§ Postponed proceeding on Amendment to Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," which Amendment was to leave out from the word "That" to the end, in order to insert instead thereof the words "this House endorses the unanimous condemnation of the administration of the Poor Law contained in the Majority and Minority Reports of the recent Royal Commission, and is of opinion that the present administration of the Poor Law does not meet modern requirements, and demands the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government."
§ Debate resumed.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I was explaining to the House, when the discussion upon this Amendment was interrupted, that the standpoint of guardians, and especially rural guardians, is somewhat important. The Local Government Board, of course, is represented in various ways in this House. I do not care to clothe the position in any vigorous language, but although I have been in the Orient, I should never describe the President of the Local Government Board as an Oriental despot. I want to come to the question of outdoor administration, as viewed by those of us who are members of boards of guardians. My first experience in that position occurred twenty years ago, and my whole experience is that there has been a marked change for the better in the treatment which guardians receive from the institution at Whitehall. I remember well the first time I came up as representing a local authority in order to interview the Local Government Board in Whitehall. It was with regard to a loan for a considerable amount, and the administration at that time was such that, after a great deal of knocking about from pillar to post, I eventually settled this important question with some official of the Board in an attic while he was frying some fish over the fire. I came to London full of admiration, awe, and reverence for the Local Government Board, but when I went away I did not consider it was such a distinguished honour for a young man from a village to go to Whitehall. I will not go into the other side of the work of the Local Government Board. It was in those times difficult to get an answer to a communication, and to get a decision on an important point. Now there is a 2051 characteristic vigour about this department which does the President credit. You can get replies, you can get an intimation of the views of the Board very promptly. I think it is generally admitted, and the absence of criticism to-day rather proves it, that there has been a businesslike method introduced into the department for which local authorities in remote districts may be devoutly thankful.
There is a phrase in this Resolution which my hon. Friends below the Gangway have not ventured to particularise. I refer to the phrase "modern requirements." It is unusual, and I do not know whether the hon. Members on the Labour Benches can explain its meaning. It suggests that nowadays we are to treat an important question like this in some different way from the old method of treatment. I am not going to say that learning does not spread, or that discussion and the enlightenment resulting therefrom are not an advantage to every Government Department. But I am afraid that the phrase "modern requirements "may have a very different meaning to hon. Members on the benches below the Gangway and to hon. Members opposite. I personally cannot possibly make out what is meant by it. The speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Harcourt)—I am sorry he has not seen fit to remain in his place to hear an answer to it—did not come, in my opinion, with very good grace from these benches. At any rate, I do not hesitate to say so. I do not say that there should not be vigorous criticism, but to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman, in reply to the hon. Member for East Birmingham, made a travesty of the position was ludicrous to those who heard the speeches. Had it been so, I am sure the hon. Member for East Birmingham, who is capable of a certain amount of vigour, would have risen in his place and put the matter right. I should hope the hon. Member for Montrose will, on reflection, regret very much that he should have charged the right hon. Gentleman with making a travesty of his opponent's remarks. Neither can one fairly object to the right hon. Gentleman's pronouncement with regard to the insurance proposals of the Government. As the House is well aware, I am particularly interested in that subject. I do not see how the right hon. Gentleman could answer the vigorous criticism levelled against it unless he was allowed to state what was the full and comprehensive 2052 answer of the Government as to the conditions of poverty and unemployment.
The right hon. Gentleman was standing up for his Department, as he is entitled to do. It would take a great deal to persuade me that any Government Department is in a perfect position. I honour the right hon. Gentleman for doing what he did. He gave more or less a negative answer to the criticism. But when one is asked, "What are you going to do? What legislation are you going to bring in? Have you a heart and a head? Have you any activity? Why are you not running about in a hysterical way with a pocket full of Bills? Why are you not demanding the whole of the time of the House for the Local Government Board?" When questions of that kind are put forward I think the proper answer is that the Government are doing a great deal in various departments. I object to the criticism which was levelled against the right hon. Gentleman because he pinned himself to the status quo. The whole trend of his remarks was that every year he is at the head of the Local Government Board an advance is made, and it has certainly been a distinct advance, characterised by a lowering in the number of paupers and at the same time an improvement in the treatment of those who remain. It is difficult, in ordinary business, to effect a double reform at once, and this is a peculiar phenomenon to which I would draw the attention of hon. Members. This great lowering in the percentage of pauperism in this country is concurrent with an improvement in the attractiveness of their treatment. It is very important to remember that at the very time more money is being spent on the workhouse this should occur. Those who have been members of the board of guardians and of building committees will be able to appreciate this. The very first meeting I attended on a board of guardians was in the year 1891, and at that a contract was passed for new buildings to cost £30,000. I do not think that is at all exceptional. It is a characteristic of the whole area. These houses have been improved, improved accommodation has been given, there is an increase of cubic space for each inmate, the methods of treatment are more enlightened, the administration is better and better services have been brought into being. But while all that has been done still the percentage of pauperism has decreased. To call a state of things like that a status quo is I think out 2053 of the question, and I do not know even the meaning of the English or the Latin language if such a term can be used. I regret that observations of that character should come from this side of the House, and so far from associating myself with them, I have risen mainly in order to protest against them.
I will take this opportunity of referring to the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, who spoke from the benches opposite. I would desire if he were in his place to thank him for a very enlightened speech, and it is a remarkable thing to me that an hon. Member should be able to make two such effective speeches as he made last night and again to-day. They show a research and a deep insight into this question which does the hon. Gentleman a great deal of credit and as a local administrator, I quite admit that my information has been added to, and I hope I shall be the better for it and go back to my work benefited by what I have heard in this House. In regard to the attitude of Socialists in the matter of relief works. I am old enough to know that there was a time, and not very many years ago, when the extreme Socialist party specially urged this policy. The demanded a large amount of money, and they pushed these relief works most vigorously. Appeals were made in Manchester to the Local Government Board by many prominent exponents of the Socialist faith who wanted to establish a model farm. A great many citizens and councillors and city dignitaries went out from time to time to see the experiments which were made, and the advanced people in Manchester whom I met in discussion and who had very remarkable political gifts and spent a great deal of time in political research, they had very great hopes indeed from these relief works. But nobody wanted to buy the vegetables they grew and there were so many complaints by the people as to the expense that eventually the whole thing ended in disaster and failure. I am not saying that as a reflection upon anybody, but I mention it for this reason, that the greatest business city in the world, with which I am proud to be associated, took this action, and I know that Manchester, whatever she may or may not be, is full of able business men, but they were not able to bring this policy forward successfully, although we learned something from it. I do not think it is fair, therefore, to brush it aside as if no one ever believed in it.
