§ (1) Where it is alleged by any approved society or local health committee that the sickness which has taken place among insured persons for the administration of whose sickness and disablement benefits the society or committee is responsible, is excessive, and that such excess is due to the conditions or nature of employment of such persons, or to bad housing or insanitary conditions in any locality, or to a defective or contaminated water supply, or to the neglect on the part of any person or authority to observe or enforce the provisions of any Act relating to the health of workers in factories, workshops, mines, quarries, or other industries, or relating to public health, or the housing of the working classes, or any regulations made under any such Act, or to observe or enforce any public health precautions, the society or committee making such allegation may apply to the Secretary of State or the 1827 Local Government Board, as the case may require, for an inquiry, and thereupon the Secretary of State or Local Government Board may appoint a competent person to hold an inquiry.
§ (2) If upon such inquiry being held it appears to the person holding the inquiry that the amount of such sickness has—
- (i.) during a period of not less than three years before the date of the inquiry; or
- (ii.) if there has been an outbreak of any epidemic, endemic, or infectious disease during any less period;
- (a) Where the excess or such part thereof as aforesaid is due to the conditions or nature of the employment or to any neglect on the part of any employer to observe or enforce any such Act or regulation as aforesaid, it shall be made good by the employer:
- (b) Where such excess or such part thereof as aforesaid is due to bad housing or insanitary conditions in the locality, or to any neglect on the part of any local authority to observe or enforce any such Act or regulation as aforesaid, it shall be made good by such local authority as appears to the person holding the inquiry to have been in default:
- (c) Where the excess or such part thereof as aforesaid is due to an insufficient or contaminated water supply, it shall be made good by the local authority or company by which the water is supplied, or which, having imposed upon it the duty of affording a water supply, has refused or neglected to do so.
§ (3) Where any such inquiry as aforesaid is held in respect of bad housing or insanitary conditions in any locality, it shall be lawful for the local authority to serve notice upon the owner or occupier of any premises which are the subject matter of the inquiry, and where it is proved that 1828 such a notice has been served and that any such extra expense as aforesaid, or any part thereof, has been caused by the act or default of such owner or occupier, the persons holding the inquiry may order the owner or occupier to repay to the local authority the amount of the extra expenditure or part thereof which has been so caused.
§ (4) For the purpose of this Section the average expectation of sickness shall be calculated in accordance with the tables prepared by the Insurance Commissioners for the purpose of valuations under this Part of this Act, but any excessive sickness attributable to any disease or disablement which is or is due to any disease or injury in respect of which damages or compensation are payable under the Employers Liability Act, 1880, or the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1906, or at common law, shall not be taken into account.
§ (5) A person holding an inquiry under this Section shall have all such powers as an inspector of the Local Government Board has for the purposes of an inquiry under the Public Health Acts, and shall have power to order how and by what parties costs, including such expenses as the Secretary of State or Local Government Board may certify to have been incurred by them, are to be paid, and an order made by such person under this Section may by leave of the High Court be enforced in the same manner as a judgment or order of the Court to the same effect:
§ Provided that a society or committee shall not be ordered to pay the costs of the other party to the inquiry if the person holding the inquiry certifies that the demand for an inquiry was reasonable under the circumstances, and when he so certifies the Treasury may repay to the society or committee the whole or any part of the costs incurred by it.
§ (6) Without prejudice to any other method of recovery, any sum ordered under this Section to be paid by a local authority may, in accordance with the regulations of the Local Government Board with the approval of the Treasury, be paid out of the Local Taxation Account and deducted from any sums payable either directly or indirectly out of that account to the local authority.
§ (7) For the purposes of this Section any expenditure on any benefit administered by a local health committee shall be deemed to be expenditure of that committee, but any sums ordered to be paid 1829 to any such committee under this Section to meet extra expenditure on sickness benefit or disablement benefit shall be dealt with for the benefit of deposit contributors in accordance with regulations made by the Insurance Commissioners.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "where" ["where it is alleged by any approved society"], to insert the words "after two valuations by approved societies have been made under this Part of this Act."
I am very sorry to have been unable to give longer notice of the Amendment. It raises a question which I think we ought to discuss before we discuss the Clause in detail. The Committee will recollect the whole of the operation of this Clause, be it good or be it bad, depends upon the average expectation of sickness. All the inquiries that will be made will go to ascertain whether or not there is an excessive sickness exceeding the average expectation. It is only in those cases where the average is exceeded by a certain margin that any consequences will ensue. There is no such thing as an average expectation of sickness as far as we are able to ascertain at the present time. The effect of the Amendment will be this. The Clause, when it is passed, will be held in suspense until two valuations have been made. It will be held in suspense for six years, in the course of which we shall have experience of the working of the scheme as a whole, and at the end of which we shall have figures at our command upon which we can say with definiteness and accuracy what is really the average expectation of sickness.
§ Mr. BOOTH
On a point of Order. I should like to ask you, Sir, whether you are going to permit a Second Reading Debate, and, at any rate, whether this is not contrary to a ruling you gave against omitting Sub-section (1)? It seems to me the discussion would cover the same ground as if someone moved the omission of Sub-section (1). What kind of discussion are we going to have?
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
On a further point of Order. I am sorry I only saw the Amendment just a minute before I came into the House. It seems to me to raise the very question which must come for discussion on Sub-section (2) as to whether the inquiry into the amount of sickness shall extend to a period of not less than three years before the date of 1830 the inquiry. That is a question which must be debated on Sub-section (2). It seems to me, if the Amendment comes at all, it ought to come on Sub-section (2). It is an anticipation of the Debate which must necessarily come on that Sub-section.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I venture to observe that when we come to those particular words we shall only have to discuss the particular question and not whether it is desirable for the Clause to be held in suspense until the data has been accumulated.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think I can rule the Amendment out on the ground suggested to me. I understand, of course, the hon. Gentleman will confine himself to the argument that these powers ought not to be exercised until certain data has been accumulated.
§ Mr. FORSTER
That is so. I propose to confine myself strictly to the question of the average. We have absolutely nothing upon which we can go, and, even if we passed this Clause as it stands or with some alterations which we think necessary, we shall have no figures on which the Clause can be put into operation. We have no figures to which we can point as giving the average expectation of sickness in the country as a whole. We have no figures to which we can point as establishing an average expectation of sickness in the societies themselves. We have no figures in respect of the county or in respect of any particular trade, and I submit, unless we are able to point to figures upon which some reliance can be placed, it would not be fair to give to any body of persons the powers you propose to give them under this Clause. I may be told there are certain figures available, that certain diseases have to be notified to the medical officers of health, and so on, but that does not cover the whole ground that is going to be covered by the operation of this Clause. There will be absolutely nothing to guide us in the case of the deposit contributor. It is possible the rate of sickness in the case of the deposit contributors will be very largely in excess of the average expectation of sickness amongst the members of the friendly societies.
What is to be the average rate upon which the machinery of this Clause is to 1831 be set in motion? I have seen some very interesting figures which go to show how impossible it would be with our present limited knowledge to lay down any figures as to the average expectation of sickness. I will only quote one or two. I take the percentage of consumptives. The deaths from consumption out of the total deaths in the case of chemical manufactures is 9 per cent., and in the case of tin miners 38 per cent. Those, of course, are the deaths, and I do not doubt the total cases of illness would bear some corresponding ratio to them, but I say you have nothing on which you can base the average expectation. I can quote a whole series of other figures relating to other trades and occupations, but I think it is common knowledge you cannot base any expectation from the figures relating to a particular trade. You have got no figures available for the country as a whole.
You have got no figures available from the experience of the society, because up till now the societies have dealt only with good lives, and they have rejected anyone whose condition was not satisfactory. You cannot base the average expectation of people whom you are going to bring into insurance on the experience of the friendly societies. Why do I suggest this Bill should be kept in suspense until two valuations have been made? I do it for this reason. In the course of the six years there will have been accumulated a great mass of figures absolutely reliable, figures relating to the country as a whole, to each particular county, to each part of a county, and to each particular trade or industry; and upon these figures you will be able to make up your mind whether you are going to base your average expectation of a particular locality, on the average expectation of the country as a whole, or on the expectation of a particular society or a particular industry which might be affected. I say, finally, you have no right to go to any person or any authority and tell them to take proceedings which would entail such serious consequences as will be entailed under this Clause with either false or faulty figures.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Gentleman has rather been in the habit of complaining that we table our Amendments without giving any notice at all. I am not sure he did not make such a complaint yesterday. At any rate he 1832 complained we only gave him forty-eight hours' notice. Now I have only had forty-eight seconds' notice of his Amendment. It is a very important one, and if I had only had half an hour's notice before coming down to this House I think I should have been able to obtain figures which would prove to the hon. Gentleman that all his difficulties and anticipation of difficulties are mythical. But what does this Amendment mean? It means the postponement of the operation of this Clause for eight years. The first valuation is to take place three years from the commencement of the Act, and therefore it will be six years from the commencement of the Act before the valuations as a basis of comparison will have been made. You will have to wait for a full year after that before you can bring the Clause into operation, and, therefore, practically the minimum period of years within which you can get the Clause into working order will be eight years. Surely if the effect of the Clause will be to strengthen the action of the authorities in purging the land of slums and insanitary property the sooner it comes into operation the better. May I point out that we are now in many places able to tell whether there is a larger number of deaths or sickness in a particular neighbourhood owing to an epidemic. We have those figures at our disposal at the present moment. I fear that this Amendment is prompted by a dislike of the Clause itself.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have as much right to say it as any hon. Gentleman opposite. I am only saying what I think. I say the object of this Amendment is to put off the operation of the Clause for eight years, and I cannot imagine that anyone who is really fond of the Clause would be exceedingly anxious thus to postpone its working. I think I am entitled to draw the inference from the hon. Gentleman's own action that he is not particularly in love with the Clause. I do not think I am passing any reflection on the hon. Gentleman. After all, it is purely a matter of opinion whether the Clause is good or bad. I think there are hon. Members behind the hon. Gentleman who think it is bad, and are prepared to say so. Therefore it is not a reflection on him to say he may possibly think it is a bad Clause. If he does think so he is perfectly right in putting off its operation not for eight years but for eighty years. I 1833 hold, on the other hand, the Clause will have a very useful effect in improving the sanitary conditions of this country, and therefore I beg to oppose the Amendment.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
The right hon. Gentleman has really recognised the difficulties of this matter. After all, my hon. Friend is asking that this Clause should not come into operation until we have got the necessary information. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that we have got it. I do not quite know what information we have. We have the death rate in certain neighbourhoods, but I do not know that anywhere we have got the average expectation of sickness. Even if we had that I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a Clause which applies not merely to localities, but to trades, and, though you may have the average expectation of sickness in certain localities, which I doubt, does he really mean to say that we have the average expectation of sickness in every trade in the country? The thing is perfectly impossible, and when we come to that part of the Clause I intend to move its omission. You cannot get to know what the average sickness is in any particular trade. It not only varies in different trades in the same locality, but it varies in the same trade in different localities and in different seasons. Sickness in the pottery trade is different to that in the steel trade, which may be carried on in the same locality. The average sickness in the steel trade in the Black Country may be perfectly different to the average sickness in the steel trade in the neighbourhood of Sheffield. Does the right hon. Gentleman really pretend that we have any figures at all dealing with the average sickness in these trades? He cannot say that we have, and surely then my hon. Friend is only acting in the interests of the Clause when he moves that it shall not come into operation until you have information on these very difficult questions. I do not like Amendments moved at the last moment, but I think I am entitled to say we have suffered a good deal more from that than has the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
We get a new Clause circulated to us in the early morning and we have at once to consider what Amendments must be put on the Paper, otherwise we may have no opportunity of moving them. We have 1834 suffered a great deal from that. I think the right hon. Gentleman must meet us on this point. He must admit that we have absolutely no data upon which this Clause can be carried out, and, therefore, there is good reason for postponing its operation.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
If there are really no data it is quite impossible that the conditions of this Clause can be fulfilled, and, therefore, we cannot do any harm by passing it now. The whole conception of the Clause is on a numerical basis, and if you have no figures it cannot possibly produce the ill effects hon. Gentlemen opposite profess to fear. I admit that the data we have is very imperfect, but it does seem unreasonable to postpone the operation of the Clause for six or eight years, when during that period we shall be collecting figures which will be of great value. Although the figures we have at present are very imperfect that is not a good reason for postponing the Clause. In certain districts figures are available, in other districts where no figures are available the Clause cannot of course be put into force.
