HC Deb 20 June 1905 vol 147 cc1174-203

Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [20th June], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Which Amendment was, To leave oat all the words after the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'it is most inexpedient for the national welfare, contrary to the beat interests of the State, and especially detrimental to the poor themselves, by tending to reduce their self-reliance and independence, that a system of relief, whether supported by municipal rates or Imperial taxation, be established in addition to and outside the existing Poor Law;'"—(Sir George Bartley.)

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


continuing his speech, said he now had one or two criticisms to make with regard to the Bill itself, and from the tone of his observations hitherto the President of the Board of Trade would see that he did not make them in any carping or hostile spirit. Although there was much to be said for the appointment of a central board to carry out the provisions of this Bill, he hoped he had gathered from the Government that afternoon that some understanding might yet be arrived at whereby it would not be compulsory to establish these new authorities all over the country. In a city like London, where the County Council had its hands already full of work, a new authority might be necessary; it would be a mistake to impose upon the County Council the duty of carrying out the provisions of this Bill. But that remark only applied to London; it did not apply to the rest of the country, where everybody would feel averse to the creation of a new set of officials which would be necessary if the Bill passed in its present form. They did not wish to multiply officials except in case of dire necessity, and therefore he hoped, if the special authority idea was to be maintained, that the suggestions made by one or two hon. Gentlemen would be considered, namely, that in connection with the new authority existing officials, such as town clerks, etc., should be utilised as far as possible in preference to creating brand-new officials. The Bill proposed that in country areas its provisions might be called into force by a resolution passed by the board of guardians or the local authority for that area, but that in those places where no such resolution was carried, and where the full provisions of the Bill were not called into being, a special committee of the county council should be required to be appointed to establish registers and so forth. That seemed to him to point the way in which the necessity of creating a new authority might be avoided. If a committee of a county council was able to administer any portion of the Bill without a new authority being created, an elaboration of that idea would enable the same committee to carry out the full provisions of the Bill wherever it was thought desirable to do so. This arrangement applied also to county boroughs and district councils. In his opinion in the case of a town, a unit in itself, and not like London an aggregation of units, it would be a mistake to create these new authorities. A borough council was quite competent, and would be undoubtedly willing to exercise through a committee of its own all the powers conferred on it under this Bill. If that were done it would remove one of the objections to this measure, held very strongly by a good many councils and other people who desired to see the Bill passed, but who objected strongly, and in his opinion rightly, to the creation of anything like a new set of officials.

With regard to London itself the powers of the Bill might be vested in the borough councils, leaving the central authority to be created from representatives of those councils and of the County Council, with such co-opted members as might be agreed upon, because so far as London was concerned it was desirable that there should be a special authority which should be charged with the responsibility and the duty of putting the provisions of the Bill into operation. To make the county of London a model on which to build up new central bodies throughout the country was a mistake, and he hoped that upon this point also the President of the Local Government Board would keep an open mind. So far as London was concerned, it would, in his opinion, be a mistake and n great disadvantage to the proper working of the Bill if the County Council area, and not the Metropolitan Police area, was taken as the area. If the Metropolitan Police area was taken, the accessible bounds for the purposes of the Bill would be considerably enhanced, and such poor districts as South West Ham, which in this respect was one of the worst boroughs in England, with a large proportion of unemployed and a low rateable valuation, Would be able to cope more effectively with its responsibility. If West Ham had to depend upon itself to carry out the provisions of this Bill, it would immediately break down, but if, on the other hand, it was made part of the London area, then the outlying residential areas where the well-to-do mostly went to live, would be brought within the rating area and the cost of providing for the unemployed would be spread over a much wider area. A penny rate struck over the Metropolitan Police area would yield £30,000 a year more than if the London County Council area were taken as the unit.

He was pleased with the frank manner in which the President of the Board of Trade had explained the meaning of that section of the clause dealing with wages. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that it was not intended that the wages paid were to be under the current and fair rate, but that the total remuneration was to be less than would be earned by an ordinary workman under ordinary conditions. But if that were so, the clause as it stood would defeat that idea. The clause said that the total remuneration for any temporary work should be less than that earned by unskilled labour. Last winter the London Central Committee employed a considerable number of men in painting markets and doing certain classes of skilled work on the lines arranged by this Bill, but had this Bill been in force last winter those men would have come under the clause. Those men were paid the union rate of wages throughout, but had this Bill been law the wages earned by those men would have been confined to something under those earned by unskilled labour under ordinary conditions. That was a very serious thing and one which he ho pad the President of the Local Government Board would consider and pat right, because it could not for a moment be contended that simply because skilled work was done at a time of stress, out of season, in order to give employment to the unemployed, the wages of the persons doing that work should be less than those of unskilled labour. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to accept an Amendment that the whole of that portion of the clause which dealt with wages should come out of the Bill. There was no reason whatever for its being in the Bill, and it only milled the people. He, therefore, hoped that that portion of the clause might be deleted in order that there might be no misconception of what the intention or the meaning of the Government was. After all, when the Bill became law, it would not be the intention of the Government, nor the speeches of the President of the Local Government Board, which would be held to show the meaning of the Act, but the words of the Act itself, and if this sub-section were left in it would be a very dangerous thing indeed, and might lead to great difficulties. Subsection 6 of Clause 1 should also be varied to some extent, because it was never intended that the provisions of this Bill should allow private employment to be subsidised by a public authority That sub-clause was capable of that interpretation, however, and that being so, it would be much better if that also were deleted. Failing the deletion of those two sub-sections he trusted that such Amendments would be accepted as would make it impossible for any of the dangers which he had indicated to arise.