2054 There was a time when advocates of this movement were clamouring to have it carried out. I have a great many Socialist friends with whom I have stayed in the country, and I have tried to take the most sympathetic view I can, but the more I saw of this development of life the more I concluded that there was no solution in their views for the benefit of humanity any more than there is for the happiness of humanity. The Socialistic settlements in this country have not been a conspicuous success, and I think they have no better chance of success than the poor relief works which have been proposed, but which must not be thrown over and treated as if no one ever did believe in them except one or two irresponsible people. We cannot forget that some people advocated these schemes emphatically a few years ago although now they are relegated to obscurity. With regard to the phrase "breaking up of the Poor Law," I think it is too strong a form of words, and I have not been able to see quite what is meant. I have had the advantage of private letters from and private conversations with a gentleman for whom I have the highest esteem referring to this matter—Mr. Sidney Webb—but I have never been able quite to gather the meaning of this term which has come to be used about the breaking up of the Poor Law. I gather that the phrase is identified to some extent, with the Minority Report of the recent Royal Commission, which is mentioned in his Resolution by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone). What is meant by the breaking up of the Poor Law or the Poor Law system? I have listened very carefully to the Debate to-day, and I have not gathered from the discussion that any Member who spoke, with the exception of the representative of the Department, seemed to grasp fully the first essential principle of the present Poor Law which is now administered. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen are aware that the first essential principle of our English Poor Law is the well being of the community, second to which is the welfare of the poor.
However great a question the relief of the poor is, a still greater question is the welfare of the entire community, and while I have never identified myself, and hope I never will, with the policy of the guardians whose sole object is to keep down the rates, still there is a little element of duty there and a little germ of truth. That country farmers simply look upon the rates and endeavour to keep them down is a 2055 matter of regret, and I have always openly endeavoured to get such men to take a more enlightened view. It has been my duty to act with my fellow guardians, and I am sure there is not one of them who does not want to do the right thing, but some of them are imbued a little more than I am with the necessity of keeping down the rates. That is part of the principle on which the English Poor Law is established as being for the general well-being of the community, and if this phrase "modern requirements" means that that whole principle is to disregarded, I venture, very respectfully, as a progressive man and a Radical, as a Radical in local administration which I hope I shall always remain, and in my individual capacity to protest against it. I venture to protest against putting aside the enormous heritage which we have received in the old Poor Law. There is no doubt, whatever you say about the Poor Law, it was a magnificent improvement on what had existed before. Would anyone like to go back to the time when the farmers took the labourers into the workhouse in the winter and took them out and put them on relief pay on the farms when the winter was over. Then the unit was changed, and the system as at present administered was established. These parishes were grouped, and you saw little workhouses in ruins or turned into barns and large workhouses in the centre of a district established in their place, and we saw an improvement which has since been maintained. The control, instead of being under the people in that particular parish, is over a group of parishes. It was regarded as a principle in the Union of which I was a member twenty years ago, that the chairman of the Out-Relief Committee for the time being should not belong to the township in which he administered the relief. We always had as chairman an outside guardian. That received encouragement from the Local Government Board, and does now. Their inspectors came down and approved of it, so that the person who gave relief should not have a personal bias in favour of some one who attended his own place of worship, or was associated with him in politics. He could be there, and bring his local knowledge to bear with the Committee, but the chairman always came from another township. Suggestions have been made to-day that this administration by local guardians was by interested men. The case was over-stated. 2056 There are many guardians with a very high conception of their duties. We all have sympathy with poverty and suffering. There are certain hon. Members with whom I disagree diametrically, but I hope the day will never come when I would suggest that they are not sympathetic to the poor, and will not turn a ready and willing ear to suggestions to alleviate suffering. We do not need to urge these points as if we have a monopoly of them. A speaker in this House, as he warms to his subject, is apt to think for the moment that the great heat which it generates in his heart and his bosom is peculiar to himself. I hope we shall endeavour to avoid that mistake. I give hon. Members credit wherever they are for having as much sympathy with the poor as I have. But I claim to have as much as any other Member.
I am taking the House through this administration which is challenged. I am not one of those who may be turned from their purpose by theories, books, or pamphlets. My knowledge upon this question was got by hard experience. I made sacrifices at a time of life when I ought to have been in business making money in going to meetings of guardians in the middle of the day, studying these Orders which came from the Local Government Board, and trying to follow out the local and Imperial administration of the Poor Law. I consider that a far better school for anyone who wishes to sit in this House than going to a University. I have made a particular study of the classification of the inmates. I know that hon. Members like the hon. Member (Mr. Lansbury) have a very different idea of the proper treatment inside a workhouse from what country guardians have. When the idea was first suggested that there should be classification, and that deserving inmates should be put by themselves and should have better treatment, I made it my business to visit workhouses where this was in operation. I can very well remember going to one at Macclesfield. This was twenty years ago, and there has been a great step in advance since then. We had not a President of the Local Government Board like the right hon. Gentleman. It was left entirely to the permanent staff, and I hope we shall not revert to the old days. This is the spectacle I saw. A man from the village called and sat down in the middle of these people. There was a nice blazing fire, and they all sat in different kinds of chairs hearing their old pal play the fiddle. This 2057 fiddler had been in the house and had not forgotten his old companions. You could not tell which were inmates and which were visitors. The last Socialistic meeting that I attended was in Regent's Park, and a member of the Social Democratic Federation suggested that old people in the workhouse now—old couples over sixty—under an enlightened Local Government Board were separated. These ideas are not brought forward here, because they would be severely dealt with, but they are used outside. I have repeatedly had to intervene in discussions in order to object to such a statement as that. To think that we have not passed that stage is alarming. What are the facts? They vary in almost every union, and they are different in a town union from a country union. In a town union you will have a large number of these old people. When the order came down, under this very administration which is challenged, from the Local Government Board that these old couples were to live together it immediately succeeded in large unions, but it did not succeed in small unions. It is a vitally important question to these old people. Perhaps they have failed to save money or their investments have gone wrong or something has disappointed them, but they are very often deserving people.
