfatal accidents in relation to shunting: operations, including coupling and uncoupling during the last ten years, showed that during the ten years covered by the Return the fatal and nonfatal accidents occurring to the 19,000 or 20,000 servants employed by the railways for this work practically equalled the number of servants employed during; that time. That was a most tremendous fact. So far as he could see, there had been no substantial and sweeping reduction in the number of these accidents in shunting and coupling and uncoupling. For the year 1903 the Returnshowed—deaths, twenty-three, and other accidents, 506; while for the year 1900 the figures were, deaths, twenty-five, and other accidents, 505. So that the figures now were practically the same as when Parliament sanctioned the extension of these powers to the Board of Trade. He did not wish to take a partisan or extreme view of the action of the Board of Trade. He was glad to recognise that the appointment of sub-inspectors had led to an increase in the-number of inquiries and that, in inquiries made by some of their inspectors,, there had been a tendency to look more minutely into the minor causes of accidents, but he pressed upon the Secretary to the Board of Trade and the House the necessity of making the intentions of Parliament, which in this case went back nineteen years, operative, and of preventing many of the deaths and non-fatal accidents on our railways.
With regard to the question of railway hours the point he wished to raise was a very simple one, and he thought that the hon. Gentleman would say it was a clear one. So far as this Act was concerned, the Board of Trade relied wholly and entirely on the complaints made by railway servants as to the number of hours which they had worked. So far as he was concerned, he had taken a very great interest in this matter, and he had not heard of any action taken by them on their own initiative. So far as he knew, the whole pivot of this Act was the representations made by the men whose hours of labour were excessive. Now when one looked at the 475 competition for railway employment, and to the fact that a man having once entered that service naturally wanted to rise, it was not to be expected that many men would complain and make these representations where there was a serious risk—if they were known to complain of the system under which they worked—of their incurring disability and loss of promotion, if they did not incur dismissal. The Act of Parliament expressly contemplated action by the Board of Trade on other grounds, and he ventured to say that action ought to be taken with regard to the excessive hours of work.
He had taken the trouble to analyse the results of the last Return, and he would at once admit that since he made a Motion in 1891 on this subject there had been a considerable reduction in the number of instances of excessive hours worked. But he asked the House to consider the figures which resulted from this analysis, and ask themselves whether this was the result which Parliament contemplated as the outcome of the Hours' Act of 1893. The Return was not based on the recommendations of the right hon. Member for West Bristol, who presided over the Committee to inquire into the excess of hours worked on railways. This and similar Returns had been based on a twelve hours day, so that if a ten hours day basis was taken, as was laid down by the right hon. Member for West Bristol on that occasion, there would be a far greater amount of overwork shown. But what did they now find. They found that the number of goods guards, brakesmen, engine-drivers and firemen (and it was they who worked these long hours) who worked over twelve hours a day on the chief railways of the country during this time was close on 28,000; the number of instances upon which these 28,000 men were compelled to work between twelve and fifteen hours, continuously was 52,799; and the number of instances they had to work fifteen hours at a stretch was 5,273. In these days one would have thought it impossible that men should work more than eighteen hours but he found there were no less than 258 such cases. So far as he could see there had been no improvement 476 whatsoever since 1901. One particular point to which he desired to draw attention was the extraordinarily good figures of the North Western Company in this regard. When he drew attention to this question two years ago, he found from the figures that while the other railways showed percentages of overwork ranging from 80 to 97 per cent., the North Western showed only 13 per cent, of goods guards and 22.46 per cent, of drivers and firemen. In the last Return the figures of all the other railway companies but the North Western were practically as bad as they were two years ago. But the North Western had further improved their figures and actually showed now only .79 of overwork among their goods guards and 2.42 of drivers, more than ten times better than two years before. They were faced with this extraordinary fact, that there was this great Department of State especially authorised by Parliament to deal with this evil, and yet it was neither ameliorated nor redressed by any of the railway companies, and that when the Department had this object lesson of one of the lines carrying out the necessary reforms. It was a great evil, and he called on the hon. Gentleman to consider whether with such information as was available he could not do something to remedy it. How was it that the Board of Trade did nothing to bring about a better state of things? This last Return disclosed the identical state of things which existed previously. He apologised to the House for having detained it at such length, but as he had given a great deal of attention to this question, and as he had taken part in Parliament in obtaining for the Board of Trade these powers, he thought it only right that they should be put into force.
§ MR. BELL (Derby)
said the subject now under discussion in connection with the Acts of 1893 and 1900 was of such great importance to the railway men of the country that it was worthy of much greater consideration than it usually received. Hon. Members opposite had endeavoured to demonstrate by the enthusiasm with which they welcomed the Aliens Bill that they were particularly interested in the working classes, and desired to protect their interests. If 477 that enthusiasm was real, he suggested they should show it in a practical manner in connection with the section of working men whom he represented, for if any class of workers required and deserved protection they did. The Act of 1893, giving power to the Board of Trade to regulate the hours of railway men, was enacted after a Royal Commission had sat for two years, and one or two strikes had taken place. The evidence they received was such that their recommendations were of a strong and important character. The Act based on those recommendations gave the Board of Trade power to call for Returns, and, on receipt of those Returns, if necessary to order a revision of the hours. Railway companies were very keen on having their requests and desires promptly attended to, but, when they were called upon by the Board of Trade to render Returns, Parliament had generally to wait practically a year before the information was received. Railway directors in the House would probably find it difficult to believe some of the statements he was about to make, but he had never yet made a statement in Parliament without being able to verify it, and directors could not and were not expected to be able to go into every detail connected with the management of a great concern such as a railway. That duty was rightly entrusted to subordinate officials.
The Secretary to the Board of Trade would probably say that the Department were always ready to act upon information or complaints received. That was true, but they were generally a long time concluding their inquiries. Moreover, too many railway men had just cause to fear making complaints. Communications might be made through him to the Board of Trade, and the Department would not know from whom the complaints came, but most of the men were known to their local officials, and he would give the House examples of what happened to men who were even suspected of having made complaints. It was difficult for the officials to know definitely that a man had lodged a complaint with the Department, but they were keenly observant. If a man showed discontent with his hours, perhaps lodging a complaint 478 with his superior, and then subsequently the Board of Trade made inquiries as to the hours of that particular depot, the officials at once concluded that that man was the cause of the Board's action, and he would probably suffer for it. Owing to the great development in the size and power of locomotives and the increased length of goods and mineral trains, the responsibilities of these men had enormously increased, and the companies ought therefore to recognise the absolute necessity of curtailing the hours during which they had to work. He knew cases where, during the hot weather, firemen were so exhausted at the close of a twelve hours day, having to fire from five to seven tons of coal in addition to the ordinary duties of a stoker, that they were unable to walk home, and sometimes had had to be sent home in a cab. Such a state of things was not in the interests either of the men or of the public. If men, through insufficient rest, declined to resume duty when called upon, they were penalised by being compelled to stand off for two or three days, and to lose the corresponding pay, while if they resumed duty, they were directly-requested by the officials to falsify their "bookings on" in order that the Board of Trade might be deceived. In one case a man was on duty, with a short interval, from 6.30 a.m., until midnight. He was asked to make out two separate time sheets, so that he would not be entered on the Return as having been eighteen hours on duty.
§ MR. BELL
said he would have preferred not mentioning the railways, but if hon. Members desired the names he would give them. The case he had just mentioned was on the Great Central. Another case occurred on the Great Western, where a man was called on duty after only eight hours ten minutes rest. He complained of the insufficiency of the period of rest, but, pressed by the foreman, he went on duty. He was then requested to sign on as having had the full nine hours rest, and naturally, when such requests were made by a foreman, they were more often acceded to than not; because if the men refused 479 they would doubtless be duly rewarded. Then in connection with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway he received a report that during January and February, goods guards were on duty for thirty-nine hours at a stretch.
§ MR. BELL
Yes. Another practice was to put cleaners of from sixteen to nineteen years of age on engines to do tiring duty after they had done their day's work in the cleaning sheds. In one case a cleaner was on duty twenty-one consecutive hours, twelve in the shed being followed by nine on an engine. Another was on duty twenty-four hours, twelve in the shed and twelve on the toad. In other cases fourteen and a-half hours (entirely on locomotives), and seventeen and a-half hours were put in. He had given to him the name of one cleaner who, with wages of 3s. a day, drew at the end of a week eleven And a quarter days wages, showing that he had almost worked the week round so far as hours were concerned. He was sure that no Member of the House would desire to defend such practices. The reason why the Return which the hon. Member asked for did not contain this information was because the cleaner was not reported as having worked twenty-one hours on duty, because whilst in the shed as a cleaner there would be no report, and, therefore, twelve hours on the locomotive is what would appear in the Return. He was bound to say that he felt very strongly upon this matter, and he had determined to get it altered by any means whatever. The Department, as a rule, was very sympathetic with railway companies, and more so than any other Department. These irregularities on the part of railway companies were nearly always overlooked, no matter how great their sins, whereas a small employer who omitted to put a small fence around the fly wheel in his engine room would be summoned before the local Courts and fined.
He knew of two cases of railway companies who had deliberately deceived the Board of Trade. One was the case of an Irish railway company where the permanent way of one of their lines was in 480 such a bad state that an accident occurred to a goods train and the brake van went off the fine and rolled down the embankment and disabled the guard. That railway company never reported the case at all to the Board of Trade, and nine months after the accident he put a Question to the President of the Board of Trade, and it was ultimately admitted that the accident had happened and that it was an oversight on the part of the company in not reporting it. He could not accept that as an excuse. The very same railway company in connection with the working hours of signalmen had adopted a practice for nearly twelve months of working eight hours signalmen for twelve hours regular shift. When the Board of Trade asked for a schedule this company told them that these were twelve hour boxes, but this was not so, for they were eight hour shift men who had been systematically worked twelve hours. This was important, because a railway company would never put signalmen on an eight hour shift if they were convinced that the Board of Trade would not interfere. Having made the admission that eight hours in a particular cabin or yard was sufficient it was evident that a man should not be called upon to work 50 per cent. longer upon his day's work. The final result was that after nearly twelve or fifteen months negotiation between the Department, the railway company, and himself, the railway company had appointed a third man in order to avoid working twelve hours in the future.