There was one other point. The Bill said relief was not to be given in more than two successive years to one man. That required to be amended in some form or other; he quite agreed that there should be a limit to the period during which one could be a member of a labour colony or receive temporary work from other bodies established, but suppose the case of a man employed in December last year and January this year, that man would be employed during two years, and, therefore, would be disqualified from receiving further employment. Such a thing was out of the question, and some Amendment to that clause was required. Everyone was agreed as to the desirability of establishing labour bureaux, but he hoped that work would be undertaken upon some system. It was not enough to establish bureaux for the unemployed or labour exchanges all over the country. Unless they were co-ordinated they would lose much of their usefulness. In many parts of Germany the labour bureaux system had been brought to the perfection of a fine art. By means of telephones and the Press the whole kingdom was posted up, and men were put into possession of information as to those employers who required workmen of their class, and they were even assisted from one place to another when work had been found for them. Something of that kind required to be done under this Bill. He knew, of course, there was a possibility of these bureaux being used as blackleg agencies where an employer might be enabled to obtain labour cheap and without difficulty, under the full protection of the Government, and something required to be done to safeguard these institutions from being prostituted in that way. Much had been said about the danger of this Bill doing too much for the working classes and of its being taken advantage of by the working classes, but the labour bureaux were far more likely to be abused by the employers than the working classes.

He trusted the Government would continue to do as they had hitherto done, steer an even keel between the opposition on both sides and pilot this measure safely into the harbour of Government legislation. A small measure it might be, but it would mean much to hundreds of thousands of men next winter and the winters to follow. Even at the present season, with the prospects of good trade, there were 5 per cent. of trades unionists on the unemployed benefit funds. During the summer months people managed to get a living somehow, but the dark dreary days of winter would come again, and then the number of the unemployed was always greater than in summer. For three winters in succession municipalities and charitable agencies had been strained to their utmost to tide the unemployed over their difficulties, and the House should remember that municipalities, though they might do it occasionally, could not go on for ever providing relief works for the unemployed. It had been stated that municipalities had a free hand for dealing with the unemployed. Such talk was misleading. The powers of the guardians were limited enough, but those of the municipalities were nil. The only power they had was to do certain work which might give employment to some of the unemployed. Seeing that existing methods were practically exhausted it was doubly incumbent upon the House to back up the Government measure, in order that when winter came there should be machinery in existence for lightening to some extent the burden which fell upon decent men who were unable to find employment. When they realised what want of employment for weeks and months meant to men, women, and children, not only in the present but in the future, surely hon. Members should waive all preconceived theories spun out of the imagination of men who had been dead and gone hundreds of years. He, at any rate, would not take the responsibility, by act, word, or vote, of doing anything to hinder the passage of the Bill into law. If no provision were made for the coming winter, the cursings and groanings of the hungry and the dying, the despairing, and the suicides, might well embitter the lives of those who were responsible should they succeed in wrecking the Bill. It was only a beginning in the right direction, but still it was a beginning, and he hoped that the Government would stand by the position they had taken up, boldly declaring that having set their hands to this work of healing one of the gravest social sores in English political life they would not be daunted by opposition, but would see to it that the Bill was placed on the Statute-book before the session closed.


said that in considering this subject he could not regard the present as a crisis. He could remember the time when combing machines were invented, one machine doing the work of eighty men, when power looms supplanted the hand-loom weaver, and the great cotton famine in Lancashire, and he was convinced there was no comparison between the difficulties of the present time and those which had then to be faced. But the difficulties of those days were overcome without any changes of a revolutionary character, and he believed that the difficulties of to-day could be surmounted with a similar absence of recourse to perilous experiments. He regretted that the intention of the Government to apply the Bill to county boroughs was not made clear at an earlier stage. During the recess he had been in communication with the authorities of Bradford and Wigan, and had told them that as he understood the Bill it was practically a London Bill, though it was extremely possible that attempts would be made to extend it to the country generally.


pointed out that Clause 2 clearly showed that the Bill was compulsory upon every county borough unless it made application to the Local Government Board for a postponement, and the Board granted such a postponement.


agreed that that was the effect of the clause, but there had doubtless been widespread misapprehension on the point. He certainly did not regard with satisfaction the enormous powers which were given by the Bill to the Local Government Board to make Orders and regulations without having to come to Parliament. He never knew a Government which did not greatly love the system of proceeding by the system of Orders and regulations. The system doubtless had its proper place and value, but he thought the House of Commons ought to regard the granting of such powers with great jealousy, and insist upon Bills being made as wide and comprehensive as circumstances would admit. There was no doubt that in the course of years, possibly a very few years, this Bill would lead to great developments, and therefore not only the actual text of the measure should be considered, but also the modifications or extensions which were almost inevitable in the future. He regretted the creation of another authority. We already had a surfeit of authorities, and as one who had had considerable experience of the administration of the Poor Law he believed the existing methods of inquiry and existing machinery were sufficient for the purpose.