I doubt if there is a Member here who poses as an authority who knows why it failed in the small unions and was a success in the big ones. At that time my wife was a Poor Law guardian in a large union and I was a guardian in a small union. So I had an exceptional opportunity of judging of the two systems. The reason was this. In a large union there was a sufficient number of people over sixty who could form a sort of old man's club and an old woman's club because they could not be allowed to remain together as married couples and at the same time mix in the general workhouse. But when it came to a small union, where there was only one, or perhaps two, couples, the system broke down, and the people themselves petitioned not to be in these little cottages living as man and wife together, but to be separated, and to go into the larger house. That was a great disappointment to me. I had taken a large part in insisting that there should be little cottages detached in which the old people should live together, and I was deputed, perhaps in a jocular way, being a bachelor at that time, to introduce these married couples to their apartments. I refused to go unless 2058 the village doctor accompanied me, and we went together. We pointed out the sitting-room and the bedroom. They were entirely separate from everyone else, and were to make it their own little home, and wear their own clothing and so on. As we came away I noticed a sad look in the old man's face. The doctor said they were all right and comfortable, but I said I was afraid something was wrong. We went back, and I said to the old man. "You did not look very pleased at the sight of this little cottage. What was troubling you?" At first I could not get him to speak, then he mustered up courage and pointed to his wife, and said, "I have put up with her for forty years, and I thought I should have a bit of peace in my old age." That was another occasion on which the dreams of a youth engaged to be married were shattered. The moral I drew from that is that when you leave these theories and leave off reading books and poetry and come down to the stern work of administering the Poor Law your eyes are opened, and you have to be more or less prosaic and matter-of-fact.
Reference has been made to the administration of the Poor Law and the fact that there is a decreasing death rate. I do not admit the decrease in the death rate means all that it might be supposed to imply. To a certain extent it means improved local government and improved social conditions. But to some extent it means that feeble children who otherwise would die off when about six months old are enabled by special medical help to live until they are three, four, or five years of age. So far as the birth rate and the death rate are affected by means of that kind, it is necessary to give a little consideration to what is done in connection with the administration of public health. There is a great deal of encouragement in the lower death rate, but it does not mean so much as some hon. Members think. We could not have any more important subject than this under discussion, and I trust I have thrown some light on the actual administration. The bulk of the speaking we have heard to-day has not been directed to administration but to ideas which men have in regard to what they want to see incorporated in the law in future. It may be when you come to your constructive policy there will be a great deal of common action between myself as a Liberal and hon. Members below the Gangway who claim to be more advanced. I do not want a good case for constructive legislation to be spoiled by a 2059 little unfair criticism of what has taken place up to now. The House recognises what a vast improvement has taken place. The President of the Local Government Board is the only working man who has attained Cabinet rank, and although I have heard him criticised from time to time, I have never heard proper recognition of the fact that he has got there by brains and industry. I have heard very severe attacks made upon the right hon. Gentleman, and I do hope that hon. Members will at the same time be inclined to appreciate the good work he has done and to say a good word for him.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I am sure we have all been delighted with the speech of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth). I am not so sure that he has not almost boxed the compass. I imagine that if there are any hon. Members present who had the intention of making set speeches, the whole of their notes might as well be thrown away after the speech of the hon. Member. I cannot say that we gained much knowledge from his speech. I was in doubt even as to his personal reminiscences with respect to the administration of the Poor Law. I understood that his wife was a member of one board of guardians, that he himself was a member of another, and that as years went on and certain reforms were introduced he was asked to accompany some old people to their new homes.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I am glad I have given the hon. Member an opportunity of explaining the chronological order of events, because I gathered from his speech that he was married when he was asked to accompany the old people. We are discussing at present one of the most serious subjects that can engage the attention of the House. Questions in relation to the administration of the Poor Law bring this House into touch with the realities of life. After all we talk of the Empire, and gloat over the glories of the country and race to which we belong, but we are bound to confess that there is a serious social problem in the great poverty of vast 2060 masses of the people. In spite of all our advance in civilisation and our enormous strides in the production of wealth, the solution of that problem does not keep pace with our production of wealth. The hon. Member for East Northants pointed to the remarkable rapidity with which we can produce wealth. He stated that the sum total of the national income is 2,000 millions a year. When we think of these figures we conclude that this must be a great and powerful nation, but when we come to such a problem as we are discussing to-night we have to ask, what provision do we make not merely for old people who have used their whole vitality and youth in the occupations and duties of citizens, but also for able-bodied people who find it impossible to fit in in anything like a decent state in modern society, and even thousands of young children who by some misfortune or other are left stranded at the very entrance of life. There are some nations that deal with these problems in a more generous way than we. Reference was made this afternoon to the position of the children of a poor man when he is dead, and they are left entirely to be reared, comforted, and cared for by the widow. It seems to me, after all, that that is not a case for Poor Law administration at all. No one can choose in what state of society or part of the community he shall be born, and I take it for granted that child-life of the very poorest sections of the community must be of value to the community. I think that in some Continental countries the matter is dealt with in a better way than in this country.
I understand that in Hungary, backward as it is in its ordinary administration, and so far as wealth and power to create wealth are concerned, if a poor man dies and leaves a family, the duty of the State is immediately, not as a matter of Poor Law administration, but as a matter of the rights of a citizen, to take charge of the children, while the mother practically becomes, as it were, a pensioner of the State, and the State recognises that that is a position where the ordinary rules of prudence do not prevail. In the case of the mother who is left with a family belonging to the working population, with no prospect of being able to earn her living in any of the ordinary pursuits, whose duties are really to her children, if they are going to be reared as decent citizens, it is useless to talk to her about the effect it will have on the children if they are taken care of 2061 by the State. It is a moral certainty that if one could weigh up all the economic advantages and disadvantages the economic disadvantages are on the side of our present policy in allowing those little children very often to deteriorate, to be stunted in their youth, and prevented from enjoying the ordinary opportunities of ordinary civilised life. It is a disadvantage not merely to them as individuals, but to the State as a whole. I do not think that those are subjects that should be dealt with at all by the Poor Law.
Passing to another matter, our Friend who has just spoken above the Gangway imagines that the Labour Members, those who belong to the same class as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, never give him credit for the work which he does. The hon. Member makes a great mistake. I remember well one time in this House, I think about 1906, when the Opposition were attacking the right hon. Gentleman, and suggesting that he was not entitled to a rise of salary, the Labour Members were the very men who stood by him, not merely because he belonged to the same class as themselves, but that surely is no reason why, so long as our criticism is fair and just, we should not exercise it. There may have been occasions when we have got rather fiery and heated with one another, when we have thought that he ought to have done something which he did not think he ought to do, and just for the moment I daresay there have been heated occasions of that description, but on the whole the hon Member can take it for granted that we are delighted to see in the Cabinet a man belonging to the class to which we belong, and that it is our object to get in many more, and, before we have done, in fact we hope to see the time when there will be no other Members of the Cabinet except the class to which we belong. I do not know whether the hon. Member understands that that is our policy, and that it is only a matter of regret to us that he is the only Member of our class in the Cabinet, and that there is no jealousy and no suspicion of him because of the position he occupies. Surely the right hon. Gentleman himself launches out sometimes against us—in fact, I think he counters every one of our points, perhaps twice over, even so far as violence is concerned, and sometimes I am afraid he even goes out of his way to try to produce a scrap when one is not wanted.