There had been an inquest at a place near Shrewsbury in the case of an accident to a man who was some kind of an overseer, and it appeared that this man was in the habit of working something like fifteen hours or fifteen and a half hours each day, although his ordinary duties scheduled were from 6.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., but he had to remain on duty until the whole work was completed, and he was habitually on duty until 9 or 9.30 at night. At the time of the accident he was working his fourth day, and it was true that he had not been at work those long hours on the day when he met with his accident. At the inquest his widow stated 481 in evidence that the night b fore the accident deceased complained to her of being almost too tired to go to bed, having been on duty fifteen and a half hours or upwards. On the day of the accident the man who took his place had also been on duty fifteen and a half hours. He feared that these facts were not reported as they should be, and this was one of those items which it was difficult for him to prove to the contrary, although he knew many instances of the kind he had enumerated, and which he was perfectly satisfied were not incl ded in the Return. Consequently he felt that the Return was not a correct one of the number of hours worked by the railway men of this country.
To prove that the men dare nt complain with any certainty that they would not be interfered with he would mention the instance of a guard employed on the North British Railway. In this instance a guard having worked over twelve hours was asked to pick up traffic at a particular siding and he declined to do so because he had been on duty so many hours. The result was that he was suspended for two days for refusing to pick up this traffic. The North British Railway Company had actually dismissed a signalman for insubordination, which consisted of a statement that he was not going to continue to work those long hours without making a bit of a fuss. This man did make a fuss and the Board of Trade compelled the North British Railway to appoint another man in this particular cabin, and after this had been done the man who made the fuss was dismissed for insubordination. Instances of this kind were very numerous, and lie could quote them by yards.
What he desired was that the powers conferred by the Board of Trade should be used to the fullest extent, and this would make it unnecessary for any men to have to lodge a complaint. He had had to fight very hard to get the first Return in 1901, and that Return showed a startling lot of figures, although the President of the Board of Trade denied that such long hours were worked on the railways. Even the Report published about August each year of the number of complaints made under the Act of 1893 482 showed but a very few cases, although the Return for 1901 showed 397,000 instances of men having worked over thirteen hours duty during the month of December in that year. No less than 96,000 of these worked over fourteen hours, 56,000 over fifteen hours, 29,000 over sixteen hours, 14,000 over seventeen hours, and 21,000 over eighteen hours. This took place in the running of goods and mineral trains in this country. For the year 1902 the Return showed a considerable decrease, and perhaps the House would remember that he protested against the President of the Board of Trade giving the companies three months warning that he was going to call for a Return for December next. With regard to the special effort alleged to have been put forward by the railway companies to the effect that under no circumstances would the men be allowed to work over twelve hours, he had brought many of the orders and instructions forward and discussed them, and he had forwarded them also to the President of the Board of Trade. During the month of December, 1903, these hours were reduced to 75,389. That was how the railway companies desired to make it appear for that particular month for which the Return was going to be called for, and their idea was to show that the hours were not very excessive. Some of the railway companies thought they were going to make this Return an annual thing for December, and an effort was made in November last year to reduce the hours for December. He, however, thought that he would like a change, and so he asked for a Return for October, 1903. This Return showed a considerable increase, and during December letters of explanation were forthcoming from the general managers of the various railway companies showing that the excess was due to the heavy Xmas traffic, fogs, and bad weather. For the month of October the hours above thirteen worked by the men engaged in running trains increased from 75,000 in December, 1902, to 99,000 for October, 1903. In this case there was not the excuse either of Xmas traffic or of the fog. October was at the end of the summer, when the summer traffic was off, and before the winter traffic was 483 taken up; and, therefore, the question of bad weather, fogs, and snowstorms did not come in. But even in face of these facts the excessive hours had increased from 75,000 to 99,000.
The Secretary to the Board of Trade conceded to him the other day a Return that he had asked for March this year. Having asked for that Return for March he hoped they would have it in less time than eleven months hence. Surely the railway companies could not be classed as people who kept no records, and it could not be said that they could not give this information. All these figures were at their disposal, and they could give the information quickly enough if they chose, and if they wanted it for their own purposes they could give the figures within a month; but when they were wanted for the purposes of that House the companies hesitated about giving the information. What he would suggest was that if the President of the Board of Trade did not get these Returns within a reasonable time—which he should put down as not more than two months—that the House should be furnished with a list of those companies who had not supplied Returns. He could not see anything wrong in that course, and it could be quite easily done. He hoped the Board of Trade would obtain a Return with regard to hours and act upon it. Why wait for individual complaints from the men or from him, when there were 99,000 cases admitted by the railway companies themselves? Why not act upon that? If the hon. Gentleman would only appreciate how keenly the men felt these excessive hours, and how injurious they were to the interests of the travelling public, it would not require much pressure from the House to get the Department to do its duty in that connection.
He was not going to say anything on the subject of automatic couplings, as that had been fully dealt with by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire. But he was not going to allow the question of accidents to railway servants to escape attention in this House. He had collected from the Board of Trade Returns for last year the figures with reference to four grades in which accidents were 484 heaviest—engine-drivers, firemen, goods guards, and shunters. There were employed in these four grades altogether 76,188 men. During the course of last year there were 101 of them killed, or one in 754. There were 2,093 injured, or one in thirty-six of the men employed in these grades. This was a scandal, and the House ought not to tolerate it. He had complained, and he would continue to complain, until an end was put to this condition of matters. There were thousands of these accidents preventable, and only proper administration was required by the Board of Trade—action similar to that with which the Home Office administered the Acts for the protection of workers in workshops and mines. He was positive that with proper administration thousands of accidents would be avoided. The factories and workshops of railway companies were subject to the supervision of the Home Office inspectors In these workshops and factories there were 81,440 employed—5,000, in round figures, more than were employed in the four grades he had mentioned. While 101 were killed in the four grades, only eighteen were killed in the factories and workshops of the great railways. In the same factories and workshops there were forty-three injured, while 2,093 were injured in the four grades embracing what were called "railway men." Why was it that the railway companies should object to have their shunting yards inspected any more than their workshops and factories? He had always urged that the Board of Trade should exercise their powers. It was not enough simply to inquire into the cause of an accident after a man had lost his leg or his head. They should see that the orders and instructions issued for the protection and safety of life and limb were properly fulfilled. He knew the hon. Gentleman would say that it was quite unnecessary to have this kind of inspection, and that the railway companies were sufficiently interested in the safety of their men. He did not charge the railway companies with being more inhuman than any other employers, but did this differential treatment not signify that railway directors were the only people who had any regard for their workmen, and that the State must not interfere and say that they 485 had to take proper precautions to protect the lives of their workmen?
In 1902 the Department issued a series of rules to railway companies to which the men attached very great importance, and they would be very much appreciated if properly carried out. But they had been simply lying as it were on the the table of the President of the Board of Trade and in the offices of the railway companies. No one seemed to trouble about them. For instance, one of the rules said—After the expiration of twelve months from the coming into operation of these rules, the movement of vehicles by means of a prop or pole, being the operation commonly known as 'propping' shall not take place, except in cases where no other reasonably practical means can be provided for dealing with the traffic.There was another section of the rules dealing with tow-roping in the same way. Immediately these rules were issued to railway companies he sent half a dozen or more lists of sidings and other places on different railways where tow-roping or "propping" must not take place, unless authorised by the general managers. What did the general managers do? They authorised every siding on the railway, and in the case of one company a siding where tow-roping and propping had been abandoned for six years was included as one of the authorised places. He supposed that what the railway companies had done was satisfactory to the Board of Trade. Another order was in the following terms—All engines and tenders must, within two years from the coming into operation of these rules, be fitted with sufficient power brakes, in addition to hand brakes.What did the Board know as to whether the rule had been carried out? He presumed that the Secretary of the Board of Trade could not tell him whether or not the whole of the locomotives on the railways of this country were provided with power brakes in accordance with this particular section. The hon. Gentleman had been good enough to promise him a Return with regard to this matter. He would not go into the whole of the rules, but he would paint out that they required that certain specific things should be done within two years, twelve months, or three years. What he desired to know from the hon. Gentleman was how he was to satisfy himself that these rules 486 had been complied with, if he had no one to go and see that they were carried out. Section 10 of the rules said—In any case where it is shown to the Board of Trade that for any sufficient cause the time within which any of the above rules or regulations have to be carried into effect should be extended, the Board of Trade may from time to time grant such extension upon such terms and conditions as they may think fit.That meant that the railway companies who were unable to comply with these rules should apply to the Board of Trade for an extension of time. He felt satisfied that many of the trunk lines could not fulfil the obligations placed upon them in the time allowed by these rules, even if they were pretty active about them. The great trunk lines could hardly find it possible to put power brakes on all their locomotives within two years. He recently asked the hon. Gentleman how many companies had made application for an extension of time with reference to these rules. The hon. Gentleman, replying to his Question, said—It is not possible to state in detail what has been the action of railway companies in carrying out the statutory rules. The Board are ready to make inquiry into cases where it is alleged that the rules are not observed. Three companies have applied for extension under Rule 10—the Metropolitan District, and Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford in respect to Rule 5, and the Brecon and Merthyr in respect to Rule 3.He had an idea that the reason of the Metropolitan District Railway Company was that they were introducing electricity in place of steam. He did not know whether the same reason applied to the Dublin and Wicklow Railway and the Brecon and Merthyr Railway. He was not going to quibble as to whether the reasons given were satisfactory or not. What he wanted to know was whether the Board of Trade were satisfied that all the other railway companies had complied with the whole of the sections in these rules, and if not why had time been allowed to slip by without their applying in terms of Section 10 for an extension of time? It appeared to him that there was nothing more transparent than the fact that these rules had practically all the force of an Act of Parliament. What did the hon. Gentleman and his Department propose to do in order that the instructions might be observed in a more 487 satisfactory way than they seemed to have been of late?
