§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said that if over a Consolidated Fund Bill needed special consideration it was the present one. This was the first Consolidated Fund Bill, to his knowledge, in the history of Parliament, the discussion on which would be cut short by the guillotine. There was some misconception as to the importance of this Bill, at any rate outside the House. It was supposed that the proceedings in Ways and Means, on which the Bill was founded, were mere formalities, and that the Second and Third Readings were occasions on which anything could be talked about. But the truth was that this Bill was one of the safeguards provided by the Constitution for securing the control of the House of Commons over the administration of public monies. To get money in Supply was a comparatively small thing, but it was only by this Bill that the money was actually obtained from the National Exchequer, and that showed the extreme jealousy which attached to the appropriation by the Government of the funds of the nation. Every Bill of this kind sanctioned issues from the fund which were exactly equivalent to the Votes already granted in Supply. The obvious intention of the constitutional practice in this regard was that the issues 1220 out of the fund should be used only for the purposes authorised by the Votes in Supply. No doubt there was a practice in the Army and Navy Departments by which they interchanged grants of money obtained in Supply; but, on the present occasion, grants out of the Consolidated Fund for one purpose were going to be used deliberately for other purposes, and the sanction of the House was, for the first time, being asked to this unusual proceeding. It was the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to defend this Bill, and he would like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that the sum of over £28,000,000 asked for in this Bill was the aggregate of two Votes—the Vote for the Civil Services and Vote 1 for the Navy. There was no provision for the Army at all. Had it ever happened that on the first day of a new financial year the Army had been left in such a condition—without having obtained any grant from the Consolidated Fund. He wished to know whether, on April 1st in any previous year, the Army had been left without an ad hoc grant from the Consolidated Fund to meet Army expenses for the coming year. He believed it had never before happened. An excessive provision was now asked for for the Civil Services—twenty-three and a half weeks Supply instead of two or three months, the constitutional limit, in order that the money might be applied as it was last year to the purposes of the Army, and possibly of the Navy also. He protested against this practice of applying money, voted by Parliament for one purpose, to totally different purposes. The Vote was a bogus Vote, in so far as it was not wanted for the Civil Service at all, and it had been swollen to its present dimensions in order that the money might be used for Army purposes. It was a novel system, and he believed an unconstitutional one, and it certainly required an explanation from the Government. He had not moved a reduction on the Vote on Account because when such a Motion had been decided it would have precluded the challenging of items. He would do so, however, if it were in order, on the Committee stage of this Bill. It might be suggested that there was a precedent for this in what had been done 1221 last year, but he submitted that the precedent was worthless and that what was done was a gross abuse of practice. The truth was that the Scottish Education Bill was dropped last year simply because it would have taken up three days longer, so close had the Government got to the end of their tether—and have rendered an additions Appropriation Bill necessary.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
agreed that the Bill was one of extreme importance and that the Second Reading could not be considered a mere formality Theoretically there was no amount fixed in the Bill at present, the figures being in italics, so that an Amendment to reduce the amount could hardly be shut out in Committee. Still, he understood the hon. Member for Dundee had not moved its rejection. He felt bound to support the Second Reading of the Bill, as otherwise the Government would not be able to comply with the law, although the Government were not entitled, by their conduct in regard to this Bill and to Supply this session, to any great indulgence. But undoubtedly it raised serious questions. The old practice of the House was to grant the Government a Vote on Account for two months at the outside, the amount of which was usually from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000. This involved a second Vote on Account, so that there was a Consolidated Fund Bill in March, and a second in May, and, finally, of course, there was the Appropriation Bill at the end of the session, which he suggested was very like the Highlander's knife; it had had a great many new blades and new handles, yet it was just the same knife—altered. That practice lasted till 1897, when the Government asked for a Vote on Account which would carry them on for some five months, and so got rid of the necessity for one of the Consolidated Fund Bills. This was a very serious matter. It had enormously diminished the control of Parliament over the Government, especially as, by the new rules, the Vote on Account could only be discussed for one day, and the humour of the thing was illustrated by the fact that the now rule was put forward by the Government as compensation to it for the enormous advantages given 1222 the House for the discussion of Supply. The result was that instead of having two unlimited discussions, the House would only have one discussion, and that would be limited to one day. The effect of that must be loss of control over expenditure.
Then, again, the Bill authorised the issue of £28,798,000 composed of Supplementary Estimates for 1904–5, a Vote on Account, and a sum for the Navy. That was very different from the relatively small sums which used to be voted as a Vote on Account. It brought a new principle and a new consideration into play; and the House ought not to pass such an enormous sum without attaching appropriation to it. The sums were ear-marked in the Vote; but they were not ear-marked in the issue. The House gave this £29,000,000 to the Government; they authorised the Treasury to borrow on it; but they did not ear-mark a single penny of it. It was the principal and most effectual work of the control exercised by Parliament that every penny of this money should be ear-marked for a particular purpose; and should not be applied to any other purpose. That was exceedingly important, however able the Ministers concerned might be. Formerly, when a Vote on Account was small, the necessity which existed now for appropriation did not arise, as any abuse that might occur could not be very great; but when it was proposed to vote such an enormous sum as that before the House, the House ought to seriously consider whether they ought not to attach to the Bill the condition of appropriation.
The Bill was far more than an issue Bill. Clauses 1 and 2 authorised the Treasury to issue £29,000,000; and Clause 3 authorised the Treasury to borrow from any person the total amount authorised. He quite recognised that there must be some Vote on Account; and also that the Treasury should have borrowing powers; but up to 1902 such powers were strictly limited to borrowing for one quarter only. The wording of the Act always was that the sum borrowed should be repaid in the next succeeding quarter. It was only in August, 1902, that the 1223 right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, proposed for the first time an entirely new set of clauses, the effect of which was that the Treasury, or, in other words, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was given power to borrow for the whole of the year. The result was to increase the borrowing powers from a three months range of action to a conceivable nine months range of action. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not dispute the accuracy of that description. When these clauses were proposed he took considerable objection to them, although he did not feel it right to divide the House against them. The reason given for them was that the Treasury could borrow under more favourable circumstances. That, no doubt, was so, but the power of borrowing was a dangerous power to give at all. It really ought not to be extended by this House, but ought to be restricted; and this special class of borrowing was especially dangerous, because it added to the floating debt, the very worst form of debt, for which no security was given, but which was contracted on the I.O.U. of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Treasury Bills. That had been one of the causes why the floating debt had attained such tremendous dimensions. In his opinion, the House ought to go back to the old system which existed before 1902. The reasons for going back were becoming stronger and stronger every day, and they were especially strong as regarded the present period. When the Bill went into Committee he would certainly make an attempt to alter the clauses back to their old form, and to restore the borrowing powers of the Treasury to what they were before 1902. The danger was not so much from overtaxation as from over-indebtedness, and this particular form of indebtedness was the most dangerous form of all. He had restricted himself entirely to the financial aspects of the Bill. It was an extremely important Bill and was worthy of the attention of the House.
§ MR. McKENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)
said he desired to point out that under this Bill the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1224 would have no means of paying the Army. The Act on which he relied for that broad statement was the Public Accounts and Charges Act, 1891. Section 2 of that Act was very precise; and provided that every sum issued in pursuance of that Act should be applied to making good the amount so granted at the time of issue. Under the Vote on Account money was taken for the Navy and the Civil Services; but there was no Vote for the Army. The practice of the Treasury had been to treat the whole of the Army Votes as one Vote, and the whole of the Navy Votes as another Vote, and to transfer money voted for the Navy to expenditure on the Army. That was, however, based upon a particular section of the Appropriation Act; and without such an Act the power of the Treasury to treat the Army Votes as one Vote lapsed. There was no general authority to the Treasury to treat the Army Votes as one Vote; and at present the Treasury had no power to issue out of the Consolidated Fund any money for the Army at all. An issue could only be made by the Consolidated Fund Bill they were now asked to pass. But the issue by this Bill was governed by the Public Accounts and Charges Act, under which no issue could be made except in respect to Votes that had been granted. At the end of this year the Treasury would have had granted Vote 1 of the Navy and Vote 7 of the Army. They would therefore be in a position to pay the Navy but not to feed them, and to feed and forage the Army but not to pay them. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would perhaps tell the House, if he proposed to pay the Army and feed the Navy, what had been the practice of the Treasury. Apparently the Government had not taken into account the full meaning of the Act of 1891 which, intentionally or not, limited and defined what the practice of the Treasury should be with regard to issues from the Exchequer, and with regard to appropriations-in-aid. He did not know whether he had made the point he had raised clear to the right hon. Gentleman, or whether the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to cite the statutory authority on which he relied for such issues as he would make to the Navy and Army until the 1225 Appropriation Act was passed. He fully admitted that the practice of the Treasury was necessary, if the Navy and the Army were to be maintained between the months of March and August, but he submitted that for that purpose an Amendment to the Consolidated Fund Bill was required. As the Consolidated Fund Bill now stood, the right hon. Gentleman would be compelled to commit an illegal act. As he understood, an Amendment to the Consolidated Fund Bill would be out of order and could not be discussed, and that being so, in order to bring this question to an issue, he had no alternative but to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six mouths.'"—(Mr. McKenna.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN, Worcestershire, E.)
said anyone who had listened to the present discussion would agree with the hon. Member for Dundee that the financial procedure of the House was cumbrous, complicated, and excessively difficult of comprehension. It was hedged round with formalities and so called securities which might at one time have been necessary for preserving the control of the House over expenditure by the Government or the executive action of the Government, but which he thought took up a good deal of time—time which might be spent more usefully in other ways—without in any way adding to the authority or influence of Parliament. The procedure commenced in Committee of Supply when the Vote was proposed for the services of the year. Following upon that stage came the Report of that Vote to the whole House, when the assent of the House to the Resolution of the Committee had to be obtained. It might be thought that that would be sufficient for the purpose, but then came 1226 a further stage, itself divided into several stages, when the Government had to ask power to issue the money which the House had already voted. That was the stage when the Consolidated Fund Bill was dealt with. The Appropriation Bill was a Bill not merely to authorise the payment of money but to see that the money authorised was appropriated to specific purposes. The House was now engaged upon the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, and it was true that in that Bill to-day was included the total sum of money actually voted by the House for Supply services, and it was provided that the money authorised under the Consolidated Fund Bill should be available for the purposes which had been approved by the House previous to the introduction of the Consolidated Fund Bill. It might be true that while the total in a Bill like the present was arrived at by adding together the sums voted on account of the Army, Navy, Civil Service, and Supplementary Estimates of expenditure, there would be power under the Act to issue money to the extent of the total sum, not limited to the exact proportion of the Votes already passed. That might or might not be a desirable thing, but he failed to see how the business of the country could be carried on without a revolutionary change in Parliamentary procedure unless such authority was given. It was quite obvious that the House could not pass the whole of the Supply for a year until the commencement of that year. If the same power was not given in the future as was given in the Consolidated Bills in the past it would be impossible for the business of the country to be carried on.