2062 But let that be as it may, I only make those observations because I have the kindest possible feelings towards the right hon. Gentleman. At the same time we do think that there are things which he might have done which he has not done. The greatest friend of the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to say that. In fact, I have heard, I believe, since I have been a Member of this House, more violent criticism and innuendoes directed against the right hon. Gentleman from the ordinary thick - and - thin supporters of the Liberal Government than from these Benches; only we have a rough-and-ready way of stating our opinions, whereas other people generally slyly hint them to one another, and do much more real damage than any open criticism such as we pass here from time to time. Coming to the statement in his speech to-night as to the old age pensions being a solution of part of the poverty problem, they do deal with one phase of it, especially in its later development, whereby the pauper disqualification was removed. In that way we have dealt with one small branch of the subject of Poor Law administration, but to pretend that we have dealt with the question of Poor Law administration by introducing old age pensions is of course utterly to mistake the true questions that are involved in this and other discussion. Even take the policy of the present Government with reference, say, to Invalidity, Sickness, and Unemployment Insurance—the most that it will do will be to mitigate the difficulties of the younger portion of our industrial population. For a considerable time that is all that it could do. What we are discussing is an entirely different question, which may in time sap, as it were, the spring from which our Poor Law population comes. The policy of the Government with reference to a general system of Insurance, Old Age Pensions, and matters of that kind may gradually sap the spring from which comes the present pauper population, but that is no solution of the pauper problem as presented to us to-day. This policy can have no effect at least for this and the next generation, and the pauper problem is the problem we have to deal with in some fashion or other. The question you have to consider is whether you are dealing with it in the best way at the present time. The hon. Member above the Gangway who has just spoken, seems to have a personal knowledge of the question he was debating, and I am certain that his experience will tell him that, if 2063 we could go back upon the subject, there is a much better way of dealing with this problem than that which we are adopting to-day. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burns) has referred to the immensely increased cost per head of the population in respect of the different grades and classes to be dealt with—either in the infirmaries, or the children in the pauper schools, or the actual workhouse population. And he called attention to this increased cost per head of the population to show that the State, after all, deals in a most luxurious manner with this vast problem.
But that proves nothing. As a matter of fact, we know that the greater proportion of this increased cost goes to officialdom, to maintain palatial buildings, and to almost everything except defray the cost of the actual keep of the pauper himself. Therefore, to use figures of that description only tends to deceive people, though I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman is deceiving himself, because knowing, as he does, the subject, he could not be deceived by figures of that kind. There are problems in connection with this matter which must be dealt with in a business way, though they are most difficult of solution, I admit. For myself, I have never had any connection of any kind with the Poor Law, except once in my life, and that gave me a lesson which I have never forgotten as to the difficulty of the vagabond or tramp question. Men used to tramping all over the country very often go to the workhouse because they cannot live outside in all states of the weather. Men who, by want of work or misfortune, are compelled to enter the workhouse are treated just the same as these vagabonds; they have to break stones and pick oakum just like the tramps.
§ Mr. J. WARD
There may be favourable exceptions, but I am speaking of the general rule. The labour test is another question to which I wish to call attention. I will give you the one experience I had. When I was a young lad about twelve years of age I had a great idea of joining the Navy. I was in Lancashire at that time, and I ran away from my village to Southampton with the object of getting on board the old guardship "Hector." I have the papers still—I was 5 ft. 7¾ ins.—but my poor old mother would not sign those papers, though I had passed the doctor and everything was ready for my becoming a 2064 seaman. I daresay I would have been a much better man than I am now if I had become a seaman. [An HON. MEMBER: "Perhaps an admiral."] At any rate, I failed in my object, and one night I was absolutely homeless and outcast, and in walking along the pavement I fell down, and the blow rendered me insensible. When I recovered I found myself in the police station at Bargate, Southampton. An officer was standing over me. There was a lovely fire, and everything was warm and comfortable. I was examined by a doctor, and it was decided that I was to go to the casual ward. That was the only time I was ever in the casual ward or had anything to do directly with the Poor Law. The circumstances come to my memory just as if they occurred yesterday. I daresay I could go to every place in Southampton to which I went at that time, and I could mark out the place where I slept. I was taken to a place where there were others. They threw a blanket in to me, and they took away my clothes, just as they took away the clothes of the others.
In the morning my clothes were thrown back to me again, after I had passed through a bitter cold night, my teeth chattering all the time. A pound or two of oakum was thrown to each of us to pick. In the ward there were workmen, labourers, and even mechanics, who had got stranded. They were attracted to Southampton by the shipbuilding yards. These men, as well as myself, were set to pick the oakum, and we found that it was utterly impossible, at least it was so in my case, to do the work. I saw navvies, carpenters, and mechanics of all descriptions trying to do this oakum picking, and they utterly failed. But there came along a regular old cadger who took out of the little bag which he carried a well-worn hook. This he stuck into one of the timbers at the corner of his bed, and then he drew the oakum backwards and forwards over this hook, and in five minutes he did what would have taken one of these workmen three hours to do. And this is called a labour test! Of course, the thing was utterly absurd. A workman would have pulled his hands to pieces trying to do it, and he would have utterly failed; yet the cadger, who had never done a day's work, got through it in five minutes. I do not know whether a Committee sat on my case or not, but what they did was to take the oakum away, because I could not do the task. Eventually I was set to scrubbing the floors, and that is the only 2065 connection I ever had, directly, with Poor Law authorities. But there you have an illustration of the utter futility of these labour tests, in addition to which you are treating a workman who finds himself stranded exactly as you would treat an old cadger who never does anything but go from town to town, and who would think it dishonourable to do a day's work. Yes; it is a surprising thing; just as Noble Lords or Gentlemen well placed in this House would consider it derogatory to themselves to do an honest day's actual manual work, so do these old tramps and cadgers consider it absolutely dishonourable and undignified to do a day's work. The fact is that though they are at the extreme ends of the social scale, they belong absolutely to the same class. Therefore, I say there cannot be the slightest doubt that there are practical problems attaching to this subject with which it is very difficult to deal. The hon. Member who spoke last derided the question of classification. I think myself that my little experience shows that careful classification of those men and people who are forced within the pale of the Poor Law is one of the first necessities of proper administration. To deal with a man who has been struck down by poverty, or by sickness, or by anything of that kind, who finds himself for the first time among the submerged tenth, to deal with such a man or person to the roughest way that you would deal with the ordinary fellow who has never taken any care of himself, or never attempted to maintain himself in anything like decency, to treat those men absolutely alike in cut-and-dried fashion, in the way that is done at present is not proper administration of the Poor Law at all. The hon. Member who was speaking above the Gangway some time ago wanted to know what was this "ridiculous" phrase in this Motion of the Labour Members asking that the administration should now be in accordance with modern requirements. "What do you mean," he says, "by modern requirements"? What we mean is this: the Poor Law was always looked upon and thought to be a criminal agency. The fact that you deprive a man who is once a pauper of citizen rights shows clearly that you think there is something criminal in it. I do not know indeed whether the time for excluding a pauper from citizenship is not even greater than in the case of a man who has served imprisonment with hard labour. I believe it is. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) says that a criminal does not lose his vote only when 2066 he is in prison. It appears therefore that the poor man is a greater criminal in the eyes of the Poor Law than the actual criminal. Therefore what we mean by the term, on which the hon. Gentleman above the Gangway passed so much criticism, that we want the administration to be in accordance with modern requirements is that we suggest that the conscience of the nation has got beyond the stage of treating the poor man as a criminal. We suggest that there are plenty of poor men who are honourable men, and who are only poor because the circumstances are such, and modern society is based on such principles as to make it utterly impossible that there can always be a position for every citizen in the State.