The House should note one great difference between the Poor Law authority and the proposed new authority—that the great object of the Poor Law was to use every legitimate means of persuasion to induce those in receipt of relief to help themselves in other ways, and cease to be a burden on the rates, while he was afraid that the tendency of this legislation would be to encourage those who availed of it to continue in the employment of the local authority. The Bill, in fact, established and endowed a new dependent class of the community, and that was a departure, he thought, which was fraught with grave perils to the social system. If the Bill was to be really effective the work given must be work which would not otherwise be done, because if it were not so it would be simply change of employment and not new employment. That constituted a difficulty which had already been experienced, and he had in mind a large and progressive borough where there had been great difficulty in finding such employment by way of public works constructed out of rates. The Government desired to provide continuous labour. His curiosity was as to where the "continuous" labour was to end. If it was never to end it would not touch the unemployed, as the new authority would merely have a group of workpeople permanently in its employ just like any other employer of labour.

One great difficulty was the very feeble financial support which the Bill ha 1. For instance, the borough of Bradford during the winter expended £17,000 in works, whereas the sum provided in the Bill wag £6,000. And what would a farm colony be to a borough with 300,000 or 400,000 inhabitants? Another point was that if there was such a thing as scarcity of work—and they all knew there was—there was also such a thing as scarcity of labour. He knew an employer of labour some of whose hands refused to work for him because they thought they could better themselves by working for the corporation on works of a semi-artificial character. There was considerable danger in the fact that the labour set up under this Bill might be a severe and, to the public, a dangerous competitor with the labour of the independent employer. Such a consideration could not be overlooked. There was also the question of the vote. He viewed with apprehension the prospect of candidates rising in the dark days of October and endeavouring to obtain votes by promises of work.

MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)

It was done on every Unionist platform in 1895.


I was never on a platform where utterance was given to such a doctrine.


Old-age pensions in St. George's Hall, Bradford.


said his last point was with regard to wages. It would be a serious mischief to the State if the wages and general conditions of labour obtaining for works executed under this Bill were such as to make workmen reluctant to enter the service of the private capitalist. The wage fund of the private employer was necessarily bounded by his prospect of remunerative return, but no such consideration need apply to the local authority; they could go on ns long as the ratepayers chose to grant the money, and there was no end to the mischief which might ensue. Every Member of the House would feel the deepest sympathy and compassion for the unemployed. It was impossible to pass a portion of the winter in any of our large towns without feeling such sympathy and compassion—


Sympathy does not fill them.


had no doubt that feeling was shared by the hon. Member who interrupted him. They ought not to allow their sympathy and compassion to overbear their judgment, because that would produce a worse state of affairs than that which they were now trying to remedy by legislation.

MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, Cleveland)

said that all the speeches in opposition to the Bill had come from the supporters of the Government, and all those in favour of it, except the speeches of the introducer and the hon. Member for Mile End, had come from that side. They accepted the principle of the Bill as an honest, though small, attempt to deal with the welter of poverty and misery that settled at the base of our social system. The causes of unemployment were two, personal and industrial. Those who were out of work through their own defects were to be rightly left to the Poor Law. Nobody denied that there were industrial causes for men being out of employment, wholly apart from personal causes, and the reason why he supported the principle of this Bill was because he was profoundly convinced that they would always have an unemployed problem. If they made every man in the country sober and intelligent, reformed the land laws, and reduced taxation to its lowest possible limit, if they established the system of protection which hon. Gentlemen opposite so much desired, if they were to limit the population by forbidding immigration and encouraging emigration,—every depression of trade, every invention of machinery or change of fashion would still give rise to an unemployed problem. What were they going to do under such circumstances? It had been said that this Bill was only a palliative and not a cure. He agreed that this measure was a palliative, but the unemployed problem was a disease for which there was no cure. Large numbers of men were frequently thrown out of employment through industrial causes for which the workmen could not be blamed. The great trade depression of 1893–4 came about partly through financial collapses in Australia and the Argentine, and the effects were felt in the back streets of London and Manchester amongst people who had never heard of the Argentine and who knew very little about Australia. Workmen could not be expected to make provision against such emergencies. It was the duty of society to make some effort to meet the case of those men who happened to be thrown out of work through no fault of their own. It seemed to him a monstrous thing that the State should acquiesce in the existing social system and make no effort to remedy this state of things which produced such intolerable suffering and distress in times of trade depression.

To deal with this problem three things were essential. In the first place any scheme for coping with the unemployed problem should set up permanent machinery, and that necessity was recognised in the Bill. Then the employment provided should not be so attractive as to draw or keep men from their ordinary employment He believed the safeguards in the Bill, which would be enforced by the regulations of the Local Government Board, would be amply sufficient for this purpose. In the third place, the measures adopted ought to have a proper variety and elasticity. In that respect the Bill appeared to him to be defective. It only proposed labour exchanges and farm colonies, unless, indeed, local authorities received voluntary gifts, which he thought would be unlikely when we began to draw on the rates. He was glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman now the Irish Secretary had been converted to the idea of farm colonies and labour exchanges. In a debate on this subject in 1903, he used language which was not favourable to those methods.


said the proposal in this Bill was that there should be farm colonies owned by the central authority. The proposal of which he spoke on the occasion referred to by the hon. Member for Cleveland was to substitute farm colonies all over the country for tin Poor Law system.