It was complained that in former years they used to have not a single Consolidated Fund Bill but two or three in the course of a session, before coming to the final Appropriation Bill. He might at once say he was afraid there would have to be a second Consolidated Fund Bill this year, though he greatly regretted the necessity. It was not the intention of the Government that such a necessity should arise when the present rules of procedure were passed. Under the old arrangement 1227 Votes A and 1 of the Army and Navy were taken together with a small Vote on. Account at the expiration of the financial year, and there was no further opportunity of discussing Supply until quite the end of the session when the discussion was often perfunctory. By the new rules a weekly opportunity had been given to the House to discuss those Votes of Supply hon. Gentlemen desired to criticise. The First Lord of the Treasury at that time announced that part of his intention in framing the new rules was that a single Vote on Account should be taken to cover the whole of the session, from which it followed that there would be only one Consolidated Fund Bill before the final Appropriation Act.
The hon. Member had asked if there was any precedent for the position in which they were with regard to the Army Votes to-day. He had not looked up the precedents, and he did not think there was, but the present position was in part due to the endeavour which had been made this year to meet the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, Last year the Public Accounts Committee objected to the large use made of the powers of the Treasury to give provisional sanction to the transfer of available Supply from particular Army Votes to other Army Votes and from particular Navy Votes to other Navy Votes. The form in which the Army Supplementary Estimates were brought in this year was one desired by the Public Accounts Committee in order that at the earliest possible moment the sanction of the House should be asked for the événements which had taken place, instead of that sanction being asked by Resolutions immediately preceding the introduction of the Appropriation Bill at the end of the session. He thought the experiment had not been wholly satisfactory The hon. Member for Exeter recently complained of the difficulty of understanding the accounts, or even of apprehending the purposes for which the money the House was asked to vote was required. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had been anxious that the attention of the House should be called by the Supplementary Army Estimates to the particular 1228 subject which necessitated their presentation. As long ago as his Budget statement of last year he announced that a Supplementary Estimate would be required for Somaliland. He thought that the practical and business-like way of treating the £550,000 required would have been to put down a Vote for that amount for "operations in Somaliland." Every Member of the House would then have known in advance for what the money was required, and what discussion would be germane to the Vote. He was told, however, that if he insisted on having the Vote presented in that form, he would be met by the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee, and that before the Supplementary Estimate was discussed at all, at least a day would be spent in discussing the form in which it was presented. The Estimate was therefore introduced in the form which it was understood the Public Accounts Committee approved, but he did not think the result had been satisfactory. The discussion wandered over a very wide area, covering almost every Army Vote; it was an anticipation of the natural and proper discussion on the Army Votes for next year, and in consequence of the introduction of this extraneous matter it was very late in the day before the discussion of Somaliland affairs was reached at all, It was, in fact, the abnormal length of that discussion which had brought the House to the position on which the hon. Member for Dundee had commented. More days would have been given to the discussion of Supply and finance before Easter in the present session than had been allotted in any but four of the last fourteen years. The Supplementary Estimates were smaller this year than they had been for many years past, and yet the time which had proved ample for the discussion of bigger Estimates in other years had been insufficient this year. The Government had therefore been driven to adopt the course explained by the Leader of the House, which he believed was unprecedented—certainly he was not prepared to cite a precedent across the floor of the House.
The hon. Member for North Monmouthshire had asked by what authority he would pay the Army out of the Victualling Vote. He would do so by exactly 1229 the same authority as his predecessors had done for many years past. That had been the accepted financial practice of the country; it had received each year the subsequent ratification of Parliament by the Appropriation Act, and it had always been sanctioned by the Public Accounts Committee; and as far as he knew, there had never been any question as to its propriety, or, indeed, its absolute necessity; and the hon. Gentleman himself, though he said an interesting point could be raised as a constitutional technicality, did not suggest that the practice could be dispensed with.
§ MR. McKENNA
suggested that the form of the Consolidated Fund Bill might be so altered as to cover the illegality.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
deprecated any alteration in these annual Bills unless a clear necessity were shown. Such alterations were made a subject of comment, generally of criticism, and were almost always instrumental in occupying time which might be more usefully devoted to other matters. He therefore would not propose any innovation in constitutional practice unless he was convinced of its clear and urgent necessity.
He came now to the point raised by the hon. Member for King's Lynn with reference to the change made in the Consolidated Fund Bill in 1902, at the instigation of his right hon. friend the Member for West Bristol. The hon. Member was, under a complete misapprehension in speaking of that alteration as having had the effect of adding to the floating debt of the country. It did not authorise the Chancellor of the Exchequer to borrow a single pound more than he could otherwise have done. The contention of the hon. Member was that that alteration authorised the Chancellor of the Exchequer to borrow up to the close of the financial year instead of borrowing merely for one quarter and repaying the money so borrowed the next, and that in that way it greatly reduced the control of the House over the Government of the day. Under the old system what the Government borrowed in the first quarter of the year they had to repay in the second. But they did it by borrowing again; so that it simply meant that 1230 instead of borrowing at once for nine months, they borrowed for three, and I then for three months again, and then for another three. As the House was doubtless aware, the necessity for these temporary borrowings arose from the fact that whilst expenditure was heavy in the early part of the year the revenue collection was not equal to the outgoings, and therefore the ingathering of the revenue had to be anticipated by borrowing. This necessity would always exist as long as the income-tax, which was collected mainly in the last quarter of the year, remained at its present high figure, and formed so important a part of the financial system of the country. The course to which the hon. Member for King's Lynn took exception did not increase the borrowing power of the Government or relieve them of the control of the House of Commons. What it did was to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to borrow in more than one way and on more than one security. Formerly he could borrow only on his personal I.O.U. That being a security he could not offer in the market, he was obliged to have recourse to the Bank of England to meet the whole of his needs, and when those needs were as great as they had been of recent years, this method of financing the Exchequer in anticipation of revenue was not only inconvenient but uneconomical. By the powers taken in 1902 the Chancellor of the Exchequer was given greater latitude as to the security on which and the way in which he could borrow, and by so doing the disturbance and inconvenience to the money market were lessened, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was enabled to raise the money he required on more economical terms. He could not be a party to the reversal of the decision then taken, and he hoped that on further consideration, the House being assured that no additional borrowing powers were given to the Government by its renewal, the hon. Member would not persist in his endeavour to eliminate this clause from the Bill.
§ MR. McKENNA
expressed his satisfaction with the reply of the right hon. Gentleman, and asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydfil)
desired to call attention to the necessity for more drastic action than had yet been taken in the way of calling upon the local education authorities to make adequate provision for the proper feeding of children in elementary schools. At the present time all that was being done in this direction was being done by voluntary effort. It had been shown that voluntary effort was no longer adequate to meet the necessities of the case. He hoped that it would not be urged that nothing could be done without fresh legislation. He was perfectly alive to the fact that it was not competent for him to discuss legislation upon the Bill now before the House, but he held that the Education Department could do a great deal more even with the powers they now possessed. He did not think that the Education Department single and alone could do much, but in conjunction and co-operation with other Departments of State, he thought a very great deal could be done to meeting the most necessitous aspects of the case. The demand for the proper feeding of school children was based upon two main grounds: (1) the plea of humanity, and (2) economy. With regard to the humanitarian argument, he anticipated that there would not be any difference of opinion in any section of the House. They would all agree that it was criminal, let the cause be what it might, that children should be allowed to go improperly fed and uncared for. On the ground of economy, it stood to reason that, having provided a great system of educational machinery, they should be prepared to make the most of it by not merely equipping the schools so as to enable them to give the best education, but by properly feeding the children so as to enable them to receive the education provided for them. That was the respect in which this question was so important.
It might be alleged that to undertake the feeding of school children was to interfere with parental responsibly. 1232 That argument was commonly used in this and various other connections, but they never heard this argument except when it was a case of an attempt to save the rates. When a poor widow was called upon to go out to work for her family to prevent a home being broken up they heard nothing of parental responsibility. Upon the proper feeding of children depended the future stamina and morale of the race. The money spent upon the feeding of children would return to the nation tenfold in days to come, whereas if they starved the children now they would have incompetent men in the future. As a matter of economy, he submitted that the nation would be well advised if it insisted that the children attending our elementary schools should be properly fed as a primary condition to endeavouring to educate them efficiently. This view was supported by the Report of the Royal Commission upon Physical Training which applied to Scotland, and by the Inter-Departmental Committee which applied to the whole kingdom.