Recognising that after all the circumstances are so many over which a citizen has no control that may plunge him, as it were, within the pauper ranks at any time, and recognising that that need not necessarily be any fault of his own, we think there ought to be a more humane administration of the Poor Law, and that there-ought to be some attempt to hold the man up, and to prevent him from falling too low, so that he may have the stamina, and dignity, and personal respect, still left to enable him to get over his temporary difficulty. I understand that even to-day a poor man cannot get relief unless he is destitute, and that a committee goes round to see what the home of the man is like. If there are a few pictures or a few family gods that could be sold or got rid of, then relief cannot be given until they are disposed of, and until the home is practically broken up. That is administration in many of the Poor Law districts at present. That is not a humane system. That is a system to which I am sure the party to which the hon. Member above the Gangway belongs gives no sanction whatever.
Therefore, when the President of the Local Government Board, the right hon. Gentleman who has this matter in hand, takes up a completely negative position, and says that beyond the mere social policy of the Government, relating to pensions, relating to insurance, all good and in the right direction, and all tending towards sapping the spring from which the pauper population comes, but still leaving these vital questions of Poor Law administration untouched, when he takes up a negative position regarding matters of this description, and says that there is no immediate hurry in matters which, after all, are utterly foreign to the stage at which the conscience of the Nation has 2067 arrived, then we are entitled to criticise in a friendly and every possible way. Nobody is more delighted than I am to see the right hon. Gentleman in his position, or in any higher position. No one has better ability for it. So far as I am concerned, that is my own personal opinion. Because I know he is capable, and the mere fact that I know he is capable is all the more reason why I should criticise him when I do not think he is using those capabilities. Therefore I think this discussion has been a most useful discussion. We talk about big navies, we talk about armies, we talk about our Empire, and about everything under the sun, but we give mighty little attention to the condition of the submerged tenth, the bottom dog; and the presence of the Labour Members in this House should warrant that at last the bottom dog should have a look in.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
In common with those who listened to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, I was pleased to hear the very satisfactory figures which he gave with regard to the decrease which has taken place in poverty during the last few years. I notice that a very remarkable reduction has taken place in the sum given in outdoor relief. That is very pleasant from one standpoint, but there is another standpoint, from which some doubt may be cast on the value of the figures given. I would like to know whether that is due to pressure from the central authority or greater stringency in the administration of outdoor relief by the boards of guardians. I see that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. My reason at all for raising the point is that I am given to understand that in my own Division it has been found impossible for any person who resides with another person to obtain relief unless it is proved that it is a case of actual destitution. Let me give an instance. Assume that an old woman is residing with her son-in-law, who is under no obligation whatever to maintain her. She is refused outdoor relief unless she is actually compelled by her son-in-law to leave his premises. In other words, the man's natural feeling to treat his wife's relatives well, with the pressure of public opinion, is being used to compel him to perform a duty which the Legislature never enforced on him. I am afraid the reduction in the amount of outdoor relief is not a thing on which the House can congratulate the 2068 right hon. Gentleman if that is one of the methods by which the reduction is obtained. I was very pleased to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that one of the largest causes of poverty in this country is ill-health. I am very glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's authority for the statement, because one of the real difficulties with which we have had to contend in talking about the improvement of the social condition of the people is the fact that poverty has always been attributed to drink. At last we have the admission of the greatest authority in the country that one of the chief factors in the present deplorable condition of the poor is neither their habits, nor anything for which they are responsible, but ill-health.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
What I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say—I have no desire to misrepresent him—was that one-third of the amount expended in relief in this country was due to ill-health. May I suggest another serious matter which has a very important bearing on the statement made by the right, hon. Gentleman? I refer to the results which have been published of the medical examination of school children. It is a most deplorable and amazing thing that even in a rural county like the one I represent, the medical officer of health has reported that from eight per cent. to ten per cent. of the children in the schools are suffering from adenoids, or some growth in the throat which affects their physical and moral well-being, and which ultimately brings them to that class of sick people who are bound sooner or later to become dependent on the Poor Law. A good deal has been said in the course of the discussion as to the effect upon poverty of Labour Exchanges and similar provisions which are being made and will be made by the Government. After all, in addition to ill-health, unemployment is responsible for a good deal not only of the casual poverty, but of the development of that dependent spirit which marks a large number of people who ultimately become dependent upon the Poor Law. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, as President of the Local Government Board, 2069 he cannot himself bring pressure to bear on local authorities in regard to those public works which, not being essential in one particular year, can be and should be postponed until such time when trade is not what it might otherwise be.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I should not have intervened but for the observations of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), who referred at some length to the position which we assume towards the President of the Local Government Board in our annual endeavour to improve not merely the administration of the Poor Law, but the laws themselves. He referred two or three times to what he called our unfairness. I did not hear the whole of the speeches delivered by the mover and the seconder of the Resolution, but I heard the right hon. Gentleman's comments, and I recollect that he distinctly complimented the speakers upon the fairness and the excellence of their speeches. I ask the House therefore to conclude that so far as those addresses are concerned they have not indicated any spirit or attitude of unfairness towards the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I beg the hon. Member's pardon if I misunderstood the quarter to which he directed his complaint. I wish now to refer to his criticisms upon the terms of the Resolution. The Resolution contains two points. First, it refers to the unanimous condemnation of the admisitration of the Poor Law, as expressed by both Reports of the Royal Commission. Surely those reports are a good enough foundation upon which to build criticisms in this House. The other point of the Resolution is a declaration that the present administration does not meet modern requirements and demands. The hon. Member in his speech went far to sustain and justify that part of the Resolution. He referred at some length—and this is mainly why I have risen—to the action of those whom he classes as the Socialists in Manchester. So far as Socialist opinion in Manchester or in the country may be represented in this House by those with whom I am associated, I can say unhesitatingly that the Socialists were not in way responsible for either the initiation or the conclusion of 2070 the particular relief work experiment to which the hon. Member refers. There was in Manchester at the time that experiment was instituted great clamour, because there was great poverty and great distress. We had in this House and in the country appealed for measures that would permanently remedy those conditions. The local authorities, acting, as they frequently do, in a state of panic, in the hope of relieving the distress to some extent began this relief colony. We have repeatedly declared that we could not accept relief colonies, whether large or small, as any permanent contribution to a settlement of these difficulties. But naturally, when poverty is so great and suffering so keen, even Socialists will welcome any means of giving relief to the poor. The immediate need of a hungry man is food. Therefore, whilst pressing for better plans and measures, we did, of course, encourage men to seek an opportunity of working on the particular relief colony referred to. The being driven by force of circumstances to the acceptance of that form of merely temporary relief should not and does not justify any Member declaring that at one time we have advocated relief works as a remedy for these difficulties, and that now we turn round and say that we are not in favour of those measures at all.