§ Mr. CASSEL
I do not think the observations which the right hon. Gentleman applied to my hon. Friend and the suggestion that my hon. Friend's speech showed that he was adverse to the Clause were fair, and for the reason that whether we like it or not there is no doubt the Clause imposes a very serious responsibility upon local authorities and upon landlords. Whether it is right to impose that liability is another question, but if it is done they ought to be given a fair chance of meeting it. There ought to be something definite, some intelligible standard by which their conduct can be judged, and unless you have some such standard it is not fair to subject them to that responsibility and that risk. Under present circumstances, until a certain period has elapsed, there cannot be any fair standard by which that responsibility can be judged. No notice appears to be taken yet of Sub-section (4), under which apparently the Insurance Commissioners are to draw up tables containing the average expectations. May I point out that the sickness rate will probably vary very largely in consequence of the passing of the Act itself, so that the rates which may be deduced from the facts preceding the Act may be quite different from the sickness rate which operates subsequent to it.
1835 In Germany the sickness rate has gone up enormously since the insurance provisions came into force. I do not say that that is entirely due to malingering; it may be due to a better diagnosis of cases where there is sickness. But the fact remains that the sickness rate has been entirely different since the Act came into operation. That will be so in this country. It may be higher or it may be lower. In Germany it has been very much higher. It is a constantly increasing rate since the Act has been in force there. Whatever principle you adopt I still submit that there ought to be some fair standard arrived at after the Act has been in operation. It would not be fair for the Insurance Commissioners, as they could under Sub-section (4), to draw up tables based on very indefinite data, on insufficient data and experience, and for authorities and persons to be made liable in consequence of those tables to the onerous responsibilities which this Clause imposes. Whether one likes the Clause or not, it is perfectly fair and legitimate, with regard to these tremendous responsibilities, to say that the people shall not be made subject to them unless there is some fair, clear, intelligible and reasonable standard by which that responsibility may be adjudged.
§ Mr. BOOTH
The position taken up by hon. Members opposite seems to be illustrative of the suggestion "Don't go into the water until you can swim." I should think a much more important thing about this Clause is to have it put into operation in some moderate way. It will take a great many years before authorities all over the country will be enlightened enough to pursue a bold policy. But it may be possible that in early days some of the more enlightened authorities will be prepared to give a lead, and I think if we decline to delay the commencing period of this Clause it will be a serious warning to all backward authorities throughout the land.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I listened with interest to the observations of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Leif Jones). I should agree with his view if it were not for the existence of the words "expectation of" in this Clause. If we have the expression "ascertained sickness," I see no particular reason why the Clause should not be feasible to carry out. The medical officer of health for the county is at the present time able to give us reliable 1836 statistics as to the amount of ascertained illness in a certain district, but I see a difficulty if you keep in the words "expectation of," for it becomes a hypothetical question at once. The difficulty will arise in a purely agricultural district where mines or quarries are developed, or in a mining or quarrying district where a large mine or quarry is abandoned. We know from the Manchester Unity tables that we may expect, where mining becomes the chief industry of a locality, an increase of 72 per cent. in the average illness over all ages. If the working of this Clause depends upon a hypothetical estimate, it is really impracticable, even with the figures that we have at the present time. I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to drop that somewhat impracticable phrase "expectation of," and find another one. If he does so I shall not find it possible to oppose the Clause in its present form.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
I wish to offer a few words on behalf of the employers. I suppose most Members of the House must have a sort of feeling that the employers, in regard to this Bill, have sat very quiet. I do not know whether it is an ominous quietness—the quietness which sometimes precedes an earthquake—I hope it is not, and, so far as the signs go, I think it is not. I believe that patriotism will guide them in this matter, and that without grumbling they are prepared to take their share of responsibility. There is no doubt that the Clause does open up an enormous responsibility. I have some Amendments down, because I think the employers have a right to be guarded against any ill-consequences that may follow. I am asked to state, on behalf of the employers, that it has never been suggested by any organisation of employers that this Clause should be postponed. I am told that there is a general feeling that although it is very hypothetical, and must be hypothetical, and will require great care in working, it is a very wise thing that we should start working, and employers are quite prepared to take their share of being wound up, because they feel they will really gain by the local authorities and the water supply and sanitary arrangements being brought up as they should be. The employer will gain more than anyone. I do not think there is the least desire on the part of the employers to postpone this Clause.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I do not think it is at all clear in the Bill whether it is to be a general average throughout the country or whether it is to be restricted to each of the approved societies. The answer to that question will be very important. Sub-section (4) simply speaks about tables prepared by the Insurance Commissioners for the purpose of valuations under this Part of the Act. It is important to know whether the average expectation is going to be the expectation of each approved society, or whether it is to be the expectation of the general rate all over the country. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to include the expectation of the Post Office contributors. It is quite impossible to know what the expectation of Post Office contributors is going to be until sufficient time has been allowed for experience.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That point really arises on Sub-section (2). I agree that the average by society would work out very inconveniently and inequitably. It must be the average of a community as a whole.
§ Mr. FORSTER
The average, such as it is, is going to be in accordance with tables prepared by the Insurance Commissioners. I see in Sub-section (4) that for the purposes of this Section the average expectation of sickness shall be calculated in accordance with tables prepared by the Insurance Commissioners for the purpose of valuations under this Part of the Act. Would not that lead one to think that the tables will not be ready until at any rate the first valuation takes place. I do not want to have any bitterness of feeling upon this matter. It is really an important point. You are going to arm local authorities and local committees with great power. It is desirable that there should be accurate information upon which those powers are to be exercised. I want to make a suggestion. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman has not had time to consider this Amendment. I am sorry for that. Could we not defer it until the first valuation? If hon. Members will look at Sub-section (4) they will see that the very tables on which this Clause is to rest are to be made by the Insurance Commissioners for the purpose of the valuation. They cannot make a list of the average expectation of sickness before the first valuation takes place.
§ Mr. FORSTER
The first valuation depends upon the tables of the average expectation of sickness. The Insurance Commissioners will not be able to frame their tables until the time of valuation comes.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Then why not say so definitely? What I am anxious to guard against it that there should not be some capricious use made of the powers under this Clause which will inflict hardship and injustice upon either individuals or local authorities. If you are going to set existing health authorities in opposition to the authorities you create under this part of the Bill, you are going to threaten great danger to your scheme as a whole. I am anxious to avoid that, and the right hon. Gentleman, if he agrees that there is no real difference between us, might meet us by modifying the actual provisions in Subsection (4). One word in self-defence as to the shortness of notice. I apologise to the Committee for the short notice I have given. The right hon. Gentleman often has to spring surprises on the Committee. He has at his command a large and able staff to assist him. I am sorry to say I have no large or able staff to assist me. I really have to do all my own work for myself. I am very sorry I had to spring the Amendment upon the Committee.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
When I made the observation as to shortness of notice it was not by way of attacking the right hon. Gentleman, but it was an opportunity to retort to an attack he made upon me. The questions which arise now are questions of practical moment, but they really cannot be discussed here. They arise upon Sub-section (2), where you can deal practically with all these proposals, as, for instance, the suggestion made by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. C. Bathurst). I think that ought to be carefully considered. Before we arrive at that point I shall have to take an opinion. I have a very able body of advisers and I rely considerably on what they say, and by the time we arrive at that point I shall be in a better position to give an opinion. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might withdraw his Amendment at the present moment. If it is defeated we shall not be able to discuss the same matter again. I do not think Sub-section (1) should take all our time before 7.30.
§ Mr. FORSTER
My object is to improve this Bill. I do not want by taking the 1839 division now to rule out discussion germane to the words when we come to them. Therefore with great reluctance I ask leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I beg to move in Subsection (1), to leave out the words "by an approved society or local health committee" ["where it is alleged by any approved society or local health committee."]
I put down this Amendment in order to raise in a more convenient form the question we discussed in Committee yesterday—namely, whether the approved societies and the local health committees should have their powers limited to insurance matters so far as possible, or whether they should also have power over local government matters. I do not want to go over the general argument I addressed to the Committee yesterday, but as was pointed out by more than one speaker, and particularly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a great deal of my objection could be raised more appropriately upon this Clause. It is in deference to that that I wish to limit my objection to giving these powers to approved societies or local health committees. The powers given in the Clause are of a far-reaching character. They not only refer to the conditions and nature of employment of the persons affected, or to bad housing or insanitary conditions, but they really relate to every duty thrown upon any local authority by any statutory power dealing with questions of this character, so that without any limitation, if this Clause should pass in its present form, the new committees or the approved societies would have the power of interference in all the duties now carried out by the various local authorities regarding questions of health or sanitation. The question is whether that is desirable or not. I think it is very undesirable. The insurance committees, as constituted, should carry out their insurance powers and duties in such a way as if they were limited to those duties and powers. They are not constituted from the point of view of local administration or local government. Their constitution has been settled by Clause 43, and, of course, it is quite clear that, as regards their constitution, they are not in any sense representative of the bodies as regards questions of this kind. I think it is desirable to limit their powers, but what 1840 is the position of those whom they may attack? They may attack under this Clause all the self-governing authorities on matters of health and matters of sanitation. They may attack them on very indefinite grounds.
As regards this question of average expectation, it was pointed out that, if they succeed, they can throw liabilities upon them which will cast a very heavy expenditure, not only upon individuals—I am not dealing with that side of the case—but upon local authorities. It was pointed out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, and I agree, that there are already existing powers under our health Acts and local Acts, which are extremely complicated and numerous, by which questions of this kind can be raised if the local authorities or the health authorities are not properly performing their duties. But the deduction which I draw from that is not to give similar overlapping powers to bodies which ought to concern themselves with other duties, but to leave the local authorities under a liability which at present exists and which, if they are not properly exercised, are only not so properly exercised, because of the numbers and complexities of these various Acts. In fact, the difficulties does not arise from the want of powers, but from the multiplicity of powers; and I am quite certain that anyone who has to deal with question of local government, either from a local point of view or from an administrative point of view, would say they were caused, not by the absence of remedies, but by their multiplication, and in the multiplicity of possibly inconsistent remedies really in despair very often you get no remedy at all. I do not want to strike out the Clause altogether. If there is any doubt as regards existing powers, everything that is sought to be done under the Clause would, according to this and consequent Amendments, be in the power of existing people to enforce who now have powers against local authorities under the existing Local Government Act. Is not that sufficient? Although I dislike the Clause, I should not oppose it on the ground that it might not do certain good as regards improvement in matters of sickness or conditions of employment of poor people or as regards the Housing Acts and Acts of that kind. That is not my opposition. My opposition is this. You are giving to a body really constituted for different purposes extraordinarily wide powers to interfere with matters of local government. That is very unwise. You 1841 are giving these powers in respect of matters where at present there is ample remedy, and the difficulty arises from the multiplicity rather than the want of remedies. Lastly, if you look at the health committees themselves, I think their legitimate business is less likely to be properly performed by adding duties of this kind for which they are not properly constituted, and as regards the local authorities, you do not improve efficiency of administration by giving too large powers of outside interference.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We discussed these powers yesterday, but we could not very well, upon Clauses 43 and 44, put in the case of the Government, and therefore, by the leave of the Committee, I will put the case of the Government on the point on which the hon. and learned Gentleman has challenged us now. First of all, he objects to the powers given to the health committee and the societies. He asserts that it is a general interference in the matters of health with the existing powers of existing authorities. In the second place, he says the powers are sufficient now under existing Acts. Is that a fair statement?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
These are the propositions which I propose to traverse. I am very glad to hear from the hon. and learned Gentleman that he does not object to the principle of the Clause as a whole, but wants to make Amendments to it, and I rather gather that is the position taken up by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster), and the hon. Member (Mr. Cassel). There is no proposal here to interfere with local authorities in any way, except that which is already enshrined, or, I think, embalmed is a better word, in Acts of Parliament, because most of them are mummies. They are not exercised, there is no life in them; they are pure dust, and they only have the form and the features of life. There is none of the spirit and the soul in any of these powers. That is the reason why we propose that we should have some powers of this kind in order not to interfere with local authorities, but I accept the word of the hon. Member (Mr. Harwood) to wind them up. There are no new powers here. The only change is that organisations which are created by this Act are to have powers conferred upon them of setting the law in motion and that you are going to alter the remedy by resorting to the old common 1842 law method of obtaining redress in a court by pecuniary damages.
The hon. and learned Gentleman says, "Why do not you resort to the existing powers of the law? They are quite adequate." They may or may not be adequate for the purpose of enforcing the law, but the money which is lost to a society owing to the neglect of a local authority or of a householder or an employer to carry out Acts of Parliament cannot be covered by any satisfactory method. That is all we do. We set up here machinery, not for interfering with the local authorities, but to enable the societies which are damnified by the inaction, the illegal action or the neglect of authorities, owners or employers, to carry out the provisions of the law to recover compensation for the loss they have sustained. I again say there is no new principle, and there is no rival authority. If an individual suffered wrong from either a local authority or a neighbour either due to defective drains, to leaky roofs, or to anything which impairs or imperils the health, or even to anything which offends his nostrils, he can obtain pecuniary damages in a court of law, but if a society suffers damages to the extent of thousands a year owing to the same cause there is no remedy at all in law. All we propose is that the old common law right which is enshrined in the law of England shall also be extended to these societies. It is as old as the law of this land. It is given to individuals. Why should you not give it to a corporation of workmen to protect their rights, so that where their rights are trampled upon, where they suffer in health and in pocket they should be able to recover by some single process of law from those who are responsible for the loss. That is not a new principle. It is a very old one. It is as old as this House and the other. I should like to show later on how societies suffer financially owing to neglect of the sanitary laws of this country and how now they are completely stripped of any remedy. I will give one or two cases later on.