With the sanction of the House he would again call attention to some of the recommendations of those two bodies bearing upon the responsibility of the Education Department and the Government authorities. The Royal Commission upon Physical Training in Scotland reported that a large number of important witnesses, including members of the medical profession, inspectors of schools, representatives of school board teachers and others were questioned on the subject with regard to the effects of malnutrition upon youths, and they were unanimously of opinion that it was most desirable that increased attention should be paid to the feeding of children attending State-aided schools. This Commission entirely endorsed that view. He desired to ask the Minister for Education whether his Department had taken any action in the way of calling the attention of the local education authorities to this aspect of the question. If not, he wished to know whether it was the intention of the Education Department to take any action in connection with this recommendation. In regard to the Inter-Departmental Committee upon Physical 1233 Deterioration, on July 20th last year they recommended—That the evils arising from underfeeding of children are so widespread, and in certain localities so pressing, that some authoritative intervention is called for at the earliest possible moment to secure that the education of the children who are obliged to attend school shall not be hampered and retarded by the physical condition thereby engendered.That was eight months ago, and he wished to know if anything had been done to give effect to that recommendation. If not, what use was it appointing Royal Commissions and Inter-Departmental Committees, thus spending the money of the country and wasting the valuable time of the Commissioners? The Minister for Education had informed them that ho had appointed a second Inter-Departmental Committee with the object apparently of finding out what the first Committee recommended. This second Committee had been appointed to find out whether relief for poor children could be better organised without any charge upon the public funds, both generally, and especially in regard to children who, from malnutrition, were below the normal standard. Why was this limitation imposed? Why were the Committee not allowed to make a full inquiry into the entire question whether it involved a charge upon the rates or otherwise? Upon a question which had excited such widespread interest, and which was in no sense a Party question but a subject upon which depended not merely the physique of the people but the defensive power of the nation, why should the Board of Education impose such a limitation which would either stultify the Report of that Committee or involve the appointment of another Committee before a final decision could be arrived at. There was a further recommendation in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee which stated that—A working adjustment between the privileges of charity and the obligations of the community might be reached,That obviously referred to some working agreement that the school authorities should make provision for cooking the meals, and providing a room in which the meals could be served, on the condition and understanding that the cost of the meals came from public charities. Had the 1234 Minister for Education done anything to carry into effect that recommendation? All through the winter they had had these funds at work in every big centre of population in England and Scotland. They had had the teachers and the staffs of the schools voluntarily doing their best to assist in feeding the children. Everybody appeared to have been anxious to take a share of the work except the Education Department, which ought to have shown most anxiety of all. He asked the hon. Baronet whether his Department had circularised the educational authorities showing how their own efforts could be co-ordinated with those of private charity, so as to make the most of the means at their disposal until some final arrangement had been reached. In connection with the higher-grade schools the local authorities now built dining-rooms and made provision for meals being supplied at the cost of the scholars. If that could be done in the higher class schools, why did not the Minister of Education instruct the local authorities that it was equally competent in elementary schools. That was a matter respecting which they had a right to complain. Paragraph 362 of the Report said—In some districts it still might be the case that such an arrangement would prove inadequate. The extent of the concentration of the poverty might be too great for the resources of local charity, and in these, subject to the consent of the Board of Education, it might be expedient to permit the application of municipal aid on a larger scale.Did the powers possessed by municipal authorities enable them to provide money to meet the case of necessitous children? The city of Bradford corporation had endeavoured to meet the demand for meals by voting a surplus of money, in the form of salary to the Lord Mayor, on the understanding that the sum so voted was to be handed over to the education authorities and applied to the feeding of children. That was one way in which, without fresh Parlimentary powers, money might be raised. There was another. In addition to the relieving of destitute children by the boards of guardians, he submitted that the President of the Local Government Board, in conjunction with the Minister of Education, was empowered to make grants of money to school 1235 authorities or to private committees to enable them to feed starving children. The Local Government Board might authorise the granting of a sum of money by any board of guardians to any institution which promised by its operations to save the rates. He submitted that since children whose parents were destitute had a right to come upon the rates for support, it was quite within the scope of the powers of the Local Government Board to authorise grants in the way he had indicated. He hoped the Board of Education could take the initiative in this matter and instruct the local education authorities as to their powers, duties, or responsibilities.
It was commonly supposed, now that the unemployed difficulty was subsiding, the winter was passing, and the spring was upon us, that the need for making provision for hungry children was passing away. There could not be a greater fallacy than an assumption of that kind. The poor and, in a special degree, hungry children were with us all the year round, and one of the strong objections to leaving the matter to be dealt with by private charity was that it was only on the occurrence of a crisis that private charity operated, and that while the need was continuous relief was spasmodic and very uncertain. In Manchester he found that the local education authority provided during the winter months 109,000 free meals to children at a cost of £1,010. At the beginning of March the provision of free meals had to stop, not because the need for them had ceased but because the fund had dried up, and during all the months that were to come until the beginning of next winter the harrowing spectacle would be seen in Manchester of children going to school day by day, not, perhaps, starving, but always improperly fed, and the teachers were set the task of educating the mind while the physical condition of the child was such as to render education an absolute impossibility. Surely it was time, when we had commenced to build up an educational system in some manner worthy of the nation, that we should try to be logical for once and equip the schools fully by equipping the child efficiently. In West Hartlepool 1,200 children received one meal 1236 each day all through the winter from charitable funds. The important point to which he wished to direct attention was that, while these children were still upon the roll of necessitous cases, the charitable fund was drying up. These poor little mites were only having their free breakfast three times a week now instead of six times. This happened because the matter, though one of public interest, was left to charity which dried up, and charity was very apt to dry up when sentiment was taken out of the appeal. In Leith the number of children who had to be provided with meals was, on an average, 600 a day all the year round, and in order to meet the cost between £800 and £900 was required. The School Board of Leith had issued a circular appealing for funds, and up to the present the amount received was £190. These cases could be multiplied indefinitely. It was not only London that was clamouring for relief in this matter; the demand was coming from all parts of the country.
While all classes should be interested in the question, the working classes were interested in a special degree. They heard about inemcients and people who were unemployable, but if children were starved how could the youth of the country grow up physically strong and able to maintain their place in the industrial struggle? He hoped the Education Department would say boldly and straight out, "Here is a need that exists, no matter how it has arisen, and it is the business of the State to take upon itself the responsibility of having that need adequately met." If the parents drank the money which ought to be spent in feeding the children, punish the parent, but do not visit the sins of the parent on the child. We could not afford to do that without serious risk. This was not a matter for private charity. The more sensitive and highly strung it was, and the more mental capacity it had, the more did a child shrink from the brand placed upon it when called upon to eat the bread of pauperism or charity, while others were enjoying that which was its by light. It was not only that they broke the child physically in that way, but they broke its spirit and destroyed its budding manhood. He hoped they 1237 would have from the Minister of Education some declaration of policy in regard to this great question. There was testimony accumulating on every hand that it could not be delayed or shelved with impunity. With regard to the objection that the State was taking the place of the parents, he would remind hon. Members that the State, by its action, had broken down the sense of parental responsibility in the great textile districts. That being so, the sense of parental responsibility was bound to disappear under modern conditions, and there was need for the State to step in and supply the place the parent formerly occupied. In order that the feeling of the House might be tested on the subject, he moved that the Bill be read that day six months.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
said that in seconding the Motion he wished to add a few words to what he had uttered on this subject on Wednesday last. He had watched the physical condition of the working classes for the last thirty years with care, and in detail pretty well every day, both as a teacher and as a member of a school board, and he had arrived at two very definite conclusions in regard to the matter. The first of these was that 80 per cent. of the people were never better off than they were to-day as regarded housing, clothing, and feeding. The effects of the system during these thirty years in the common schools had been altogether elevating, not only in regard to the children themselves, but in respect to parental obligation towards those children. He was perfectly easy in his mind as to the physical condition of four-fifths of the working classes. But he felt, indeed he might go the length of saying that he knew, that of the other fifth, in respect of their housing, clothing, and feeding, their condition was entirely hopeless, and never more hopeless than at the present time. That fifth were the children of the great slums not only in England, but in Ireland—the Physical Deterioration Committee had some very striking evidence from Ireland—and also in Scotland. These children of the slums represented a million of the children in the British Isles, and we had to concentrate our attention upon that particular million. It was no exaggeration to say 1238 that he positively shuddered when he contemplated the fact that here we had a million of to-morrow's citizens upon whose puny, rickety shoulders the burden of the heritage of this country inevitably rested. They were always suffering from malnutrition. In a great many cases the mothers, even if they had the right sort of material to feed these children with, would not make use of it to the best advantage, particularly in this country of England. He remembered a medical man complained to such a mother when she was giving a small child in arms some gin. She turned round upon him very sharply and said, "You dare to say to me that I don't know how to bring up children. Why, I have buried six." Apart from the fact that there was always malnutrition in the winter time, when the building and allied trades were out of work, children came to school day after day absolutely hungry. He had seen in East Bristol, when the frost first began to be keen, the children faint and even vomit not because they had too much in their stomachs, but because their stomachs were absolutely empty. That was quite a common experience.
He would now turn to another class. The significance of the figures in the Report of the General Recruiting Officer for 1902 was very striking. In St. George's Barracks in this city in 1902, 12,951 young fellows offered themselves for enlistment and were accepted; but 4,841 or 37.4 per cent. were afterwards rejected as being unfit under a comparatively low standard. At the Hounslow Barracks 1,625 submitted themselves for enlistment in the Army and 642 were rejected or 39.5 per cent. At Newcastle-on-Tyne recruiting depot 2,012 offered themselves and 766 were rejected, or 38.1 per cent. Manchester was an extremely significant case; 4,470 young fellows offered themselves and 2,190 were rejected, or 49 per cent.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said that the grounds of rejection were set forth in great detail in the Appendix to the 1239 Physical Deterioration Report—narrowness of chest, lightness of physique, etc.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he really could not say; but in Manchester 4,470 recruits came under inspection and 2,190, or 49 per cent., were rejected. General Sir Ian Hamilton, writing to Mr. Horsfall, although he paid a handsome tribute to the courage and endurance of the Manchester Regiment in the South African War, said he could not but feel what a shame it was that the men were so undersized. As his hon. friend would say: their spirit was strong, but their flesh was weak. At the Liverpool recruiting depot 2,164 came under inspection for the Army, and of these there were 839 rejections or 38.8 per cent. Going over to Ireland, at Belfast there were 1,443 inspections for enlistment and 542 rejections or 37.6 per cent. Without any further figures in testimony, here was a human document far more striking than the details in the Appendix to the Report of the Physical Deterioration Committee. It was a letter placed in his hands a few hours ago, written on rough paper by a mother to a schoolmaster—Please to excuse Fred if he is not able to do his work as he has had nothing to eat since yesterday dinner time.He could, as a teacher, say that he had often had a document of that kind put into his hands in regard to children; and that teachers of London all recognised that that was a familiar condition of the children.
It was not a question in England only. In the Report of the Royal Commission on Physical Training in Scotland in 1903 there was very remarkable testimony as to physical deterioration in that country, where, it anything, the people were individualistic. The Commission was appointed to consider schemes of physical training, and they might very well have made no reference to feeding, but simply said that such and such schemes were good or bad. However, directly the Commissioners came to the consideration of the schemes 1240 for physical training of children, the further question of feeding them at once presented itself. He himself thought that the Commissioners went outside their reference, but they unanimously recommended that something should be done to deal with this question of feeding the children, although they were most anxious that there should be nothing in the way of economic abuse. So anxious indeed were they, that they specially reserved the use of public money for that purpose, because of the exiguous terms of the reference. It was very remarkable that a Scotch Royal Commissioner should have said—We can do nothing with schemes of physical training unless we first deal with the feeding of children.He knew that there would probably be quoted against him the opinion of Mr. Bridgeman, who said that there were now no hungry children in London. He understood that Mr. Bridgeman had so far modified that statement by saying that there were quite sufficient agencies to deal with these hungry children. If any hon. Gentleman who was inclined to quote Mr. Bridgeman would turn to page 71 of the last Report of the London School Board he would find that that Board, through a special committee appointed to consider this question, deliberately came to the conclusion that they could not safely leave the feeding of the children to charity, and that the local authorities should be allowed to deal wish this matter by means of funds placed at their disposal—taking security against anything in the nature of economic abuse. Let him read the testimony of the chairman of the Edinburgh School Board, Miss Flora Stevenson. She said—Another great difficulty we have in the poorer schools is the physical condition of the children. They are half-starved and ill-clad.Similar testimony had been obtained from a Catholic priest, who gave evidence as to the condition of the children in the poorer parts of the great cities in Ireland. He need not labour the point further.