In conclusion, he desired to say that it did seem to him that the Department was not as active as it ought to be. It did seem strange that if a complaint were lodged with the Home Office, a very few weeks, and in some instances, a few days, sufficed to have the whole job done, and the grievance removed, while if they made a complaint to the Board of Trade it had to hang on in some instances for years. He made a complaint to the chief factory inspector for one of the districts on March 29th this year, and a reply was received, dated April 5th, that the place had been inspected and that the owners of the siding had agreed to remove the cause of complaint. Nothing could have been more expeditious than that. He wrote to the Board of Trade in connection with a complaint as to tow-roping on October 13th, 1903, and on various occasions the Department had been reminded of it afterwards. On the 11th of this month the Board stated that they still had the matter under negotiation with the railway company. Now from October, 1903, to April, 1905, was, in his opinion, far too long a time to take to settle a matter of this kind. If the Board of Trade exercised their powers and made an example in one or two instances, he ventured to think that greater attention would be given to these complaints. The hon. Member might say that he was always ready to act on complaints which were forwarded to the Board of Trade, but the men got sick and tired of making complaints which resulted in nothing being done. They said, "What is the use of bothering the Board of Trade; they do not do anything when we do lodge complaints. What we want is that these rules should be carried out. If we are to have the benefit of these protective laws, then we should have them carried out, just as under the Aliens Bill." Somebody would have to be appointed to see that the rules prescribed under it were carried out." This was a very important matter, and he could not apologise for bringing it forward when he knew that hundreds of men were killed and thousands injured by neglect of the rules. Whatever 488 compensation the railway companies might pay in money, that was no true compensation to widows and children for the loss or maiming for life of husband and father. To him, life and limb appeared to be a greater importance than they were to the Board of Trade; and he insisted that the figures he had quoted were sufficient justification for his demanding greater activity in the future from the Board of Trade.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BONAR LAW,) Glasgow, Blackfriars
said he was sure the Board of Trade had no reason to complain of the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on this subject. Both hon. Gentlemen had brought forward their complaints in a very moderate way, and in answering them he should endeavour to be as brief as he could. There was, however, one general remark made by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire to which he wished to take exception. The hon. Gentleman stated that the railway administration of the Board of Trade had been much more lax since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon had ceased to be President of the Board of Trade. He could not understand why the hon. Gentleman should have made that statement. If he had carried the House back to 1894 he might have understood him; but why should he select one Unionist Member rather than another.
§ MR. CHANNING
said he had always paid the highest honour to the right hon. Gentleman; but he had not observed that the Board of Trade had done anything since he left it.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said that the right hon. Member for Croydon was no longer a member of the Government, and he very much doubted whether the hon. Gentleman would have mentioned his name if that right hon Gentleman had still been a member of the Government. Whatever the reason which animated the hon. Gentleman, he asserted, most emphatically, that there was not a shadow of foundation for his statement. What were the grounds for it? There 489 was no proof of it; and the hon. Gentleman had made the statement quite unnecessarily. The hon. Member for Derby knew well that during the present Parliament the Board of Trade had been more successful in regard to the question of accidents and hours of labour than on any previous occasion. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire confined himself to the question of couplings, and blamed the Board of Trade for not having done anything to introduce automatic couplings, and in confirmation of that statement he gave the House a comparison of what had happened on American railways. But that comparison was absolutely useless in regard to British and American railways.
§ MR. CHANNING
said he had compared the figures of accidents in 1893 with the figures in 1897 on the American railways. He had made no comparison between the number of accidents, and the number of men employed in America and in the United Kingdom.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said he did not see why the hon. Gentleman should have referred to the American railways unless he wished to imply that the same should have happened in America as in the United Kingdom. He held that the comparison was perfectly useless, because in America the coupling was done with a pole outside the waggons, and in this country it was done inside the waggons.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said that he was going to give a comparison between the number of accidents resulting from coupling in this country and in the United States. It would be unfair to the American system to suppose, however, that that comparison represented truly the two systems. The figures referred to the whole of America, including the West, where a large number of unskilled men were employed. If the comparison were made with the railways in the Eastern States, it would probably show results very much similar to those in this country. Last year the number of fatal accidents due to 490 coupling in America was 278. Now, in the schedule of the United States were included accidents which were not called coupling accidents in this country. But the number of fatalities due to shunting operations in this country in 1904 was only seventy-four. If it were taken into account that in America there were twice as many men employed in these operations as in this country, and the other considerations were allowed for, it meant that for every man killed in the United Kingdom two men were killed in the United States. He hoped that the House would not think that the Board of Trade imagined that our system was as good or better than any other. Nothing of the kind. The aim of the Board of Trade was to reduce the number of accidents from coupling to as low a minimum as possible. The hon. Member knew that no automatic system of coupling had been invented which the Board of Trade could impose on the railway companies. Their chief inspector had given it as his opinion that from the point of view of the safety of the workmen our system was safer than the American. In that case all the Board of Trade could do was to encourage invention as far as they could. And that was what they were doing. He believed that the railway companies themselves were inviting a suitable invention which would be an advantage to the workmen and a great saving of expense to them.
The next point was the question as to the number of hours which the railway men worked. The hon. Member said that the Board of Trade did not take action except in cases of complaint. It was quite true that the Act of 1893 stated that that was to be their chief motive power, but they had taken action on other grounds. In dealing with long hours, it was a fact that the railway companies did allow for the time actually spent by the men in going to and from their homes to work and paid them for that time.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said that it was the duty of the hon. Gentleman whenever he heard of such a thing to inform the" Board of Trade of it; and he could assure him that the moment they did hear of it the Board of Trade would take all steps within their power to examine into the matter. The hon. Member for Derby had said that the men were very much afraid to make complaints, but he could assure the hon. Member that whenever a complaint was made the Board of Trade inspectors made inquiry over a very large area so as to hide the facts from the railway company. As to the question of long hours he would point out that it was one upon which railway men were by no means united. They wanted shorter hours only if they could get the same pay, but if the change meant a smaller amount of wages at the end of the week they did not want the shorter hours. That was the difficulty they had to deal with.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said he was certain that the hon. Gentleman would not contradict him when he said that there was a considerable minority who liked these long hours. He could give a very curious instance of that kind. The Board of Trade had noticed in the Returns a case of long hours worked by an engine-driver and they called for an explanation. It appeared that the engine driver had asked another driver who wanted to go to a football match as a particular favour to let him do that job. Although the Board of Trade blamed the railway company, it therefore turned out that it was the action of the men themselves which brought about the circumstance of which complaint was made.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
Yes, and, as I have said, we are doing our very best to put a stop to it.
492 Continuing, the hon. Gentleman said that the next question he had to deal with was that which related to accidents. He could on that point only repeat what he had already said. There could be no doubt that this country compared favourably with respect to accidents with any country in the world, but still accidents were far too numerous, and it was the intention of the Board of Trade to use to the fullest extent the powers conferred upon them to try to reduce the number as far as they could, but the whole number could not be stopped by any legislation or any administrative act on their part, lie had had prepared an analysis of the total number of accidents which were reported on last year by their own inspectors and with which the railways had nothing to do. The Board of Trade inspectors made 717 inquiries and they reported that in no fewer than 483 cases the accidents were directly attributable to the carelessness of the men who suffered injury or the workmen who were working beside them, and were not due in any sense to the want of proper regulation on the part of the railway companies or want of proper inspection by the Board of Trade. As to the remainder of the accidents their inspectors reported that 166 were due to accidents which could not have been prevented. They were, it was said,, accidents pure and simple which nobody could have, prevented, and the Committee would be surprised to learn that out of this total of 717 only sixty-eight were put down by the inspectors as being of the kind which could have been prevented by adminisrative action. But still sixty-eight was a great number, and it was the intention and the duty of the Board of Trade to do what they could to prevent such a number occurring.
The last grievance brought forward by the hon. Member was a very old one, and it had reference to inspection. The hon. Member wanted the Board of Trade to adopt in regard to the railways all over the kingdom a system exactly similar to that which was pursued under the Factory and Workshop Acts. He could only tell the hon. Member what had been said over and over again by those who had held his office, that the 493 Board of Trade had carefully considered the subject and would not as at present advised agree to that change. They thought it unnecessary, and that it would lead to a great deal of expense without any adequate return. It would create an army of inspectors who could do no useful work. On this point he wished to correct a misapprehension which he had noticed to exist in previous debates. Hon. Members seemed to think that their inspectors never took action unless they got complaints, but that was not the case. They were at all times going about the railways all over the country, and whenever they had ground for suspicion that the conditions were not satisfactory and that the Board of Trade rules were not being carried out, they informed the Department and a demand was made upon the railway companies to carry out the regulations. In their opinion that was all that it was necessary for them to do. He was surprised to find the hon. Member for Derby making a comparison which he must know was misleading. The hon. Member compared the number of accidents in factories and workshops with the number of accidents upon railways where there were moving trains. Everyone knew that the men who were in factories and workshops worked with stationary engines, or about the yards where there were no moving engines, and that it was the movement of the engines which caused the greater number of accidents upon railways. The hon. Member said that if they had the same inspection of moving trains as they had in factories and workshops, the result as to accidents would be the same in both cases. The comparison was, however, unfair.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said in that case he did not rightly understand the hon. Gentleman, but his speech gave one the impression that his contention was that the accidents would be reduced to the 494 same percentage if the same system was adopted on railways, prevailed in factories and workshops. It would mean an enormous expense to have inspectors going all over the kingdom and watching continuously the working of the railways and the workers engaged on them. The hon. Member seemed to be under the impression that the Government had allowed the rules which had been drawn up to become a dead letter. He was utterly mistaken. A large number of inspectors had been sent to examine into the questions raised, and they had made recommendations which in nearly every case the railway company had adopted. He thought when the Return which was expected was produced the hon. Member would recognise that there was a distinct improvement in the hours of railway servants. He would do his best to get the Return out as soon as possible.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said that steps were being taken for the carrying out of the rules, but it would probably take a little time before they could fully satisfy themselves that they were being carried out. He believed, however, that the railway companies recognised that they had got to be carried out and would assist the Board in seeing them brought into effect.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
expressed disappointment at the declaration which the hon. Gentleman had made with regard to automatic couplings. The hon. Member had stated that the inspectors had not been able to find an automatic coupling suitable to the railways of this country. There were, however, 550 patents registered in the Patent Office of this country for automatic couplings, and he believed there were 1,000 similar specifications registered in the American Patent Office, and he did not believe that the inspectors had examined all these. He thought it had been proved that the reduced number of accidents in the United States largely arose from the use of automatic couplings. Some years ago 60 or 70 per 495 cent. of the carriages on American railways were fitted with these brakes, and he believed if the system were introduced in this country the saving of life would be equally great. The Canadian lines were also adopting the same system. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would give them an assurance that he did not propose that the same cold-water treatment should be applied to this question for ever. Many of them were interested in this question, not from any personal view, but because they were anxious to see a diminution in the loss of life on railways. Anybody who lived in a district where there were many railway employees was bound to see scenes which would make him do anything in his power to reduce the suffering which he witnessed. The deaths were so sudden. A man left his home full of health and life in the morning, and he was brought back dead by his friends in the evening, and his wife and family lost his support. Statements made by the manager of the Grand Trunk line of Canada and others, clearly proved that automatic couplings attached to the trains in this country would not only tend to very largely diminish the number of accidents, but also to facilitate the carriage of goods from one part to another. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would not allow the impression he had given that he was going to relax his exertions, to remain in the House, but that, on the contrary, he intended to bring the power he possessed to bear upon the railway companies.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said the hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him. All he said was that in the opinion of the chief inspector, from the point of view of saving life, none of the systems spoken of were better than the system now in use in this country.
§ MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said he did not know what evidence there was for such an opinion as that expressed by the chief inspector. In America he had had an opportunity of seeing these automatic couplings at work, and they seemed very satisfactory. He thought they should have something more than the opinion; they should 496 have the reasons which led this gentleman to arrive at that opinion.
§ SIR CHARLES RENSHAW (Renfrew, W.)
said the question of automatic couplings was not a novel one, and he was not surprised at what the Secretary to the Board of Trade had said. It was suggested that the Board of Trade should insist upon automatic couplings being fixed on all railways. All that they wanted was to see a reduction in the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents, but he hoped the House would bear in mind when it was suggested that the introduction of automatic couplings into this country would enormously reduce the number of accidents, that in the first place there was a very great doubt as to whether the railway system of this country was much suited for it, and that, secondly, wherever automatic couplings existed certain accidents were caused in consequence of the use of them, one result of which had been that automatic uncoupling took place. It was that which gave rise to the state of things which existed in America. So far as the hours of labour were concerned, many of them who were directors of railway companies hoped that the Board of Trade would not forget that it was impossible to establish an absolutely uniform system of working hours for those engaged on the railway systems of this country. In the first place they had to study the convenience of those employed, who were sometimes working at a distance from the place to which they had to return. In the previous year when the hon. Member for Derby was speaking upon this matter the figures given by him were so striking that he (Sir Charles Renshaw) caused inquiries to be made with regard to the company in which he was interested. He then found that in many cases the men desired not to be booked off far away from home, but that they should be allowed to continue their work in the direction in which their home lay. He hoped when the hon. Gentleman shortened the hours he would do it in such a way as not to endanger the best interests, of the men.
§ MR. MARKHAM (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
expressed the opinion that the majority of accidents did not arise out of coupling or uncoupling the waggons, but were caused by the bad system in vogue at many of the companies' sidings, where large numbers of waggons were dealt with at night time. There were many cases of this kind where the men had no lights at all except the flares lit by the men themselves. It must be perfectly obvious that unless men had a good light to do their work by there were bound to be accidents. Another fruitful cause of accident, in his opinion, was the fact that the rods and levers for moving the points were not placed below the level of the line, and that when the men were running along the line beside a train of moving waggons for the purposes of uncoupling them they tripped over the rods and in that way many accidents were caused. He believed the coupling at present in use was just as efficient as the American coupling, for the reason that no train in America could be made up without the man going between the waggons. He had to go between every waggon to couple up, whereas in England, if the coupling pole were used, no man need go between the waggons at all. The fault was that many companies did not at these sidings make the use of the pole compulsory. He believed it was not so much automatic couplings to which they should look for safety in this matter. The statement of the Board of Trade, made on the authority of one gentleman, could not be accepted. The question must be gone into fully, and if it was shown that automatic couplings were safer it would be the duty of Parliament to enforce their use.
Another cause of loss of life was the omission to have brakes on both sides of waggons. He believed more lives were lost through men having to crawl under waggons to release brakes than through the coupling or uncoupling of waggons. Six or eight years ago the Great Central Company put brakes on both sides of some of their waggons, but when he submitted specifications to other companies for the purpose of putting brakes on both sides of his own waggons the reply he received was that they did not allow them. There 498 was one other point the Board of Trade should not lose sight of. During the last eighteen months there had been a far-reaching change in the large type of waggon in this country. If those large waggons were to be generally introduced it would be impossible to continue the use of the ordinary link-coupling. With these large waggons the couplings were so heavy that a man could not lift them, and it would be absolutely necessary to have some form of automatic coupling. He was not prepared to say how it should be done, but he could assure the Board of Trade that the matter of shunting and the attendant loss of life was no Party question, and that both sides were anxious that it should be dealt with. If he might add one word, he would urge the Board of Trade to put pressure on the companies with regard to the question of flagging. When a platelayer was killed through lack of proper flagging it was nothing short of criminal on the part of the railway company, and he hoped the Department would give the matter their attention.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said there were two matters mentioned in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in regard to which a little practical sympathy would be very acceptable, viz., the appointment of inspectors and automatic couplings. It was true that a railway was not a workshop or a factory, but neither was a mine, but the inspection of railways was quite as feasible as the inspection of mines and would, he believed, be productive of as much good. He hoped, therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary would keep an open mind on the subject, as the experiment was certainly worth trying with a view to seeing whether the painful toll of life paid by railway men could not be materially lessened. As to automatic couplings, he did not quite gather what was the point of the objection. It was said there was at present no automatic coupling the adoption of which the Board of Trade could make compulsory. Why not? Were the Board waiting for a perfect coupling? If so, they were not likely to find it. But there were many automatic couplings now on the market which were admittedly 499 workable, and the adoption of which would probably lessen the number of accidents. It was only by the working of any invention that its defects could be discovered and remedied, and while it might be the case that there was no particular coupling which the Department could make compulsory, the time had surely come, when, after the experience of America, the use of some kind of automatic coupling should be enforced.
The hon. Member for West Renfrewshire had referred to the difficulty of laying down a hard-and-fast system of hours under which the men would be able to return home in the evening. The fact that a man was required to be on duty for twelve hours on one day was no argument why his working week should not be brought within reasonable limits. If a man worked twelve hours one day and six the next that would, to a large extent, probably meet the grievance.
Another matter he desired to refer to was the appointment of the Committee dealing with workmen's trains. The nominations for that Committee were before the House, but he had opposed the Motion's going through, not because he objected to the Committee, but because he desired that there should be a representative of the Labour interest upon it. It was a workmen's question, and surely in such a matter the Committee should include a workmen's representative. He hoped the Board of Trade were really desirous that something should be done in this matter, but certainly their action in regard to this Committee was not Very encouraging. Last session the Committee was not appointed until after Whitsuntide, and only eleven meetings were held, and this year, although the Motion was down earlier, the Department refused to grant this perfectly reasonable claim—a claim all the more reasonable since one member who served last year was quite prepared to withdraw in order to make room for a Labour nominee. While he had no desire to delay the appointment of the Committee, he would refuse to withdraw his opposition unless the concession for which he asked was made.
500 In 1893 or 1894 the late Mr. Mundella introduced a Bill in connection with the hours of labour of railway men, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University moved an Amendment specifying that anything over eight hours a day in certain departments of work and ten in others should be reckoned as over-time. It was extremely desirable that the Board of Trade should now reintroduce some proviso of that kind. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that if his Department would face the hours difficulty in some such practical way as that the proposal would be received in no factious spirit by the Labour Members, but with a desire to secure its passage into law without delay.
§ MR. BENN (Devonport)
drew attention to what he thought might be described as a crisis in London education. There had to-day been presented to the London County Council in reference to the condition of the non-provided schools an important report the volume of which might be judged from the fact that the agenda for to-day's meeting consisted of 384 pages. The action of the London County Council in loyally assisting the Government to carry out their education scheme in London had been criticised and objected to by many members of the Opposition, but he reminded the hon. Baronet of the fact, as a plea for special consideration, of the circumstances which had transpired since the duty was undertaken. The County Council were recommended to postpone the "appointed day," and to follow the example of another part of the Kingdom in putting every impediment in the way of the operation of an Act which they regarded as objectionable. They took the line that it was their duty in view of the need of education in London with regard to the children to sacrifice their principles for the moment in order that the children of London should not suffer. Consequently they promptly put the Act into operation and they had done all that could be done to give effect to that measure. What was the position in which they found themselves to-day? First of all they noticed with some astonishment that the organs generally identified 501 with the Government and its policy were raising the cry of the rising rates and declaring that the London County Council was ruining London in consequence of increased rates. The actual figures showed that the increase in the rates of the London County Council was modest as compared with the increase in the rates of those borough councils in the Metropolis which were the creation of the Government. He did not, however, propose to deal with that question, because they knew this increase was owing to all sorts of duties and responsibilities which had been placed upon them by the Government while it had done nothing to relieve the burden of the London ratepayers. Some time ago Lord Goschen drew attention to this constantly increasing responsibility, and he told the House that something must be done to assist London to meet these increasing burdens. The House would probably remember the Van and Wheel Tax, but that was defeated, and the only thing the Government had done was to place fresh duties upon the London County Council without finding ways and means to pay for them.