What are the main complaints of these societies with regard to these extra causes of ill-health which add to their pecuniary benefit? Bad drainage, bad water supply, bad housing, factories and workshops not in accordance with the conditions of the law, and the offenders are local authorities and private individuals. We have had years of public health Acts in this country; we have had Local Government 1843 inquiries without number; we have had recommendations of medical officers of health and of inspectors of the Local Government Board. I shall be able to prove that they are absolutely helpless in hundreds of cases and have been for years, not because the Local Government Board has neglected its duty. On the contrary, anyone who peruses their report will see how very concerned they have been about this for years. It is purely because they are armed with the clumsiest, rustiest weapon in the whole army of British law—the mandamus, a perfectly worthless weapon. I knew that when we were fighting the Education Act in Wales. I knew that as long as they had only the mandamus it was not of very much use. [An HON. MEMBER: "Swansea."] What was the use of the mandamus in Swansea? None. You had to alter the law and apply some other method. The Swansea case is an admission of what I am trying to prove. Though it was directed against my Friends and myself I admit that the second weapon is effective while the first is not. I will read an extract from the chief medical officer of the Local Government Board in his review of the year 1909. He says:—A story of neglect of elementary sanitary work outstands in a large proportion of the current reports by medical inspectors of the Board on local sanitary circumstances. A not inconsiderable number of the smaller towns and urban districts and many of the rural districts, which have within their area portions presenting urban characteristics, are characterised by continuance, more or less, of the filth nuisances which were fairly general fifty years ago, but which has since then been abolished in the larger and better governed towns.If anyone will go through these reports he will find that there are local authorities by the score which never prosecute offenders against the Public Health Acts, which keep no records of and never even investigate insanitary conditions, which have no sanitary committee, which systematically refuse to carry out the recommendations of their sanitary officials, which have in force neither by-laws nor adoptive Acts, and which neglect to apply such by-laws and Acts when adopted.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, I will, if the Noble Lord will wait. There is more than a suggestion in some of the reports that there are local authorities which are manipulated by interested members for their own purposes. Now I am going to give the names. This is what the report 1844 for 1907 says about Thingoe, a rural district, in Suffolk:—Speaking generally, the dwellings of the working classes are in an extremely unsatisfactory condition. Many cottages are beyond repair and should be condemned as unfit for habitation, but the district council have not so far taken action in this sense. Younger and less encumbered married couples find increasing fault with their surroundings, and ultimately leave the district and even the country. The rural district council have no sanitary committee and no by-laws. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the district council are to blame for the dilapidation and neglect into which the dwellings of the working classes have been suffered to fall.The Local Government Board attribute the blame to the district council.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am going to show that they did take action in certain cases. One of the cases in which they did this was a case where an epidemic followed after repeated representations by the Local Government Board and the refusal of the local authority to carry them out.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
Would it be not impossible for that to happen now if the machinery of the Housing and Town Planning Act were put in operation?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am very hopeful of great results from the Housing and Town Planning Act, but I wish to see some stimulus given to the local authorities.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I would like to see the county councils take action. I am sorry to say that in Wales there are cases of neglect by local authorities. I have here a report for 1908 for the rural district of Newtown and Llanidloes, Montgomery, which gives a very pitiable account of the sanitary condition of that rural area. It is one of the most beautiful districts in the whole of Wales. The report says:—Conditions of dwellings very unsatisfactory. Nuisances abound in the district from foul pit privies, from absence of house drains, and from accumulations of manure and filth in the neighbourhood of dwellings. Water supplies frequently liable to pollution. Condition of dairies and cow-sheds very unsatisfactory. No legal proceedings for abatement of nuisances taken in the district for many years. Nuisances recur again and again.Here is the report for 1907 with respect to the rural district of Helmsley, Yorkshire:—The houses are damp; rain-water spouting is absent, and there is no paving or impermeable covering 1845 of the ground around them, so that the rain water from the roofs soaks into the foundations… The principal diseases are rheumatism and phthisis (consumption), which are known to be associated with dampness of soil and of dwellings.A district 'abounding with nuisances,' yet, 'so far as I could ascertain, no legal proceedings for the abatement of a nuisance has ever been taken in the district,' owing to 'the dislike of the Council to any active interference in such matters.'These are the people who object to interfere in such matters. The report for Heckmondwike, Yorkshire, for 1908, says:—… Exceptionally high general death rate and infant mortality, and continual presence of infectious diseases like enteric fever. The Heckmondwike Urban District Council have in many directions grossly neglected their duties as a sanitary authority, and notwithstanding their ineffective administration they have not succeeded in keeping down the rates.I have here the report as to Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, for 1907, and this is the answer to the hon. and learned Member. He asked if the Local Government Board had done anything in the matter. The report says:—District inspected in 1879 by Dr. Parsons, who, in his report, made a series of recommendations for the improvement of the sanitary condition of the district, all of which appear to have remained unheeded up to the date of the present investigation.That is over thirty years ago.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
So far as I see, all they did was to make recommendations. After all, the only thing they could do was to proceed by mandamus. The report for Knaresborough, Yorkshire, for 1908, says:—Considerable amount of slum property, containing old back-to-back houses with insanitary surroundings, such as unpaved and slop-sodden yards, filthy middens, and other nuisances. Some of these hovels owned by members of the district council.In the report for the borough of Brackley, Northamptonshire, for 1909, there is a description given of the insanitary state of dwellings, and it ends up with these words:—The repeated complaints of the medical officer for health with respect to such dwellings have been ignored.The report for 1907 regarding Morley Borough, Yorkshire, ends up by saying:—Town council disinclined to accept advice of their sanitary officers.In regard to Harrogate, Yorkshire, the report for 1908 says:—Artisans' dwellings with defective drains and unpaved back yards.Certain members of the town council openly advocate deviation from by-laws. Majority of the standing committee engaged in the building and allied trades.1846 The report regarding Tredegar Urban District, Monmouth, for 1900, says:—Some of the slum property in Tredegar is owned by members of the District Council.The district suffers a good deal from typhoid and other diseases.
The report as to Merthyr Tydvil for 1905 says:—Coal and iron companies own much house property in Merthyr and Dowlais, and some of it is unfit for human habitation.Merthyr has a specially high zymotic death rate—nearly twice that of England and Wales as a whole.
The approved societies will have to bear the brunt of that. I could give no end of cases. These are only samples of those I have got. I do not wish to weary the Committee, but if hon. Gentlemen opposite wish, I shall give a few more. Here is one from Essex:—Many houses are certainly in very bad repair. Many nuisances exist which should be abated. The insanitary shortcomings have been reported, but no action has resulted.We have reports of a similar nature from many other places. I have one from Dunmow. The hon. Member opposite talked about the Dunmow Friendly Society.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
Will the right hon. Gentleman summarise these reports and show how many out of all the local authorities he can frame indictments against? The state of things described in the reports which he has read is not general.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The Noble Lord did not do me the honour of listening to the summary which I have already given. [The right hon. Gentleman repeated the summary.] I am quite prepared to publish the reports in the form of a White Paper with the dates.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Some are for 1905, others for 1907, and others for 1908. The hon. Gentleman does not mean these to go back twenty or thirty years. The conditions described in the reports existed 1847 in the last ten years. The year 1905 is the very oldest I have quoted. That is not very far back. You have thousands of people living in these dilapidated leaky cottages, running risks of phthisis, enteric and rheumatism. What is the remedy they have got? I do not know whether there is a remedy at common law which would apply against the landlord, but even if there is, how can you expect a poor cottager to bring an action against his landlord? Supposing he had a remedy, you have no divisional court in the district, and the landlord might appeal to the House of Lords. What remedy is there in that case for the occupier of a cottage?
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am coming to the Local Government Board remedy. The individual has no remedy at all, and I will also point out that the remedy of the Local Government Board is of no account. Why? Because there is only one thing they can do, and that was to imprison the whole of the members of the councils. They could do it by mandamus. Whether they ought to do it or not is another matter. At any rate, there ought to be a remedy short of that, because Government Departments are very reluctant to take the step against members who are acting on councils without fee or reward, of bringing them before the Court and sending them to prison. It is a most difficult thing, and I have no doubt hon. Members who have considered the question of mandamus realise that this is by no means an easy matter. That the Local Government Board should bring the process of mandamus into operation is practically to say that there is no remedy at all. I take another case in order to show you how it affects the societies. This is the case of Lincoln. The authorities of the city of Lincoln were warned as early as the 11th June, 1885, by the Local Government Board that their local water supply was liable to pollution, and were told that the Town Council would incur grave responsibility if disease should further spread in the city from pollution of the water supply. That was in 1885. Very little was done by way of remedying that state of things. Again, in 1894, Dr. Wheaton, of the Local Government Board, made another inspection of the waterworks of Lincoln, and in remarking on the 1848 obvious defects of the water supply, said that the comparative exemption of the city of Lincoln from cholera and enteric fever in recent years should not be allowed to create a false sense of security, and that it was no use to wait until an epidemic occurred before obtaining a supply of pure water. Many other people and medical officers of health directed attention to the same defects. Little was done by way of remedy, and in 1905 there was a serious outbreak of enteric fever, directly traced to the pollution of the water supply. Over 1,000 persons were attacked by the disease and over 100 died. After that, Lincoln took steps to place its water supply in order, but not before there had been that serious outbreak of fever which fulfilled the predictions of evil of 1885 and 1894, and the repeated warnings. I want to show the effect of the Clause upon one society in Lincoln. We have had these figures from the lodges of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows in Lincoln. In 1903 the amount of full sick pay was £2,178. In 1904 it was £2,133. It went down for exactly the same number of members. Now came the year of the epidemic. The total amount of sick pay went up by 40 per cent. in that year, and the society lost £800. That was a society of 3,842 members. Supposing you had this Bill in operation and instead of having to deal with 3,842 members you were to deal with all persons who were insured, men and women, numbering something like 10,000 or 12,000, the loss of the society, instead of being £800, would have been £4,000. What remedy would you have had? The local landowner has got his remedy in the Courts, but these societies, losing between £3,000 and £4,000, with no means of making it up except by levy on the working man, have practically no remedy. They might have gone to the Local Government Board and said, "Why do you not put in jail the Lincoln Town Council?" and tried by mandamus to have justice done to them. The proposal here is simply the proposal of old English Common Law, that where anybody is damnified he should have the means of compensation by process of law, and that process is the process we have here. There are other cases. There is the Swanage case, and I quote the Worthing case by way of showing that it is possible to distinguish between cases where councils are responsible and cases where they are not responsible. How can you trace responsibility? There can be no doubt about the Lincoln case. They had been warned 1849 repeatedly by their own medical officer, they had been warned by the Local Government Board twice, and in spite of that they did not improve the water supply. There was a serious epidemic which was practically traced to the pollution of the water supply, but in the Worthing case of pollution of water supply there was an inquiry, and it was found that the town council were not to blame, and that it was almost impossible for them to have discovered the pollution. In that case there would have been no charge upon the council. I am only quoting the Worthing case to show that it is possible to distinguish between a case where the town council is responsble and a case where a council is not responsible. I will supplement these cases later on by the process which has been suggested. So far from our interfering with any existing authorities, we simply propose to assist them. The Clause will be of enormous value to the Local Government Board. Instead of threatening to issue a mandamus, they will be able to say to a local authority, "Well, if there is an epidemic, you will be mulcted in damages." The Clause will be a help to county councils, who have general supervision over health all over the county. It will be of enormous benefit to the medical officers of health, who are practically powerless. All they can do is to expose the evils.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They have only the same defaulting powers I have already described, and those are very inadequate powers, otherwise why should the Local Government Board for thirty or forty years have had to go through the process of warning councils and nothing happens. It will help the medical officers of counties enormously. Their position is a very difficult one. They have often to report upon insanitary conditions when the proprietors of the properties are strongly represented on these councils. I had a letter last week from a medical officer of health who gave his name and address. He says to me, "It is as much as my place is worth to report faithfully on the conditions prevailing." So far from overlapping and weakening it is a source of strength. Let me state what happened in Berlin. In Berlin there was a case of the kind which bears very directly on this matter. A most powerful sickness society there discovered that the excess in sickness was very largely attributable to the slumy condition of some of 1850 the dwellings of the working class. The name of the society is the Berlin General Sickness Society, for commercial employés. The secretary is a very well known labour leader. They instituted a systematic inquiry into the character of the homes inhabited by their sick members. Their powers were confined to an inquiry. What happened? They found a very serious condition of things prevailing, and the reports which they published aroused a good deal of interest and also aroused a good deal of indignation amongst the owners of the slum property. The consequence was that the House Owners' Association petitioned the supervising authority for sickness and insurance law to declare the expenditure incurred in these inquiries illegal. This authority declined to comply with the petition. They carried the matter from Court to Court, and eventually there was a Court that fined the society 10s. because it undertook those inquiries. The Court held that the society had exceeded its powers, and let them off with a fine of 10s., but issued a prohibition directed against this society of workmen instituting these inquiries. The society appealed, and the appeal was upheld. The Town Council of Berlin, so far from complaining that there was an interference with their powers, welcomed it. They realised that such inquiries instituted by these societies in Berlin would be a source of great strength and support to them, and now these inquiries were recognised as part of the mechanism of sickness societies in these great towns. Suppose in addition to that they had power to say that where there was excessive sickness which was attributable to insanitary conditions of dwellings those responsible for the insanitary conditions should pay for the excess sickness—then you would make very short work of these slums. That is really the case for the Bill.