He had listened with some impatience, during the discussions on the great Education Act of 1902, to the religious squabbles that went on. He insisted that the practical education 1241 difficulty was not religious. The real difficulty was the problem of how we could adequately deal with the physical needs of the children. Next year, or the year after, when a new Parliament, whatever its constitution might be, came to deal with these matters, there was no doubt there would be discussions as to whether there should be four trustee managers and two public managers on a school committee, or four public and two private managers. That was very important, no doubt. Or as to whether there should be inside or outside facilities for the children to receive denominational education. That, too, was no doubt important. But what was of far more importance was the physical conditions under which the children came to school. He must say that be would rather have a well set-up well clad, well fed, sturdy little Churchman than a puny, weak-kneed, narrow-chested, rickety little Nonconformist.
Now what should we do? He knew there were great difficulties in the way. He also knew that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education was an exceedingly kind man; but, as an official, the hon. Gentleman seemed to take rather a hard, hide-bound, doctrinaire view of the functions of the State in regard to education. We had two things to do for these poor slum children. We had to take a complete record of their physical condition and place them under continuous medical supervision. In Brussels every child attending a primary school was medically examined, careful measurements taken, and the state of the eyes, teeth, and other particulars were recorded. Sixteen doctors were in constant touch with the schools, and every school had to be visited every ten days and the condition of the children recorded. In London three or four doctors were engaged in this work; but if the level of Brussels was to be reached London would have to have 100 doctors to look after the condition of the children in the elementary schools. They would have to keep the children under close medical supervision. The prime question, however, was the question of food; and, is regarded that, the sooner it was dealt with the better. He would suggest the adoption of the Parisian canteen scholar plan, which 1242 was partly supported by the parents, partly by voluntary contributions, and partly by the State. The schools in the poorer parts were linked together and a central dining hall was provided for each group. Any parent could get from the local Board of Works a book of coupons. If he could pay he did, if he could not, the coupons were given to him gratuitously; and there was no difference in their form, whether they were paid for or not. The teachers were also provided with coupons; and the children, instead of hanging about picking up garbage under costers' carts, as in London, were given a good meal. The system was economical for the working classes, and in time they would come to use it; and the charge on the public purse would be very small. Last year meals to the number of 8,000,000 were served under this system in Paris. The total cost was £75,000, of which the parents paid £20,000, £15,000 was received from voluntary contributions, and public funds paid £40,000. That was the system he suggested for this country. It was economical and thoroughly good business from the Imperial point of view. Why should they not adopt it? The Secretary to the Board of Education said it would break up family life. Ho could not contemplate, as an official, children gathered together and getting one square meal. That, in his own opinion, was a distant and doctrinaire view, and was only possible from the representative of a University. It was not possible to any one who knew the daily lives of the people. Where was the family life in the New Cut? Let the children be first fed, and then family life would follow.
Another objection was that it would undermine parental responsibility. That was a very substantial objection; and he was bound to face it. But did hon. Gentlemen advocate that the present state of things should continue. Everyone knew that the children were suffering. Were they to be allowed to continue suffering in order that parental responsibility might be developed where they all knew it did not exist? People said that nothing should be done to weaken parental responsibility; and that if the children 1243 were fed it would only make dissolute parents more dissolute still. The very people who put that forward were the people who subscribed so liberally to charitable agencies for dealing with this very problem. What was his objection to this charitable system? First of all, real deserving cases would not come under it. They would hide themselves away. Further, charitable agencies invariably broke down. In time of stress, after a hard winter, the whole machinery was shut down when it was most needed. One agency had reduced the number of dinners by thirty per cent.; and the number of breakfasts by fifty per cent. That was invariably the case after a hard winter. His objection was, that it was this very same charitable system which emasculated parental responsibility. No man would spend money on four ale while his children wanted food without a twinge of remorse; but when he found a number of charitable agencies at work he did spend it on beer. If he said to that man, "You have to feed your children or go to goal," that would be the way to develop parental responsibility and to prevent the emasculation of parental obligation. He was deeply grateful to the benevolent people who organised these charitable agencies; but it was they who were emasculating parental responsibility. He said, "Feed the child first." He was not going to let the child remain hungry. He would then follow the parent, and say that he would have to pay for the food of his child or go to gaol. So far from that breaking up family life, he thought that in the long run, and it would not be very long, it would increase family life and the sense of parental responsibility. Take the compulsory clauses of the Education Act of 1870.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I am bound to point out to the hon. Member that these observations appear to be directed to legislation rather than to administration.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he would not pursue the subject. He would confine himself to what could be accomplished by the Board of Education, and as to the desirability of the Board assisting local authorities by providing permanent machinery and appliances for the purpose 1244 of assisting the children who went to school hungry. That could be done at once without legislation; and he did appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to look at this matter officially with a little more warm-heartedness and full-bloodedness. He could not overestimate its national importance. It was not so much Socialism as Imperialism. It was of the highest importance to the nation that the children who hereafter would have to support the British heritage should be looked after. This year they were expending nearly £30,000,000 on the Army and £33,000,000 on the Navy; yet there was not a single farthing in the Estimates to improve the physical condition of these unhappy children; and there was not a man in the House who did not feel somewhat uneasy about it. Not out of the mouth of the gun or the rifle, but out of the mouths of babes and sucklings strength was ordained that should still the enemy and the avenger.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Keir Hardie.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said it was quite impossible for him to vote for the Amendment, but he gladly took the opportunity of calling the attention of the Government and of the House to the way in which this question and the Report of the Committee upon Physical Deterioration had been dealt with. The Report was made in July, and when Parliament met in February last it was quite evident that neither the Government as a whole nor any of the Departments concerned had treated this matter seriously with a view to carrying out any of the recommendations of that Committee. He had put Questions to the Home Secretary, the President of the Local Government Board, and the Secretary to the Board of Education, who were all concerned in this matter. All that had been done by the Home Office and the Local Government Board was to appoint a Committee on Vagrancy, and all the Board of Education had done had been to draw 1245 up some syllabuses and plans of instruction on hygiene and domestic economy, a work in which the Board of Education was usually very industrious, but not always entirely successful. He was not making an attack on the present Government, because they had merely treated this matter in the way in which all Governments, on both sides of the House, had always treated social questions. All were very great in the appointment of Royal Commissions and even got to the point of Departmental Committees, but when the time came for action, when the time for enquiry and evidence was past and it became necessary for some Department to take some step, they always broke down. They were "ever learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth."
What had become of the original purpose for which this Committee was appointed, which was to ascertain whether the people of this country were, physically, growing better or worse? The Committee reported that they could not tell, as no record had been kept in the past, and they recommended that a record should be kept in the schools; that a certain register should be kept and that the children should be measured and weighed. That was a thing which could be done without legislation, and a thing which in ten years would give a record by which we could tell whether the people were deteriorating or not. Another thing considered by the Committee was the frightful infant mortality in this country and the connection between that and the employment in factories and workshops of mothers soon after delivery. That was a matter which we, with other nations, so earnestly desired to alter at the Berlin Conference. The Committee did not go so far as legislation; they suggested that statistics should be obtained. There, were a good many statistics already. In Preston alone the figures were 235 per 1,000—one child in four. Had any effort been made to collect those statistics? Had the subject of collecting statistics ever been considered by any Department of State? Another recommendation was that the powers already existing for procuring a pure milk supply in great towns should be enforced. The Committee pointed out that the Local Government Board had actually 1246 powers under statute to move, where the local authority did not, and they recommended that they should be put into operation. The housing question was also considered, the Committee recommending that a register should be kept of the owners of slum property. It was known at present that the owners who now hid themselves were rich men and sometimes members of the Peerage, and it was thought that if their names could be brought to light, and brought before the public, shame itself would influence to better the conditions.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
thought the hon. Baronet was mistaken. It was further recommended that boys of thirteen who went down into the coal pits should be subjected to the same kind of medical inspection as those who went into factories. Had that been considered? It was recommended that children in infant schools should be delivered from the bondage in which they now lived, and that no child should be forced into an infant school until it was six or seven years of age. He believed the Board of Education had dismissed one of their inspectors for recommending this, but he did not know that they had done anything more. He would not refer to smoking because that was the subject of legislation, although that legislation was left to a private Member to introduce instead of the Government bringing in a Bill, but there was also a recommendation with regard to smoking. The Committee also recommended further inquiry into certain points; had those inquiries been instituted? They recommended an inquiry into the effect of over-fatigue upon children and adults; an inquiry into the question of the sterilisation of milk, as to how it could be carried with a view to its preservation; an inquiry as to how far syphilis affected the population; an inquiry into the question of insanity, far more alarming in Ireland than in England and Scotland, which was said to be promoted by the physically bad condition 1247 of the people; and an inquiry on vagrancy. That was the only inquiry that had, he believed, been made. It would be quite apparent to the House that there was a great deal that might have been done and which ought to have been done with regard to the Report of that Committee which had not been seriously considered. It was a state of things that was perfectly appalling and which ought to be put an end to, and he appealed to the Government to seriously consider the Report and to put into operation those small measures which could be put into operation without expense and with only a little official trouble, and not to allow this matter to stand over any further.
What were the Government going to do with the famishing and starving children? Some hon. Members on either side of the House still doubted the existence of starving children, but he did not think after the evidence given in the House itself by the hon. Member for Camberwell, and the overwhelming testimony of the evidence given before the Committee, anyone could doubt the existence of a state of things in which the children were too starved and in too low a condition to do the work of the school in such a way as to profit by the instruction which at such an enormous expense was provided for them at the present time. The hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Board of Education said that the children of the Johanna Street school, which he visited recently, appeared to be doing the ordinary school work in the ordinary way. They were doing it in the ordinary way; they had a blackboard before them and were doing sums——
*THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Sir WILLIAM ANSOX, Oxford University)
said the question was whether they were doing it in a proper way.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said they were doing it in a proper way; they were looking at the blackboard and trying to take in the instruction that was being administered to them. When he was there he took the liberty of getting the teachers in a corner, where they could speak freely, and every one of them told the same story—that the children were remarkably slow of 1248 apprehension, that it took a long while to get any rule of arithmetic or other instruction into their heads, and that when at last they did succeed, they very soon forgot everything they had learnt. That was exactly the result to be expected from trying to teach a half-starved brain. The brain could not take in ideas; it had no nutrition with which to impress the facts learnt upon the memory, and hence the impression vanished almost as soon as made. If the Secretary to the Board of Education would go into any of these schools and ask questions of the teachers, there was no doubt as to the conclusion to which he would arrive. Children were not properly fed if they had one bowl of soup a day; it might just keep them alive, but it did not afford the nutrition or food necessary to enable children to do the work which the Board of Education placed before them and for which the nation provided such immense sums of money.