My complaint of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this evening may be summed up in a sentence. It is that we are expected to accept the existing situation, controlled and managed by himself, as being ample for existing needs and requirements. That, in a word, everything is as good as well could be.
§ Mr. BURNS expressed dissent.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I ask those who heard that dissent to refresh their memory tomorrow by reading the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. They will, I think, come to the conclusion that I have formed, that in his opinion there is little or no need for legislation bearing directly upon the existing Poor Law system. He has to-day poured scorn and contempt upon these several proposals which are made for altering the law, and so far as the law can be administered we are expected to regard the existing administration as the highest level of perfection that can be obtained. The right hon. Gentleman revelled in facts during the course of his speech, though if I may take the liberty of saying so, I should say that many of them were rather 2071 figures than facts. The outstanding fact is that you cannot always prove a fact by the mere process of using statistics. Six hundred million pounds, said the right hon. Gentleman, have been spent by this country in Poor Law administration and cognate institutions since 1834. Well, we have reached this conclusion that the millions which are now annually spent can be better spent; that many of the proposals in these two Reports could, if embodied in law, not merely relieve poverty, but prevent it. They would go very far towards the prevention of what the right hon Gentleman has himself pointed out to the country quite recently, that the 600,000 persons who are in receipt of any form of Poor Law relief are mainly women and children who have been driven to the poor house because they have lost their bread-winner. I put it to the House that the country is in need of legislation which will give to those who have lost their bread-winner some prospect of a better fate than even the most polished department of any modern workhouse can. For these reasons we feel that the House should gladly welcome such a Resolution as this, which would pledge the House to the early acceptance of legislation which would give any man at the head of the right hon. Gentleman's Department even fuller powers for the more efficient administration of the Poor Law.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I suppose, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, speeches make different impressions upon different persons. I confess I myself did not receive quite the sort of impression which the hon. Gentleman who has last spoken received from the speech of the President of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman spoke, as usual, with his unquenchable optimism, of the progress which is being made, and indeed I think it is satisfactory whatever view we take in respect of future legislation and more enlightened administration on the question of the Poor Law—I advocate that strongly—to mark that a certain amount of progress has been made. Certainly in my own Constituency the reduction of pauperism which has resulted from the working of old age pensions has already effected a most welcome reduction of the rates. I imagine that has happened all over the country. But to recognise that an advance has been made does not prevent us from desiring further advance. I think it would be quite unfair to infer from the speech which we 2072 listened to earlier in the evening that it was the expression of the doctrine that "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds." But surely the fact that advance has been made is the best encouragement to try and make a further advance. I am quite certain that anybody who listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would feel that he and the Government are trying, and are fully determined, to make further progress along the lines on which already they have advanced so satisfactorily.
I noticed that the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench a couple of hours ago thought that it was just as well to pick up a little party capital from the delay of the Government in dealing with the Reports of the Royal Commission. I suppose we cannot grudge him that, but I think if we began to rack our memories we can easily think of plenty of Reports of Royal Commissions in the days of the late Government which are there still waiting for statutory enactment. I suppose it is not invariably the case that every Government at once transforms Reports of these Royal Commissions into legislative enactment. Unfortunately, the glut of the Parliamentary machine is too great. I suppose there is—well, one cannot say how many years work—perhaps at least about ten years' work already cut and dried, before us, awaiting Parliamentary enactment. There are many problems awaiting legislative solution. They crowd upon us. So long as this House tries to deal with all problems of Imperial import and at the same time the intimate details of social legislation, so long we shall have delay and party recrimination as to which party is responsible for the delay, when in reality the truth of the matter is that this House is unequal to getting through its Imperial duties on the one hand, and the duties of social and industrial legislation on the other. I believe that is one of the reasons why we do not get on in the way in which we are really anxious to make further progress. I was rather glad, if I may be allowed to say so, to notice the interpolation which the President of the Local Government Board made just recently in the Debate when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Ellis Davies) was speaking, and when he treated the speech of the right hon. Gentleman as a final dissipation of the doctrine that drink had anything to do with our troubles.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I said that the right hon. Gentleman had, on the authority of his position, stated that about one-third of the expenditure of the Poor Law was due to ill-health, and to that extent he had done away with the implication that poverty was always the result of drink.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
I should be the last person in the world to misrepresent the hon. Member. I think it is always difficult in these complex problems of social reform depending upon a plurality of causes, to state the exact cause. I do not think it is worth while at this time of the day to go into the questions as to whether pauperism is the cause of drink, or drink is the cause of pauperism. That is the problem upon which we have expressed our opinion many times in the past. Even on the facts stated, that 30 per cent. of our pauperism is due to sickness, and 50 per cent. of its cost; still, I begin to ask how much sickness is due to drink? Some portion of the sickness is due to drink. Is there anybody who will get up and say, allowing for the influence of social environment upon the individual and for defect of character, that in dealing with the problem of pauperism the influence of drink is, in the other 70 per cent., one that can be left out of sight? I think it would be idle sentimentalism to ignore that. I do not wish to overrate it, and I do not wish to say for a moment that pauperism is due entirely to it, but I say it is a great factor there. I believe this complex problem is due to many causes at once, and you must deal with it on many lines. You must attack the influence of drink upon pauperism at the same time as you deal with other causes, and, as you attempt to remedy the evil of social environment which also leads to pauperism and to the troubles which we are discussing. Whether it is 14 per cent. of pauperism that is directly caused by drink, as Sir Charles Booth puts it, or whether it is a higher figure as other investigators put it, I say whatever be the statistical figure you finally come down to this that every investigator puts it at a certain percentage, and you must not leave that out of account, 2074 and administrators and legislators will fail to grapple with the problem unless they bear in mind and admit it, as I trust the Government will when dealing with the problem by legislation.