We do not propose for this particular provision to introduce any novel principle. We simply resort to the old principles which are enshrined in the common law of this land, and we want to make effective the powers already possessed. We want to give them a more efficient sanction. We want to make insanitary property and neglect of public duties unremunerative. Slackness, inefficiency, and the callous greed of certain individuals are responsible for the loss of more lives in Britain than has almost ever been inflicted upon us by the fiercest wars in our history. Phthisis and enteric rheumatism fill thousands of wretched homes in this country 1851 with death and despair. What do we propose to do? We propose to arm the workmen with an effective weapon to defend his home, and to defend his children from the diseases inflicted through the insanitary conditions of their dwelling. I am told that we must not arm them because it will interfere with the authorities who are responsible. If an individual breaks the law, and if, through his breach of the law, he inflicts damage upon his neighbours, why is it an interference with his liberty and prerogative to have a local inquiry into his conduct, and that he should be mulcted in damages by way of compensation. Why should we not do so in the case of the local authorities and with the owner of slum property? It is one of the oldest maxims of English law, and one of the most honoured, that there is no wrong without a remedy. It is because, when I was investigating this problem, I discovered a great wrong for which there was no remedy, that I had this Clause inserted in the Bill, and I now confidently recommend it to this House.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
The right hon. Gentleman has made on the local authorities of this country an attack which many of them will, I think, resent, and very rightly resent, when they come to read it tomorrow. I am the very last to wish to defend any slackness in administration of the law, but to my mind the right hon. Gentleman was very ill-advised in trying to bolster up his case by an attack on those who, in a very large number of cases, are fighting against great difficulties while doing the best work they can. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to several cases, and mentioned that of Harrogate. In Harrogate there is an extremely high standard of sanitation. The greater part of that town is new, and what the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to it in this House he certainly would not dare to repeat outside.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If the hon. Gentleman challenges me, I am prepared to sign any document and publish it in the papers repeating the statement I have made in this House. I am not in the habit of making statements in this House that I would not make outside. On the 1852 contrary, the general accusation against me is that I make statements outside this House that I do not make in the House.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
If I understood the right hon. Gentleman's statement with regard to Harrogate, it is this: that there were cases of workmen's dwellings which were very leaky and let water in, and that the reason given for their not being put in order was that certain members of the council were interested in the property. If that is the statement, I do not think he could make it outside this House without its being challenged, as I am perfectly certain it would be. The right hon. Gentleman complains that there is no remedy except a mandamus, but what is this proposal except a form of mandamus to make the local authority raise an extra rate to meet the deficiency. The right hon. Gentleman is far less likely to obtain his object if he quarrels with the local authorities and sets over them these watchdogs. The whole of his speech has been a complete indictment of the Local Government Board.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I wanted to find the Harrogate case, and if the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will read it again:—Artisans' dwellings with defective drains and un-paved back yards.Certain members of the town council openly advocate deviation from by-laws. Majority of the sanitary committee engaged in the buildings and allied trades.I have only quoted those two reports.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
I only regret the very unfair insinuation in the report. I should like to know in that case what was the action of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman said that this Clause gives help to the Local Government Board. What is the opinion of that Department? We have been discussing this question all the afternoon. I do not know where the President of the Local Government Board is, and why he is not present to defend his Department against the attack made upon him by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE indicated dissent.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
To say that the Local Government Board have no power to deal with these matters surely is not the case. The right hon. Gentleman complains that there is nothing but the mandamus which 1853 can be used. Can he give me a single instance where the weapon of the mandamus has failed. There is not a case of a single authority against which a mandamus has been obtained where it has not succeeded. Wherever the mandamus has been employed the object of the proceeding has been attained, and there is not a case in which the mandamus has been ineffective. I daresay I am what the right hon. Gentleman terms a mummy, and rather a dusty one, but I do not think we ought to put fresh life into a dusty mummy by methods of this sort.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I did not say the local authorities were mummies. I said that the powers were embalmed, and in these Acts of Parliament were pure mummies.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
That does not reflect credit on Liberal or Radical legislation. But I do not wish to detain the Committee on this question. I believe the effect of the Clause will be that any local authority which does not wish to do its duty will be stirred up by the Insurance Commissioner or whoever it may be, and the effect will be to cause more delay. The right hon. Gentleman thinks he is going to create an entirely new authority, but where are you going to get the men to sit on that authority? They will have to be, to a large extent, the same men as are now working on local authorities throughout the country. There is only a limited supply of these men to do this public work. There will be an immense amount of work in connection with these societies, and the difficulty will be to find the men to do it, though the right hon. Gentleman apparently thinks he is going to find a body totally and entirely different to carry out this work. I believe that this Clause, unless it be entirely modified, would do more harm than good, and I must say it will arouse very strong feeling against the Bill. I think it is a very great mistake.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
I wish to give the Committee a small piece of evidence bearing out in a striking way the case made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I happen to be treasurer of the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, a body which has taken for some years a rather active part in these matters. Their proceedings chiefly centre themselves in getting particulars from different parts of the country where tuberculosis is more general than else- 1854 where. Really we have been anticipating this Clause. We make it our business to inquire the cause of tuberculosis, and it is nearly always attributable to the insanitary condition of the property. Then we try to get the authorities to work, and we find that there we are stuck. It is almost impossible, and I can speak of scores of authorities in different parts of the country. It has been said that these local bodies are composed of people engaged in either building property or in owning this kind of property which causes the mischief, and I myself can speak of scores of cases where we find ourselves absolutely helpless to get anything done all over the country. At my own suggestion this last autumn we called together the health officers from all over the country. Some hundreds of them gathered together in London, and I, amongst others, was so impressed with the accumulation of evidence of our incapacity and everybody else's incapacity to get anything done, that I said to them, "What do you recommend?" They all got up one after the other and said they were incapable of recommending anything—that they really could not, the influence against them was so strong. The second point was this, that there really were no powers except the power of a mandamus. I speak as an amateur lawyer when I say that the powers of the mandamus are all fiddle-de-dee. They are very expensive to get to work. Who is going to find the money? The hon. Gentleman opposite asks when had a mandamus failed. When has a mandamus succeeded? The fact of the matter is that the proceeding is very cumbrous, and not only so, but it finally culminates in a result from which we all shrink, and that is the imprisonment of the corporation. The evidence of the officers of health seems to show that no good will be done until we proceed by way of damages. We must make somebody pay; that is what makes people act.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
I do not think so. I do not read it in that way. But whether the proceeding be a mandamus or not the result will be different: the result will be damage.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
Will the hon. Member tell me if he thinks inquiry by a Local Government Board inspector is a cheaper or faster means?
§ Mr. HARWOOD
I do not say it is cheaper or faster, but it is the best we can get. I said, speaking as representing the employers, so impressed are they with the ineffectiveness of society before this great danger that I believe the general body of the employers are in favour of this Clause because they feel, though it may touch them very keenly, yet it will do the country so much good. I want to give what are really the conclusions of between six and seven hundred medical officers of health who came together. They were practically unanimous in saying, first of all, that at present they are impotent, and secondly, that they would not have the necessary power unless it centred upon damage and not imprisonment.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
As a member of a local authority endeavouring to carry out the Act, especially in relation to the housing of London by the county council, I should like to say one or two words on this subject. I do not share in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's general attack on the local authorities. Many and, indeed, most local authorities—there may be exceptions—are trying to carry out the Public Health Acts and the Housing Acts to the best of their ability. At the same time I do admit as regards housing that there is a great deal more that might be done. It is absolutely true that in a great many large towns you have got most horrible slums which cause a great deal of additional sickness, and in certain rural districts it is true there is practically a house hunger and very great difficulty in getting housing accommodation for the people. I admit, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made out a certain case. What I want to submit to the Committee is this: that this is not the way to deal with it. It is quite true there may be excessive sickness caused by bad housing or bad sanitation, but the proper way to deal with that is by a Local Government Act Amendment Act, or by a new Housing Act. You are not going to touch the fringe of the question by doing it in the course of an Insurance Bill. Let me explain why. The chief difficulty, and I hope the hon. Gentleman representing the Government will make a note of this, in carrying out the Housing Acts, is due to the excessive cost. I can give an example. The London County Council published a return some time ago of a number of slum clearing schemes which they had done down to the year 1907. It 1856 appeared that they carried through thirty-one schemes. They displaced and rehoused 40,000 people, and the total net cost of the clearances was no less than £2,000,000, amounting to £50 for every slum dweller who hade been displaced, apart from rehousing. The cost is so great that you cannot expect it to be thrown on the local rates, and that is the reason why local authorities have been slow to carry out their powers.
What is going to happen under this Clause? You are simply going to compel the local authorities in consequence of representations made, and after inquiries held to carry out these Acts at this excessive cost, and you will simply break the back of the ratepayer. The proper way to deal with the matter in my humble judgment is to bring in a new Housing Act and to provide a large amount of State aid towards housing operations. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the poor taxpayer?"] The poor taxpayer has got much broader shoulders than the ratepayer, and this housing question which affects the health of the whole community is a matter which ought to be spread over the whole community instead of merely being put on the backs of the ratepayers. On this Clause of this Bill nothing will be put on the general taxpayer and you will simply compel the ratepayer to carry out these very expensive Acts, and at the very shortest notice run up the rates to an impossible figure. The result will probably be worse housing and worse sanitation in the towns, because they will be starved for want of money. Let me give another reason why this state of affairs exists, and which will not be touched by the proposal of the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is perfectly right when he says that the Local Government Board has not got sufficient powers now to compel the local authorities to do their duty.
I have given a reason—a good reason, I think—in the matter of cost why they hesitate to carry them out, and it is perfectly true, so long as the system of mandamus is the only system applicable, it is frequently impossible, owing to the cost, and so on, to get the local authorities to act, but you are not going to leave that out here, and you are going to have a mandamus under this Bill. Here, again, the proper way to deal with the matter is not an Insurance Bill, but by a new Housing Bill, or a new Public Health Bill, which, instead of mandamus, will give the Local 1857 Government Board power to act in default of a local authority. That is the only way to do it. An hon. Friend behind me reminds me that that is the case now with the London County Council, and that it works very well. In a Clause under the Public Health Act where a local authority—that is to say, a borough council—refuses to carry out any of its duties, the London County Council may act in default and may recover the money at an ordinary contract date. That is the proper way to deal with this question, and not by allowing any local health committee or any approved society to make representations, and then for an inspector of the Local Government Board to come down and, without sending his report to the Local Government Board, to order the local authorities to do things which they can still refuse to do. There is no power under this Clause to let anybody do it in default, and if the local authority does the work they put an enormous burden on the ratepayers.
I candidly say, looking at the matter from the point of view of housing sanitation and public health, I sympathise very much with the objects of this Clause, but I think it is absolutely the wrong way. The right way is by a new Local Government Act, and the only way to get the housing question properly attended to is to give State aid. I said before, and I repeat, that if that million per year which is going to be devoted to the upkeep of sanatoria had been given to the local authorities to enable them to clear the slums, you would do a very great deal more towards securing public health than you will by the provisions of this Bill. I can tell the Government that the slums are the breeding places of phthisis, the very phthisis you are seeking to stamp out by the sanatoria. At the present moment the London County Council is engaged with a slum, one small district of two acres, where the death rate from phthisis is five times the average death rate of the whole of London. How much better it would be to devote the public money you vote under this Bill to clearing those slums and stopping the disease at its very source and preventing it from being spread than to give the money to sanatoria to cure the disease after it is contracted. Here, again, I say this is a matter not for insurance, but for a new Housing Act, and that is what we want, because I think this particular proposal is the wrong way to do it, and because I think you put enormous burdens on the localities which they cannot bear, and because you will not be able to 1858 enforce your recommendations when they are made. For my part, I would like to see this particular Clause withdrawn and the whole matter thoroughly dealt with on a sound basis in a new Bill.
