HC Deb 15 November 1906 vol 165 cc107-9
MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether the ninety-two unemployed from the farm colonies were brought up in the charge of any official employed by the Working Colonies Committee; whether they were conducted to the polls to vote by such officials, or by anyone; and whether they, in fact, voted, and in which municipal boroughs.

I beg also to ask the President of the Local Government Board by whom the Central (Unemployed) Body was appointed, and the names of the members forming that body; whether the Central Body appointed the Working Colonies Committee; and whether, seeing that the expenditure on railway fares in bringing from the farm colonies ninety-two unemployed to vote at the recent municipal elections was sanctioned by the Working Colonies Committee, and confirmed by the Central Body, he will cause an inquiry to be made into the working of both bodies, and have their accounts looked into and audited, and such payments as the above struck out by the auditor if he finds them illegal, and surcharged to the members who were present and sanctioned the payment complained of.

I beg further to ask the President of the Local Government Board who paid the living and other travelling expenses of the ninety-two unemployed who were sent up to London to vote at the recent municipal elections, and whose railway fares only were paid by the Central (Unemployed) Body; and whether he will cause a special inquiry to be made into the whole circumstances connected with this trip.


At the same time may I ask the President of the Local Government Board who controls the expenditure of the voluntary contributions out of which the travelling expenses of fifty-two unemployed were recently paid on the occasion of their visit to London to vote at the municipal elections; and whether the contributors to the fund were consulted before it was used for political purposes.


Before these Questions are answered, may I ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he has any reason to believe that before these electors voted they were entertained at a garden party, and whether he is aware that the candidates for whom they voted escaped by the skin of their teeth?


I have been too busy lately to take notice of such al-fresco frivolities. The ninety-two men from the farm colonies were not brought up or conducted to the polls by any official of the Central (Unemployed) Body. I have no information as to whether in fact they voted, and if so, where, or as to who paid their living and other expenses beyond their railway fares. I presume that they stayed at their own homes. The funds in the Voluntary Contributions Account out of which their railway fares were paid are under the control of the Central Body. I am not aware that the contributors to these funds have been consulted as to the application of them; but I may say that I do not understand that any part of the money was used for political purposes. The Central (Unemployed) Body for London consists of members selected by the County Council, the Common Council, and the Borough Councils, together with some members nominated by the Local Government Board or co-opted by the Central Body. They number some eighty persons, so that evidently I cannot give their names in answer to a Question. The accounts of the Central Body and their committees are subject to audit by the district auditor, who has full powers of disallowance and surcharge in respect of any expenditure he may find to be illegal. It does not seem to mo necessary to direct any inquiry in relation to this subject.


Will these voluntary funds subscribed by contributors be used in future elections to send voters to the polls?


I think it can be safely left to the district auditor to see that both voluntary and other funds are used legally and properly.

Mr. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

Is it not the case that, apart from the working arrangements in these colonies, these men are allowed to return home at certain periods, and that this visit was in substitution of one of the periods?


It is true that a return on furlough by the men is absolutely necessary for the carrying out of the Act, and for the men resuming their industrial work, if work can be found. What happened in this case was that the period of their furlough was antedated.

Mr. ROWLANDS (Kent, Dartford)

Do these men who have unfortunately to go to these colonies forfeit their rights of citizenship?




Are we to understand that it is a mere coincidence that the railway fares were paid to London at a time when the elections happened to be going on?


It is more than a coincidence; it is a positive fact, and has been done on many previous occasions.