There is only one other branch of this question with which I should like to deal to-night. It seems to me that one of the most pressing points upon which immediate action might be taken, whether administrative or legislative, is to be seen in the problem of dealing with the feeble-minded. I doubt if you can carry out by any one single measure the great and wide-sweeping reform recommended by the Reports of the Poor Law Commission. The problem of taking mentally defective persons and those of unsound mind out of the Poor Law is one of the most urgent, and is one upon which immediate action might well be taken. I suppose some steps have been taken in that direction, but it is a very grave problem at the present time. Work-houses in the metropolis are visited by the Lunacy Commissioners once a year, and in the smaller workhouses throughout the country there are triennial visits. I think I am right in saying that these visits are never carried through without there being discovered some persons in the workhouses who ought to be certified as insane. Beside that, as we all know, there is a great number of the inmates—12 per cent. in the urban districts and 18 per cent. in the rural districts—who cannot be certified as insane, but are mentally defective. I think that is a fact that ought to be borne in mind, and so far as that can be dealt with by administration it ought to be dealt with at once.
The question cannot be fully dealt with without legislation. I trust that the Report of the Commission on the Control of the Feeble-Minded may be taken into consideration, difficult as it is. That is one of the great forward steps which is immediately possible. It is only a question of getting the necessary time which is so difficult to allot under the present working of Parliament. But if we could get a scheme formulated and put into a Bill and carried through it would be the greatest possible advantage. The existence of the insane and mentally defective persons in the workhouses is a cause of great evils. It is bad enough for the people themselves who are mentally defective. They do not get the proper treatment. No one says they are treated unkindly—I believe they are treated with kindness and considera- 2075 tion—but they do not get the treatment and care they would get in proper institutions. It is bad enough for them, but it is equally bad and unfortunate for the other inmates of the institution who have to live with them. You may not get many cases like the one mentioned in the Report of the Royal Commission where a feebleminded woman was set to look after a baby and proceeded to wash it in boiling water, after which it died. Such cases, of course, may happen, but surely it is unsatisfactory enough where we keep, subject to the stigma of pauperism, those not deserving to fall under that stigma in any way, and who are paupers for no other cause except their mental defect, which is a misfortune which cannot in any way be attributed to their own fault.
I trust that two things will be done. In the first place that boards of guardians throughout the country districts will be given the power to combine for this purpose. In the Metropolis they have financial powers to deal with the problem by combination. I know the Local Government Board in the case of Birmingham did sanction combination with other local authorities, and again later on in the case of Croydon they gave similar assent to combine in dealing with the problem of the feeble-minded. Pending legislation, such powers ought to be given to guardians to take steps by means of combination to deal with this grave and urgent problem. And, secondly, I would most heartily urge, although it is now the third year in which nothing has been done since the Report of the Commission on the Feeble-Minded, that some further steps may be taken by means of legislation to deal with the problem.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. T. RICHARDSON
I think it is admitted on all sides of the House that the subject under discussion is deserving of the attention of every hon. Member of this House. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) asked what was the meaning of the term "modern requirements." I think the hon. Member for North-East Manchester (Mr. Clynes) gave a very intelligent and effective answer to that inquiry. May I supplement my hon. Friend's answer by suggesting to the House that there is probably no subject before the country to-day that has received such a pronounced expression of opinion from so many representative men and women of all schools of political thought and opinion in the direction of a change 2076 as that appertaining to the question of Poor Law administration. The President of the Local Government Board has made quite a characteristic speech this evening I do not think any hon. Member was surprised at the character of that speech. The right hon. Gentleman was at very great pains to emphasise that he at least claimed to speak not only with authority but also that in speaking that he dealt with facts. May I suggest that in the facts which he submitted to the House and what he said from a statistical standpoint were not in the least revelant to the question at issue. I find that the question as to whether we had gone forward or backward in the domain of Poor Law administration is not raised in the Resolution moved by my hon. Friend. The point raised is that the Royal Commission, both in the Minority and Majority Report, are unanimous on one point, and that is that our present Poor Law administration is not only defective but needs immediate reconstruction. I suggest that we are entitled to expect that the right hon. Gentleman representing the Government on this question would have given us something more than a negative reply. The figures which he quoted setting forth the diminution in the amount of money paid for outdoor relief and the number of recipients of relief does not materially touch the point at issue. May I submit that this is not conclusive evidence as to progress having been made in that particular Department. I address this House as a Poor Law guardian with some experience. For seventeen years I was a member of the board of guardians in my own district, occupying an official position, and therefore I can speak with authority and practical knowledge in support of the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Carmarthenshire (Mr. Ellis Davies) who pointed out that at least part of the diminution in the expenditure upon outdoor relief and the number of recipients of Poor Law relief is due to a policy which is not humane, and not in harmony with the earlier traditions of the Local Government Board. The hon. Member for Carmarthenshire stated that he was informed that in his own district the policy of the Local Government Board was that in the case of a mother-in-law and a father-in-law staying with a son-in-law, the guardians were not allowed to give outdoor relief because the son-in-law who had no legal liability towards the maintenance of his wife's mother unless there was destitution. The 2077 Poor Law guardians in that immediate district took up the position that they were not allowed to give Poor Law relief. I submit that that is not a wise policy, and it is not a progressive policy in accordance with the position of the earlier occupants of the position of President of the Local Government Board. I dissent from that line of policy. I hope that one of the results of the discussion on this question to-day will be to induce the President of the Local Government Board to relax the line of policy which undoubtedly has been adopted not only in such cases as mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law staying with those upon whom they have no legal claim for maintenance, but, generally speaking, the line adopted for that there is to be destitution before Poor Law relief can be given.