§ Mr. JOWETT
The Chancellor of the Exchequer's indictment against the present conditions is a true bill. There is no answer to the charge. The only question it seems to me that there can be in the mind of any Member of the Committee is whether the remedy proposed by this provision is the right one. I am one of those who believe that the remedy is not the right remedy. First of all, let us just consider the nature of the trouble and let us examine the class of case quoted by the Chancellor the Exchequer. For the most part I noted, as he read the extracts, that they referred to small urban district councils. There were one or two exceptions. What is the trouble with regard to those urban district councils? The trouble there is just the trouble which is felt by large municipalities very often; first, the personnel of the council, and, secondly, the lack of means to do the work that needs to be done. With regard to the personnel of the council, I, for one, am extremely obliged to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his promise to print the extracts in order that they may be made public, and I feel sure that the section to which I belong and the party to which I belong will not be slow in collecting those cases, especially with the comments which accompanied his quotations referring to builders and owners, and so on, being on the councils. We have got the remedy for that The remedy for that is to turn out the present owners of those houses and to put on men who have no such interests to serve. The next trouble is that of money, and to my mind it is a marvel that it has never occurred to this House to follow the same policy regarding the removal of the difficulties of housing in this country as has been followed in regard to Ireland. I give my meed of praise to the Irish Members; they have done well. In 1906 we passed the Irish Labourers Act, which allowed four and a-quarter millions of British money to be lent on easy terms at a low rate of interest, with a provision for an annual subsidy, and between that day and this I suppose that between twenty-five and 30,000 cottages have been built. That is the work that needs doing in this country. We have recently supplemented that Act by another Act, which will provide another million of money for a further supply of houses.
1859 Is it not clear that that is exactly what is wanted for the rural districts of this country? It is no use whatever bringing a mandamus by the Local Government Board against an urban district council which is gravelled for the want of funds, nor is it any use to establish a sort of watchdog committee, representative of nobody, which shall have the power to check and fine an urban council for not doing what it cannot afford to do. It appears to me perfectly plain that the policy which has been pursued in Ireland ought to be the policy in this country, and if some of the money to be spent under this Bill had been spent in assisting urban district councils to provide the houses required and to remove the defective houses of which complaint is made, we should feel that we were doing something substantial. I do not think we are doing that at present. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer publishes the extracts which he has quoted, I should like him to publish also some statement of what the Local Government Board have done in regard to each complaint. He mentioned, amongst others, Harrogate. I believe that since that report was issued Harrogate has been a suppliant to Parliament for statutory powers, and probably among the powers asked for were, borrowing powers for some purpose or other. If that is so, why did not the Local Government Board oppose the granting of those further powers and the raising of further loans, in order to bring the local authority to book and make them do their duty? But the crux of the whole question is money. We may pass Housing Acts, we have done so for England times without number, but as long as no change is made in this respect there will be nothing done. Neither the provisions proposed in this Bill nor any other provision that can be invented, other than assisting and encouraging the local authorities by giving them the help which we can and ought to give and have given in Ireland will accomplish the purpose we are seeking to serve by this measure.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I am in entire agreement with the last speaker, that the real question is, what is the best remedy for the state of facts here and there which we all regret and deplore. We all regret that there are certain local authorities who, partly because of the unpopularity of the task, and partly for other reasons, do not enforce the provisions of the Housing Acts as we should 1860 all wish them to be enforced. A certain remedy has been provided for this state of affairs in the Housing and Town Planning Act, although it does not go a very long way; but so far as it goes, I am confident that it is a far better method of getting what is desired done than the machinery set up by the present Bill. Consider for a moment what the situation is. Nothing can be worse in the interests of housing—which, I believe, is almost without exception, the greatest question in the country—than that you should set up antagonism between the local authorities and any other body. If they do not do their duty, which very seldom happens, it is necessary, of course, that there should be some authority over them. But who ought that authority to be? Manifestly the Local Government Board. You will only create friction which you will bitterly regret if, instead of investing in the Local Government Board the authority for the more complete performance of these duties, you set up an authority which does not and cannot command the respect which the Local Government Board commands, and as to which members of the local authority will say, "Here are people who are no better than ourselves, and who, indeed, have infinitely less experience of this matter than we have; why should we be vexed, oppressed, and harassed by such as these, seeing that we do our duty when we can? And, moreover, if we do not do our duty, there is the Local Government Board, which is the proper authority to enforce the remedy."
My hon. Friend opposite seemed to understand what he wished in this matter, but apparently he had a most imperfect understanding of the Clause, which proposes a remedy when a local authority is unable or unwilling to perform its duty. He imagined the machinery set up to be good and cheap machinery for the purpose. It has already been shown that, in the first place, the authority is concerned with other questions, mainly insurance matters, and has no special skill in regard to these particular questions. In the next place, the means of actually enforcing the purport of this Bill is left in the hands of a Local Government Board inspector after a local government inquiry. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed strangely ignorant of local government inquiries. He apparently thought that a local government inquiry was a cheap and easy way of getting the law administered effectually. He is completely mistaken. You could choose no more expensive 1861 method than a local government inquiry in a locality for enforcing any requirement. I will tell the Committee why. It is not because the Local Government Board inspector is an inefficient person. Far from it. He is very often a most excellent man, thoroughly conversant with his duty; but on these local government inquiries he is confronted by experienced counsel, not always interested in celerity, and he has positively no authority. The result is that the expenses of a local government inquiry are enormous, and great delay is caused.
What do the Government imagine they are effecing when they have had an inquiry and run the whole district into this enormous cost? Let us assume that the Local Government inspector has found the local authority in default, that they have not carried out their duty, and that insanitary conditions prevail. Suppose he makes an order for the payment of money, and the local authorities do not comply with it. What remedy have you except that of a mandamus? As far as I can see, there are no default provisions in this Clause. The Government have not taken the pains to refer to the Housing and Town Planning Act, which in similar conditions prescribes a business like remedy. My hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Masterman) was one of those who upstairs, with others of us, assisted the Government in prescribing a remedy. That remedy is that where the work is not done by the district, it shall be done by the Local Government Board. Nothing more unbusinesslike, wasteful, or foolish could be set up as a means of enforcing the law than a prolonged and enormously expensive inquiry; and then that you should be run into a corner with the very remedy upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has wasted so much invective seems to me to be a triumph of ineptitude.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the only process for getting the money is by mandamus?
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
If the hon. Member looks at the Bill he will see that there is power on the part of the inspector to make an order, which will have the force of an order of the High Court, for the payment of the money. That is quite true. But how is that order going to be enforced against a local authority? You have a local authority perhaps largely consisting of gentlemen as interested in housing reform as the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. Supposing that they do their best to induce the local authority to put a 1862 place in a sanitary condition, and they find that they are opposed, chiefly on the ground of cost. Would it not be an utterly ridiculous result if you were to make an order for the payment of money by the local authority, and in doing so you made the order upon those very men who had been endeavouring to get the law carried out, but had not been successful? Surely the Committee cannot maintain such a remedy as that. It is not for me to suggest what the right course would be. I do not think it is necessary to go much beyond the Housing and Town Planning Act. The best remedy is that where there is default some authority—suggest the county council—should have power to enter and do the necessary work. I am inclined to agree that there is difficulty in getting money in many cases, and some such provision as the hon. Member opposite has suggested would at any rate be well worthy of consideration.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Debate is getting away from the actual Amendment before the Committee. The only point raised by the Amendment is whether or not societies and health committees should be given, initiatory powers under the Clause. I think, in the interests of business, that we should endeavour to keep to that point and not discuss alternative remedies.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
The Chancellor of the Exchequer went very fully into the question of the remedy, and it is very important for us to know exactly what our position is to be in regard to this Clause. If after what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said we are limited in discussing the remedy, there may not be another opportunity. As he has opened so wide a field, we ought to be allowed to continue on the same lines; otherwise we shall be very much embarrassed.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I did not mean to say that it would be out of order to refer to the remedy proposed in the Bill, but it all hangs on the initiative. The attack opened by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Cripps) was on the ground that societies and local health committees ought not to have an initiative in health matters, and the defence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that that was necessary. I shall not restrict hon. Members more tightly than I did the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. CASSEL
Attacks were made on certain localities by name. Will it be out of order to reply to those attacks?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must deal with those points when they arise. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was bringing certain illustrations in support of his argument.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Masterman)
I hope that in the few remarks I have to make I shall keep within your ruling. We have been directly challenged by the right hon. Gentleman in connection with an alternative remedy for conditions which he rightly asserts the whole Committee deplore where they exist. As one who was in part responsible for the making and passing of the Housing and Town Planning Act, and with some of the affection of a parent for his child, I want to say, in a word, why the system here proposed seems to me essential, not only as a better system than that laid down in the Housing and Town Planning Act, but as a supplement to it, as the result of the experience we have already had. What is the method of redress in the Housing Act? The right hon. Gentleman knows it as well as I do, for many discussions have taken place on the floor of the House. The system is that four public spirited ratepayers have to get together, and take the initiative, to bear the obloquy, to be responsible for the expense of initiating the matter in exactly the same way as it can now be initiated by these friendly societies. I refer to a local government inquiry, which the right hon. Gentleman thinks such a mistake. What have we found? That it is extremely difficult to get any ratepayer under any circumstances whatever to initiate an inquiry. They are told they are casting a slur upon the district in which they live. They are sometimes subject to social ostracism.
In some cases they have not only to go up against the local authority, but men on the local authority who own the slum property. I am quoting instances familiar to me personally. The result is that time and again the matter has been dropped after an attempt has been made, because the man says, "Why should I take up this burden and expense?" This is the first time that a direct monetary incentive for this work has been given. A friendly society which suffers from insanitary slum property knows that if it can establish a case that the burden of excessive sickness is due to the owners of insanitary property. The cost of that excessive sickness will be paid by the 1864 owners and not by the friendly societies. That alone, it seems to me, is a measure which will do more, not only directly, but indirectly also—in the fear of it—for the reduction of slum property than any measure which at present exists in English law. The second point which the hon. Member for Dudley made with some emphasis—and he has a right to speak in the matter—is, I think, not altogether a good point in criticism of our methods. He said, "It is not a matter of action, it is a matter of money." My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford raised the same point.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Money and personnel. He said, "Give the local authorities money and they will do all the work you want." That is not true. Sanitary law can be enforced without the authorities paying a farthing of money. Some cases read out by my right hon. Friend showed that no cost would have been incurred by the ratepayers or the local authorities. There was, then, no reason for not enforcing the law. It is not a matter of cost to the local authorities, but a matter of cost to the landlord, who has the "pull" on the local authorities, or who is supposed to have the pull on them. When the Housing and Town Planning Act was being passed, the right hon. Gentleman made a very strong appeal for what I think is known as the Birmingham system—what we call Part II. of the Act—for the imposition of the restoration of property to sanitary conditions, not by clearing it away, but by enforcing upon the landlords the right which you can enforce at the present time, that he shall make his property sanitary. That can be done by the local authorities. We believe that will be done through the work of the friendly societies, brought in for the first time as directly interested in the matter.
What is the fundamental point which has produced the necessity for this Clause? It is that slum property at the present time in large districts is more paying than if it is not slum property. Where they allow the property to degenerate without spending any money on it very often the landlords get a higher normal rent than the landlords in the next street who put their property into a good condition. Above all, the slum landlord has this before him—I wish the hon. Member the Member for Dudley was in his place, because he would fully realise what I mean in connection with a great clearance 1865 scheme with which he is associated—the more a slum landlord allows his property to degenerate the more certain he is that the local authority will interfere in the long run and buy him out. Take the Bethnal Green instance, in which gigantic matter Part II. had to be put into force at a cost of over a million to clear away slums. Now for the first time we are trying to devise a rule by which slum property shall not pay, and I believe that the mere fact that we can make it unpayable will do more to clear it away and for the better housing of the working classes than all the denunciations in the churches.