said that this Bill proposed to substitute farm colonies for the defects and deficiencies of the Poor Law system. The only objection, however, which he had to make to this part of the Bill was that it did not go far enough. He thought the labour exchanges would be an exceedingly useful part of the system, and although they did not create work they rendered the existing work more accessible. He thought, however, that these exchanges should be established upon an uniform system throughout the country, and they should be co-ordinated by a Central authority. There would have to be a central agency to put all these exchanges into communication with one another. He had visited a farm colony connected with Paris, and one or two in this country, and he was convinced that they were an extremely useful refuge for men in times of distress. He did not think that they would ever be self-supporting, but the result achieved was well worth the cost, and in training town men for country labour they might do some good. The measure ought to be rendered more elastic. It ought to be made possible for other forms of work to be put into operation for the relief of distress. Land reclamation was a case in point. Afforesation, also, might be ear-marked for the purpose of giving refuge to the unemployed in times of depression. Official inquiries had reported that large areas of waste land could be profitably planted with trees. They imported £21,000,00 worth of timber every year of a kind which could be grown in this country. France and other foreign countries had spent large sums of money upon the cultivation of trees, and had derived large profits. Private enterprise in this country was quite inadequate for this work, because the landowners had not sufficient available capital, and they could not afford to wait the time which would be necessary before they get any return for their outlay. He thought some Amendment might be inserted which would enable suitable afforestation schemes to be carried out if expert inquiry found that they were practicable.

All the proposals of the Bill were proposals for the employment of capable and willing workers, but there still remained the problem of the incapable and the unwilling workers. The present system of Poor Law relief for such classes was quite inadequate. The incapable ought to be employed on farm colonies, and the unwilling, the wastrels, and tramps ought to be employed on penal farm colonies. This course was advocated by men in sympathy with the working classes such as General Booth, Canon Barnett, and all the Labour Members who served on the Royal Commission on Labour, and many boards of guardians had been so much impressed by the success of such schemes in Holland and Belgium that they were urging the Local Government Board to give them power to establish penal colonies in this country. He agreed that it was a pity to set up new authorities, which would only cause additional expense for both offices and officers. He hoped that the Government, in spite of the opposition from their own side, would not drop this measure.

MR. BOND (Nottingham, E.)

said that he had been struck by the paucity of substantial argument brought forward in favour of the Bill. Since it had now been found possible to set up machinery for dealing with crises on the spur of the moment, he did not see the necessity of setting up so dangerous a scheme as that propounded in the Bill. He was afraid that if the Bill passed, the tendency would be more and more to ignore the co-opted members of the local committees, and rely entirely upon those who came from the boards of guardians and the local authorities. Nor could he see there was any real necessity to set up permanent machinery, which meant a certain number of permanent officers and continuous expense, or to enter upon so dangerous a scheme as that proposed under the Bill merely in order to provide for contingent cases of distress, when they could practically improvise sufficiently for the purpose when occasion arose. They had the slenderest basis to go upon in determining that the formation of farm colonies was the proper way to employ funds raised from public sources. That was assuming much more than was proved. If the Bill were passed it seemed to be thought that they would get rid of the temptation on the part of local authorities to exercise their power of spending money. The Bill did not prohibit them from spending money. If it became recognised as part of our social system that the obligation did rest upon public bodies to find work for honest men out of employment and willing to take any job, the local authorities would be pressed by the committees to find work for the unemployed by doing summer jobs in the winter or substituting manual labour for what had been hitherto done by machinery, or breaking up roads which did not require to be broken up, or putting down asphalt where it did not require to be put down, or by other means which the local mind could devise to squander the ratepayers' money on unnecessary work.

He affirmed what had been said as to the doubtfulness and danger of this measure. Whenever he saw a project described as an "honest attempt" or an "interesting experiment," or whenever he heard the expression" proper safeguard," he knew he was on dangerous ground. They were the phrases by which people disguised from themselves and others their knowledge that the attempt they described as "honest" was doomed to failure. When people talked about "proper safeguards" it was only an indication that they knew the measure was in itself mischievous, and the safeguards they described as "proper" absolutely sure to fail in obviating the mischief that was certain. The measure bristled with so-called safeguards. It would be utterly impossible for him to vote for it, and the utmost he could do to satisfy his feeling of Party loyalty was to abstain from voting.


, said he recognised the fact that each of the hon. Members who had spoken against the Bill on this side of the House had justly claimed on his own behalf great experience in dealing with social questions, but not one of them had made any practical proposal for meeting the difficulty to be dealt with. Sympathy for the unemployed workmen had been freely expressed, and by the hon. Member for Stretford in eloquent terms, who also said that he had a remedy. After this he listened with interest to his hon. friend, thinking to heir something of a practical kind which would show that, the wrong line had been taken in October last. But what was the remedy? Such an alteration in our industrial system as would find employment for all. He entirely shared his hon. and learned friend's aspirations, but he would ask him and others who had criticised the Bill whether, if they had been at the Local Government Board last September, October, and November, they would have met those who came to the Board with a reply of that kind? It was not surprising that those who were attached to the principle of the old Poor Law should be chary of giving support to a measure they believed would be subversive of the principle followed since 1834. He would never have been responsible for the original preparation of the Bill if he had believed that it would be destructive of that administration of the Poor Law, which more than anything else had helped to build up the independence of our people. Unquestionably the reform of the Poor Law had been of the greatest value, and he would never have lent his assistance to a Bill that would destroy that good work. He believed precisely the reverse would be the effect of the Bill, of which his hon. friend had spoken in contemptuous terms, using the word "clap-trap." His hon. friend was not well advised in using such language in reference to an honest attempt to deal with a practical difficulty.