He wished to call attention to the seriousness of this report in regard to the non-provided schools. This report had staggered London, and the electors of the Metropolis had no idea that the non-provided schools were in the distressed condition which this report revealed. In the survey which he would give to the House the London County Council had secured the services of those officers who in the past had been associated with the London School Board, and they had employed an architect of great experience. That architect, having surveyed the 438 non-provided schools, was only able to report satisfactorily with regard to sixty-four of those schools. Twenty-five per cent, of those schools, he considered, were altogether unsuitable, and he said it had been found impossible to make suggestions for improving them so as to meet the Council's requirements. They were also told that ninety-two of those schools must be closed at once, and twenty-six departments of other schools were unsuitable and should not be allowed to continue in use. The total number of departments which, in the opinion of their officers, were 502 unsuitable for the purposes of elementary education, was 229. He did not propose to trouble the House with the details of this report, but perhaps he would be allowed to take one item which he was quite sure would appeal to the sympathy of the House of Commons. He referred to the drains of the schools. They had been talking a great deal about the physical deterioration of the children, and some hon. Members were deeply concerned that something should be done to assist the children of this country on the physical side. All this work would count for very little if the drains of the schools were unsatisfactory. This report told them that 78 per cent, of the school drains had been tested quite outside the County Council officers, and had been declared to be unsatisfactory. No wonder they had physical deterioration of the children. What did this mean? This Education Act was dumped down at the doorstep of the London County Council, because they never asked for those duties, but they carried them out and had done the best they could with the measure. This report showed clearly that if those children were to be protected with regard to their bodies and minds, they would have to find 70,000 new school places for the children of London. That was a formidable total, and it meant an additional expenditure of £224,000 a year. But that was not the whole of the story.
These are matters which come under the administration of the London County Council, and to be in order the hon. Member must connect them with the Civil Service Estimates which are now before the House.
§ MR. BENN
said if he had transgressed he was sure he would have the indulgence of the House. The line he was taking was that they were entitled to discuss anything under the Estimates for the Education Department with regard to the administration of that Department, and he submitted that in placing this matter before the Secretary to the Board of Education he might perhaps be in order. He wished to explain that he was speaking as a representative of the London County Council, 503 and he was asking the advice and the assistance of the Secretary to the Board of Education. He wanted to know what they were to do. They were carrying out the Act under his care and supervision, and this was a most urgent matter. This state of things had arisen owing to the negligence of the Department which was so ably represented by the hon. Gentleman opposite. What had the Education Department been doing all these years? It seemed to him that being in possession of all the information in regard to the condition of these schools in London he ought to certainly have known that this measure would throw a heavy burden upon the already overburdened ratepayers of London. The London County Council had innocently taken this work up, and now they found themselves face to face with a crisis of very great magnitude.
He proposed to conclude by drawing attention to the summary of this most important report. It said—Further, it appears that the total cost to the Council of the transfer to it of the duty of providing for the elementary education of children now accommodated in non-provided schools will amount to £523,000 a year.That was £500,000 a year on the backs of the ratepayers of London. He claimed that the London County Council took up this work with every desire to administer the Act in a law-abiding spirit, and he thought it was the duty of the Government to come to the help of London in this matter. This cry of rising rates had been taken up by those who were friendly to the Progressive policy of the London County Council. He should like to have seen some of the lion. Members who professed to represent London in their places. Outside they cried out about the rise in the rates, but they did not seem to care about being in their places to protect the ratepayers. He regarded this as one of the most important matters which had occurred in the history of London, and unless the Government came to the assistance of the ratepayers of London it would be making but a poor return to the representatives of the London County Council who had done their best to carry out the wishes of the Government in regard to education.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he hoped they were strictly in order in very briefly calling the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education to this very grave crisis. Their point was that this was a branch of work in regard to education for which the London County Council was not responsible. They desired to bring a charge against the Education Department and they wished to know what that Department had got to say in view of the very serious state of matters which had now been brought to light. He thought this report, containing 384 pages, was without parallel in municipal history, and it showed a most grave and serious state of things, and he thought they were entitled to ask what the Government were going to do. If the Government did not do something the whole burden would be flung on London without the ratepayers getting any assistance whatever in respect of the schools over which the ratepayers had no control. In every one of those schools the ratepayers had only two representatives out of six managers, and they were in a minority, and consequently they were without any right of control and could not guard against a recurrence of these evils. And yet the people of London had to find the money. The Secretary to the Board of Education was not entirely ignorant of the evils of which they had to complain. He felt sure that the fullest information about what had been going on had been brought to the notice of the Board of Education by its inspectors. He thought they ought to have a full statement with regard to the position of the Government in this matter. The ratepayers of London were threatened, with an extra 4d. in the £, because they had been deceived in regard to the position of the schools which the Government insisted in throwing on their backs without giving control over them. Would the Board of Education not have something to say about the grave matter which had been brought to light? He thought his hon. friend was well entitled to ask the Question he had put to the Board of Education, and he hoped some Answer would be given which would show that the emergency was not so grave as it appeared to be at the present moment. They sometimes heard criticism with 505 regard to expenditure on the part of municipalities, the raising of rates, and the difficulty of borrowing money. It was no use for the Government and their supporters to harp on questions like these when they themselves were imposing new duties and placing fresh burdens on the backs of the ratepayers. He hoped some information would be given with regard to this matter of the schools on behalf of the Government.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Sir WILLIAM ANSON,) Oxford University
said he understood Mr. Deputy-Speaker had ruled that this was more or less a matter of London County Council administration, and he would endeavour, therefore, to confine what he had to say to the subject properly under discussion.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
submitted, as a point of order. that the ultimate power rested with the Board of Education; they were not discussing the action of the local education authorities, but the action of the Board of Education in reference to them.
It is perfectly clear that the action of the education authorities, their reports and so forth, cannot be considered; the only thing the House has now to consider is the action of the Government Department. The hon. Member proposes to confine his remarks to the action of the Government Department, and therefore he is in order.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
thought he might appeal to the House on the grounds that he had had no notice until a few minutes ago that this question was to be raised, and that this report was only now in the hands of the London County Council, and had not been in his 506 hands. He had only seen what had appeared in the Press. When, therefore, the hon. Member asked that the advice of the Board on this matter should be given immediately, he thought the request was more than he could reasonably be expected to comply with. He fully recognised the public spirit with which the London County Council had taken up the administration of education under the Education Act; but he could not possibly be expected to offer an opinion on matters of the gravest municipal concern on the spur of the moment, and without having had before him the report in question. He understood that the report of the education committee of the London County Council had been very largely condemnatory of the voluntary schools. That, no doubt, did raise serious questions for the London County Council as a matter of administration and as a matter of municipal expenditure. It was alleged that this would not have arisen if the Board of Education had in the past been more stringent in its requirements as regarded the condition of these schools, and that might be so. He could only speak within his own knowledge, and for his own action in the matter. But he must point out to the hon. Member that places would have to be provided at some time or other for these children, and that if the schools had been condemned in the past the ratepayer would have had to provide for them in the past. He did not for a moment say that there might not be borne argument in favour of their having been condemned in the past; but that it was the duty, whether of the London School Board or of the London County Council, to find places for the children for whom no other school accommodation was provided was, he thought, incontestable, and would have fallen on the London ratepayers whether the Education Act had or had not been passed.
It was hinted that the Board of Education had unduly interfered between the local authority and the managers in respect of the demands made by local education authorities for repairs, alterations, and improvements of the schools. That was a question with which he should be prepared to deal if he were 507 given fair notice of the nature of the charge made against the Board, and of the particular schools in whose case the Board was believed to have departed from its duty; but it was not fair to ask him to meet a general charge of that sort with no notice and without the information which he ought reasonably to be given. The hon. Member for Islington had said that an enormous charge was thrown on the London County Council without any possibility of guarding against its recurrence. He thought, in the first place, that the London County Council would probably inquire very carefully into the particular conditions of the schools. He had no desire to criticise the report, which he had not had an opportunity of seeing; but he had seen it stated, not by persons specially interested in the voluntary schools, that the drainage tests applied were unduly exacting, and that the failure of a drain to meet the requirements of the particular test applied did not absolutely prove that the building was insanitary. That, however, he merely threw out as a suggestion as to the possible lightening of the burden which might—which must fall on the London County Council, who would go fully and carefully into the condition of these schools and ascertain how much was to be done immediately and what might properly be postponed. As to the impossibility of guarding against the recurrence of these evils, he should say that that was a chimerical danger. These buildings, when they were required to be put by the London County Council into good condition—those of them which survived the ordeal of the report, would have to be maintained in good condition if they were to obtain the advantages which the Act afforded to all schools which complied with the reasonable demands of the local education authority. It rested, therefore, with the London County Council, having got them into an improved condition, to see that they were kept in good condition, and if they were not so kept to insist that they should be. The question of reasonableness might from time to time be a matter of dispute between the managers and the local education authority, and the somewhat invidious duty might be thrown on the 508 Board of Education of determining whether the requirements were reasonable or not. All he could say was that when the matter came before him he would endeavour to come to a conclusion as judicially as his imperfect capacities enabled him, and he hoped that in such cases as might come before him in the future he should preserve to the utmost that judicial character. But if he were asked, in what had been called a crisis in the history of London's education, to give advice, he must again remind hon. Members that the County Council had not as yet had time to consider a report which primarily concerned them. Beyond this he could only assure the House that so far as the Board could do so it would secure that schools, whether provided or non-provided, were kept in a proper condition throughout the whole area of London.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he was not aware that this discussion was coming on, and he had no opportunity, therefore, of giving notice to the Secretary of the Board of Education that he desired to call attention to this matter. But as it had been raised he thought it was their duty to press it a little further. This was not merely a London matter, but one for the whole country, and the Secretary to the Board of Education was primarily responsible. If the Board of Education had taken the trouble to ascertain, they would have found that a similar state of things to that in London had been going on throughout the country. The responsibility for that condition was largely on the Board of Education. From a statement which had been sent out it would be observed that the drains in the non-provided schools were generally in a very bad condition. It went on to describe the condition of the schools, stating that there were no staircases, and that if there was a panic there would be serious disaster in the event of fire. The statement dealt with matters of that sort. Whose was the responsibility? Up to the present, at any rate, the responsibility had been on the Board of Education. It was all very well for the hon. Member to remind the House that the result would be an enormous addition to the rates, and that, therefore, he could not press these reforms all at once, but 509 he forgot that if the Board of Education had done their duty these things would have been done gradually instead of coming all at once. Now the sum of £300,000 or £400,000 came on the rates. If the Board of Education had done their duty they would have investigated the condition of the drains in these schools, and also other sanitary matters, such as light and ventilation, and there would not have been this enormous addition to the burdens of London ratepayers cast upon them all at once. It was because of their neglect that this had happened. The Board had looked at one side of the problem. He remembered the debates in the House in regard to sites for the building of new schools, and the Board of Education always interfered in order to stop them. Their policy was pure dogma at the expense of putrid drains. This was the Board that was trying to enforce the law in Wales.