My last point is this: the way we are seeking to ensure that this will be carried out. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford made what I can only characterise as an extraordinary statement. He said that these committees were representative of nobody. They are representative of the working men of this country, everyone of whom will be an insured person. They represent the working people who well know these conditions, and who will have a direct interest in the amelioration of these conditions. They will be more representative of the working people than the town councils are at the present time, because everyone will practically be a member of a friendly society or in some way connected with a friendly society. I do not believe, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract said earlier, that in the immediate future few friendly societies will put into direct action this power which is given. I believe they will when they get a direct financial benefit from it.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
My right hon. Friend asks how will they enforce it. They will obtain an order that the money shall be paid, and the money will be paid as an alternative to the imprisonment of the local council. You say: "We cannot enforce it now." Under the Town Planning Act, always in the ultimate, if the local authorities resist unto the death, you can apply for a mandamus. The local authorities are not likely to resist when the end of their resistance can only result in the imprisonment of the local council. Every member of a local authority can always get into gaol if he resists the law: the only question is how soon he is going to get in. But I was led away to make these observations, for no 1866 one expects that there will be a large and general opposition, or that this Clause will not be largely and generally operative throughout the length and breadth of the country. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, if I may say so, in spite of his great legal experience. It is certainly against all our experience at the Local Government Board that a Local Government inquiry is of necessity a costly and elaborate thing. I can show him reports of inquiries which have been carried out under the Town Planning Act which have not been elaborate or costly, and we non-lawyers believe it is a far more satisfactory process than the alternative court. But even if it were elaborate and costly it would be worth putting this Clause in, in order that, owing to its operation in a few cases, it may have a widespread effect in many cases. I am quite sure that if in any one district excessive sickness in that district is ever laid upon the slum landlords, or upon the town council, there will be such employment in the building trade in the neighbouring districts as was never seen before.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
The Chancellor of the Exchequer based his justification for the granting of these powers—and in fact he based his opposition to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir Alfred Cripps)—on a very remarkable indictment against the local authorities generally throughout this country.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No! I thought that when that had been corrected once it would have been satisfactory. I read a second time a summary of Local Government Board reports in order to make it clear that I was not attacking local authorities generally. I said it was only a considerable number of authorities, and those not the largest.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
A sufficient number, I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, to justify the insertion of this provision in the general Acts.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE assented.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
I am glad to have abstracted the admission from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the state of affairs which he described at such length does not apply generally to local authorities.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
I cannot help feeling that the whole spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman delivered his indictment was singularly unfortunate from two points of view. In the first place it will justify the feelings of apprehension with which the great corporations and municipal authorities of this country look upon this particular part of the Insurance Bill. In the second place, it will tend, I think, to stimulate opposition on the part of municipal authorities towards this particular Section of the measure. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman's object at the present time, in view of the great difficulties he has already had, both with the friendly societies and the medical profession, would be rather to allay opposition than stimulate it. But the most unfortunate result of the indictment will be a tendency amongst those who read it in the country, to lower the whole feeling towards municipal administration and to degrade it in the eyes of the people of this country at large; and to do a very grave injustice to a large body of men who are doing very useful and often very arduous work wholly unremunerative and often under very uncongenial conditions.
The right hon. Gentleman's indictment falls really under two heads. It tells us that the local authorities have been inefficient, that they have been backward to prosecute, slow to investigate, and in many cases have not appointed a sanitary committee. I suggest that the provisions in this Section are no remedy from that state of affairs amongst delinquent local authorities. I should have regarded the right hon. Gentleman's remarks on that point rather as a trenchant criticism of the administration of the Local Government Board than the local authorities concerned. Because even supposing the machinery at the disposal of the Local Government Board is inadequate, not sufficient, or not sufficiently rapid, to meet the state of affairs the right hon. Gentleman has described, he has produced no evidence at all to show that any attempt is being made to set that machinery, slow and inadequate though it is, in motion. In the second place, I would call the attention of the House to this fact: that this state of affairs is by no means a new state of affairs. Many of the Reports quoted by the right hon. Gentleman date from 1905, 1906, and 1907. Since that time we have had attempts to amend the Public Health Acts and the Housing Acts by the present Government. I should like to ask the 1868 Under-Secretary for the Home Department why no attempt has yet been made to arm the Local Government Board with the powers requisite to meet the state of affairs described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
Undoubtedly nobody acquainted with the Local Government Board system in this country would deny that greater and more stringent powers are necessary for the enforcement of the law, but the contention of my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment—a contention which I am sure will be shared by those well acquainted with local administration—is that the proper method of dealing with this question is not by overloading an Insurance Bill devoted to wholly different objects with provisions of this character, but rather by introducing special amending Acts for the purpose. I should like to point out the great disadvantage of proceeding on the lines proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this Clause. The whole tendency of modern legislation, especially in matters of public health, is towards simplification and codification. One of the great hindrances towards efficiency of administration is the complexity and number of Acts of Parliament in which the power and duties of local authorities are set out. Instead of dealing with this question piecemeal, instead of giving new powers in an Act dealing with other questions altogether, the right hon. Gentleman would do more to promote efficiency of local administration if he codified and explained existing Acts of Parliament.
§ The CHAIRMAN
A few moments ago I deprecated entering upon alternatives, but, of course, I cannot prevent the Noble Lord from stating what he thinks would be better, but I do hope hon. Members on both sides will have regard to the intimation I have given.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
I feel it would not be open to a Member to attack the proposals brought forward by the Chancellor, of the Exchequer as bad expedients, unless he was prepared to indicate, without elaborating the alternatives which, in his opinion, would provide a more satisfactory solution of the question. In proposing to deal with it by placing these powers in the hands of the health committee, the right hon. Gentleman is really losing sight of the root causes of the 1869 backwardness of the local authorities to deal with this question. It is all a matter of money. The local authorities are, at the present moment, holding back owing to the heavy burden, of rates placed upon those who elect them, and when the right hon. Gentleman talks about these health committees being the direct representative of the working classes, I would remind him that they will be not so representative or so democratically elected or rest upon such a democratic basis as the local authorities that they are to coerce. Because, in the first place, the local authority is directly elected by the whole of the people in the area, and they are to be coerced and stimulated by a body partly nominated, and, so far as it is representative at all, representative only of the section of the population living in the particular district. I think, that instead of confusing the administration of housing, instead of complicating the machinery of local government in the direction proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, he would have done more to remove the evils of which he so justly complains if he would give an undertaking to reconsider the relations between the Imperial Exchequer and local finance, and if he would give the local authorities of this country those considerable sums of money to which they consider, and the great local taxation experts of this country consider, they are justly entitled to. After all the stimulus of approved societies and health committees will not be so effective as the encouragement local authorities would receive by giving them adequate funds for this purpose. In supporting my hon. Friend's Amendment and opposing the suggestion to include in this Bill provisions that ought to be included in Public Health Acts, I wish to make it perfectly clear that I admit legislation upon this question is necessary, but it ought to take the form of a separate Act; and if the right hon. Gentleman would bring in a separate Bill next Session for that purpose I think he can rest assured he would receive very hearty support from Members on this side of the House.
§ Mr. ROBERT PEARCE
There has been a good deal of talk about alternative machinery, and it is contended that this is not the right way to do what is proposed. I trust the Government will not relax in the smallest degree the Clause as it stands or diminish its strength. You may talk in the country, as some of us are 1870 doing about this Bill; but there is nothing that elicited so much vigorous applause and satisfaction as this particular Clause, by which some of the evils under which we now suffer are to be remedied. Talk about contributions for medical benefits and so on! Nothing is so popular as this particular Clause. Let me add a little contribution to the arguments advanced in its favour. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the Manchester Unity. Some years ago a friend of mine, Mr. Farrell, who was an Oddfellow, and who was the President of the Manchester Unity for one year, had a conference with Mr. Watson as to the effect of the quinquennial revaluation for that time. Mr. Farrell said to Mr. Watson, "Do not tell me anything as to what you have got in your returns, but I will tell you the places where the branches of the society are insolvent, and the places where they are solvent." Mr. Watson said, "How is it possible to tell me that without knowing what I have in my calculations? Mr. Farrell replied, "You may rely upon mathematical formula, but I can tell you where the evil is without it. Mention any of the places and I will tell you at once." Mr. Watson mentioned a lot of towns and urban districts, and Mr. Farrell replied, "This one is solvent, and that one is insolvent, and the other is on the border line." "How can you tell that," said Mr. Watson. "Well," said Mr Farrell, "the death rate is twenty-two there and the branch is insolvent, and here where the death rate is seventeen the branch is solvent." The result of that knowledge communicated to the Manchester Unity was that they determined to make efforts to get all places where the death rate was high to effect improvements in the sanitary conditions by operating through the members of the local authority. They found it hopeless before that.
Some ten years ago the same Mr. Farrell, who was a great authority on these matters, told me that once you get the death rate you can arrive at the sickness rate, because the average of the sickness rate is just double the amount of the death rate, and the result is—I will not say it is an accurate conclusion—at any rate, you have a basis on which you are able to work. There would be nothing so disappointing to the community who are looking forward to this Bill as that there should be any slackening in the particular proceedings this Bill contemplates against sickness. Supposing the Manchester 1871 Unity at that time had been an approved society, and had been able to go to the local authority and say, "there is excessive sickness in your district, and you are opposed to doing what is fair so you must pay upon the verdict and result of the inquiry. If that had happened ten years ago, many of the difficulties we are in now would have been swept away. I know there are many difficulties about the average death rate and sickness in various districts, but you are going to take the average for the whole community, and you will not judge your towns by the individual death rate until you have time to formulate your exact information. I trust the Government will in no way give way to this Amendment.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I should like to take this opportunity of assuring the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose speech just now I am bound to say savoured a little of the party spirit, that we on this side of the House as a party feel just as strongly the enormous importance of remedying the conditions against which this Clause is levelled as he and those who work with him—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am very anxious that no party spirit should be introduced, and I cannot recall any phrase in which I made an attack upon the party opposite. I certainly had no intention of doing so. I did attack some of those councils and certain owners of slums, but I did not assume that these were all Conservatives.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I fully admit no actual phrase fell from the right hon. Gentleman which would indicate that we were more at fault in the matter than those who sit upon his own side of the House, but in any case I think the Committee must admit his speech was couched in very strong and eloquent language, and savoured a little, perhaps, of speeches we heard from public platforms against landlords in general. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman there are different kinds of landlords. He is rather apt to confuse in his mind, if I may say so, the slum owners, against whom we feel as strongly as he does, and those trying in very difficult circumstances, and with moderate and insufficient means, to remedy in the country districts the conditions which unfortunately, owing to long-continued agricultural depression, are not as good as many landlords would like to 1872 see. There is a difficulty which, I think, hon. Gentlemen upon the other side of the House do not always realise with regard to remedying these conditions in the country villages. First of all, there is the disinclination on the part of so many of the inhabitants in these insanitary dwellings to remove themselves from these dwellings. What we want is to create a healthy spirit, not only amongst the owners, but amongst the inhabitants of these cottages. We want to inspire the inhabitants of these cottages with a healthy discontent as regards their conditions. If that were done it would facilitate immensely the work of the local authorities in these districts and the work of the well-intentioned landlord who desires to see the sanitary conditions of his property improved. The right hon. Gentleman will have to admit that, at any rate as regards the smaller agricultural landowners, it is extremely difficult for them, under existing circumstances, to remedy the state of their cottage property. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may not be aware that in the last few years the very strongest efforts have been made since the Housing Act was passed by owners of property to improve the conditions in their districts. It is difficult for men whose burdens are very considerable, as the right hon. Gentleman must admit, and whose conditions of life are very different to what they were thirty years ago, to spend as much upon their most unremunerative cottages as they would like to do. It is common knowledge that many of the cottages are let at uneconomic rents or at no rents at all, and the agricultural landlord is expected to do what manufacturers are never expected to do—that is, to maintain cottages on his property not only for his own employés, but also for those employed by his tenants, and those who may be employed by others in the village with whom he has nothing at all to do. The agricultural landlord is expected to bear a burden which is not put upon other owners of property or manufacturers, who have a much larger income and return from their proprietary interest than the agricultural landowners. I agree with the hon. Member for Bradford that the only solution is the application of the system which has been adopted in regard to Ireland. Housing will in the future have to be a national charge, and it is only by making it a national charge that you are going to be able to make it what all social reformers would like to see it.