The support given to the Bill by hon. gentlemen opposite had not been altogether whole-hearted; it had been often associated with suggestions going much further than the Government were prepared to go. He doubted if hon. Members who had spoken against the Bill realised the position in October and November last. In London in more than one union boards of guardians found themselves unable to cope with the difficulties presented, and from many quarters came allegations that they were face to face with a labour crisis such as had never occurred before. He did not believe that, but he was impressed with the fact that a very large number of workmen anxious for work had to face starvation or the workhouse. Was that a condition of things to be met with the reply that the Poor Law and the workhouse made sufficient remedy for the suffering existing? His hon. friend the Member for Chelsea invited the House to say that nothing should be done until the existence of an enormous class of unemployed had become permanent and continuous. Did his hon. friend mean that the old rule that prevention was better than cure should not be applied in a difficulty of this kind? Surely it was wiser to face these facts, if facts they were, and provide machinery for dealing with them, rather than wait until an evil so serious had become permanent and continuous. He did not believe that they had reached a labour crisis, but he did believe that there was a great number of people out of employment and that there would be a great many more out of employment.

Some of the arguments used by his hon. friend who moved the rejection of the Bill were really arguments in favour of the Bill. His hon. friend said that since the passing of the Poor Law the condition of the people of this country had been vastly improved, and the administration of the Poor Law had been improved. He begged the House not to run away with the idea that the increase in pauperism was due to lax administration. Both in the country districts and in the town districts the administration of the Poor Law had steadily and continuously improved. It was no use falling back on the excuse that there were bad boards of guardians. Occasionally there were bad Members of Parliament. Pauperism was not due to bad administration, nor did he say that it was due alone to the difficulties with which they were specially concerned that night. But, while the strict and benevolent administration of the Poor Law which had marked the last thirty years had taught the people to look upon the Poor Law as a means of relief that was not desirable, there was a lamentable defect in the system. The Poor Law had taken charge of the aged, the infirm, and the children, but it had done nothing, and had not attempted to do anything for what he would call weekly cases. They had not done so because they could not give relief in these cases without making a man and the members of his family paupers. It was because he desired to maintain the existing Poor Law system that he supported the principle of this Bill. He asked the House to support the Bill because the guardians could not deal with these weekly cases without adding to the number of paupers men and women who should not be made paupers. After all, pauperism was not a "raw material," to use a common phrase of the day. It was a manufactured article. It was manufactured out of conditions which, he was afraid, would always in some cases obtain. No doubt, as his hon. friend the Member for North Islington had pointed out, the large consumption of drink had a great deal to do with pauperism, but there were other excesses which had contributed to pauperism. If they rejected this Bill, in every case where a man was temporarily unable to maintain himself, they must either allow him to starve or turn him into a pauper.


It is only pauperism under another name. The community gives relief.


said that if a man, who had been maintaining his wife and family, was through no fault of his own unable to find employment, there was no alternative under the present system except starvation on the one hand, or refuse in the Poor Law on the other. He asked those who had been connected with Poor Law administration how many men and women had they known who, once having gone on the Poor Law and entered the workhouse, had been raised from that condition and again become self-supporting citizens? How could guardians help a man to become self-supporting again? What kind of work could they give him? Could there be any work which was less satisfactory and less likely to make a man become self-supporting than the stone-yard? His hon. friend who moved the Amendment spoke of the unremunerative character of the work which would be provided under a Bill of this kind, but what was the kind of work provided by local guardians? How could they provide work without competing with local industry? The result was that they had to fall back on stone-yards and similar expedients. Many a man had told him that when he entered on his career of destitution the fact that he had been put to polish the same brass knob, or to clean the same window which half-a-dozen had cleaned before, degraded him.

Was there no justification for the steps which he took last winter to meet that difficulty? He did not admit that there was a crisis then, but there, were undoubtedly difficulties, as was shown by the figures in connection with the increase of pauperism in the country. The figures showed that there had been a great and steady increase in the number of paupers in the country since 1900. He did not take these figures as in themselves absolutely reliable, and in the first week of October he instituted confidential inquiries of his own all over the country, and the conclusion he came to was that there was a very considerable number of men ready, anxious, and willing to work, for whom no employment could be found. In London he found not only that there was an increasing number of unemployed, but that there was absolute chaos as to any system of dealing with the difficulty. His hon. friend the Member for Wigun, whose long experience of Poor Law admin administration entitled him to be listened to on the subject with the greatest respect, had criticised the creation of new authorities under the Bill, but he would ask what, proposal was there that could be made for dealing with the problem that did not necessarily involve the setting up of a central authority? It was the lack of centralised machinery, of the, means of testing each case, that had led to hopeless overlapping and confusion in the past. If they were not to set up a separate authority, it was impossible to avoid overlapping such as had occurred in past schemes. It had also been said the Bill was unsatisfactory because it would attract a large number of unemployed from the country districts into London, but that statement ignored the stipulation as to residence for six or twelve months. His right hon. friend would be inclined to twelve months residence; last winter the regulation was not less than six months. His right hon. friend indicated that in order to prevent anything of that kind he would be willing to consider favourably an Amendment which would put the municipal authorities of the country on all fours with the Metropolis.