What was the law of the land? It was specific and clear that they had no right to maintain any of these schools unless they were in the sanitary condition required by the Board of Education. How was it that these laws had not been in force? It was simply because of their Church friends. They were implicated in it, and they brought pressure to bear on the Board. The law was only made for Dissenters. It was not intended for High Church parsons. It was for rabid little Dissenters. These were the people who had to be trampled upon. He knew it was very hard to make them responsible; but here the hon. Baronet was making the County Council responsible. The notion of law on the part of the Education Board was extraordinary. He and his friends went the other day before the Marquess of Londonderry and pleaded that, with the exception of one or two schools, all of those condemned were insanitary, were insufficiently lighted, or otherwise defective. The President of the Board of Education said, "You must maintain them whether they are sanitary or not." The legal argument was put before the Marquess of Londonderry, who knew just as much about law as he did about education; and what did his Lordship do? The moment the deputation said to him: "You have got to enforce that 510 part of the law which says that the county councils need not take over those schools until they are put into a proper state of repair," his Lordship banged his box and walked out of the room. What an insult to compel Church managers to obey the law! It was for the county councils to obey the law!
Let him remind the hon. Baronet of his own Act. The hon. Gentleman seemed to have forgotten that Section 7 said that the local education authority should maintain and keep in repair all public elementary schools. The Board of Education said they were going to enforce that provision; but Section 7 did not end there. There were other twenty or thirty lines, and amongst those lines there were ten or a dozen which stated that the managers must hand them over in a good state of repair. They must not stop at the second line of the section if they were giving to administer the law impartially. After all the Government would never have carried this section through the House if that had not been made a condition. He recollected perfectly well the discussions on the section, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the Government carried it even with that condition. Hon. Members on their own side of the House who had a real and genuine interest in education were not prepared to support the clause except on the condition that the voluntary schools were to be put in a state of good repair, and kept so. But the Board of Education had forgetton that part of the bargain. All he and his friends asked for was that the law should be impartially administered in the future; in fact, that they should take a new departure both in regard to London and country schools. The Board of Education had never held an even balance between those schools which were popular schools, and the schools which were sectarian. All he asked was the general proposition that the Board of Education should, not merely in London, but all through the country, insist that these voluntary schools should be put and kept in order. It was a very serious thing to send young children to schools of this kind. Day by day they were there five and six hours, breathing foul air which destroyed their little constitutions. Much better 511 would it be that they should be outside altogether, learning nothing, than breathing bad air. It was all very well to appoint Committees to examine into the physical deterioration of the race, but at this moment the Government was not carrying out the law which enabled the Education Department to keep the children's constitutions right and proper. Let the children have pure air to begin with. He thought that it was monstrous that all this should be done in the name of religion—all those bad drains, all those badly lighted schools, all those staircases that might prove death-traps to little children, and all those conditions that would ruin their little lives. What good did they do by saying that they were keeping religion going in the land? It was all a monstrous hypocrisy and a sham.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
said he had heard the reply of the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education with a good deal of disquietude. He need not labour the unanimity of this report, but in order to break the fall of it on the ratepayers of London, the hon. Baronet said he viewed with equanimity the presence of children in schools in which the drains were defective.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he never asserted anything of the sort. He did say that the London County Council had reported very carefully, but he never had said a word that would bear the construction that he viewed with equanimity the insanitary condition of the schools.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said that the statement of the hon. Baronet was that the standard test for drainage of schools to which it was proper children should go was not a proper one.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said that he had heard that certain drainage tests applied by the London County Council were not always to be relied upon. He did not speak of his own knowledge, but said that the London County Council might find, on further inquiry, that the 512 condition of the drains was not as bad as they believed.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education alleged that the drainage test of the London County Council was too severe, and that if the London County Council looked into the matter they might find that the drains were rot so very bad. Well, knowing something of the methods of the Board of Education, he hoped the Board would not look too tenderly at these voluntary schools and would not procrastinate in seeing that the children whom they compelled by law to go to school did not go to schools which were in an insanitary condition. There were in London 458 voluntary schools, ninety-four of them were condemned right out, and 314 of them were condemned in the matter of drainage, bad light, and ventilation. Would the Board of Education give the order to the denominational trustees to replace these schools which were condemned outright, and make good the deficiencies in the others? If they did so, money would have to be found to provide 60,000 new school places; and half a million of money to maintain them. He had warrant for saying that the Board of Education would not. He had been at them a dozen times on the matter. There was nothing new in all this. It had been all in the pigeon-holes of the Board of Education for the last dozen years. When he had gone to the Board of Education and made representations in regard to the matter what was the reply? "Certainly we shall do nothing; we shall obstruct any Provisional Order and get the Government to reject it, because if you do attempt to carry out your views, you will do injury to the voluntary schools." His hon. friend the Member for Devonport said that there would be no hurry about this matter; that a very long time would elapse before the instructions of the Act of Parliament would be put in force. That was his experience of the Board of Education for the past ten years. Let him say in this connection that the Church of England had been guilty of a breach of good faith. During the passage of the Act of 1902–3 the Bishop of London appealed for £30,000 to put the voluntary schools in London into a 513 structurally fit condition before handing them over to the London County Council. The words of the letter were—We desire that these schools should be handed over in a condition consistent with the principles for which they stand.He did not know whether the report to which reference had been made was to stand as representative of the principles for which the right rev. Bishop said they stood. The voluntary schools were handed over to the London County Council without anything being done to them to put them in good and efficient repair, and that was a breach of good faith with the public of London. He could not hope, but he ventured to express the faint desire, that the lenity and procrastination of the Board of Education would not go on. The Act of 1903 set up an entirely new-state of affairs. He was rather glad of the Act, because he believed it gave to the London County Council an opportunity for overhauling these voluntary schools. And he hoped that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education would endeavour, in the new circumstances set up by the Acts of 1902 and 1903, to break away from the old policy of the Board, and not permit unnecessary delay in putting these schools into a proper condition, or in shutting them, up altogether and seeing new schools erected. If the Church of England could not raise £500,000, which he knew it could not, for that purpose, it meant that the school rate for London would be raised 4d. in the £1, while the ratepayers would have a very small measure of control over the voluntary schools—only two managers out of six. Ail these facts pointed to the necessity of some drastic amendment of the Acts of 1902–3 in the direction of giving the people who found the money control over the schools commensurate with the public expenditure upon them. In this terrible report—and he called it terrible advisedly—there was only one gleam of satisfaction. It was that notwithstanding the hapless condition of the fabric of the schools in regard to lighting, drainage, water, ventilation, etc.—the committee were compelled to pay a tribute, to the zeal and devotion of the voluntary school teachers. That was no new tribute. These teachers had had 514 to work very hard on a very small remuneration, but they had been able to do service in the cause of education which was a marvel to those who knew the condition of those schools.
§ MR. GODDARD (Ipswich)
was glad that this subject had been brought forward, because the discussion had shown the difficulties with which the local education authorities were struggling in consequence of the action of the Board of Education. This was not a matter for London alone; it affected the whole country and he did not think the Secretary to the Board of Education would be able altogether to wriggle out of his responsibility for what had passed, because it was now coming to light every day. These reports in regard to the denominational schools were now coming into the Education Department every day and they were all revealing this one thing, viz., that the policy of the Board of Education had been consistently to have one law for the denominational schools and another law for the old Board schools. The class of buildings was entirely different in the two cases, and buildings had been allowed to pass as fit for denominational schools which would have been condemned out and out if they had been carried on by a school board. This was exceedingly apparent now, when they came to deal with this question of putting all these buildings in a fit and proper condition, which in the present state of things was now considered necessary for them.
He understood that the Secretary to the Board of Education said that he must not be pressed about the report on the London schools as it was too early for him to give an opinion upon it, and the report was not before him, but he wished to ask why the Board of Education did not put a little more energy into dealing with the applications which came from other parts of the United Kingdom in regard to the requirements of these schools? He spoke from personal knowledge, and certainly more than a year had elapsed since the first report went in on one of these school buildings. It was a disgraceful building, absolutely unfitted for a school—a building about which Government inspectors for years had been finding 515 fault, but about which the Board of Education had done nothing to insist upon improvements being made. The school was examined by the surveyor of the local education authority and a report was sent up as to the requirements of that authority and as to what they considered should be done to put the building in a proper state of repair. That matter had been hung up for a year. There had been correspondence and so forth, and yet no advance whatever had been made and, so far as he could see, the authorities were no nearer to having the building put into proper order after the lapse of a year than they were a year ago. The foundation managers said the requirements were not reasonable, and that the local education authority should appeal to the Board of Education to say whether it was reasonable or not. It was not, therefore, the local education authority who were putting hindrances in the way. Why did not the Education Department answer?
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
Will the hon. Gentleman kindly supply me with the name of the school and I will see that the matter is inquired into?