Then came the question of feeding the children. He was perfectly amazed at the hostility which the idea of feeding hungry children appeared to excite in some minds. Why should Members be misrepresented and abused because they proposed that a child should be fed before it was taught? In an anonymous letter, recently published, signed "Ex-member of the London School Board," his proposal to feed hungry children was described as one of the most pernicious that the human mind could conceive, and yet the writer finished up by proposing the very principle he had been advocating for some time past, viz., that the children should be fed, and measures taken afterwards to make the parent pay the cost, parental responsibility in that way being maintained. He was one of the strongest supporters of parental responsibility, believing as he did that the family was the proper unit of the nation, and that there could be no happy and prosperous nation unless it was composed of happy, prosperous, and virtuous families. A great objection to the communal system was that it did undermine parental responsibility; but, as bearing on this point, he would read an extract from a letter written by a lady, who, if he could mention her name, would be recognised as a great authority. Referring 1249 to schools in a mining district in the North of England where wages were good, she said—We were in a school some time ago, in which quite half the children were wretchedly neglected, unwashed, dressed in rags, half fed, and with all their little ailments neglected. The master told us that they were often kept away from school to exercise their father's dogs. The children, pinched, stunted, in rags, might be seen exercising beautifully groomed, sleek, warmly-dressed, and well fed-dogs. The thing is so monstrous that it laughs at the limitation of speech.He could see no objection to feeding those half starved and neglected children, and exacting payment from the parent, if necessary, by an embargo upon one of his dogs, and he was convinced that if the local authorities, especially the Poor Law authorities, did their duty by, and recognised the rights of, these children, a great deal of the evil could be cured by mere administrative action without further legislation. These children were born with civil rights, of which from beginning to end they were deprived by their parents, public authorities, and others. Before the child was born its life was endangered by the employment of its mother in a factory; through the same cause it was deprived of its mother's milk and proper care. The number of children sacrificed in that way was enormous. When the children went to school they were entitled to be fed, by their parents in the first instance, but, if the parents omitted to do it, by a public authority. He was told that the relieving officer at Lambeth discovered and reported about two dozen starving children. The condition of these children was vouched for by Dr. Hutchinson, physician to the Children's Hospital in Great Ormonde Street, a great authority on the subject. When asked to send their relieving officer to this school the board of guardians passed a resolution, which was everything that could be desired, instructing the officer to make inquiries into the circumstances and to give immediate relief in cases of actual hunger. He was told, however, that the relieving officer went, but did not relieve a single child, although there were certainly children there who ought to have been relieved. What he wanted the President of the Local Government Board to do was to instruct the board of 1250 guardians that every hungry child was entitled to immediate relief.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR, Leeds, Central)
There is no doubt about that.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
thought it could not be too widely known that a hungry child had a right to immediate relief.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said a destitute child was one who was hungry and who had no prospect of being fed. He desired boards of guardians to be instructed that such children were entitled to immediate relief, and that they must take measures afterwards against the parents to recover the cost or secure the infliction of punishment if there was gross neglect. He hoped also that the Board of Education would see that the condition of the law was made known to the managers and teachers of every school, and that it would be made part of their duty to report cases of destitution to the Poor Law authorities, in order that the child might be forthwith fed, and thus enabled to perform its school duties. Such a system, if properly administered and energetically carried out, would be a solution of the present difficulty.
With regard to medical inspection, which was recommended in the strongest terms by the recent Committee, he made no attack on the Secretary to the Board of Education. He knew how limited were the hon. Gentleman's powers, and how frequently he had to defend matters he would rather not defend. His attack was directed against the Board itself. He could not understand why the Board of Education delayed matters by appointing a Committee of junior officials to revise the recommendations of the senior officials. It was a matter for grave regret that the question should be hung up by an inquiry so futile and so obviously for the purpose of delay. There was no difficulty, without any legislation, in providing for medical examinations in schools. All that was necessary was to put a clause 1251 in the Code stating that after a certain date, say April 1st, 1906, no grant would be paid to any public elementary school in which there was not a satisfactory system of medical inspection approved by the Board of Education. It would be a great misfortune and mistake if the Board were to lay down one cut-and-dried system of inspection for the whole of England and Wales. The system must be adapted to the conditions of the district. The kind of inspection suitable for the dense parts of Manchester or London would be wholly unsuitable for agricultural districts and places with a sparse population. The best plan would be for the Board to lay down the broad principles which such an inspection should satisfy, and leave it to the local authorities themselves to devise the particular system they would adopt. He hoped that even now, at the eleventh hour, the Board would put a clause in the Code saying that such a system of inspection would be required after a certain date next year, and that they would not stop the local authorities from devising their own system by having such a Committee as had been appointed engaged for months in the impossible task of devising a scheme suitable for every locality. He knew the difficulties in this matter, and he did not wish to reproach anyone, but he did urge the Education Department to take this Report into their consideration. They ought to proceed without any delay and with the greatest possible energy to carry out all the recommendations in the Report which could be carried out without legislation, and any legislation which was required could be left to be pushed forward at a more convenient season.
§ DR. HUTCHINSON (Sussex, Rye)
said he wondered what would be thought of a person who having given £1,000 for a forty h. p. motor-car refused to spend another shilling for the purpose of lubricating it in order to make it work. We were spending £4,000,000 a year upon education in London, and we were afraid to spend the extra halfpenny in the pound which was necessary to act as lubricating oil. It was quite impossible that under the present system a child starving and without food could 1252 be in a position to get the benefit of the splendid education now placed before it. If a child was sent in that condition to school it was absolute cruelty, because it was impossible for the underfed child to receive education just as it was impossible for it to do hard physical labour. If a cabman or a costermonger were to take his horse or donkey out to work in an unfit condition the authorities would be down upon him immediately and he would be summoned and punished with the utmost rigour of the law. The law, however, overlooked the poor starving child who had to go to school underfed and hungry, and the Education Department said that it had nothing to do with that sort of thing. He agreed with the Department that all these things should be properly gone into before definite legislative action was taken, but surely the time had arrived now to stop inquiries and to do something in the meantime. The House should not let this black spot be left upon the educational system of this country. When a child was not in a fit condition to receive instruction the little nourishment taken went to the brain, and there was nothing to nourish the muscles, and so the body suffered. The consequence was that in after life, when such children had to do work with their muscles and not, with their brain, they were unable to follow ordinary occupations. Was it surprising that they found children in this condition taking early to stimulants? When a child got a mouthful of London gin or beer into his system and felt the stimulus it gave him, he felt that it did him good and for the first time experienced a feeling which he had never experienced before. This was a dangerous condition for the child to be brought up in, and was it surprising that under these circumstances there was such a large increase in the number of unemployed and unemployable? Was it surprising that we found so many deaths in workhouses and lunatic asylums, and could we be surprised if this question became more acute year by year?Rattle his bones, over the stones;He's only a pauper whom nobody owns.We could not do much for the present generation, we might turn the workhouses into labour colonies; go in for pensions 1253 for the aged poor and establish labour bureaux, but we could not do much more for them. We could, however, do something for the rising generation and try by humane treatment to save them from falling into the abyss into which so many had fallen at the present time. The first thing we had to do was to feed these children. Never mind whether it cost us an extra halfpenny on the rates. We should in the end get more out of it than out of any other form of expenditure. The hon. Member for the London University and himself had tried to draw up a scheme to teach children the elements of hygiene. What an irony it seemed to teach them how food acted upon the system when the only thing they had to live upon was a bit of dripping or dried fish. It was time that the educational authorities took this matter more seriously into consideration and endeavoured to do something practical instead of only promising inquiries. They ought to come down to the House and say that from that day forth they were going to put their shoulders to the wheel and do something to put a stop to the present state of things.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
said the hon. Member for the Rye Division had been arguing points upon which they were absolutely agreed. They were all aware of the danger of underfeeding, but the difficulty was how was it to be met and remedied? No more important debate could take place in this House than the question of the physically unfit. They knew how physically unfit children were produced by parents addicted to drink and how they were neglected and underfed by such parents. They only needed to turn into any London slum and observe the larrikins loitering about public-houses—men who were born tired and who were no possible use—in order to understand the disadvantage of underfeeding the young. He was anxious to know what steps the Government were going to take in regard to this matter. He was glad to have an opportunity of questioning the Government upon this subject, and he believed they would get I a satisfactory answer. The right hon. I Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University delivered an interesting 1254 speech, in the course of which he said he had received a letter of abuse, and had been abused by other people, because he wanted to feed the hungry children. The hon. Member for the Rye Division had drawn a pathetic picture of the miseries of starving children. Hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial side of the House did not object to the feeding of these poor children, but that was not the question. The question was who should pay for the feeding of these children, and upon whom should the burden fall? The more they went into this subject the more they would see that hon. Members opposite, however Socialistic they might be, did not intend to feed the whole of the children out of the rates. When they realised that, many of the objections entertained on the Ministerial side of the House were certainly waived. He understood that both the hon. Member for North Camberwell and the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil contemplated that the parents should, if possible, be made to pay for the feeding of their children.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said there were many cases where a parent, sooner than spend twopence upon feeding his child, would prefer to spend it upon a pint of beer. He agreed that such men deserved punishment, and if the feeding of children was to be conducted upon that basis then the law should insist upon the parent paying. He confessed that he had changed his opinion upon this subject. In the country districts they did not find the same amount of starvation and they were able to deal with it by private charity. In London, children often came to school hungry and they could tell this by the sad look upon their faces. Everybody agreed that that state of affairs was wrong and ought to be remedied. But the question was how, when, and where was it to be remedied? Was it to be dealt with throughout the country or only in the great towns? He believed it was only wanted in the great towns. In London especially was the pinch of hunger felt amongst the children. He used to have doubts as to whether actually starving children existed, but the had 1255 now convinced himself that it was absolutely true.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said the hon. Baronet the Member for Peckham doubted that statement, but let him visit his own constituency and see if he could find any hungry children there. The pinch was felt in London and in the big towns. They were spending increased sums of money upon higher education and he thought that part of that money might be allocated in a different and a better way. He did not agree that there had been an improvement in regard to parental obligations. He confessed he did not see any improvement. He did think that much might be done by mothers at home. Instead of feeding children on bread bought at the baker's, in which there was little or no nourishment, it would be very much better if mothers would give them bread of their own baking. As to the question of parental obligation, where was it to begin and end? He was afraid that if they went so far as to feed the children they should take away the last vestige of parental obligation. They had been hearing speeches on Socialism, more or less, that afternoon. For years he had heard speeches on Socialism of various sorts in the House of Commons. Socialism was creeping into the House. He could not range himself on the side of the hon Member for Merthyr Tydvil, but if the hon. Member would confine himself to the Socialism he had advocated that day he should have a more kindly thought as to his doctrines for the future. The hon. Member had stated that at Bradford the corporation voted a surplus to the Lord Mayor for the purpose of feeding children, trusting to chance and to his honour that the children would get it. He did not like that method of dealing with the question. It certainly would be better that the ratepayers should be mulcted ½d. or 1d. in the £1 fairly and squarely, and that they should feel the money would be dedicated to the purpose for which it was intended. The Minister for Education had serious responsibilities which were increasing every day. The hon. Member for the 1256 Rye Division said the hon. Baronet took a very high and haughty position from which he looked down.