It was remarkable to find so much opposition to the principle proposed, because, after they had established their scheme in the Metropolis last year, it was gratefully received by all classes, and many municipalities made urgent appeals for similar powers. Where the area was large and the population considerable there must be a central body to lay down general principles and local bodies to distinguish between deserving and undeserving cases. He did not believe the work could be done by central bodies unassisted. He did not think hon. Gentlemen who criticised their attempt to deal with this difficulty realised the position of the Minister who was approached by municipalities who said they were face to face with the fact that their town was full of unemployed and starvation threatened men, women, and children, and that they were not prepared to stand by and see a large portion of their population, who were deserving, made paupers, and therefore proposed to relieve them by carrying out municipal work. There could not be a worse way of dealing with the unemployed than that, because bad value was given for the money expended. The men who acted under a municipality understood the course of employment, and whether the ordinary workman was good or bad. But if all the unemployed were to be given work without discrimination the result was sure to be unsatisfactory. Of course, there had been mistakes, but they were not due to the fact that there was a new central body, but to the fact that in the face of a sudden crisis it was necessary to call into existence a new body which had neither officers nor machinery, and which was obliged to do the best it could in a very serious condition of things. If there was a body established on the main lines of the Bill there would be machinery ready to hand before the difficulty arose. It was said that this involved great extravagance, and would add fresh burdens to the rates; but there were now being spent in London and the great municipalities vast sums of money which were spent extravagantly and without any good results to those who were employed. Once there was a body prepared with the staff and machinery he believed that the mistakes which had been committed would diminish, if not altogether disappear.

A good deal of criticism had been addressed to the suggestion to set up farm colonies. It was a most extraordinary thing that up to the present we had no central machinery by which emigration could be organised. There was nothing but voluntary agencies. If there was a central body to deal with emigration, with power, first of all, to put men on a farm colony for a time, and then to migrate them to parts of the country where labour was wanted or to emigrate them to the Colonies, he believed it would effect a great improvement.

To come back to what he started with, anybody who found the condition of things with which he had had to deal and was confronted with the practical difficulties of boards of guardians and local authorities all over the country, might have done better than he had, but certainly could not have done less, and would have felt bound to recommend that that experience should find expression in legislation. Although there had been much criticism there had been no practical suggestion for dealing with this difficulty. He was certain that it was not sufficient to tell working men who were out of employment through no fault of their own that there was for them the workhouse and the relieving officer. They believed that it was possible to organise for their temporary relief, and he also believed that it was possible without in the smallest degree weakening the foundations on which the Poor Law system stood. Unless some such reform were adopted these men would become gravely discontented. If the conditions of life in our great towns exposed the wage-earning classes to this difficulty—that at certain times, through no fault of their own, they could get no employment—and if machinery could be set up to secure that employment, it seemed no great demand to make on the country to ask for those powers. He would never have made himself responsible for the scheme of last year if he had thought it would weaken the foundations on which our Poor Law system rested. It was because he believed that it would be impossible to maintain that system without some reform of this kind that he urged the acceptance of the Bill by the House of Commons.


said that personally, and he knew he was also speaking on behalf of many boards of guardians, he desired to congratulate the present President of the Local Government Board and the Chief Secretary for Ireland on their attempt to deal with this difficult problem. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland called a conference last year, he did not believe in it because he never thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have the courage to follow it up with a practical scheme. He did not wonder at the hon. Member for North Islington, who was an old-fashioned gentleman and represented the old system, seizing the opportunity of teaching boards of guardians to do their duty, and preaching to poor people the gospel of thrift. He wished that the hon. Member could realise that, after all, they had to deal with a large industrial army, and that it was the duty of the Government to keep that industrial army up to the fighting pitch.

The Amendment spoke of the proposals of the Bill as being detrimental to the interests of the poor. Could anything be more detrimental to the poor than keeping them without food? The hon. Member for North Islington had delivered a little homily about the powers of borrowing conferred by the Bill on municipal authorities; but where was the hon. Gentleman, who was a considerable authority in banking, to get his dividends from without borrowing. Banks flourished on borrowings. It appeared to him, when the hon. Gentleman denounced borrowing, to be like Satan rebuking sin. Last winter £50,000 was spent from the Mansion House Fund, and £111,000 in providing work for the unemployed. What he wanted the House to consider was that, even if the work provided for the unemployed by the local authorities during last winter had cost 25 per cent. more than it would have cost under ordinary circumstances, it was a distinct advantage to the community to pay that 25 per cent. over and above, because otherwise these men would have come on the rates, the community would have been 60 per cent. out of pocket, and there would have been no work done at all. It had been said that the pauper was a lazy man, but lazy men were not confined to one class. They knew that there were men very well off who thought it degrading to work. He would have every man work in order to add to the wealth of the nation. Should an ordinary unemployed man be left to the tender mercies of the Poor Law when he could go into Victoria Park and work for 7d. per hour. Would they call such a man lazy? He ventured to say that there were a good any men in this country who would not go and do that work for 7d. per hour. What was wanted was to lift the people up and prevent them becoming a charge on the Poor Law. Every depression in trade left behind it a certain number of men and women who were the dregs of the community; and the moment they became associated with the Poor Law, they gradually sank in the social scale. The consequence was there was never any improvement in their lives. They became accustomed to the workhouse, and they did not care who knew that they were paupers. Surely it was time that an attempt should be made to prevent men and women from becoming so degraded; and he appealed to the patriotism of the House to assist in that by supporting this Bill.