§ MR. GODDARD
did not think the hon. Baronet would need him to supply the name, because the facts had been before him for a long time. But he would mention the case to him. In five or six cases that he knew of certain requirements had been insisted upon by the local education authority. They had been hung up and nothing had been done. It would take years before any improvement was made in the school buildings. He would urge upon the Board of Education to put a little more energy into the matter and see that the alterations were put in hand at once. The Board should not let the correspondence be interminable and prolonged between the managers and themselves.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid.)
said the report was of a very serious nature and illustrated the conduct of the Board of Education and the Government which had been in office for very many years. The complaint made in the time of Mr. Acland was that he brought undue 516 pressure to bear upon the owners and the proprietors of the voluntary schools not in the interest of the schools but in order that he might shut them up. He believed that accusation was quite unfair and that considerable pressure was brought to bear by Mr. Acland merely to put these schools in a fit and proper condition. He believed that his sole object was that the children should be properly dealt with, and not that protection should be extended as it had been since to the proprietors of these schools. The report showed that the schools were structurally unsuited for their purpose and that it was necessary to close many of them at once. What ought to be the policy of the Education Department, not only in London, but all over the country? Surely it ought to be directed with one idea of doing what was best for the rising generation without reference to whether they belonged to the Established Church or were Roman Catholics or belonged to any other denomination. The Department should bring pressure to bear upon the authorities of the schools, but was that pressure being brought to bear? Section 7 of the Act of 1902 said that the education authority need not take over these schools except upon conditions, one of which was that the schools must be in good repair. If the education authorities in London did their duty they would see that that condition was enforced. He wished to ask the Secretary to the Board of Education whether the Department were proceeding on this kind of basis, viz., that they should relieve the pressure upon the ground that they were not able to withhold the monies which were voted by Parliament from these voluntary schools because for some reason or another they were estopped from doing so. If that were the case, such a doctrine of waiver or estoppel prevented the Department from using the powers which had been placed in its hands by Parliament, to withhold these monies from the schools until they were put into repair.
§ MR. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)
pointed out that many of the voluntary schools were built many years ago, and although there was no objection to the trustees being made to make small repairs, he 517 contended that the report went too far. It was extremely hard upon the trustees of those schools, if it was not unfair, that they should now be called upon to spend considerable sums of money to bring them up to date. There was first of all the test for drainage. How many houses which were now in existence would stand that test? He did not think many of the houses in which hon. Members lived would stand it, nor did he think the House of Commons would stand such a test. He therefore hoped the most careful investigation would be made in every case before the order of the County Council was allowed to be enforced. The report had been adopted and its adoption had placed an enormous work on the poor Catholics in London, and he thought that would establish a very strong case for a special grant from this House to the Catholic voluntary schools. He sincerely hoped that the Department would act very cautiously and make very careful inquiries before proceeding upon this report. Let them look, for instance, at the complaint with regard to the amount of playground accommodation. They were told, that certain schools would be condemned if they had not sufficient playground accommodation, which meant that in the case of many of the schools in London the trustees would have to acquire the residential or business premises adjoining and pull them down in order to make more playground accommodation, the penalty for not doing so being the closing of the school and the erection of a new one at the public cost. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would see that no injustice was done in this respect.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said complaint had been made as to the delay on the part of the Board of Education in putting into force the obligations resting on managers of voluntary schools to put their schools into a proper state of repair. There were two methods of resistance by the Board, one was active and the other passive resistance, and he regarded the Secretary to the Board of Education as the greatest passive resister in the country. It was only necessary for the Board to say "We will inquire into this matter," in order to enable them to keep the 518 authority waiting so long as the authority chose to let them alone. Then when the authority wrote to them they sent a formal acknowledgment and again hung the matter up. He apprehended that if a ratepayer in answer to an application for his rate answered that he was in correspondence with his banker upon that subject the rate collector would have a very short and sharp reply to it, but the Board of Education could allow schools to be ill-drained, ill-ventilated, ill-lighted, and ill-heated, and provided the persons interested in that school were sufficiently influential with the Board that sort of thing could go on for years. Were not the schools at large to be put into a proper sanitary condition. He asked the hon. Gentleman in this matter to search his own conscience and say whether, in fact, in the spirit, if not in the letter, he had not been one of the greatest law-breakers in the country. There was not a district from which these complaints did not come, and instances could be multiplied by the thousand where this question had been approached in a partisan and sectarian spirit by those who pretended to be the judges. What they complained of was the great influence behind the hon. Gentleman, the influence of that Great Palace on the South side of the Thames, the result of which was to prevent the children of this country from being housed as they ought to be housed. The school was the home of the children during a considerable portion of their working hours, and it ought to be kept in a decent state of repair. So far as the Welsh county councils were concerned they had not taken any drastic or severe action; they had given the schools at least twelve months notice, and they had no desire to be harsh in any way. But the hon. Baronet was going to enforce some portions of the Act very rigidly. He ought really to ask himself whether he was doing his duty by the country generally, and by the children of the country, in allowing the delay to continue against which the Welsh representatives had again and again protested, and they now asked whether if a fair statement of the case as to the necessities of these schools were laid before him he would act upon the report forthwith, or was 519 there to be merely an acknowledgment and a promise to consider the matter?
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said he had listened with great regret to the speech of the hon. Baronet with regard to the London education question. Though he opposed the Education Act with regard to its main provisions, he believed that good was coming out of evil, in that exposures were now being made as to the inefficient state of the voluntary schools which never would have been made but for that Act. The report of the London County Council, which had come with a considerable shock to all interested in education, whether they were friends of voluntary schools or not, was really an exposure, first, of the way in which a large number of managers of voluntary schools had neglected the health and education of the children, and secondly of the neglect and inefficiency of the Education Department itself. Personally he was inclined to blame the Education Department more severely than the voluntary managers, and for this reason. It had always been contended that the country did not get full value for the enormous expenditure on education, and it was the duty of the Board of Education, as far as possible, to see that full value was obtained for the money spent, but this report showed that for years past the Education Department had practically neglected its duties and had been in the hands of those who represented the voluntary schools. The hon. Baronet appeared to minimise this report of the London County Council.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said that so far as he understood him the hon. Baronet said that he had not had an opportunity of considering the report, but that when he did consider it he might find that in some cases the condition of the schools had been somewhat exaggerated.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
I did not say anything of the sort. I expressed a hope that the County Council, when they considered the report, which I have not yet seen, might find that in some cases the condition of the schools 520 was not so hopeless as their first impressions led them to believe.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said they all hoped that the schools were not so bad as they had been painted, but even assuming that those who carried out the inquiry had exaggerated the condition of some schools, there was ample evidence to show that in a vast number of cases the schools were not only absolutely inefficient educationally, but harmful to the health and physical growth of the children. The fact that over ninety schools, accommodating 50,000 children, had been absolutely condemned was in itself enough to condemn the managers of the schools, and he would not say the hon. Baronet, but his predecessors at the Education Department. Over and over again the late London School Board, when it desired to substitute efficient schools for the inefficient voluntary schools, encountered the greatest possible opposition from the Education Department, and had to delay or abandon altogether the building of such schools because of the influence that was brought to bear in favour of the existence of the voluntary schools. What they asked the hon. Baronet to undertake was that all the schools that were properly condemned, which could not under any circumstances be made into efficient schools, should be replaced by really efficient schools. As regarded the others, they also would have to come under the purview of the hon. Baronet, and they desired that he should put the greatest possible pressure on the managers to put those schools into an efficient state. It was true that it would cost a considerable sum to put the schools in the state which the County Council thought proper. But that simply meant that the managers had not kept them efficient from year to year, otherwise only a small sum would now be necessary. There was one point which had arisen in Wales and would arise in London upon which an immediate answer was desired. The grant was given by the Education Department on behalf of particular schools, and he understood that in Wales the Department were insisting that the county councils should hand over to the particular schools their proportion of the grant, whether those 521 schools were, or were not, in their opinion, in "a good state of repair." As the question would soon arise in London, he asked the hon. Baronet whether, in the case of a school condemned by the County Council as not being in a good state of repair, he would insist on the County Council keeping that school in existence and giving it the Government grant. Speaking on the matter generally, he was glad the question had been raised, as it had afforded an opportunity for discussion, and for directing public attention to a report which had come upon many people as a considerable surprise and shock.
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
said he was very glad that this question had been raised, although he did not hope to get much satisfaction from the Board of Education in regard to it. This was a question which affected not only London and Wales, but every part of the country. He wished to remind the hon. Baronet of a Question which was put to him upon this subject before the Act came into operation. He was asked whether the local education authority would be justified in refusing to take over certain schools until certain alterations had been made, and the reply given by the Department was that they must take them over as they were, and then take their chance of being able to bring pressure to get the repairs done and the alterations made. Let the House remember what took place last year when the Defaulting Authorities Act was passed. The one Amendment they moved was that there should be a public inquiry before the Act was put into force, at which the managers and the public authorities should be allowed to state their case. As one of the very few Members who were allowed to speak upon that measure before it was guillotined, he ventured to say that the very object of that Act was to prevent a public inquiry, and to allow a backstairs' influence to be the prevailing influence in these matters. The whole case had now been proved to be what was predicted at that time. According to the Act of 1902 the Board of Education would be compelled to agree with the local education authority, if it refused to maintain a school which was not in 522 a proper sanitary condition. They had been told that the Board of Education had been advised by the law officers of the Crown, but not one of them was present to answer that Question. Where were they? Not long ago he asked a Question about the salaries and fees received by the law officers of the Crown which appeared on the Estimates, and now when they really wanted their advice upon a question of the highest importance they did not put in an apearance. He should like to know if the hon. Baronet would send for the law officers in order that the House might be told before the debate closed what was their opinion as to the proper interpretation of this clause. It was a matter of health, and, indeed, a matter of life and death to some of the children, and when the law officers were drawing salaries and fees amounting to £19,000 a year, he thought they ought to be in their places ready to answer a Question of this kind. The Board of Education said that they had been advised that the local authority had no right to insist upon sanitary conditions as a condition—
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
asked whether the action of the Merionethshire County Council with regard to such schools was not based upon the fact that they waived their right under this clause to call upon the proprietors of voluntary schools to put them into a state of good repair?