1873 Surely an unhealthy and a debilitated population is a bad national asset, and, directly or indirectly, the taxpayer, as well as the ratepayer, has to pay, either in the form of poor rates or in the form of taxes, whether voluntary or otherwise, for the maintenance of hospitals, infirmaries, asylums, and such-like. If housing were made a national charge I believe it would prove to be a good national investment, because I believe the taxpayer would have to pay less than he has to pay to-day under various headings due to the debility and physical unfitness of the population at large. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the first line of this Clause is really fair to the deposit contributors? I agree that this is rather a duplication of the machinery which already exists, and that a strengthening of the Housing Acts would be the proper way to deal with this matter. Here an approved society is going to be admitted as one of the parties who by making an allegation can put the machinery in motion. Surely those who are physically in a worse condition, namely, the deposit contributors, ought to have equal opportunities with members of approved societies. In one part of this Bill you refer to associations of deposit contributors. Surely it is only fair where associations of deposit contributors exist that you should allow them, just as you allow an approved society, to put the law into motion. These are persons whose health is presumably worse than members of approved societies, whose bad health may be due to the very conditions which you seek by this Clause to improve. Therefore it is more in their interests to see that these conditions are improved, and you ought in fairness to allow them, if they have an association, to put such machinery in motion.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I merely rose to put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to how these proposals will affect Scotland? From time to time I have learned from the Lord Advocate that there are special Clauses dealing with the special conditions of Scotland. As we have not those Clauses on the Paper I would like to ask if this Clause is passed would it still be open for us to provide for a different manner of dealing with what is dealt with in this Clause. There is a strong view in Scotland that another method should be adopted, just as in the case of the Housing and Town Planning Act and the Children's Act we have a different system. I think there is a very 1874 general view that there should be a different method for Scotland. I hope we shall not be precluded from considering this question when the new Clauses are put on the Paper.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
As this question is rather out of the general run of the Debate, I will answer it now. There must be some Amendments relating to local government and a different procedure which applies in other respects to Scotland. I am hoping that those Amendments will be put on the Paper to-night. The Lord Advocate has got them, and he has shown them to me, and the hon. Member will see them to-morrow. I do not presume to be able to give any answer to the question which the hon. Member has put to me, because I do not profess to know the intricacies of Scotch local government procedure. I have no doubt that the Lord Advocate will see that these Clauses will be suitable to the special circumstances of Scotland. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. C. Bathurst) has pointed out one respect in which this Clause might be improved in regard to deposit contributors. I think associations of deposit contributors ought to be allowed to initiate any proceedings under this Clause. Though I cannot get an Amendment down to-day, I will see that an Amendment of the character he suggests is introduced into this Clause before the Bill leaves this House.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The speech of the hon. Member for Wilton forms a refreshing contrast to some of the speeches we have heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite on this question. He did not complain of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for raising this question, and my motive for getting up is that as a member of a local authority for many years I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman warmly for the speech he made this afternoon, and for the action he has taken upon this subject in the Insurance Bill. Hon. Members opposite have spoken as if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had uttered an indictment against certain local authorities. It is true that he uttered an indictmnt, but the words were not his, for they were the words of the inspectors of the Local Government Board. Those of us who have been sitting on local councils taking part 1875 in the rural administration of the country have made ourselves familiar with the reports of the inspectors of the Local Government Board, and I know no more heartbreaking task than to read regularly the reports of those inspectors. I am intensely grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having brought this question to our notice to-day in a way local authorities cannot ignore. It is not the right hon. Gentleman who has made this indictment, because for years the inspectors of the Local Government Board, on whom the responsibility of investigation has rested, and who have reported upon these matters, have found themselves powerless to remedy them.
Hon. Members opposite say, "Very well, that is perfectly true, and it has been going on for years, but why has the Local Government Board not put an end to this state of things?" More than one hon. Member opposite has said that this afternoon. The answer is easy. There are certain powers which the Local Government Board possess, but they are very cumbrous and insufficient for achieving the purpose of this Clause, and they have been found wholly insufficient to prevent the state of things arising pictured in those terrible reports. That is not due to the Local Government Board or to the inspectors of nuisances. In too many cases those inspectors of nuisances are discouraged by their council from reporting the nuisances. I have heard the councils urge the appointment of nuisance inspectors because they were men not likely to be troublesome by stirring things up in the neighbourhood, and they have been appointed to hush up these things. Therefore, it is not the fault of the medical officers of health, because they have a most difficult task to perform. They have to report to bodies on which the owners of the property and the occupiers concerned sit. They make their reports, and, of course, nothing comes of them. They are hushed up and not dealt with, and their annual reports are hardly taken any notice of. Property owners have no particular interest in encouraging medical officers of health to do their duty. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] What motive have they?
Colonel M. SYKES
If the hon. Member is speaking of rural districts I can tell him from my own experience that it is much better to have good cottage property, because it pays better to have healthy labourers.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I am not so sure that that is the experience of the past. I know Yorkshire, I think, quite as well as the hon. Member.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
In many cases the control of the cottages is in the hands of the farmers, and not the landowners, and their condition is not brought to the notice of the landowner except through the action of the local sanitary authority.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
At any rate, there is nothing to encourage the medical officer of health to be drastic. Often the councillors are well-to-do residents in the neighbourhood, and if the medical officers give too much offence they are very likely to find that their private practice will suffer, and that is why we want to sever the private practice of medical officers from their public work. It is not the fault of the Local Government Board. We are all agreed as to the desirability of bringing this state of things to an end, and I know hon. Members opposite are just as anxious as we are to achieve this object, but under the present system you cannot do it. The powers do not exist, and that is why I welcome this Clause by which you are going to give powers to act to people who will see that the power is used. It has been pointed out that the powers given in the Housing Act are inadequate, and in this Clause you are going to say to friendly societies that they may protect themselves. You are going to make it in their interest to take action to protect themselves. Well administered councils will have nothing to fear from this proposal; in fact, they will welcome it. But the badly administered councils will now have to see to it that they do their duty. I agree with the hon. Member for Pontefract on this point. I believe this proposal will lead the councils to use their powers with the result that there will be established a high standard of housing which will tend to put an end to the evils which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has described. Hon. Members opposite have complained of the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I say, as one interested in local government, that we owe the right hon. Gentleman intense gratitude for these proposals in the Bill, and 1877 I wish to express to him my grateful feelings for having brought this matter forward in the admirable speech he has delivered this afternoon.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I cannot help thinking the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon carry us rather further than the Clause which we are debating. I cannot see anything in the Clause which is going itself to cause the local authorities to abolish slums. I think I can see in it a great inducement to some local authorities to gamble on the average rate of sickness. You propose under your Clause to compel the local authorities to repay to the society which is damnified the amount by which it has suffered owing to an excess of sickness over the average rate.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Yes, attributable to their neglect. A local authority may say to itself, "It may cost us £50, £100, or £150 to reimburse the society the amount they suffer owing to our neglect, but we will take the risk of any responsibility that may attach to us." What we want is to take such steps as will compel authorities, land owners, and everybody who is concerned in the matter to carry out the duties which they owe to their fellow men and which Acts of Parliament have imposed upon them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said this is the best way of forcing local authorities and others to carry out such duties. I am afraid I cannot agree, for two reasons. In the first place, I think all the pressure that will be exercised by this Clause will be indirect pressure, and, if you want to bring pressure to bear upon local authorities, it is better to do it direct. You can do it directly by arming the Local Government Board with greater powers than it possesses at the present moment. If you really want to secure better housing conditions and better ministration of a publicly elected body, power, arm the Local Government Board with increased powers, and see they use them. I do not think the indirect pressure this Clause will exert is likely to have the effect which was so picturesquely described in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The second reason why I do not like this method of dealing with the question is this. We are creating a system of 1878 national insurance, and entrusting to the societies, and to the local health committees powers and duties which their finances will not enable them to discharge without assistance. To whom have they to go to get the additional finance they will require? They have got to go to the authorities which under this Clause they will be stirring into action. They will have to go to the authorities whom they accuse of neglect. They will have to go to the authorities upon whom they bring all the ignominy of public disgrace. Are they likely to get much sympathy from these local public authorities? When a non-elected body attacks directly the administration of a publicly-elected body, when it accuses it of neglect, when by its efforts it brings down a Local Government Board inspector, when the publicly-elected body is ordered to pay a sum of money to the society which took the initial steps, and when that society has to go six months afterwards to the public body and say, "We wish to confer benefits greater than our finance will allow us to do; will you come to our assistance? What sort of reception do you think they are going to have? Is that the spirit we want to engender between the non-elected society and the elected body Do we not want them to act as far as they can in partnership? Do we not want to bring to the struggling mass relief from all the hardships and all the difficulties of the problem of ill-health with which this Bill is concerned? Do we not want to weld every force we can command together?
§ Mr. FORSTER
You take exactly the opposite course. I share to the full the feelings the right hon. Gentleman expressed with so much eloquence, and the party that sits on these benches detests the horrors of slum life and detests all the greed that is responsible for so much of the misery of the poorer classes of this country, but I think we shall make a great mistake if we put a Clause into this Bill supporting the scheme of National Insurance by sowing seeds of discord between the societies and the public health authorities.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
The speech which the hon. Member has just made in its conclusion was an inducement to accept this Clause. The arguments which he used in the earlier part of the second speech which he has made upon this subject to-day were 1879 against the acceptance of the Clause. I am really not sure whether he is in favour of it or against it. The general observations which he made at the end of his speech, and which he spoke, I am certain, with absolute sincerity, were observations which, had they not been preceded by the earlier ones, would have led us to expect the hon. Member was as enthusiastically in favour of the remedy we are suggesting as we on this side of the House. I understand he takes the view that, although there should undoubtedly be remedies given for the state of things which he deplores as well as others, he does not admit this is the right way of doing it. I want to deal with the two grounds upon which he has said this Clause does not give the remedy which is sought. First, he said—I think I am using the expression to which he gave utterance—it would be inducing the local authorities to gamble on the average sickness, and, as I understood him, what he really meant was they would not have any inducement to set their house in order, because it would pay them much better to take the risk of some society proceeding against them. They would take the chance, and therefore would not do what was their duty. I should have thought, if you have a local authority of that character, it was of great value to give, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is giving, an additional remedy. It must be an inducement to them to do a duty which otherwise they might neglect.
If you were considering what incentives you would apply to make an authority do its duty, I should have thought one of the first would be to say, "If you do not do your duty, you shall reimburse the society and the members of the society who suffer in consequence of your neglect to the full extent of your default." You say, in other words, "You, the local authority, will have to put your hands into your pockets, and you will have to give an account of your stewardship to the electors. You will have to show why it is you allowed this to happen, throwing this burden on the local authorities." The Chancellor of the Exchequer has never suggested this remedy was exhaustive, and that no remedy could be introduced, either in this Parliament or the next, for the purpose of curing the evil of the slums, insanitary houses, epidemics caused by neglect, and so forth. He is asking the Committee to give this remedy in this Bill for one reason. If you do not—and you 1880 must remember we are dealing with the Insurance Bill and the insurance funds—these funds will be depleted through excessive sickness caused by the neglect of the local authority. That is the hypothesis upon which you always proceed. If you have neglect you may get a very large increase of sickness, a great epidemic, causing an enormous loss to the society, which, without this assistance, might have to make a levy or, at any rate, reduce their benefits very considerably, whereas the fault is not attributable to them but to the local authority. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says he is going to take care, in respect of the insurance fund, that if there is any such neglect on the part of the local authority they shall be made to pay. That is the remedy the Chancellor of the Exchequer gives and which the law does not give at the present time. There will otherwise be no means of setting the law in operation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton), said their remedy is only by mandamus when you have got your inquiry, and, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer said your mandamus is a rusty one, nevertheless you have to use it in the end for the same purpose, and therefore you are not assisted. I appeal to him and to every lawyer in the House at the present moment, and to those who are familiar with the administration and work of the local authorities—I am quite sure I shall not appeal in vain to the hon. Member for South Bucks (Sir A. Cripps), who is an authority on the subject—when I say there is all the difference in the world between the two kinds of remedies. I do not want to bring in my own experience except in my official capacity, and I will say, since I have been a Law Officer of the Crown I have had matters put before me by the Local Government Board who certainly cannot be accused of any want of enthusiasm or zeal in the discharge of their duty. The difficulties the Local Government Board have to face are difficulties of administration of the law. If I point out to the Committee the essential nature of those difficulties, I am sure it will see in a moment how it is, and why it is, the right hon. Gentleman's criticism did not apply to this particular remedy. If you have to proceed against an authority for not carrying out some duty which the Statute has imposed upon them, you first get upon affidavits—always a very unsatisfactory method of 1881 inquiry into matters of this kind—a conflicting statement of facts, with which, at any rate, those who practice in the courts are familiar. You get local authorities on one side coming forward with affidavits to say that they are doing everything possible, and are not in default. On the other hand, you get ratepayers, or the persons making complaint, alleging that there is default. The Court has ultimately to determine whether or not these persons, assuming that they do not carry out the order, are to be sent to prison. The Court has to decide whether or not an order shall be issued, and then has to say whether or not it shall be carried out. There is constant difficulty. I will appeal to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Bucks whether that is not a very moderate statement on the procedure that had to be followed.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I agree that the statement of facts is quite moderate, but I would also point out that they lead to the very results which have been pointed out by my right hon. and learned Friend. A remedy by mandamus is most unsatisfactory, and the proper remedy is to give the Local Government Board power to carry out these duties.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
Having pointed out the difficulties attending the application of the remedy in a court of law, let me show what happens under the Bill. There is no difficulty under the Bill. What is the practice there laid down? First of all, there is the power to order an inquiry, and, when the inquiry has taken place, the inspector makes an order. I will assume for the purposes of argument that he makes an order on the local authority that it shall pay a sum of £1,000 to an approved society. The only effective remedy for all practical purposes in that case is to proceed by way of mandamus. But your mandamus in that case is merely to call upon those who are responsible to levy sufficient money and pay it over. The Bill says that when the inspector has made an order that order is to take effect like a judgment of the Court. I would ask my hon. and learned Friend again whether there is any difficulty whatever in getting the Court to make an order upon an authority which refuses to levy money in order to pay off the judgment decreed against it? You have no difficulty as to facts; you have an authority which is in contempt, and which ex hypothesi is defying the law 1882 and refuses to pay up. If you go to the Court it will without hesitation say, that if these gentlemen do not choose to do their duty and levy money according to the judgment of the Court then they must go to prison or other persons must come forward who will do it. That I suggest is an effective remedy, and it is not likely often to be necessary to go to the full extreme, because I believe an authority will pay up when once a judgment had been given against it.