During last winter, when he broke down, and was unable to go on any longer trying to get work for poor men and women, he was lying on his bed—he lived in a narrow street twenty feet wide—and looking out of the window he saw on the opposite side of the road a man as upright as if he were in the Guards and with a soldierly bearing, wearily waiting for a chance of work. The man took out of his pocket a whistle and commenced to play. And what did they think he played? "See the conquering hero comes." [Laughter.] Hon. Members laughed, but here was one of the nation's warriors. Who was his conquering hero? Starvation! Was there to be no attempt made to keep up the manhood of such men? In the middle of last summer a man came to his door and asked him to buy a mat. He told him that he had plenty of mats, and the man replied, "For Christ's sake, buy a mat, sir. What am I to do? I have walked about all day wheeling this load of mats, and I have not taken a penny." Of course he could not resist giving the man something. They could not call that man lazy, and was nothing to be done for such men? This Bill would give them a chance of sending such men to do some useful work. There were millions of acres of land in this country I upon which men could be employed, but it had been left to an American philanthropist to buy land in this country and offer it to Poor Law guardians to make the experiment as to whether men could be made men or whether they should always remain wastrels. The board of guardians with which he was connected had been working one of these farms for nearly a year, and they were employing nearly 400 men successfully. If they could give men something useful to do, then they would take a pride in their work. What a delightful occupation stone-breaking and oakum-picking was for men who wanted to do useful work. It cost the ratepayers £10 a ton for picking oakum and then they had to give it away. It required more than ordinary statesmanship to organise work of that character. He thought they might have heard something more from hon. Gentlemen opposite in favour of this Bill. There was nothing a workman detested more than labour which was intended to kill time. They had, no doubt, heard of the sailor who said he would rather do anything in the world than go to sea. He was given a job wheeling stones from one side of the road to the other. He was afterwards ordered to wheel them back again, and then the sailor declared that he would sooner go to sea. Workmen hated to waste their time, and such employment as he had alluded to was simply sapping all the manhood out of the very people which they were most anxious to save. Was it not time that some attempt was made to rescue these men? At the farm he had referred to they had turned out forty men who had obtained agricultural work. Twenty-five of them had gone to Canada, and they had heard that they wore doing well. In this way they were making men of these people, and the House of Commons ought to pay some regard to preserving their manhood.

He did not agree that all the work done by the Unemployed Committee in London last winter had been wasted energy. The central committee created by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland found themselves in possession of £40,000 subscribed by the public for the unemployed, and people complaining that they had no work; and by means of this fund they were able to provide altogether 16,000 weeks work for those out of employment. The proper time to arrange for trade depression was when everything was going on comfortably, and they ought not to wait till things were bad. He agreed that some of the money spent upon the unemployed last winter was lost, but at any rate it enabled a large number of workmen to keep their homes together. So long as men were usefully employed they became better men. They had been asked what they were going to do with the clerks. There were thousands of men in all big towns who from ill-health were unable to work at indoor employment. Often men were thrown out of employment through improvements in machinery. It would pay the nation to spend a little money on training the unemployed of London in agriculture on farm colonies. At present the ordinary unemployed workman of London was no use at farm work. The farmer would not be bothered with him. But if he were trained for, say, two years on a farm colony, he would become a useful agricultural labourer and thus help to supply a sore want in the country districts.

Not long ago the London County Council invited the representatives of all the Metropolitan borough councils to a conference, and an executive committee of fifteen members presided over by the hon. Member for Battersea was appointed. This committee finally recommended the establishment of a more complete industrial organisation, and urged upon the Government the desirability of providing such an organisation throughout the country. The Bill now before the. House had met the terms of the resolution which was adopted by the London County Council. They now asked that this Bill should be made compulsory all over the country. He thought that if they insisted upon each county area dealing with its own unemployed they would prevent migration from one county to another. The late Lord Salisbury once said that it was not so much votes that the people wanted in the country as swings and roundabouts. What they wanted in the country was more life in order to attract people to the land. Here was a great opportunity for a few landlords to put up decent cottages on their land in order to attract people to the country. They should remember that the patriotism of a nation began in the kitchen where the people had their food. If the people were able to get sufficient food they would become proud of their country. He hoped the Second Reading would be carried without a division or at any rate by such a substantial majority as would encourage the Government to press the Bill through the House. If the measure was made compulsory throughout the country it would be the foundation of a great improvement in the condition of industrial classes.

SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)

pointed out that the intention of the Bill was to give power to the new authority to deal with exceptional circumstances of distress, not to educate people so that they might earn a livelihood. He opposed the Bill because he felt that it would not only not do good, but would do harm. Not a single illustration had been adduced by hon. Members on the other side of the House who had supported the Bill of a measure identical with this which had been successful. The hon. Member for Woolwich said that ordinary work could be found for people under this Bill, that farm colonies could be started, and that millions of acres of land could be devoted to providing work for the unemployed. He would like to know what would happen to the people who were now working on that land? Ridicule had been cast upon certain Members who had opposed this Bill, and they had been accused of doing nothing but expressing their sympathy with the unemployed. He opposed this Bill not because he was out of sympathy with the unemployed, but because he thought this measure would do more harm than good. That was the reason why they were opposing this Bill. The only way to judge any such measure as this was to look back in order to see if any such measure had been introduced

before, and what had been the result If such a Bill was likely to prevent distress, why had it not been introduced before? A measure of this kind was introduced in the days of the Ancient Romans, and it was such a measure that brought about the fall of that great Empire. Another example was what occurred in Paris in 1848. With regard to farm colonies a Report issued by the Board of Trade in 1903–4 showed that labour colonies abroad had not been successful in dealing with the unemployed question. [Cries of "Divide."] That Report was hostile to the policy which was proposed in this Bill. [Renewed cries of "Divide."] There was nothing in what had been hitherto done by the borough councils would lead men to believe that they could go to a borough council and demand work. Under this Bill first time in the history of England the principle was being established that the State should provide work for the unemployed.

Mr. CROOKS rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 228; Noes, 11. (Division List No. 200.)

Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.) Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. H. O.
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Allhusen, Augustus Henry E. Arrol, Sir William
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Anson, Sir William Reynell Atherley-Jones, L.
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Grant, Corrie Nannetti, Joseph P.
Bagot, Capt. Josceline-FitzRoy Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Nolan, Col. J. P. (Galway, N.)
Bailey, James (Walworth) Greene, Sir E. W. (B'ryS Edm'nds O'Brien, K. (Tipperary Mid.)
Balcarres, Lord Guthrie, Walter Murray O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manc'r Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F. O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Balfour, RtHnGerald W. (Leeds Hamilton, Marq. (L'nd'nderry) O'Malley, William
Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch. Harcourt, Lewis O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens
Banner, John S. Harmood Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil Parrott, William
Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin Hare, Thomas Leigh Pearson, Sir Weelman D.
Bell, Richard Hay, Hn. Claude George Peel, Hn. Wm. R. Wellesley
Beetinck, Lord Henry C. Helme, Norval Watson Pemberton, John S. G.
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W. Percy, Earl
Bignold, Sir Arthur Henderson, Arthur (Durham Pierpoint, Robert
Bingham, Lord Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Blundell, Colonel Henry Higham, John Sharp Plummer, Sir Walter R.
Bousfield, William Robert Hoare, Sir Samuel Pretyman, Ernest George
Brigg, John Hogg, Lindsay Purvis, Robert
Broadhurst, Henry Holland, Sir William Henry Pym, C. Guy
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside Randles, John S.
Brown, George M. (Edinburgh) Hornby, Sir William Henry Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne
Bull, William James Hozier, Hon. James Henry C Rea, Russell
Burke, E. Haviland Hudson, George Bickersteth Renwick, George
Burns, John Isaacs, Rufus Daniel Richards, Thomas
Burt, Thomas Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred Roberts, John Bryu (Eifion)
Butcher, John George Jones, Leif (Appleby) Robert, John H. (Denbighs)
Buxton, N. E. (York, NR, Whitby Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Buxton, Sydney Chas.(Poplar) Kearley, Hudson E. Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Caldwell, James Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W. Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Kerr, John Round, Rt. Hon. James
Carlile, William Walter Keswick, William Runciman, Walter
Carson, Rt. Hn. Sir Edw. H. Lamont, Norman Rutherford, John (Laneashire
Causton, Richard Knight Langley, Batty Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh. Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Lawrence, Sir J. (Monm'th) Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A (Wore. Lawson, Hn. H. L. W. (Mile End Samuel, Sir H. S. (Limehouse
Chapman, Edward Lawson, John Grant(Yorks NR Samuel, Herb. L. (Cleveland)
Cheetham, John Frederick Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham) Schwann, Charles E.
Clive, Captain Percy A. Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington) Seely, Maj. J. E. B (Isle of Wight
Cohen, Benjamin Lonis Leigh, Sir Joseph Shackleton, David James
Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S. Levy, Maurice Shaw, Charles Edw (Stafford)
Cremer, William Randal Lewis, John Herbert Shipman, Dr. John G.
Crooks, William Llewellyn, Evan Henry Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Slack, John Bamford
Davenport, William Bromley Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham Sloan, Thomas Henry
Delany, William Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.) Smith, Samuel (Flint)
Dickson, Charles Scott Long, Thomas Soares, Ernest J.
Doogan, P. C. Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth Spear, John Ward
Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers- Lyttelton, Rt. Hn. Alfred Stanhope, Hon. Philip James
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark MacIver, David (Liverpool) Stanley, Rt. Hn. Lord (Lancs
Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Sullivan, Donal
Duke, Henry Edward Maconochie, A. W. Talbot, Lord E (Chichester)
Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. Hart MacVeagh, Jeremiah Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Edwards, Frank M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool) Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)
Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan M'Crae, George Thornton, Percy M.
Fellowes, Rt. Hn. Ailwyn Edw. M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire) Tomkinson, James
Fenwick, Charles M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.
Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r Majendie, James A. H. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Malcolm, Ian Tuff, Charles
Findlay, Alexander(Lanark NE Manners, Lord Cecil Villiers, Ernest Amherst
Finlay, Sir. R. B. (Inv'rn'ss B'ghs Markham, Arthur Basil
Fisher, William Hayes Marks, Harry Hananel Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H (Sheffield
Flower, Sir Ernest Martin, Richard Biddulph Walker, Col. William Hall
Forster, Henry William Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Fredk. G. Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. H.
Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W. Milvain, Thomas Warde, Colonel C. E.
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co. Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants. Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E (Taunton
Galloway, William Johnson Morrison, James Archibald White, Luke (York, E.R.)
Gardner, Ernest Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Whiteley, George (York, W. R.
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herb. John Moss, Samuel Whiteley, H.(Ashton und Lyne
Gordon, Hn. J. E.(Elgin&Nairn Mount, William Arthur Williams, Osmond (Merioneth
Gordon, Maj. Evans (Tr'H'm'ts Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset
Wilson, John (Falkirk) Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir
Wilson, John (Glasgow) Younger, William Alexander Acland-Hood and
Wylie, Alexander Yoxall, James Henry Viscount Valentia
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Legge, Col. Hn. Heneage Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R
Coghill, Douglas Harry Pilkington, Colonel Richard
Cripps, Charles Alfred Robertson, Herbert (Hackney) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir
Eve, Harry Trelawney Russell, T. W. George Bartley and Mr.
Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall) Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts.) Whitmore.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn"—(Sir A. Acland Hood)—put, and agreed to.


claimed, "That the main Question be now put."