§ MR. HUTCHINSON
I said the Department did so. I should be sorry to say that the hon. Baronet did so.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said he was glad the hon. Member had withdrawn the epithets so far as the hon. Baronet was concerned, but he did not think the Department deserved the description. They were very hard-working men who were anxious to carry out the duties of their office as well as they could. The matters with which they had to deal were surrounded with difficulties, many of which had not been touched upon that evening. He believed this debate would have a very good effect.
§ MR. CROOKS
said that in the Poor Law union of which he had the honour to be chairman, they found in regard to children who were underfed or not fed at all that they had an average per week of sixty-four medical orders applied for, and these not in respect of regular paupers. Multiplying that number by thirty for the whole of the Metropolis, they would see that instead of saving money by refusing to feed children the cost worked out in the other direction. There was a loss of cash, to say nothing of the valuable lives they might have fed up to become useful men and women. Sometimes it would be a blessing if the children were taken away rather than kept alive under the circumstances in which they had to live. The Home Office administration included the feeding of children at the present moment, and it was therefore wrong to pretend that there was no precedent for doing this kind of work. The argument which was always brought forward was that people should not be relieved from parental control and responsibility, but that was done in the case of children who were sent to industrial schools. He ventured to say that many of them were convicted because of their being beyond parental control. These children were fed and clothed until they reached the age of sixteen, and then the parents who had not done their duty came and took them away when they were useful boys and girls. 1257 If the State at present could find money to feed the child of the blackguardly father, why should not money be found to feed the child of the parent who was too poor to perform his parental responsibility? The child could not go to the Poor Law authorities and ask relief. The parent must apply.
§ MR. CROOKS
said that, after all, there seemed to be administrative reform which the right hon. Gentleman could bring about. If the teacher said that a child came to school hungry the matter had to be reported to the relieving officer, who had to make inquiry and satisfy himself that the child was destitute. Then the officer had to go to the child's home to see whether there was destitution there. Unfortunately, the hon. Member said, he had to go through this work every day in the week, and certainly he did not crave for it. He had been a member of a board of guardians for thirteen years, and he could assure the House that the law as it at present stood did not help them much. It was heart breaking what a man in the position of a guardian had to go through week by week in regard to poor children. If they could only get that sympathy which he knew existed in the House put into practical shape, they could settle this question within a week. They should not have Departmental Committees appointed to find out the way not to do it. There could be appliances provided at the schools for cooking food for the children who required to be fed. Bills for the cost should be sent to the parents, who could be asked to attend a committee meeting and show cause why they should not contribute. He asked that this should be done until a proper scheme could be formulated for dealing with underfed children. The first thing the Department insisted on when applications were made for relief—he did not say it was wrong—was that inquiry should be made as to whether there was real destitution. Inquiry meant delay, and a little child could not afford to go for five hours, far less a day, in a state of hunger. He appealed to the 1258 representatives of the Local Government Board, the Home Office, and the Education Department to meet in a room at the close of this debate and arrange; as they could if they only would, that no child after Wednesday morning this week should go to school without having a proper meal. He asked that the members of boards of guardians should be relieved from the agonising experiences which he had described. These departments could do it if only they were willing.
§ MR. FINDLAY (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
said he was very much interested in the debate, because he could foresee something practical emerging from it. They were all concerned in the building up of the young people of the country, and in giving them healthy minds in healthy bodies. He quite agreed with regard to what had been said on the question of food; but they did not want to tax the well-doing poor for the sins of others. At the same time, they must realise that this was a very important question. The children must be looked after if the future generation was to be of benefit to the country. He sympathised with the suggestion that medical examination should be carried on on systematic lines under the education authorities. Every practical means of safeguarding the physical and mental growth of the children should be taken. They all deplored the causes which induced parents earning good wages not to spend their money well; but why should a Christian Legislature legalise the sale of intoxicants so largely in the industrial centres, which was the cause of so much misery? If they practically considered this question they would not bolster up the brewers or any similar class, but would make it easier for the working classes to do right, and more difficult for them to do wrong. That would be touching the root of the matter. As regarded medical examination, the eyes of the pupils in the Glasgow district were examined by specialists with good results; and he hoped that this debate would have the effect of similar practical steps being adopted generally. He desired to express his entire sympathy with any proposal for bettering the condition of the children in the direction of good 1259 food and fresh air, so that they might be well built up.
SIR GEORGE BAKTLEY (Islington, N.)
said they all sympathised with the condition of the children referred to. For many years he was associated with the work of education, and he fully recognised the great difficulty of the present position. He recognised that many children went to school in a state which they all deplored. The health of the people was of vital importance; and, as one getting on in life, he could not help realising that the health and vigour of our race did not appear to have developed in the same degree, considering all that had been done during the past generation. He should be delighted to assist in any possible way he could; but in considering this matter, and while being thoroughly sympathetic, let them not lose their common sense. When all was said and done, the State must hold the parents responsible for the children they brought into the world. They would all gladly give what they could if they could do away with the evil; but if they departed from the fundamental principle of maintaining the authority and duty of parents to their families they would not be conferring a benefit on the people generally. The right hon. Gentleman knew very well that the present condition of London was very serious. He, himself, was not a fanatic as regarded drink; but it was idle to contend that that difficulty was not at the bottom of the matter. Every family in the country spent £20 a year on drink; he did not say that that amounted to intoxication; but it was difficult to lay down that the State should maintain the children of a family which did that. That would be a dangerous proposition. If the evil could be overcome, he should be glad to see the State pay large sums; but he was afraid that the making of it easier for children to be fed in the schools would increase the evil at home by inducing parents to send their children to secure meals where they were obtainable. He would regard that with very great apprehension. It was further quite clear to him that if they fed children who were now underfed they would, in a short time, have to feed the majority of children sent to school.
1260 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University said that they would enforce payment from the parents. If that were done, he had nothing more to say; but did the right hon. Gentleman mean that by a strict enforcement of the law these parents would be turned into paupers and disfranchised? That should be made perfectly clear. He said emphatically that if these people had to go to the Poor Law for relief, even if the guardians got it back from them after wards, these people had been made paupers and should be disfranchised. He did not object to that, nor did he believe many persons would if they had to go to that extr me. If they were to really take this step and enforce it, they must do a great deal to enforce parental responsibility, and make parents feed their children. But if they did not enforce it, then all this would do would be to tend largely to the increase of drink. More money would be spent in drink. It was not so long ago that the House discussed the question of education, when this subject was directly touched upon. It was then said that if we gave children free education, and did away with the fees, a great deal of trouble and difficulty would also be done away with; that there would be regular attendance on the part of the children, and that the parents would be able to send their children to school with a good meal. But what had been the result? The fees, which amounted to several millions, had been done away with, the whole cost of £20,000,000 a year had been thrown upon the community, and the physical condition of the children was not better but probably worse than when their parents paid the fees.
This was a very grave question indeed, and he fully agreed that the proper feeding of the children must be secured or the nation could not go on. If the children were not properly fed they could not grow up into healthy and vigorous men and women, but the House must not forget that one of the most important qualities of the nation, one of the qualities on which this nation had been built up, was self-reliance. Men had been taught in the past to rely upon themselves, but now it appeared to him that such action 1261 as was suggested tended to do away with that great quality. The children must be fed, but they must not be fed without enforcing the penalty of payment upon the parents. If that were not done the immediate result must be to undermine parental responsibility and do away with the quality of self-reliance. It must also be remembered that somebody must pay for the food. It would not come down from Heaven like manna. It must be paid for by somebody, and such a thing as paying for it out of the rates would make it harder for those persons at the bottom of the social scale who only paid their rates with the greatest difficulty. One of the most alarming things in our great cities, and especially in London, was the growth of the rates, and this suggestion would make it doubly hard on those who tried to keep their homes together respectably. He asked the House to pause before they laid down a law or passed a Resolution granting free meals to the children in this way. It was a step that would have a most serious result, and before they took that step they should be certain that they were maintaining the responsibility of the parents. It must be brought home to people that if they married and had children they would have to fulfil their duties to those children, and that if the children had to be fed at school the parents would not be allowed to go scot-free for their neglect.
*SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)
said the question had been debated on both sides of the House with great interest, and no one now seemed to be afraid of going far beyond the old lines that used to be drawn on this subject, and doing something to feed the children. He would go further than the hon. Member who had just sat down, who said, "The children must be fed;" he went as far as to say the children must be saved by the State for the State, and that was the basis on which this matter must be discussed. Although the Committee reported that there was no standard by which to judge of the deterioration of our people, they brought sufficient evidence before the House to show that this was a burning question, from the point of view of the children and the nation alike, and if this discussion 1262 did not result in some definite plan and early action it would be most disappointing. It was with a view of making some suggestions which might bring about that action that he had risen. Before proceeding further he might say that the House was greatly indebted to the hon. Member for Camberwell, and the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, for pressing this question so constantly upon the House by means of Questions to Ministers. It was a subject that should be pressed home in order that some result might be rapidly obtained. It had been said that there ought to be some sort of medical inspection. If medical inspection were made on broad lines without too many details, on behalf of the Board of Education, it would be at once the best means of getting at a knowledge of the physical condition of the children. The first effect of such a medical inspection would be an outcry against the underfed condition of the children in the schools, and some scheme for feeding them with or without the aid of private benevolence could be effected through medical inspection without any legislation. That could be done by the Education Department inserting in their next Code the conditions and the instructions for medical inspection, and by that means we should get a basis of comparison for the children of succeeding generations, and a set of statistics which would be of the greatest importance from a sociological as well as a scientific point of view.