There is one other point I desire to deal with. The hon. Gentleman gave as his second reason for not supporting this Clause that it would be difficult to put it in force, because you are entrusting these societies with the power of recovering money against the local authorities, and at the same time you are saying that they may have to have recourse to the local authority in order to assist them in certain cases. I quite agree it is desirable there should be co-operation between the local authority and the societies for this purpose, but the kind of local authority which would make default, after having its attention called to the fact that it is neglectful, say, in the matter of a defective water supply, is not, I think, likely to be the kind of authority which would be willing to make the voluntary effort that would have to be made in order to supplement the monies to be given under this insurance scheme. That is not the kind of authority which will come forward and say "we have the power to do it, we will sanction the extra expenditure, and will get help from the Treasury." That kind of authority would probably say "we will not sanction any expenditure involving a further burden on the rates." But at any rate it seems a very poor argument to say that because a local authority has neglected or refused to carry out its statutory duties and has allowed a condition of things to happen which makes for sickness or death, you shall not be allowed to reimburse the insurance fund for the loss caused by that neglect, because, at some further time, you may require some assistance from them which you only ask for in the public good, and which it would be their duty to give, just as in the same way it is their duty to administer the Act. The hon. Gentleman is assuming that the authority guilty of neglect will also exercise its absolute discretion against the society, because it has demanded an inquiry for some neglect of its duties in the past. That really is a very poor argument.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
What is the reason which has actuated the Government in leaving out by default provisions such as are to be found in the Housing and Town Planning Act?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I thought I had explained that. In this case you are dealing with insurance money, and the whole object of your remedy is to repay to the pocket from which money has been expended, in consequence of the default of the local authority, the sum which has had to be spent, and you are trying to get that sum out of the pockets of the defaulters. The object is to reimburse the insurance fund any loss which may have been caused by the default of the local authority.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I should not like to give a silent vote on this very important question. I do not know whether I am right or wrong, but I think this is the only Clause in the Bill which really does something to help the very poor. Both sides of the House are deeply anxious to solve the slum question, and that is really what is dealt with in this Clause. As I understand it, it is an effort to get rid of the slums. It is, in fact, a Health Bill. The slums are places where those diseases which are common to poor people are the more prevalent. The people contract the diseases because they are weak and underfed. I have listened carefully to the Debate. I think the consensus of opinion is that we should get rid of the slums. But how are we going to do it? On this side of the House it has been argued that if the right hon. Gentleman had given the Local Government Board more power it would have had a better effect than the proposals contained in this Clause. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why he has not, under this Clause, given that greater power to the Local Government Board?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
As a matter of fact, this Clause does give more power to the Local Government Board—very considerable more power, because we propose that an officer of the Local Government Board shall be appointed whenever an inquiry is demanded by a friendly society, that he shall conduct an inquiry, and if the local authority is found to be in default, if it is found that it has not done its duty in the way of clearing slums where it ought to, then a claim for damages is to lie either against the local authority or 1884 the slum owner, as the inquiry may direct. That undoubtedly arms the Local Government Board with greater powers than it at present possesses. That is not all the power I should like to see the Local Government Board armed with, but I can only deal with that part of the Bill which affects the insurance, and in regard to that, this Clause undoubtedly arms the Local Government Board with formidable powers for clearing slums.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Then I gather the right hon. Gentleman claims that he is giving more power to the Local Government Board. Now the Local Government Board has been in existence for years, and so have these slums. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman wants to put the Local Government Board in this matter under a sort of discipline. This House has passed certain Bills. The object of those Bills has been to get rid of the slums, but in many cases it has not proved effective, and disease as the result is still prevalent. This is a Health Bill. The proposal of the Government is to make those people suffer who do not obey the law as it is laid down. On this occasion I shall certainly vote with the Government, because I want to see something done. I maintain that the poverty in this country is a disgrace to the country. There are too many people of the very poorer classes, and I do not think that Members of this House, on either one side or the other, are doing enough to get rid of the evil. The first thing we had better do is to attack the slums, to improve them out of existence altogether, and with that object in view I shall, although with great regret, vote against the Amendment.
§ Mr. L. HASLAM
I understood that both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney-General to say that there will be no surcharge unless neglect is shown either on the part of the local authority or the owner. I want to be perfectly clear on that point, because I think it would be very unfair to fine persons for an act of the commission of which they were unconscious. Does the Bill really carry that out? Paragraph (a) says, that "where the excess or such part thereof as aforesaid is due to the conditions or nature of the employment or to any neglect," etc. That leaves it optional whether neglect shall be proved or not. It should read, "Where the excess or such part thereof as aforesaid is due to neglect as to the conditions or nature of the employment, or 1885 due to neglect." If the Chancellor of the Exchequer will assure me that any part of this Clause will be made right so that there is no doubt on the point, I shall be satisfied.
§ Mr. CASSEL
With reference to the last point raised, I should like to support the hon. Member, and to ask the Attorney-General for his view as to whether paragraph (a) does not make the employer responsible. There are two alternatives. One is the "conditions or nature of the employment," which would be a matter to be taken into account in fixing the wages of a particular employé, and the other is neglect. Both matters have not to be proved, but one or the other. With regard to the general discussion, I think that all Members on both sides of the Committee are in sympathy with the object at which the Clause aims. Personally, I shall not vote against the Clause, although I think it is not a very effective way of securing the object which the Chancellor of the Exchequer desires. Although the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Forster) was not carried, as the Bill reads it will be impossible to put this into operation for six years, or even eight years. Supposing that eight years hence somebody succeeds in getting through all the meshes of this Clause—and they are pretty intricate—and the Local Government Board inquiry should succeed in making a small local authority liable, what will be the result? You would probably bankrupt all the people who have been suffering by the default of that local authority, because the people who are the complainants will themselves be the ratepayers to a large extent. When they have been mulcted to such an extent that the rates have gone up to 20s., or, say, only 10s., or 15s. in the pound, the local authority will have to commence to set the matter right. Where will the funds come from? I submit that there are two ways of dealing with this evil—first, to give the Local Government Board power to act in default; and, secondly, to provide the local authorities with the money to discharge their duty.
I have on several occasions, while I was on the London County Council, been on deputations to the right hon. Gentleman, and he always received us sympathetically on that point, but the local authorities have had more and more duties of a national character thrown upon them, which have hampered their resources, with the result that they are left with inadequate means of carrying out those 1886 functions Parliament has cast upon them which are of a local character. I submit that it is a hardship upon the local authorities that you should leave them with all these functions and the duty of securing good housing when they have not, especially in the case of the smaller authorities, the means to perform them. I quite agree that that cannot foe dealt with in this Bill, or in this Clause, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear it in mind when next we come to him and ask that in future the means of meeting the duties cast upon local authorities shall be given to them.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not at all challenging the proposition laid down by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Cassel) with regard to the future. I agree that possibly it would be very advantageous to give the Local Government Board still greatest powers in matters of this kind, but that is not my function, and, therefore, I am not entitled to bring forward a scheme upon that subject. I can only deal with that part of it which affects the Insurance Bill. I also agree that something should be done to assist local authorities to discharge the very heavy obligations cast upon them from time to time by Parliament in the general interest of the community. I have always stated that view. That we could not do under the Insurance Bill. The only way to deal with it under the Bill is indirectly, and indirectly these local authorities are relieved of a very heavy burden by means of the Bill, the very heavy burden of poverty and sickness which in the end must percolate on to the ratepayer. What is done by the Insurance scheme, by the subvention of the State and the contributions of employers and workmen, will to a large extent have the effect of relieving the burden of the rates. There is only one thing I would say to the hon. and learned Gentleman when he says there are other means which would be more efficient; that surely does not rule this out.
We ought to take every conceivable method, and, therefore, I agree with the speech of the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford), who, with the shrewdness and common sense with which he is able to get at the heart of a problem and brush aside its technicalities, said that if it does anything, if it is any contribution towards solving the problem, for heaven's sake let us have it, and if there is something better, let us get that as well! The hon. Member (Mr. Cassel) seems to think that 1887 local authorities cannot remedy this state of things without going on to the rates. That is not the case at all. All they have to do is to compel slum owners to put their property right. They have that power given to them by Act of Parliament, and the burden need not fall upon the rates. With regard to the general effect of the Bill, an hon. Member wants to make it clear that it is only where there is default that the owners of property and employers of labour and local authorities are responsible. That is the principle of the Bill. With regard to paragraph (a), the only difference is that in some occupations, owing to their very nature, unless special precautions are taken, the health of those employed would be affected, and unless the employer does take those special precautions he is liable, and ought to be liable, as in the case of lead poisoning, where he ought to be responsible.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I should like to recall the attention of the Committee to the somewhat limited question I raised—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I had a message from the hon. and learned Member that he desired to ask leave to withdraw. The time at our disposal is short, and if he does not withdraw I ought to call on somebody else.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
In these circumstances I shall not have an opportunity of replying, and I would rather withdraw than have a Division without an opportunity of stating what I should like in reply.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
We are now nearly at the time the Debate will come to a conclusion, and I want to join with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in congratulating and thanking the Noble Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford) for bringing this Debate to a practical conclusion. We have been discussing all the afternoon what I thought we had practically thrashed out yesterday afternoon. I trusted that to-day we should have devoted ourselves as practical men to modifying this Clause in a practical direction. I am very grateful that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has so largely developed the method of deputations, because deputations are far more practical than the House of Commons. Time after time deputations have approached him and submitted practical proposals which have been introduced into the measure, and we 1888 shall get the benefit of that when the Bill is passed into law. If we occupy our time in this Committee in simply discussing general principles we should never bring ourselves to the practical proposals, and benefits would be delayed. I wish to call attention to one practical result which will immediately come from an Amendment which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has down. It was the result of a deputation, on which I appeared with my hon. Friend below me (Sir Ryland Adkins), consisting of representatives of the county councils and of the municipalities, who approached the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I admit that the municipalities and the county councils were strongly opposed to the whole of this Clause, but many of us, myself included, felt it was far better to try to modify the Clause than to get rid of it altogether.
The one objection I felt above all others was that these particular bodies might be discussing matters respecting local authorities, go to the Local Government Board and then back to the local authorities, and that in the first instance any intimation of any error might come from the Local Government Board. As a result of the representations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has an Amendment down which, in my view, largely obviates many of the objections raised. It is that whenever a local body such as is proposed to be formed under this Bill has any objection against the local authority, it must in the first instance present that objection to the local authority, and only when the local authority has failed or neglected or is unable to come to any agreement can they approach the Local Government Board to ask for relief. That is a most practical modification of this Clause, a most useful modification in the interest of all local authorities, and I am grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for proposing to introduce it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ And, it being Half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of 25th October, successively to put forthwith the Questions on any Amendments moved by the Government, of which notice had been given, and the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be conducted at half-past seven of the clock at this day's sitting.1889
§ Amendments made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "by" ["Where it is alleged by any approved society"] insert the words "the Insurance Commissioners."
§ After the word "among" ["taken place among insured persons"] insert the word "any."
§ After the word "persons," insert the words "being, in the case where allegation is made by a society or a committee, persons."
§ After the word "may" ["Committee making such allegation may apply"] insert the words "send to the person or authority alleged to be in default a claim for the payment of the amount or any extra expenditure alleged to have been incurred by reason of such cause as aforesaid, and if the Commissioners, society, or committee and such person or authority fail to arrive at any agreement on the subject may."
§ In Sub-section (2), leave out the words "appears to" ["it appears to the person"], and insert instead thereof the words "proved to the satisfaction of."
§ After the word "Act" ["under this part of this Act"], insert the words "by any societies or committees where the allegation is made by the Insurance Commissioners, or if the allegation is made by a society or committee."
§ In paragraph (b), at end, add the words "or if due to the insanitary condition of any particular premises shall be made good by the owner or occupier of the premises who is proved to the satisfaction of the person holding the inquiry to be responsible."
§ In paragraph (c), at end, add the words, "unless the local authority or company prove that such insufficiency or contamination was not due to any default on the part of the authority or company, but arose from circumstances over which it had no control."
§ In Sub-section (5), at the beginning, insert the words "The Insurance Commissioners shall make regulations as to the procedure on inquiries under this Section, and,"
§ At the end of the Clause, add,
§ "(8) Where under this Section any sum is ordered to be paid to the Insurance Commissioners, the Insurance Commissioners shall apply the same in discharge of any expenses incurred by the Commissioners 1890 in connection with the inquiry, and shall distribute the balance amongst the societies and committees which appear to the Commissioners to have incurred extra expense on account of the excessive sickness in such proportion as the Commissioners think just."—[Mr. Lloyd George.]