§ MR. WHITLEY
said that reply made it all the more important that they should have the opinion of the law officers upon it. He thought the local authorities were entitled to know exactly what their position was in this matter. Were they or were they not bound to maintain the schools when a reply which was 523 tantamount to a refusal was given to them? They had been accustomed to doles of this kind on the part of the Board of Education, but they should not forget that it was put before them as one of the chief reasons in favour of this Act that all that sort of thing would be done away with in the future. Even the hon. Member for Camberwell had stated that in his opinion, after the passing of this Act, the bolstering up of undesirable schools because certain doctrines would be taught in them would be done away with, but they had found that that was not by any means the case, and things were just as bad in that respect as they were before. The Board of Education was not willing to allow these things to be settled by a public inquiry, but by some device which was now apparently denied by the head of the Department, or some influence which they had no means of investigating, these things were decided against the local education authorities, and so the administration was as bad as ever, and they had all the other evils which had arisen to put up with at the same time.
§ MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
said he hoped that the Board of Education, when they considered this report, would have due regard to the economy of the rates, and would not press too strongly for the immediate closing of these schools. He did not base his request that they should have consideration of that kind upon the same grounds as those put forward by his hon. friend. The Board of Education were bound to see that the bargain at the bottom of the Act was properly carried out. That bargain was that the burden of maintaining the teaching, etc., should be on the public, but that the managers of the voluntary schools should present for the free use of the public a sanitary and suitably constructed school building. There were some ninety cases in London now revealed to the full light of day where sanitary and properly constructed schools did not exist. The Board of Education would be called upon to decide between the managers and the London County Council, which was in the right and which was in the wrong. I They all wanted reasonable arrangements to prevail. They did not want 524 undue haste. They did not want a system to be put into operation all at once that would make it impossible for these schools to go on and throw into the streets a number of children for whom school places could not be provided. But so far he was not satisfied that the Board of Education would look at this question from a new point of view, a point of view justified by the Education Act of 1902, and which was not possible before the Act was passed.
Before the Act the Education Department had to consider that there was not everywhere a local authority charged with the duty of providing and maintaining these schools. They had to consider that if a school were closed by their action on account of being insanitary and improperly furnished there might be a difficulty in providing another school in its place, and they perhaps wisely proceeded with a certain amount of delay and caution where it was necessary to close or bring to an end an insanitary school. That day had now passed. The excuse before the Act for showing leniency towards schools of certain churches in the country had been taken from them. What he wanted to be sure of was that in London and elsewhere the attitude of the Secretary to the Board of Education would be impartial and not biassed by a preference for the schools of any particular church, but that the Board of Education would call upon the local managers who did not perform their part of the bargain to carry it out. Poverty had been pleaded as an excuse for not keeping the schools in proper repair by an hon. Member who represented Roman Catholics, but he did not recognise that as a valid argument. The cost was not excessive, and the pleading of poverty by people who spoke of deep conscientious motives, and something they would never surrender, was rather an anticlimax. It was certainly inconsistent. When he remembered that the hon. Member's co-religionists in France spent on their schools £2,500,000, he listened with a certain amount of impatience to those who said that poverty prevented persons of a particular faith from spending a few hundred pounds to put a school in a decent sanitary condition. He was 525 glad that the revelation had come. For many years past he had said that the great bulk of the voluntary schools were unfitted for the purpose of education. They were bad in respect of furniture, air, lighting, and space. He thought they might ask the Board of Education, while exercising certain reasonable caution, to act towards managers of these schools with firmness. If the Board did so it would be found that they would put their hands in their pockets and provide the money necessary for the improvement of these schools. If the managers did not do that he hoped the Board of Education would step between the managers and the local authority and have the schools closed.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
said one Question had arisen in the course of the debate to which it seemed to him the hon. Baronet should give a definite and specific Answer. He had given as a reason for not dealing with the report now, that he had not had an opportunity of considering it, and he had stated that he would approach it in due time in a judicial spirit. He did not wish to commit himself now with regard to the conclusions at which he might ultimately arrive in regard to the report. But the debate had disclosed another doubt and difficulty in the minds of hon. Members on this subject. Was or was not the hon. Baronet going to regard the pleading of poverty as a valid excuse for non-compliance with the Act when managers were called upon to put schools in good order? Was the pleading of poverty a reason for delaying the putting of schools in order, or for leaving the obligations alone altogether? That was not a matter in which the hon. Baronet should be in any doubt. He listened to the hon. Member for South Down with considerable sympathy. The hon. Member stated that the difficulty of his co-religionists was that they were without financial means. He himself did not know whether the hon. Baronet considered that he was entitled to take that into consideration at all. If he did conceive himself entitled to consider the question of poverty on the part of those responsible for the condition of these schools, then he ought to inform the country. That would give rise to a 526 most important question of principle—a question of principle which the House ought to be put in possession of, not, indeed, to-night, but at some later stage. He was quite sure the hon. Baronet would do his best to give an Answer to the Question whether or not he thought it right to take into consideration the poverty of school managers or school subscribers as a reason why they should be permitted to avoid the obligations, I cast upon them by the Act.
§ MR. WILLIAM JONES (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said the House was entitled to an Answer after the revelations as to the condition of schools in London and throughout the country. Was the hon. Gentleman going to bring pressure upon the educational authorities or upon those managers who, in the name of religion, neglected those schools?
§ MR. MACVEAGH
said he was sure the hon. and learned Gentleman did not wish to represent him. He did not plead the poverty of Roman Catholics as a reason why they should not place their schools in good condition. What he said was that out of their poverty the Irish Catholics in this country had built their schools and made great sacrifices.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said he wished to ask the Secretary to the Local Government Board whether there was any likelihood of any action being taken, even in the remote future, in the Metropolitan area to make some arrangement both with respect to the treatment of children and the equalisation of the Poor Law administration. In the Local Government Act of 1888 a clause was inserted enabling the county council to contribute 4d. per day on the average number of persons in the workhouses previous to the year 1818. Since that time there had been a very large increase in the number of persons in the workhouses, and that had formed a very heavy burden indeed on the poorer districts of the Metropolitan area. The Government had been asked to introduce a Bill if necessary to bring the average up to date, and the Poor Law Unions Association suggested that the average number of persons in workhouses should be calculated from year to year. In his 527 district they would be willing to accept an average of two years. Another hardship from which they suffered in Poplar was that where there was no accommodation for children in the workhouse schools they were penalised to the extent of 5d. per day, while the children were not taught.
During the last winter they had been obliged to deal with an abnormal number of people in granting them outdoor relief. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was then at the head of the Local Government Board, very properly asked the board of guardians in providing relief in time of distress to have regard first to the man who was usually in ordinary employment, and not to the chronic "out-of-work." The Poplar Council did provide work for 1,000 men, and in this way they preserved their manhood; but as there were 3,000 applications for help 2,000 men had to go on the poor rate. They in Poplar did their duty, but it was at a very considerable expense. The rates in Poplar were up to 12s. in the £. There was an enormous aggregation of casual labourers in the South-East of London, and the boards of guardians were obliged to deal with them in times of emergency at great expense; but it was because Poplar had done its duty in this respect that it had been held up before the world as being the heaviest rated borough in the kingdom. He maintained that there should be a central board, and one Metropolitan rate for the Poor Law. It might be said, did they expect a West End parish to contribute to an East End parish without having any control? His reply to that was that they in the East End were prepared to give any control asked for. If Marylebone had to raise a rate on the Poplar assessment that borough would have to levy 19s. 0¾. in the £, instead of 7s. as at present. There should be a better equalisation of rates all over the Metropolitan area.
That seems to require legislation. The present discussion must be confined to administrative matters only.
§ MR. CROOKS
said he thought that the late President of the Local Government Board had stated that many of 528 these matters might be adjusted by administrative arrangements. Since the Education Department had taken the responsibility of examining the children in the Poor Law schools, why should they not go a little further and put these children under the education authority and not under the Poor Law, why not take away the children from the Poor Law taint altogether? The children now under the Metropolitan Asylums Board ought also to be placed under the Education Department, which now dealt with every kind of children, including cripples.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he could only speak by the indulgence of the House, but would, if permitted, answer I certain Questions addressed to him. He had been asked whether poverty was an excuse for the imperfect maintenance of I the fabric of a school. He had never heard such an excuse made. The school must be maintained in a suitable condition whether those who maintained it were poor or not. If they were too poor to maintain the school they must give up the maintenance of it. He was also asked whether decent repair would be insisted upon by the Board of Education as a condition of the maintenance of a school. That was so. The Act required that the managers should keep the school in good repair, that the local authority was not bound to maintain the school unless it was in good repair, and that every question of repair must be dealt with as it arose and the reasonableness of the demands of the local authority had to be dealt with by the Board of Education. He would answer the Question of the hon. Member for Glamorgan in this way. A local authority, not having given any notice of requirements as to repairs to the managers of voluntary schools, and having received the Parliamentary grants for a whole year in respect of those schools, but not having adequately maintained them, could not at the end of the year set up an alleged disrepair as a ground for refusal to maintain them in a proper condition. He was not aware that there had been delay on the part of the Board of Education in dealing with these matters.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
said it was for the owners 529 of a school to see that it 'was in good repair and no notice was required on the part of the county authorities. When the latter inspected a school and found it was not in proper repair then they were to stop the maintenance at once without notice. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Education had assumed that there was a provision which required them to give notice, but that assumption was not warranted. The Act only authorised the local authorities to maintain the schools so long as they were in repair. If the local education authority had expressed the opinion that a particular school was not in repair and then proceeded to maintain that school it would be the duty of the auditors to surcharge. Take the case of the London County Council. Say it was convinced that a number of schools were not in repair, if, notwithstanding that, it proceeded to maintain them the auditor should surcharge the County Council of London and refuse to sanction the payments they had made in respect of those schools which they had themselves pronounced inefficient. He thought they might ask the President of the Local Government Board to tell them the direction which would be given to Poor Law auditors in that respect.
§ Question put, and agreed to.