The more practical result, that of feeding the children, could only be effected by greater co-operation of the Departments chiefly concerned. These water-tight compartments maintained between the Board of Education and the Local Government Board should cease to exist; there was too little communication and too much separation between the various offices of State. What was required on questions of this kind was frequent and constant communication between all Departments associated with them in any way. It was only by the co-operation of the Local Government Board with the Education Department that this question could be solved in the immediate future. It could be solved pretty easily if the 1263 Local Government Board would make an effort to encourage the local boards of guardians to step a little beyond the narrow limits to which they tad been accustomed and to take a broader view. The infant mortality was a terrible blot, which was pointed out by the Deterioration Committee. That was largely the result of insufficient medical relief at a time when the children wanted that relief. Medical relief did not pauperise the person who accepted it; why should this relief not be accepted in the same way? If we could give medical relief, why could we not feed the children who were attending the schools? That could be done through the recommendation of the teacher who, if he were backed by the medical officers, would always be able to make representations to the Poor Law guardians as to the cases where it was necessary. Parental responsibility was invoked in all these cases as a kind of deterrent. There need be no destruction of parental responsibility. In large numbers of cases relief was given on the conditions of loan; why should not this relief be given in the same way, the cost being recovered from the parents where they were capable of paying? If the parents were unable to pay, of course the Poor Law guardians would forego repayment, but in such a manner as that the feeding of the children could be effected without the loss of any parental responsibility.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said that the debate had been interesting and had brought forth several suggestions, some of which were rather speculative than likely to bear practical fruit. It was not fair to say that the Board of Education had wholly neglected the recommendations of the Deterioration Committee. In the direction of several of the suggestions made the Board were moving as rapidly as possible. But on the feeding question the Government did not propose to introduce legislation. Hon. Members did not quite realise that the problem of underfed children was not to be solved altogether by the mere supply of meals to the children in attendance at the schools. He had visited a great many of the London schools, and the Johanna Street school was the only one in which he had found a child who had not had any breakfast; 1264 but even there it appeared to him the ordinary work of an elementary school could be so arranged as to meet the stunted capacity of such children. He had come to the conclusion that a mere addition of meals to the children would not remedy the state to which many of them had been reduced. He did not think that they could solve the problem of some of those slum schools by the mere provision of meals. In order to meet some of the cases in the poor areas they would need to establish special schools on the lines of the day industrial schools suggested by the hon. Member for Woolwich. He did riot think so poorly of those schools. The boys there were mostly truants or boys who had committed small offences. But he had found the boys bright and intelligent, though somewhat restless; but they were being developed physically and mentally in a satisfactory way.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
The boys were being fed largely but not wholly at the expense of the rates, and they were occupied only half-time at book work and the rest of the day at manual work. The boys lived at home, had three meals a day, and their condition was thoroughly satisfactory.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
How were they to establish these schools in poor areas? The children were largely fed at the expense of the rates; the meals were only paid to the extent of a half by the parents, and the course of manual instruction which the children received was naturally more expensive than the ordinary instruction or the public elementary schools. The consequence was that these schools were exceedingly costly to the area in which the parents lived. It appeared to him, therefore that the proposal to establish such schools, to leave it open to the local authorities to do so, or to require that such schools should be established, was undesirable until some inquiry had been made as to whether the Board of Education could not, by recommending a course 1265 of instruction suitable for those areas, and the local authorities by focussing charitable effort on certain schools, meet the difficulty. Outside that subject there was the more general question of the child when it came to school insufficiently fed because the parent was sick, or out of work, or because he neglected the child. How were they to deal with this aspect of the problem? They might deal with it under the operation of the Poor Law. He understood that the right hon. Member for Cambridge University made a suggestion that the Poor Law authority, in areas where distress was known to prevail, should provide the meals on proper evidence, and that the parents should then be charged That seemed to him to be a suggestion well worthy to be taken into consideration, and he would undertake to confer with the President of the Local Government Board to see whether it was possible to organise some such method of securing that children were not left destitute and neglected by their parents in the poorer districts of the large towns. But apart from that, and apart from the law which dealt with the neglect of children or cruelty to children, one form of which was neglect, how were they to meet this question of underfeeding? It could only be met by grants from the Exchequer, by raising money from the rates, or by voluntary effort.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
Or possibly by all three. He was not prepared to make any suggestion as to grants from the Exchequer; and as to the rates, he thought that there was great force in the observation that it was a hardship on the poor ratepayer to provide meals for a fellow-citizen one degree poorer than himself. When it was said that charity would be painful and offensive to the children or the parents, he could not see that there was any distinction if a meal was to be provided for them for nothing whether it was provided by neighbours or by voluntary organisations supported by persons who might not be living in the same rateable area as the parents. Whether or not the meal was supplied by voluntary effort or by rate aid, the person to whom it was supplied did lose something 1266 of that independence and self-reliance to which reference had been made. Apart, therefore, from the Poor Law and organisation of special schools, they must be driven to State or rate aid, or to voluntary effort, if they were to find meals for the children. It might be said that meals should be provided for all, that those who could pay must pay, and that those who could not pay need not pay for them. He was glad to hear that in the municipality of Paris, where it was possible to get meals for nothing, the parents were willing to pay so large a sum as that mentioned by the hon. Member for Camberwell, but he thought that they would find, as time went on, greater and greater difficulties in distinguishing between parents in absolute need and those who ought to pay, and free meals would follow. Was that really necessary?
He agreed that there was a considerable number of children sent to school who needed food. But the Lambeth Board of Guardians, after inquiring into cases brought before them by the party which visited the Johanna Street school, came to the conclusion that the great bulk of the persons under review could provide meals for their children if they would. Some of the parents were already in receipt of outdoor relief; others said the breakfasts were provided and therefore they need not provide them; while some boys who came to school without breakfast did so because they had got up too late to eat it. The special cases inquired into were not cases of need, and the general notice issued by the guardians only produced one application. These facts showed that it was possible in some districts to exaggerate, not the need of the children, but the incapacity of the parents. Supposing meals were supplied, he thought that some parents would decidedly object to their children being fed by the ratepayers. He had seen a letter from a man who described himself as a Radical and a free-trader, strongly opposing State-aid for the maintenance of children, who stated that he had forbidden his children to take the meals provided by a certain organisation. But it was possible to go a step further than free meals. In some board schools teachers said that the great difficulty was the clothes and the boots 1267 and another stage in this problem might be reached when they would be told that money was being wasted on education and food unless they went a step further and provided clothes. He fully admitted the disability under which he laboured, as representative of a University, who was supposed to take only an academic view of life, but what he had stated as to the injury that would be done to the poor by the breaking up of home life and family meals came from people who had lived among the poor for many years, and who told him that the common meal and the duty of preparing it were a valuable and humanising feature in the life of the poor.
The Interim Report of the Physical Deterioration Committee contained a remarkable variety of suggestions. One Gentleman, who spoke with much experience of Manchester, said that free meals necessarily followed free education; an eminent medical man said that children must be fed, but parents must not be pauperised. The secretary of the Charity Organisation Society said—Bring the Poor Law into operation wherever you can; only give free meals after strict investigation and not in school.It seemed to him, from inquiries he had made, that the people who knew something of the homes of the children and the lives of the poor took a different and somewhat sterner view of the feeding of children from those who attended a school and saw the children assembled there in all their hunger and poverty. It was impossible to go into one of these schools without a strong desire to do something immediately to feed, clothe, and improve the condition of the children, but one knew that to take large legislative action would be to take a step that could not possibly be recalled, and which might injure the life of this country for generations to come. So he asked that in a question of such great and vital importance time should be given—not without using voluntary efforts in the direction he had mentioned—and that they should not be called upon to take any rash and large steps in this matter.
The Board of Education might do something—it could not do much—by administration. Local authorities might do something in the way of organisation, 1268 but voluntary effort, not merely by the grant of money, but by the endeavour to recreate the life of the poor in our large towns, might do much more. There were several voluntary societies doing excellent work in this way. There was the great National Health Society, which was just being started and which was designed to do a great deal by voluntary organisation to improve the health of the people over the length and breadth of the land. Then there was the Ladies Public Health Society at Manchester, whose members had gone about amongst the poor endeavouring to teach them how to improve their homes and live the life which all desired to see led by the working classes. There were other smaller societies which he could name, which by associating managers and teachers and other voluntary workers, accomplished good work by going into the homes of the poor children and endeavouring to instil into the parents a proper sense of parental duty, and ascertaining those cases which should be assisted and those which should not. But he felt very strongly that although they should lose no chance by administration of aiding local authorities and voluntary societies to provide proper sustenance for the children whom they were endeavouring at so great a cost to educate, they must to some extent trust to the self-sacrifice and the human sympathy of those who devoted their lives to work among the poor. But he for one would never be willing to take a step which would only be driving the evil deeper, which would injure the social life and the whole sentiment and feeling of the poor, and which might set back for an indefinite number of years the regeneration of the life of the poor in the poorest districts of our large towns. He regretted that he could not offer more; but he would undertake that, as far as administration went, he would see what could be done to instruct local authorities to organise voluntary efforts in the direction which the House on both sides desired.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
expressed a deep sense of disappointment at the speech of the representative of the Board of Education, seeing there 1269 had been no attempt at an official denial of the appalling revelations of the Blue-book. None of the great facts upon which this Motion rested had in any respect been impugned or contraverted in any official quarter. As to what was to be done with the underfed children not one spark of light or one word of encouragement had come from the Board of Education. It was almost incredible that the official reply did not contain one word about the most important subject of a systematic course of medical inspection of the schools of the country. He could not understand why Royal Commissions and Select Committees were appointed if the results of their inquiries wore to be absolutely ignored by the Department of State concerned.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON (interrupting)
regretted that he had omitted to state that every local education authority had power to appoint medical inspectors to every school, and a Committee was now inquiring into what was actually being done by local authorities and with what results.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW
said he was pleased to have elicited that declaration. He thought that if a Minute, emphatically worded, were circulated among all education authorities calling attention to this power it would do immense good. If that were done the beginning of the end would come. Once the doctors were admitted into the schools we should get statistics in the way of measurements of height and weight, and in particular we would get the dimensions of brain and other statistics, which would form the foundation for all legitimate and proper action on the part of the local authorities. He again urged the Board of Education to issue the circular, because a great deal depended on a good schedule filled in from time to time with particulars which would afford material for comparative statistics on which we could build up a case as to underfed children.