The right hon. Gentleman gave a quotation from Lord George Hamilton who was chairman of that Royal Commission. Surely it is not too much to expect the Government to respond not only to the unanimous opinion of the Majority and Minority Commissioners, but also to public opinion in the country and to forthwith attempt to do something on the lines of reconstruction. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the social legislation of the Government and made some little effort—I believe it is a pleasing experience for the right hon. Gentleman—to have a tilt at the Members who sit on the Labour benches. I think I am entitled to say that the Members who sit on these benches have been among the most loyal and energetic Members of this House, not only in this, but also in previous Parliaments', in supporting any effort of the Government in the direction of social legislation. We ask the Government not to pat itself, as it were, on the back in that self-righteous attitude which I fear has been adopted to-day, but to recognise that, notwithstanding all the improvements which have taken place, and which we all welcome, the present and actual conditions of the unfortunate poor in this country are such that in many cases their lives are one tragedy from the cradle to the grave. Surely there can be no question that our present system of Poor Law administration does not tend to add to moral dignity, but subtracts and detracts from all that is best in our womanhood as well as our manhood. We on these benches plead with the Government to respond to public opinion as endorsed in the findings of the Majority and Minority Reports of the Poor Law Commission and 2078 to move in the future in the direction of prevention, rather than of remedial measures.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
I find myself in somewhat of a difficulty in trying to understand the practical application of the Resolution. If it has been moved merely as a means of discussing the whole question of Poor Law administration, I can understand its object, because it has-given many hon. Members an opportunity of expressing views, and useful views, which may be of value in the future, but if it is intended to carry it to a vote I am bound to look at it from its practical aspect and to see what that vote would mean if it were carried. Personally, I have the greatest sympathy with most of what has been said to-night with regard to Poor Law Administration, and, if the Resolution had confined itself to one or two particular aspects of administration under the Local Government Board, asking them to undertake work which they could undertake without legislation, then I could have understood its practical aspect, but it goes altogether beyond that. It comprises—and we may possibly agree—a complete condemnation of the administration of the Poor Law, and that, as the hon. Member who has just sat down said, means complete reconstruction. That cannot be brought about by the action of a particular Department. It can only be brought about by very wide legislation. Consequently, what this Resolution asks the Government to do is not to alter some specific matter of administration, but to undertake wide and effective legislation. The effective part of the Resolution is in the last words, which demand "the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government." If it demands the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government in the direction of legislation, it is an object with which I have a great deal of sympathy, but how is it to be accomplished? We have definite work to do, and we have been sent here to do it. We are engaged in a great measure which the hon. Gentleman who proposed the Resolution, like myself, is deeply anxious to get through. One remark made by an hon. Member below the Gangway would almost seem to show a dsire to get rid of the Parliament Bill altogether in order that we might devote our attention to this particular object; but I do not think he meant that. It seems to me it would be the necessary effect of carrying this Resolution, because the Government could not give that immediate attention to the 2079 whole of the aspects covered by the Resolution unless they introduced legislation of a very far-reaching character indeed, and that would not only have the effect of doing away with the Parliament Bill, but also of doing away with the proposed legislation in regard to insurance, which we are promised very shortly.
I do not know that I rightly guaged what the President of the Local Government Board presaged, and whether we are to have one Bill introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or two Bills, one introduced by the President of the Board of Trade in regard to unemployment, and the other by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the scheme to deal with invalidity. Whatever it may be, whether by two Bills, or whether by one Bill, I regard that legislation as of very vital importance, and I regard it too as a great instalment towards facing the whole question of the administration of our Poor Laws. I do not intend to vote for any Resolution which may have the effect of interfering with that, and, consequently, when we really come to face the whole question, apart from the particular aspect of administration, I feel we are bound to look at the actual facts to see what is possible during the present session, and the one to follow. When I consider that I am bound also to take into consideration what the Government have done, are doing, and have promised to do. They have already provided Old Age Pensions, they have provided a Trades Disputes Board, they have given us Labour Exchanges, and they are going to do something in the direction of insurance against unemployment and invalidity. When these matters are accomplished the problem we shall have to face in regard to the Poor Law will prove to be an entirely different problem. It seems to me that these are instalments in the very direction of facing one of the biggest problems any nation has been called upon to attempt to solve. We all know the optimistic character of the President of the Local Government Board. It is an exceedingly good
§ thing in a world where so much pessimism prevails. It helps to encourage rather than to deter, but if I thought the right hon. Gentleman, by his optimistic ways, wanted to avoid doing the things which many of us desire eventually to be accomplished, I should greatly regret it. Seeing, however, that he is a member of a Government which has done so much in this direction, which is still doing more, and which promises more, it does seem to me that instead of merely criticising we should attempt to help matters forward by encouraging and stimulating.
§ Therefore had this Resolution been confined to criticisms of certain specific acts of administration, if it had sought to tell the Local Government Board that something it had done was wrong, and that it should have done something else, it might have had serious consideration. But when it takes this particular aspect of the whole disposal of the Minority and Majority Reports which involves widespread and far-reaching legislation, it is such a large order as to be absolutely impracticable to be done in the present Session. I would ask what is meant by the expression: "demands the immediate attention of the Government." If it merely means immediate consideration then the resolution goes far beyond the intention of the Mover, but if it means demanding the alteration of an administration which is condemned by the Majority and Minority Reports I say the only way to carry that out is to destroy the very things we are now engaged upon, and which we have been sent here to perform. So from a practical standpoint, although I have great sympathy with what I believe is at the back of the Amendment, I, for one, while I am glad it has been moved and fully discussed, cannot see how any practical result can follow from forcing it to a division, and if it is so forced, I shall be compelled, very reluctantly, to vote against it.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 107; Noes, 48.2081
|Division No. 189.]||AYES.||[10.20 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Booth, Frederick Handel||Chapple, Dr. William Allen|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Brigg, Sir John||Clough, William|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Brocklehurst, William B.||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Brunner, John F. L.||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Bryce, John Annan||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Devlin, Joseph|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-shire)|
|Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)||Reddy, Michael|
|Elverston, Harold||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Fell, Arthur||Levy, Sir Maurice||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lewis, John Herbert||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Seely, Col., Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Frewen, Moreton||Lundon, Thomas||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Gelder, Sir William Alfred||Lyell, Charles Henry||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones (Anglesey)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||M'Callum, John M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Guinness, Hon. Waiter Edward||M'Micking, Major Cilbert||Toulmin, George|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Manfield, Harry||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hackett, John||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Middlebrook, William||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Millar, James Duncan||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Hinds, John||Molteno, Percy Alport||Watt, Henry A.|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Morgan, George Hay||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Muldoon, John||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)||Munro, Robert||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Nolan, Joseph||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wood, Hon. E. F. G. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||O'Doherty, Philip||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|John, Edward Thomas||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Price, C E. (Edinburgh, Central)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Keating, Matthew||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Adamson, William||Henderson, Major H. (Abingdon)||Snowden, Philip|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hills, J. W.||Sutton, John E.|
|Barnes, George N.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hudson, Walter||Thomson, Wm. Mitchell (Down, N.)|
|Brace, William||Johnson, William||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Clynes, John R.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Mackinder, Halford J.||Wardle, George J.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Morrell, Philip||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Edwards, Enoch Hanley||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||O'Grady, James||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Goldstone, Frank||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Worthington-Evans, L. (Colchester)|
|Grant, J. A.||Pointer, Joseph||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Hancock, John George||Richards, Thomas|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. C. Duncan and Mr. J. Parker.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."