On the general question of underfeeding the House might well consider the gravity of the position. He had studied the Blue-books, and he ventured to say he was within the mark in declaring 1270 that in the working classes of this country there were underfed children in the proportion of from 16 to 20 per cent. of the entire attendance in the schools. That was a most appalling state of matters, and yet the official responsible for the system which injured the manhood of the next generation in this way had not one word to say to help the House on this fundamental social problem, except to hope for greater effort in the direction of private charity. The hon. Baronet was haunted by the fear of undermining self-reliance and parental responsibility. No one who had taken part in the debate had asked that anything should be done to undermine that responsibility. What they did maintain was that parental responsibility would not cure the question which they had to solve, namely, What are we to do with those children we have introduced into the schools? They would not be fed, because we had a pious opinion as to the duty of their parents. They had not in the past been fed, the State relying on individual or organised charity. They would only be fed when the State came to realise that, having taken the children off the street and compelled them to listen to instruction, the State had a responsibility to feed the children who were so treated. All animals, human or otherwise, which had empty stomachs began to forage for the means to fill them, and the only animal that was prevented from doing that in this country was the little human animal that was taken into school and confined under our compulsory system of education to a room for a certain number of hours with a starving stomach. The child was prevented from going out and foraging for himself by begging or working in order to relieve the craving of nature. He maintained that the State which confined children for a certain number of hours daily was responsible to see that they were fed.
He had a simple suggestion to make to the Board of Education which was not open to the objection of undermining parental responsibility or self-reliance. His proposal was threefold. In the first place, that they must give administrative effect to all the recommendations that had been made with 1271 regard to regular medical inspection. Then they ought to give administrative effect to the recommendations with regard to the provision of buildings and apparatus for the cooking of meals for the children. Having done that, the children should be fed, and, whether the meals were supplied from outside or not, a record should be kept of all the children who were fed, and there ought to be in each school board, or managing committee, a sub-committee which might be called the nutrition or feeding committee.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
I do not see how the local authorities can be empowered to provide apparatus for cooking meals for children unless the power is conferred upon them by legislation.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE
May I ask whether it is not a fact that school boards exercise that power now? Have they been surcharged for doing so?
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW
said he thought the hon. Baronet was wrong. In his opinion, if that power was exercised prudently it would be within the regulations and would not be made a matter of objection by the auditors. The last step he proposed completely covered all this doctrine about self-reliance and parental responsibility. He would give the school authority which had investigated the condition of all the children, knew the families, and had visiting committees, the power to issue a precept for the supply of meals for one, two or three months, and the effect of that precept would be equal to a warrant at law for the recovery of the money cost of the meals, in the same way as a warrant issued for the recovery of taxes. The drunken parent would be caught by that means at once. He did not say whether that was or was not on the thin line between administration and legislation, but what was wanted was to get at the root of this national misery and mischief. All the honest and capable parents who wished to pay would pay immediately, and the whole of the doctrine about self-reliance and parental 1272 control would fall to the ground. He entirely objected to the Poor Law being brought in as an engine for extracting this money. What they ought to have was a view of the whole situation, the Education Department guiding the school boards or school committees who had a knowledge of the home life of the children; and only in those cases where there was drunkenness along with capacity would the precept he issued and the money recovered.
Further, he altogether objected to the scheme suggested by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. His scheme was to gather all those cases of underfed children and form them into separate communities, with separate schools, in order that, with the assistance of the Poor Law or otherwise, the segregated children might be provided with meals. It would be a most unfortunate thing to contemplate that simply because children were underfed they should be tainted with the idea of pauperism, housed separately from other better-clothed and better-fed children, the very mixture with whom should be the first branch of the education of these little people. Might he say that he did think that they had got further upon this question than that a Minister of the Crown should actually say that if we began to give free meals we would be troubled with our old friend the open door; that it would mean free clothing, and that we should be on the down grade. Free meals were only one of the social remedies for a great social grievance. He knew that clothing was a great want in many humble homos, but because of that we should not be deterred from addressing ourselves now to what was proved to be a very clamant and different case.
He did not hesitate to say that he had felt very much inclined to follow the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University that the House should not divide on this question; but having heard the speech just delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, his duty took a very different shape. It seemed to him that the House of Commons was bound to protest against 1273 such doctrines. With the Board of Education, it was not merely non possumus, but non volumes—they would not try to do it. They did not propose to look out for power to do anything but issue these schedules. In the meantime these poor mites were going underfed to school. That the case was clamant was proved by repeated inquiries under the authority of Royal Commissions and of Committees of the House. What more was required? The testimony was before them and the case must be dealt with. Misery was going on; the school was planting the seeds of education on soil in many cases absolutely unfitted to receive it. This session would not pass over in regard to Scotland until this subject was very fully thrashed out. There was a Bill before the House, and the Scotch Members would see that clauses were put forward to deal with cases of the most clamant character. They hoped to get the support of the Government of the day in giving effect to these enlarging clauses; and that the people North of the Tweed would be dealt with in such a manner as to enable them to show that their view of Imperialism was very different from that taken in this more backward
§ region of the Empire. They did not believe that Imperialism was to be found in rickety constitutions in their children; and they hoped that some substantial progress would be made with this great and important question.
§ MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)
said that he could not vote for the Motion before the House, for if carried it would upset the whole financial arrangements of the country, because it would mean the rejection of the Appropriation Bill. He admitted that on the question of applying a remedy for meeting the case of underfed children there was a very strong feeling. Of course the crux of the whole question was parental responsibility. His hon. friend the Member for Hoxton and himself had drafted a Bill in which they lad made an honest attempt to deal with the question, and he hoped that they should have the support of hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 215; Noes, 159. (Division List No. 88.)1277
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.)||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants,W.)|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire)||Faber, George Denison (York)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Fardell, Sir T. George|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A (Wore.)||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Chapman, Edward||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Clive, Captain Percy A.||Finlay, Sir R. B. (Inv'rn'ss B'ghs)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Coates, Edward Feetham||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J (Manch'rs||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Fison, Frederick William|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald W. (Leed)||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose.|
|Balfour, Kenneth R.(Christeh.||Colston, Chas Edw. H. Athole||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Flower, Sir Ernest|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Forster, Henry William|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.||Galloway, William Johnson|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Gardner, Ernest|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Cust, Henry John C.||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)|
|Bigwood, James||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gordon, Maj. Evans. (T'rH'mlets|
|Bill, Charles||Davenport, William Bromley-||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-|
|Bingham, Lord||Davies, Sir Horatio D. (Chatham||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Denny, Colonel||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim|
|Bond, Edward||Dewar, Sir T. R. (Tower Hamlets||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Bowles, Lt.-Col. H. F (Middlesex)||Dickson, Charles Scott||Graham, Henry Robert|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C.||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Bull, William James||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.)|
|Butcher, John George||Dorington, Rt. Hn. Sir John E.||Gretton, John|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A (Glasgow)||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Hall, Edward Marshall|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Egerton, Hon. A de Tatton||Hambro, Charles Eric|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G.(Midd'x||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edin burgh W)||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Hamilton, Marq. Of (L'nd'nderry||Majendie, James A. H.||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Manners, Lord Cecil||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th||Marks, Harry Hananel||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Heath, Sir James (Staffords. N W||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H. E. (Wigt'n)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Helder, Augustus||Maxwell, W. J. H (Dumfreisshire||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W.)||Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick G.||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants.)||Spear, John Ward|
|Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Stanley, Rt. Hn. Lord (Lanes.)|
|Hoult, Joseph||Moore, William||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M 'Taggart|
|Howard, John (Kent, Faversham||Morgan, David J (Walthamstow)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham||Morpeth, Viscount||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil||Morrell, George Herbert||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Morrison, James Archibald||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Hunt, Rowland||Mount, William Arthur||Tomlinson, Sir Win. Edw. M.|
|Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred.||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Tuff, Charles|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W.||Nicholson, William Graham||Tumour, Viscount|
|Keswick, William||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E H. (Sheffield|
|Kimber, Sir Henry||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robert Wellesley||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Pemberton, John S. G.||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm||Percy, Earl||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Pierpoint, Robert||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Welby, Sir Charle G. E. (Notts)|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Plummer, Sir Walter R.||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Lawson, Hn. H. L. W (Mile End)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks. N. R||Pretyman, Ernest George||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Lee, Arthur H. (Hants. Fareham||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Purvis, Robert||Wilson-Todd, Sir W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Pym, C. Guy||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Rankin, Sir James||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Raseh, Sir Frederic Carne||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham||Ratcliff, R. F.||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S)||Reid, James (Greenock)||Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Ridley, S. Forde||Younger, William|
|Lucas, Reginald J (Portsmouth)||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Maconochie, A. W.||Round, Rt. Hon. James||Viscount Valentia.|
|M'Calmont, Colonel James||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Abraham, William (Cork. N. E.)||Crombie, John William||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Crooks, William||Grant, Corrie|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Cullinan, J.||Griffith, Ellis J.|
|Allen, Charles P.||Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Hammond, John|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Delany, William||Harcourt, Lewis|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Devlin, Charles Ramsay (Galway||Harmsworth, R. Leicester|
|Benn, John Williams||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Harwood, George|
|Boland, John||Doogan, P. C.||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.|
|Brigg, John||Duffy, William J.||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Duncan, J. Hastings||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Ellice, Capt EC (S. Andrw's Bghs||Higham, John Sharpe|
|Burke, E. Haviland.||Ellis, John Edward (Notts.)||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Burns, John||Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.|
|Burt, Thomas||Eve, Harry Trelawney||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Caldwell, James||Farrell, James Patrick||Joicey, Sir James|
|Cameron, Robert||Fenwick, Charles||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Jones William (Carnarvonsh)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Findlay, Alexander (Lanark, N E||Jordan, Jeremiah|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Joyce, Michael|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Flynn, James Christopher||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Kennedy, Vincent P. (Cavan, W.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Furness, Sir Christopher||Kilbride, Denis|
|Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Gilhooly, James||Kitson, Sir James|
|Cremer, William Randal||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Labouchere, Henry|
|Langley, Batty||O' Dowd, John||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Northants|
|Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.)||O' Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Stanhope, Hon. Philip James|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||O' Malley, William||Sullivan, Donal|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||O' Mara, James||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radeliffe)|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington||O' Shaughnessy, P. J.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Levy, Maurice||Perks, Robert William||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Power, Patrick Joseph||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)|
|Lundon, W.||Rea, Russell||Toulmin, George|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Reddy, M.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Redmond, John E.(Waterford)||Ure, Alexander|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries||Waldron, Laurence Ambrose|
|M' Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th||Wallace, Robert|
|M'Crae, George||Rickett, J. Compton||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|M'Kean, John||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Mooney, John J.||Robson, William Snowdon||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Roche, John||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Moss, Samuel||Rose, Charles Day||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Murphy, John||Runciman, Walter||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||Russell, T. W.||Wills, Arthur Walters (N. Dorset|
|Nolan, Joseph (Lonth, South)||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Norman, Henry||Schwann, Charles E.||Young, Samuel|
|O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||Sheehy, David|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Shipman, Dr. John G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)||Mr. Keir Hardie and Dr.|
|O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)||Macnamara.|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Soares, Ernest J.|
§ And, it being after half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.